There was an interesting article in yesterday's Outlook section of the Washington Post by Kwame Anthony Appiah: What will future generations condemn us for?
The article tries to find a formula for determining which current but controversial norms will be discredited in the future. And if so, will they been seen as abhorrent (slavery) or quaintly misguided (prohibition)? Here's how it works:
A look at the past suggests three signs that a particular practice is destined for future condemnation...He goes on to focus on four future regrets for our generation: our prison system, animal cruelty, elder abuse, environmental policy.
First, people have already heard the arguments against the practice...
Second, defenders of the custom tend not to offer moral counterarguments but instead invoke tradition, human nature or necessity...
And third, supporters engage in what one might call strategic ignorance, avoiding truths that might force them to face the evils in which they're complicit...
Maybe, maybe not. I don't doubt that I'll look back and wish things had changed sooner, or that I had done more. But I don't think that fundamentally I'm on the wrong side of any of these issues. (But no one ever does, do they? Otherwise they'd already be on the other side.)
But I assumed that, in terms of civil rights, he might mention two topics that often pop up on this blog: the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy and laws against same sex marriage.
I liked his formula and thought that both issues fit the criteria for future regret.
I'll admit that one of the great conveniences of being a liberal on civil rights issues is the confidence that time will prove me right. It's the social conservatives who always seem willing to risk looking like fools over the long haul: the anti-suffragettes, the blacklisters, the censors, the witch triers, the racists, the book burners, and the guys who refused to film Elvis from the waist down.
Are you prepared to join this proud company, Prop 8ers?
It should also be noted that my vending machine habit also meets all three criteria for future condemnation. But I refuse to face the evil in which I (and the Entenmann's Corporation) am complicit.