Community Voices

Thursday, Jul 11 2013 11:00 PM

BRIK McDILL: Majority rules? Today's may well be tomorrow's minority

"In Germany they first came for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me -- but by then no one was left to speak up."

-- Rev. Martin Niemoeller

 

And the clamor continues. Let's summarize. Much of the uproar against the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage comes from the belief that the majority was wrongfully trumped by the minority. Extending the logic of those who object so strongly, any majority, however situated, has the uncontestable right to hold sway over any minority. Buried within this thinking is a pernicious mindset: The majority knows what's best and no one has the right to deviate from it.

Is that something we really want to live with? Is that what we really want for America?

Consider United States history as it was lived out nitty gritty, not as we were taught in elementary, middle, and high school, with a glossed over, polished and smoothed, politically corrected, sepia-toned John Trumbull veneer, but as it actually occurred through rough and tumble times. Infant America was a welter of mixed ideas and cultural values each ascending and descending in ever-repeating cycles of predominance. On our Eastern seaboard/English traditional values, and customs predominated.

Despite this, at our infancy, except for the Massachusetts Bay area, we were a largely tolerant folk of many nationalities, cultures, faiths, traditions, practices, values. Our West coast was settled by the Spanish, Russians and a smattering of Canadian French, each espousing widely discrepant systems of settlement, faith, custom, and conduct. As we became more rooted, dispersed and established we became more adamant toward certain ways of being, thinking, acting and believing. Because of the size of our then-thinly settled continent our differences touched each other very little. But, as our settlements increased in size and density, the East spreading west and the West east, touching each other increased and chafing occurred. Rubbing up against differences is always a bit unnerving and it is human nature to resist the unnerving in favor of the comforting and familiar.

So we take reactive stands against them. And we bunch ourselves together in like-minded enclaves where we groupthink our way into ethnocentric superiority. We were, are and forever will be a nation of constantly evolving social creations, values, arrangements and patterns. That's what's great about us. If national trends continue, those numbers in favor of gay marriages will very soon outnumber those against. Today's majority voice, as we have so often seen, has a way of becoming tomorrow's minority

Moreover, at its most fundamental level, constitutional issues aside, the gay marriage question is an ethical one. (What factors to be considered and what decisions will provide the most right and just result for all?) In the realm of ethics and ethical thinking an eye must be kept ever toward the logical ends and possible outcomes of our decisions.

Rightly, the Supreme Court now has rendered a constitutional decision that marriage is a purely civil affair. And the decision in no way interferes with people's rights nor injures those whose faith orients them in the predominant direction. It is consistent with the First Amendment prohibition against government meddling in matters of personal faith. Within the framework of openly enumerated legal boundaries, we are free to practice our faith as our beliefs and doctrines may direct. We are not permitted to collectively nullify the rights of those with whom we might doctrinely disagree. Our country is uniquely blessed among others in more ways that can be counted. Sure, we stumble now and then, but we remain the envy and creative engine of the world.

Don't we want to keep it that way?

Brik McDill, Ph.D., of Tehachapi has spent 40 years in private practice in clinical and forensic psychology. Community Voices is an expanded commentary of 650 to 700 words..

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