Saturday, February 23, 2013

Missing the point on gay marriage

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world - Yeats 

This pretty well sums up the conservative's gloom, at least at the moment.  Progressive victories have eroded away much that we esteem.  Indeed, at the moment, the Republicans, the closest thing conservatives have by way of representatives, seem to have given up trying to do much besides trying to maintain current tax rates and the military budget.  On other issues, they're almost totally useless.

Let's take the issue of gay marriage, both as an illustration of Republican ineffectiveness and anarchy, as per Yeats.  The two principle points about gay marriage at this point are that: 1) it is inevitable; and 2) the victory is largely symbolic, given the dearth of homosexuals lining up to tie the knot. 

On the first point, gay marriage was made inevitable when marriage was redefined to be exclusively about the happiness of the husband or wife.  Happiness here is subjective; we are certainly not talking eudaimonia.  So a man may divorce his wife if he can upgrade her with a prettier model; or, what is commoner, a woman can divorce her husband because she is not satisfied--and prefers to eat, pray, love, mostly eat, her way into happiness.

According to this new way of thinking, marriage was solely a contract between two people.  This was a mistake, first, because of the disastrous effect divorce can have on children, but also because, even if there aren't any children, the marriage took place in the context of a community.  The reason weddings are such grand affairs isn't just so that the bride can have her day.  The witnesses consent to the marriage and, implicitly at least, promise to help the married couple keep their promises to one another. 

Once this ship had sailed, it's easy to see why gays insisted that they, too, ought to be allowed to marry.  It's somewhat amusing to see gays clamouring for the right to be married just as heterosexuals are abandoning the institution en masse.  One wonders how long it will be until most marriages are either performed quietly in a small church--or flamboyantly on Bravo.

Anyway, the conservatives lost the case for heterosexual marriage once it became a contractual affair.  If we were really concerned for children, divorce, or at least remarriage, ought to have been banned, if not by our State, at least by our churches.  This would have been no more effective in the long run, but that is the battlefield on which we should have fought.

As to the second point, there simply aren't enough gays who wish to marry for this to matter all that much.  Certainly it matters to homosexuals and their friends and family, but from a societal perspective, the forty percent illegitimacy rate far outweighs a few marrying gays. 

I note too, the absence of criticism towards single mothers on behalf of Republicans.  Yes, I know, it's very unkind to shame people for anything--except for smoking, perhaps--but raising a child alone is, in most instances, a socially irresponsible thing to do.  This is not to say that the children should be aborted, but that adoption should be considered.  More importantly, women should be encouraged to be more discerning towards the men they... let's go with date.

As an aside, one might point out that with the illegitimacy rate so high, almost no one can criticize single mothers without running afoul of some acquaintance or family member.  This is depressingly true.  Once anti-social behaviour becomes so endemic, it become virtually impossible for society to curtail it.

This is all very sexist of me, of course, but since women bear the burden of pregnancy, they will always be the sexual gatekeepers of our species.  One can blame men all one likes, but, as the saying goes, why buy a cow if the milk is free?  If we cannot depend on women's discretion, we're certainly not going to be able to depend on that of the man.  That would be like giving up on building a democracy in Iraq so as to attempt one in Afghanistan.

There are a number of reasons this function hasn't been maintained by women, but that's a separate post entirely.

Instructive here is how strange and uncharitable these arguments sound, partially because of the infrequency with which we hear them, but also because they take for granted that the actions of men and women have ramifications outside of the scope of their temporary union, and that we therefore should judge accordingly. 

Yet it is this, and not bigotry, which is the real reason for the disagreement over gay marriage.  It is also the conversation we should have been having.  It is never too late to start.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Our murderous president

It doesn't seem that long ago that the left was justifiably upset with President George W. Bush, whose toughness on terror meant playing loose with civil liberties.  Then President Obama was elected, and since  politics is a team sport, we didn't hear much from the left about all those awful things Bush had done because, for the most part, Obama was still doing them.

One noble exception has been Glenn Greenwald, who has done an outstanding job cataloging the bipartisan consensus on violating the civil liberties of the American people.  Today's piece is excellent: it concerns a Justice Department memo providing legal justification for Obama's policy of assassinating American citizens using drones.  Although he's utilized a similar approach to the Bush administration in running roughshod over American rights, the despicable former president never went this far.

Greenwald highlights six points of emphasis from the memo:

1) "Equating government accusations with guilt": the government asserts that it will only kill terrorists, but the government is the only arbiter to determine if someone is a "terrorist".

2) "Creating a ceiling, not a floor": the government could kill other "terrorists", for other reasons not outlined in the memo.

3) "Relies on the core Bush/Cheney theory of a global battlefield": since "terrorists" could be anywhere, they can be killed anywhere--no matter what other host nations might think about our drone invading their air space.

4) "Expanding the concept of "imminence" beyond recognition": a "terrorist" can be killed even if we have no evidence that he was planning an attack--not that this matters, since all evidence is secret, so every "terrorist" will undoubtedly be in the final stages of planning an attack on U.S. soil.

5) "Converting Obama underlings into objective courts": the justification for these procedures is determined internally by DOJ attorneys; the watchers are watching themselves, don't you worry.

6) "Making a mockery of "due process": these policies apply to citizens, who are being stripped of their fifth amendment rights.

The right is correct that Obama is an awful president, but it's not because he's a Communist; it's because he's taken Bush's horrible policies and expanded them at the expense of our constitutional rights.  But on important matters like this, the Republicans and the Democrats agree: if you don't want to be killed in a drone attack, don't be a "terrorist".  The U.S. government has never wrongly imprisoned people before, so good citizens have nothing to fear.