Acceptance and respect
The US Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell vs Hodges (5-4) allowing same-sex marriage in all 50 states of America is a historic milestone, like the 1973 Roe vs Wade landmark decision (7-2) authorizing abortion before the “viability” of the unborn child. The debate will continue for a very long time.
But there are dimensions of Obergefell vs Hodges that go beyond constitutionality or legalities: the mainstream’s acceptance of and respect for “out of the norm” behavior by fellow human beings and, in turn, the latter’s reciprocation with respect for and acceptance of those who have oppressed and harassed them.
This is the challenge to all. Countless people have been in closets for so long; coming out has been a very slow and painful process for them.
Breaking through glass ceilings continues to be a great human challenge: indigenous peoples’ rights, women’s rights, elimination of slavery, dismantling of caste systems, ecumenism, eradication of poverty, the basic human rights of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. The hurdles are norms established over time purportedly for civility to reign among humankind. Yet, global society continues to be extremely imperfect and unsteady in this age of cyber infrastructure. Transparency is enhanced and little remains unexposed in the 21st-century global village. The US Supreme Court’s decision is heard all over the planet.
Why are acceptance and respect difficult dispositions for people to live by?
The answer is in the heart of every human being. Acceptance and respect will be solid and sustained only if these are rooted in the self.
Acceptance of self is a necessary condition for self-respect to follow. Only then can acceptance and respect for others become truly possible.
Self-knowledge is essential. Recognizing who one is and where one comes from provides the foundation for self-knowledge and awareness. The absolute greatness of every person defines a human being. Accepting this truth is within one’s control. A person will have absolute control only of his or her being and not of others. That self-control will define the ideal human behavior.
Institutional and organized reactions are being expressed for and against Obergefell vs Hodges. The dissenting opinions are scathing in their criticism of the majority decision penned by Justice Anthony Kennedy. The stage for the lasting debate has been well set. The clash between tradition and dynamic value recognition is rising to the fore.
Deemed the worst decision made by the US Supreme Court is Scott vs Sandford 1857 (7-2), which denied US citizenship to a former slave. Seven justices could not respect and accept Dred Scott as their fellow American. No doubt, controversial decisions have been made by the Court. Biases and prejudices are inevitable elements in decision-making processes. Unconditional acceptance and respect are elusive realities in the social milieu.
It is for this reason that Pope Francis’ presence is very refreshing, with his seemingly limitless capacity to accept and respect everyone, particularly those in the peripheries. His latest declaration recognizing that breaking matrimonial bonds may be morally necessary under certain circumstances can make the conservative clergy cringe once again. His position follows from his “strong faith and seeing with the eyes of Jesus.” He first accepts every human being and respects him or her without judgment. He then opens the path to God’s mercy for them, proceeding from the truth that everyone has life flowing from God’s unconditional love. He is aware that his own existence is absolutely from God’s unconditional love. He is thus beyond fear and is ready to unqualifiedly include everyone in his love.
Pope Francis will continue to challenge the Catholic hierarchy by his life. His pronouncements are not decrees but projections of his inner self recognizing God in him. He realizes that the family unit is primarily threatened when individual members are not aware of God in each one. It is not the Reproductive Health Law or Roe vs Wade or Obergefell vs Hodges or divorce legislation that will be destructive to the family. It is individuals like politicians, legislators, and religious and other social leaders who fail to recognize God in them, making it difficult for them to accept and respect their fellow human beings, that will ultimately destroy the family. When these leaders are not able to form in their constituents the right values because they are blinded by their power and titles, they contribute to destroy the family.
The movie “The Imitation Game” is a fact-based story of Alan Turing’s dogged persistence in breaking the enigma code that led to Germany’s defeat in World War II. He was the founder of computer science, a brilliant mathematician, a code-breaker, and a philosopher. A gay man, he was arrested for and convicted of homosexuality, his patriotism thrown out because of it. He died in 1954 by his own hand. He was not accepted for what he was despite his extraordinary contribution to the world.
There are many who will continue to reject fellow human beings because of their bias and prejudice. They will be sticklers for norms and rules and be judgmental. There are many in the higher echelons of religious groups who will insist on traditions, making these more important than the human person. Can they look at themselves instead and determine why they are unable to be more accepting? By their disposition, they mold their constituents as virtual bigots.
Doubtless, the world will be a better place when people learn to be accepting and respectful of one another.
Danilo S. Venida ([email protected]) holds undergraduate and postgraduate degrees from the University of the Philippines and the Center for Research and Communication/University of Asia and the Pacific. He is a former president of the Philippine Daily Inquirer and is now a business consultant.
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