Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Joe's Response to Some Good Christmas Tolerance II

I am glad to see someone else use the term albeit. I love that word and constantly get criticized for using such an "archaic" term. :) And if only I could write this much on my papers to be published for my dissertation, I'd get out on time. :)

I should say out the outset that much of the following could be dismissed as isolated incidents and not indicative of the culture at large. But there are numerous individuals at work that are attempting to change that. So I think it important to pay attention to the isolated incidents and see the patterns it represents.

To answer your question, no, I would not call them truly free because if slaves are permitted, there is always the possibility that a free person could lose their freedom and become a slave. This was the situation in Greece then as I recall (admittedly, it has been a number of years since I looked at that literature) and it was certainly the case in the south. There were many white slaves, although they generally weren't called that (and they certainly don't make it into the common school history texts). They were called indentured servants or sharecroppers, but a serious look into what was going on easily sees that many were in effect slaves with no real hope of earning their freedom. Thus, that does not count as real freedom because of that potentiality to become that which one kept. But more importantly, to claim freedom for oneself but to claim the right to hold slaves at the same time is hypocrisy. How can one argue that they have the right to be free when they are holding others as slaves?

Additionally, did you know that slaves are still being kept in the US today? They are not called slaves as that is illegal, but what else do you call it when people are forced to work without pay and not allowed to leave? This is the situation in many orange orchards in Florida. The owners "pay" the workers a minimal wage, but charge for all their necessities and require the workers to buy from them, but the amount they charge is over what they are paid, so then they are not allowed to leave until they have paid what they owe, which is impossible. This is highly illegal, but the police have thus far neglected to shut the places down even after being handed solid evidence of the criminal acts. Why? Because the police are paid off. Every once in a while a new police chief or other legal person comes in and cleans it up and makes arrests, but it never seems to stay that way for long. There are other examples, but they are equally or more illegal and generally do not have as much police blindness turned toward it, so can be dismissed as not counting as much since they are not government approved. But can we truly call ourselves a free society when we permit this sort of behavior to continue?

In the USA, it is not actually always permissible for everyone to believe what they want and practice what they want. I personally know people that have had their shops and homes destroyed because they did not follow the Christian faith of their neighbors. It is not unknown for people to be killed because they did not follow accepted religious practices or because they were gay. While technically the people that committed those offenses are criminals and did not have the legal authority to commit those acts, since the local police were sympathetic to the religious criminals, no charges were brought even when the perpetrators were openly known. I have even known police to be involved. Hard to believe? Maybe, but I have personally seen it happen (chalk it up to my bitter southern upbringing:) ). That is why I support actions taken by groups such as the ACLU to enforce the separation of church and state.

Whenever religion and government mix, I find it a bad situation. Perhaps you have heard of the "faith-based initiatives" the current US administration has funded? Did you know that all of that money has gone to Christian organizations (although I must say that my information is only valid for the first two years of the program, I do not know about the rest).

Finally, to paraphrase an anonymous line by someone in Hitler's Germany (at least I don't know where it came from): "I did not complain when they came for the Gypsies, for they were thieves, nor for the Jews because they were little better. I did not complain when they took the Catholics because they did not believe as I did. But when they came for me and I asked for help, there was no one left to complain." Not exactly a quote as I don't really remember it exactly, but I think it says the point eloquently. When a people allow an injustice to some, it risks injustice to all.

That last bit could be thought of as going a bit far afield and could be seen as offensive when speaking to a Jew. If so, I did not mean to cause offense.
But it does point out I think quite effectively what ends can be reached when a populace decides that the freedoms of some people are not as important as their own. I think it important we guard against this as I do not think human nature has changed to the point that it could not happen again.

"The price of freedom is eternal vigilance." Sure wish I knew who said that, at least before Picard on Star Trek. :)

My response: I am not familiar with the incidents you describe so I really cannot comment on them. I would point out that you have to be careful in your assumptions about people’s actions. Just because the police fail to catch someone it does not mean that the police are siding with the criminals. Also it is difficult to categorize something as a hate crime. For example, let us say someone were to come up to me, call me a dirty Jew, smack me with a baseball bat and steal my wallet. Do we assume that this is a hate crime and that I was attacked because I am a Jew or do we assume that the person wanted to steal my wallet and since he was already beating me up and stealing my wallet he decided to call me a dirty Jew for good measure. Alternatively, even if he did not take my wallet, we could say that the person who attacked me was angry and looking for a fight and so he latched on to the fact that I am a Jew, without really being anti-Semitic. This is one of the reasons why I do not support hate crime legislation.

As to the freedom issue, the fact they you may end up a slave does not change the fact that you are free know. Keep in mind this whole category of a free person came about within the context of slavery. A free person was someone who was not a slave. The democratic revolution, which has occurred over the past few hundred years, has declared that everyone is free, but that is not the only way to organize society.

Let me ask you a question. Why is slavery worse than being a hired worker? In theory slavery is simply taking the reality that one person has power over another and enshrining it into law. The ancients and many of the founding fathers would have told you that it is inevitable that some people have power over other people. Slavery simply makes it official which has the advantage of making the master responsible. Now, one could point to the abuses that happen in a slave system, but that is not an argument against slavery; that is simply a reason to reform the system and make laws to protect slaves. The only reason to object to the existence of slavery is if you are going to say that freedom has an innate moral value, but that is a very modernist view. We cannot criticize the ancients for not having our value system. Their value system makes as much internal sense, if not more so, than ours.

You still have not answered my initial question. How am I harmed by the government putting up a Christmas tree? Is such an action really more harmful to me than the government sponsoring gay marriage?

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