Saturday, April 11, 2015

Bright future, or dark tomorrow...?

Speaking as one who's passed the half-century mark, I've seen science fiction become daily reality.  Those old enough to remember the days when "Star Trek" was new will feel as strangely as I do, waking up into a world where such problems as pesky drones filling the air, and pranksters flashing laser beams in the eyes of airline pilots were once nothing more than science fiction.  Even cell phones took a bit of getting used to, for those of us who remember Captain Kirk's communicator as the stuff of future fantasy.  Space stations.  Mobile robots on Mars.  Encounters with comets and landers on the moons of Saturn.  Dreams that came true.  And, society advances here on the ground, as well.  Those once shunned by society now openly fight for equality and have made rapid gains.  Dreams do come true.  Tomorrow is today.

Yet, the shadows of the past linger.  We may reach for the stars, but we still fear each other over the color of our skin.  Or, the way we love.  Half a century has passed since Selma and Birmingham, but the killing and the fear, in one form or another, go on.  And, some are still denied their rights.

And, some try to justify the fear and hate and oppression, even glorify it, under the banner of "Religious Freedom."  Freedom for some at the expense of others.  Freedom to discriminate.  Freedom to deny others their freedom.  Spurious, twisted logic.  A baker turns away a gay couple, refusing to cater their wedding because, he says, their marriage violates his religious beliefs.  Millions of right-wing dollars now flow into cases of this type, called by some the last holding action of those who oppose marriage equality and LGBT rights.  The almost comically twisted Orwellian double-think of the anti-progressive side paints these last hold-outs as noble Davids facing the evil Goliath of advancing liberal secularism.  Conveniently overlooking the fact that the LGBT community is still unprotected by federal civil rights law, and, in most states, have absolutely no protection against job or housing discrimination.  The supposedly religious conservatives scoff at comparisons between racism and homophobia, defending the latter on religious grounds.  Conveniently forgetting that religion has historically been used to justify slavery and segregation.

It has been said that patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.  But, religion is sometimes the first.  Anything can be justified in the name of religious freedom.  Employers who refuse with extreme prejudice to cover the health costs of their employees, and pharmacists who arbitrarily refuse to fill prescriptions, in effect imposing their own personal views on others, negating a woman's constitutional right to control her own body.  Christian Scientists who refuse life-saving medical care to their children.  Universities who preach racial segregation on theological grounds.  Take the argument far enough, and people who crash airliners into buildings in the name of their God may have their day in court.

No, not really.  Because, what passes for religious freedom isn't at all.  It's merely a convenient excuse for bigotry and patriarchal dominance, masquerading as religious freedom.  Odd, isn't it, how right-wing conservatives never pour money into defending the religious freedom of those who oppose war or resist registration in the name of religion.  Nor does their supposed Christian faith ever motivate them to care for the poor or feed the hungry or shelter the homeless.  No, their meticulous cherry-picking of religious scripture is very well aimed toward consistent adherence to ideological causes, not spiritual ones.

Give them enough of a wedge in the form of legal precedent, and they'll probably defend a baker's right to refuse to cater an interracial wedding on religious grounds.  Or, defend a parent's right to rape or brainwash their gay or lesbian teens because their religion supposedly demands it.  They needn't demonstrate the theological consistency of their religious beliefs, of course, because religion is whatever they say it is.  I suppose they might even try to justify gay bashing or murder because the Old Testament, and therefore their religious faith, supposedly demand them.

Yes, we may be on our way to Mars.  But, some want to take us back to the dark ages.  If the latter side wins, book me on the next flight out.