I like the term positive liberty. I got the term "positive liberty" from another blog site I follow, American Creation. One of American Creation's contributors has a blog called "Positive Liberty", which I have visited on occasion. His name is Jonathan Rowe, and he is a lawyer.
As I have thought about the concept, "positive liberty", I have come to "see" an important, if not a prime value of mine, as well, as our country. "Positive liberty" means that the law and the country seeks to protect liberty. I am not saying that this is the stance of the blog by that name, nor of its contributors, Jonathan Rowe being only one. But, liberty is the highest value in American society. Some think this is a good thing, others do not. Where do we draw our lines and on what basis? (I am thinking on this myself.)
Our American society is guided by principles that allow freedom to individuals as "equal under law". But, social conservatives have always understood society as a narrowed liberty to the social norms as defined by one's social group, mostly by parochial standards. But, our society has changed over these two hundred plus years, where many of the social ills of the past were taboo, today, we do not see many, if any social taboos. And with our enlightened understanding of science, we are even more open to re-define what makes for a flourishing society. But, if science is what defines our society today, are there to be any limits upon scientific investigation? And on what rationale is science to be limited?
Crime will always be considered taboo, but even crime has become defined or specified by science. A criminal is dealt with according to an enlightened view of the person, and their motivations and not just the crime or social norm, itself. We are, after all, a "humane society".
But, what happens when society's leaders have no moral inhibition to such things that were forbidden in the past and even, go to the extent of stretching the law's intent to the benefit of the "legalist"? This is why we have such ethical problems today in our leaders, whether governmental, or corporate. And recently, these same indiscretions lay at the doorstep of the Church, as well. This is where we are today. And our country is not "greater for it, either".
Although I understand the pro-life stance, I cannot take that stance legally, because of the "humane" aspects or the personability of our country's values. Prohibition used to be America's stance toward alcohol, as society feared alcohol's consequencs on the individual and society. And those that chose to seek out the "moonshiners" did so, sometimes at their own expense. We have done away with these laws and some still think that our country has "done wrong" in defending the use of alcohol.
The issue of abortion, with today's view of evolution, where there is "no speical creation, or "special creator" also, has to be evaluated on a rational basis. This is a scientific question and not just a moral one. An un-wed mother, though accepted more in our society than in the past, is in a crisis. And although there are many "crisis" pregnancy centers that seek to counsel those that are in "dire straights", (which is a good thing), what is to be the behavior toward those who still choose to have an abortion in a civilized society? And should society allow what some consider a medical procedure, because they do not adhere to "scripture" as interpreted by the social conservative? Nor do they acknowledge special creation? Should a civilized society allow a pregnant woman to get an abortion, as they used to in the "back alley", where death might be the liklihood? What is MOST humane and reasonable to society and the woman?
And if the woman has the baby, and chooses to keep the baby, what is society's responsibility for the child, and should society be responsible for such children and why? Where do personal and societal responsibility intersect? And at what costs to society, and the child?
A similar concern for society is sexual education. How is society to meet the needs that the family used to provide? What is society's responsibility? Is there any, and if so, what are the educators supposed to do with sex education, when there are many moral issues that all members of society do not agree upon? Should taxes go to support what I, personally do not value? If not, and it is legal, how do I resist such abuses to my conscience?
Homosexuals are also "up in arms" over their right to marry in our society. Should they have a right? Should we divide marriage, as many European countries do in civil and church unions? What is to be valued most in our society, liberty of conscience, or moral definitions, and then what church is to define the moral definition for our country, when our country does not allow a "state church'? Are our Protestant churches supposed to "submit' their consciences to the Roman Catholic Church? Or the Greek Orthodox? Or the Russian Orthodox? Who is to be the arbitrator of such societal situations?
An atheist that seeks public office should be allowed to serve our country, shouldn't they? This is a question now being considered in Asheville, N.C. where an atheist is being challenged. Is this appropriate, when our country allows liberty of conscience concerning religious values ? Just because a person doesn't define God according to my definition, should that ban them from public service? What about a Buddhist, Unitarian Universalist, or Muslim serving our country in public office?
Today's challenge is to be humane in a society that is not perfectly accomodating to our own personal social "ideals". We still need to be civil and inclusive in our discussions of the issues that concern us, when another challenges our personal convictions and beliefs. Otherwise, our society will dissolve into tribal mentalities and tribal survival instincts. And we will not represent the ideals of our Founders in upholding the values of liberty and justice for all....