Despite the absolutely predictable efforts of a few of my most deranged critics to portray me as a vicious gay-hating bigot, I’ve had very little to say over the years regarding homosexuality-related political issues. Truth be told, they haven’t interested me much. That is to say, I have lots of other interests that rank higher on my priority list.
But it’s true that I do have reservations about the current rush toward redefining marriage — among them what I, and others, regard as a troubling tendency, yet again, for self-anointed “progressives” to legislate through the courts, as well as the elitist disdain and, sometimes, the pure furious hatred directed at those who dissent from newly emergent orthodoxy on the matter (and who, ironically, are often pronounced purveyors of “hate” by those who actually do purvey hatred).
I’ve had little to say, but, given the topic’s prominence in the news, I’m likely to be reading and saying a bit more about it in the future. The subject is, as might have been expected, moving slowly up on my list of priorities. Which, I know, will earn me the virulent contempt of some out there and will cement my image as an angry “hater” in certain other circles.
Nonetheless, here are a few links on the subject that I consider worth sharing:
The always provocative Mark Steyn, on and about same-sex marriage:
But then, see this item, which (among other things and, in my view, rightly) questions the very term “same-sex marriage”:
And notice how, for the umpteenth time, there is an attempt to marginalize, even banish, those who dare to dissent from the new view of marriage:
But there’s no question, in any event, that opponents of the redefinition of marriage are losing the debate right now, and badly, in the so-called “court of public opinion.” Mona Charen reflects on why this is so:
Incidentally, I’ve heard several commentators on the radio and television lately who have noted that gay “marriage” has been legalized in various states and European countries, and that, nonetheless, “the sky has not fallen.” (That phrase has recurred so often that I’ve wondered whether it might not be part of somebody’s “talking points memo.”) But this response refutes a straw man, a caricature. I don’t know that there was anybody out there — no reflective, serious thinker, anyway — who imagined or predicted that “the sky” would immediately “fall.” No, the concern is about long-term societal trends. The kind that are likely to appear only after at least a generation or two, but which, when they appear, could be very difficult to reverse.
In this respect, I share the “conservative disposition” of the late English political philosopher Michael Oakeshott: He liked to describe himself as a “skeptic,” by which he meant the skepticism of St. Augustine and Montaigne regarding human pretensions to succeed in “the pursuit of perfection as the crow flies,” to create a heavenly kingdom on the earth by their own unaided powers, to predict, control, and manage the contingencies of human existence. I’m very skeptical about aspirations to “immanentize the eschaton,” as Eric Voegelin expressed it.
We should have learned humility by now. (See my earlier thoughts on “Humility and Gay Marriage.”) We simply cannot foresee and control all of the rippling and ramifying effects of our actions. We intervene in the economy, and, by doing so, create all sorts of problems in the market that require further interventions to solve them, and these new interventions create all sorts of new problems in the market that require still more interventions. We arm the mujahidin in Afghanistan in order to fight the Soviets and, a few years later, find them flying airliners into the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. We eliminate wolves around Yellowstone, and are then obliged to reintroduce them when we discover that they’re actually necessary in the balance of nature. We use antibiotics to combat a certain pathogen, almost entirely eradicating it, only to find that we’ve helped its surviving representatives to mutate into something still more dangerously lethal.
The ancient Greeks had a very useful concept that is relevant here: hubris.
We can’t altogether refrain from acting, of course, but we should be very, very conscious of our limitations, and, where there are concerns, we shouldn’t hastily override them. Not on such fundamental matters as the definition of marriage.
Some are giddy at the prospect that, when the older generation dies off, there will, they think, be little or no resistance to the wave of support that efforts to redefine marriage are currently riding. Now, I don’t need to be reminded that we’ve made social progress against resistance on many fronts over past decades and centuries (e.g., the abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, and the establishment of black equality before the law). I’m fully on board, too, with the idea that youthful idealism can be a very good thing. But it can also be a very dangerous thing (think of the Hitlerjugend and Mao’s “Cultural Revolution” and the very young, gun-wielding idealists of the Cambodian killing fields and of various African genocides and civil wars.) I simply object to the fatuous idea that older people are superfluous, that they have nothing to offer in current debates about social policy and cultural attitudes.
I grew up in the California of the sixties. We were told that virtually all of those in authority were “pigs,” and never to trust anybody over thirty. I never bought such nonsense then, and I don’t buy it now.
Both youthful enthusiasm and older restraint are necessary, it seems obvious to me, for there to be even a chance of a balanced society. A properly functioning automobile needs an engine, yes, but it’s also helpful to have functioning brakes. There’s a reason why Plato said that the right age to begin studying philosophy was fifty. There’s a reason why, at the height of the American economic bubble, some writers were cautioning investors to seek out older advisors who had been through a downturn rather than young ones who had never experienced bad economic times.
I’ve always been struck by the fact that, in Arabic, the word for “innovation” is bid‘a — and that precisely the same word is used for “heresy.” This equation seems to indicate a strong preference for the past, which is precisely true in the sense that the ideal model for Muslims is the Prophet Muhammad and the “pristine Medina” of seventh-century Arabia. It’s easy for Westerners to criticize such a mindset as regressive. But, in the West, aren’t we prone to the equal and opposite error? When we wish to praise something or someone, we often use the word innovative. But, just as innovation isn’t always evil but can be good, it’s not always good, either. It can be unwise, imprudent, stupid. The uncritical embrace of innovation (“change!”) is no more justifiable than its uncritical, knee-jerk rejection.