Homosexual Marriage, Equality, and the State.

Greetings loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is finished with his mini-treatise. 3500 words later he is ready to put before you some ideas. He is also open to comments directed to him at nakedvillainy@yahoo.com. Please put “Blog” in the subject line….

Greetings loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader was prompted to write after reading a post on homosexual marriage on the Volokh Conspiracy blog last week. But, as soon as he began writing, the digressions began. Eventually, he decided to change direction and this is that which he wrote…

As I stated earlier, the Minister of Agriculture of the MWO believes me (your Maximum Leader) to be a homophobe. (Or at least partially homophobic.) This is mainly because I neither favour homosexual marriage proposals nor anti-discrimination laws that protect homosexuals. For the sake of open and honest disclosure, I have a problem with homosexual behavior. My problem, firmly rooted in a Judeo-Christian upbringing, is that I believe that homosexual behavior is wrong by virtue of it being against the “laws of God/Nature.”

Now, allow me a moment to fall back on what has become a canard of sorts. I do know men and women who are gay. I have gay friends. I have familial love and respect for a particular gay man. (And I would anything I could for him.) I have not openly discriminated against gays, nor would I ever exhort anyone to do so. Neither would I advocate the codification of discriminatory practices against gays. But, I do not approve of homosexuality and still find it wrong. In a word, I am tolerant of homosexuality.

To address a few things that may or may not be going through your mind right now. I do not know what the “cause” of homosexuality is. It has not been proved, to me at least, that there is a genetic predisposition towards homosexuality. (Frankly, I do not believe any particular personality trait has been successfully linked to a particular gene or geneticcode.) I believe that ultimately it is a choice a person makes. When the question is posed to me “Why would a person choose a lifestyle that could cause them to be discriminated against or even killed?” I don’t know.

What about the “it’s not natural argument?” I have read many articles attempting to prove that homosexual behavior is “natural” because there is behavior in the animal world that can be characterized as being analogous to homosexuality among man. I disagree with these arguments. I find it odd that we will use the animal kingdom to justify behavior among humans when it suits us. We wouldn’t justify polygamy using examples from the animal kingdom? Would we?

Regardless of the cause of homosexuality, what I wanted to discuss was homosexual marriage and discrimination of homosexuals. The question of homosexual marriage is before us on the world stage. Canada seems to have adopted a policy of recognizing homosexual marriage. A number of communities and states seem poised to do the same. I believe this is bad public policy and should be opposed.

The general argument in favor of allowing homosexual marriage can be boiled down to this; replace homosexual with some other adjective describing a person and see if you would object to that person’s marriage. As Eugene Volohk sort of asks, would you object to Hindu’s getting married? Buddhists? African-Americans? Hispanics? Plumbers? The Poor? There is no rational reason to be against homosexual marriage.

I grant you this point. But, the fact that there may not be a rational reason doesn’t impress me much.

The reaction you may be having to my previous statement might be that I am treating homosexuals unequally or discriminating against them. I will also grant you that objection. Your observation, reaction if you will, is really the heart of what I want to discuss.

What we seem to be discussing is equality. What is the meaning of this nebulous term that is bandied about with all together too much frequency in American society today? Equality, to the modern American, seems to have come to mean that you must treat all people the same. One must show proper respect, deference, and even agreement, with everything that anyone spouts off about. Modern society wants to dictate that all people deserve equal treatment. Furthermore, those that espouse this sort of radical equality dictate that other people do not just deserve equal treatment, but equal outcomes in many societal situations.

Think about this a moment. Why do we seek to improve education in inner cities and rural areas? Studies tell us that the outcome of the education in inner cities or rural areas is not as good as the outcome in predominantly wealthier suburban areas. We, as a society, want to equalize the outcome of public education. But, what else do we do to equalize the outcome of public education? We adjust the way we assess that outcome. We change the types of questions asked on standardized tests. We eliminate standardized tests if they seem to be incorrigible.

While trying to equalize the outcome of public education is a praiseworthy one, there are many negative examples of this tendency towards equal outcomes. I recently took a day off work. During that day off, I watched some television during the day. While surfing to find something to watch (I gave up and watched a DVD), I happened to stop on a talk show of some sort. On it, were some (appropriately stereotypical) African-American women and some (equally stereotypical) white women. Although I do not know what the point of the overall discussion was, I don’t think it really mattered. At the point in the program that I happened to see, one of the black women shouted out “Who are you to judge me? You don’t know what my life is like? You don’t have the right…” I bring this up to illustrate how this attitude towards equal outcomes has become pervasive.

“Who are you to judge?” has become one of the most objectionable phrases I hear regularly. The very ideas behind it are untenable. The first premis behind this statement is, unless you are like me you cannot sit in judgement over my actions. The second premise is, what you believe and what I believe are different but equally true, right, and applicable. What can we do if these premises are, in fact, true? Is there a chance of living with other people at all if either of these points were true? I do not believe so.

The reason that the “Who are you to judge?” question is leveled is generally to provoke a reaction by the object of the question. The reaction sought is one of guilt. The guilt is caused by modern society’s unrelenting show of how unequal people are and how that is bad. The desired outcome of asking the question is to have the object of the question become overwhelmed with guilt and recognize that through some fault of theirs they are faced with inequality in real life and must alter their behavior to rectify the inequality and subsequent injustice.

This is the problem with the way equality is discussed in modern society. We have taken an abstract concept, equality, and rationalized it to death.

People say they want equality. They say they want equal treatment. They say they just want and equal chance at something. What people say they want, and what is possible are not congruent.

There is no equality like the one people seem to want. Perhaps the only equality of that sort comes in death, or true freedom - which are nearly one and the same. People are not equal. We are not equally good looking. We are not equally athletic. We are not equally smart. We are not equal in any way. The very idea of equality is an artifice. It is an artifice created by the state. It is this artifice that has become perverted in our modern society.

I have stated that equality is an artifice constructed by the state. I believe this to be so. How did this artifice come to be? It came to be because mankind has come together to live in communities of nations. These states came into existence through a process that began millennia ago. Men came together and sacrificed their freedom to gain security. Over time, these states created systems that created “rights.” In America, the concept of rights created a concept of equality.

I have written before that I am a Hobbesian. I believe firmly that man is truly free only when he is not confined to the rules of a state or society. Without a state, the life of man becomes a war of all against all. In this natural state (that is the condition of living outside of an established civil order), man is free to move, to act in any way he chooses. At some point, ages past, men realized that they could improve their lives by giving up their freedom to accept the constraints of societies that would nourish and protect them from other men.

Over the course of history we can observe how the nature of the state changed. We know from our own history that we came from our distant despotic origins to our modern republican system. Along the way the nature of the system changed and grew. But each change, each new artifice, does nothing more than cover the fact that men are not truly free. Man is not free through his own voluntary assent to be governed.

So what of our system?

The Framers of the American Constitution, and thus the framers of our overall political system, acted (perhaps inadvertently) in a rather Hobbesian manner at the time of the founding. While textbooks and American History professors highlight the ideas of the Enlightenment as a guiding influence on the Framers, there was another influence. In true Hobbesian fashion, the Framers use both their reason (an Enlightenment tendency) and their experience when framing our political system. If the Framers had used only their reason (in the tradition of Locke, Voltaire, and Rousseau) who knows what system they would have created. To be sure (if I may corrupt Lincoln), it would not have long endured. Because Reason (Rationality if you will), in and of itself is a destructive faculty.

Why would I say that reason is a destructive faculty? Put smply, outside of science and mathematics, reason can take you anywhere you want to go - if you just define the terms and set your parameters early on. I think I finally learned this during my freshman year at college. I listened to a debate between two philosophy professors concerning abortion. While I will not go into that subject here, the style of the debate opened my eyes. The professor arguing for abortion started out by soliciting a few characteristics that make men “human beings.” These included the ability to reason, to use language, to create tools, and others. And using these premises (after some redefinition) she created a logically sound, completely rational, argument proving that abortion should be legal, safe, and available. Of course the other professor confronted her with the unpleasant fact that using her argument one could justify killing infants up to about the age of 6 months. This didn’t faze the professor making the argument. She simply said, “Of course. We’ve determined that they aren’t really human before that age.”

The use of reason, unchecked, can - and often has - been used to justify some of the most horrific acts in human history. The Terror of the French Revolution, very rational. The mass-murders of the Communists around the world, all justified by the system of scientific socialism espoused first by Marx. (And later modified to ghastly perfection by Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and Fidel Castro.)

To return to our Framers, they created a system using both reason and experience. We all remember Madison’s dictum that if men were angels we wouldn’t need government. Why would a man otherwise dedicated to the principles of liberty and the Enlightenment say such a thing? Because deep in his heart he was a Hobbesian. He knew that he could not create a purely rational system of government. It would be fatal to the nation he believed in. All of the Framers knew this to be the case. Why do we have checks and balances? It is to create gridlock. It is to act completely counter-intuitively. It is to be completely irrational and block the will of the majority. Why did the Framers do this? Because their experience, and the experiences of their ancestors throughout history, taught them that reason alone is not a suitable basis for governance.

But, the Framers planted the seed of today’s problems by framing our system in the terms and language of the Enlightenment. They spoke of natural law. They spoke of the common weal. They encouraged us to live in a way that had never been tried. They wanted us to elevate the very possibilities of mankind. But, all of this was rooted in a political, and a legal, system that was both accommodating to reason while preserving that element that experience gives us, tradition and custom.

It is often said that the powers of the President of the United States are essentially those powers held by the King of Great Britain in 1787. The powers of the Congress are essentially those of the British Parliament. The Framers made adjustments to a system that worked. They all knew it worked from their own personal experience, and from the traditions that were passed down to them. They took what they had, made some minor improvements, and went on their way.

While I will not argue the radical nature of the American Revolution now (and I believe it was radical), it was not as much of a change as we sometimes think. The success of the American experiment is based just as much on the Framer’s changes to the system of government they knew as by the things they kept.

One of the elements the Framers kept was the rule of law. The rule of law was a British institution. And it is an American institution as well. (Alas it is not a global institution.) We believe in laws, we respect laws, and we want to put our trust in laws. Laws, and implied use of force by the state to enforce them, is the heart of our political system. We in America evolved from the Anglo-western tradition that began with despotism and morphed into feudal monarchy, limited monachy, constitutional monarchy, and finally a constitutional republic. Along the way the legal system itself morphed from being nothing more than the whims of the King to a complex system of rules and precedence passed on from generation to generation. And it is in the very slow evolution of our legal and political system that we find the kernel of the problem of equality.

The Anglo-American legal tradition has been based for many centuries on equal treatment, equal justice if you will, under law. If we all agree to abide by the laws (and not force the state to compel us to obey them) we’ll be all right. Equal justice under law. Equal access to the courts. Equal consideration by judges. Equal treatment by the laws themselves. This is the nature of equality espoused by the Anglo-American tradition. This is the essence of equality upon which our nation was founded.

This concept of equal treatment under law did not mandate equal outcomes to all. After all, we have centuries of experience (tradition and custom) that demonstrate for us that there is no such thing as an equal outcome. What we should strive for is a system that doesn’t stand in the way of individuals acting in a responsible fashion within society. We should respect the law, and be tolerant of those people who, although different from us, choose to abide by the same laws and institutions we do.

Toleration is another hallmark of the Anglo-American tradition. It is born of the religious wars of the 17th Century and now enshrined by law. We should tolerate those who are different than we are. We should tolerate and respect their differences, provided they live according to the rules. Those rules set down by our political and legal system. And the rules of tradition and custom. Tradition and custom (our collective historical experience), are just as much a part of our society as the politico-legal institutions that make up our government. While it is important to tolerate people who live within the system, you don’t have to like them, condone their behavior, or make general societal accommodations to them.

So, to conclude my discourse on the Framers allow me to make this analogy. What the Framers did in constituting our current form of government was something akin to building additions and making changes to a house. In our case, the house was a very old and large one. What the Framers did was add a few new rooms and upgrade and update the favade, the artifice if you please, but the house remains largely the same.

Now let me try to weave whole cloth out of the different threads I’ve spun…

What has started to happen in our modern society is that many people have taken up the rational Enlightenment language of the Framers while at the same time discarding their experience and our traditions and culture. These people are generally identified as Liberals. However, don’t let labels fool you, there are plenty of Moderates and Conservatives who are guilty of exactly the same folly.

People have started to apply a different definition to the terms we use as a medium of political discourse. By changing the definition of the words we use, they hope to also change the truth or idea that the word or term was supposed to represent. Two of the words most under assault are equality and toleration. Indeed, they have become largely synonymous. We are asked to tolerate behavior by assenting to the notion that no one behavior is better than another. Since no behavior is better than another, they are all equal. And when behaviors, or the people that exhibit them, are all equal there is no rational basis to object to them.

It is through this process of redefinition and rational process that we are loosing the valuable anchor that is provided by custom and tradition. It is custom and tradition that provide continuity to civilization and prevent us from sliding into the abyss of barbarity at any moment. This is not to say that we will never change the way things are, but we should value the tried and tested things that are before discarding them for a logical idea; or a plan that seems “well thought through.”

What people advocating homosexual marriage are asking us to do is to substantively do away with a significant element of our societal traditions when it comes to the family. The family is a societal concept suffering from the erosion of rationality. The “traditional” notion of family is the object of assault, because it is based, ultimately, on religious custom and tradition. One can also make an argument for a biological basis for family as well. The institution of the family is at its core, an irrational one.

The first family concept to become eroded was the one-income family. Mom’s in the home raising kids, dads working. The next familial concept to be eroded was the two-parent family. Single moms or single dads are just as good as two-parent families. They just have “special” needs. Now the waters of rationality are lapping at the concept of families being constituted by a man and a woman.

If you accept that one type of family is no better than any other, then homosexual marriage is not a big leap. I do not accept this idea. I stand on the basis that traditionally marriage is an institution for men and women to enter into to have children. That is pretty much the long and the short of it. I, furthermore, do not believe that one-parent families are as good as two-parent families. And while I am stating beliefs, I do not believe that both parents working outside the home is very good either.

I believe the whole issue of homosexual marriage bespeaks a larger problem with society. The problem is the triumph of reason over historical experience. Ultimately, reason will undo society and create upheaval. We have already seen (in Russia, and China, and Eastern Europe) what happens when reason is left unchecked and the premises of the discussion are set. It is a horrific thing to behold. It is even worse to live through. While I am not trying to say that the adoption of homosexual marriage laws in the United States will be the equivalent of the overthrow of all society and culture. It is one more step down a path who’s end I am confident is not a pleasant one. Sometimes you just have to plant the flag, and hope someone will rally to it.

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