Morality. We liberal/progressive types get a lot of flack for allegedly have loose or bad morals. We know that’s not true, but the reason we get that label is, I think, a skewed idea of what morality is, and, more importantly, what it isn’t.
In my book, the one I haven’t written, morality is a universal trait. And because it’s universal, it has nothing to do with what any man or group of men decide.Cultural norms and customs aren’t morality. Morality is knowing the difference between right and wrong.
It’s not about who we have sex with, or when or how. It is about how we treat other human beings. Most of us have an innate ability to treat other human beings with respect and dignity, to do what we can to help out. The problem lies with those of us who don’t see the rest of us as full human beings.
The Founding Fathers, for example, didn’t quiet see blacks as full humans. Three fifths of a human was the best they could do, and unless you were five fifths of a human, you could not have the same rights, if any as, as those who were whole and completely human. In the eyes of other humans.
It’s an old, very old way of thinking, and it’s on the way out. Those who still cling to that archaic outlook are backed into a corner these days, and, since they believe their very identity is threatened, they are willing to do anything at all to stop the march of progress, the march of morality.
The Founders weren’t really immoral men. It’s just that morality, in the 18th century, was a tad more narrow than it is now — for most of us, anyway. Morality, progress, they grow. Sometimes there are steps back, but never for long. Always forward, ever-expanding. Even Thomas Jefferson, who owned slaves himself, had an inkling of the true meaning of morality.
Self-interest, or rather self-love, or egoism, has been more plausibly substituted as the basis of morality.
Self-interest. Perhaps you’ve heard of the Dred Scott decision, in which a slave, Dred Scott, sued for his freedom — and that of his family — in 1847. The case went to the Supreme Court, where, sadly, he lost in 1857. He died the following year, after he and his family had been returned to their original owners — who by that time had become abolitionists — and were freed. But here’s what Chief Justice Roger B. Taney wrote in that infamous decision, hoping to send the legal questions about slavery once and for all.
- Consequently, no State, since the adoption of the Constitution, can by naturalizing an alien invest him with the rights and privileges secured to a citizen of a State under the Federal Government, although, so far as the State alone was concerned, he would undoubtedly be entitled to the rights of a citizen, and clothed with all the rights and immunities which the Constitution and laws of the State attached to that character.
- no State can, by any act or law of its own, passed since the adoption of the Constitution, introduce a new member into the political community created by the Constitution of the United States.
- (The authors of the Constitution viewed blacks as) beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.
- It would give to persons of the negro race, … the right to enter every other State whenever they pleased, … the full liberty of speech in public and in private upon all subjects upon which its own citizens might speak; to hold public meetings upon political affairs, and to keep and carry arms wherever they went.
And, my friends, therein lies the very source of the conservative drive to delegitimize the first black president of the United States. Y’see, the Supreme Court never got around to overruling the Dred Scott decision, although the court did note that the 14th Amendment had overturned one part of it, making the ruling in 1873.
The first observation we have to make on this clause is, that it puts at rest both the questions which we stated to have been the subject of differences of opinion. It declares that persons may be citizens of the United States without regard to their citizenship of a particular State, and it overturns the Dred Scott decision by making all persons born within the United States and subject to its jurisdiction citizens of the United States.
But back to morality. Taney’s opinion that blacks were inferior to whites exists today, full and strong, within the ranks of the conservatives. It’s the proverbial elephant in the room, at least as far as my colleagues are concerned. They cannot, they will not, say definitively that racism is at the heart of the birther movement.
Of course, the conservatives react this way to any non-conservative president. Democrats are socialiasts, traitors, immoral, evil, out to destroy the country. Delegitimizing all the way. Because we’re not real Americans, and, as we all know, only Americans are full and complete human beings.
Is it moral to favor the rich over everyone else? Is it moral to deny what’s obvious, like, say, that tax cuts for the rich do not create jobs? Is it moral to vote to end the safety net we created for the elderly? Is it moral to cut funding for housing counseling as we continue to let banks make their own rules about mortgages? Is it moral to allow the destruction of the environment — which we depend on for our very survival, the air we breathe, the water we drink — for the almighty dollar?
In that book I haven’t written, not much promoted by the TeaPublicans is anywhere near morality. Far from it. It’s downright immoral.
We live in very ugly times. That happens on the cusp of change. That change may not be completed in all of our lifetimes, but it will be completed. And then even our ideas of morality, of right and wrong, may seem as old-fashioned and wrong-headed as the so-called morality of the right seems to us today.