Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Keep your laws off my morals

***CAUTION*** Political rant. Proceed at your own risk.***

California is about to consider a no-spanking law. Several cities have enacted laws that prohibit restaurants from using trans fats in food preparation. The definition of marriage and who may enter into that union has seen much debate and publicity in recent years. And even after 34 years of safe and legal abortion, states are constantly fighting and attempting to pass legislation designed to legislate moral and medical choices.

An op-ed piece I read recently rants about not only these laws, but also the law that bans handheld cell phone use while driving -- one that is or will be soon in effect in just four US states (although it's being debated federally) but in a myriad of countries.

And the writer blames it all on the Democrats, although not mentioned specifically by name, and the *L* word -- (insert exaggerated shudder here) -- LIBERALS.

Never mind that there are about a gazillion political parties in the US, most with a very specific political agenda. Never mind that if the arch conservatives have their way, personal choice about anything other than guns, [the one True Conservative] God, and apple pie will go the way of the dodo bird.

The writer asserts that only those who believe in God can really think for themselves, implying that everyone else allows [liberal] lawmakers to do their thinking for them instead of allowing God to direct their lives [through the directives of the one True Church aka Religous Right]. In other words, if you hold any LIBERAL thoughts, you couldn't possibly believe in God.

I guess you may have figured out that I make my bed on the "L" side.

I do not support law that encroaches on my right to make medical and ethical choices regardless of which party supports it.

I do not appreciate laws that dictate what I am allowed to eat, drink, or inhale, although I fully support label warnings such as those found on alcoholic beverages and tobacco products (and for that matter, warnings on aerosol cans, poisons, plastic bags, etc.).

Let me know the consequences should I choose to partake. But let me make the choice. If I die from a constant diet of fettucini alfredo, deep-fried chicken and a side of greasy fries topped with Cheese Whiz, it's my decision: ONLY mine. Not the restauranteur's nor the manufacturer's.

Similarly, I don't support a no-spanking law. There are child abuse laws on the books -- and there should be -- but emotional or verbal abuse is far more subtle to detect and can be far more devastating to a kid than a whack on the bottom. Out-of-control spanking is child abuse. Whacking your kid repeatedly in a public place should net a 911 call from store personnel or observers. Ditto shouting and yelling at a child. Leave it at that.

Cell phone usage while driving has been proven time and again to cause fatalities, not only to the talker, but to innocents in his/her path. That is a safety issue as much as is wearing a seat belt or buckling a child into a safe car seat. It's not legislating morality or choice; it's protecting you and others from death or serious injury.

These are not commie-pinko-conspiracy issues. They are not -- or should not be -- political party issues. They do, however, often entice the do-gooder-meddler-busy-body types to preach and proclaim, all too often with God's name frequently rolling off their busy lips. For the record, I believe in God, but I have trouble believing that S/He is vengeful and angry because of trans fats or cell phones or spanking. Or similar issues, for that matter.

I'm not going into abortion or gay marriage in this post. Let's just say for now that I believe individuals should be free to make medical/religious/ethical/relationship decisions for themselves rather than to have those rights determined by others.

And regarding the ability to think for oneself and believing in God: while the majority of US citizens call themselves Christians, there are huge denominational differences in how one lives one's beliefs. We also have significant numbers of US citizens who are not Christian but who do believe in God, and still more who follow other spiritual paths. It is not a given that you must believe in God to be able to make thoughtful personal choices. To dismiss such a large sector of the population as being incapable of thinking for themselves is simply arrogant, ignorant, and narrow-minded behavior.

Keep your morals to yourself. Keep your laws off mine. How we treat others and ourselves has been outlined by various religious traditions for milleniums. That ought to be sufficient.

**Disclaimer: As with any law or imperative, there always are extenuating circumstances. Volumes have been written about each of these topics. I'm addressing here only the superlative proclamations made by the op-ed writer.


bubba spice said...

beth...i wanna agree, to a degree...

the problem is, of course i want SOME things to be illegal BECAUSE they are immoral...

millin folks, stealing from folks, beating folks etc...

the deal is, the things you point to tend to be things that are illegal that you don't believe are immoral (and they may very well not be). it is tough to make an argument that talking on a phone, smoking crack or eating a lard sandwich are immoral....

i think what you seem to be saying is keep your laws to yourself if your morals aren't mine...

which doesn't bother me too much because your morals seem pretty darned decent from what i can tell.

Beth said...

Thanks for your comment. And no, I don't think I'm saying to keep your laws to yourself if your morals aren't mine....I'm saying there are some individual choices that should not be legislated at all.
I also believe some things -- such as those you cited -- should be illegal -- and mostly they are ones that impinge on another's rights (like not to be beaten to a pulp no matter how richly they may have deserved it),. Those kinds of things also are immoral, far as I can see it...