Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Words Worth Hearing:

Richard Cohen in today's Washington Post, from an op-ed piece entitled “Warren On? Party Off”:

Finally, what we do not hold in common is the categorization of a civil rights issue -- the rights of gays to be treated equally -- as some sort of cranky cultural difference. For that we need moral leadership, which, on this occasion, Obama has failed to provide. For some people, that's nothing to celebrate.

The party's off (www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/12/22/AR2008122201848.html?hpid=opinionsbox1).

In speaking of what we do not hold in common, Cohen is reflecting on Obama’s defense of his selection of Rick Warren, in which Obama states, "We can disagree without being disagreeable and then focus on those things that we hold in common as Americans."

I’m grateful to John Aravosis for bringing Richard Cohen’s article to our attention today on America blog (www.americablog.com/2008/12/rick-warren-and-rev-wright.html). As John says, re: the passage I have just quoted,

That last full paragraph is, I think, the crux of the matter, and the reason the Rick Warren issue has touched off such a firestorm in the gay community. Obama is essentially asking us to acknowledge that our humanity is negotiable. That our view of ourselves as full members of American society, as equal members of the human race, is somehow "just our opinion," no more and no less valid than those who compare us to pedophiles.

Human value does not ever occupy a sliding scale in a moral universe. Humans are either human or they are not. If they are human, they are entitled to all rights accorded every other member of the human race. It is obscene to ask any group of citizens to be content to allow their very status as members of the human race to be debated, qualified, voted upon.

Those who do not see this simply miss a fundamental moral point. And they do so no matter how often or eloquently they quote scripture. Those who bought and sold slaves and held people with darker skin in bondage quoted the bible furiously. Those who consigned innocent people in New England to be hanged knew their bible well, and cited it freely.

If history teaches us anything, it is that knowing and being able to quote the holy stories of the world's faith traditions is no guarantee of moral insight.

Those who try to defend the diminution of the humanity of anyone for any reason whatsoever have not yet reached the threshold of moral thinking. When leaders appear to subject the human status of any group of human beings to political calculation, they undermine their ability to lead, since sound leadership depends on sound moral judgment.

The graphic heading this posting illustrates the 1947 statement by the United Nations about fundamental human rights. A resolution extending this statement to gay citizens of the world is now before the U.N. The United States has refused to endorse the statement.