Here’s an amazing tale by Maureen Mullarkey, about the time she and her then-fiancé went into New York’s diamond district looking for a wedding ring. They picked out one with a particular Hebrew inscription, from the Book of Ruth, on it — but the jeweler, a Holocaust survivor (they saw the tattooed number on his arm) refused to sell them that particular one. Because they were not Jewish. She explains why, and why he sold them one with a different inscription.
What innocents we were. It never entered our minds to challenge the denial. We took for granted the man’s moral right to refuse us; any legal issue, then, was irrelevant. But by today’s lights, we gave in too readily. We could have raised a stink. Demanded our rights as consumers. Bullied the vendor with accusations of anti-Christian bigotry. We did not have to submit to the discomfort of being told we were ineligible for what we desired.
“Something there is that does not love a wall, / That wants it down.” Pace Frost, not every barrier should be cleared away. Not everything is permeable. A nation cannot survive without borders; no culture endures without limits. Walls provide a bulwark against chaos and dissolution. That day in the Diamond Exchange, we stumbled against the very wall a man had clung to in the camps. It was the same one that had kept Jewry from disappearing centuries before modern nation states existed.
Had we been noisy enough, I might have gotten the thing I wanted at the time. But at what price to the commonweal?
Read the whole thing. She poses exactly the right questions. To people who see society as nothing but a contractual entity guided only by considerations of harm and fairness, Mullarkey’s position makes no sense.
But that is not what society is. Society is an organic thing. They will win the contract, but deeply damage the life of the thing. The liberal zealots who are tearing down these barriers today have no idea what they are destroying. And they have no idea what kind of backlash they are engendering.