Just a quick rant about something that’s caught my attention lately. I keep hearing people complain about others trying to “force their beliefs” on them.
If you dared to vote for California’s Proposition 8, you’re trying to force your beliefs on others, some say. If you have the audacity to ask people if you can share your beliefs with them, or let your beliefs inform how you live your public life, you’re also trying to force your beliefs on others.
I want to argue against such convenient double standards, but you know what? I think it might be healthier to address it from the other direction.
Yes, I’m trying to “force” my beliefs on you. If by “force” you mean that I’m striving to influence the world, by legislation and by individual conversion, to ways of life that I deeply feel to be preferable, then yes, absolutely I am.
And so are you. We all are. That’s the beauty of our free society. The marketplace of ideas guarantees that we get to do these things. Nobody gets to physically coerce anybody else, nor do we get to harass or punish others for choosing not to adopt our beliefs, or for supporting a contrary position, but that’s the nature of the civilized world: you get to think and say what you want, but others get to, also. You don’t have to listen to them, but you can’t shut them down.
When I voted for a traditional marriage amendment to my state’s constitution, was I trying to force my beliefs on you? Within the framework that such things have always been inherently appropriate in our nation, yes. When you voted for Obama, you were trying to force a set of leftist beliefs on me. And you won. And you know what? That’s OK, because that’s how the system works.
So if you don’t like some policy or belief that someone else is stumping for, you get to ignore them or debate them, but you do not have the right to censor them.
There is such a thing as the American Way, and that’s it.
Reposted from February 2009