Saturday, November 11, 2006

Reluctantly ...

My interest in partisan politics all but vanished long ago, but by all indications I live in the bluest of the blue states. The victory of the Democrats here was a forgone conclusion, with or without the Iraq debacle. I may be wrong, but that debacle seems to me to have been due to the Bush administration’s rather naïve and residual liberalism, namely, its overestimation of the civilizing power of democracy and the market (absent the cultural and religious foundation which was the secret to the flourishing of these institutions in the West) and a commensurate underestimation of the role of religion in human affairs, for better or worse. It may have been the most generous assumption to make, but it was anthropologically naive. Bill Clinton’s famous “It’s the economy, stupid!” adage was the quintessential expression of the bread-and-circuses liberalism into which classical liberalism has devolved in both major parties and to which both unabashedly resort at election time. It’s not the economy, of course; it’s the culture that matters, and culture without roots in a living religious tradition is like a cut flower in a vase. You’d better enjoy it while you can.

In my neck of these darkening woods, the recent celebration of the referendum on the mismanagement of the Iraq war and the political and moral corruption of those too long in power was cut short by the important business of preventing a referendum on the meaning of marriage, the fear among the professional pols being that the citizens of this state might embarrass themselves by expressing an opinion not in keeping with the enlightened wisdom of their betters sitting in solemn counsel on appellate court benches and in an almost giddy ideological unanimity on Beacon Hill.

The people might be allowed to decide American foreign policy on the other side of the world – or at least to stick their fists in the air over the mess in Iraq – but they must not be allowed to interfere with the dismantling of the central institution of culture, upon which the future happiness and wellbeing of their children depends. That decision, say democracy's warm weather friends, is to be taken out of the hands of the great unwashed and left to the experts. The speaker of the Massachusetts House has gone on record as saying that lawmakers must make sure that the issue of same-sex marriage “never, ever appears as a question on the ballot.”

I’m a small-d democrat, even though I have a good many reservations about democracy. Hitler was elected after all. Whatever my reservations, however, I prefer naïve democrats to scheming ideologues. William Buckley’s famous quip about having more faith in the first hundred people in the New York City phone book than in the faculty of Harvard University is more apropos today than when he first said it, though one can hardly expect Solomonic wisdom in either case. Fundamental alterations in a society’s cultural, moral and anthropological structure should not be imposed by ideologues, which is what is now happening in Massachusetts and elsewhere. So, for what it’s worth, the following reflection, which I post with reluctance.

I don’t really think the push for same-sex marriage is about marriage. The great majority of those suffering from same-sex attraction are males, and the statistics on the male homosexual lifestyle are as irrefutable as they are disturbing. Studies have consistently shown that men suffering from same-sex attraction have, by comparison with heterosexual men, a staggering number of sexual partners. Even those who declare their desire for a permanent union often acknowledge the unlikelihood that it will mean strict fidelity.

People can, to use Pauline language, be “delivered over” to passions which are inordinately compulsive precisely because they are “objectively disordered.” Are these data the result of “homophobia”? Is such rampant promiscuity natural? Do we prefer our ideological hobby horses to social and psychological reality? None of this would make a lot of difference to me were it not for the fact that those driving this revolution are in the process of radically rearranging the social furniture and making a first-class mess of the world our children and grandchildren will inherit.

As to whether or to what extent same-sex attraction and the compulsions typically associated with it especially in male homosexuality are inherited, the scientific evidence is inclusive. Many researchers argue it is not. But even if this disorder is to a degree inherited, that does not make the sexual behavior of those afflicted by it natural. A predisposition for depression or alcoholism or aggressive behavior or chemical dependency or sickle cell anemia does not make these things natural in the sense of being thereby exempt from either moral concern or therapeutic efforts to offset the effects of the inherited predisposition. The etiology of other things that are intrinsically disordered – like bulimia, anorexia and pedophilia – is uncertain as well, but few people think it inappropriate to discourage bulimics, anorexics and pedophiles from trying to satisfy their compulsions.

Today, however, same-sex compulsions are being exempted from any such social, cultural, or moral reservations – to the very great detriment of those who engage in these behaviors. The statistics of psychological and social pathologies and the level of suffering associated with homosexual life-styles will make the eventual day of reckoning for their cheerful apologists a bitter one.

I often feel sorry for those smokers standing in the cold foyer puffing on a cigarette they are not allowed to smoke indoors, aware of how unconvincing is the charade of freedom they often feel obliged to maintain. The truth is that they are enslaved to an addiction, and that they would be much happier if they weren’t. The compulsions which are a statistical probability for males suffering from same-sex attraction are arguably less freely chosen in the first instance, but they are enslaving nonetheless and those enslaved by them would be far better off were they not so enslaved.

Researcher Mary Jo Anderson cites FBI statistics showing that violent crimes against gays by heterosexuals represent just .0001 percent of all violent crimes and a recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health showing that "39 percent of males with same-sex attraction have been abused by other males with same-sex attraction." How accurate these statistics are I cannot say, but they are undoubtedly a better approximation of the reality of the homosexual lifestyle than are the airbrushed and fog-filtered myths that our investigative journalists fail to investigate. The statistical misery associated with the “gay” lifestyle is copiously documented in respectable sources. Any journalist capable of spelling google could access these documents in seconds. If abstinence or chastity or wedded monogamy involved one one-thousandths of the physical, psychological and social dangers associated with the homosexual lifestyle, especially the male homosexual lifestyle, banner headlines would proclaim the perils.

In the world made tolerant of sexual deviance by earlier victories of the sexual liberationists, the material and social advantages of the married state are minor, while the corresponding obligations and responsibilities, if taken seriously, are not insignificant. No, the push for same-sex marriage is, I think, about respectability. It is about removing the moral onus that has attached to sodomy and the related forms of homosexual “sex” for millennia. More importantly, perhaps, it is about eliminating the lingering sense among sexually active homosexuals themselves of the “transgressive” nature of their sexual behavior.

The hope is that if sodomy is made morally and legally indistinguishable from the nuptial embrace of a married man and woman, then those living sexually active homosexual lifestyles will be relieved of the gnawing sense of illegitimacy and the commensurate feelings of indignity associated with their behavior. Those naïve enough to hold out this hope should remember that the ideologues have predicted this outcome at each and every step in the long march of the sexual revolution, and it hasn’t happened yet, and it won’t. In a variation on an old East Tennessee adage – No matter where you go, there you are – after all the social furniture is broken and marriage has ceased to have any distinctive shape, those living what we today call the homosexual lifestyle will still be haunted by misgivings and the histrionics typically employed to demonstrate the non-existence of these misgivings will ring even more hollow then they do today. The wreckage will have been for naught.

If the North American Man-Boy Love Association has its way and pedophilia is given a respectable place in the erotic repertoire of 21st century culture, or if adult incest is eventually afforded legal protection, does anyone think that the moral discomfort that haunts those who engage in such behaviors will vanish? There isn’t a plebiscite in the world that will remove that moral discomfort. Not a Supreme Court opinion. Not a personal letter from the Pope. Nothing. Except, cessation of the unnatural behavior. Dignity is a moral, not a legal or psychological or sociological, category. The dream of some is that, liberated from moral normativity, both social opprobrium of those offended by certain behaviors and the lingering moral misgivings of those who engage in them will vanish. It is a pipe-dream.

It is inconceivable to many today that those who refuse to repudiate the received wisdom of the ages in favor of the reckless indulgence of this one might be motivated by an empathy for the very people who have come to believe that the repudiation will end their suffering. But one doesn’t show compassion for a pedophile or an anorexic by making pedophilia and self-starvation into sacraments, or by listing them as respectable lifestyle options in public school textbooks. The Christian injunction against judgmentalism is not there to make us moral zombies. (Those who condemn others for “moralizing” are moralizing, even when the moral revolution they advance is normless hedonism.) Still less does the injunction against judging others justify placing several generations of young people in even greater moral and spiritual jeopardy than they are already by telling them, in effect, that the black diamond marker on the steep side of the snowy mountain is just a semiotic suggestion for those who decide they like that interpretation.

In my own way, I heartily agree with the Beacon Hill pol who feels that the issue of same-sex marriage should "never, ever appear on the ballot." The difference is that he doesn't trust what the people would do once they got to the voting booth and I don't think they should put to the trouble of going there in order to protect the single most culturally respected institution in the history of the world from those who have deep-seated ulterior motives for betraying it with a kiss.

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