I know that many here probably like Romney, a lot (some, considering the gay + LDS thing, may even love him ;-)). I caught his speech yesterday, though, and am motivated to blog on the matter. Though I know it was meant for very conservative early primary voters, I was expecting something else, and was quite surprised at the content.
Here’s a link to the text of the speech, “Faith in America.”
“And we are troubled at home by government overspending, overuse of foreign oil, and the breakdown of the family.”
Let me get the Romney-gay rights stuff out of the way first… :-)
I’m all for cutting government spending, getting off oil, and supporting families. I just wish he meant what he said. We may see if he does on spending and oil, but that last bit is clear code. Sure, “the family,” as defined by Romney took a hit when women gained the power to more easily leave their husbands. But divorce rates have been steadily declining for over 2 decades; teen pregnancy has been on the decline for a while as well. In fact, no one I know is attacking the family, or man-woman marriage; most everyone thinks such is amongst the most precious institutions of human life.
It should be clear to all that he is referring to his record of attacking our families, those headed by gays and lesbians, not defending from any breakdown. I’m sure the writer of the speech was counting on that to be clear to the religious right. The two topics are already tied on the Romney site.
I don’t think I’ll ever get over the brazen use of such Orwellian doublespeak. Defending “the family” means attacking families. Those who are "anti-marriage," are advocating marriage. Protecting “the children” means keeping children’s parents from legal responsibilities, and making them pay more in taxes, health insurance, and encouraging them to use welfare and put the kids in daycare (1, 2). Really? People are buying this, or do they really deep down know it’s a poor sound bite of an excuse to treat people in a way you’d not want to be treated?
Romney's excuse is the standard “Ideal Family” argument. I went over that in great detail in these posts. In the end it’s that he thinks it’s best for our children to have different parents (never mind that we could say that of more than half of all kids ;-); no one has an “ideal” home). While children do need mothering and fathering, he argues they need a mother and a father and hopes prejudice will assume the rest: that men don’t, say, nurture and women don’t push. It’s a cheap trick of vocabulary meant to tug on the emotions most of us associate with mom and dad, despite the fact that those emotions, along with mothering, and fathering all go on in the homes of gays and lesbians.
But even if Romney is right here, and the government’s position should be that our children should have different parents, it still makes no sense. It’s somehow better for our “deprived” children if the people raising them are not legally responsible to each other, and are encouraged to place them in daycare and so on? Wouldn’t legal marriage make Romney’s bad situation for them better? Isn’t that why “pro-family” folks decry out-of-wedlock births, because marriage stabilizes a child’s home? Or is it just a façade of an argument, meant to hide the sort of intolerance the man holds, and yet is also hoping to quell in others with this speech?
“Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone.”
When I heard this, along with the bit that the Constitution was meant for religious people, I was surprised. This is, after all, supposed to be a speech about religious tolerance. I know many atheists, my dad for one, and they are amongst the most principled individuals you could meet. They are so because they value morality, no hope for reward or fear of punishment, no means to absolve themselves of past sins either. If asked who would be the least risk to do harm with his freedom, the man who does right because he loves right, or the man who does so under want of reward, I think most would take the first man any day. Nevertheless, Romney apparently thinks differently and this comes off as a threat to both atheists and agnostics. Consider how you’d react if your President stated that, for your religious ideas, you can’t be trusted to sustain freedom, or that the constitution wasn’t meant for you.
Still, I bet there’ll be little fuss over this in his party, and it will help him in the primaries. Though, in the US there are about 3 to 5 times more nontheists than LDS, almost 75% of republicans say they’re less likely to vote for an atheist and only 28% are less likely to vote for a Mormon (link). How’s that for a religious test?
I suppose, such shouldn’t be a surprise. Minorities, once they begin to take a place in the majority, often show the same low tolerance they once experienced. I don’t mean to say this is the case for the LDS as a whole; it happens in parts of the gay community too.
“Americans tire of those who would jettison their beliefs, even to gain the world.”
More code, but hey, I know I’m absolutely exhausted by such people too, Mr. I’d be “better for gay rights than Ted Kennedy” in the 90's :-).
“They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America - the religion of secularism. They are wrong.”
Thank goodness such bogymen don’t exist, then, or at least that such folks are so small in number that I’ve never encountered one. They are so bad that the mere idea of them gets the troupes to the polls, right? Everyone I know, though, is just fine with public displays of faith and acknowledgements of Gods. The problem comes when you ask your neighbor to pay for your religion, when you ask a Baptist to, say, pay for a granite statue of the Buddha in the public square.
Here in Utah we just had a fight over a Ten Commandments monument a while back, and the government eventually won the right to keep it on public land, and that’s fine by me. We paid only for the land, and I’m a sucker for monuments. But then the local Summums came in and wanted their monument of the Seven Aphorisms in the same area, and guess who fought of that? They were fueled by religious intolerance, but not from the dreaded secularist war machine.
“We should acknowledge the Creator as did the Founders - in ceremony and word. He should remain on our currency, in our pledge, in the teaching of our history, and during the holiday season, nativity scenes and menorahs should be welcome in our public places.”
It is best to acknowledge what or who created you, be you Christian, Hindu, or even Atheist. But for the record, as far as I can tell, the founders didn’t put statements of faith on our currency (more irony, God on Mammon :-)), nor did they put it in our pledge. All that was added later.
I'd watch it on the Founders. I mean, have you ever read the derogatory things Thomas Paine wrote about the Bible in the Age or Reason? Heck, Thomas Jefferson took the bible and removed all the supernatural events and republished it. He also wrote:
“That Jesus did not mean to impose himself on mankind as the son of God, physically speaking, I have been convinced by the writings of men more learned than myself in that lore. But that he might conscientiously believe himself inspired from above, is very possible.”
Believed? Possible? Can you imagine if Romney rewrote the Bible, or said that instead of what he said yesterday?
If you don’t get elected, Romney, it may be some comfort that Jefferson would more likely be burned in effigy over a pile of Paine’s books on the campus of Bob Jones University than be reelected these days. That’s religious tolerance today; our 3rd President would probably not get a tenth of either party’s vote.
“I'm not sure that we fully appreciate the profound implications of our tradition of religious liberty”
That makes two of us.
Okay, it’s nice to get that off my chest. I hope I wasn’t too inflammatory, but please, this was a speech on religious tolerance, right?!
Eh, at least I know I’m manlier than Mitt. ;-)
And hey, once I find the candidate that meets my requirements, you can all pick on him or her (not an endorsement of Hillary) too. Don't hold your breath.