Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Terms of Our Surrender -

The Terms of Our Surrender -

The term "culture war", has become more a trope than anything else these days. There are no physical injuries, casualties or lost property, that is the very essence of "war", but there are still the military descriptives of "battles", "skirmishes" or "battlefields"

Civil rights is very often described as being at the very center of the culture war. The Voting Rights Act and Brown vs. Board of Education were key events in the culture war between the furtherance of constitutional guarantees of equality regardless of race, and the resistance of a significant portion of the population to the enactment of these newly expanded guarantees.

The hearts and minds of those that were against new civil rights legislation were not ever changed by these laws or Supreme Court decisions. Laws can never do that. The law of the land represents the principles that the country, as a whole, believes best expresses it's beliefs about itself. In the decades following the great Civil Rights Era, the generation against it slowly and inevitably died out, replaced by younger generations mostly fortunate enough to avoid the bigotry and intolerance and inequality of their forebears. Jim Crow, separate but equal, and segregation seem horrifically impossible to most people in 2014. Yet, my lifespan includes all of these abominations.

In the search for justice, halfway is no way. There were never any exceptions in the Civil Rights laws for anyone unwilling to abide by the law. When enacted, the Voting Rights Act did not allow for any county to ask for additional time to gradually transition to the new law. No exceptions.

At the end of WW II, the last war generally agreed to be an unambiguously "righteous" war, the terms of surrender for the Axis powers were no terms. Unconditional surrender was demanded, required, and received. No Nazis were left in any positions of power in Germany to allow for an orderly transition away from their hideous and diabolical ideology. Imperial Japan was not allowed to continue to deify their emperor. No quarter given.

In spite of this, many, many Germans and Japanese did not magically find their views changed in any meaningful way. That didn't matter. The law was the law, and no legal exceptions were allowed. Time would take it's toll.

One modern analog in our society is in the area of Gay rights. For most of recorded history, and up to the present time homosexuals have been persecuted without remorse. Led mostly by religious zealots of every stripe, Gays have been ostracized, beaten, and denied basic human rights. Only in recent years, and swelling quite rapidly lately, has there been progress in the advancement of Gay rights, and even in the legalizing of gay marriage. In spite of the significant progress made lately, the reality is that Gays do not have and are not guaranteed the same social and economic constitutional rights enumerated in the U.S. Constitution.

Douthat's column, linked to above, makes a case for getting the "best terms" for the perpetrators of discrimination against Gays, because while true equality is a long way off, Douthat presumes that the coming of equality for Gays is inevitable. I hope that he is right about the inevitability of equality, but his claim for a "negotiated" settlement and a special less than absolute granting of this equality to allow for the religious beliefs of the perpetrators of discrimination against gays should be taken into account.

Brown vs. Board of Education decreed separate but equal was not equal, and not to be allowed. The Voting Rights Act didn't leave a few tests or poll taxes in place in counties reticent to allow blacks the right to vote. Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, empires fueled by racial hatred were unconditionally smashed.

The hiding behind "religious beliefs" should not now be allowed to prevent the law from protecting the equal rights of gays, just as they were not allowed to prevent the granting of freedom to slaves, civil rights to blacks, the Nazi Holocaust in Europe or the Imperial Japanese subjugation of Asia and the Pacific.

It will take decades for the protesting population to die out. The persecution of Gays will one day be seen as insane as other examples of discrimination are seen as today. The sooner the law unconditionally codifies the equality of Gays, the sooner this society can move to that point in the future.

Mr. Douthat, the terms of surrender are, no terms. It is unconditional surrender that is demanded and required.

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