Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Column 3: When did it become our job?

I always know that I’m hitting sore spots when people passionately rebut points I didn’t make – it seems they have no effective rebuttal to those I did make. For the record, I did not say that all values are equal or right, I said that values are not facts, and need to be considered in subjective terms, and political values need to be considered in the context of the overarching values on which the society is founded. Free speech, for example, is a value so salient in our culture that it is the very first of the rights guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. Therefore, any action that might abridge this right must be carefully considered against the importance of the right itself.

Now to this week’s issues. When did it become the job of the United States to export our values and way of life to the rest of the world whether they ask for it or not? I have the highest regard for our way of life, and would not live under any other system. At the same time, our values are not the only possible values, however benighted we may consider others to be, and nowhere have I found any evidence that we have the right to impose them on others. We have the right to require allegiance to the basic values of the US if people want to live here, but if, say, Canada were to choose to adopt Zorastrianism as their state religion, that is their business, and we have no right to say they can’t do that.

Notwithstanding this, somehow in 150 years we have gone from the Monroe Doctrine, stating that we would resist any attempt by outside powers to influence or control events in this hemisphere to the Truman Doctrine, interdicting Soviet expansion in the other hemisphere, and beyond that to now, when, according to the Bush administration, it seems to be our mission to export democracy throughout the world and to impose supposedly Christian values on everyone here at home.

I agree that the world would be a better place if democracy established everywhere, but I don’t agree that it is our right or our mission to do that. And if we are going to do them, shouldn’t we start at home? Our country is based on the Four Freedoms – freedom from fear, from want, of speech, and of religion. Should we not look at the Patriot Act and its implementation and the climate of fear and intimidation that it is creating, among loyal citizens who happen to be (or appear to be) Muslim? Should we not look at the increase in the number of families living below the poverty line? The Patriot Act is the greatest blow to freedom from fear and freedom of speech since the McCarthy era, and the right will tout the supposed economic improvement of the past four years, the employment and poverty figures do not paint this administration champions of freedom from want.

As to freedom of religion, US residents are free to worship when and as we please –a big plus compared to much of the world. On the other hand, a minority of the Christian majority has become more and more active in attempting to impose its values as THE values of the United States, It’s true that in a democracy the majority rules, but it is equally a value of democracy that (a) the founding values of the country are the ultimate test for the validity of any value-based argument, and (b) the rights of minorities are to be respected and protected. I believe that freedom of religion trumps the “right” of right-wing Christians to impose their values on the country.

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