Saturday, February 7, 2009

Young Turks and gay marriage

Since last October, at least, I have been using the phrase "Young Turks" to describe the restless young intellectuals of the conservative movement. Most of these young men -- not to slight the ladies, but nearly all of these writers seem to be male -- who would be tomorrow's Weavers and Buckleys and Kirks are not strictly political writers. That is to say, they didn't spend 2007-08 obsessively handicapping the presidential election, but they are "political" and conservative in the sense that they have made clear their general commitments to the Right.

Now, if you talk to these bright young fellows -- and I find excuses to talk to them as often as possible -- one of the things you learn is how many of them are either (a) in favor of gay marriage as a matter of social justice, or (b) defeatist in conceding that the legal recognition of gay marriage is a political inevitability, even though they personally oppose it.

Is it really so? Permit a geezer his doubts. I remember being 15 years old when our teachers at Douglas County High School arranged a teleconference between our classroom and our state's senior senator, Herman Talmadge. And I remember that all of us long-haired hoodlum types -- this was 1974 -- were eager to ask Sen. Talmadge about legalizing marijuana, so that he had to fend off two or three questions on the subject. ("Uh . . . hey, man, like . . . what about weed?")

Thirty-five years ago, it seemed to us teenage weedheads that we were on the cutting edge of social change, but the Jeff Spicoli Nation never came to fruition, did it? Nowadays, America is perhaps more socially tolerant toward the herb -- I confess to having been an adolescent doper without fear that I'll be hounded out of polite society for the revelation -- but the stuff is still illegal. (And thank God for that, as who would want to deprive the stoners of the undeniable frisson of their outlaw status?)

Yet the Young Turks generally view the gay-marriage debate as following in the historic path of Social Progress, an irresistible floodtide, so that such opposition as there is must speak in tones carefully measured, lest offense be given to the eventual winners of the debate.

Measured tones have never been my style. My defiance of the irresistable floodtide has been couched in reference to Roy Moore's concurrence in Ex Parte H.H., and I have defended my position by asserting that men and women are not equal in the sense of being fungible. (Men and women are different; therefore, a union of differences implies a natural complementarity inherently missing from same-sex relationships. Viva le difference!)

While it may have seemed that, in making such a bold assertion, I was merely engaged in my favorite sport of baiting Conor Friedersdorf (guilty, your honor), there is nevertheless a real and politically relevant argument involved, and I would be interested in stirring it up again, if only to gin up some weekend traffic. So, what say you? J.P. Freire? Ross Douthat? Helen Rittelmeyer? Perhaps some old geezers like Andrew Sullivan and Rod Dreher would also like to weigh in, as well. Linkbacks are guaranteed under the Full Metal Jacket Reach-Around Rule, and anyone else who wants to weigh in is welcome to leave a comment.

ADDENDUM: Comments are moderated, so if you want to call me a "faggot" -- hey, start your own blog.

UPDATE: Helen Rittlemeyer:
Being publicly pro-SSM is the quickest way for a young journalist to signal that he's one of the right-wingers it's okay to like. Haven't they heard that it's better to be feared than loved? Or, to put it less glibly, the real respectability of a solid argument is preferable to the worthless respectability one gets by being on the Harmless Right.
Note to Helen: Please install SiteMeter and Technorati at your blog, so as to keep track of your traffic and help others know when you're linking them. (Gee, you'd think a girl genius could figure these things out for herself!)


  1. A quibble:

    I believe that J. Moore's opinion in Ex Parte H.H. has more or less been entirely invalidated by the SCOTUS case of Lawrence v. Texas. The tidal shift towards gay marriage is seen by many (yes, even old "Turks") as a legal inevitability, not a political one.

    Also: Citing non-binding dicta written by a disgraced judge does not help your case.

  2. Thanks RS.
    You've given me hope that there is a brighter future for the Retaliban party.
    The young turks are on the right path to an enlightened politics. Unfortunately we have to wait for the old turks to die out.

  3. Thousands of years of civilization and no society that I know of considered homosexual marriage to be on a par with heterosexual marriage. Gay is not the new black. Homosexuals have equal protection with laws enforcing civil unions and such. But to demonize my belief that marriage is between a man and a woman as being bigoted and intolerant is absurd. Maybe the political battle over the issue is losing because of the uber liberal cultural mileau the left has spent 50 years engineering.

    It seems to me that same-sex marriage, or SSM, qua SSM is a symptom of larger forces that might be better resisted directly, rather than a prime battle-line in the sand itself. The issue is not legally recognizing same-sex unions with the same word used for opposite-sex ones, the issue is the wide variety of economic and cultural forces making the traditional family a harder and harder thing to build and sustain, among which are:

    - The complete divorce of sexual relationships from procreation, caused by widespread birth control adoption, which causes the sterile-by-definition same-sex couple to appear no worse or better than the sterile-by-choice hetero couple;

    - The toxic cultural emphasis on self-fulfillment, both emotionally and sexually, that sees personal gratification as more important than living up to public oaths;

    - No-fault divorce, and the use of what was meant to be an escape hatch for genuinely abused spouses as a back-door exit for "unfulfilled" ones;

    - The ridiculous increase of home prices, which have made it impossible for all but the wealthiest or most strictly financially disciplined families to raise children in an owned home on a single income;

    - The increasing legal interference in how children are raised by well-meaning but fascistically inclined public officials, which requires parents to fulfill stricter and more expensive standards of care while punishing them more and more stringently for any shortfall;

    - The complete inability to argue that some family structures may simply be inherently superior to others, for fear of diminishing or excluding those who either cannot or will not subscribe to that structure, or validating those who have caused abuse within that structure.

    I always find it telling that the SSA community only seriously began advocating for marriage once the rest of us had reduced it, through divorce and birth control, to something the SSA community felt they could live with. If the laws of no-fault divorce could be repealed, most SSA advocates, I suspect, would lose a lot of interest in the cause with amazing rapidity.

  5. Well I think that it simply goes to prove the prophetic words of R.L. Dabney about "northern conservatism" correct:

    It may be inferred again that the present movement for women’s rights will certainly prevail from the history of its only opponent, Northern conservatism. This is a party which never conserves anything. Its history has been that it demurs to each aggression of the progressive party, and aims to save its credit by a respectable amount of growling, but always acquiesces at last in the innovation. What was the resisted novelty of yesterday is today one of the accepted principles of conservatism; it is now conservative only in affecting to resist the next innovation, which will tomorrow be forced upon its timidity and will be succeeded by some third revolution; to be denounced and then adopted in its turn. American conservatism is merely the shadow that follows Radicalism as it moves forward towards perdition. It remains behind it, but never retards it, and always advances near its leader. This pretended salt bath utterly lost its savor: wherewith shall it be salted? Its impotency is not hard, indeed, to explain. It is worthless because it is the conservatism of expediency only, and not of sturdy principle. It intends to risk nothing serious for the sake of the truth, and has no idea of being guilty of the folly of martyrdom. It always, when about to enter a protest, very blandly informs the wild beast whose path it essays to stop, that its bark is worse than its bite, and that it only means to save its manners by enacting its decent role of resistance. The only practical purpose which it now subserves in American politics is to give enough exercise to Radicalism to keep it in wind, and to prevent its becoming pursy and lazy from having nothing to whip. No doubt, after a few years, when women’s suffrage shall have become an accomplished fact, conservatism will tacitly admit it into its creed, and thenceforward plume itself upon its wise firmness in opposing with similar weapons the extreme of baby suffrage; and when that too shall have been won, it will be heard declaring that the integrity of the American Constitution requires at least the refusal of suffrage to asses. There it will assume, with great dignity, its final position.

  6. The solution could be simple. Eliminate "marriage" as a concern of the state or federal government.

    Decide "marriage" is a religious ceremony, and leave all definitions and interpretations to individuals and religious and social organizations.

    We could take the interpretation that the government *is* involved in families. Define a family as one or more adults with one or more dependent children. Similar record keeping practices as with marriages - record the formation and name head of household for census, tax, and other legal purposes. Legal purposes would include authority to make a binding contract, register for selective service, and identify parents/guardians for dependent children. Insurance claims would apply to family of the insured - if the policy covered family members.

    Simply enumerating marriage as a religious rite, and not an action of the state, places this religious contention where it belongs - answered severally and individually by the churches and individuals affected.

  7. I think we're close to bliss, here. Pretty soon we'll be able to sell the argument that, since someone gets to (crude verb meaning "to copulate with") Kate Winslett--for example, then we all should have equal rights to do the same. If Ms. Winslett objects, we'll call her an (aforementioned crude verb)-o-phobe.

    I should also have the right to live in your house. All hail the new equal rights!

    "How much for the women?" --Jake Blues
    "The government should pay for that" --Nancy Pelosi

  8. "Pretty soon we'll be able to sell the argument that, since someone gets to (crude verb meaning "to copulate with") Kate Winslett--for example, then we all should have equal rights to do the same."

    The post above is a shining example of why Conservatism will lose the same-sex marriage debate. In fact, none of the posts manage to come close to a convincing argument against.
    You see, it's not so much a matter-of-time situation,as the " young turks" posit, but a matter of ineptitude in trying to come up with an intellectual argument for what is nothing more than a prejudice.
    But if I know anything about Retalibans, you guys will blame it on the media and you will go to sleep self-satisfied with the idea that it's some massive conspiracy to keep you wonderful to live in a world of no accountability.

  9. Young4Eyes:
    "You see, it's not so much a matter-of-time situation,as the " young turks" posit, but a matter of ineptitude in trying to come up with an intellectual argument for what is nothing more than a prejudice."

    This would be a reasonable criticism if the SSM movement actually was what it likes to present itself as, i.e. a reasonable and high-minded campaign for equal benefit of the legal rights of a venerable social institution.

    The problem is, (a) whenever a compromise arrangement is offered that grants all the legal rights while withholding the term "marriage", it is roundly rejected, and (b) several of the movement's leading advocates, Patti Ettelbrick and Michaelangelo Signorile among them, have openly admitted that they see the legalization of SSA marriage as exactly what their opponents fear it to be: a first step in the social denormalization of the concept of marriage itself.

    The SSM movement has never been about mere legal equality, it's ultimately about using the law to forcibly reshape culture by compulsory public validation -- about making it illegal to exercise freedom of speech by outlawing particular opinions, or to exercise freedom of association by outlawing particular choices of who you do or don't enter into legal contracts with. The tendencies of this kind of lawmaking should be dangerous enough that even those who see no moral problem with same-sex marriage should nonetheless be wary of that particular approach to accomplishing it.

  10. Y4E Wrote: "The post above is a shining example of why Conservatism will lose the same-sex marriage debate."

    And yet you don't seem to provide a reason why that post serves as such an example. You just mock it, and hey, why not. I mock stuff too, but I don't skip over the propositional logic, and head straight to the cheap, easy stuff.

    "In fact, none of the posts manage to come close to a convincing argument against."

    Easy to disparage. Why not pick up some of the points made and refute them?

    "You see, it's not so much a matter-of-time situation,as the 'young turks' posit, but a matter of ineptitude in trying to come up with an intellectual argument for what is nothing more than a prejudice."

    You know these guys personally? You know them to be prejudiced? You know me to be prejudiced? I don't think so.

    "But if I know anything about Retalibans, you guys will blame it on the media and you will go to sleep self-satisfied with the idea that it's some massive conspiracy to keep you wonderful to live in a world of no accountability."

    You left out the kitchen sink in that string of unrelated accusations.

    The single, biggest argument put forth by those who wish to redefine marriage is the "equal rights" non-sequitur. It fails the test of reason. However, fact that the institution of marriage is already under great stress doesn't help the situation. Some action is probably necessary.

    My personal opinion is similar to the point made by Brad K. I think this is a splendid time for a council of churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, etc. to sit down and define marriage. Aside from being a splendid row, it would be a healthy thing for them to do.

    They should give it new terminology, and they should be explicit with their definitions. Anyone else using the same terminology for non-complying circumstances would simply not be recognized by any of those entities. The state can come up with it's own terms and terminology, and where they differ, then it would be a matter of jurisdiction (in the general sense), and law.

    Thus your new, "sanctified union" would be different from the state's "civil union," but only when applying law. In social settings, you could follow your creed and use your preferred terminology.

  11. K-Bob, if you can't figure out what was wrong with your comment then you are damn near hopeless.
    But let me break down your buffoonery for you since you insist.
    Your example of copulating with Kate Winslet and therefore everyone having the right to do the same is so weak as to not merit a response.Here's the deal: If you get to copulate with KW, then I in turn get to copulate with whomever I want. The idea that any kind of social interaction would be exclusive to any group is by definition prejudiced.Here's another piece of idiodicy posted by another moron:
    "it's ultimately about using the law to forcibly reshape culture by compulsory public validation -- about making it illegal to exercise freedom of speech by outlawing particular opinions..."
    Outlawing particular opinions?
    Anyway, I can't help but think that you fellas would've been screaming bloody murder when Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights bill. After all, there was no referendum on that issue and it was using the law to " forcibly reshape culture".
    What Conservative Retalibans don't get is that there is no argument to defend your quest to hold on to your " way-of-life" ( an argument often heard down South by those who did not want to lose hold of their prejudices).
    So keep trying! Maybe you will stumble upon some convincing argument that would put a positive spin on your insistence for dictating other peoples lives.
    What do you know about liberty?

  12. "Outlawing particular opinions?"

    Yes, outlawing particular opinions. I'm writing from Canada, where our government's so-called Human Rights Commissions can fine people thousands of dollars, and cost them thousands more in legal fees if they contest a ruling, simply for expressing opinions that are "likely to expose" any defineable group to "hatred or contempt". And when I say "any" defineable group, I mean of course any group except conservatives, whites, men, Christians, and so on. Try reading the blog for a direct personal experience with the HRCs, and citations of many more, including the Alberta pastor who was fined $5,000 for simply writing a letter. If, in Canada, you argue that there is real clinical, sociological and psychological evidence to indicate that SSA marriage may not be an unalloyed good and that SSA relationships in general have inherent psychological weaknesses, you can be fined or jailed for simply publishing that argument; there is no need to refute it or counter it, only to prove you wrote it. If that isn't outlawing an opinion, what is?

    And if you don't see the difference between arbitrary discrimination based on skin colour and rational evaluation based on behavioural history, then I don't think we're the ones showing our prejudice here. When a community which has historically always shown not only no interest in the strictures of marriage but active disdain for the principles of monogamy, fidelity and permanence that define it -- and when the majority of that community continues to do so -- it's a bit difficult to take a sudden campaign to redefine it to their preferences as anything other than propaganda. I would very much like to see how many SSA people in the stereotypical SSM protest would actually want to get married themselves, and how many fully intend to make it a lifelong commitment if they do.

  13. Y4H, you exposed the weakness of the "rights" argument. Clearly any man has the right to "marry" any willing woman, and vice versa. Conflating a social institution with "social interaction" in order to sell the logically impaired "rights" argument only compounds the error.

    With that doubly-flawed argument, you serve up accusations of prejudice, stupidity, and idiocy. The name-calling and evocation of the old south (dominated by which party during the peak of the civil rights marches?) just serve to highlight intolerance of those with whom you disagree.

    Being a "buffoon" I could be wrong, but I'm guessing that could hamper the success of your argument.

  14. Guys, it's hard to keep up with all your feeble arguments, ,especially on a point-by-point basis. I'll nevertheless try...
    To anonymous in Canada:I don't know enough about the politics up yonder to argue over the validity of your claim. All I can say is that it is telling of the Canadian character to put up with that kind of oppression if it is true.On the other hand, this is the same kind of slippery-slope argument often used by the Right to suppress any progress in any direction. It is our constitutional right to express our views, and only we the people have the power to give that up.But no one here is arguing about the right to self-expression. That you do not see it fit that homosexuals should marry is one thing, and for your opinion to be law is another.
    K-Bob, nice try.
    But for all you verbal gymnastics you could not quite get to your point which is that you have none.I did not conflate a 'social institution" with a social interaction; you took care of that with your asinine Kate Winslet argument.
    And maybe you should get off of your talk-radio high horse with your delusion that it was the Republican party that led the fight for Civil Rights, as if we don't know that Southern Democrats eventually left the party as a result of being forced to "change their ways".
    You see Bob-O, there is a difference between citing facts, like the intolerance of Southern values, and prejudice,as in your belief that homosexuals do not have the right to marry.
    But we can sum it up very easily; you wish to impose your values on others, most likely based on your religious beliefs.How would you feel if someone tried to impose their religious beliefs, lets say Muslim beliefs, on you?
    I would guess you'd be injected with a shot of good ol' Liberalism to get you through.
    Once again, you have failed to form a coherent argument for why homosexuals do not have the right to marry. That you do not want them to because it makes you feel better just isn't good enough.

  15. Y4H, I apologize. I assumed you might be willing to move away from the use of vaporous disparagement, and actually tackle the major problem with the "rights" argument.

    The tactic of attacking those with whom you disagree rather than engage the points of the argument is tedious and boring. It makes up the vast waste of bandwidth comprising the discussion threads and boards.

    It defends no position.

    It convinces no one.