Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Why Is Big Government, Or Liberal Democracy If You Prefer, Necessary To Protect Marriage?

As expected, President Bush has weighed in on an amendment to the Constitution to declare it solely between man and woman. This will be a crux of his presidential campaign, and is a sign of his weakness. In reality, weakness is what I'm examining in this post. For many, we see strength in our traditions that have gone back for millenia, long before the establishment of our limited free government. President Bush is convinced otherwise:
"After more than two centuries of American jurisprudence and millennia of human experience, a few judges and local authorities are presuming to change the most fundamental institution of civilization. Their actions have created confusion on an issue that requires clarity."

Now, far be it from me to say that marriage is stronger than it's ever been, since anyone can look around and see that marriages aren't lasting as long, on average, than other periods of history. But, as President Bush himself has noted on occasion, this trend has occurred in a world that we lead, and that has come largely to embrace the inalienable - life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as the root foundation (however well we are in the process of implementing and enabling this vision).

What am I saying? We live in the greatest days of the world, the days with the most freedom, for the most people, with the best health care, and the most incredible expansion of human innovation and ingenuity ever. This happened because we are free - we freed ourselves. In the process of attaining this freedom, we inevitably noticed the oppressions of the past, of man over woman, of master over slave, and have had to deal with their realities, lingering effects where largely eliminated, and our relative and varying complicity in these evils.

In the past, for millenia, men and women were often married against their will, or, in the case of polygamy, many women were monopolized by a few men. Because of the church, and the lack of freedom and personal autonomy, people trapped in ugly and moribund marriages were unable to exit them. With freedom, this situation has changed. Humanity is growing up, and in the process of choosing for ourselves our destinies. This has been enabled most of all by the aforementioned historical novelty - the right of exit. If you're in a bad marriage, you can leave. Today. In the past, often you could not.

In our culture today, people are free to come and go - to enter into a marriage contract as they please. America did not invent marriages, and our government is not needed to sustain them. Even today, in a growing scientific age, most people get married before a pastor, priest, or religious leader of some sort. As a reflection of our freedom of religion, and separation of church and state, this is also one of the great blessings of our system of government here in America. The government is not needed to protect what ought to be protected in marriage - the force of our traditions, morals, religions, and spiritual traditions will do that, as they have, for millenia.

Our government is embroiled in the legalities relating to marriage, however, and these can best be seen, and are by many, as necessary evils. People don't (or shouldn't) get married in order to take on so many new and unenviable legal responsibilities. That just comes with the territory, and marriage partners weight it as part of their decision, but not usually as a primary. No, people get married because they fall in love. Marriage is romantic. It's about romance. About uniting in a bond forever. This is the essence of marriage, and, if anything, what ought to be protected about it. And, judging by the force of our culture, and the vulnerability of our hearts, we have nothing to worry about here.

For millenia, people got married for various reasons, and so be it. In America, we don't really look favorably on most of history. It involved coercion and slavery, and as far as marriage goes, often much less romance than domination. Today, we are a romantic people, in love with liberty and romance, seeking to realize ourselves in work and play, and to find our life partner and soulmate. Sometimes we succeed. Sometimes we fail.

That's reality. Marriage has not always meant the same thing, other than being the focus of family. And we don't need the state, or Big Government, to be the strength behind our families. To tell us who to include in our families. As free and sovereign individuals we form and give legitimacy to our families and to the state. The government should never forget that. We don't need the government telling us how to collect together and form groups - as human beings, we've been doing that for millenia, our families (extended) are much older than America, or democracy, and ultimately we formed our government as a voluntary and willing association just as we do our other groups. The government needs to do our will - not try to become our will.

Which brings me to gay Americans. It's coming to consensus now that homosexuals do not choose to be so. For whatever reason, genetic or conditional, this is their endowment. Through this prism, they are sexually and romantically driven. If we didn't tie up sex and romance, which we do, we wouldn't be having this particular debate. We could all agree that in the particular sphere of sexual activity, we should just mind our own business.

But this amendment of President Bush's seems to miss all the insight I've mentioned, not to mention any sense of heart or compassion. People don't choose to be gay. Are they to be denied the right to realize their love, when they fall in love, to make that permanent union of heart and body, mind and soul, as do the rest of us? Are we to make the terrible mistake that marriage is about all the legalities and not what we know it to be - about love, and families, and a happy hearth?

Think about it. Marriage doesn't need government. Why does the government, and President Bush, need marriage?