I was struck by a clip I saw on the local news. A dejected gay protester at a Proposition 8 march essentially argued that blacks got theirs -- in the form of a president -- but did nothing to help the little guys. "We're the last minority left," he said plaintively. Whether he knew it or not, he was accusing blacks of doing what many other ethnic groups have done, joining the mainstream by stepping on the group below them.
I hate to say it, but that's the American way -- a constant struggle by outsiders to become insiders. The competition isn't always pretty, and it's not likely to go away. At any given moment in our society, there are "in" groups and "out" groups, and those who are in will struggle mightily not to be associated with those on the outs.
Politics, he says, is a process of rising by using the group below as a ladder. Climbing on the backs of others is "the American way". There are two things horribly wrong with this view.
First, he takes a collectivist approach-- it is all about groups, not individuals. The individual per se does not exist, but only in his capacity as a member of some group. The individual does not have rights; only the group has rights. The individual must band together with others in order to protect the rights of the group.
Second, he believes that "the American way" requires sacrificing others in order to achieve your goals. According to this view, life is a constant struggle to sacrifice others before they can sacrifice you. And while this is precisely what American politics has become, it is not the true American way.
America was founded on the principle of individual rights. Each individual has a moral right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" and he possesses this right as an individual, not as a member of some group. The true American way-- America's founding principle-- is that each individual may pursue his values without interference from others, so long as he respects the mutual rights of his fellow citizens.
But politics has become a battle over sacrificial victims. It has become a struggle to eat or be eaten, to do unto others before they do unto you. And the way to achieve any measure of political success in such an environment is to join some group so as to exert greater political influence. The result is group warfare:
I don't buy the argument that, two weeks ago, blacks suddenly achieved absolute equality with whites. But black support for Proposition 8 may indeed be post-racial. Unfortunately, despite all our hopes, getting "beyond race" may not be as utopian as it's cracked up to be. If we all insist on keeping score on which group voted with or against us, it could get even uglier. (emphasis added)
What does Mr. Rodriguez expect? According to him, "the American way" is to trample on others. Does he just expect one group-- the "outs"--to lie in the dirt and take it? Does he expect the "outs" to be complacent patsies while others use and abuse them?
Mr. Rodriguez tells us that the path to political equality is group membership and trampling on other groups, and then decries the fact that those groups "keep score". This is what collectivism leads to.
The protester Mr. Rodriguez quoted laments that "We're the last minority left" (referring to gays). Both the protester and Mr. Rodriguez have it all wrong. The last minority left is the individual. The individual is the smallest minority-- a minority of one. And each of us is a minority of one.
The largest politically valid group is that of individuals, and every single person is a member of that group. Each member of that group possesses the same rights, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. Each member of that group has a moral right to pursue his values without intervention from other members of the group, so long as he respects their mutual right to do so. No member of that group has a right to force others to do as he chooses. Anyone who believes otherwise is my enemy, and on that count, I will keep score.