Thanks again to Eugene for letting me in the forum this week.
In the end it comes down to this: Given that gay families exist, and are not going to be eliminated or converted by any means acceptable to the American people, what is to be done with them? Is it better for society that they be shunted aside, marginalized, ostracized, made to feel alien to traditional values and institutions? Or is it better that they be included in the fabric of American life, including the most important social institution we have for encouraging, recognizing, and reinforcing loving families? I can see why a sexual liberationist, or a radical of any stripe, might say, "Keep them out." I have never been able to understand how a conservative could say that.
In the end I doubt this issue will be decided on the basis of debaterish points and arguments. It will be decided on the basis of the lessons we tend to draw from the real-world experiences we have and the people we know. What I have tried to do is outline a different way of thinking about gay marriage that might allow the thoughtful traditionalist conservative to reconcile his innate and healthy suspicion of change with his insight that marriage really is good for people and their families.
Analogies can obfuscate, but in their own way they can distill a matter to its essence. In her last post two weeks ago, Maggie described the issue of gay marriage by use of a vivid analogy that I will never get out of my mind:
Imagine you stand in the middle of vast, hostile desert. A camel is your only means of transversing it, your lifeline to the future. The camel is burdened-- stumbling, loaded down, tired; enfeebled-- the conditions of the modern life are clearly not favorable to it. But still it's your only hope, because to get across that desert you need a camel.
Now, chop off its legs and order it to carry you to safety.
That's what SSM looks like, to me.
That's one way to see it. Here's another:
Imagine you stand with your loved one and child in the middle of a vast, hostile desert. You are burdened -- stumbling, loaded down, tired. These are the conditions of modern life for you and they are not favorable, but you've been trying to make it. To get across that desert you need a camel.
Along comes a caravan with a hundred camels, three of them with no riders, more than enough for you and your family. You plead to use them, agreeing to pay your way and live by their rules for the journey.
But they say, "No, you might disturb the camels we're riding on."
That's what the denial of marriage to gay families looks like, to me.
In a world where gay families had nothing to do with the problems marriage now faces, it's pretty odd to "defend" marriage by keeping them out. With these wholly unrelated challenges to marriage out there, William Eskridge recently said that defending marriage by opposing gay marriage is like building a Maginot Line. You get all excited about your fine fortress, you preen and prance around about your impending victory, you pop open some champagne, and then . . . the enemy sneaks through the Ardennes and overruns you.
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