The Right To Be Normal

In Gay marriage and the right to be ordinary, Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick writes of a “right” to be accepted, taken for ordinary – whatever that means:

I had an uncle whose second or third wife nobody in my family liked. I don’t really know why, and I didn’t have an opinion of my own. Yet no one uttered a contrary word in their presence.

His example sounds to me like a family that would be healthier and better off today if they’d taken the time and trouble to identify why nobody liked that woman. Surely living as part of – but not really part of – a family where nobody likes you is Hell. Families are supposed to be the most intimate unit we’ve got. When everyone tolerates you – without ever discussing the real objection – what’s the difference between a family gathering and Hell on earth?

You can’t make a bad situation be normal by simply forcing everyone to pretend nothing is wrong. It only makes the situation worse when you do that. It adds a layer of dysfunction.

This becomes way more difficult when we are talking about enshrining the right to be accepted as a legal right. The only way we can grant a “right” to be universally liked is if we take away the right to hold opinions or religious beliefs contrary to the …

…. to the what?

Just who gets to decide what opinions and beliefs shall be universally shared?

I mean, it’s a value judgment – not a demonstrable fact – that says the secularist or humanist beliefs that the gay rights argument are based on are superior to the beliefs of Catholicism and evangelical Christianity, orthodox Judaism, traditional Hindu, Islam, and the Dalai Lama’s version of Buddhism.

(Hence the phrase “intellectual imperialism” – the idea that because you’re sure you’re superior, it gives you the right to force your worldview on those whom you view as more primitive than yourself…)

Unlike the civil rights arguments, the debate here involves unanswerable questions, such as whether and how far human beings can be expected to submit to the social units they belong to and how such social units ought to be ordered (for example, replacing kinship with a new vision of choice as the primary determinant of what does or does not make a “family”).

And it’s.zero-sum. There’s no way that both gay people and religious people can enjoy the same right to be “accepted” or even “tolerated”. It’s gotta be one or the other. If gays have the right to be approved of without having to change who they are, then by definition people who hold conflicting beliefs about marriage do not.

My opinion: just because it’s a humanist telling us what to believe doesn’t make it any better than a Catholic telling us what to believe.

Real acceptance must come from consensus, not coercion.

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  1. Pingback: Belief Or Hate Crime? | Intellectual Imperialism

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