February 25, 2004

Freedom and its Discontents

Like Andrew Sullivan, Sheila O’Malley, and Roger L. Simon, I am frustrated but not at all surprised by George Bush’s support for a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage forever.

The very idea of using our Constitution the ban anything is viscerally repulsive to me, especially when we’re talking about the harmless pursuit of happiness.

You don’t have the freedom to rape and murder and steal, nor should you. That is universal. We do not, or at least I should say that we should not, limit the freedom of our citizens unless that freedom will be used to harm another. That is revolutionary.

Neither side in our binary political system gets it quite right. Some on the left, when they can, won’t let you smoke in restaurants or voice your opinion on campus. A large swath of the left was content to let Iraqis rot for the rest of their lives in a totalitarian dungeon.

Many people on the right really do want to tell me what I can and cannot do in my own bedroom. They would, if they could, force my children (if I had any) to pray to their God in school.

On some days I feel pulled to the left, and on other days I feel pushed to the right. It mostly depends on what’s in the news that day. Today I’m feeling left.

As frustrating as this is, there is an upside. There is a Glass Half Full way of looking at it.

When I find myself wishing we had a political party that consistently stood for freedom and against authoritarianism so that I might find a home there, I remember that our political system is binary. If one of our parties were truly liberal (broadly speaking), that would mean that the other would necessarily be an anti-liberal party. Freedom wouldn’t be an American value after all. It would only be a sectarian partisan value. And if that were the case, we’d be looking at civil war.

The left specializes in promoting certain kinds of freedom. And the right chooses to focus on different varieties. They balance and make up for the blind spots of the other. It’s not a bad system, really. But it’s awfully disconcerting to be in the middle of the vortex.

UPDATE: Kevin Drum points out that Bush supports five new Constitutional amendments, not just the gay marriage ban.

He really seems to think the constitution is just a rough draft, doesn't he?
Just think. If every president supported five new amendments and they all passed, how many would we have?

Posted by Michael J. Totten at February 25, 2004 8:54 PM
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