By Delinda McCann
In order for society to work, I think there must always be a balance that needs to be considered between freedom and oppression. Seeing where that balance might be admittedly is a challenge, but we all recognize that there is a point at which one person’s freedom infringes on the rights of other individuals. Maintaining that balance is what democracy is all about.
The thorny part of the balance comes in recognizing what infringes on the rights of another. Sexual intercourse in a public park is a good example of something that may not impress the couple engaged in the act as infringing upon others. They can argue endlessly in a circle that if you don’t want to see them having sex, you can look away. You are still free to use the park. They can argue that sex should be something conducted out in the open. It is normal and natural. You sputter back that you don’t want to see it and you don’t want your children to see it. Again our amorous couple argues back that you are stifling your child’s education while indoctrinating them with repressive values, and if you don’t want to see their acts, you don’t have to go to the park. You can argue that you should be free to use the park and the lovers assure you that they should be free to enjoy the park also and that you are welcome to do as you please.
These arguments that travel in endless circles are destructive to communities in that they allow the biggest bully to infringe upon the rights of others. Now, both my naked couple and the young mother with her children in the park will call the other the bully. This is why we need government. Somebody needs to arbitrate the endless argument assuring all people have equal access to the park.
In the case of public sex, our society has agreed that we don’t want to see naked people humping. Actually we don’t want to see people humping that is one of those behaviors that we as a society have allocated to the bedroom or certain closed-door clubs. Sadly, this infringes upon the freedom of the couple that wants to have sex in the fountain at the park at high noon. The reality is that absolute freedom is not an option.
So, we struggle with the balance between individual freedom and oppression. When the balance goes too far toward the individual freedom we experience a form of lawless tyranny that is every bit as bad as the oppression that comes from excessive government suppression.
How do we monitor ourselves to determine if we are maintaining a proper balance or are we the bully ruling through the tyranny of the extreme? John Wesley (1703-1791) gave us some good guidelines that I will paraphrase.
1) How did this conflict come about? Did someone actually get arrested for public sex? Is the amorous couple bringing charges because bystanders threw buckets of cold water on them ruining their amorous outing?
2) Traditionally how has the city dealt with sex in the park? Do officials turn a blind eye after dark, or if the couple is concealed behind shrubbery. Have they ever had a law about public display of conception?
3) What does our body of wisdom literature say about public sex? Aside from some pagan fertility rituals, I can’t think of any time sex in public has been condoned. Note: The fertility rituals were part of worship and were conducted at a specific time and place.
4) Does this make sense? Is it right? This question is the true gift of Wesley. He said after you’ve looked at the history, literature and tradition sit back and use your own brain to question if your understanding is correct. My brain tells me the case for sex in public does not make sense because people can procreate many other places. Sometimes during human history we’ve had to say that history, tradition and literature are wrong. If we are created equal then it is wrong for one human to own another human thus slavery is wrong.
So my friends, as we become embroiled in endless arguments over who’s rights are being suppressed or infringed upon can we step back and apply the rules of reason to our own position?
The pursuit of reason is not as easy as blindly following someone who has something to gain from his position. The pursuit of reason does require study and research. It requires a certain basic level of knowledge. Still, it is worthwhile in itself and necessary for the prosperity of our community.