December 20, 2007
A plethora of controversial issues are tossed around in debate nowadays. So many organizations demand recognition of their issues, whether they are focused on abortion, gun control, the occupation of Iraq, the “war on crime”, the “war on drugs,” gay marriage, the death penalty, or any of the countless others, that the average American can devote little thought to those affairs which do not personally concern them. That situation can spell trouble for civil liberties when combined with another modern tendency: that of attempting to achieve one’s own goals of moral purity through the passage of legislation.

Ideally, a group that is, say, strongly against abortion would be required to go forth and make attempts to convince the public that their views are of merit, and should be followed. If it gathered strength, the group’s views would spread and it would have a significant cultural impact. Those who do not share the opinion that abortion is morally wrong would not be influenced by that movement, and would not be obligated to directly oppose it simply to maintain their current standard of living.

Unfortunately, the current situation in this country is nothing like what was just described. It seems as if every group of concerned citizens who desire social change is attempting to force it through legislation. The general attitude of many lobbyist groups seems to be that if a sacrifice on the part of the people would be in some way beneficial to the moral standards or living conditions of the same, then it must be made. An excellent example of this is the recently enacted law mandating that all drivers wear seatbelts in Massachusetts. Those who pushed for that legislation did not consider that the public could be influenced to strap itself in while driving without being obligated to do so by law. It was not reasoned that the decision of whether to “play it safe” or “live on the edge” should remain just that: a choice. It is unclear whether the people’s lack of interest in issues of consequence or their belief that values can be spread only through force of the government is to blame for this Age of Absolutism. What is certain, however, is that cultural change can only be achieved if respect is shown for the opinions and civil liberties of others; otherwise, those on one side of every legislative issue will find the law standing between them and their preferred lifestyle.

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