Despite the lofty ideals set forth in founding documents like the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, the United States has always harbored hate as a very real part of its cultural DNA. So it should really not be a surprise that a particularly odious perversion of religious freedom has resulted in legislation in the state of Indiana that will make it legal to hate.
While there will always be those who argue that America is exceptional in every way, in one very way the United States is just like every other country in the world. Humans act out hatred of other humans for reasons ranging from race to gender to nationality to religion. And even a cursory overview of American history reveals organized and institutional hatred directed against Americans of African origin through slavery and beyond, Native Americans through genocide, Jews, Irish immigrants, Italian immigrants, women who wanted to vote or the right to choose control over their bodies, Chinese immigrants, Japanese Americans through concentration camps and gay men and women through continuing bigotry, discrimination and prejudice.
It would be nice to think that America has evolved to the point where hatred is no longer celebrated, much less legislated. But that thinking would not be fact based. Too many Americans hate President Obama because he is an American of African origin. Too many Americans, descendants of immigrants themselves, hate 21st century immigrants because they are not white. Too many Americans hate men and women simply because their gender preference does not conform to their own stated preference.
This hatred is sometimes celebrated with homophobic slurs or asinine racist songs on college campuses. This hatred is sometimes celebrated in dog whistle political rhetoric. But make no mistake, this hatred is indeed celebrated.
And now the state of Indiana joins twenty other states in legislating hate under the guise of protecting religious freedom. The Indiana “Restoration of Religious Freedom Act” is a politically inspired fig leaf covering the naked loins of homophobia and racism. The Act claims to protect “people of faith” (as distinguished from “people of no faith”?) from laws which prevent them from staying true to their religious principles.
Cutting through the verbiage and rhetorical prestidigitation, the Act will allow individuals and businesses to discriminate against individuals if their sexual preference, race or general appearance somehow offends their religious principles. What this Act does is continue to roll back the liberation of Americans that was brought about by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 along with the 14th Amendment of 1868. The brazen effort to deny Americans of their constitutional rights with the ruse of protecting constitutional rights is transparent and obvious.
What is troubling is that the outrage directed at Indiana, with Arkansas on deck, does not seem to focus on the fact that twenty other states have already passed similar legislation. What is troubling is the fact that almost half the states in this nation have already moved to restore the freedom to hate, not only celebrating hate but also legislating the free expression of hate.
It is ironic that the United States, the first nation on earth to codify principles of personal freedom, is becoming the first nation on earth to voluntarily withdraw those freedoms.
The end will come with not with a bang…but with one last whimper.