Monday, November 3, 2003

Government Enforced Attitudes & Beliefs

By Alan Caruba

This really happened to me. Last year I gave some thought to renting out a spare bedroom in my home to help cover the cost of my then-doubled property taxes. When I went to the office of the local weekly to take out a classified advertisement, I discovered there were some eighty different words and phrases I could not use!
Turns out, if I gave any indication I would not rent to a woman because I am a single man and think that would be improper, I couldnīt say that. Neither my personal moral code, nor feelings about various folks with whom I would not want to share my home mattered. What I thought was my right to rent a room in my home didnīt exist!
We now live increasingly in an era of government-enforced attitudes. What we think and believe is being policed as thoroughly, if not more, than our behavior. You can now go to jail for expressing government-defined "hatred." You can lose your job for telling what someone considers an off-color joke or inappropriate comment about some group.
In an era when the Prime Minister of Malaysia can tell more than thirty heads of Islamic states that the Jews are to blame for everything in the world, but most of all for everything happening to Muslims, Americans are expected to keep silent. We are, weīre told, fighting "a war on terrorism", not a bloody battle with Islam.
In a time when a single American atheist can get the Supreme Court to consider his demand that the words "under God" be removed from the Pledge of Allegiance, the rest of us must pray that his law suit fails. An Alabama judge whose Ten Commandments monument offended someone has been censured. A US Army lieutenant general who told people he was proud to be a Christian had to promise to keep that to himself. The message is clear, if you believe in God, for Godīs sake, keep it to yourself!
It has always been in the interest of the federal government to encourage certain attitudes and ideas that give support to our fundamental freedoms and the responsibilities that go with them. A viable, living republic depends on it. The government, however, does not have the right to legislate what we must believe.
But now we have anti-discrimination and hate crime laws. David E. Bernstein, a professor at George Mason University School of Law, has authored You Canīt Say That. His concern is that "intolerant activists", determined to impose their moralistic views on all Americans, are threatening the First Amendmentīs protections of speech and that freedom of religion is also in peril. He makes a good case for this and anyone who pays any attention to the news of the day knows heīs right.
Try speaking your mind freely if you have certain notions about women, homosexuals, Blacks, American Indians, handicapped people, old people, fat people, and a host of other "groups."
In America, if you have a beef with anyone who belongs to one these groups, you better keep your mouth shut. If you think you were passed over for a job because someone in a protected group was favored, keep your mouth shut. Forget about freedom of speech.
If you want to join a group that expresses a particular exclusivity because of its moral code, its ethnic, racial, religious or national identification, including being a private association of like-minded people, you may find yourself and that group under attack. Forget about the freedom of assembly.
Want to light up a cigarette, cigar or pipe? That act is now been ended in every public and many private places. Tobacco use is still legal, but finding a place to "use" it is now effectively illegal. The government, in the name of public health, has been utilized to kill this industry.
Be careful, too, about supporting your right and the right of others to own a gun. Or to carry it concealed to protect your life in places where bad people are known to congregate.
It wasnīt always this way. Yes, there were prejudices and even laws and customs that oppressed some Americans. Weīre not proud of it, but the freedom of speech, the freedom to assemble and to organize to affect public opinion, encouraged the changes that put an end to the inequities against Blacks, women, and homosexuals, to name just three groups.
When the government gets into the business of enforcing oneīs personal attitudes about other people or other groups of people, the freedom to openly discuss them or to advance unpopular and even downright stupid and evil points of view is threatened. I donīt like anti-Semites, but I donīt want them to lose their freedom of speech. I try to practice tolerance of homosexuals, but I donīt want them to have the right to marry. And I want to be free to say so.
I want equality for Black Americans, but there are aspects of Black culture that just make me want to scream. I may disagree with my Catholic friends about right to life issues, but I want them free to press their case for the sanctity of life. I may even change my mind. I think the organizers of Columbus Day parades should be free to exclude anyone they want and the same goes for St. Patrickīs Day parades. Itīs their damned parade!
I never was a Boy Scout, but I want them to have the right to exclude anyone who does not subscribe to their excellent moral code and pride in America. They are a private group. If you donīt agree with them, form your own damned group.
Everything about the freedoms and guarantees associated with being an American often seems to be teetering on the edge of extinction. A lot of Americans fought and died for our freedoms. As I write this, America is being invaded daily by illegal aliens demanding the "right" to vote, to get driverīs licenses, to have free access to our schools, colleges, and hospitals, and even to vote! The only right an illegal alien has is his or her place on the next bus back across the border.
If the immigration invasion wasnīt sufficient cause for alarm, there are Greens who continue to seek to impose insane restrictions on every aspect of our lives. They are joined by the "earth rights" and "animal rights" lunatics, and "food police" crazies. In their wake come more and more laws to enforce their attitudes and demands while mine are labeled politically incorrect, and outlawed. What happened to my Constitutional rights? What has happened to yours?