Nickelodeon: From Rousseau to Rosie

On June 18, 2002 Nickelodeon carried a show titled My Family Is Different as part of their news programming. Gathered in a room were nine kids, three of whom were Christians, one Muslim and three from families with gay parents. The adult guests were all gay Rosie O’Donnell, a school administrator and a gay NYFD survivor of 911.

The set-up of the show introduced hate as the opposite of tolerance and that theme carried throughout. The show also rhetorically explored whether kids think there is anything more ¢â‚¬Ëœnormal’ about a family with a mom and dad than the alternatives and suggested that we might want to redefine the family. It was made clear that people are entitled to their own opinions but people who disagree with homosexuality were routinely described as lacking in understanding or ¢â‚¬Ëœclosed-minded.’

Tolerance, of course the ultimate virtue, obviously does not apply to people whose deeply held religious beliefs lead them to conclude that marriages are comprised of a man and a woman and that alternative families are not the norm.

How did we arrive at the place where religious people, whose rights not only to speech, but to practice, are specifically protected by the Bill of Rights, are being dismissed by those who advocate a right to gay marriage which is not protected by the Bill of Rights?

In his book What’s So Great About America, Dinesh D’Souza argues persuasively that the philosopher Rousseau’s ideas about radical individualism, adopted in the sixties, are now straining our Constitution.

1) Rousseau argued that there is no external authority and that truth and morality is determined by getting in touch with one’s self.

‘In Rousseau’s world, moral identity is a problem because it is not a given: it is self-generated.’
Dinesh D’Souza, referring to the ideas of philospher Jean-Jacques Rousseau), What’s So Great About America, April 1, 2002

‘There is a way of being human that is my way. I am called upon to live my life in this way, and not in imitation of anyone else’s. If I do not, I miss the point of my life. I miss what being human is for me.’
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, on individualism, in The Ethics of Authenticity, by Charles Taylor, January 1, 1991

‘The principles of truth are engraved in all hearts and to discover what is right in a given situation all I must do is commune with myself. I do not derive these rules from the principles of high philosophy, but I find them written by nature in ineffaceable characters at the bottom of my heart.’
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, on inner self as the source of truth, in The Ethics of Authenticity, by Charles Taylor, January 1, 1991

2) D’Souza argues that our Founders didn’t anticipate a view of freedom rooted in self instead of a core of commonly held beliefs.

‘The American founders believed that all people share a basic human nature, and therefore pretty much wanted the same things in life. The founders set up a regime dedicated to three types of freedom — economic freedom, political freedom, and the freedom of speech and religion –so that people could pursue the American Dream. But (philosopher Jean-Jacques) Rousseau adds another freedom…freedom from external impositions. Be true to yourself.’
Dinesh D’Souza, on individual moral autonomy, What’s So Great About America, April 1, 2002

To summarize, today there is no truth, only opinion and the only opinions that can be dismissed are those arising from outside the individual, such as those originating in religion. Those of us who believe God is the creator of marriage and the definer of the norm are being systematically derided and dismissed by those who operate on the “it’s only an opinion” basis in the shaping of their morality.

The crisis in our culture involves a vocal and powerful minority, who has thrown off all external restraints, and then demonizes and dismisses as intolerant the majority who retain those restraints. In the process they grant our freedom to express our opinion but dismiss it as close-minded and uninformed. Who could have imagined that Rousseau would pave the way for Rosie and others to redefine marriage, an institution rooted in religion, replacing it with their newly defined family and then forcing it on the majority.

This much I know. First, the very definition of tolerance implies accepting or ‘putting up with’ people or views with which you disagree. Gays and Christians need to apply this equally. Second, tolerance does not require or even marginally suggest that the majority should allow the minority to redefine social institutions like marriage through propoganda, ‘education’ or legislation or in any other way.

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