Protect Me from Myself:
Author's Notes

I first dictated this over a month ago. It moved me so powerfully that I just let it sit for awhile before editing.

All of the vice laws and other limitations on our freedoms come from the stated desire to protect others from themselves (and preventing society from footing the bill to "fix" their lives after they "mess" them up). Plank firmly lodged in my eye, I legislate ways to protect them from splinters in their eyes. Yet, I never realize that doing so now gives others the same power to protect me from myself, whether I need such protection or not!

This gets really muddy when children are involved. One can argue that the ultimate purpose of civilization is to protect our children so they can become "healthy" adults. If your beliefs and practices are diametrically opposed to mine, I will have a tendency to want to protect your children from your "taint". That's what makes the "family values" debate so charged. We all want "healthy" children.

Once we allow limitations on our freedom to perform consensual acts, it is not a big step to limit other freedoms. The "family values" argument can easily be expanded to include anything that contradicts the harmony of the established order. Cries for justice and self-determination threaten the social structures and hence the family. Alternate family structures or belief systems become counter to "proper family values". I can't seem to find the limits of the argument short of a Franco Spain or modern Singapore.

What do you do with the children of drug addicts who are functional yet expose their children to some very dangerous drugs? What do you do with the children of gay, lesbian or other "alternate" family structures? What do you do with the children of fire and brimstone fundamentalists who expose them to judgement and intolerance? Get my point? As long as your belief is "right", it implies the opposing belief is "wrong". We all want to protect our children from "harm". Yet, what is "harm"? Well, that depends on what you believe…

The only real "solution" I see is to stop clinging so desperately to our beliefs. Your different beliefs, values, and practices are just that -- different. When your differences stop being a threat, they're not so "wrong" anymore, and I find I'm free to be far more tolerant. Of course, if those differences pose a direct threat to those I love, all these high-minded principles go right out the window as my testosterone kicks me into "protective male" mode. Oh well, I make no claims on sainthood.

14 January, 1999

Strong Lead