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Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki:
The Improvement of Morals (1786)

"We were founded with a broader vision …"

I feel appalled at the many attempts by self-proclaimed moral conservatives to legislate and adjudicate abortion bans. They claim to be exercising moral imperative, while I can only see them violating a superior SocialMorality, for our society requires something different than individual morality, which only grows more iffy when considered from within any social context. What's deadly to any individual might not damage broader society, and what undermines society might have little to do with individual morality. Further, society sometimes sanctions gross violations of personal morality to protect their community, such as when soldiers get authorized to murder to defend their superior civilized society. Society deems soldier killings moral and necessary, though any strict conservative reading of individual morality would find them far over the line. We've always struggled to distinguish between permissible individual and social morality.

We abide by laws mainly because we respect the SocialMorality those laws represent.
Criminals commit crimes against the public just as much as they do against any individual. Even murder in the first degree, while it obviously does away with the victim, also insults the surrounding society, for if anybody feels free to violate that part of our underlying social contract, they violate PublicMorality and commit a repugnant, immoral act. Abortion proves an exception because it's primarily not a matter of murder. What's lost isn't human life but potential. What gets lost when banning all abortion seems much more precious than any gerrymandered definition of human life. We forfeit part of our social contract: liberty, freedom, and our very identity. We undermine the fabric of our society, a act of social immorality.

I do not expect everyone (or anyone, really) to agree with me. Some will see morality stretching no further than individual accountability between a person and their God. In a society deliberately founded on a principle of separation of church and state, of autonomous religious practice, attempting to impose any religion's morality upon the masses amounts to abominable, immoral behavior, however well-intended. Much jurisprudence doesn't seem all that prudent in this respect; that much justice has attempted to codify individual morality into a broader context. This presumption breaks down when encountering a diverse populace. Injustice results, as if the law required everyone to observe Kosher practices. It amounts to social immorality to insist that anybody abide by a religion not of their choosing.

The absurdity of self-proclaimed religious nationalists isn't lost on me. It's a genuine wonder that anybody falls for that brand of baloney. We are a land free of that expectation or were intended to be. There will always be those so ego-involved that they cannot see any broader social context from within their own well-feathered nest. Those who insist that their religion's superior, that their brand of patriotism should dictate what's regular. These narrow-minded people genuinely believe we're degrading when we engage in socially enriching behaviors like expanding the vote and enfranchising historical minorities. We were absolutely not founded as a white Christian nation, even if many founders were white and practicing Christians. We were founded with a broader vision of who we were and who we might become. Preserving that vision and encouraging that practice defines what SocialMorality means.

©2023 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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