Things to Come 12 - Criminalizing Dissent

Conservative view are being banned from the public square.

Back about ten years ago, the media and leftists in general trumpted a famous phrase: "Dissent is the highest form of patriotism."  Of course, they held that sentiment when they were dissenting from a Republican President.

How long ago that seems!  Today, with Democrats in charge not only of the government but of the media, dissent is all but a criminal act, and, as we saw in the last article, disagreement from liberal shibboleths is fast crossing that line into outright banishment.  Woe betide the religious person who actually wants to live according to their conscience's dictates in Mr. Obama's America!

To people steeped in traditional American liberties, this seems so strange as to be hard to believe.  Who cares if someone believes something different?  Muslims believe it's a sin to eat pork, but that doesn't put me off my bacon.  If they don't care to eat it, that just leaves more for me!

If there's one unifying characteristic of the modern left, though, it's absolutist totalitarianism.  It's not enough for them to believe and practice as they choose to do; everybody else must follow their dictates like it or not.  It's not sufficient for them to choose to drive Priuses and use windmills; the force of law must be used to shrink everybody's cars, and everybody's tax dollars must go to trendy green boondoggles.  It's not sufficient that homosexuality and promiscuity are no longer crimes; those lifestyle choices must be immune to criticism from anyone who chooses not to engage in them, even for the most deeply felt religious reasons.

This tyranny of conscience is not new; in fact, it's as old as the Bible.

Freedom From Guilt

For its first few centuries of existence, the Roman Empire was generally tolerant of the different religions espoused by the people in its conquered lands.  Beliefs as different as Judaism and the worship of Aphrodite were recognized as legitimate and legal.

That doesn't mean all those beliefs always got along well.  For example, Christian teachings about morality came into conflict with the cult of Diana in Ephesus which was notorious for sexual liberation:

The great temple of Diana at Ephesus, called the Artemision and considered as one of the seven wonders of the Hellenistic world, was the scene of an annual festival in her honor during the month of Artemisios (March–April). The religious ceremonies included athletic, dramatic and musical contests. Ephesus was proud of her position as “temple-keeper” of Diana (Acts 19:35), a boast which has been found on inscriptions excavated there. The temple treasury acted as a bank in which deposits were made by cities, kings and private persons. Here the Ionians came with their wives and children, bringing costly offerings and presents to the priests. Her worship was characterized by sensuous orgies. Great throngs attended. Multitudes of female temple slaves or “priestesses” who came as virgins were here dedicated to service in the temple which may have included ritual or cultic prostitution.

Think about this for a moment.  We are not merely talking about a seaport town where prostitution is common and legal.  Ephesus was the home of a major religion where prostitution was an official religious rite - a sacrament!  Far from being a shameful thing, it was a sign of religious devotion!  The temple prostitutes were the Ephesian equivalent of nuns, honored for their holiness by their lifestyle choice.

Actually, some historical sources suggest that the religious prostitution in the Roman Empire reflected a decrease in devotion; in earlier eras, participation in religious prostitution was mandatory for all women in Ephesus, or at least those who were members of the official religion.  What a topsy-turvy world that must have been, when a visit to church might well involve a tryst with the Sunday-school teacher, or if you're particularly lucky, the princess!

Ephesian Intolerance

One can well imagine the reaction of the Ephesians to the arrival of the Apostle Paul, who preached that their holiest rites were a stench in the nostrils of God.  The Bible records the predictable riot and Paul's abrupt departure.

It was not enough for the Ephesians to be permitted their sexually-oriented religious practices; they'd had that right since time immemorial.  They wanted immunity from being told they were wrong.

The people of Ephesus used their political influence, the heckler's veto, and ultimately the power of riot to prevent the possibility of anyone else making them ashamed of their behavior.  There were also commercial interests involved as one would expect - Demetrius the silversmith led the riot for fear that newly converted Christians would no longer buy the idols he sold.

Liberal Intolerance

We see the same factors in play today.  Planned Parenthood isn't satisfied with abortions being legal; they want to perform as many of them as possible at taxpayer expense because they make money that way.  It's not enough that Sandra Fluke has the legal right to be a slut, she wants all of us to pay for her contraceptives so that she doesn't end up, as President Obama would put it, "punished with a baby."  It's not sufficient that homosexuals have the right to do whatever they please behind closed doors, we must all honor their choices in public.

Once upon a time, it might have been possible to turn the ship around.  Back in the 1980s, Jerry Falwell could plausibly claim that America had a silent "Moral Majority" that believed in traditional values even if they didn't always faithfully express them at the polls.  Homosexuality induced nausea, corruption angered voters, even sluts mostly had the decency not to proudly proclaim their behavior.

That's over.  Thirty years on, most of the people who felt that way are dead.  They've been replaced by young folks who grew up in a totally different world.  The culture war is over; all that is left is mopping up the last few outposts of resistance, generally found in the vicinity of churches.

The question now is no longer, will we return to a government and society that honors morals?  Absent a profound religious revival, that is simply not going to happen because the vast majority of Americans no longer believe that there are any such things as absolute morals anymore.

The only question remaining is, will our government and society even permit you to personally live your life according to the morals you believe in?  Or will the full force of government be used to force people to do things they believe to be morally wrong?

Calling Evil Good and Good Evil

According to the left, if you are reluctant to personally support everything they want, you are evil.  You may not have seen this stunning explanation in the influential leftist publication Truthout, but we all should read it if only for its clarity of purpose:

The basic necessities of life are not for government to give or withhold based on its current budget situation. They are things we are entitled to have, no matter how inconvenient it may be for our neighbors to pay for them. [emphasis added]

Think that through for a moment.  The left is openly arguing that welfare programs can never be cut by the budget process.  They argue that it is a moral requirement for government to spend whatever it takes to provide whatever is defined as the "basic necessities of life," and then to simply steal whatever's needed to cover the bill - "no matter how inconvenient it may be for our neighbors to pay for them."

One could, barely, imagine a weak but plausible argument for this position in the most extreme situations - e.g. a moral right for the government to confiscate and distribute food stores in the event of a famine where people are starving to death.  That's not at all what modern leftists mean; to all intents and purposes, they consider a middle-class lifestyle to be "the basic necessities of life," from Obamaphones to quality private housing to food stamps to birth control to abortion to, well, almost everything imaginable, in a nation where even the poorest have a better quality of life than virtually everyone throughout all of human history.

Isn't that exactly how Mr. Obama has governed?  The arguments against tax increases are irrelevant, because it's not a fiscal issue - it's a moral issue which he's turned into a political issue.  You don't deserve whatever you have, others deserve it more.  Regardless of the economic consequences, government simply must enforce other people's wishful claim to the fruits of your labors, opposition be damned!  The fact that giving away your stuff buys votes has nothing to do with it, entitlements have nothing to do with politics, the moral issues are plain!

Despite the phony justification, it's still theft, just as Ephesian cult prostitution was still prostitution, and just as so many of today's adults are still sluts and womanizers despite their best attempts to evade guilty feelings.  Thus, to salve their consciences, any words of opposition must be silenced.

We are well outside the realm of the normal give-and-take of political negotiation.  Mr. Obama declared that he has no intention of negotiating on issues he believes in:

President Barack Obama recently reiterated his pledge not to negotiate over the nation's borrowing limit Tuesday night, as he marked the passage of a bill to avert the fiscal cliff... "While I will negotiate over many things, I will not have another debate with this Congress over whether they should pay the bills for what they've racked up," Obama said.

They've racked up?  Wasn't it the Democrats in the Senate and White House who ignored the Republican majority in the House and forced all that spending?  Wasn't it the Democrats in the Senate and White House who haven't so much as bothered even to vote on budgets passed by the House of Representatives for the last four years, leaving us without a national budget for all that time?

More fundamentally: isn't negotiation what politics is all about?  If the President is going to do whatever he wants to do without Congress, why do we even go to the trouble and expense of having a Congress?

Good question.  In fact, such a good question that others are asking it - which we'll take a look at in the final part of this depressing series.

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other articles by Petrarch or other articles on Partisanship.
Reader Comments

So how does one combat this totalitarian state? One person cannot do it alone. The theory that a middle class life style is normal is absurd. There has to be a top and a bottom in this world. If that statement is true then middle class is an average and not a norm. Let's take the obamaphone for example. Has anyone ever taken a good look at the taxes on your cellular phone bill? Egregious is just a start at explaining it. What needs to be done by every cell phone user that disagrees that he/she should supply someone else with a cell phone should deduct the taxes from their bill along with a note. It won't happen but there has to be a rebellion against these thugs or they will nickel and dime us to death. For a person to receive food stamps they watch on-air tv and not have cable or satellite. Ditto with cigarettes and drugs and alcohol. It's not that I am trying to control someone else's habits but I simply think that if they need to eat then maybe cable, Jack Daniels and Kools need to go out the window. For us to put up with this shows what weak spines our rock stars in DC have. Even the so called conservatives won't touch these topics.

January 16, 2013 1:43 PM

I've recently been reading the works of John Stuart Mill, which I highly recommend to all Scragged readers. They are brilliant, fundamental, and not nearly so difficult of a read as you might think. What's most striking is how he foresaw so many of the problems we have today.

And he has the perfect answer to Bassboat's question, which we here at Scragged have endorsed repeatedly:

"I regard it as required by first principles, that the receipt of parish relief [what today we'd call welfare] should be a peremptory disqualification for the franchise [the right to vote]. He who cannot by his labour suffice for his own support has no claim to the privilege of helping himself to the money of others. By becoming dependent on the remaining members of the community for actual subsistence, he abdicates his claim to equal rights with them in other respects. Those to whom he is indebted for the continuance of his very existence may justly claim the exclusive management of those common concerns, to which he now brings nothing, or less than he takes away. As a condition of the franchise, a term should be fixed, say five years previous to the registry, during which the applicant's name has not been on the parish books as a recipient of relief.'

Problem solved! Of course, the Democrat party would cease to exist as we know it, so it'll never happen.

January 17, 2013 9:58 AM
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