Friday, October 31, 2008

Keep your laws off my happy

I don't have to tell you this, but there's more going on with this election than just a race for the presidency. I have already mentioned the importance of bringing in a filibuster-proof majority. But there are also a number of important propositions that need your attention, depending on where you live.

In California, there is the truly distracting and misinformed Prop 8, which, if passed, would outlaw same-sex marriage -- which, you may recall, only recently became available in the state in the first place. (Such a reversal would be even more distressing given that California is one of the few places in the country where same-sex marriage is currently legal.)

The idea of outlawing any kind of marriage -- or, for that matter, outlawing any private, personal ritual engaged in by two or more consenting adults -- is so odd and crazy to me that I dearly hope this initiative is smashed into tiny, irredeemable bits.

I can't help it. To the common, annoying conservative response to the idea of same-sex marriage -- "What's next, marrying animals? Har har!" -- the best I can come up with is "Why not?" In other words, if I'm not immediately involved or affected, why should I care, one way or the other?

Cue John Stuart Mill (who was right about everything, remember):

The only part of the conduct of anyone, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.

Give that man a cigar!

Note that Mill's concept of liberty is based on the notion of "harms." He can see no reason why individuals or consenting adults shouldn't be able to do what they want as long as no harm comes to other people or society at large. All I would add is that the harm has to be legit. The problem with opponents of same-sex marriage is that they perceive harms where there simply are none.

Anyone who has spent any time around kids will recognize the dynamic here. When kids start interacting socially, you quickly learn that there are both perceived harms and actual harms. Sure, there are times when kids truly (often physically) interfere in one another's business -- producing actual harm. But often schoolyard or classroom conflagrations erupt because Kid A thinks Kid B made a funny face at him, or called him a name, or what-have-you. Often the offending act never actually took place, or is being misperceived for something else (maybe Kid A is just hungry).

Maturity is at least in part about recognizing and understanding this distinction. Maturity is at least in part about recognizing and understanding when the actions of others have no bearing on your life even if they are not the actions you would choose for yourself.

And now cue the robo-kids shilling for Prop 8:

Cute, huh? My favorite part is this right here:

Based on past experience, those who oppose same-sex marriage on religious grounds will be increasingly labeled as intolerant.

And they shouldn't be so labeled because... why, again?

I mean, what definition of "intolerant" are these folks working with? If discriminating isn't being intolerant, what is?

Or are we really being asked to be tolerant of intolerance?

Strike it down, my ex-state mates!


avatarr8 said...

I'm pretty sure they took that script from a 1920's KKK tract and just switched in "gay" for "miscegenated." Maybe Prop 8 is setting a dangerous precedent for the banning of marriage altogether? Seriously, if it passes, I'm starting a campaign to stop the government from recognizing any for of marriage--its a religious institution--separation of church and state I say!

James said...

Obviously, I am against prop 8, but I don't think you can underestimate the HUGE effect that gay marriage in California will have across the world w/r/t gay marriage. People fear change, and it is true that marriage has been an institution for one man and one woman for as long as any of us have lived. So, I understand that people may have strong feelings against gay marriage, even though I totally disagree with the tactics they use to fight it.

I don't think people actually care about this issue really. I think they just associate themselves with being liberal or conservative and that forms their opinion. Take the Sarah Palin rallies. She'll chastise Obama for suggesting that people take the day off to vote and the crowd goes nuts! But if Obama had suggested people vote before they go to work, she could have just as easily chastised Obama for putting jobs before voting and the crowd also would have gone nuts! It's a crazy phenomenon.

Gay marriage advocates often say "who cares what two people do in their bedroom?" While the sentiment is correct, I think it misses the point. It's not about sex. It's actually quite practical--children, inheritance, hospital ownership, benefits, and even divorce (who gets what). Of course, latte drinking, arugula eating, elite jazz musicians such as ourselves already know this!

Andrew Durkin... said...

Hey guys -- thanks for the comments!

As far as people fearing change in general -- I know what you're getting at, James, but I want to add to that point. I mean, some change is not so scary -- winning the lottery, say, or getting an extra hour to sleep in because it's time to set the clocks back. Change can be good. And the same people who claim to fear change as a general rule often embrace it when it benefits them personally. Which makes me suspicious of the idea that anybody fears change as a general rule.

The folks who define same-sex marriage as "bad change" are using an absurd set of criteria for their definition. That's the bottom line. So when it comes to issues that have no direct bearing on the lives of those who are not actually involved, I'm inclined to (politely) ask people to just get over it, already. There are enough changes in the world that are genuinely worth being scared about (global warming, f'r'instance).

You may have noticed this already, but the conversation continues in the next post...