Privacy And Diversity

America has always been more diverse than most countries. Initially, that diversity meant different kinds of Christians–Maryland, for example, was Catholic, while the other original colonies were dominated by a variety of Protestant denominations. We are far more diverse these days, thanks to immigration, the splintering of numerous sects, and the explosive growth of the “nones,” Americans without religious affiliations.

We aren’t only diverse in our religious beliefs. Individuals represent different races, different regional cultures and backgrounds and very different political and ideological commitments.

The big question is: what sort of government can serve such wildly different citizens and be  viewed as fair across all those differences? (That, of course, is a question that has long preoccupied political philosophers. John Rawls proposed a “Veil of Ignorance”–an intriguing mechanism for determining fairness.)

These days, as columnist Jennifer Rubin has written, an uncomfortable number of Americans are uninterested in fairness; they are interested in dominance. That faction is represented by a right-wing, activist Supreme Court and the Christian nationalists they favor. In their ahistorical vision of proper government,  “a sliver of the electorate (White, Christian, male) exploits anti-majoritarian aspects of our democracy (e.g. the filibuster, the electoral college, gerrymandering) to use the awesome power of the government to impose values rooted in the 19th century on a diverse country.”

In that vision, the proper beneficiaries of public policy are mostly White, Christian and male, and elements of modernity like science and expertise, not to mention diversity, are “foreign, elite and alien.”

Rubin uses a speech by retiring Justice Breyer to explain the countervailing, constitutionally-anchored viewpoint–one that, as she says, recognizes the heterodoxy of America.

“This is a complicated country. More than 330 million people. My mother used to say, it’s every race, it’s every religion — and she would emphasize this — it’s every point of view possible. It’s a kind of miracle when you sit there and see all those people in front of you. People that are so different in what they think. And yet they decided to help solve their major differences under law.”

This vision posits that to achieve “ordered liberty” for a diverse, noisy, rambunctious people, we must respect the right to self-determination — to choose one’s family, one’s lifestyle, one’s profession and one’s philosophy of child-rearing. That necessitates restriction on government so as to protect a sphere of private conscience. It’s what Louis Brandeis called the “right to be left alone.”

Poll after poll affirms that a large majority of Americans believe that the “right to be left alone”–the right to direct their own lives, consistent with their own moral commitments –should extend to such matters as contraception, abortion, same-sex marriage, child rearing and lifestyle.

Until the advent of this rogue court, the Supreme Court had largely agreed. As Rubin reminds us, even before Griswold v. Connecticut was decided in 1965, the court had protected the right to send your child to the school of your choice and receive instruction in a foreign language. In the 1950s, the Court affirmed the right to choose your profession; and the right to travel (neither of which is expressly set forth in the Constitution).

The court in 1923 held that “liberty” includes the right “to engage in any of the common occupations of life, to acquire useful knowledge, to marry, establish a home and bring up children, to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience, and generally to enjoy those privileges long recognized at common law as essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.”

After Griswold, that zone of privacy was extended to interracial marriage, private consensual sex, abortion, the right of grandparents to live with their grandchildren (i.e. how one defines a “single family”) and to same-sex marriage.

The zone of privacy erected by the Court is precisely what a fair reading of the Bill of Rights protects–the right of individuals to make personal decisions without government interference.  That is precisely what the MAGA movement cannot abide: it wants  government to “control how schools teach race, what teachers say about sexual and gender identity, how parents treat transgender children, and, now, whether women can be forced to give birth against their will.”

In response to the constitutional question “who decides?” the White Christian Nationalists of the MAGA movement respond: “we do.”

At stake right now is the individual’s right to live “free from the tyranny of the government and the mob.” As Rubin says, we need a counter-movement.

In sum, Americans need a counterweight to a Christian nationalist movement that seeks to impose on the majority the set of social beliefs of the minority. They need a movement to defend the myriad ways 330 million Americans engage in “pursuit of happiness” — ways as diverse as the country itself.


  1. This comment does not jive with reality – it’s purely theoretical. It sounds good, and it’s what our Founders may have wanted, but that is NOT our reality.

    “This vision posits that to achieve “ordered liberty” for a diverse, noisy, rambunctious people, we must respect the right to self-determination…”

    Self-determination is not allowed in this country or other countries where we meddle. We are essentially shaped as human beings from the very beginning. Go to any toy section at Walmart and look at the colors. Pink is for girls and blue is for boys.

    Albert Einstein told us in 1949 that we are an oligarchic society whereby very few control the masses. How do they do this?

    Through ownership and control. If the Kochs truly want self-determination for all, why do they want government control?

    They don’t want to release people from government control — they want to control the people. Same thing for George Soros. He calls for an “open society” but uses the police and military to get what he wants to make more money.

    Their words and actions are contradictions. This is why our country is ripping apart. It doesn’t follow the core values it espouses. If we were the beacon of democratic republics, and our principles all worked so well, why do we rank 25th internationally, and why do we need the largest military by five times over the following country?

    If we were so exceptional, people would flock here, but they aren’t. (eyes-rolling)

  2. I suspect that Clarence Thomas is going after the right to interracial marriage to get away from his wife…ba-dum!

  3. “The big question is: what sort of government can serve such wildly different citizens and be viewed as fair across all those differences?”

    The response to Rep. Swalwell’s question, “Would a 10 year old chose to carry a baby to term?” to the head of an anti-abortion group yesterday was, “If she is 10 years old, it isn’t an abortion.” The news item on CNN ended with that ridiculous response but shows the mentality of the Pro-Life Republicans now serving us thanks to the Supreme Court ruling. The only privacy remaining is the child’s name; the response from the head of the anti-abortion group is too ignorant to be considered diverse. This case became a national issue when President Biden referred to it before it came before the public and moved from Ohio to Indiana; with the view of Republicans that Biden didn’t know what he was talking about, “he hadn’t vetted the information”. The rapist has been arrested and confessed to raping the child TWICE; our own AG Rokita is mulling over how to deal with the doctor who performed the abortion – or whatever medical procedure she performed – here in Indiana. Where does Pence’s anti-abortion bill fit into this if it wasn’t considered an abortion by the anti-abortion organization and how will Indiana’s AG Rokita deal with this “wildly different” situation now before the nation?

    Todd; as the “Voice of Muncie” you should know the term “jive” is defined as a lively dance style or to say foolish, deceptive or unserious things”. The word you need is “jibe” which means “a shift from one side to the other”.

    “At stake right now is the individual’s right to live “free from the tyranny of the government and the mob.” As Rubin says, we need a counter-movement.”

  4. I can actually remember a time when “straight white Christian male” didn’t automatically mean stupid, knuckle dragging mouth breather. Sorry about that, Thomas Merton.

    What this SCOTUS has just told us in the last days of their term is that they really don’t care about the Constitution, they fully intend to do whatever they want to do. Until that time, I was unsure about the idea of adding justices. Now, I think it would be wise to have a justice for each circuit. How about it, Manchin and Sinema?

  5. But, where does the “right to be left alone” stop and the common good begin? That is our struggle. Leave me alone to:

    – Not wear a mask during a pandemic?
    – Not wear a motorcycle helmet?
    – Drive as fast and wild as I want?
    – Carry loaded guns anywhere anytime?
    – Walk around naked?
    – Etc.

    Who decides?

  6. The right prizes their freedom. The left, our freedom. There’s the difference.

    By that I mean, from the right: give me all that makes me happy whether that is no restrictions on me or power over others or freedom not to pay for others. The left and the Constitution mean equal freedom for all, which means we are all free to act in ways that don’t impose on any others including shared responsibility for the cost of shared infrastructure.

    The right ends up as slavery: owners and the owned. The left ends up as freedom to the degree that it is possible in a crowded, interconnected world and country.

  7. E pluribus unum, out of many one!

    Must have been important! You can’t say that those who are writing laws including the Constitution as a guideline didn’t foresee much of this.

    The commerce clause, it regulates everything pretty much. Including the commerce between states and public health issues and drug labeling and environmental protections and laws and child labor laws and minimum wage and conditions of employment hence OSHA, NLRB, EEOC! And laws against gender motivated violence.

    The commerce clause even went so far as to fight against collusion by groups who are affiliated driving up prices by hoarding product. Another words, these groups that are affiliated could not claim what they produced or acquired were for personal use if the amount was excessive.

    But what happens when you have individuals buying futures on oil driving up the price with without ever taking possession of the product? In other words they drive up the prices feigning a shortage by so many contracts, then they sell for a huge profit at the expense of the dumb day trader.

    Interstate commerce absolutely permits seeking healthcare between states and in foreign countries.

    Federal excise taxes are also a tool that can be used to bring rogue States into submission. Of course, they would howl to the moon, but it is there for a reason. To make the playing field equal so to speak.

    Excise taxes can also be levied against states that go against Federal law, having them pay a penalty. In other words, it’s the sledgehammer or the fly swatter depending on the situation.

    A lot of activity in the late 1900s and early 2000s, really impacted the tax base by allowing certain religious entities to claim exemption of taxes on vast swaths of land. This was the period that started the government handing certain religious organizations tens of millions of dollars for their charity work. If anything needs to be reversed, this does!

    Separation between church and state and the Constitution was to not allow a religious entity to be part of a state sponsored Church, but that’s exactly what has happened over the past several decades. And, you can see the effects of it. The breaking point is rapidly approaching, and it’s going to be devastating for many of those who are used to being very important people in the political realm.

  8. In the case of the twice raped child, the fool who decided that “abortion” did not apply was clearly corrected! If, as the saying goes, “He who makes the definitions has the power!” we can not allow the MAGA idiots to define the definitions. They need to be responded to, loudly. “MAGA holds an assumption that is in
    error, because America was never “Great” for far too many people…from its inception, I wish to posit.
    “The right to be left alone “as shown in the statistic, is dear to many millions of us, and I, for one, find it (including me) and I find it abrogated whenever
    I see the “Jesus is the answer” slogan. Answer to what, “Who is your favorite cartoon character?” Leave me alone! You want to believe in
    ancient mythology? Go for it, but leave me alone.
    Todd, is the “comment” you refer to “The right to be left alone?” If so, it is not the reality, I suggest, only because some minority of us has decided that
    it does not fit into its agenda. Those of us who do not like this reality do not have to quietly allow it to remain so.

  9. I’m too busy – “leave me alone”…

    – Busy having fun
    – Busy making money
    – Busy surviving
    – Busy being terrified of the 21st century

  10. “These days, as columnist Jennifer Rubin has written, an uncomfortable number of Americans are uninterested in fairness; they are interested in dominance.”

    It’s not just “these days” that world dominance is the popular American priority.

    Author Steven Kinzer, in 2017 “The True Flag: Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain and the Birth of American Empire,” reminded us that in 1900, when put to a vote in Congress, TR’s imperialism barely won out over Twain’s favored anti-imperialism.

    The abuse of citizens of seized lands like the Philippines resulted.

  11. When it comes to privacy, Mr. Rokita has shown that he has no respect for that concept. He jumps on any conservative bandwagon that puts his name in headlines, regardless of the truth.

  12. The Muslim mosque in Fishers has a sign out front, “United for Peace and Tolerance for All.” I recall it went up after 9/11 when they were the ones being persecuted. They set a wonderful example of taking the high road.

  13. The significant overriding factor is the shear audacity of the hubris of the far right white political block of the republican party.

    My new signature on my E-mail will be:
    “an uncomfortable number of Americans are uninterested in fairness; they are interested in dominance. “

  14. Here is the deal the Democrats have to drop all the so called woke issues. They have to laugh at the Pubs when they attack you on these issues.

    Each school board needs to decide – Pull the old home rule play book courtesy of the Pubs. Hey the Pubs used to believe this instead they believe one law fits every situation.

    Some issues to attack the Pubs on abortion call them Pro-Birth the baby is born Pubs take a victory lap and then give the the mother and baby no help. All they care about is the baby born.

    Tell Hoosiers our small and medium size towns and cities need funds to rehab or tear down.houses and buildings that make the towns look shabby and hard to be proud of their town.

    Push for a ROTC (the Marine corp, the Navy have one I am guessing the Air Force) so every high school in Indiana has access to the ROTC, and at least one of these other programs.

    These issues would resonate with small town people you need to turn the tables on the Pubs.

    Call yourself “We Are The New Democrat Party – We Can About All Hoosiers” Yes your throwing the trans people under the bus – doesn’t matter winning elections matter. The only way you can change thing is win!

Comments are closed.