"This country, which has given to the world the example of physical liberty, owes to it that of moral emancipation also. For as yet, it is but nominal with us. The inquisition of public opinion overwhelms in practice the freedom asserted by the laws in theory." --Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, 1821.
I am not one to cry for the elder, better days. I believe in that depths of my soul that we, as a nation, a planet and a species, have continually made strides in the direction of maturity. There is no doubt, despite those who oppose anything which violates their own interest, that we have made great strides towards the ideals which Jefferson and Adams discussed at great length in their letters as they evaluated the results of their labors.
Yet this morning all I can think of is how well the quoted statement applies to the news from Maine.
"The inquisition of public opinion overwhelms in practice the freedom asserted by the laws in theory."
This very concept that the rights of a minority are subject to the whim of public opinion is diametrically opposed to the intent, words and public statements of the men who this country so reveres as the Founding Fathers.
Men who fought a war with arguably the most powerful military entity on the planet in order to avoid the tyranny of the majority would not in any way approve of what has happened in Maine, or what happened in California.
After all, do you think that the Stamp Act was unpopular with the great majority of the British Empire? Of course not. To them, it was right that the colonies should bear the expense of the recent war with France that, in the MAJORITY opinion, was fought on behalf of those colonies.
The fathers of this country risked death not to establish majority rule, but to oppose it. They put the checks and balances in our constitution to prevent exactly the kind of thing that is now happening. It has ever been the role of the courts to protect the rights of the minority. To have the efforts of those courts subject to the "whim of public opinion" is both shameful and harmful to the very cause of Freedom.
"The Gothic idea that we were to look backwards instead of forwards for the improvement of the human mind, and to recur to the annals of our ancestors for what is most perfect in government, in religion and in learning, is worthy of those bigots in religion and government by whom it has been recommended, and whose purposes it would answer. But it is not an idea which this country will endure." --Thomas Jefferson to Joseph Priestley, 1800.
Unfortunately, it does endure. It is the burden of those who have embraced reason over fear and superstition to persist in trying to achieve those ideals set down by our founders more than 200 years ago.
The cause of Marriage Equality has suffered another setback. Yet the odds for the eventual triumph of Freedom in this cause are still better than those faced by the handful of brave souls who sacrificed in pursuit of the establishment of an independent nation on these shores.
We must continue to fight, and we must continue to answer fear with reason, hatred with love, and superstition and loathing with common sense and forgiveness.
I hang my head at the results from Maine and wish they had been otherwise. Our citizens have proven that they yet have growth to achieve if they wish to truly reach the heights this nation once aspired to.
Yet, we must continue.
"[Let us] go on in doing with [the] pen what in other times was done with the sword, [and] show that reformation is more practicable by operating on the mind than on the body of man." --Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Paine, 1792