In the Aug. 26 Community Voices piece “Are we all racist now?” the author attaches the recent fashion of slurring political opponents with racist trope to what he identifies as a root cause: “...an uncompromising and unending battle of political progressives vs. most of the rest of us who respect and uphold traditional values — regardless of our political affiliations.” He then stigmatizes progressives as persons who “are determined to transform our country from its current 'natural law’ foundation to a radically different philosophy.” He pontificates, “Our nation is based on certain principles of 'natural law,' each clearly set forth in our Declaration of Independence upon which our U.S. Constitution is based," and lists them — all created equal, endowed by Creator with certain unalienable rights, life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.
Where to begin? Certainly progressives are trying to transform our country. However, the notion that our country is based on natural law is 18th century historical nonsense. Natural laws are laws that exist independent of any given political order and are felt to be objective and universal. They descend from early Greek philosophies and were codified by the Middle Ages philosopher, Thomas Aquinas. Presently, natural law is a stand-in for the concept of natural rights.
The belief in natural law, however, is no longer philosophically or ontologically objective or universal. Consider “all men are created equally.” Without the modifying phrase, before the law, this is patently not true — think of birth defects, natural differences in intelligence and difference of muscular development. We are not all Einsteins or Brett Favres. When it comes to basic nature itself, things seems to be always changes. Science now has the ability to change the DNA code of an embryo. This gives man the ability to create new species.
The Declaration of Independence was itself an attempt to replace natural law as then understood with a new transformation. The concept, in the 18th century, was that certain groups (the royals) were born with an inherited superior intelligence and judgement and therefore had a “natural right” to govern the less fortunate. This was crystallized in the concept of the Devine Right of Kings. The American independence movement was and is an attempt to overturn this philosophy and replace it with the right of the people to govern themselves. The one undeniable truth about nature and natural-anything is that there is continuous change and that this change is neither good nor bad — it just is.
What principles then are progressives using to transform our country if natural law no longer makes sense? Progressives simple hear reverberating in their minds their mother’s commandment — do onto others as you want them to do onto you. This is a society where the primary guiding principle is justice with a corollary principle of universal respect for life and liberty. The author states, “the motivation for derogatory name-calling … is ... to transform our nation into a secular government with systems that entirely ignore the reality of natural law …” Wrong, progressives want to reinforce the concept of a secular state as defined in the First Amendment. A state that is based on justice and respect for others independent of religious, ethnic or gender prejudices.
The author quotes Psalm 33:12 — “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” — as his choice for our country and asks “What’s yours?” Prejudice is the psychological state that holds that one set of characteristics is superior to any other set of characteristics (i.e. whiteness is superior to blackness, maleness is better than femaleness and Yahweh is truer than Vishnu). Racism is prejudice applied to an ethnic group.
My choice is one where religious freedom is considered a right encoded into law. Where people have the freedom to form relationships with whomever they wish. I choose a country where there is a right to pursue happiness. Pursue means to chase in an attempt to catch. Conservatives by their denial of change will never pursue meaningful happiness. Progressives devote all their effort to making the future better. They actively push for laws that make living a much more fulfilling experience. Which type of citizen are you?
William D. Bezdek is a retired physician.