Klavan On The Culture

The Great Debates We're Not Having


One of the ways leftists turn themselves from idealistic naifs into fascistic McCarthyite thugs is by convincing themselves there is only one side to every argument. There is their opinion and everything else is “Hate.” The bullying brownshirts who engineered the ouster of Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich were probably perfectly decent people when they were three- or four-years-old. They became the jackbooted blacklisters they are today when they taught themselves to believe in their own impeccable virtue and the evil of the opposition.

For the instruction of these aspiring tyrants then and as an aid to our own memories, let’s remind ourselves for a moment of what we’re actually arguing about when we argue about social issues.

1. Abortion. The debate over abortion has nothing to do with women’s rights. There is no constituency in America (except maybe in parts of the Muslim community) that has any interest in limiting women’s rights. Think of a politician running on the platform “Less rights for women.” The number of votes he’d get would be vanishingly small. The debate over abortion is over one thing only: whether a fetus should be given protections as if it were a human life. If it should, a woman has no more “right” to kill it than she does anyone else. A debate on the complexities of this issue would be educational. Screaming about women’s rights, wars on women or pregnancies by rape and incest (about one percent of abortions) are simply means of deceiving oneself and others.

2. Guns. No one is against people carrying guns. You can buy a bumper sticker that says “arms are for hugging,” but you live in a world of guns and they’re not going away so stop buying stupid dishonest bumper stickers; they make you look like an idiot. Police are going to carry guns and so will other security officers. The debate is solely over whether private citizens should be able to own and carry guns. Conservatives say yes because they feel this is still a revolutionary country in which the common man should be able to fight back if cops become instruments of tyranny.  The left feels those revolutionary days are done and only licensed officials should go armed. We can go back and forth over whether guns cause or prevent crime, but if bearing arms is necessary to preserving freedom and freedom is a human right, the crime stats don’t really matter.

3. Gay “marriage.” The debate here is not about homosexuality per se. Some religious people think being gay is a sin, but so what? Gluttony is also a sin, but that doesn’t give the government the right to regulate what you eat. Likewise, the debate is not about gay “rights.” There are still some rights issues on the table regarding homosexuality, but “marriage” isn’t one of them. This debate is about marriage itself. Marriage has been traditionally and all-but-universally defined as a relationship between men and women. Giambattista Vico, the great 18th century genius who more or less invented Sociology, classed marriage as one of the three founding institutions of any nation (along with religion and ceremonial disposal of the dead). Almost all ancient literature sets the institution of marriage at the beginning of civilization, possibly because it elevates contract and therefore rule of law over family honor and endless vengeance. But the definition of marriage differs in different cultures. The debate we’re having now is about whether its age-old meaning in western culture has changed (because of technology, enlightenment or both) to the point where it can include committed same sex relationships. Those opposed say making such a change would be to remove a load-bearing wall of our civilization. Those in favor would say the change has already happened, it’s an improvement and it should be recognized in law. I would love to hear the two sides debate this, the only issue that matters.

Of course, there are haters everywhere and there are those, like the people who hounded Eich, who mistake their hatred for righteousness. But in all three of these issues, there actually are two sides worth arguing about. It would be almost miraculous to hear those arguments made intelligently and with good will. But I’m not holding my breath.