Rick Santorum’s “Rights”

I’m not American. I won’t be voting in this fall’s presidential election. Even when I lived there, I was not a citizen and I did not vote. I worked for some candidates, and that was my way to add to the political process. Today I live much further from America: but the ideas born in the U.S. still affect me. They affect the world. When I see errors being generated, I feel the need to comment.

I lived in Pennsylvania when Mr. Santorum was a politician limited to state activities. I wish he had stayed there. His views have apparently evolved over time: as has his theology. It’s obvious that he doesn’t think about it much. Or at least he doesn’t think about his source very much. Although I’m sure he’s convinced himself that his views come from God, it is not a god any of us should be following. It is a god of power, and popularity, and money. It is not a God of love.

Consider the video at right. (Click to view the video: I had trouble embedding it. Note the proportion of “likes” to “dislikes”.) Much though it was difficult to listen to, I wanted to address some of his points directly. Several are simple distortions; but others are direct attempts at discrimination that should not be tolerated in the civilized world.

Marriage… This is where we get into the difference between rights and privileges.”

I have never heard of marriage called a “privilege” before. This is rhetoric that has been invented specifically for this argument. (Though I don’t give Mr. Santorum that much credit.) Do an experiment if you don’t believe me. Google: “marriage is a right”. Compare the results to the search “Marriage is a privilege”. My results (1 billion to 31 million) indicate the approximate quantity of truth in Mr. Santorum’s beliefs about marriage. Three percent. And while we’re at it, the proposal that marriage is a “privilege” is exactly the kind of talk that will destroy the “sanctity” of the institution. If he’s worried about the degradation of the institution, describing it as “privilege” will erode it even further.

There were rights that were given to us by God: God-given rights. Inalienable rights. They were in the Declaration of Independence. The right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Now I don’t know about you, but treating the the American Declaration of Independence as equivalent to the Bible is quite problematic. I know Americans tend to deify the founding fathers, but this is going a bit too far. The intent of that statement in the Declaration was to be as broadly expressive as the writers could. It was not intended to be a limiting factor. Those are not the only rights given to us by God, nor the only rights that the state must protect. They were a broad swath of rights that encompassed others, which were more specific. Like marriage.

And then there are privileges that government can bestow on people because there are certain public goods that come from the behaviour the privilege encourages.”

I suppose these are like libraries and police and museums and the space program. They are based on continual approval of those in power. If tides turn in national sentiment, their support is dropped. The privilege vanishes. Is that how you think of your marriage?

There is no right to health care… food… housing.”

Silly me. I must have misinterpreted those verses on my Bible. Oh, wait, we’re not talking theology any more? Back to the Declaration of Independence. Of course. So I have the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” It’s pretty hard to do those without food or housing.

And before we leave the subject to follow his rambling in detail: the U.S. Supreme Court identified this right in Loving vs. Virginia, 1967. “The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.” Perhaps the president should have a better knowledge of the laws of his land, Mr. Santorum? Especially before you start degrading your constituents to second-class citizens.

It is an intrinsic good that men and women come together as nature intended it, to form bonds, to have children, to raise their children with their mother and their father, as the best opportunity for society to prosper and do well: and as a result of that, we extend a privilege to people who do that.”

Sorry if I didn’t get all of that: it was hard to listen to that drivel once, never mind transcribe it. My response is simple, and illustrates why we are not asking for “special rights” or privileges. Much though Mr. Santorum might like marriage to be this way (so god help us if he is elected as president), it is not. Simple. It’s not. Heterosexual couples do not need to have children to be married. Heterosexual couples do not lose that “privilege” when a child dies. Barren women can marry. Infertile men can marry. All we’re asking for is the same right.

We’re seeing a degradation in the institution of marriage.”

From your perspective, I suppose that is exactly what you see. What some see as “evolution”, others see as “degradation”. The fact is that in the “height” of the institution that Mr. Santorum describes, most women were too oppressed and too dependent on their husbands to let their thoughts be known. The only people who were “free” were the rich, white men who were able to dominate the rest of the world, including their wives. I guess that’s why Mr. Santorum thinks that times have “degraded”. There are a number of rich, white institutions that I’m sure he would like to see re-instituted.

What happens when fewer and fewer people are married? It means more and more children are being raised without a father in their home. And the more and more that happens, the more society breaks down”

This statement, more than any other mentioned above, is an indicator of why Mr. Santorum should not be president. It indicates his gender specific agenda. I cannot believe that he would say such a thing in our modern world and still hope to get elected. The fact is that the family is changing. It’s evolving. The traditional, male-dominated family had its place: and it is (fortunately) shifting out of the picture. What is taking its place is a system of community where we can all take responsibility for our collective children. Perhaps Mr. Santorum should be asking us to help single parents and other non-traditional families, instead of (wrongly) blaming all of society’s ills on them.

Overall, Mr. Santorum’s views are outdated, misogynistic, simplistic and selfish. I wish I could say that I was surprised that he is as popular as he is. His views are an American, Catholic version of what the Taliban is to the Muslim faith. Unfortunately, popularity tends to run away with us and we won’t realize the danger until it’s too late. If Mr. Santorum’s perspective comes into play, the rest of us will lose our “privileges” in favour of his “rights”.

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This entry was posted in Communication, Politics, Popular Culture, queer issues, Values and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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