Let Me Not to the Marriage of a Man and a Woman Admit Impediment
I was stunned the other day to receive an email from a close friend of many years, ending a friendship I had thought proof against time and circumstance. My correspondent, who is gay, objected furiously to a passing comment my wife had posted on Facebook to the effect that Christian businesses were being driven into the ground for abiding by their religious convictions and that gay activists had gone from asking for acceptance and tolerance, which is perfectly right and proper, to jubilating over the legislated ratification of gay marriage.
Her remark was too much for him. In a flourish of sanctimoniousness, he pontificated: “I simply can’t call somebody a friend who thinks that a Supreme Court decision saying that I am your equal, and that my marriage is equal to yours, is an obscenity”—though the word “obscenity” had never been used or remotely suggested. He continued in a breathtaking leap of paranoid irrationality that we now regarded same-sex marriage as “on the same scale as jihad.” Finally, he informed me that he was not interested in debating his “humanity and equality.” We were never to correspond again—notwithstanding that I had always cherished his humanity and that “equality” is a concept, as he well knows, often fraught with unintended consequences and should not be bandied about without caution and restraint. We are both familiar with Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, with its warning that once equality becomes a fetish, liberty is the casualty.
I found it mordantly ironic that my now former friend, a staunch conservative, a literary traditionalist, one of the most amiable and brilliant men I have ever met, and among the most incisive writers of our time on the subject of societal degradation and the malignant impact of progressivist ideology, would gratefully endorse the ruling of a decidedly left-oriented and Obama-stacked Supreme Court hell-bent on tearing down the bearing wall of American society and, indeed, of Western civilization itself. But it appears that the gay agenda trumps all. Like the Pro Choice mania that now afflicts us, gay triumphalism is nothing short of an assault on the culture of life.
Life, as Victor Davis Hanson sagely reminds us, “is something more than a cause, a race, a sex, or religion,” and assuredly something more than the religion of sex. But the lesson is lost on the reductive mentality of same-sex militants and gay marriage activists, as I have ruefully noted among a number of my gay acquaintances, who proclaim themselves true-blue conservatives. Resisting the obscenity—to use my ex-friend’s term—of having gay marriage forced on a nation by a morally derelict and activist judiciary, attended by an array of punishments and penalties for violating its diktats, seems entirely appropriate to me.
Even though I was peremptorily instructed not to communicate, I felt it incumbent to respond, if only for one last time. “I do not believe in gay marriage,” I wrote, “and here's the reason. For all its flaws and failures and betrayals, marriage is the pivotal social institution predicated upon the perpetuation of the race. When marriage is inherently and by nature sterile, it is not marriage; it may be a partnership, it may be a loving union, it may be a spiritual covenant, and all that is wonderful. But when heterosexual marriage goes under, when it ceases to serve its ancestral purpose, when it is no longer respected and supported and kept intact for its service to life, then we go under, all of us—straight or gay is irrelevant in these circumstances.”
I tried to make my thesis as clear as possible in an article I posted on this site five years ago, titled “Same-Sex Miscarriage,” which my quondam friend had obviously not read—or our relationship would assuredly have ended there and then. I was not trying to offend or to wallow in obnoxious self-righteousness or to articulate some deeply-held religious principle but to make a purely functional case for the preservation of marriage as a compact between a man and a woman. I have no moral brief against gay or lesbian relationships, whether predicated on love or sex. To each his own, in whatever way pleasure or emotional fulfillment can be found and enjoyed without materially damaging others.
The legal basis of marriage, however, strikes me as untouchable, not because it is a sacrament—no offense intended to people of faith—but because it is a guarantee. As I argued in the earlier article, “same-sex unions…have been a fact of mutual existence from earliest times. But same-sex marriages breach the premise of the institution of matrimony, which is propagation and child-rearing, reinforced by contractual security and meant to ensure existential continuance.” In a time of social anomie, cultural disintegration and epidemic grievance-mongering, it is not surprising that “the institutions which keep a society intact and guarantee its prolongation are now being redefined in such a way as to cancel their fundamental purpose.”
When Pat Boone crooned that “Love and Marriage go together like a horse and carriage,” he was from today’s vantage point embarrassingly archaic. It is a noble and heartwarming sentiment and a far saner one than our current diversity mantra entails. But he was wrong. Love is devoutly to be hoped for, but it is not the functional armature of marriage. Many “traditional” cultures, after all, are built on the practice of arranged marriages. Love is secondary. Yet such marriages seem to work as well as, or perhaps even better than, Western marriages based on individual choice. Spouses may in the course of time come to love one another, to their mutual happiness and the enhancing of the union, but marriage per se is a kind of seminary that binds a culture to itself and ensures its durability.
To our irreparable loss, however, marriage as it has been understood for millennia has become a grievous offense to our elite opinion-makers, government apparatchiks, and business firms desperate to ingratiate themselves with entitled minorities. Even Doritos is now marketing rainbow chips. A farmer in my township has posted a sign advertizing eggs from free-range chickens; a rainbow flag droops beside it, prompting chuckles about the identity politics of his chickens and the quality of the eggs. Among public figures, conventional positions tend to “evolve”; both Obama and Hillary Clinton opposed same-sex marriage before testing the electoral waters and deciding they were all for it. Political correctness becomes more orgiastic with every passing day, both a cause and an effect of cultural decrepitude. Just about everything once regarded as normal or proper or “natural” seems calculated to give offense to someone, especially groups that trade on the prerogatives of victimhood.
As sociologists Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning explain, we are transitioning from a “culture of dignity” to a “culture of victimhood,” whose tactics “focus on inequality and emphasize the dominance of offenders and the oppression of the aggrieved.” This is a culture in which the gender issue is one of the prominent features, creating in time a condition of “legal overdependency.” A legal crusade then proceeds to justify and enact a problematic enterprise. The paradox is that offense is increasingly taken “in settings that already have relatively high degrees of equality,” that is, where what sociologists call “social stratification” is at a minimum. The field now belongs to those who consider their adversaries, as Campbell and Manning write, “privileged and blameworthy” while regarding themselves as “pitiable and blameless,” given to “emphasizing their own suffering and innocence.” Perhaps it is time to coin a new word along the lines of “offenders,” namely, “offensers.”
Rob Knowles writing in Last Resistance deplores the near-universal tendency to take offense at anything and everything once associated with Western culture, as it increasingly descends into the realm of ludicrous and self-inflationary hyper-sensitivity: feminists, transgenders, Muslims, illegals, race activists, “racialized” persons, aboriginals, micro-aggressed students, refugees, “you name it,” says Knowles, “[t]he permanently offended class has so much more to work with than they used to.”
The Rainbow movement is no exception. Gays seem to be among the most dedicated offensers. In a recent, notorious example, a lesbian couple forced a Christian bakery to shut down for refusing to bake a wedding cake and a partisan judge ordered the proprietors to pay $135,000 in damages. “Gays can be offended by Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis for not wanting her name affixed to their marriages licenses,” wrote Knowles before the two gay men in question, after winning their case, sought revenge on Davis following her release from prison, as Breitbart reports, by “demanding that Davis issue a new license with her name on it.” (It is worth mentioning in this context an under-reported episode that reveals the brazen hypocrisy of the cultural mainstream, involving lesbian judge Tonya Parker who was not jailed or even reprimanded for refusing to perform heterosexual weddings.) Knowles goes on to comment on the Michael Sam imbroglio, which had the gay lobby up in arms. “Gays can be offended that Michael Sam was cut from the Rams and the Cowboys because he’s gay. I heard he wasn’t a great player and that his combine performance was actually pretty terrible–but it was totally because he’s gay.”
Incidentally, Michael Sam was subsequently signed by the team I root for, the Montreal Alouettes, that subsequently blazoned its tolerance and ethical bona fides in the local media. It was the cause célèbre of the Canadian football season. After two unscripted departures from the team owing to “personal issues,” and being welcomed back warmly on each occasion, Sam was eventually let go—his performance both in practice and on the field plainly inadequate. The team had gone for the hype, not for the talent. In a similar way, we too have gone for the hype, not the genuine article.
Camille Paglia, who as a lesbian feminist might be expected to flaunt her “marginalized” credentials, finds the current trend thoroughly risible. In a recent Salon interview, she observed that “sexuality has been politicized—‘Don’t ask any questions!’ “No discussion!’ ‘Gay is exactly equivalent to straight!’.” Paglia cut through all the obfuscating blather. Gay is manifestly not equivalent to straight, and anyone who thinks so, as she suggests despite her own sexual preferences, is the dupe of a “period of psychological blindness or inertness.” Analogously, if somewhat more pungently, Ed Straker at American Thinker ponders: “How can we be asked to teach our children that this medically unsafe lifestyle, which doesn't produce children, is the equal of traditional men-women relationships?” President Obama has reportedly said that traditional marriage supporters need to “catch up” to the rest of the country. But this begs the question. Why would anyone want to “catch up” to a country incontestably sinking into a bog of defeatism, profligacy, social discord, intellectual stupor and cultural decadence?
To reiterate. Marriage in its customary and time-vetted sense is infrangible; for all its human defectiveness, it remains the pillar of civilizational perdurance. It is the procreative guarantor of a people’s survival. Moreover, it stands to reason that children are best served by having parents of both sexes to act as role models for what each sex brings to the world in its genetic and primordial aspects: the nurturing of the maternal, the strength of the paternal. And if we accept as valid the somewhat rarefied psychic distinctions introduced by psychologist C.G. Jung in Psychology of the Unconscious, that the man harbors a female component Jung calls the anima and the woman a male component called the animus, equally necessary in the family dynamic in determining the wholesome development of the child, then even in this respect same-sex couples cannot maintain the balance optimal for child-rearing. Of course, Queer Studies programs and trendy psychologists try to get around the dilemma by conflating anima and animus in the structure of the homosexual personality, or, as psychologist Mitchell Walker puts it, by reconsidering the archetype of the hermaphrodite and re-organizing “the constellation of complexes and symbols of transformation [in] homosexually differentiated forms.” None of this gobbledygook is very helpful to the child at its mercy.
But we have now gone so far in the campaign against the time-sanctioned nature of marriage that we have even begun abolishing the terms “husband” and “wife” in legal documents, as on the U.S. Federal Student Aid Form and passport application forms. In Tennessee, and also under discussion in France and the Socialist Republic of Ontario where I make my home, the words “mother” and “father” are to be replaced by gender neutral expressions like “guardian” or “Parent 1, Parent 2—a change intended to promote “gender equality” and, according to Ontario MPP Glenn Thibeault, “better recognize the rights of LGBTQ parents.”
This is much more than a cosmetic re-writing, a tweaking of nomenclature; it requires the exorbitantly expensive conversion of a veritable raft of official documents that affect the entire society, not merely the 2 percent or 5 percent of those who purportedly benefit from such a massive re-adjustment. The blitz on the social bond and the continuity of a culture is multi-pronged, relentless and ultimately disastrous, abetted by the rise of what Tocqueville called “democratic despotism,” a form of social authoritarianism imposed by a centralized bureaucracy. In this case, as in so many others, a regulating power has exerted control over what is properly an issue of individual choice and endeavor. The irony is that what Tocqueville in his prescience called “the tyranny of the majority” has morphed into the tyranny of the minority as an expression of a faux enlightenment.
To return. Gender is not a “social construct” as our postmodern radicals, Social Justice warriors and assorted offensers insistently and foolishly claim. Confusion about gender roles and the biological imperative boils down to a confusion about the self. As Jung said in Memories, Dreams, Reflections, “People will do anything, no matter how absurd, to avoid facing their own souls.” Such confusion is one of the major factors leading to the breakdown of the family and the concomitant attack on marriage as a union between one man and one woman. From the perspective of procreative vitality that sustains a nation, a culture and a civilization, gay marriage is a contradiction in terms, vitiated by its endemic sterility. From the standpoint of child-rearing, gay marriage blurs or eliminates the gender binary essential to the healthy formation of a child’s personality.
Again, lest I be misunderstood, I have no objection to gay unions in themselves. But I must admit that I am not impressed by the shameless debaucheries on display in Gay Pride parades—why, for that matter, should one be proud of one’s sexual orientation?—or in gay festivals like San Francisco’s Folsom Street Fair, whose Mardi Gras-like atmosphere only cloaks a widespread licentiousness alien to normal relations between the sexes. Heterosexuals obviously enjoy their own forms of prurience, but “nowhere in the world,” Straker writes, “will you find a similar large exhibition of sexual perversity like this in the heterosexual community. It is exclusively in the gay community, and it raises a lot of disturbing questions”—an understatement if ever there was one. “Liberation” is not all it was talked up to be. Liberation, writes Michael Walsh, author of The Devil’s Pleasure Palace, “returned Westerners to primitive levels of sexuality, kicking out the moral underpinnings of the culture.”
Although such flagrant indecency is a gay phenomenon and morally compromises the movement for gay liberation, I believe that same-sex unions should be recognized—but only under certain conditions. I adamantly oppose gay adoption and I would propose that marriage in its customary sense retain its established and symbolic status. In whatever way it may be officiated—sacramentally or civilly—it confers an aura of conjugal solemnity and simultaneously attaches a contractual obligation upon the value and perpetuation of human life. At the same time, I see no reason that gay unions should not be legally accredited with rights, privileges and exemptions relating to fiscal, medical, juridical and immigration policies. This, I believe, is a just if limited concession on the part of society to what is both a social reality and a personal choice. But the institution of marriage must remain inviolable. It is not a fungible quantity.
As Shakespeare wrote in Sonnet 116, “Let me not to the marriage of true minds/Admit impediment.” In today’s degenerate culture, as we confront the etiology of a social pathology in both its theoretical and empirical forms, the famous line needs to be modified: Let us not to the marriage of a man and a woman admit impediment. Regrettably, it looks very much like the game has already been decided and that what I am arguing is lamentably after the fact. My former friend might have been more generous in the flush of his triumph. Nevertheless, we have admitted impediment at our gravest peril.