Monday, November 23, 2009

Strange Bedfellows

The Chronicle reports that anti-gay activist Dave Wilson has sent out 35,000 fliers attacking Annise Parker "in part because of her sexual orientation". I'm not sure which is more disgusting, Parker's position on the issues or Wilson's superficial attack. (For a really good parody of Wilson's position, click here.)

I could care less what Parker does in her bedroom. I only wish she would extend the same respect to others in the boardroom--she has a long record of supporting proposals that dictate how people use their property. If Wilson really cared about something important, he would attack Parker for her horrible record on property rights, not whom she is sleeping with.

If the implications of Wilson's attack were not so serious, I would dismiss them as the ravings of a Neanderthal. Wilson told the paper:
There's a cultural war going on in our society today. I feel that homosexual behavior is an affront to the family values of one man-one woman, and homosexual behavior, to any society that's embraced it, has led to the extinction of that society.
Wilson is certainly entitled to his opinion, as archaic and ignorant as it is. But he does speak an element of truth, even though it is highly unlikely that he understands how or why.

There is indeed "a cultural war going on in our society today." But it isn't between gays and straights, or between Bible-thumpers and pagans. It is between individualists and collectivists, between egoists and altruists. It is between those who believe that they have a moral right to live their own lives as they choose (so long as they respect the mutual rights of others) and those who believe that the individual must live in service to others.

It is said that politics makes strange bedfellows. So does an irrational philosophy. Despite Wilson's disgust with Parker's sexual orientation, he shares much more with her than he realizes.

In terms of essentials, there are only two choices in morality: 1. The standard of morality is the pursuit of one's own happiness, or 2. The standard of morality is service to others. On this point, which derives from more fundamental philosophical issues and ultimately leads to specific positions on political issues, Parker and Wilson agree.

Parker believes that it is proper for government to force individuals to act contrary to their own judgment. Witness her support for "preservation" ordinances, her opposition to the Ashby High Rise, and her support for light rail. She believes that it is proper and just to deny individual rights to some Houstonians in the name of the "public welfare". She believes that we have a moral duty to serve others.

In principle Wilson agrees, though he answers to a different authority:
I have nothing but compassion, respect, and sensitivity towards those trapped in homosexual behavior.... With God's grace, I carefully balance this love and respect for these individuals with warnings about the promotion and demand for legal and political approval for homosexual behavior that will stifle religious freedom and trap millions of more people in its deadly grip.
Wilson, who previously led an effort to deny benefits to the same-sex partners of city employees, told KHOU:
I'd like to energize the conservative Christian base in Houston, and get them to vote.
Because he regards homosexuality as a sin, Wilson believes that gays should be denied legal "approval". He believes that it is proper and just to deny individual rights to some Houstonians in the name of God. He believes that we have a moral duty to serve God (or his alleged earthly spokesmen).

Contrary to what both Parker and Wilson believe, individual rights apply to all individuals--gays and straights, Christians and atheists, developers and single-family home owners. Both believe that the rights of some individuals may be violated for the alleged benefit of others. They merely disagree on whose rights should be violated and who should benefit.

Like Parker, Wilson seeks to mobilize his base. Like Parker, he believes that might makes right--that if enough people vote for some proposal then it is justified. They may not agree on much, but they certainly agree on that.

No comments: