Marriage, Politics, and Dogs

I must at the outset state that I personally don’t, as the good ol’ boys like to say, have a dog in this hunt. There was a time I might have, but at this stage of my life—our lives, my partner’s and mine—there is no personal blowback. At least not yet, but I’ll make a point about that later. I say this in order to assure people, some of whom will assume what they will no matter what, that I’m grinding no axes here other than my usual intolerance for duplicity, hypocrisy, and related misapplications of do-goodism.

First, watch this video:

Okay, the aspects of that report I wish to draw your attention to are primarily the shenanigans to which the NOM finds all manner of, surprisingly honest, excuses to indulge. Some borderline, some blatant, many violations of legal and ethical standards. They don’t like playing by the rules—rules, by the way, they would be the first to accuse their opponents of violating should the tables be turned—so they have written a playbook for evading, avoiding, or just ignoring them in order to accomplish their higher purpose.

Which is…

I’m still not entirely clear on this. The one aspect of religious intrusion into public and private life that has never made sense to me—sense in terms of what rational people might do or consider appropriate—is the insistence that even those who don’t accept their premises should nevertheless live according to their ideas. I mean, what is so hard about “live and let live” that they find it impossible to tolerate…differences.

Yes, you caught me, I’m being rhetorical. Satiric. Perhaps ironic.

We all do what we can to advance our agendas when compelled. I don’t deny it. I have no doubt that there are many underhanded, backdoor actions taken in behalf of things I approve in order to break down social and political resistance to them. Sometimes I shake my head at them, thinking “we didn’t need to do that, did we?” Other times, I look at the iron wall put up in opposition to things which I believe would be a net positive and I think “there’s only one way to get through that” and tacitly give my blessing to the party or organization that gets it done. I do have a moral metric about these things (and, of course, if you’re on the other side from me, ideologically, you will refuse to accept that I base anything on any kind of moral principle) and I take pains to adhere to my own set of restrictions, lines I would not cross.

Here’s where I get a little frosted over this kind of stuff, though, in this instance. Religion presents a facade of divine moral adherence. As such, it is supposed to stick to a code of conduct, regardless of what it faces. That is, after all, what it’s selling—doing right regardless, being moral no matter the cost, representing Truth. So when it stoops to dirty politics, social shit-disturbing, and underhanded tactics, not to mention lying outright, I have to wonder just what it is they think they have to offer that is any different from those they oppose. Sure, if they pull this kind of thing off and keep the details quiet so most people never find out about the dirty tricks, they can claim to have won a moral victory. But the claim, whether believed or not, is based on a false representation. So by their own set of values, what have they gained? After all, won’t God know they lied and cheated, fomented bad feelings, misrepresented people, caused hurt and harm? Isn’t this a species of the end justifying the means?

Which we’ve come to accept from many quarters. Some millionaire wants to step up and advocate on behalf of his or her personal beliefs, just because, we are free to disagree or agree as suits our temperament. We might question his character over certain practices, but it remains an open issue as to whether or not he or she is right or wrong in what gets done in the course of advocacy.

We expect, however, a certain degree of consistency of principle, and the more entangled that principle is with the activist, the less we tolerate deviation.

Religions are supposedly the final arbiters of moral consistency. So when we find them institutionally engaged in unethical or outright illegal actions, whether in the name of a stated good or not, there is, or should be, a commensurate destruction of confidence.

Basically, if a church stands up and declares “This is wrong” and takes that stand publicly, fine. If it lends support to groups that also advocate in behalf of that stated principle, fine.

But if it colludes in essentially caustic moral actions in order to undermine a position and by so doing violates other principles for which it is a strong advocate, then at the most basic level, what value does it retain as a moral arbiter? If, in other words, it has to foment hatred in order to destroy a social policy, what makes it any different than any other group with an agenda?

Now, to be clear, I realize NOM is not itself a religion. But “close working relationship with the Catholic Church” kind of makes that a questionable claim. Whatever NOM wants to do, that’s their business, more power to ’em. But just from this (not to mentioned other things that have drawn considerable media attention) NOM is working hand-in-glove with Catholic hierarchy and given the Church’s position, they are ideologically on the same page. My questions here are about tactics and moral choices.

(I should say here that a couple of things puzzle me even more. I’m not sure why NOM is advocating keeping Guantanamo open. What does that have to do with gay marriage? Unless they expect some day to be able to send gays there? Ridiculous. Still, it’s in their playbook, so…)

I said I don’t have a dog in this hunt. My partner and I never “got married” in the traditional sense. I’m an atheist and both of us, back when it may have mattered, resented the “marriage penalty” in the tax code, so we let it slide. We’ve been together for 32 years. Obviously, we didn’t need a ceremony. We have our love.

But I have to consider the possibilities of activists like NOM. If they have their way, what we have would be in some form or other, illegal. There was, in fact, a time in this country when we could have done jail time for simply living together.

Here’s my sentiment. No one, especially not institutions to which I have no regard, has the right to tell people how to be together. Life is short, bliss is hard to find, and there has been enough ugliness in the world from one set of people trying to force another set to conform to standards that ultimately make no difference—unless we insist they do. Such insistence comes in many forms, mostly economic, but also social. Ostracization is harsh enough for nonconformity, but it rarely stops there, and we’ve had recent very public examples of how far it can go, with gays beaten and killed simply for being different.

So when our political institutions take steps in the direction of alleviating some of that, to make a space for people to live as they choose as long as they harm no one else, to strip away the pall of obfuscatory excuse-making that masks bigotry, and we see such steps opposed by the institutions that have always laid claim to being the source of moral activism by seeding suspicion and disaffection and causing rifts and advocating the dissolution of bonds of affection in order to achieve an ideological conformity that quite frankly no longer maintains, it ought to give people pause over just how far we’ve drifted down the road away from other ideals of community that held that religion and politics ought not mingle.

Lately there have been many things which have brought this to the surface in our politics. We’re brushing up against raw skin with sandpaper too often recently over what amounts to an attempt to inject into our politics an overt religious sensibility that appears to care nothing for people’s needs and everything for conformity to a set of practices only to mollify the prickly intolerances of people who, to put it bluntly, hate. Most of them probably don’t even realize that it’s hate, but when you put someone you don’t know, whose life experiences you are ignorant of, in a box constructed of saidisms, platitudes, and archaic phobias, you are indulging a kind of sterile hate. “Those People” becomes an anthem leading a charge to disenfranchise, with no regard for where they’ve been or what might happen to them should you get your way. Using your religion to justify intolerance is a slap in the face to everything most religions claim loudly to represent.

Hm. Maybe I do have a dog in this hunt.