Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Fulfillment and Enjoyment

David French explains how he went from being a tepid supporter of same-sex marriage to a staunch defender of traditional marriage. He feels that his intellectual journey is instructive. He's right.

Here's why he supported it (or at least, didn't oppose it quite as much as he does now):

I have a strong libertarian streak and was completely fed up with the cavalier way in which the Christian community treated its own marriage vows.
You'd think that a man with a "strong libertarian streak" would recognize that other people's marriage vows are none of his fucking business, whether they call themselves Christians or not. At least, that's what you'd think if you failed to remember that for most conservatives, the term "libertarian" is as superficial and ephemeral as a rub-on tattoo.

The problem, it turns out, was not that people weren't taking marriage vows seriously enough, but that the State was letting them get away with it. Like many people who have an unhealthy fascination with the intimate lives of strangers, French justified his preoccupations by getting sentimental about children:
I initially approached the marriage question from a fundamentally incorrect starting position — implicitly adopting the argument that marriage exists for the benefit of adults, for their fulfillment and enjoyment. This is a fundamentally selfish view of marriage (I’m getting married to fulfill me). Instead, marriage is the fundamental building block of the family, the cultural cornerstone of a society, and it exists primarily for the benefit not of adults but of children.
So selfishness may not be a virtue, after all? Maybe French's libertarian streak isn't as strong as he thinks.

As for me, I'm a radical post-postmodern Islamosocialist who hates truth and beauty, so naturally I think marriages that provide adults with fulfillment and enjoyment tend to be healthier for children than ones that are undertaken as a grim duty.

We tolerate out-of-wedlock births, French says, in order "to avoid 'stigmatizing'...the adult." This is a serious error on our part. If we could somehow find the courage to stigmatize the adult — by which I assume he means "the woman" — we could shame these goddamn sluts into marriage by threatening to stigmatize their children as bastards. It worked pretty well in Victorian fiction, so why wouldn't it work even better now that we've got the Internets?
We consented to no-fault divorce and increases in single parenting in part because there was “no proof” that it was bad for us.
In part, maybe. But mostly, "we" consented to it because the existing divorce laws were stupid, and blatantly misogynist, and often obliged people to commit perjury or worse. Afterward, there were more single parents not because the law encouraged it, but because the law stopped compelling people to live together against their will. It's a subtle distinction, granted, but a libertarian like French ought to be able to appreciate it all the same.

French cites studies showing that kids tend to be happier when their parents are in a committed relationship. You'd think this might be an argument for legalizing same-sex marriage. But he actually uses heterosexual divorce as an argument against legalization:
[T]here’s no proof that same-sex parenting harms kids. It’s a recent phenomenon, and the data just isn’t in. Yet we know that the traditional family is good for kids. We know that every other long-term family permutation has proven bad for kids. How can we logically justify taking yet another risk with our cornerstone cultural institution?
French knows that he can't outlaw same-sex relationships, so he attempts to satisfy the urge by consigning the children of gay couples to a sort of legal limbo, on the grounds that their parents must remain second-class citizens for the good of the state. In the topsy-turvy world of social conservatism, this is known as "protecting the innocent."

Since he's blind to virtually every real-world implication of his ideology, it's no surprise that French finds it "relatively simple" to reverse our moral decline.
Hold the line on same-sex marriage, try to roll back the pernicious, adult-worshipping institution of no-fault divorce through innovations like covenant marriage, and — crucially — model the right behavior by denying self and serving others in your own life and marriage.
I don't believe it's reasonable to call covenant marriage an "innovation." Nor do I believe Christians will be any less "cavalier" about such vows than they were back when French supported gay marriage.

More to the point, it makes no sense to do away with no-fault divorce on the grounds that some married people have children, even if you're deranged enough to believe that forcing parents to stay married benefits children.

Unless French's aim is not to protect children, but to keep women in line. But what are the odds of that?

The larger problem with legalizing same-sex marriage is that treating it as a constitutional right would deny bigots their constitutional right to deny constitutional rights to people they despise. This is a slippery slope indeed: if the courts keep protecting gay rights, gay rights will eventually be protected.

Worse yet, this could threaten "the tax exemptions of every biblically orthodox church in America"!

Won't somebody please think of the children?


Anonymous said...

And while we're at it, speaking of Victorian times, those were the good old days, weren't they? Like when women could be divorced on the grounds of adultery, but not men, since men, you know, can't help it. Women could get a divorce on the grounds of unusual cruelty, but std's they got from wandering h's weren't considered unusually cruel. Right. The good old days.

Rmj said...

Well, now you made me read that post so I could check the provenance of that final quote.

I'm not sure I can forgive you for that....

Makarios said...

Worse yet, this could threaten "the tax exemptions of every biblically orthodox church in America"!

From your mouth to Dog's ears.

Oh, and that "libertarian" label? As FDR said, no matter how thin you slice it, it's still baloney. Those angry white people may call themselves "libertarian," but almost all of them will vote Republican every time. Betcha a nickel.

Phila said...

I'm not sure I can forgive you for that....

You will forgive me; it's your business!

Phila said...

Right. The good old days.

Well, you have to admit that children were safer back then, intellectually speaking. Working fourteen hours in a textile mill leaves you with very little time for the perverted arts.