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The Right Questions: Part Four [Apr. 1st, 2011|11:00 am]
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There's a new slogan running around GOPland: "Social conservatism IS fiscal conservatism."   In other words, if you're a tidy-whitie upright person who does everything by the rules of the religious right-wing (self-defined as social conservatives)--if you hate feminists, gays, lesbians, transsexuals, and "immorality" (mostly defined as a sexual practice that squicks you or your religious leader, but also including abortion and "substance abuse") then you're a social conservative and by golly, along with that bundle of shining goodness, you are by definition also a fiscal conservative, which means you'll be fine no matter what austerity measures come along.   The link between the two is intended to firmly cement the relationship between the religious right and the profit-before-anything political right, a relationship that trembled a bit for a year or two when the religious right actually read some parts of Scripture they'd been ignoring (that bit about feeding the hungry and housing the homeless) and began to question whether profit really was as holy as the political right insisted.    Some even began to question right-wing environmental policies on the grounds that if God created it, just maybe humans shouldn't trash it.

But let's take a look at the thinking behind "social conservatism" as expressed in the various GOP outlets.   Take for instance the outcry over gay marriage, and the insistence that "real" marriage (a man and a woman kind) needs to be "defended" from gay marriage.   Just exactly how is gay marriage supposed to threaten non-gay marriage?   I speak as a woman who's been married over forty years to the same man.   Anyone married as long as me  knows what really strengthens or threatens a marriage---it's the character and behavior of the people in the marriage.  Period.   That luscious young thing working in my husband's office doesn't threaten my marriage, not if my husband and I are faithful partners and honorable people.    That handsome guy I meet at a convention doesn't threaten my marriage, not if my husband and I are faithful partners and honorable people.   It's up to us--not anyone else--to abide by the terms of that marriage.   We--and we alone--are responsible for our behavior.   

So if two men, or two women, get married, that does not affect my marriage at all.  Zero.  Zip.   If I don't want to think about what they do in bed--or elsewhere--then I need to discipline myself not to think about it.  It's not my business.  (It's not my business what other man/woman couples do in bed.  Only if sex involves an unwilling partner is it society's--and thus my--business.)

What's lacking in the claims that gay marriage "attacks" traditional marriage is a mechanism....because the mechanism does not exist.   How, exactly, does the existence of male or female couples "ruin" or "soil" or otherwise damage traditional marriage?    Does the existence of gay marriage force partners in a traditional marriage to break their vows?  No.    Does the existence of gay marriage make good traditional marriages turn bad?  No, again.  The only people who can ruin a marriage are the people in the marriage.  Other people can contribute to the stress of a marriage (interfering relatives,  the demanding boss that fires you or hits on your spouse, etc.) but even then the people in the marriage are the ones who determine what happens in the marriage.   Not outsiders.  

Here's another social conservative bugaboo: immigration.   Technically, we're all immigrants.  Humans did not originate on this continent (in this hemisphere, in fact.)   All of us have ancestors somewhere else, some farther back than others.   And yet the GOP and social conservatives have their knickers in a knot about immigrants now (well, some immigrants) and  there's been a strain of "no more, and not from there" for a long time.   The same arguments against immigrants are used now that were used in the 1800s with the first Irish immigrants (one of them very likely the "sickly Irishman" a foremother of mine married.)   They're dirty, they speak a different language, they have too many children, they don't look like "us" (whatever "us" that happens to be in that generation.)  Some of the people who now rail against immigrants come from an immigrant population that was, in its turn, despised and rejected.   I met one on the train awhile back--Italian, born here of Italian immigrants, and convinced that "those" immigrants were everything I know Italians were called.    It would've been funny, but...it's not.   Some immigrants, of course, are trouble on the half-shell.  Some of those probably lurk in the background of lots of us--they were transported to the colonies as criminals, indentured for a term of years.  Some of them reformed; some of them didn't.  The criminals we have always with us.  And if we have a pot of gold (or apparent pot of gold) that's going to draw the interest of criminals.   (If the U.S. were not such a lucrative market for illicit drugs,  the drug trade would not target it.)  It makes no sense to claim (as even the GOP has done) that this country has had the benefit of many good immigrants (in former times) but all the new ones are likely to be nothing but an expense.  (It's particularly nonsensical when the GOPer in question has some working on his/her yard and house, or for his/her company.)  

What social conservatism wants to do is control people over whom it has no legitimate authority...and to do that, is willing to pass laws that contravene basic human rights, rights that were mentioned in the Declaration of Independence and put into the Constitution.    To make this even marginally palatable, social conservatives make up reasons that have no mechansm attached (such as "gay marriage endangers traditional marriage.")    For any of the claims of social conservatism, the right questrions include "How does that work, exactly?" with the addition of "So...you're saying that individuals you consider "good" are not responsible for their own behavior--that they can blame others?"     


[User Picture]From: mecurtin
2011-04-01 05:29 pm (UTC)
Just exactly how is gay marriage supposed to threaten non-gay marriage?

They don't say it -- they may not even be conscious of it -- but there really is a way.

Things that are equal to the same thing are equal to each other. If man+man=man+woman, then man=woman. Same-sex marriage undermines the patriarchy, it makes the equality of men & woman blatant.

So, if your heterosexual marriage is actually traditional -- that is, the man is dominant just because he's male, the woman is submissive just because she's female, God said, you believe it, that settles it -- then the visible presence of same-sex marriages definitely is a threat. The *real* threat is those of use who are in egalitarian heterosexual marriages, but same-sex spouses are a clear indicator that we are out there, undermining patriarchial prerogatives in our sneaky fashion.
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[User Picture]From: xrian
2011-04-02 04:24 am (UTC)
The spiel you usually hear from "defenders" of patriarchal marriage is that marriage is THE foundation of society. Without marriage, the theory goes, civilization or any kind of structured society would be impossible.

If you probe deep enough, the underlying reasoning seems to be that your family, growing up, is how you learn How Things Should Be: children subordinate to parents who exercise authority for the children's own good, wives subordinate to husbands who are tough and do what needs to be done. Without this key experience of being a subordinate and knowing who's boss and how to relate to them, people would be unable to function in any situation where people have to work together to accomplish something. There must always be bosses and subordinates or society would fall apart. (Egalitarians are all just denying this obvious truth and _pretending_ to be equal.)

(Needless to say, I disagree.)
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From: paulliver
2011-04-02 09:39 pm (UTC)
I like your parallel. I was trying to explain that to a friend of mine last week, but I couldn't find the right words and took three times as long to explain it.

But I do think psychologically we expect the world to be like our family (which is different from insisting that the world be like that) and are surprised when it isn't. My mom was pretty much the boss in my family (and a CPA), and I was in the fifth grade before I had male teacher (outside of PE), so on the one hand, I get along pretty well with women I work with, but I never really got the hang of being a member of the sexually assertive gender.

I read an argument that someone (man or woman) should only get married if they are a good employee, because the emotions of a spouse should be that of an employee. The writer's ideas about marriage were all about mutual self-sacrifice. Sounds like a good idea, unless you marry someone who knows how to take advantage of it.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-04-01 07:04 pm (UTC)
I still disagree. Just because burglars are out there (and they are) does not force people who aren't burglars to burgle. Just because egalitarian marriages are out there does not force those who believe in a patriarcal arrangement to change it.

That may be why they're telling themselves it's so awful...but I don't think that's a mechanism; I think it's an excuse.
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[User Picture]From: mecurtin
2011-04-01 08:50 pm (UTC)
Burglary is not the same as the patriarchy.*g* A closer analogy is paying taxes. If there are more than a certain number of visible tax-dodgers, it *does* make it harder for the law-abiding to pay taxes. Unless almost everyone pays taxes, no-one will voluntarily pay taxes.

One of the real, significant props for traditional patriarchal marriage is the idea that it is *inevitable*, that you *have* to do it. It's too unfair and restrictive to keep going on its own merits, it has to be supported by the surrounding culture or it collapses.

This, I think, is part of what Orson Scott Card is trying to get at in his embarrassing flails against SSM. He pretty much comes out and says that if he had had a free choice, he would have married a man -- so having been forced into a choice that is difficult for him, he needs society to help him stay there. His unfreedom is only tolerable if it is inevitable and shared.
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From: paulwoodlin
2011-04-01 10:42 pm (UTC)
Which pretty much sums up why the Right must be getting so frustrated. The model that worked (for them) isn't any more. Businesses are investing their profits abroad, creating jobs in Asia. Ironically, it is the fiscal conservatives who are undermining the religious conservatives by doing so. This deterioration has been occuring for years, but we papered over it with credit cards and other debt. Our prosperity has been an illusion for decades.
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From: paulwoodlin
2011-04-01 10:45 pm (UTC)
And sometimes not even then. I know a closet homosexual who is also an alcoholic, he only talks about it he's had a lot to drink. His wife is as unhappy as he is, as you can imagine.

Do you have a link to the Card semi-confessional? I don't want to mention it to others without seeing it for myself.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-04-09 12:51 am (UTC)
So...because he suffers, everyone else in the same boat should suffer?

I don't think so.

He was raised in a culture that valued patriarchal control; his books reveal a (to me unhealthy) interest in pain, force, and control.
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[User Picture]From: made_of_paradox
2011-04-06 01:02 pm (UTC)
The thing is, there are those who believe in the patriarchal arrangement that want it forced down everyone else's throat, as well, and they're not content to be left alone and leave others alone. I think that is where the real problem lies -- between the ears of those who would force their beliefs on everyone else, given the opportunity. (And there are those that will take the opportunity without permission, given any way to do so.)

And, if their faith in the patriarchy is brittle enough, the existence of anything else is a threat to that.
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From: paulwoodlin
2011-04-01 10:54 pm (UTC)
Too bad for them that Fiscal Conservativism isn't Social Conservativism, since Fiscal Conservatives don't care about family values unless it sells products, and they jack up housing prices so both partners have to work to keep a roof over their heads.

I also think it's interesting that the more creativity is required for a job, the more socially liberal the employers are. It doesn't surprise me at all that IBM, Microsoft, and Disney covered gay partners in company insurance programs: they need talent and don't want it heading for other companies.
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[User Picture]From: tenantofwildfel
2011-04-02 12:33 am (UTC)
Thank you for encouraging all of us to ask these questions.

Political ideology largely depends on not questioning some stances too deeply, and our current zeitgeist also discourages questions. Instead, it prefers polarization, choosing a label and defending it simply because it is your label.

I agree with most everything you've been posting so far, and I look forward to reading any more question posts you write. I've had to ask myself a number of these questions over the years. I'm from a polarized family near Flint, MI. I was a child in the 80s, when my friends' parents were being laid off by GM. In that atmosphere, I grew up to be strongly pro-labor. Half of my family thinks like I do. The other half falls into the model you've mentioned in this post--they're evangelical, socially conservative, fiscally conservative, and believe in "business friendly government." As I child, I puzzled over the contradictions between their faith and their politics. Over time, I learned that people can indeed hold such contradictory views.

As I've grown older (I'm 34, so I think I qualify as an adult, now), I've interrogated my own political beliefs, asking many of these same questions. I don't always have answers to them, but I keep looking just the same.
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[User Picture]From: mecurtin
2011-04-02 02:53 am (UTC)
I honestly believe that this goes on wholesale.

I have never heard of people doing this, so I doubt it. I wouldn't be surprised if there were local, "retail" operations -- especially in association with certain churches -- but I've never heard of it being done on a wide scale. What's your evidence?
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-04-09 12:53 am (UTC)
Two Anonymous comments have been deleted (if I'd seen 'em sooner, they'd have been deleted sooner. I don't like Anonymous comments and should, of course, have hit the button to screen such.)

To be blunt, if you're going to argue with me, have the courage to put your name on your argument.
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[User Picture]From: arcadiagt5
2011-04-10 04:40 am (UTC)
I have my LJ set to screen non-Friend & non-LJ comments by default.

Then again I don't get as many comments as you do, so deleting the spam isn't such an issue.

Here for this series of essays by way of stephen_dedman, and enjoying them immensely.
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