Traditional Values: Going to the Roots

The Orange County Board of Supervisors' rejection this summer of a proposed law that would have made it illegal to discriminate against people infected with the AIDS virus, combined with the upcoming referendum in Irvine that would drop "sexual orientation" from an anti-discrimination statute, have produced--in my book--one positive result. They have made me think a lot about traditional values.

The group that is fighting the hardest and speaking the loudest against providing homosexuals the same protection under the law as other citizens is called the Traditional Values Coalition. It is led by a minister and composed largely of people who call themselves conservative Christians.

Since this group apparently feels its traditional values are violated by both of these anti-discrimination measures, I decided--since I, also, consider myself a Christian--to take a look at what I regard as my traditional values. And also the values that--in my view--have provided the cornerstones for this society.

In no particular order of importance, my list--along with some of the authorities to whom I have turned in support of these values--includes:

Equality of opportunity:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. . . ."

--Thomas Jefferson

Compassion for the sick, poor and weak:

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. . . ."

--Emma Lazarus poem inscribed on the Statue of Liberty

"With malice toward none, with charity for all. . . .

--Abraham Lincoln

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. . . ."

--Jesus of Nazareth

Equal justice for all:

"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. . . ."

--The Golden Rule

"In Germany, they first came for the communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me--and by that time there was no one left to speak up. . . ."

--Martin Neimoller

Tolerance for those who don't agree with us:

"Judge not that ye be not judged. . . ."

"And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?"

"He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone. . . ."

--Jesus of Nazareth

"All living souls welcome whatsoever they are ready to cope with; all else they ignore, or pronounce to be monstrous and wrong, or deny to be possible."

--George Santayana

Forgiveness for the trespasses of others:

"For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."

--Jesus of Nazareth

Love for your neighbor:

"And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul and with all thy mind and with all thy strength: This is the First Commandment . . . And the second is namely this: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these . . ."

--Jesus of Nazareth

Freedom to be different without fear of reprisal:

"You've got to be taught to hate and fear,

You've got to be taught from year to year,

It's got to be drummed in your dear little ear,

You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught to be afraid

Of people whose eyes are oddly made,

And people whose skin is a different shade,

You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught before it's too late,

Before you are 6, or 7, or 8,

To hate all the people your relatives hate--

You've got to be carefully taught."

--Oscar Hammerstein II

If there is one traditional value that persists in all the teachings of Jesus, it is love--and compassion. And if there is one that persists in the writings of the founders of this country, it is the imperative of making very sure that the rights and freedoms that protect all of us are never withheld from any one group, because if that should happen, a precedent would be set for withholding that protection from other groups--and our society would be mortally injured.

Perhaps Helen Keller should have the last word. She wrote in 1903: "No loss by flood and lightning, no destruction of cities and temples by the hostile forces of nature, has deprived man of so many noble lives and impulses as those which his intolerance has destroyed."

Or Jonathan Swift, who said: "We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love."

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