July 20, 2016 9 Comments
While musing on the writings of author and philosopher G.K. Chesterton in his personal notebook, a young John F. Kennedy wrote, “Don’t ever take a fence down until you know the reason why it was put up.” Fences hold things in we want to keep close, and protect us from things we want to keep out. But Chesterton and JFK were not making a point about physical fences. They were speaking of the ideas, principles, and institutions that surround the things that make life worth living, and protect us from threats to those things we value and love.
This is the sort of fence we are currently “taking down” in America. Since its inception, America has been surrounded and protected by a unique set of ideas that created the strongest, most prosperous, most secure and compassionate land of opportunity that has ever existed. These ideas were considered by America’s founders to be “self-evident” because they were based on the “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” (from the first sentence of the Declaration of Independence).
Generations of Americans have lived in security and freedom because our leaders have generally been faithful to the belief that nature’s God, the Creator, imbued all people with unalienable rights, including the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The second sentence of the Declaration is all based on the assumption of what we call natural law:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. – That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed
He goes on a bit and he is correct.
In the meantime, Laurence W Maher was writing in The Spectator about ‘hate speech’,
Will we live to see anything to match the suddenness, the scale and the ferocity of the eruption of hatred and loathing directed by the global know-it-alls at the 17.5 million Britons who, when invited to express their democratic wishes, had the temerity to vote in favour of the UK leaving the EU? Those envious, uneducated, ignorant, poor fools simply don’t understand: Inclusion rules OK!
Some Australians share the horror of the know-it-alls. The prescriptions of some of them reflect the (post)modern curse of abstractionitis. There are taboo ideas. We are told which words we must or must not use. They insist that ‘debate’ is bad. We must always ‘engage’ one another in ‘conversation’ (provided it is ‘meaningful’). We must be ‘inclusive’ and ‘respectful’ and otherwise comply with many other abstract multicultural pieties. We must tremble and wring our hands in timidity if we are exposed to anything remotely ‘divisive’ or ‘unsafe’.
This prescriptive school of democratic correctness is backed up by the legally enforceable censorious command of the Australian Human Rights Commission that we worship at the high altar of difference and diversity. A word search of the AHRC online archive demonstrates that the word ‘dissent’ is not part of its vocabulary. Its motto is ‘everyone, everywhere, everyday’. (The online anagram generator produced ‘evade or eye envy or nervy eye’). In truth, the AHRC is exhorting Australians to think and speak according to a simple rule – diversity in everything, EXCEPT OPINION OK!
Strikes me as pretty much diametrically opposite. And that marks the reason why Demint (and I) see it as a problem. As many including George Orwell demonstrated there is no real freedom without free speech. Has it perhaps been abused to cover trash as art and such things? Perhaps, but art is in the eye of the beholder, and like the old legal saying that it is better to release 1000 guilty men than convict one innocent man. That holds here, as well. And that is one of the things about America and Americans, we understand that the right to free speech is exactly consonant with the right to offend.
Demint ends with this, which is fairly obviously true as well.
Politicians will not rebuild the fence of natural law. It must be rebuilt by individuals, families, churches, schools, businesses, and volunteer organizations. It will only be rebuilt by We the People if we have the courage to tie our rights back to an eternal natural order.