Sunday, May 09, 2010

From our newest guest blogger... Sir Albus Wulfric... comes this presentation on "Legislating Morality."

Welcome aboard Sir Wulfric!

Screen-Name: Albus Wulfric

“Don’t shove your morality down my throat! Don’t you know you can’t legislate morality?”

One of the most interesting point-counterpoint, tit-for-tat exchanges that takes place in our culture revolves around the notion of legislating morality. Whether one can or not is not debatable, for governments have been legislating morality for millennia. The actual debate that rages around us spins upon the axis of whether or not a government ought to legislate morality. I’d like to spill some ink on this subject, in the hopes that we can come to a common consensus in how we the people can articulate our positions in a precise, cohesive manner.

Whenever the caricatured right-wingers decry social manifestations that they call “progressive, liberal, anomalous, weird, deviant,” etc. the equally caricatured left-wingers raise the mantra, “You can’t legislate morality!” As indicated above, the abrupt answer to such a claim is to simply respond, “Of course you can – it’s been going on as long as there has been such a thing as human government.” But perhaps a more conversational answer would run something like this: “Well, governments have actually done so since humans congregated in organized communities. Do you mean that we shouldn’t legislate morality?”

Let’s be frank – any time a human being writes legislation of any sort, that legislation will necessarily contain that human’s values. The reason laws are passed is usually centered on the idea of doing “what is right.” This is simply an observation. No judgment is intended, only diagnosis. So, if legislation comes from humans, and if those humans bring to the table ideas of what is right or wrong, and they then craft legislation in an attempt to maximize what is right, then every piece of legislation that is passed is a legislation of some sort of morality.

So, if this premise proves true, then let’s turn our attention to this whole idea of legislating morality. The political right is usually caricatured as caring deeply about social behavioral morals. Those morals have been rejected by many in the culture, so those morals are eroded. Over time, the culture shifts into a mirror of what was at one time a decidedly smaller group’s moral code of conduct, until people who are in positions to craft legislation share the values of those who were once outside the mainstream. When those referred to as “conservatives” then raise an outcry for a return to what was once a societal mores (conventional value), those who have adopted the now “more popular” point of view return the cry of “you can’t legislate morality.”

I’ll give you a real-life scenario that has occurred within the United States. There was once a time when the predominant social mindset adhered to what is called a “Judeo-Christian” worldview. Human life was respected as being created in the image of the God of the Bible. From the conception of a new human, to the way in which that human’s life ended, human beings were seen as inherently valuable.

From the mid-1950’s through the 1960’s, the previously accepted mores limiting sexual interaction to a man and a woman in the covenant of marriage began to be rejected. The underlying reasons are numerous, but the bottom line is that the baby-boomer generation rebelled against the worldview of its progenitors. Sexual “freedom” became the norm, and a generation became enslaved to seeking the next encounter. Of course, there were unintended consequences to this behavior. The consequence we are concerned with here is unplanned pregnancy.

While the sexual behavior became acceptable to society, pregnancy out of wedlock was still looked upon as something to be avoided. Obviously, this became a problem when the female population engaged in the behavior manifested the natural results of sexual activity – they became pregnant. Now, since the men with whom they were engaged in this behavior were also only pursuing pleasure (as the women had been), the men were not interested in giving up their “freedom” and settling down with the women. This left the women in a difficult position. They found themselves facing unfathomable difficulties. They were faced with three options.

One of the options these women had at their disposal was to try to raise the child as a single mother. There were no provisions in place for single parenthood in the broader culture at this time, so they faced dire prospects financially and with regard to the social stigma.

A second option was to give the child up for adoption, but they would still face carrying a child to term, experiencing all the physical changes that accompany pregnancy, then giving up the life to which they had undoubtedly become attached during the course of the pregnancy.

The third possibility was to try to find a way to terminate the pregnancy. Women with significant financial resources could afford to pay a physician who was willing to perform an abortion. Most, however, could not afford this “luxury,” so they could either seek an unlicensed physician’s assistance or attempt to terminate on their own. Because of the great risks either of these latter two options presented, there became a groundswell to “legalize” abortion.

So, what’s the big deal? Abortion is legalized, people have the right to have sex with anyone they want (so long as they are at least 18 years old), and it’s all “socially acceptable.” The proverbial big deal is that neither of these social norms were considered acceptable until the past forty years, usurping the way in which even the broader culture viewed the world until then. Roe vs. Wade and Doe vs. Bolton (both of which were handed down from the Supreme Court of the United States on the exact same day) did more to legislate morality than most have any idea, and the legislation did not come from any legislative body in this country. These decisions were handed down from a body that is supposed to interpret legislation, not make it.

What is it that was legislated on that consequential day in 1973? The most obvious is that it became “moral” to terminate the developmental stage of a human being for purposes of making the mother’s and father’s life more convenient. But the more insidious and lesser noticed morality that was legislated was the “freedom” for people to engage in one of the most consequential behaviors of human existence without fear of life-altering consequences – namely, caring for a child. In other words, people could have sex without consequences.

This analysis totally ignores the consequences of sexually transmitted diseases, emotional trauma, and social stigma that accompanies multiple sexual partners over a long period of time. The main point is this: we live in a time when the most basic assumptions of our culture are based upon the legislation of morality. Abortion is only used because it is fairly self-evident to most people when these facts are pointed out to them. Perhaps future entries will focus on slavery, real estate law, voting, driving, smoking, dietary laws, ways of dying, health care, or welfare. For today, please know that every law we have that governs humans is related to someone’s ideas of what morality looks like.

From Gryffindor Tower.

Thank you again Sir Albus.

xtnyoda, shalomed



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