aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Friday, July 28, 2006
The Great Gay Marriage Debate - Part 1a
First, thanks again to Joe who agreed so graciously to start an argument on this topic when I emailed him out of the blue a few weeks back. I truly want to understand the basis for his conclusion that gay marriage - or as Joe prefers, “marriage equality” - is right and necessary in American society today. So I use the word argument intentionally as it refers to a course of reasoning or a set of statements which lead to a logical conclusion. (Plus, tongue-in-cheek, I like the word because it sounds controversial and usually controversy draws a crowd ... or readership, lol.)
My purpose is not so much to convert you, the reader, to my point of view (although that is a given in any discussion if we’re honest). Rather I want us to understand each other’s positions, exact our own thinking on this topic, and generate further points to consider. Thoughtful comments and civil dialog are always welcome. Joe and I will cross-post our entries at each other’s blogs so that more people can participate in the discussion. Thank you in advance for joining the debate.
In light of what Joe has already written at my blog, Bloggin’ Outloud, I could simply turn this into a series of point/counterpoint posts. I’d rather not. So instead of rebutting every assertion or statement, I’ll basically take some themes, interact with them and develop a few further points for reflection. I do, however, want to react to reframing the topic as “marriage equality” in an effort “to normalize gay in every way” (Joe’s words).
The truth is marriage is not equalizing, nor should it be used as an equalizing tool in order to assuage a marginalized (or so it is perceived) constituency. For two basic reasons, which I’ll elucidate directly. My contention is that there is an inherent advantage to being married (in the traditional sense, ie, in a lifelong healthy bond between one man and one woman) and that that advantage is not only to be enjoyed by the couple but it is to be protected for the benefit of society as a whole.
Marriage is not a platform for “equal rights” or “inclusivity.” By it’s very nature it is exclusive (when two come together, 6 billion others are left out) and that has proven to be the most effective means by which the human race - and more narrowly society and culture - propagates. The most stable and foundational unit in society is the household (the Greek word is oikos) and at the core of the household is a husband and wife. Economic stability is dependent on the preservation of this unit for even our word economy “can be traced back to the Greek word oikonomos, ‘one who manages a household,’ derived from oikos, ‘house,’ and nemein, ‘to manage.’ “
A defined and static oikos benefits society by providing a stable foundation on which a nation may build; healthy marriages translate directly into healthy clans, tribes, and nations. (As to the studies Joe refers to that substantiate the normalcy of same gender relationships and the positive impact these unions may have on marriage, children, etc, I can cite opposing statistics and resources. This particular aspect to this argument probably does call for a prolonged point/counterpoint upon which I’m not inclined to expound at this point.)
It seems to me that the proponants of same gender marriage seek to normalize an unconventional expression of the family unit and thus put same gender relationships on equal footing as the traditional family structure. I believe that this is tantamount to replacing the core of the oikos; and, as I stated above, marriage should not be manipulated in this manner, for two fundamental reasons.
First, it can’t be done. Marriage is already defined as a union between one man and one woman. I admit this is a biblical proposition; and we’ll wrestle with that “500 pound gorilla” (lol) next week. However, if you’ll follow the analogy that I’ve used before, I’ll share my bias openly:
This is a biblical issue and isn’t really open to discussion. People may attempt to redefine marriage, but the genesis of the concept is found in the garden. Marriage can’t be anything else than what it already is. Gay “marriage” is a contradiction of terms.
It would be like trying to redefine a square as a shape with three sides. Despite the sincerity of the creative geometry student, we would tell her, no, what you’ve described is a triangle. Although related to a square in that it has sides, a triangle is a completely different concept. We don’t entertain the idea that this child may be right or that he has a different perspective. A square is what it is. Pass or fail.
So marriage can not be used as an equalizing tool for same gender participants because it already excludes them by definition.
Second, although I am not in Joe’s shoes of course, I contend that there is no need to seek marriage equality. Most of the benefits and perceived advantages that are enjoyed by married couples are already available to non-married individuals who seek them. Wills, living wills, trusts, living trusts, powers of attorney, check writing privileges, domestic partnership benefits, and many other forms of government and/or business practices provide a legal framework where two people can enjoy substantially the same benefits that married couples do.
Now I do support the effort of same gender couples who seek hospital visitation rights and - if not government mandated but market-inspired - “spousal” benefits at one’s place of employment. I didn’t join the boycott of Disney a few years ago because I believe if a company wants to provide benefits to whomever, they have that right. Of course, people have the right to not shop there anymore as well. The issue of benefits is a complex one yet seems at this point reasonably resolved. Therefore, due to the substantive rights already available to non-married couples, the platform of marriage need not be utilized to advance this cause.
So what is the inherent advantage that marriage (traditionally and definitionally understood) has that should be protected for the benefit of society? Honor. Husbands and wives enjoy a cultural and societal stamp of approval that other relationships do not and should not experience. As the core of the oikos (the foundational unit of our species’ stability), the husband/wife relationship serves as an inviolate standard that actually keeps society as a whole from disintegrating.
Melodramatic? Consider the logical conclusion I posited in an earlier post:
What advocates of same-gender unions don’t seem to realize is that if gender is negotiable, then so is the number. Why stop at two? Why not have 3, 5, or 25 people enter into a domestic-partnership so that everyone involved can benefit by our current laws?
Or what about the age restriction? Why 18? Or 16? Why not allow children to enter into a “marriage” with an adult? Who’s to say that this would be inappropriate? Oh, but children can’t enter contracts, you say. Why not? That’s just another arbitrary law that we’ve decided upon. Let’s change it. Children are people too.
You see, the issue is not whether a government should legislate a certain morality - all laws are enacted moral restrictions - the question is to whose moral standard do we adhere? My premise is that we should continue to honor, respect, support, and defend husband/wife marriage, otherwise we will see the breakdown of the oikos and subsequent breakdown of our civilization. I think we see the beginning signs of this already.
With regard to Joe’s final point, that homosexuality isn’t unnatural, who cares if there are instances in the animal kingdom of same sex acts and/or preferences? There is promiscuity as well. And monogamy. So what? Marriage is a gift that God has given to humanity. There is a moral basis to our relationships that is absent in the rest of creation. To argue that humanity should take our cues from other living creatures is to argue that we are merely animals ourselves.
And this premise, I suspect, will lead us into a biblical/moral discussion that is best left until next time. In fact, I think Joe and I have agreed that I will write a piece on this aspect of our dialog, post it here at his blog, and then Joe will have the opportunity to write a rebuttal piece which will be posted at Bloggin’ Outloud. Until then, gentle bloggers, the mic is open.
Doping at the Tour de France
Is this an annual ritual or what?
The provisionally disgraced Tour de France winner Floyd Landis flatly denied last night that he had taken testosterone or any other banned substance and vowed to clear his name.
The American said that his high testosterone reading after a gruelling tour stage last week had nothing to do with taking drugs and that he had always had an unusually high level of testosterone in his body.
If they can do it I can too. [I’m told I wasn’t clear. What I mean is, “If the news folks can run the same story year after year, so can I."] Here’s my entire post from last year when, upon his retirement, they accused Lance Armstrong of doping...
Lance has been dogged by accusations of performance enhancing drug use:
In the cycling chat rooms, as gossipy as you will find in any sport, there are constant debates about whether Armstrong has received artificial help to dominate a sport that has been rife with doping scandals. And now, the debate has begun about this latest move.
Seems odd timing, doesn’t it? Last month, one of Armstrong’s former personal assistants basically accused Armstrong of cheating. In court papers filed over a financial dispute between the two men, the former assistant claims he discovered a banned performance-enhancing substance in Armstrong’s apartment early in 2004.
The theory goes this way: Armstrong is trying to deflect attention from that case by making the rest of this year all about his retirement, not the alleged drug violations. A brilliant diversionary move.
I like to think that these accusations will be proven false, but I find the concept of enhancement fuzzy. And I’m not real clear on why “natural abilities” are more worthy than those you work for. It’s not like they take the drug then head to the beach. This is the reasonable result of a system of coaches, trainers, scientists and businesses creating new drugs, and fans applauding the results of their use.
On Sunday William Saletan asked, if steroids are cheating, why isn’t Lasik?
A month ago, Mark McGwire was hauled before a congressional hearing and lambasted as a cheater for using a legal, performance-enhancing steroid precursor when he broke baseball’s single-season home run record.
A week ago, Tiger Woods was celebrated for winning golf’s biggest tournament, the Masters, with the help of superior vision he acquired through laser surgery.
What’s the difference?
Good point. Saletan looks at the three objections (it’s illegal, unhealthy and cheating) handily dismissing the first two (illegality doesn’t explain why a drug should be illegal and human growth hormone is “generally considered to be safe” by the NIH) then takes on cheating:
Wait a minute. If the andro that helped McGwire hit 70 home runs in 1998 was an unnatural, game-altering enhancement, what about his high-powered contact lenses? “Natural” vision is 20/20. McGwire’s custom-designed lenses improved his vision to 20/10, which means he could see at a distance of 20 feet what a person with normal, healthy vision could see at 10 feet. Think what a difference that makes in hitting a fastball. Imagine how many games those lenses altered.
You could confiscate McGwire’s lenses, but good luck confiscating Woods’ lenses. They’ve been burned into his head. In the late 1990s, both guys wanted stronger muscles and better eyesight. Woods chose weight training and laser surgery on his eyes. McGwire decided eye surgery was too risky and went for andro instead. McGwire ended up with 70 homers and a rebuke from Congress for promoting risky behavior. Woods, who had lost 16 straight tournaments before his surgery, ended up with 20/15 vision and won seven of his next 10 events.
Since then, scores of pro athletes have had laser eye surgery, known as LASIK (Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis). Many, like Woods, have upgraded their vision to 20/15 or better. Golfers Scott Hoch, Hale Irwin, Tom Kite, and Mike Weir have hit the 20/15 mark. So have baseball players Jeff Bagwell, Jeff Cirillo, Jeff Conine, Jose Cruz Jr., Wally Joyner, Greg Maddux, Mark Redman, and Larry Walker. Amare Stoudemire and Rip Hamilton of the NBA have done it, along with NFL players Troy Aikman, Ray Buchanan, Tiki Barber, Wayne Chrebet, and Danny Kanell...Does the upgrade help? Looks that way. Maddux, a pitcher for the Atlanta Braves, was 0-3 in six starts before his surgery. He won nine of his next 10 games. Kite had LASIK in 1998 and won six events on the Champions Tour over the next five years. Three months after his surgery, Irwin captured the Senior PGA Tour Nationwide Championship.
Sounds like performance enhancement to me.
Down and out II
You know, in some ways I am so technologically spoiled that it’s not even funny. I’ve got nearly every tool and tech toy I can handle. But, believe me, sometimes my dependence on all that technology feels like nothing more than an [expletive deleted].
You’ve already read the tale of my internet going down. Well today it got worse. First Windstream let me down again. It turns out that when they said that they’d overnight the modem, they were careful not to say that they’d send it out overnight. It would only go out overnight once the order got to the warehouse. Apparently that has yet to happen.
Now I’m going to the beach on Sunday. Lucky me. I was looking forward to it if for nothing else because the hotel has high speed Internet! But more, like any other self-respecting early 21st century technology worker, I have lots and lots of work I plan to do there, a PowerPoint presentation with plenty of video and graphics for a panel at a conference Friday not the least of it.
A few weeks ago I got a spiffy new MacBook Pro. I’ve been reading about how dazzling these machines are and my experience bears that out. So much so that I was going to fully commit to that one machine rather than being all spread out across a number of machines. Tonight. I was going to load that sucker up. And tonight… it went black. Totally and completely black. No throbbing sleep light, no pulsing power orange or green. Nothing. Nadda.
More later. If I can find an Internet connection. And a computer.
The New Yorker on Wikipedia
I love The New Yorker. I subscribe to The New Yorker. I hardly ever read The New Yorker.
Their website stinks - no RSS (nor even an email), they lock up half their content in print and have web only features that do little for me.
And it’s a crying shame! Articles like this week’s profile of Wikipedia by Stacy Schiff are not to be missed. Unfortunately its conclusion is off:
What can be said for an encyclopedia that is sometimes right, sometimes wrong, and sometimes illiterate? When I showed the Harvard philosopher Hilary Putnam his entry, he was surprised to find it as good as the one in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. He was flabbergasted when he learned how Wikipedia worked. “Obviously, this was the work of experts,Ã¢â‚¬Â� he said. In the nineteen-sixties, William F. Buckley, Jr., said that he would sooner “live in a society governed by the first two thousand names in the Boston telephone directory than in a society governed by the two thousand faculty members of Harvard University.” On Wikipedia, he might finally have his wish. How was his page? Essentially on target, he said. All the same, Buckley added, he would prefer that those anonymous two thousand souls govern, and leave the encyclopedia writing to the experts.
Over breakfast in early May, I asked Cauz for an analogy with which to compare Britannica and Wikipedia. “Wikipedia is to Britannica as ‘American Idol’ is to the Juilliard School,” he e-mailed me the next day. A few days later, Wales also chose a musical metaphor. “Wikipedia is to Britannica as rock and roll is to easy listening,” he suggested. “It may not be as smooth, but it scares the parents and is a lot smarter in the end.Ã¢â‚¬Â� He is right to emphasize the fright factor over accuracy. As was the EncyclopÃƒÂ©die, Wikipedia is a combination of manifesto and reference work. Peer review, the mainstream media, and government agencies have landed us in a ditch. Not only are we impatient with the authorities but we are in a mood to talk back. Wikipedia offers endless opportunities for self-expression. It is the love child of reading groups and chat rooms, a second home for anyone who has written an Amazon review. This is not the first time that encyclopedia-makers have snatched control from an ÃƒÂ©lite, or cast a harsh light on certitude. Jimmy Wales may or may not be the new Henry Ford, yet he has sent us tooling down the interstate, with but a squint back at the railroad. We’re on the open road now, without conductors and timetables. We’re free to chart our own course, also free to get gloriously, recklessly lost. Your truth or mine?
You have to wonder with a conclusion like that if Stacy really gets it. My favorite analogy was made, seperately, by two people who do: James Surowiecki in The Wisdom of Crowds and, more recently, by Benjamin Vershbow at if:Book. Wikipedia is like the third lifeline in Who Wants to be a Millionaire:
[T]he “ask the audience” lifeline, in which the crowd in the studio is surveyed and hopefully musters a clear majority behind one of the four answers. Here, the probability issue gets even more intriguing. Your potential fortune is riding on the knowledge of a room full of strangers.
In most respects, “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” is just another riff on the classic quiz show genre, but the lifeline option pegs it in time, providing a clue about its place in cultural history. The perceptive game show anthropologist would surely recognize that the lifeline is all about the network. It’s what gives “Millionaire” away as a show from around the time of the tech bubble in the late 90s—manifestly a network-era program. Had it been produced in the 50s, the lifeline option would have been more along the lines of “ask the professor!” Lights rise on a glass booth containing a mustached man in a tweed jacket sucking on a pipe. Our clichÃƒÂ© of authority. But “Millionaire” turns not to the tweedy professor in the glass booth (substitute ivory tower) but rather to the swarming mound of ants in the crowd.
And that’s precisely what we do when we consult Wikipedia. It isn’t an authoritative source in the professor-in-the-booth sense. It’s more lifeline number 3—hive mind, emergent intelligence, smart mobs, there is no shortage of colorful buzzwords to describe it. We’ve always had lifeline number 2. It’s who you know. The friend or relative on the other end of the phone line. Or think of the whispered exchange between students in the college library reading room, or late-night study in the dorm. Suddenly you need a quick answer, an informal gloss on a subject.
I like to believe that our broadening access to communications technologies means much of our individual rich authenticity can be captured, saved and shared. And if that means a loss of technical accuracy, I’m not convinced that’s a loss of anything worth saving.
So with Wikipedia I’ll stand by my wish for a new emergence of that old oral tradition. And enjoy its honest inaccuracies along with those presented each day by both the “objective” press and the “balanced” press.