08 February, 2009

The Slippery Slope of Fascism

Buckle up your crampons, folks, it's gonna be a slippery night!

This was written in response to a question my buddy Michael B posed on a group list. I have seen and heard it before, so it seems worth addressing:

Q: If we change the definition {of marriage} for this group {homosexuals}, how do you or under what reasoning can you tell the next group that it can't be changed to suit their want.

A: Note: I've stayed almost completely out of the political discussion this year because of a tendency in the past for mean-spirited commentary to arise. I will do my best to give my perspective on your legitimate question. Take what you like, and leave the rest.

Our dear founding fathers were radicals, not traditionalists. Perhaps if they'd known more about the future they would have thrown in more Biblical stuff, but they didn't. They said "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness". Well... without freedom, there is no happiness. These were people who stood up to the Divine Right of Kings. Gay marriage was just a matter of time. There's your slippery slope; freedom begets freedom. We have a sweet, but dying, tradition of asking the bride's dad for her hand in marriage. A sentimental gesture now, but that used to be pretty much the rule of law. So it goes with traditions; some we keep, and some change or fall away.

Michael, your query is known as a "slippery slope" argument. It would be used validly if the slope were, indeed, slippery. However the slope is more of a little hill than a steep cliff - it's shaped more like a bell curve. What you call "want" is, for others, "need", as much as you "need" to be with the woman of your dreams and would be utterly miserable without a soul mate, so do most people have these feelings. Thank goodness they don't all want to be with your wife! That saying "to each his own" is so profoundly wise. The "ah, I'm home" feeling is spread out demographically, not in a line graph with "very straight" at one end to "very gay" at the other. Instead, the spread of sexual proclivity resembles the "liberal/conservative" diagram someone presented a while back, where based on one's answers folks placed on a 2-d plane (I seem to remember it was social conservative/fiscal liberal and permutations thereof). Only in this case, it's 3D, like a little hill. Based on population distribution, in the outer and lower slope (purely by weight of numbers, no moral judgment intended) are the people who are strictly homosexual. Somewhere toward the middle are people who are (admitted or not) bisexual to some level - all cultural pressures aside, they'd probably go for whomever they found attractive (which is why some friends feel it necessary to remind us "always make sure it's a woman!"). And in the big round central hump are the folks who are mostly or completely heterosexual. There's another slope off on another face of the hill somewhere that has people with little or no sex drive. Since that's not much of an advantage in terms of evolution, and is probably related to chemical imbalances or depression, i think it's safe to leave it out for our purposes here. Although there are certainly people who are pressured into having sex they don't want, there are already (thankfully) laws against it (even though it made huge headlines about 30 years ago when a woman successfully had her husband prosecuted for rape for the first time in this country). Anyway, far far out on the fringes are folks who want to marry their goats, or their mothers, or whatever. We'll call that a pretty steep dropoff to zero. And we can build a fence right where the slope is about to drop off, by simply limiting marriage to "consenting adult humans who will harm no one directly by marrying".*

The definition of "harm" is going to be argued. But think about the perception of harm in different societies. In the 1800's, a young woman who kissed without being betrothed was considered a trollop. A woman without a husband was at the bottom of society - so many people were forced into marriages to avoid "harm". And in that social context, perhaps that was best. But it's not best anymore, because now our society allows women to work outside the home. Pursuing, it would be hoped, happiness and liberty. Right now in certain countries, a woman is not allowed to go anywhere before marriage without her husband or father to keep her in line; there is no pursuit of happiness for her, simply acceptance of her lot no matter how bitter. I read just today about a 17-year-old slave who was raped by her master and is now shunned by her family because her baby was born out of wedlock (and her name is not Hester Prynne or Tess Derbyfield). That's their culture, rooted in ancient tradition, but it's not generally accepted in American culture now. And not so long ago in these here United States, interracial marriage was illegal. Is it right for the mainstream to shun and castigate those who wish to follow their hearts' desires? Wouldn't we be wiser to err on the side of protecting personal freedom than forcing conformity?

Sex is about more than procreation. Marriage is about more than sex. They are both about social contracts - as short as a 20-minute makeout session, as long as a lifetime. At their best they provide intimacy and joy, everyone shares their needs and gets some satisfaction through one compromising position or another ;-). At their worst, they are a hellish trap. And then there's the bell curve in between - (sex that could use some modification, marriages that could use some help, but it's all basically ok). Marriage is not primarily for procreation any more; many who have children do it well outside of marriage, many marry long after childbearing age is over, many never have kids but stay together because they love each other.
So, here are some questions, and I'm not asking them with sarcasm but with real fear of where society can go if we start reverting to repressive actions. If homosexual marriage is a threat:
-->Does this mean old retired people who marry are a threat to marriage?
-->Do those who are childless - by choice or not - defy the acceptable definition of marriage?
-->Is YOUR marriage valid if you're not going forth to multiply as the Bible tells its followers to do?
-->If a person strongly desires a family - and you know that "family" is more than a sex partner, it's a sense of being "home" and really belonging - must that family be denied them?
-->If a gay person lies about their sexual orientation to please society, doesn't that harm their partner? is that marriage sanctified by G/d?
-->Should gay men marry only gay women? How does that honor G/d?
-->Should we take back the sodomy laws that were thrown out in 2003? Personally, I'd be very sad never to have oral sex again, but if it's illegal... oh well. I shall have to accept the inevitable knock on the door.
-->If unmarried people cannot adopt, and there are thousands of gay adults longing for children, and there are thousands of unwanted children longing for families, whom does it serve when these people are denied families? Because a civil union doesn't count as a marriage, children in Arkansas are - right now - facing the loss of their adoptive parents. Are foster homes and shelters better for these children than stable and loving parents?

Here is the slippery slope you need to really fear, Michael: the slope of religion-based fascism. I believe in G'd and there's many ways to find them/him/her it, but there are plenty of sects out there who are dead certain there's only ONE way, and literally to hell with everyone else. If our church and state do not remain separate, sooner or later one group of "true believers" will succeed in what they've been trying to do all along - take control of people's private lives. If you value the right to marry whom you please, if you consider that a civil right, how can you deny that civil right to other consenting adults? That's what Prop 8's supporters just did - the Mormon church (which was once ostracized because of polygamous activities) were a huge funder for the Yes on 8 campaign because hey, they are self-elected to call the moral shots. And they are a tax-exempt entity because they are a church - even though they are incredibly powerful political lobbyists. Next, they can turn around and say you aren't married because you're not planning a family. Or damn you because maybe you once had a girlfriend who terminated a pregnancy, or you got caught with condoms or a vibrator or have a vascectomy on your medical records. . Or because you're of Italian extraction and your wife is of (___fill in the blank___) heritage and that wasn't written on Moron the Angel's golden tuba, or whatever. There's your slippery slope. Gay brides and bridegrooms are the very least of your worries. If you really can't dredge up any compassion for those who want the right to marry whom they love, try dredging up a little self-preserving indignation, because someone is going to be regulating you next. I wonder when you'll decide to fight back?

*it will also be very interesting if we ever encounter hot sexy aliens - can we marry them even if we can't procreate with them? Oh, only if they're not gay. Dang.

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The Door is Open

I took this phrase from two sources:
the U2 song "Gloria", and my favorite Rumi poem:

"The Breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you
Don't go back to sleep
you must ask for what you really want
Don't go back to sleep
People are going back and forth
Across the doorway where the two worlds touch
The door is round, and open
Don't go back to sleep"

I have spent a fair amount of my life wide awake and dreaming, other times sleeping where my dreams were so vivid I wanted to go back and figure out how to make them real. How do I bring dreams into the waking world - dreams of creativity, of joy, of peace, of fun? How to take the shadow of my psyche and use it to heal myself and others instead of hurt?

I have eclectic taste - possibly insane taste - ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. I like silly humor more than I like sarcasm. I have a lifelong interest in why the heck the world is the way it is... cause and effect? G/d/s? Quarks? Who knows. Even if I thought I knew, that would be faith. The intersection between faith and knowledge - a dangerous and blurry place.

As the Firesign Theater states ".... a force that can only be used for good... or evillllll..." but I don't remember what they were talking about, was it a time machine?

I'm blessed with brilliant and creative friends; you'll find links to their blogs, art and ideas here. I'll add my own art and interests as time permits. Daring to put ourselves out there is one of the greatest challenges many artists face. Creating is easy, sometimes it happens all by itself. Communicating... hard.