The New Millennium: Era of the Nosy Conscience

The last thing I ever want to be accused of is nosiness for its own sake. Although I am frequently nosy, my nosiness is always based on a genuine caring about people and their lives, and a genuine curiosity about everything. I am not a busybody, and I do not gossip. Despite my insatiable curiosity about people, I strive to never ever make judgements – I’m a real “live and let live” kind of person. So, for example, if I was to find out that a friend of mine was cheating on her boyfriend*, I would urge her to do the honorable thing and just break up with him, but I would never spread the story along to someone else, because it’s none of my business as to what goes on in someone else’s relationship.

By the same token, although I am personally against a lot of things, I make it a point not to interfere in anyone else’s decisions to be involved in those things. For another example, I’m not a huge fan of coffee, but I would never tell anyone else that they could not or should not drink coffee. I don’t think that’s my place, or my right. Even in the case of something I am morally opposed to, I don’t see that it’s my business to foist my morals off on anyone else. They have a right to their own morals, and if their morals interfere with the laws, then they have the right to make their own decisions, and, if it comes to it, suffer their own consequences. My life will generally not be affected by these choices. Yet another example: I am personally opposed to owning a firearm of any sort. I don’t want one, I don’t think I need one, and if I had one, I wouldn’t know what to do with it. That’s my choice. I’ve got a couple of cousins, however, who are gun enthusiasts, and I totally support their choice to own any firearm they are legally allowed to do so (Shameless Plug: If you are also a firearm enthusiast, and if you are specifically interested in concealed-carry, you should go to my cousin’s website, and take a look around – tell her I sent you).

However, we seem to be living in a world of constant interference in the lives of others. Businesses, in particular, seem to be intensely interested in the personal morality of their employees. Hobby Lobby, for example, has made headlines more than once lately in their protest of making contraception available without a coinsurance payment. They have claimed that this new law will force them out of business, because they will refuse to comply and be forced to suffer heavy financial penalties (I am not going to link to the story behind this, because I really don’t want to give them any more traffic). Their argument is basically that since contraception is against their religion, they should not have to pay for their employees’ use of it.

Let me say that one more time.

Their argument is basically that since contraception is against their (the company’s) religion, their employees should not be able to contribute their (the employees’) income to an insurance plan that covers it, because that would be against the company’s morality.

I didn’t know companies had morality. I thought people had morality. It is true that companies are made up of people, but I have a real problem with the idea that everyone who works for a company has exactly the same morals. Not even everyone who is a part of the same religion has the same morals (for example, Catholics in Oklahoma wouldn’t even recognize Catholics in Chicago, even though they are all Catholics), and being a member of a religion is completely voluntary, in the way that working for a company is not. If this were a better economy, I would be willing to bet that the vast majority of people who worked for a company that is very vocal about their morals either agree with them or don’t really care one way or the other, but right now, people are looking for any job they can get, and morality is a secondary concern, if it’s even a consideration.

The point I’d like to make, though, is that I don’t remember companies being so concerned about other people’s morality ten or fifteen years ago. I don’t remember hearing news stories about Dunkin’ Donuts’ problem with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, or Target’s problem with the Defense of Marriage Act. Maybe this type of thing was going on back then, and I just wasn’t paying attention to it, but eight years ago I was the news department for a small newspaper in northeast Oklahoma, and four years before that, I was a journalism major in college, so I don’t think it’s that I wasn’t paying attention. I really think it just wasn’t going on, or if it was, it wasn’t making the news.

The problem is not just with companies, either. I can’t browse over to a news site without hearing about another “right to life” group protesting in front of another “abortion clinic”, or another “sanctity of marriage” group protesting extending the right to marry to same-sex couples. Every time I read these headlines, all I can do is shake my head at the chutzpah of some people, because the issue seems to clear to me. If you don’t like the idea of abortion, don’t get one. Don’t like contraception? Don’t use it. Don’t like the idea of marriages where both partners are the same gender? Then don’t marry someone who is the same gender as you are! It’s very, very easy, because my decisions affect me, and your decisions affect you. My “sins”, if you want to call them that, won’t affect your chance of heaven, after all (and if your god is so cruel that he will kick you out of heaven because of what I did, then everyone in the history of the universe will be right there in hell with us – to quote the film “Labyrinth”, “You have no power over me.”).

What disturbs me even more is that only some groups seem to be jumping on this “morality bandwagon.” For example, many Jewish people do not eat pork, but I have yet to see them lobbying to shut down sausage factories. Latter-Day Saints (commonly known as “Mormons”, but I’ve heard they prefer “Latter-Day Saints”, so I’ve gone with that) don’t ingest caffeine or alcohol, but I don’t see them lobbying outside of Starbuck’s or my local liquor store. Both of these groups realize that although they personally disagree with certain things, they don’t have the right to prevent people not of their faith from consuming any product they would care to consume.

Although I’m not very religious, I have some personal moral issues of my own. For example, I do not like smoking at all. I think it’s a terrible, smelly, nasty habit, and I fervently wish that no one would smoke. I am glad that enough elected officials realized that smoking doesn’t just affect smokers, but that it also affects anyone sharing space with those smokers, and have therefore enacted laws requiring people to smoke outside, so as not to affect others who may not have made the choice to smoke. At the same time, though, I respect the rights of smokers to continue to smoke, if such be their wish, although I do humbly request that they not do it around me.

For another example: I know some people who are seriously allergic to peanuts. The reaction that they have is so bad that if they ate something containing peanuts, they could die if they did not receive immediate medical attention. This is far more serious than a “moral” issue, but I don’t see these people lobbying to make peanut consumption illegal for people who are not allergic (although I am very thankful for laws that require companies to label products that contain peanuts; it helps prevent accidents).

The question that I would like to ask at this point is: When did people become so concerned with what other people are doing? When did it become acceptable to judge people based on choices that those people may not find immoral? When did we become so much more concerned with what other people are doing that we don’t even seem to notice our own immorality. As I’ve said, I’m not very religious, but I have read the Christian Bible, and I remember something about, “Let he who is without sin throw the first stone,” “When you pray, pray in secret,” and “Before you pluck the splinter from your neighbor’s eye, you should remove the plank from yours.” So what I don’t understand is where these people get off telling other people how to live? Who do they think they are, that our “sins” will keep them out of heaven, but their own sins are okay?

What’s funny about this whole thing is that we just had a discussion a couple of weeks ago in one of my classes about politicians and morality. My professor said that she didn’t think we should ever judge politicians based on personal morality, because their personal morality may not be the same as ours. I countered that I never judge politicians by my morality, but I do judge them by their own morality, and how well they actually practice what they preach, because a politician who will lie to himself will probably lie to his constituents. For a (hopefully final) example, I’d like to mention the case of Former Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina. While he was governor, he dropped out of contact for six days, during which he left the country with a woman with whom he was having an extramarital affair. What I find unbearably hypocritical about this is that when Former President Bill Clinton’s extramarital affair was uncovered, Sanford’s voice was one of the loudest calling for his impeachment; yet, when his own affair and abandonment of office were discovered, and others were calling for his impeachment, he responded that he would remain in office. In my opinion, if a politician having an affair should be impeached, then all politicians having affairs should be impeached. If you are a person who says politicians who have affairs should be impeached, then if you become a politician who has an affair, you should be impeached too. As a side note, I don’t approve of sexual infidelity, but I also respect the rights of others to make their own decisions. My disdain for Sanford is based solely on his hypocrisy, and has nothing to do with the fact that he had an affair. It’s not even that he lied – I don’t know of a politician who hasn’t – but that he thought that he was somehow “above the law”, and that the consequences of decisions should not apply equally to him as they do to others.

I do desperately wish that people would just mind their own business. No one can ever truly know what another person’s situation is like, and each person has the right, and the responsibility, to make the best decision they can, based on their personal situation and their personal morality. No one ever has the right to push their morality onto someone else, although people should keep in mind that if their actual behavior varies from their stated position, people will notice, and take that into account. For example, if you are a person who says homosexuals are “icky” and then it is discovered that you have been having an affair with someone who is the same gender as you, I will probably not want to trust you very much, because you have shown yourself to be a hypocrite. Just leave people alone, keep your judgmental opinions to yourself, and let’s all try to be nice to each other and get along, shall we? I really think it would make the world a far more pleasant place.

* This is a totally fictional story for illustration purposes; I don’t know of anyone who is currently cheating, and even if I did, I wouldn’t be saying so in public like this. Also, it’s not really the point of what I’m trying to say.

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