Thursday, January 06, 2005

80-20 and Civil Liberties for Muslims

I'm finding myself more and more in agreement with certain Kantian ideas in ethics. I think I'm on board, for instance, with the moral significance of the motivation for a particular action. Kant famously discusses two shopkeepers -- one who treats his customers fairly because he believes that doing so is the best way to get repeat business, and one who treats his customers fairly because it is just the right thing to do. Only the latter is acting out of morality. That much is pretty uncontroversial, I think; the tricky part comes when we get to the shopkeeper who treats his customers fairly because it makes him happy to see them happy. That's a trickier question, both in ethics and in Kant interpretation. I'll set it aside. Bad motivations are bad, but good actions are good, even when they arise from bad motivations. A lot of people are criticizing our President for what they take to be a politically-motivated change in tone toward aid for tsunami victims; it's easy to go overboard with that, and forget how important that aid is. Bad motive or not, now is not the time to oppose aid -- including any particular good aid programs, whatever their motivations. But sometimes, bad motives even mess up the judgment or decision. I got an email this morning from 80-20, an Asian-American interests PAC. They cited this AP story about how 44% of American favor restricting Muslims' rights, which was carried in most newspapers last month. Now, outrage is the appropriate response to such a fact about our nation's population. But 80-20 doesn't talk about Muslims' rights, or justice, or freedom of religion, or utility maximization, or any of the dozen appropriate grounds for outrage it could have chosen from. Instead, they say this:
If our compatriots are that alarmed by the terrorists who don't have nuclear weapons and collectively do NOT represent a sovereign power, what if one day the US and China or N. Korea are in conflict? We must urgently find a way to make sure that AsAms don't have our rights curtailed in that unthinkable eventuality. GETTING A GOOD ASAM SUPREME COURT JUSTICE is one subtle way.
Then they go on to ask for money. I've remarked before how silly -- and offensive -- I think it is to assume that someone will favor certain policies based only on his race. I still think that. But this is much worse. Our priority should be ensuring that Asian-Americans' rights are protected? We should care about American Muslims only because if they're treated badly, we might eventually be treated badly? When peoples' rights are being violated, that comprises a reason to oppose what's going on. It doesn't matter what race they are. And it certainly doesn't matter what race I am. 80-20 is trying to turn persecution of Muslims into an issue about Asian-American rights. The position seems to be summarizable thus: "Muslims are being treated unfairly. We must take immediate action to ensure that we are treated better than they are." And I find that more than a little bit disgusting.

No comments:

Post a Comment