Tuesday, January 10, 2017

How Quickly We Condemn

(Image from MountVernon.org)
Many of the Founding Fathers were slaveowners, among them Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and James Madison. (Those who didn't own slaves include John Adams, Samuel Adams, and Alexander Hamilton.)

The biggest Founding Father, George Washington himself, was also a slaveowner and at least for part of his life threw himself into the activity: [bold added]
When Washington was 11, he inherited 10 slaves from his father; when he died five decades later, he owned 123 of the 317 slaves who lived and worked at Mount Vernon. In that time the estate grew from a fairly modest farmhouse with 2,000 acres to a 21-room mansion and nearly 8,000 acres. It was in this way that the first president became rich: by buying, owning and sometimes selling people and by forcing them to work for him, under pain of flogging, beating or being sold away from their relatives and friends.
What George Washington did over 200 years ago is morally reprehensible now, but I wonder how many of the things we do today will be found to be beyond the pale in 200 years? There's a good chance that some of the following will be viewed as barbaric by distant descendants:
  • Eating meat from slaughtered animals.
  • Related: treating animals, including pets, as property.
  • Treating A.I. machines, such as robots, as property.
  • Burning fossil fuels, especially for flying to climate-change conferences.
  • Having an abortion.
  • Letting people die because it's illegal to purchase a kidney or liver.
  • Not letting people choose the manner and timing of their own death.
  • Imprisoning criminals instead of changing their behavior.
  • Behaving hypocritically (easy to check on the permanent record).
  • Letting people die instead of prolonging their life indefinitely.
  • Obviously, some of the above cannot co-exist.
    Judge not, that ye be not judged. - Matthew 7:1

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