As society changes, as the old gives way to the new, how am I supposed to feel and relate? Psychologists tell us man’s social structure is not vastly different than that of rats. We are both social animals, who need the help of others to survive and prosper. We find our niche in society and tend to remain there for our lives. There are exceptional individuals who through their uniqueness affect the society as a whole, and in passing their genes on may improve the potential for that society. I found this to be an interesting analogy when I first heard it, today I find it just a bit troubling as I ask the question, what kind of rat am I?
As individuals, when we interact with other individuals on a human level, we are usually kind and considerate, or we hide behind a mask that suggests we are. As we band together in groups one of the first things we seem to lose is consideration for others and tolerance. There are those who care so little for society they demand their own way at the expense of the greater good. They move through life barging into people without notice. They cast aside those they look down on, or they are openly violent to those they despise. For a society to survive these individuals and groups must be a very small fraction of the population. I am not talking here about those we understand to be ill, but rather those who’ve willingly chosen to abandon the accepted moral standards of a society striking out with a band of like-minded people. Do I have an obligation to these groups? If so what is it?
What makes this question so hard for me is the similarity between groups I am told are horribly bad and groups I am told are so wonderfully good. Both have chosen to abandon the accepted social order and strike out on their own in the hopes of reshaping the society at large. Who gets to choose which group is good or bad? To illustrate my point, I will discuss two groups who’ve risen to political prominence (at different times), within the Democratic Party, (I focus on the Democratic party to remove the current debate between the values of good and evil the DNC and the RNC have framed for themselves), and while I have my personal view of why one group is now good and the other now bad does that equal a moral truth?
On the one hand, we have the Ku Klux Klan, originally established in the post-civil war reconstruction era, allegedly to protect the interests of the southern whites, it rose to nation-wide political prominence in the first third of the 20th Century. In his 1915 film “Birth of a Nation,” D.W. Griffith produced and directed as a testament to the Klan. In the film, he showed the Klan as protectors of white virtue and patriotic national pride. The film was overtly racist, showing the blacks as unintelligent and sexually aggressive towards the white women. It encouraged the discrimination of blacks and other minorities as it encouraged pride in the white race. The NAACP attempted to stop the screening and failed. It is credited with a resurgence of the Klan in the 1920s, so clearly it played to some sentiment within the larger society. Despite decades of evidence that racism is morally repugnant, economically damaging, almost universally condemned by our society (as shown by the multitude of laws against it) -- it still exists.
On the other hand, we have today’s LGBT(Q) movement. We see this group’s influence in almost every medium available. They have gained significant support across the social infrastructure, and the SCOTUS has afforded them, as a group, the protections of the 14th Amendment. The Executive branch has taken active steps to assure their recognition in the government structure. In the transition from a silent minority to a vocal minority there has been an evolution within the Democratic party. The political winds have shifted from a position where the democratic politicians denied their rights in the mid-1990s (the Defense of Marriage Act), to a decision to embrace them. What has changed within the party to bring about this enlightenment? Is it just another hot-button topic to use as they struggle for political dominance, or is there truly a change towards acceptance in our moral foundation?
Obviously, those who support the LGBT movement would say yes there has been a change, but does that make it so?
Here we have two minority positions, both of which have become political in their nature. The first, white supremacy, came into being long ago, the second, LGBT(Q) supremacy, is recent. But it would be foolish to assume either of the human traits is modern. Our literature can trace both qualities back through the millenniums. What I take away from the current condemnations or support, is that while political winds change, the deeper the politicians inject themselves into the moral issues of a society, the more likely they are to create division, rather than acceptance. I don’t see a lot of fundamental success in legislating moral positions, so how do I decide what my obligation is regarding either condemnation, acceptance, rejection, or support?
At least for the time being the adage “live and let live” seems to be passé.