Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Freedom to Hate

Hate - not a nice sounding word, or even an admirable emotion, right? I agree.

But, I do believe in one's legal "right to hate." I am nor discussing the morality of hatred here - but its legality!

Hatred has always existed, and I feel always will - until, of course, in some far-distant future life it can be "genomically" eliminated.

It is not how fiercely we hate someone, or some idea, or some culture, etc. it is how we deal with this feeling that matters. We need not associate with people or things we hate, we need not read literature or newspapers, or listen to the presentation of issues dealing with matters that are hateful to us, and we have the right to fiercely dispute the issue.

Nevertheless, the "right to hate" exists. One has the right to publicly declare one's detestation of Jews, Muslims, gun-owners, or, for that matter, child-molesters. But there are limits. One may not do so in a manner clearly designed to promote violent action.

A recent article in the New York Times discussed the inadvertent (lets assume it really was inadvertent) appearance of a message promoting a book supporting Holocaust-denial e-mailed to the PTA membership-list of a local elementary school. The parent promoting this book has the right to read it, extol it, and promote it - even on this group e-mail - as long as no law was violated. The fact that it somehow was sent to members of this e-mail list is a problem for those responsible for the administration of the site - not the sender's problem. He has the right to non-violently promote hate-material - and one has the right to hate him in return! But it is wrong to subject him to public exhortations such as "evict the Nazi" or to "threatening phone calls", as enumerated in the Times piece.

Hate him - yes. Never associate with him again - positively! Make conscientious oral or written assertions disputing his beliefs - absolutely. But - direct threats deliberately intended to interfere with his daily life and liberty - not permitted!

The United States does not outlaw the publication of hate literature, nor does it restrict use of public hate speech - as long as its intent is not to provoke violence. This "right to hate" speech does not exist in all countries. Germany has outlawed public expressions of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. I understand the "why" - but cannot support the "why."

As long as Germany (and other countries) feels the need to legally proscribe such expression, these banned issues, issues that have severely tarnished its history, must still remain firmly embedded in its soul. Hopefully, in the not-too-distant future, when the guilt of Germany's past is finally wrested from its anima, the "freedom to hate" will join other expressions permitted and embodied in the term "free speech."

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

God and Tucson

Many of the conversations, quotes, and writings about the Tucson disaster have mentioned God. It appears that God is to be thanked for the saving of the lives that were spared, especially for the "miraculous" survival of Congresswoman Giffords - who made extraordinary progress following her brain injury. Perhaps he did have a hand in these "miracles."

But did he, then, also have a hand in the actions leading to the six who were killed? Obviously they were not selected for "saving." It seems that we are always ready to thank God for rescuing us from a disaster, but never "blaming" God for the disaster in the first place! Are we implying that God had nothing to do with causing the problem, but only showed up to mitigate it?

Believers "understand" this dichotomy. After all, "who are we to question the ways of the Lord." But should this entire catastrophe be an act of God, must we not also accept the fact that Jared Loughner took these steps as an "agent of the Lord?" If, on the other hand, it was an act that God did not dictate, but could have prevented, he obviously saw no reason to intervene.

I believe I am correct when I paraphrase the Bishop of Tucson who, in his eulogy of Christina-Taylor Green, stated that "God wanted her to be with him." God works in mysterious ways. If he, indeed, did wish Christina to join him, it seems a rather cruel way to get her there. He had the option of having Christina die peacefully in her sleep, but instead chose to have her die violently with a bullet.

Who are we to question the actions of God. We are only human beings - we are not, and never will be privy to God's reasons. His actions are always beyond our comprehension.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Abortion and Viability

Life begins at some point. But when? The answer used to be easy - at birth. This interpretation, of course, is no longer accepted by most Americans. Now life is considered to begin at the point of "viability"- that time of intrauterine development at which a fetus can reasonably be expected to survive ex utero. The termination of fetal development prior to viability is permitted by law. The termination of fetal development after viability may be restricted. Roe v. Wade permits abortion only during the first trimester of a pregnancy - before the point of viability.

Now if one defines viability as the time when a fetus can reasonably be expected to survive, one must seriously consider the argument that the "viability age" may at some future date, be moved back into the first trimester. This is especially true, given ongoing advancements in neonatology, as well as more basic research in methods of extra uterine conception and maturation. It is quite imaginable that viability will be possible for a "product of conception" conceived and subsequently "developed" in some form of "test tube" environment from the very onset of fertilization.

Assuming the validity of the above theses, we may be faced with a new ethical dilemma - the fact of viability at the time of conception - the Roman Catholic definition of when life begins.
Will those in favor of abortion under the rules of Roe v. Wade, and opposed to abortion after a fetus has reached viability, now rethink their positions, given this new certainty?

Should all fetuses (or "products of conception") be potentially viable, it logically follows that viability as the benchmark for the "right to be born" is present at conception, and therefore can no longer serve as the criterion for termination at any age. A fetus aged 1 day can be no different from one 8 or 9 months old. Viability can no longer be considered an issue in this matter. I am not discounting the possibility that there may be other criteria to consider - but viability no longer qualifies.

This discourse is not meant to serve as an argument for or against abortion, but is submitted for your reflections as a potential future ethical issue that may require new considerations in the coming decades.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Guns and Killing in 2011

"Guns don't kill people. People kill people." So the argument goes.

However, one has to accept the logical conclusion that people can't use guns to kill people if there were no guns. For people to kill people using guns, both guns and people have to be present! Now we can't eliminate the people side of the equation, but we can eliminate the guns side of the equation!

Using a similar argument one could say "Cigarettes don't kill people. People kill people." A dormant cigarette kills no one. It is when a person lights one that death may occur. Both cigarettes and people have to be present! Now we can't eliminate the people side of the equation, but we can eliminate the cigarette side of the equation.

Of course any instrument involved in the killing of a person involves not only the instrument, but a person. But it is the presence of the instrument that aggravates a person's ability to cause a death.

Many, if not most, of these "instruments involved in killing" such as planes, cars, swimming pools, etc. cannot reasonably be eliminated if people are to continue to exist contentedly in today's world. The incredibly easy availability of cigarettes and guns, however, can be controlled or eliminated and , arguably, not significantly affect a reasonably contented society.

Though cigarettes, planes, cars, and swimming pools, and the like are potential instruments of death, they are hardly ever used to deliberately kill. They are not instruments specifically designed to cause severe injury or death. They are not "weapons." Guns, on the other hand, are. Guns were invented specifically to inflict injury or death. They are "weapons!" Though they may be used for alternative activities such as target practice, etc. their invention was to inflict injury or death.

The second amendment of the Constitution of the United States gives citizens the "right to bear arms." No one can argue the fact that this amendment relates this "right" to the maintenance of a citizen militia. Whether the "militia" or the "arms" is the prime subject of this amendment remains unclear. Is it not reasonable to assume that, were "the right to bear arms" the major subject of this amendment, the founders would have not felt it necessary to include any reference to a militia therein? Agreeing that the founders were intelligent men, why wouldn't they just have said "The right of citizens to bear arms shall not be infringed" - and end it there?

The Constitution was designed to be amended. That is why the founders initiated the process of amendment in the first place. The "right to bear arms" is not an original article of the Constitution, but is a amendment! Remember, our founders when constructing our Constitution, decided it was "right" to count certain "citizens" as "3/5" of a person in determining the population of a district for representation in the House of Representatives. Yes, this provision was eventually eliminated by a post-Civil War amendment.

There is nothing "absolutely" sacred about our Constitution. There are times when "updating" and "modernizing" are necessary.

Realizing that the Founding Fathers were not absolutely correct in everything they composed (Consider the phrase regarding "savage Indians" in our Declaration of Independence), we should not feel constrained to change what clearly should be changed. A set of principles and laws written in 1787, surely demands occasional reconsideration 214 years later! Does anyone truly believe that Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, Adams, etc. would have included a "right to bear arms/militia" clause were they writing in 2011?