As a Middle Eastern expat, I’m in the position of observing a more diverse spectrum of reactions and attitudes to advancements in civil rights. The United States Supreme Court ruling on Orbergefell v. Hodges generated a lot of such reactions. As I think of the long arc of the moral universe, I feel it is more and more important to bring to light a few issues that the many social conservatives around the world hesitant to call this a victory should keep in mind.
1. An ever-evolving conception of Justice
When we look at the advancement of humanity in the past 10,000 years, we often view most shifts since the beginning of civilized recorded history to the modern day in a positive light: Inventing tools, cultivating lands, building shelters, creating governments, abolishing feudalism, creating democratic governments, abolishing primogeniture, abolishing slavery, giving all racial groups the vote, giving women the vote, ending racial segregation, promoting equal-opportunity employment, etc.
These changes happened throughout the human race. Different cultures were ahead of others at different times when these movements took hold. Eventually, though, humanity more-or-less converges. Women’s suffrage isn’t just a western idea at this point, as slavery abolitionism isn’t a western-European idea, and embracing ethnic multiculturalism isn’t just an Arab or Muslim idea. These are, at this point, universal human ideals.
Its worthy of notice that, in every generation, we have people to claim: “Every civil rights advancement to the present day is good. But now we have gone too far!”
What a curious thing to say—one is effectively claiming that every person to have ever said this sentence in history is incorrect, but now—lo and behold—it is actually true.
Every change is scary, I am sure. It is also important to stay grounded in the humility that this is just another change on a long track of many that have happened and turned out just okay.
2. Hate and Anger are a sign of losing ground
Homophobia and transphobia are not new to the world. In conservative countries, however, homophobia and transphobia are slowly moving from silent, implicit disdain to active hatred and anti-activisim.
If you are a social conservative spending every last bit of your energy voicing your disgust and disapproval at a class of people to have always existed, when just 10 years ago, you never gave the topic much effort, then I hope you entertain the possibility that what you are feeling is the fear of change, the unknown, and the unfamiliar other.
The Virtues of Being Grounded
It is important for one to be grounded as they articulate their beliefs. I wrote about this in both general terms and as a word of caution to social progressives. Social conservatives—often moreso—need to hear this too.
Challenge the reasons for your beliefs, then challenge them again. Cliched arguments about tradition and religion have failed the test of time. These have been used to argue against abolitionism, interracial marriage, and anti-sodomy laws. Think, and then think again. Try to find an argument that will stand the test of time. In doing so, you just might very well change your mind. And if you don’t, you will have a very enlightening argument to share.
Photo credit: Wally Gobetz on Flickr, photo entitled ”NYC - West Village: Christopher Park - Gay Liberation”. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.