Monday, June 20, 2011

How We Piss Each Other Off

I don't think I've ever read anything by Robert Morrison before. But today my favorite sites were full of links to heartwarming remembrances of fathers, and one of them led me to this article of Mr. Morrison's. Much of it shares the way that his father managed to embody some of the best attributes of a father, managing to be both a role model and a friend. Here's a good sample:
My dad was a carpenter and he left the house every morning before dawn. The good part of that is that he would often return in the late afternoon. I can remember as a little boy of nine or ten wrestling with “Pop” on the TV room floor when he came home. He was still sweaty and often had sawdust in his hair and on his clothes.
Nice, comforting stuff on a day that we're meant to think of our dads, to honor their virtues, to do something for them. But then, after recalling a moment when his father stood up for him, Morrison concludes:
We kids grew up feeling safe, protected in our tender years. One of George Washington’s great contemporaries, Edmund Burke, wrote of something called “the cheap defense of nations.” Fathers in the home were surely a part of that cheap defense. Without fathers in the home, there won’t be enough money in the U.S. treasury or all the treasuries in the world to guard the young against bullying.

New York State, my home state, is on the verge of abolishing fathers in the home. They say they are only “re-defining” marriage. They’re not. They are ending it. And with the end of marriage, will come the dissolution of the state. Gone will be the cheap defense of nations. And no one will know what it means “to sleep with my fathers.”
Is there any logical connection between the sentiment at the beginning of the first paragraph and where Morrison ends up? (Go read the article if you think I'm leaving something out. I'm not.) Now, I know what he's getting at: New York is trying to pass a law recognizing same-sex marriage--a fact which is never actually mentioned in the article--and many conservatives feel this will lead to a sustained assault on traditional marriage and the values that underpin it. But how in the heck does this article effectively make the case that this is so?

Morrison paints a moving, emotional portrait of his strong, reliable father, and then asserts out of nowhere that such men will be driven out of existence if gay marriage becomes a legal reality. Really? So Morrison's carpenter father, in a world where people of the same sex can legally wed, would have become and effeminate, uncaring, unreliable disgrace to fatherhood?

I've written previously that I think the state has no business licensing romantic relationships between individuals. If marriage isn't in some fundamental way about procreation, and thus bringing up the next generation of citizens, then marriage should be removed from the legal system and defined by the religious institutions that marry people. But I get the counter-argument of Morrison and those who think like him: traditional, procreative marriage is a cornerstone of civilization, and pulling it out could cause profound social disruption and decay. But even in that grim scenario, men like Morrison's father should still be able to act out the role God and nature have defined for them.

But aside from disagreeing with Morrison's point, I believe writing of the type I linked to causes a further breakdown of the already disastrous debate between left and right in this country. If a gay-marriage advocate reads that article, there is no chance they'll find it thought provoking or convincing. Instead, it will piss them off every which way, and some of them will probably write pieces stating that everyone against gay marriage is a secret theocrat who wants to force Christian beliefs on everyone. And that, in turn, will lead to more angry arguments from the other side.

The gay marriage debate is not one where people seem inclined to compromise. But a little temperance when speaking and writing, especially from traditional-marriage supporters who are supposed to be the defenders of a more refined, civilized point of view, would be a step in the right direction.

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