Do you give a damn about equality?
That is the question you are being asked. Simple answer, please. No need for further discussion because surely everyone agrees that there is only one acceptable answer. Well, I guess there is an alternative- either contempt for or indifference to equality; but seeing how either of these likely implies a white sheet and pointy hat hidden under the bed, I understand the impulse to answer with a hearty ‘heck, yes!’ There is only one answer…. for good people.
Equality is a word that carries all sorts of positive vibes. It’s a good word. A noble word… a powerful word.
For many it summarizes what we as a people are all about. Who could have a problem with equality? How can you have too much equality? What could be more American (or more relevant to our discussion) un-American than ones position on equality?
Well, kids (and hold on to something here) equality is just not a very helpful word- at least not for settling arguments… at least not for settling arguments honestly; and the reason probably isn’t what you think. The concept of equality isn’t helpful because no one really disagrees about it. That isn’t to say that it isn’t an effective tool. It’s incredibly useful for shutting down debate, but only by being very good at muddying the waters.
I’ve been told that Aristotle was the first to summarize the belief that ‘like cases ought to be treated alike’; but I’m sure human beings acted on that common sense principle long before him. There’s also a flip side: unlike cases oughtn’t to be treated alike. Think about it. We don’t have a problem with treating different things ‘unequally.’ When we’re not being all political or wordy, we simply think of this as wisdom of the ‘duh’ sort.
Iron skillet or basketball?
It makes a difference when it comes to the oven or the hoop. Appeals to fairness and equality are really wrong headed; and of course no one would make them. No amount of examining the concept of equality will enable us to determine whether we ought to attempt the baking of cornbread with a rubber sphere.
We come to that conclusion not by examining equality, but by examining iron skillets and bouncy balls.
The same is true in our societal and moral lives. We don’t encourage blind adults to practice dentistry or drive cars. Equality isn’t the issue. The nature of blindness, dentistry and cars are.
Thing to remember: when people argue about Equality, they aren’t really arguing about the principle of Equality at all. Rather they are arguing over the nature of things- whether A is really of like nature to B in terms of the purposes being discussed, and in any instance that may very well be a conversation that needs to happen.
But it is that conversation (and not the one that everyone seems to be having) that ought to take place: what is marriage and do same sex relationships qualify, and if not, ought we to honestly and in the light of day redefine marriage so as to include Same Sex Relationships?
Anyway; don’t be bullied. Don’t be shamed into not thinking. Demand the discussion. Perhaps Same Sex Marriage advocates can carry the argument; our society has been reprehensibly wrong in denying the ‘likeness of same’ before, but they ought to be required to make an argument. Their position and our society will be the stronger for the honesty and effort.
Just so you won’t forget, here’s the question that I want to discuss further- one more time: There are all sorts of honorable and laudable relationships between human beings, which ought to be classified as marriage?
Letter I– The Discussion
Letter III– Institutions
Letter IV– Human Stuff