Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Quick shots

- Barry Farber so rambling even WND readers can't stand him: Barry, apparently working on passing himself off as the Andy Rooney of the right, had an overly long column consisting mostly of barely connected anecdotes including a fun cartoon he once saw, a time he played Monopoly, and the fact that a diner he likes is now closed. The common theme, apparently, is that things suck and America is on the decline. A reader responded, "apparently there's still enough cash in the economy for you to be paid to write inane drivel. " Glad there's at least something we can all agree on.

- Jeff Jacoby fundamentally misunderstands same-sex marriage issues: He writes,
When the Supreme Court ruled in June 1967 that Virginia's law penalizing interracial marriage could not stand, it was not changing the fundamental and enduring meaning of marriage: It was affirming it. It was upholding the integrity of marriage by protecting it from irrelevant -- and unconstitutional -- racial manipulation. Virginia had interfered with the core elements of marriage in order to promote white supremacy, a value completely alien to marriage. Marriage is designed to bring men and women together; anti-miscegenation laws frustrated that design, and could not stand.
Same-sex marriage, too, interferes with the core elements of wedlock in order to advance an unrelated goal -- the dignity and equality of gays and lesbians. The fact that many decent people ardently embrace that goal doesn't change reality: The essential, public purpose of marriage is to unite male and female -- to bind men and women to each other and to the children that their sexual behavior may produce. It is rooted in the conviction that every child needs a mother and a father. Gay marriage, whether enacted by lawmakers or imposed by judges, disconnects marriage from its most basic idea.
Jacoby's fatal flaw here is that he suggests that marriage as an institution was somehow purposefully designed, as opposed to evolving in a more organic and de facto way. He also dumbs marriage down to two bare-bones points: bringing men and women together and to provide kids with a mother and father. This presumes that all marriages, and all cultural views of marriage, are essentially the same. Without saying as much, Jacoby implies that marriage as an institution has been handed down (whether from God or society), unchanged, from time immemorial. Yes, if this is your starting point, I can see how the concept of changing its scope to allow gays in can seem like going too far. However let's not forget that there's a long history of other kinds of marriages, most notably polygamy. While this still involves men and women, to me its presence in the record opens up the discussion quite a bit. If marriage as an institution has historically been both more flexible as well as changed over time (for instance in the west it no longer is used within the context of a woman being property), then I think it becomes far less of an issue to expand the tent outward.

Is gay marriage exactly the same as interracial marriage? Of course not. There are differences and similarities. However it's also legitimate to point to both as continuing the central theme of marriage depending on what you think that theme is. For Jacoby, the reason interracial marriage was still legitimate is because he defines marriage as being about a man and a woman. For advocates of same-sex marriage, the reason it is legitimate is because we define it as (among other things) being about love (which is why interracial marriage also works for that model). Historically marriage as an institution has not been as narrowly defined as Jacoby pretends, and so the only thing that's being challenged are the blinders that the right has created for themselves. Jacoby claims that SSM supporters wants to "re-define" marriage and fundamentally change it, but ironically cultural conservatives have done the exact same thing-- and now they're whining that people don't buy it.

- Last, a quick memo to Tzvi. "This word... I do not think it means what you think it means."

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