Monday, December 15, 2008

Proposition 8

The cultural shockwave created from the passage of California's Proposition 8 is still reverberating over a month later. For anyone that has been living under a rock, Proposition 8 was a ballot initiative proposing a constitutional ban on same sex marriage. Obviously, here in San Francisco, people are still really upset. And there has been quite a bit of finger pointing; at the African American community, at the Mormon Church, and even at the apathy of homosexuals who took their tenuous mandate to marry as given- apparently unaware of its fragility.

I’ve even heard people declaring that we're moving backward culturally, though I find this claim rather hard to digest. The popular vote split 52-48% (This decision is being challenged now as I type). A pretty slim majority that suggests we’ve come quite a way from where we were even a generation ago. I mean, look at this in proper historical context. Take the slur faggot, for instance, which comes from the British word for a bundle of kindling i.e. something you burn! It’s not even acceptable to use the term in mainstream discourse.

So my thoughts are that we’re almost there. That is, homosexuality is almost, but not quite. This being said, I’ve always rejected the validity of the argument that homosexuals somehow endanger marriage.

The argument against same sex marriage usually goes something like this: marriage is a sacred union of man and women ordained by God. It’s obviously been eroded, as the divorce rate makes clear. This is (usually) attributed to something like removing God from our schools or public buildings or government. Then it is claimed that the acceptence of homosexuality, which is a sin, will further exacerbate this already dire situation. It doesn’t take a logician to spot several large holes in this argument.

Now, beside the fact that I fail to see a connection between the tiny demographic of gays who wish to marry and the vast numbers of straights who make bad decisions, it’s more or less common knowledge that the rate of “successful” marriage in this country has been hovering around 50% for the last forty years. And there is scant evidence, of its decrease inversely proportionate or otherwise to the rising visibility of homosexuality.

Furthermore, I would like to propose that the sacred institution of marriage is not even what it seems. For instance, if you go back and look at early civilization. You will find that marriages were mostly arranged; not by God, but by families. More financial agreement than “sacred union”, as the concept of a dowry will attest to e.g. your daughter for 1 goat and 3 chickens.

And how many marriages are a direct result of out of wedlock pregnancy. Or, as Tina Fey (channeling Sarah Palin) so efficaciously put it, “I believe that marriage is a sacred institution between two unwilling teenagers.”

And what about all the misery endured by countless people locked in toxic, abusive and joyless marriages by their sense of moral duty.

What I’m essentially driving at here is that what cultural conservatives love to point to as the corner stone of civilization is really an idealized one dimensional caricature of a phenomenon as varied and rich as the nature of romantic relationships between human beings.

Luckily, like John Meacham from Newsweek said, these folks are on the wrong side of history. We as a society have become ever more tolerant of different races, creeds, and customs (this includes sexuality). The people who oppose same-sex marriage now are the same kinds of people who opposed interracial marriage a generation ago. The same people who opposed single parents, oral sex and before that the right of women to work and vote. These types of changes in cultural moors are gradually accepted as they become ever more visible in the public consciousness. By this measure, the “Gay 90’s” have already blown this issue wide open. The proverbial tide is shifting and the old guards frantic attempt to stop it is a sisyphean task.

Tangentially, one of the most curious aspects of this debate is the popular narrative, articulated by people like Newt Gingrich, that fascist homosexuals are forcefully imposing their beliefs on hapless Christians. The irony here is simply breath taking. {We demand tolerance of our right to be intolerant!}

And honestly I do have some empathy for cultural conservatives. They must feel as if they've been under assault from every angle, since the 60's. To add insult to injury, every four years they vote for someone who manipulates their deep seeded convictions to garner votes only to turn around and promptly ignore them once the elections' been won. I pity them, but I categorically disagree with the invocation of God to impose judgment or restrictions on minorities who are vulnerable to the tyranny of mob rule (which, incidentally, is one of the main reasons we have a bill of rights). The twisting of spiritual principles to justify fear and hatred is one of the most tragically enduring corruptions of the perennial philosophy. And though I can’t claim to speak for God in my estimation it’s blasphemy.

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