There has always been a subset of society that condemns any pleasure that is not (openly) shared by them. The term ‘puritanical’ was once applied to such persons. Our early Puritans were motivated not by what we think of as a wholesome purity but by a fanatical lust to ‘purify’ their established faith of certain alien influences.
They were politically and militarily victorious in England under Cromwell but the people grew restless after a period of enforced social rigidity that penalized most aspects of pleasure. Even any extra-religious celebration of Christmas was deemed inappropriate if not criminal. We saw this mindset reach a criminally irrational extreme with the witch trials in New England.
Our neo-puritans come in many flavors and all tend to have a toxic aspect. Their simplistic one size fits all ‘remedies’ may be amenable to slogans and crusades but tend to ignore the side effects.
We had an ugly example with Prohibition. A subset of the drinking population cannot control the use of alcohol and it harms themselves and others. Most do not have this problem and a nasty hangover has caused more than a few to avoid repeating the excess. Yet a crusade with political overtones succeeded in amending our Constitution and creating great profits for racketeers as well as local entrepreneurs while increasing the general disregard for law, The local bootlegger was a hero and the revenue agent was the enemy. It was a rational choice. Matters were rectified somewhat with Repeal but the neo-prohibitionists are still alive and unwell as they carry on a war of attrition on what they see as Demon Rum,
The issue of homosexuality has created a minor political and social divide. At one extreme we have the ‘Bible Thumpers’ who would use some of the harsher passages of Leviticus to place all sorts of penalties on acts deemed to be ‘unnatural’. At the other end are those who would treat the entire body of activity of the homosexual community as the moral and legal equivalent of the heterosexual. The militant homosexuals may be creating more popular resentment than support with an in-your-face campaigng that is not going to win friends and influence people. An example of this excess was reported by reformed radical David Horowitz. He was still in his leftist phase when he mused that the rampant anonymous and unprotected anal intercourse that was regularly practiced in San Francisco ‘bath houses’ might be more a factor in the spread of AIDS and HIV than any action from Washington. This common-sense observation was denounced as homophobic.
At the other extreme are those who would inflict all sorts of penalties and restrictions on the private activities of others. Many states had sodomy statutes that defined ‘unnatural practices’ so broadly as to make certain activities enjoyed by (even married) couples felonies. Few such ‘crimes’ were ever prosecuted as such and the law tended to be arbitrarily and capriciously applied. In one notable case in Texas, a neighbor of a homosexual couple made a false crime report alleging that gunshots were heard in their apartment. The police made a quick report and found no evidence of violence but a couple of males involved in a mutually enjoyable act. The law is the law even when the law ‘is a ass’ and an arrest was made. The subsequent conviction was appealed to the Supreme Court and many sodomy laws bit the dust.
We must ask why we had a need for such laws? Who or what is being protected?
We might say the same about our drug laws. Have they created more of a problem than a cure? The major dealers in certain drugs need to be sanctioned with extreme prejudice and in a timely manner. However, the zeal for enforcing such laws tends to involve the ‘easy busts’ with often inflated ‘street values’ that help meet arrest quotas but fill our prisons with users and ‘dealers’ who tend to be addicts supporting what is a medical problem.
All too many would criminalize or fiscally-punish any activity or taste that they do not share. We see this in a ludicrous cigar tax as well as the excise tax of certain beverages. Vegetarians attack the carnivores in the human population. We see a similar attitude on the part of some who do not enjoy hunting.
The thrust of our laws should be the penalizing of acts that are overtly harmful to others, We need no Big Nanny to protect us from ourselves.
Beadle Bumble had it right with his criticism of ‘The Law’.
Laws based upon mere legislative whim does little more than create more injustice and a general disrespect for law that spreads out into the realm of malum per se.