Thursday, November 11, 2004

Liberal Assumptions, even in Jesusland

"What makes liberals think they have the right to decide what's acceptable to say?"

Of course, liberals are not the only ones who make these kinds of assumptions. In Israel, for example, the Orthodox rabbinate has the statutory right to decide who is, and who is not, a Jew. So if you are a convert to Judaism but your conversion was overseen by a Reform or Conservative rabbi, then by Orthodox lights you are not a Jew, and you are not entitled to the things that in Israel Orthodox rabbis alone can provide, like a Jewish wedding. As a result, thousands of Israeli couples must go abroad to marry. No doubt other religions enforce similar rules for in-group/out-group behavior, just as countries have rules to determine who qualifies for citizenship.

But with liberals, there is a difference. For starters, they are liberal: that is, "tolerant," "open-minded," "not bound by traditional or conventional ideas, values," "having views or policies advocating individual freedom of action and expression," to mention some of the dictionary definitions. Sure, rabbis, priests and politicians earn their living by making distinctions between Us and Them. But liberals speak for all mankind: Their decencies are human decencies, not group ones, supposedly. And while human decency shouldn't connote limitless toleration for aberrant behavior, surely the liberal "at least" would be notched a couple inches below whatever level of human debasement John Ashcroft is supposed to have reached.