October 28th, 2020


Avoiding seeing things as they really are

Christine M. Flowers

By Christine M. Flowers Philadelphia Daily News/(TNS)

Published April 13, 2015

Avoiding seeing things as they really are Ultraman, low-tech superhero of 1970s television

Last weekend, I managed to successfully brainwash my 6-year-old nephew into believing that Ultraman, that low-tech superhero of 1970s television, is the greatest champion of all time. It took only a marathon session of 39 episodes, some in English and some in Japanese with comically inaccurate subtitles, to convince him that the giant amalgam of energy, steel and human emotion was "good" and that all the cheesy, Claymation-type monsters coming after him were "evil."

In Ultraman world, that dichotomy is simple. There are no misunderstood giant iguanas, no emotionally tortured lobster-ape hybrids, no animated rock formations with laser powers possessed of hearts of gold. There is only white and black. Hot and cold. Right and wrong. It's a wonderful vacation from the exhaustion of dealing with moral ambiguity. No heavy psychological lifting when Hayata presses that Beta Capsule.

Of course, I said to myself, Ultraman could never exist in our current world (and not only because he'd violate the height restrictions of too many strictly zoned residential communities). We Americans are too sophisticated to believe that things like absolute good and absolute evil exist anymore. In fact, we think it's a sign of intelligence to create a moral ambiguity with anything and everything, to the point that killing a child in the ninth month of a pregnancy has been rationalized away as a "necessary choice."

But this column isn't about abortion. It isn't about the death penalty, which I hope with every fiber of my being is imposed on the Boston Marathon bomber. It isn't about women who create clever and complicated lies about being raped and find opportunistic journalists who will then help them destroy a fraternity. It isn't about victims of past persecution (as they see it) who become vicious attack dogs against people who don't accept their view of marriage.

This column is about all of that, and more. It's about how we've lost the ability to see things for what they really are, because seeing them that way will not advance our particular view of how the world should be. And that bothers us, because we've become so used to creating a template for an "evolved" society that anything that frustrates that goal has to be avoided like the plague.

So, instead of saying that there should be no abortions after the seventh month, when the fetus is physically indistinguishable from a "baby," we make sure to leave uterine wiggle room, because women should always have a choice.

And instead of supporting capital punishment for a man who set explosive devices on a public street and caused the death and mutilation of innocent people — including an 8-year-old little boy — we talk in hushed tones about G0D being the only one who has a right to take a life (more on G0D later).

And speaking of rape, instead of being willing to prosecute a woman for lying about this most heinous of crimes and making her serve the same sentence her falsely accused attacker would have served had the story not unraveled, we lower our heads and make excuses for those poor girls who need our sympathy.

And then we have those cases in which a business owner has the audacity to suggest that his religious beliefs would prevent him from catering a same-sex wedding, and instead of pulling out our copies of the Constitution and saying, "Yup, Mr. Baker," we watch as members of the LGBT community rise up to shame, boycott and threaten that flour-covered Midwesterner until his governor yells, "'Uncle' Sam, you win!"

I was particularly interested in what happened in Indiana last week. Of all the fascinating developments in this Land of the Free (as long as you think the right things) and Home of the Brave (as long as you have the media and public opinion on your side), that was the one that made me realize just how inoculated against common sense we've become.

The right to exercise our religious beliefs is the single greatest attribute of citizenship. We can get a room full of constitutional scholars who will talk about Lemon tests and government actors and what constitutes a "substantial burden" on religion, but the bottom line is that I don't have to recognize your gay nuptials if it violates my beliefs, and you don't have to attend my church. Not complicated.

But this isn't Ultraman world. We must complicate the simple, obfuscate the clear. We convince the world that forcing someone to violate his religious scruples is a blow for someone else's civil rights. So we vilify the recalcitrant baker, pull him up from his knees, take him away from his altar and shove him into the kitchen. And if he complains, we laugh and say, "Get a better religion."

Nice form of tolerance. As Archbishop Charles Chaput, a man who knows a great deal about the intersection of church and state, observed, "Tolerance is a word without meaning if it doesn't work both ways. People with same-sex attraction want to be free from bullying and coercion so do religious believers, including those millions of believers that can't, in good conscience, affirm same-sex sexual relationships. The bitterness and ignorance in the debates over state RFRA laws are lopsided, and in general, the ugliness is not coming from persons trying to protect their religious liberties."

That is clarity, and it shows just who were the real bullies last week.

Even a 6-year-old with a taste for giant iguanas could figure it out.

Christine M. Flowers
Philadelphia Daily News

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Christine M. Flowers is a lawyer and columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News.