Somehow amidst all of the hype surrounding the Ukranian uprising, T-bond rates falling against emerging markets, the ongoing Syrian genocide and the UN’s conflicted response, and the US Army cutting its presence overseas, the state of Arizona has managed to put its name in the headlines for its good old-fashioned Christian values. It almost seems like every time I think the Religious Right has gone too far, they follow through with Murphy’s Law and continue to astound the nation with their sugarcoated scorn and the inflated esteem of their values.
Their latest legislative attempt, however, has indignified a swarming majority who’ve been increasingly tired of defending their right to respect in public society. The law unrightfully inserts religion into our precious free-market capitalist system – a system which even Reagan deferred interference with, defending private industry as a one of the most powerful instruments of freedom.
Selective hearing can be so ironic.
There is no place in the American public marketplace to employ discrimination. We are a country full of capitalists; the sensical business owner who understands the value of the dollar and what it can do to, say, pay employees/electric bills/taxes, will henceforth understand the value of their customer. The dollar is the reason that they chose to operate for profit rather than to provide their services, freely sprinkled with purity and moral aptitude, for no exchange other than that of the kindness of their own hearts.
The American public marketplace is not a podium upon which to proclaim religious beliefs. The American public marketplace is not a place where we tolerate bigotry in any form, no matter how deeply held these convictions may be, and no matter which place of virtue they come from. Our capitalist system is no place to compare the plight of one generation to the seeming lack thereof of another. Comparing the discrimination of gay people to the trauma of the slave generation, as some curiously indignant persons have, is not only a pathetically unbalanced argument to make, but it is disgusting. It is disgusting because we Americans are better than that. We are better than our past. We should not – or we WILL not – hold the standards of discrimination up to Jim Crowe levels. We cannot sit idly by and wait for discrimination to become so bad that it is legitimately comparable to the Jim Crowe South. We should be running in the opposite direction of that place in history, not trying to approach every discriminatory action as if it were illegitimate unless it is equal to the Jim Crowe social terrorism that some people so boldly call discrimination. Discrimination is exactly what it sounds like; it is allowing the shadowy selection of one’s customer base for reasons other than purchasing power. Bigotry does not make monetary exceptions.
There is literally no possible way of turning something so blatantly prejudiced into something of a civilized nature. It is a logical fallacy. It is inhumane. It is a blaspheme against the progress we’ve made and the pride we’ve taken in moving so far away from 1963 Birmingham.
Refusing service to a demographic of people based on something personal, something completely unrelated to the value of the money in their pocket, is discrimination. When the contents of your wallet are no longer relevant while your race, sexual identity, hair color, sexual preference, age, or brand of shirt you wear is, there is no other definition to assign besides that of what it is – discrimination.
This train of thought is toxic. It is toxic because religion has no place in the marketplace, which is why any for-profit business that is not operating under the 501(c)-3 tax code is contradicting themselves just by opening their mouth and having an opinion on social issues. When pro-business legislation is lobbied for, it is defended on protecting the financial interests of a for-profit entity. When pro-religious legislation is enacted on behalf of private business owners, no financial interest is at stake. No economic well-being intended for popular benefit is being compromised. The group being represented – business owners – is legislating in an arena that does not belong solely to their demographic. Social issues belong to both the rich and the poor, the private and the nonprofit, the single, the married, the SNAP beneficiaries and the homeless.
While private business owners and segmented moral groups of Arizona push their way through public legislation to employ a “Christian” practice that Jesus Christ himself would have gasped at, the rest of us should not just watch this while sitting on our hands. We must debate this ghastly moral issue until the most brutish shouting dogs of the media are desperately calling on Syria to give them a news story that won’t inundate them with backlash. We must defend human dignity like it’s going out of style.