The Slippery Slope

A friend of mine recently sent me an email with a link to a story about a transgender inmate doing time for murder who’s requesting state-funded electrolysis treatments. My friend wonders whether this indicates we’re on a “slippery slope” in our liberal concern for fairness and rights as balanced against expense. This got me thinking about the whole “slippery slope” argument in general. Is the fear of a slippery slope ever borne out? If so, when? (I welcome your thoughts.) Are we now in any situations which are the result of sliding down slippery slopes into hellish pits of no-return?

I wonder if it’s time the “slippery-slope” argument were shelved entirely for it assumes humans have no judgment. It assumes we are incapable of drawing lines or moderating ourselves. Shall we never eat because we may shovel food into our mouths until we burst? We do not prohibit alcohol consumption (anymore)—we allow it but draw the line at drinking and driving. Speaking of which, we do not prohibit driving—but we draw the line at whatever speed seems safe for a given road. Would allowing suicide lead us down the “slippery slope” to the willy-nilly slaughter of those who don’t want to die or who would be better off waiting on the decision? No! We make rules that moderate and constrain behaviour, just as we already do in all areas of public life.

It seems to me the biggest slippery slope our country—and mankind as a whole—is on, is one of growing recognition of the worthiness, dignity and autonomy of more and more beings. As a country, we’ve gone by steps from giving the right to vote only to wealthy white men, to all white men, to all black and white men, and finally to all men and women. We’ve gone from seeing homosexuality as abnormal, wrong or sick to seeing it as another way humans live. We’ve gone from seeing the world around us as something to plunder indiscriminately to seeing its inherent value. We used the bomb once when it was invented, saw the horror of it, and have since refrained. We have a United Nations which, though not perfect or binding, increases the odds for cooperation and mediation, rather than war, between nations.

So here’s to our continuing slide, while using our collective judgement along the way!


About nosuchthingasastraightline

I grew up in tiny Lyme, New Hampshire, where I drew, roamed the surrounding woods, and first entertained the idea of God while listening to my mom's Beatles records. I studied biology at Harvard University where I wrote for The Harvard Lampoon and also began writing poetry. I have since made a living variously as a comedy screenwriter, teacher, and private tutor in math, science and writing. I’ve released three CDs of original music as the singer-songwriter and guitar player for Crooked Roads (listen to latest tracks here: My poetry writing has been inspired by Rumi, Billy Collins, William Carlos Williams, e.e. cummings, Antonio Machado, Federico Garcia Lorca, and others. My two books of poetry, "The Morning I Married the Sky," and “Free this Morning” are both available on Amazon.
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