As a child, this information was new to me, but it was not new to the world as a standard of measurement. The 12-inch foot had been such a stable standard since the third century B.C.
So today surveyors in the United States lay out plots of land measured in feet; and by this standard contractors build buildings, and retail merchants sell carpet.
Today a foot is 12 inches everywhere in the world as it was in ancient Persia or Mesopotamia. No effort is being put forth anywhere to redefine the length of a foot, even though in many places an alternate metric system is in use.
But suppose in the United States less than two percent of the population decided they wanted to liberalize the 12-inch standard by opening it up to include a 10-inch foot — calling both of them by the same name. And suppose they launched powerful appeals to governments to legislate this 10-inch standard into law.
Then, either 10 inches or 12 inches would be a foot for builders — they could take their choice. What confusion that would create!
Legislators for sure would reject the idea. The strongest lobbies could not force the change. Even to argue that inches were the same length in both cases would not win the appeal. After all, a system of measurement that has been stable for 5000 years is not going to be thrown into confusion by the unfounded judgment of a few.
The 12-inch foot is rooted in history. And it is considered universal (even in countries that don’t use it). A wise government would certainly reject the plea to legislate into law a unit of measurement that varies significantly from a foot but goes by the same name.
Consider this issue in relationship to marriage. From the earliest tracings of human history marriage has been considered to be the joining of one man and one woman. That is, historically marriage is a heterosexual male/female union. This has widespread support in the world’s traditions. Moreover, the world’s major religions hold to this standard. And every major dictionary defines marriage in this way.
Here are marriage’s essential features: (1) Marriage is a complementary union, uniting one man and one woman. (2) It is conjugal, providing for a fully shared life and sexual male/female intimacy within that shared life. (3) It is potentially reproductive, holding forth the possibility of the procreation of offspring. And (4) Christians and millions of others who subscribe to the value of timeless traditions hold marriage to be ordained by God.
Let us hope and pray that as the drive goes on nationwide to redefine marriage giving two distinctly different realities the same name, thoughtful people everywhere will hold that two brides or two grooms cannot create a marriage, just as a 10-inch ruler cannot become a foot.
Such couples have rights that are respected as part of the freedom of our society. We affirm them in those rights. But the freedom of same-sex couples does not give them the right to radically redefine for all of us historic realities that have existed since the beginning of time.
So, wherever opportunity is given, we should speak up, kindly but firmly, whether by voice or vote or action. We should see that such tampering weakens the very architecture of civilization and is therefore a socially destructive trend.
And if any of us is tempted to soften on this matter in the interest of a claimed enlightenment, let us not forget that broad-mindedness and empathy cannot turn 10 inches into a foot.