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Reclaiming Words: Values


Oxford English Dictionary definition:

Principles or standards of behaviour; one's judgement of what is important in life.


In ethics, value denotes the degree of importance of some thing or action, with the aim of determining what actions are best to do or what way is best to live (normative ethics), or to describe the significance of different actions (axiology).

People have different values, and most think our own values are better than others; but conservatives have the arrogance and small-mindedness to try to claim that their values are the only values. They don’t claim “different values” or “better values”. They call themselves “values voters”, as if everyone else lacks values. We have let them get away with this ridiculous assertion.

For example: I believe in opportunity and equality for all people without discrimination based upon ethnicity, skin color, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, gender, or gender identity. That is a value. It is a value based on ethics. It is value that I hold with religious conviction.

Conservatives oppose my values because they feel that individuals and organizations should be able to discriminate, generally based upon what they consider Christian values.

I dislike their views, but I cannot say they “don’t have values”. I can say that I think their values are morally bankrupt – that discriminating against people based upon an arbitrary trait is sick, backwards, and cruel. I can say that I have never read a single word attributed to Christ that supports judgement or discrimination, and therefore, their values are not in the spirit or the religion they use to justify them.

Dictionary and philosophical values are about “what is important in life” or “how it is best to lead life”. Religion has been a source of values, and in many ways, that is a good thing; but legislating values quickly comes in conflict with freedom. Legislating religious values implicitly threatens the freedoms of people who are not members of a religion. That is why we have a constitutional separation of church and state.

The values that made this country a free country known opportunity and innovation had nothing to do with religion or who people choose to sleep with. They were about what is required to create a society protected from tyranny and corruption as much as possible, that would encourage as much freedom as possible without imposing upon other people’s freedoms.

Those are the core American values, and they are about how you make democracy work.

Values about what makes someone a good person or how to live life, as important as they are, are often out of the prevue of what makes a good government, what is required for freedom, or what is required for democracy.

When legislating, the priority is to make laws that do not violate the constitution, that are generally for the good of our country, and that are in line with the core principles of democracy and a free society.

Everyone is a “values voter”. We all make decisions based upon our personal values. Liberals have strongly held values, just like conservatives. These values are less often based upon religion, but that does not make them less valid. On the contrary, because liberal values more often deal with protecting freedom, they are more often true to the values that made America a great and free country, and they are more often values that should be legislated. Personal morals often should be handled in other forums.

Finally, in the Trump era, I must challenge that conservatives are holding to “values” at all. Sean Sannity did a piece on this, referenced below. In summary, the Trump administration and Republican congress don’t seem to be showing many “Christian values”. We have a lying President unapologetic of multiple instances of sexual assault elected be spewing hate and racism. His chief advisor is a promoter of neo-Nazi views. There is likely collusion with Russia in his administration. They threaten to take food from old people, and healthcare from infants. They want to leave a polluted world to our children. What values does this represent?