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In case you haven’t noticed, the world is not a simple place.
I know – that’s not an astounding comment for an adult. And I certainly meant it with irony. But I think it’s worth repeating, as much for myself as for others. I think it’s also worth considering carefully for those who think of themselves as “liberals” or “progressives,” words that I believe have long outworn their usefulness. I’m not much for the word “conservative” either. These hoary terms are all in need of serious retrofitting, if not dismissal. As of now, they are not particularly useful in the perception of reality. Indeed, they tend to distort it.
Perhaps Virginia Postrel was closer to a clear perception when she more precisely categorized things in the book she brilliantly entitled The Future and Its Enemies. Some people are looking forwards and others backwards. Those who see themselves as orthodox believers in an ideology are most likely to be among those looking backwards. They are frozen in their ideas and their perception of reality. Those who throw off the shackles of ideology are looking forwards. I know. For many years, I was shackled in a very conventional leftist ideology out of Marcuse. Hard to imagine now, but I thought it was hip.
To be clear, even less am I an adherent of post-modern cultural relativism. I do believe there is truth and good and evil. But you have to look hard and not rely entirely on old ideas to find it (although old ideas are worth knowing and respecting).
This is a long way around to a discussion of gay marriage, something I have been in full support of since initiating this blog in 2003. It is also the subject that, when I write about it, often creates the greatest dissension from those who otherwise applaud what I am saying.
So it is with some gratification that I found tonight that the person in public life I have admired tremendously for some time is also a supporter of same-sex marriage – Laura Bush. She proclaimed that support in her characteristic well-mannered, low-keyed fashion on Larry King Live. (Okay, nobody’s perfect.) I even had the suspicion that her husband agreed with her, but for political considerations didn’t say so.
What does this mean? Traditionally a woman like Bush would oppose gay marriage, but she has stepped outside that “tradition,” seen the situation objectively and come to a different conclusion. I think it’s interesting that the supposedly liberal Barack Obama has not been able to reach this conclusion or to perform any action that would indicate that he had. Meanwhile, the supposedly antediluvian Dick Cheney has expressed his support for same-sex marriage.
So what are we to think? Who is the “progressive” and who is the “conservative”? And what do these words mean? Well, not much to me, as I have said.
Everything is in flux. These days those who identify themselves as “liberals” are on the run because the lynchpin of their ideology – increased government spending – is bankrupting the world economy. I certainly agree with this analysis as do, according to the polls, most voters. But will this always be so? Not necessarily. At some point, governments may stop spending money and come out of bankruptcy or near bankruptcy. This will probably take a while, but then where will we be? Our infrastructures will likely be in sore need of repair. At that point many of us may feel it’s time for governments to start spending money again. How inconsistent of us. But that’s life. Things change.
Which brings me back to gay marriage. The world has changed on this issue and is continuing to change. As Laura Bush points out in her interview, it’s a generational thing. Younger people in our culture don’t consider homosexuality such a big deal. Same-sex marriage is also no big deal to them. Indeed, it has already come to pass. Our cities are filled with gay couples who are de facto married. Almost all of us know some of them. Many of us have them in our families. No social calamities have occurred that I know of, at least not from gay people living together.
We have real problems. That is not one of them, not even faintly. In world where financial markets are in free fall and Islamic terrorists threaten to blow up airplanes, indeed when Islam is beginning to take over the culture of Europe and even starting to make inroads into ours, worrying whether gay people who are in love should be married or not seems an absurd waste of time and energy. Ditto worrying about whether people are RINOs or JINOs or whatever other acronym comes down the pike. By placing people in categories you are placing yourself in one. You are rigidifying each other. Do you really want to do that? I don’t know about you, but I love freedom. And one of the biggest parts of freedom is the freedom to change.
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