Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Anti-conservative, Conservative

In our debates, Travis noted that marriage as an institution had been around for "150,000" years. This is false. Pair bonding has been around for closer to a million years (maybe longer as it is clear that it occurs in many species). Marriage as an institution, formalized by society has probably been around for maybe 15,000 years, certainly for our recorded history of about 7,000 years.

Of course, whether it is 7,000 or 150,000 years, Travis' point is that the institution of marriage has been a man and a woman for a very, very long time. That debate also brought up this definition of conservatism - stolen from Gribbit's site:

a: disposition in politics to preserve what is established b: a political philosophy based on tradition and social stability, stressing established institutions, and preferring gradual development to abrupt change; the tendency to prefer an existing or traditional situation to change.

The problem of course is that this political philosophy is not based on individual rights. I brought up slavery as a traditional, established institution that was ended in this country not by gradual change, but by war.

Pair bonding among gays has been going on as long as our recorded history. The fact that a government institution imposes restrictions on it's benefits because of a prejudicial and anti-individual viewpoint should be cause for concern, not rejoicing.

I oppose the positions of anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage and anti-gay adoption because they are all positions where the state is used to enforce a moral viewpoint upon the liberties and freedoms of others. Any argument supporting those positions is inherently based on the premise that the state has a right, an obligation, to enforce a moral behavior by individuals on individuals in spite of their inalienable rights and I reject that premise as did our Founding Fathers.

Update: Last night I was working on the above post in my actually kept popping up each time I stirred overnight. By the time I sat down this morning to write it, it was gone, but I tried to get it back and basically failed. The above was a flailing about a concept that seemed to have deserted me.

The point of my post last night, that I finally recalled upon listening to Rush while going for lunch, was traditionalism:

an established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior: cultural continuity in social attitudes, customs, and institutions

After living and working with Victoria all these years, I have learned the legal concept: words have meaning. Isn't that Travis' point? That marriage means something that gay marriage does not? Maybe. Pair bonding has gone on, is going on, without any benefit of 'marriage'. People form bonds AND THEN get societies blessing in the form of a public marriage (wedding) and a legal marriage (license). Except in a few societies and cultures where marriages occur and then everyone HOPES there will be a pair bonding, the bond is the issue addressed by all the moral hand wringing.

Traditionalists want what has been good to be kept and what was bad to be left behind. But WHEN does something go from good to bad? How does anyone know except when others challenge the tradition/status quo?

People want traditionalists to reflect on the value of their customs on a more frequent basis. It is possible, even likely, that what might have been good 1,000 years ago, isn't now. Too long a time frame? It is possible what was good, slavery, 250 years ago, isn't now, or wasn't 150 years ago.

Pair bonding among gays has been going on as long as pair bonding among straights - that is MY opinion but based on recorded history, it is likely true. The fact that the number of same sex couples is small - then and even now - does not make it less 'normal' for a population. Interracial marriages were banned for centuries - still are in many places; inter-religious marriages were/are banned; They were/are banned because some tradition decided that pair bonding across some groups was detrimental to society. Some may argue that there is a qualitative difference between interracial/inter-religious couples and same sex couples and in general, I don't disagree. But as those banned marriages were in fact constructs, not functional differences, it is clear that traditionalists are not bound by simple things like gender and that the constructs were restrictions based on 'because we think it is wrong...'

Travis pointed out that gay couples don't procreate and therefore, don't work - in the sense they don't support the need for society to grow. This is a false argument. Society does not need every couple to replace itself. Society doesn't care if one couple has one child and another couple has 10 as long as in the end, there are sufficient children to grow society. Our, my, argument that couples past child-bearing age or non-capable couples do not result in society banning them from marriage. But that is beside the point, over thousands of years, gay couples continue to exist. It is a NORMAL variation in the species. You can't breed homosexuality out of the human genome (at least not yet). It is as ingrained as pair bonding.

To deny gays the same rights, because of a genetic difference, is at the heart of prejudice.

Travis complains that we seek to redefine marriage, an institution that is part of our genetic makeup. He is wrong. Pair bonding is what is at the heart of marriage. The institutions that society has created to formalize and bless those bondings are part of a tradition that NEEDS to be questioned and tested for relevance and value regularly.

Those traditions that deny the rights of one group are incompatible with our Constitution, incompatible with the principles set down by our Founding Fathers. That it took us 80 years to abolish slavery - the consequences of which are still with us today - speaks more to the intransigence of traditionalists than to the ability or inability of our institutions to change.

Our society is changing, it is only going to happen faster as we move forward. There are potential events on the horizon that will shake traditions and institutions to their core and unless we establish a foundation (already done for us, we just need to really embrace it) that has the ability to change with them, we will not survive, as a society, maybe as a species.

Time for traditionalists to embrace Conservatism.

Cross-posted with American Conservative Party (subscriber only discussion)

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