Last week, Republican Kentucky U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul sparked outrage when he said he supported the right of privately-owned businesses to discriminate against blacks. Paul, who calls himself a "Constitutional conservative," believes that by forbidding such discrimination, the 1964 Civil Rights Act represents too much government meddling in the affairs of private citizens — i.e., it restricts their rights to be bigots. The American Prospect quotes Paul as saying his point of view represents "the hard part of believing in freedom." Ah, yes, freedom — the battle cry of the conservative. To quote Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."
This weekend, while doing some genealogical research on Kentucky, I happened across an interesting passage. In A History of Blacks in Kentucky: From Slavery to Segregation 1760-1891, author Marion B. Lucas offers a foreign traveler's view of Kentucky slave traders, noting that "soul peddlers" were prone to "talk incessantly of their love of freedom." To me, that description sounds eerily like Paul and his adherents. It's often those who bray constantly about their own freedoms who have the least regard for the freedoms of others.
But if you reject the principles behind the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and other government efforts to preserve the rights of marginalized groups — as Paul does — you don't support a vision of America in which all people are free. Instead, it's an image of America in which only certain people — like potential U.S. Senators from Kentucky — are free to exercise their privilege. Let's face it: If you aren't about liberty and justice for all, then you aren't about liberty and justice at all. Read more...
Thursday, May 27, 2010
My latest post on Change.org: