Richard Carlson, Ph.D. Created a pabulim empire on his book, “Don’t sweat the small stuff. And it’s all small stuff.”
I bridle. Who gets to declare something is “small stuff.” The philosophy reeks of the nihilism of John Mellencamp’s album title “Nothing Matters, And What If It Did?” combined with the Wizard of Oz reminding us to “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”
There is a reason we speak of “death by a thousand papercuts” or glibly say “The journey of a Thousand Miles begins with a single step.” The small stuff adds up. People calling MY objections “small stuff” are almost universally trying to advance their views, which they consider “big stuff,” and they know it.
They also perform a nifty subterfuge, submitting large stuff as small stuff, and insisting we be reasonable and compromise.
That is how, “How can it hurt to put ‘In God We Trust’ on our money?” became “America’s a Christian Nation!”, became “Corporations have religious rights,” became “Individuals can claim any action is part of their sincere religious belief” and become judge, jury and executioner in imposing their actions on others under the guise of religious freedom and RFRA laws across the nation.
“Small stuff”‘has enabled a complete inversion of the First Amendment’s Establishment clause, culminating in Pence-driven laws and potential Executive Orders Rumored in the Trump administration that essentially enshrine “Christian” dogma in a list of ways it is OK to not provide equal protection under the law.
Meanwhile, the same people arguing that this is small stuff suggest compromise, rather than preserve the “large” and universally equal principle of separating Religion from state.
We see it manifest in the Wisconsin State Capitol every Christmas, where the State could enact a universally fair separation by simply saying “The state is not involved in Matters of Religion, so we will not favor or discriminate. There will be no holiday displays of any denomination.” Or take the SCOTUS case “Greece v. Galloway” in which the State could simply say, “Our meetings are called to order that we might conduct government business. Hence, there will be no prayer to open the meeting.”
No, in both cases those calling concerns about incursions on Separation “small-stuff” argue for the State to allow ALL faiths (and non faiths) to display in the Capitol, and ALL faiths to offer opening prayers at Town of Greece meetings. It mucks up the wheels of government, as now a mechanism to judge fairness and balance has to be created, which de facto violates the first amendment by placing a government entity in the position of adjudicating between different faiths. The compromise allows future bootstrapping claims that our government is not secular.
Advocates of this kind of compromise on a core principle win, when they successfully argue at SCOTUS that the role of government is to judge religious sincerity, or attempt to administer “equal time”
The “big stuff” to an advocate of secular society is pooh-poohed as small stuff by the religious, in pursuit of their “big-stuff” — Theocracy. If you operate on a principal that people should wait in queues, how do you feel when a boor cuts the line,mand says “Why are you making such a big deal out of nothing?” when you call him on it?
We MUST sweat the “small stuff” when it is part of our core principles, and stop compromising with motivated opposition inflicting paper cut after paper cut.