Saturday, August 11, 2012

About those gays

There always seem to be a handful of issues that distract us and engage far more attention from us than prudence merits.  The political right falls into this trap when it exerts energy lambasting non-starters such as the National Endowment for the Arts.  Yes, it's idiotic that the government sends money to Mapplethorpe and similar degenerates, but in the grand scheme of things, it doesn't matter very much. 

So it is with homosexuality, and our endless arguments over whether or not those predisposed to prefer their own sex ought to be allowed to couple legally.  At most, gays represent 10% of the species; these are Kinsey's numbers, and must be considered the absolute high-end estimate.  In actuality, this figure ought be granted no more credence than early estimates of those "relaxed" at the hands of the Spanish Inquisition--at least before Henry Kamen's pioneering revision.  Gays account for a much smaller portion of the population. 

My guess is that we are squabbling over something that directly effects three to five percent of the population.  Of course, we all know a gay person, and are therefore appalled and offended that they can't get married and have little test tube children, etc.  The point remains.

Hence we defenders of tradition must occasionally enter this sorry arena, to give battle to our foes.  We do this with little enthusiasm, partially because we do not really care, and partially because whether or not we decide to alter the centuries old definition of marriage, we know that the zeitgeist will overwhelm us.  Merely entering the arena, is, indeed, a sign of caring too much about what others do, and therefore, a priori evidence of--what else?--suppressed homosexuality.  This despite the fact that many of us are content to let the sodomites bugger each other as they please, little good it may do them.

Yet, at root, the argument against gay marriage is a simple one.  Men and women are different; we are not interchangeable.  Yes, there are marriages in which the husband is out every night, cheating on his wife, or the wife sits in her room dead drunk.  And yes, in these particular circumstances, two nice gay men or two lesbians would undoubtedly provide a better home.  But this is to confuse particulars with the thing as it was designed, as it ought to be.  The degraded state of contemporary marriage is such than any number of curious arrangements are to be preferred in certain instances.  Some marriages are so wretched that one could replace one of the partners with a vacuum to salubrious effect.  There may even be, for all I know, a way to defend dropping an infant off at day-care.  But that is a case against the marriage as it is, which is to say, it a criticism that recognizes the ideal and laments the way in which the particular instance falls short of that ideal.  It is not a point against it.

In a way, this is all the fault of heterosexuals for botching marriage up so badly that two people, whatever their sex, would be preferable to the all too common broken home.  Yet it is also--and here, perhaps, things finally becoming somewhat important--a reflection of our inability to think about things clearly.  Nothing in the modern climate of hookups, cohabitation and easy divorce altered the essential difference--and complementariness--of the sexes.  The way babies are formed in nature, if not in our brave new labs, is still the best way for children to be raised: by the mother and father who together formed and birthed them. 

Such an elementary truth, apparently, has need of defenders. But as it is written into the very fabric of our being, we will soon return to it--or perish.

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