Tuesday, June 17, 2008
There's probably nothing wholly original in this piece, but sometimes, circumstances just get so out of whack that someone has to blow a school yard whistle and bring everything to a screeching halt. Sometimes, you just have to stop everything it its tracks in order to re-calibrate reality. And this week's legalization of gay marriage in California seemed like one such occasion.
In case you've been out of the solar system, it is -- for the short term, at least -- now totally and completely legal for gays and lesbians to legally marry. That's right, the ceremony that has been idealized for generations has now undergone a somewhat radical change in that it is no longer the exclusive province of one man and one woman.
Well, that's not entirely true. If you go back in history, you'll find all sorts of marriages between men, my favorite being among Roman emperors who seemed to possess a pronounced inclination toward (and actually married) well-oiled musclemen. But I digress.
Today, the most noticeable effect of gay marriage isn't between gays and lesbians who marry each other; it's among the people who disapprove of gays and lesbians marrying each other. Typically, these are bible-thumping folks who devote their days to disrupting the lives of others in the name of Jesus, God, Allah or whatever name by which they refer to The Invisible Giant. Most of these people call themselves "conservatives", but in truth, they are the farthest thing from it.
If you're really a Conservative, you espouse the basic theory fundamental to all Conservative theory, that being pretty much the following:
The government is here to defend my civil and physical freedom.
See, the whole point of Conservative philosophy is to not get involved in other people's affairs because you don't want anyone meddling in yours. Even if you're the most religious guy in the world, completely secure in the knowledge that your neighbor is going to eternally burn in hell for whatever people burn in hell for, Conservative theory states you have no business, obligation or standing in your neighbor's decision.
If you're a true Conservative, you believe that as long as nobody hurts anyone else, everyone should be free to do what they can in order to better their own lives. That means you can't tell anyone what to eat, whom to date or how to hold their fork at dinner. It's their individual choice. And what could be more American than that?
In stark contrast to Conservatism is Liberalism, which believes that government owes its citizens far more than defense of civil and physical freedoms. Liberals believe in social responsibility and helping those less fortunate, because in the real world, everyone is not created equal. Some people are born with birth defects; others into a racial or economic class from which there is no escape. Liberals believe there's nothing wrong in assisting reality in order to level the playing field and give everyone a shot at a better life.
Of course, there's a trade off with Liberalism: In order to get stuff, you have to give up stuff, most notably, your personal freedom. Which brings me to the weirdest question of all:
If gay marriage conforms to the Conservative ideals of government protecting individual freedoms, why would so-called Conservatives be against it? If anything, Conservatives should be its most ardent defenders, beating back the prying eyes and ears of a government whose founding articles are based on individual freedoms. If anything, the opponents of gay marriage should be Liberals, whose philosophical platform actually endorses a government's right to intervene amongst individuals' affairs.
Personally, I don't care who you marry or how or why. Just make sure you don't leave your trash on my lawn, eh?