Not slavery - abolition
Woke up early this morning and put on the radio. Diane Rehm's show is on, and they're talking about Jerry Falwell's legacy. Puke. Sorry, but the man and his legacy inspire that reaction in me. Hatred and oppression, especially when motivated by religion, just have that effect.
Anyway, I turned it off pretty quick, because I just don't want to listen to someone defend Falwell at 4:30 in the morning before I've had my coffee. To be frank, I don't ever want to listen to it, but some times are much less infelicitous than others. But before I got it off - I turned it on in passing and had to get back to it from the kitchen after I'd fed the cat - I got to hear some guy asserting that old standby that the "liberal courts" are to blame. He asserted that the Moral Majority only became politically active after the courts started legalizing divorce and gay rights and especially abortion:
"It's like slavery. The Civil War wasn't about slavery, it's more complicated than that, but if it wasn't for slavery there wouldn't have been a Civil War." (paraphrased, but really close)But you know what?
He's almost right.
If it wasn't for abolition there wouldn't have been a civil war. Even Lincoln was prepared to let slavery alone where it already existed. But those who insisted on their right to enslave others weren't content with that. After all, it wasn't the abolitionists who started the war; it was the slave-holding states who seceded that did.
And the so-called Moral Majority - who never were - aren't content to be the de facto rulers of America, either. They want to turn the clock back to when rich white guys ran the country and women and people of color and poor folks shut up and knew their places. That's what drove Jerry Falwell and his ilk - loss of privilege. The inability to translate their religiously based disgust and abhorrence of someone into direct action. The loss of the upper hand. The loss of control.
They didn't run the country well when they were in charge. Their rules aren't set to run it well now, except for some of them - that is, they'll run the country well for some of them, not some of their rules will run it well. And yes, some of them are good rules, but you know what? Those rules aren't their rules - they're everybody's rules.
When things change, those who are losing privileges complain. That's the way people are made. But that kind of complaining isn't a reason to keep a bad status quo. Upsetting tyrants is noble, isn't it? Opening up society to all its members, not just a few, is a good thing, no matter how loudly those few complain. A handful of people want to keep things the way they were, when those people were on top of everybody else, and when that changes they scream - but their screams are not more valuable or attention-worthy than the silent cries of those whom they oppressed.
It's perfectly true that if no social progress had been made in the late 50s and 60s, the Moral Majority would have remained dormant. That hardly means that it is desirable to remain in the Dark Ages - let alone go back to them.
Added Saturday 19 May:
At the Nation (and on his own website) Sydney Blumenthal reminds us of something which makes the comparison to slavery even worse for the Moral Majority - that Falwell was actually galvanized into action not by abortion by by racism - their own.
Falwell launched on the warpath against civil rights four years after the Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decision to desegregate public schools with a sermon titled "Segregation or Integration: Which?"Definitely must reading if you still believe that Falwell's political activities were designed to do anything other than preserve a status quo that is, frankly, repellent.
"If Chief Justice Warren and his associates had known God's word and had desired to do the Lord's will, I am quite confident that the 1954 decision would never have been made," Falwell boomed from above his congregation in Lynchburg. "The facilities should be separate. When God has drawn a line of distinction, we should not attempt to cross that line." ...
While abortion clinics sprung up across the United States during the early 1970s, evangelicals did little. No pastors invoked the Dred Scott decision to undermine the legal justification for abortion. There were no clinic blockades, no passionate cries to liberate the “pre-born.” For Falwell and his allies, the true impetus for political action came when the Supreme Court ruled in Green v. Connally to revoke the tax-exempt status of racially discriminatory private schools in 1971. Their resentment was compounded in 1971 when the Internal Revenue Service attempted to revoke the tax-exempt status of Bob Jones University, which forbade interracial dating. (Blacks were denied entry until that year.) Falwell was furious, complaining, "In some states it’s easier to open a massage parlor than to open a Christian school."