Essay: The Anatomy of a Queer Change

The unequal treatment of black Americans in this nation’s past was a result of an inconsistent application of the principles set forth in the Declaration of Independence. To wit, all men are created equal and they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; and among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Even though we began with equal liberty for all, we singled out people with darker skin color and decided they did not have equal liberty. We unjustly discriminated because the principle was not applied equally.

Now, liberty for all is not the liberty to do whatever one wants. A man does not have the liberty to rape, murder, or extort. So, why is this discrimination just? Because, the principle of liberty comes with an inherent exclusion. Liberty does not provide for all acts, it only provides for some. All principles (even definitions) have boundaries, outlines, and invisible shapes that cannot be smudged, changed, or crossed.

In an atmosphere of equal liberty, marriage is applied the same way to everybody. Marriage, being the life-long union of man and woman as one flesh, comes with boundaries, outlines, and invisible shapes just like liberty. And it is available to all. If a certain group of people were not given the same opportunity to marry, say, everyone in the state of Maryland, we would be guilty of unjust discrimination. But, everyone everywhere has the opportunity to get married. Even those in the LGBT community have the same opportunity to marry, keeping in mind what marriage is. The principle is equally applied, and always has been in an atmosphere of liberty, to all no matter the race, color, or sexual orientation.

How does marriage justly discriminate? Given its boundaries, outline, and invisible shapes, we can justly prohibit children from marrying. Also within that prohibition are multiple partners, animals, and material things. Marriage simply doesn’t provide for these. What about the union of a man and a man? Whatever this union is, it is not marriage; it is not within its scope. Marriage essentially states A and B equals AB, where AB is a new and distinct entity. A same-sex union is: A and A equals AA, where AA is a new and distinct entity. On the pain on logic, AA is not AB; and where marriage is only AB, AA cannot be recognized as marriage. AA is, indeed, a union but it is not marriage.

This does not mean that there can never be a union AA. It can exist as long as it is provided for within the scope of equal liberty. Being that liberty does not encompass all acts, but only some; the American public must decide whether this act should be encouraged or merely tolerated.

However, we have not been given a chance to decide that. The acceptance of the same-sex union follows upon the sexual freedom and expression that burst its way into the American consciousness a few decades ago. Without the sexual revolution which liberated the sexual act from the confines of marriage, same-sex unions would not be given consideration. The acceptance of same-sex unions is parasitic upon the sexual revolution. But, this revolution did not find its freedom within the limited principle of liberty expressed in the Declaration of Independence. It found its expression within the freedom of doing what one wants. This type of freedom is not a principle or a definition; it is rather, a non-principle and a non-definition. It has no boundaries, outlines, or invisible shapes, but is rather a rejection of them.

As much as these behaviors have latched themselves onto the culture lately, it’s fair to say that we will not be given a chance to decide whether to include these behaviors within the scope of American liberty. That it already is within the scope of liberty is a foregone conclusion which is taken for granted. And as the definition of liberty has expanded within the American consciousness, so too will the definition of marriage expand to include same-sex unions. The courts need not decide this at all. Even as the momentum of the sexual revolution has not subsided, neither will the momentum of same-sex unions; for it is parasitic upon that revolution.

The revolution did not ask permission; neither did it present reasons and arguments for public consideration. It came with bald assertions and passionate declarations of new-found liberty, and rejections of established definitions and principles. The new course of action in the service of same-sex unions, however, is now to shape a new definition of marriage to replace the old. But, how will they do this?

Reason finds the natural shapes and boundaries of a definition, and arguments attempt to establish them. But, the arguments given for this redefinition are sometimes emotional. Envy and jealousy have found their expression in the form of entitlement complaints and tax benefits. Because union AB is given benefits by the government, union AA should be given the same benefits. But, the tax code is not the target for a change. The method of change is a redefinition of a foundational institution of society. AA is to be defined identically to AB.

Another emotional appeal is the accusation of marriage discrimination toward same-sex couples. They aren’t allowed to marry and this is unjust discrimination. But, is it really unjust? Union AB has always been available to everyone everywhere. The principle has been consistently applied to all. No one is denied the opportunity to union AB. So, if the appeal is not valid, why is it so effective? Because, it foists the new definition of marriage upon the collective consciousness without us realizing it. As a consequence, the opposite sides talk past one another, using the same words but meaning different things. The language has been changed. This has been repeated long enough that proponents of traditional marriage have to specify what they mean now or risk being misunderstood.

A third argument is that same-sex couples share the same burdens of society and so should share in the benefits as well. If the same work is put in, there cannot be an unequal distribution of benefits or the government is unjustly discriminating against a certain group. This particular argument could have merit if it didn’t expand the boundary line and shape of the definition so much that one cannot see where it ends. A man who wants to marry a beast still carries his share of the burdens of society. A father who wants to marry his 18 year old daughter shares the same societal load. An AB couple with a live-in boyfriend or girlfriend carries society’s burdens. So would a man who marries two women. In fact, it might be shown that polygamy carries an even greater share and deserves consideration over same-sex unions. As we have seen, this principle applies to much more than same-sex couples.

The biggest hurdle proponents of same-sex marriage have to overcome is to provide an argument that clearly establishes a definition of marriage allowing the addition of union AA while clearly excluding all other possible unions. Until they can show this, its redefinition opens the door to the legitimization of other unintended unions and weakens their position.

Even if only the tax code is changed to add union AA, the reasons for doing so would be reasons to open it up to the other unions. The amount of money to be paid to the newly legitimized unions would significantly drain the few pots of money the government has left not already assigned to paying off the debt. This is especially poignant considering the potential abuse of the new unions in order to get more money. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the military. Military members get a basic housing allowance on top of their basic pay. And if both married members happen to be military, that allowance is doubled. The temptation to form a union for the sake of money is quite tempting. What’s to stop two friends of the same sex from forming a union for the sake of the housing allowance and still continuing to have sexual relationships with the opposite sex? After all, they can take up the slogan repeated by so many today that the government should have no interest in what goes on in the bedroom. The money that will be given to the civilian population who form genuine unions and ones for convenience is staggering. If we are to say that the government should enforce the conditions of the union and make infractions punishable by law in order to save money, then we should dispense with the previous slogan altogether and admit that the government should have been punishing offenders of AB unions all along. The adulterer should have been punished alongside the abuser and the one committing fraud. Apparently, boundaries do matter.

There is one final argument to consider. Proponents of traditional marriage say that male and female are complementary in a way that, say, male and male, is not. This natural fit is obvious and any argument that would expand the definition to other unions is always going to be less obvious. Thus, they use nature to argue for the legitimacy of union AB to the exclusion of all others, calling them unnatural. But, the other side points out that homosexual behavior is found in animals. It is, therefore, natural. Moreover, for the person with those types of desires, the natural attraction is to the same sex. They can try to be attracted to the opposite sex, but they fail miserably and end up going where their bodies naturally lead them. They are essentially born with a natural homosexual leaning.

We can grant that homosexual behavior is found in nature, but that is not an argument for homosexuality. Rape and incest is also found in nature. Should we do that too?  Lions kill off the other male lions in the struggle for establishing a pride. Should we do that too? The female praying mantis has sometimes been known to kill the male during sex. Should that be a natural practice for us? Proponents of AA unions are looking at this backwards. We should not ask, what is found in nature so that we can mimic it; but rather, what is natural sexual behavior for human beings. That is the prime question that needs an answer with real definition and a clear boundary.

Moreover, we can also grant that, for the person of a homosexual orientation from birth, attraction to the same sex is natural, of a sort. But, principles and definitions are always selective of human nature. People throughout history have never said that everything we do is good. After all, the schizophrenic, the psychotic, and other folks psychologically disordered are born that way and we do not call their condition good. Rape is a thing found in human nature, but we do not call it good. Humanity selects certain behaviors, calls them good, and wraps definitions and principles around them. It’s not hard to see that a small amount of people born homosexual is not very harmful to society; but if a large percentage of the world population were born that way, the human race would be in danger of extinction. We would no longer be fit for survival. This natural inclination could wipe us out. However, there’s little evidence that homosexuality is on the rise. But, how much of a harmful thing should we tolerate? To encourage homosexual behavior is to encourage the extinction of that respective family’s genetics. It’s an abrupt stop to the survival of their genes.

Given the possible harm to the human race, this behavior seems to be a malformation of human psychology, a harmful mutation, rather than the way humanity should naturally operate. To be natural is to survive. Some people are born with physical deformities, and we recognize the harm that disposition is to their survival. We help them out, and we do not require them to fix their deformities. We take special care of our invalid, weak, and mentally and physically ill-developed; but we do not ask them to change first. Society needs to realize this applies to the homosexual community as well and stop treating them as outcasts because they don’t change. They simply cannot change. Some members of the human race can no more change their sexual orientation than a lame man can fix his legs. The only legitimate issue society might have with the homosexual community is this: that people born with deformed legs acknowledge that people normally walk straight. The person inclined toward addictive behaviors acknowledges that people should not naturally be this way. But, the homosexual does not acknowledge any such thing. To him, straight is an option, not the way humanity naturally ought to be. As long as the lines are blurred concerning what is good for society, certain members of society will find it hard to accept those who blur it.

Some understanding needs to happen on both sides of this discussion. But, the road to peace should not be paved with hurtful and accusing words. Much more can be debated, even alternative methods of conceiving a child available today and what exactly constitutes harm, but let us acknowledge each other’s faults. Let us realize the wrong in us and then may we see clearly to fix the wrong in others, if it can indeed be fixed. And let us also remember this, that love does not bend with the remover to remove before it loves. It loves while we are yet in the wrong.

Another “both/and” principle: Socrates

socrates_louvre

Intelligence directs the change that we see in the world around us every day. Let me illustrate with an analogy. Someone might see Socrates sitting in prison and seek to explain why he is there. One person says that he is sitting there because of the complexity of his muscles, ligaments, and joints and how they expand and contract. They have expanded and contracted in such a manner that has caused him to sit in prison and there he sits. Another, more correct, person would say that the reason Socrates is sitting in prison is that he has decided it better to accept the punishment of his government than to run away. In other words, Socrates’ intelligence has directed his joints and ligaments for the purpose of justice. But, it could have been otherwise. He could have decided to run and we would see his joints and ligaments expand and contract in just that way. It is precisely this kind of explanation that accounts for intelligence in the universe.

Why do things happen in our world in just the way they do? Why do they not happen another way? An egg turns into a chicken. But, why does not the egg turn into a goat? Why do trees produce leaves instead of budding into faeries? When I push my finger against metal it does not give. But, why does it not change color upon touch or vibrate? Why do I type here instead of doing the dishes? Why does a pumpkin go on being a pumpkin? Intelligence is the answer. For we know the universe could have been quite different. Things could have worked a totally different way. And we cannot explain these particularities without recourse to intelligence. A mind must be directing it all. To explain it all by saying, “Well, that’s just the way it all developed from the beginning of the universe”, is not an explanation. Moreover, it’s a lazy man’s explanation and completely redundant. If I ask someone why Socrates sits in prison and they tell me “because things just happened that way”, they just told me my own question. For that is the very thing I’m trying to explain: why it happened that way. Intelligence is the answer for Socrates and it is the answer for the universe.

A “both/and” principle: I want tea

enlightenment thinking

The problems that come with Enlightenment “either/or” thinking comes when we adhere to the belief, whether implicitly or explicitly, that “there shall only ever be one explanatory slot for anything requiring an explanation.” However, almost everything in life admits of a plurality of explanations. If you come to my house and see a pot of water boiling on the stove, you may rightly ask me why the water is boiling. One explanation is that the water molecules are moving around excitedly and getting ready to go from a liquid state to a gaseous state. And, you could spend a considerable amount of time investigating what goes on at that level. A second explanation of the boiling water is because I turned the stove on. But still a third explanation is that I want some tea. The scientific method holds the first explanation rightly and firmly within its jurisdiction and is completely adequate to discover and expand upon similar types of explanations. However, it has only the tiniest grasp of the second explanation and can only make inferences to these types of causal events (similar to the cause of the universe). Furthermore, it holds no grasp whatsoever upon the third explanation. Apply the scientific method to its fullest and still you will never come to the explanation that I wanted some tea.

picardteaearlgrey

The real conflict here lies in the fact that the naturalist thinks the first explanation of the excited water molecules replaces the third explanation of “I want tea”. But, this not the case. These are not contradictory explanations. They are layered and complimentary. They cannot even apply Occam’s Razor to this because Occam’s razor applies only to competing explanations, not complimentary ones. In a similar fashion, why should the Christian act as if the first explanation undermines the teleology of the third explanation? Whether the water was boiled on the stove or over a quiet fireside in the middle of the woods, the specifics of the event has no bearing on its teleology. Neither does it affect the teleology of the event if the water molecules gradually turned into gas or instantly turned into gas. In the same way, a gradual creation or an instant creation does not affect the teleology of the universe. And why should we be committed to thinking gradual means without purpose? If one were to see a man gradually turn into a pig, a bit of an ear here and a portion of a leg there, it would be a more traumatic event than if the transformation was instant. One might think sinister forces were at work, but it would be hard to say that this was being done on accident.

Both/And Principles

As of late, humanity has rushed head long into a disconnectedness that separates us from almost everything. John Stuart Mill proclaimed the individual was paramount, and expounded a doctrine that de-emphasizes community, family, and fraternity. The Enlightenment separated reason and imagination. The founding fathers separated church and state. Everywhere we see distinctions between organic and inorganic; values and facts; conscious and unconscious; design and random variation; purpose and chance; mind and body; reality and fantasy. Yet, being able to discern distinctions, doesn’t necessitate a separation. Are these concepts opposite operating principles, what I call “either/or” principles; or are they principles that work together, “both/and” principles?

In the following posts, I am introducing some principles that attempt to enjoin things that have been thought to be separated. The first post will be up shortly.

-Dan O’Brian