OPINION – There is an old adage: People will listen to good advice but they will obey pain.
Anyone who has a teenager can likely attest with a bit of frustrated humor the validity of this but in matters of more serious consequence it is worth asking why it is generally so.
Nothing could be more true than for the state of Utah in its ardent opposition to gay marriage. In Highland, a former law enforcement officer is rallying for an uprising that in essence challenges: If the legislators won’t overthrow the court’s decision, then it is up to law enforcement and vigilant people to do it.
Nothing like a little bit of treason to demonstrate your patriotism. Perhaps they should talk to a few people in Montgomery, Alabama, who had to have the National Guard come and tell them to obey the law, or else.
Why is it that in the face of overwhelming evidence that something is harmful to us or tacitly wrong, we cling to our predispositions even to our own peril – physical, economic, ethical, otherwise?
One reason may be that we have an inherent desire to believe the best about people especially if they are our friends or professional colleagues.
Inversely, it is our propensity to believe the worst about someone who does not fall within our circle of good graces.
But do either of these inclinations pass muster when it comes to finding out truth about someone or the systems they operate in?
Everyone can understand that people intuit an overall sense of goodness or badness in people they encounter. We get a sense that someone is “a good person.” Sometimes we have a gut adverse reaction to someone, warning us: Be careful, that is “a bad person.”
But such obtuse characterizations should make us nervous. They leave too much to interpretation that could be right, or could very well be wrong. We need to call our knee-jerk responses into check.
Let me put some skin on this:
At the core of the debate over marriage there is an underlying overtone of condemnation for a group of people who do not confine it to the definition set forth by a church. This is a debate for the ages it appears but, and here is the crux, if a church is free to worship how it wants within the confines of the law, so is everyone else. Freedom of religion also means freedom from religion. And when a court comes along with a ruling consistent with constitutional law and civil liberty, the people who defy it do so somewhat at their own peril. Because it is the very freedom they enjoy which they seek to erode. Furthermore, what happened to love the sinner, hate the sin?
As Sam Harris said: “It does not occur to them they are conditioned to a response or brainwashed. They would fight their would-be liberators to the death. They are held prisoner twice over by tyranny and by their own ignorance.”
This of course is a current and relevant example intended to paint a picture of something quite real and quite close to home.
Here at home, in the U.S. and right here in St. George, there are instances where power and position are equated with things like God, wealth, or affiliation – things that, under even the slightest bit of scrutiny, fail any version of a legal litmus test in our country. Yet, calm as Hindu cows, we stand by and watch almost without being phased.
The code enforcement division of St. George and the administrative court itself appears to be operating from a position of self-appointed authority whereby Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights are discarded in favor of “good intentions.”
So long as it does not negatively impact us directly, we live content to remain uninvolved. Apathetic even.
But here’s the thing, when another person’s rights are infringed upon, so are yours. It may take time to see the effect of it but it happens in real time right before your eyes. Because, by remaining silent, by presenting defense in spite of wrongdoing just because the offender is our friend, we in essence give permission to have wrongs done to us.
And as time passes, the system that allows this to happen becomes more autonomous and more powerful. But make no mistake, the system is not our friend. It does not have our best interest at heart.
In the movie, “The Matrix,” Morpheus says:
“The Matrix is a system, Neo. That system is our enemy. But when you’re inside, you look around, what do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save. But until we do, these people are still a part of that system, and that makes them our enemy. You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it.”
Look around you. Do you see anything nationally or locally that resembles this fictional portrayal of the world and its machinations? (Think First, Second, Fourth, and 14th Amendments.)
And if so, what are you prepared to do about it?
Good advice would likely be not to allow it. Pain would be realizing that we had allowed it and, although it is said it is never too late, the hour is late and the dilemma is ever present.
The battle that is waging over gay marriage will define Utah for years to come. One way or another.
See you out there.
Dallas Hyland is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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