What is it with people who think their beliefs trump those of everyone else? They don’t like something, so nobody can do it, watch it, read it, listen to it, think it. The easiest solution is to simply do what George Carlin suggested, and turn the knob. If you don’t like it, don’t do it, don’t watch it, don’t read it, don’t listen to it, and don’t think it. You have autonomy within your mind. If you are a family, you have autonomy in your home. No network forces you to watch tier offerings. Your television does not automatically turn on, tune in to a network while doors automatically close in your home preventing you from leaving the proximity of the television.
Nobody is forcing Less Than One Million (48,476) Moms to watch NBC’s new fall offering, The New Normal. Sure, they have a right to boycott it but their reasoning is a bit off. The show’s byline, “You don’t have to be related to be family – different is the new normal!” seems to offend the sensibilities of Less Than a Million Moms. NBC says of the show, “These days, families come in all forms – single dads, double moms, sperm donors, egg donors, one-night stand donors… It’s 2012 and anything goes. Bryan and David are a Los Angeles couple and they have it all. Well, almost. With successful careers and a committed and loving partnership, the one thing missing is a baby.”
You really can’t argue with any of this – life is like that. These types of families do exist. Many of these non-standard families are quite happy. After all, there is no rule book saying what a family has to be, right? Wrong! says Less Than One Million Moms. They claim “NBC is using public airwaves to continue to subject families to the decay of morals and values, and the sanctity of marriage in attempting to redefine marriage. These things are harmful to our society, and this program is damaging to our culture.”
Well, there are a couple of keywords here – public – meaning accessible to us all – and “our society” meaning belonging to us all. It is not their society. It is ours. Meaning we have as much right to it as they do; to determine what form that society takes is not the property of one person or one group comprising a measly 48,476 people on Facebook. We will determine what our values are thank you very much, and likewise what form our society and culture take. You and I have as much right to determine the structure of those things as a fundamentalist Christian mother in Akron or Salt Lake City. It is not only those narrowly defined families of fundamentalist Christianity who have a right to exist. As Jefferson said, inalienable rights belong to us all, not only to a self-proclaimed chosen few.
Less Than One Million Moms asserts that, “Millions of Americans strongly believe that marriage should be between one man and one woman. NBC’s The New Normal is attempting to desensitize America and our children. It is the opposite of how families are designed and created. You cannot recreate the biological wheel.” The problem is that before marriage became limited to one man and one woman, before gays and lesbians became persona non grata, they were every bit as human as the rest of us. Men married men and women married women and even God-fearing Jews had multiple wives and concubines. Biology itself proclaims that homosexuality is a spoke on that biological wheel. As the old saying goes, “Birds do it, bees do it…”
You don’t have to listen to radio stations you don’t want to listen to, go to concerts you don’t like. If you don’t want to see people holding hands or kissing, you don’t have to look. Billboards are big, but you don’t have to look at them. You should be watching traffic, after all, if you’re driving, and if you’re walking, you should be paying attention to where you’re going – and after all, there are plenty of other things to look at.
Some people simply aren’t happy with controlling their own lives. They want to control everybody else’s as well. But isn’t this a country where everybody has a right to the pursuit of happiness? The idea isn’t that your idea of happiness trumps everybody else’s because then really, nobody would have a right to pursue it. When Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, he wasn’t thinking about one person deciding for everybody else what should make them happy, and limit them to that. He wrote that “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
All. Not just those who proclaim themselves the morality police. What flies in Kabul was never meant to fly in the land of the free and the home of the brave. But you wouldn’t know that from what fundamentalist Christians are telling us. Suddenly, the rest of us have no right to be happy, not if it violates their religious beliefs. They characterize “religious freedom” as something only they possess and as defined it means if they are offended by something, they have a right to stop everybody from doing whatever it is that offends them. This includes everything from music with explicit lyrics to contraception to the prayers or expressions of other religions to TV shows. And the one right the rest of us positively do not have is the right to any religious freedom of our own.
You would think religious freedom would mean things that do not violate the religious of the rest of us (or our atheism) would be perfectly acceptable activities to the rest of us. I mean, if being offended means anything at all it means the rest of us have a right to be offended as well, and clearly, many of the activities of the religious right offend millions of Americans. If we have religious freedom too, then they also need to cease what they are doing, watching, listening to, as the case may be. None of us at that point would be able to do anything because everybody is offended by something. Rather than all of us having rights, none of us would have rights.
This clearly isn’t an acceptable outcome to those who believe they follow the “true” religion. It is inconceivable that they would not have any rights. Their solution is that they have rights the rest of us do not have – special rights, to use their own language. In this strange world, special rights apply to the rights the Constitution says we all have. In other words, any right we assert that would make us equal to fundamentalist Christians, are rights we do not have. We can’t possibly be equal to them. They are the Chosen People, after all. If they don’t have more rights than the rest of us, being “chosen” becomes a largely meaningless distinction, doesn’t it? And what right do we have to tell them they’re not special?
That is how, in this strange world, the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, which prohibits the establishment of a state-sponsored religion, comes to be interpreted as establishing a state religion – namely, Christianity. That is how it can be interpreted that First Amendment protections do not, and were never meant to, apply to “false” religions like Islam, and since every religion except the religion of the Chosen People is false, no religion save Christianity has First Amendment protections. Thus, those who follow all these false religions also lack First Amendment rights.
That may be fine for the Bible. It’s how society was framed in the Old Testament: rights for the few, none for those who dared disagree with the “divinely proclaimed” order of things. But the Bible isn’t the law of the land here – the Constitution is. And until the day it no longer is, we all have rights. All of us. Not just fundamentalist Christians.
Rights aside, the ultimate hypocrisy is for a group representing fundamentalist Christian culture – which consumes more porn per capita than anyone else to – to complain about what the rest of us are watching. Without the Bible Belt, the porn industry would go belly up. Really, it is a wonder they can take their hands out from between their legs long enough to type their outrage or that their fingers don’t stick to the keyboard.
In the end, The New Normal is much ado about nothing because it’s not the new normal at all, but a return to the old normal, the original status quo, and how can a conservative complain about that?
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.