Sunday, June 26, 2011

Some time ago I was following a discussion about gay marriage over at ISCA. There's a lot of material ripe for dissection that I read, but instead of attacking the whole issue, I want to relay a few comments that were made along the way in order to capture the state of the debate.  Quotes are from the pro-gay-marriage side; my comments follow.

"Gay people need marriage because their power of attorney for their partners can be challenged by blood relatives."
It  can anyway.

"The child argument has nothing to do with the issue of marriage."
It has everything to do with marriage, as anyone with a lick of historical sense can tell you.

"A marriage is a committment of two people to each other. Why does it matter what their relative genders are?"
Because there are other kinds of commitments between people where their gender has nothing to do with what the commitment is about.  If two men or two women--or a woman and a man--open a business, it's irrelevant.  If two people want to get married, if it's a man and a woman they can have kids, and that's an important difference.

"I haven't seen any logical, non-moral, non-religious arguments against homosexual marriage."
You're defining anything relying on natural law or absolute truth and morals as religious, which is a cop-out.  John C. Wright used to get that kind of criticism even when he was an atheist arguing for traditional marriage, which says to me that critics who make such arguments rather won't see logical, non-moral, non-religious arguments...although I'm not sure why I should be persuaded by someone who would be willing to say "Okay, so maybe X is immoral, but I want to do it anyway."  If your argument for sodomy isn't inapplicable to murder, then maybe you'd best go back to the drawing board.

"Repealing sodomy laws hasn't led to gay marriage..."
 It's leading there now; hence this debate.

"How does letting two faggots marry infringe on your right to bang your wife at night? Does it suddenly invalidate your marriage? Of course not."
Watch the language, pal.  I know it's kind of personal, but if you're the only one throwing around inflammatory language, it's not everyone except you who is going to look like a bigot.  That aside, it's not just about who gets to have sex with whom; that's not all there is to a marriage, and if two gay men wanted to get married, I would have thought they would be interested in the other aspects of being wedded as well.  If not, why are we having this conversation?

"Folks who oppose gay marriage just say 'it goes against tradition' or 'it goes against nature' when really government should not be involved in it to begin with."
Then we have nothing to talk about.  Just throw that baseball over the fence so no one can play with it, and stop wasting our time.

"You are aware that there has been absolutely no interest expressed in inter-species marriage anywhere in Massachusetts, right?"
Keep in mind that one woman had "married" a dolphin in 2006, before this debate took place, so I wonder about the incredulity of the person who made this criticism.  Then again, the dolphin wasn't from Massachusetts.

"Actually, we're not talking about changing the basic foundation of marriage.  We're talking about dumping marriage as something that the state can regulate, and going only with civil unions for all."
So will civil unions be regulated by the state?   If so, that would be a distinction without a difference.  If not, it's still defining away the problem--something is being created that is supposed to be just the same as marriage, with all the benefits, but lacking the thing for which the privileges of marriage were afforded to couples in the first place.

"I do not believe that government should legislate morality beyond any which deprives others of their basic civil rights. E.g., if what I choose to do does not harm you, deprive you of your property, or kill
you, then what I choose to do should not be regulated by law."
Your only standards are theft and assault?  Bravo!  Still, it won't hold up if abortion is going to get a pass--anyone you don't like will just get recategorized as an entity that lacks the right not to be harmed or deprived of anything.
But don't get snared by this argument.  The deprivation or providence of civil rights is the matter at hand itself.  This critic is assuming the conclusion in establishing the jurisdiction of government.  Marriage isn't a basic civil right, anyway, or else we could rightfully sue anyone or anything that kept us from marrying whom or what we wanted--not just a minister or justice of the peace that didn't want to play house with us, but the would-be paramour who turned us down, a jealous spouse, a parent, a coroner.

"Pedophilia and bestiality are a straw man. They're illegal."
No, they're warnings against the slippery slope.  I refer skeptics to NAMBLA and the woman who "married" the aforementioned dolphin.  Polygamists are also waiting in the wings.  Oh, didn't you notice that "Big Love" show?  Don't you think it's an attempt to desensitize us to that kind of thing?    If you're still skeptical, I refer you to the Internet.  Start by looking up Rule 34; if it's out there, there are people who would rather not risk going to jail for what they're viewing or doing.

"The religious types should start with atheist-atheist marriage."
Why?  Atheists are capable of conceiving children, provided one is a man and the other is a woman.  This has been the whole point of the argument.  Stay on topic.

"It's taken decades for the establishment to get as far as it has in accepting homosexuality as just the fairly minor natural variation that it is, and to get beyond the moral stigma of it."
Predispositions to sociopathy and diabetes are also "minor natural variations," but they have far-reaching consequences.   Further, I submit that much of the "acceptance" you claim is actually mere tolerance (remember when that word meant something?), heavily seasoned with fatigue and then subsumed by the fear of being branded a cross-burning-caliber bigot.
Honestly, the normal reaction to a campaign that consists of things like the Folsom Street Fair (beware:  a even a Google image search with the Strict setting isn't work-safe), punctuated by rhetoric about wanting to be treated normally, is not "Huh, I guess it was silly of me to entertain any anxiety about their lifestyle--I mean, orientation."

"If we want gays to be less promiscuous, then legalizing their relationships would seem like a logical way of doing that."
That would be a thoughtless and insane kind of logic.  "Open" heterosexual marriages and adultery already exist and the trend in the past century has been to destigmatize promiscuity.  I take it back--it wouldn't be thoughtless and insane logic, it would just be logic unburdened by the evidence.

"Damn right straights are not more promiscuous. In fact that is why heterosexuals never get AIDS, there is no teen pregnancy problem, and there is a 0% divorce rate for adultery."
Straw man.  Okay, hyperbole, but AIDS is still more common in the gay community--when was the last time you heard of an "AIDS roulette" frat party?  More or less often than a gay AIDS roulette party?  More or less often than a swingers party?

"What this all boils down to, and forgive me for the crassness of the whole thing, is that when these people think of gays marrying, they are thinking of two sweaty gay men pounding the hell out of each other, and they can't get the thought out of their minds. (not to mention that some of them have gay tendencies themselves, or watching lesbian porn gets them off, or whatever.)"
Wishful thinking--the most vocal opponents must be those closest to conversion.  That's a real enough phenomenon, but it just smacks of "You're going to be so humiliated when you discover the depths of your own hypocrisy, and I'm going to get a big laugh at your grief."  Classic example of assuming everything is about sex and power.  Do we need to get out of people's bedrooms, or do you need to get out of people's heads?

"Gay couples want to and do raise children, just like you."
Maybe so, but they never tell me that, only their concerned friends do, and then only rarely. All they tell me is they want power of attorney and less harrassment. Even obnoxious activists deserve less harassment than they get, but that ain't the same thing.  But even if two men have a kid, who and where is the mother?  If two women have a kid, who and where is the father?  Did you have a kid so you could bring some joy into the world, or to satisfy your own desires?  Not that that's a problem exclusive to gay parents--who hasn't seen Hollywood celebrities with trophy children?--but we may not be able to convey the meaning of marriage until we can remind people that children are not pets.

"I didn't choose to marry because of the exclusivity of the marriage institution, and I don't know anyone else who did either."
A straight answer from a married straight man.  That's the danger of playing the victim card:  it's not always All About You.

"Gay marriage won't lead to dolphin marriage. One woman does not a slippery slope make. There are no human-dolphin families or human-dog families in need of legal protection. It's a red herring."
What led us to dolphin marriage is what's leading us to gay marriage, is what led us to the guy who "married" the Eiffel Tower. It would be more of a red herring if the dolphin so-called marriage hadn't actually, you know, happened; or if there were actual human-dolphin or human-dog "families."

"Clearly, many heterosexual people engage in unsavory activities as well. And yet, because they already 'have' marriage, it is acceptable to dismiss those activities among heterosexuals, while using them as a reason for denying marriage to homosexuals."
Unsavory behavior is no more support for gay marriage than it is evidence against straight marriage.  What are they trying to make us think happens?  A guy gets caught by the police in the act of statutory rape, and he says "Hey, I'm a married man; my wife lives next door."  "Oh, all right," says the cop, "off ya go?"

"'Unequal treatment is a red herring' is a red herring. No gay person would want to marry someone of the opposite sex, just as a straight person wouldn't want to marry one of the same sex."
I'm a straight man, but there are plenty of women I wouldn't want to marry, not even counting girls and wives of other men.  Even if I did, there are reasons for the rules against it.  Same as there are reasons for keeping me from marrying some dude.
Regardless, historically, and still in many places, weddings are arranged with little concern for the druthers of the husband and wife. Was it ideal? No. Was it legitimate? Yes.

"And when did society have to "approve" on my ability to have sex with wife or anyone else for that matter? I didn't realize that the rest of the world had to say yes or no to my actions or my marriage."
Marriage is a social institution, not a private one.  Don't confuse it with sex, which is supposed to be a private act (cf. Folsom Street Fair).  Don't you remember having a public ceremony followed by signing a contract with witnesses?  Don't you remember demanding approval?  Don't you remember demanding rights, not just privacy? It used to be about privacy, though--that's why we're still making slippery slope arguments.

"We just want to be able to protect our families, relationships and property - y'know: the original basis for the social construct of marriage."
Wow, great--'cept that relationships and property can exist outside of marriage, and property can be regulated independently, but families come from marriage, which some want, but from who's occupying all the bandwidth, it doesn't seem like a lot.

"I say do away with marriage as a civil/legal construct."
So you are against marriage, after all.

"You say marriage is about procreation and an adequate nurturing environment. I say it's a ritual contract declared in a public space; it's like a notary in that it gives more value to your commitment because it had been witnessed by a third party."
What does it accomplish that cohabitation and power of attorney don't get you, if you're not interested in kids?  If you want it notarized, get a notary for yourself.  Plenty of other public rituals, some that can even get you tax breaks if you want to make a job of it.

"Being gay is not wrong, and since its not wrong, gay couples should have the option to marry if they want. It's not something that heterosexual individuals have a right to deny them."
Being diabetic is not wrong, so people with diabetes should have the option to eat all the sugar they want, and non-diabetics shouldn't be party poopers about it.
Do I need to point out the difference between doing and being, here?

It's this kind of stuff that makes me roll my eyes when secprogs talk about conservatives being the ones living in a fantasy land and reality having a liberal bias. Secular progressives--post-moderns, anyway--don't even have as strong a concept of reality or truth as conservatives (although there is some doubt about the relationship Science has with Truth--but that's a separate matter). Concrete evidence for historical understandings of marriage?  Religious claptrap.  Statistical evidence that it's more expedient to raise children with a father and a mother than with some other combination?  Words that shouldn't be spoken because they have power to hurt their cause, not because they have the power of fact behind them.  Sure, invent your own explanation, and of course someone who disagrees will seem hallucinatory.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Cell phones (and more etiquette)

All cell phones nowadays have a silent ring mode--you can set them so they only flash, or do nothing, or vibrate, or whatever, so the people around you aren't disturbed when the phone rings. You might want to consider setting your phone to a ring mode that isn't disruptive and then putting it in, say, your pocket so only you'll know when it goes off. I won't begrudge you the right to remain available in case you're an emergency physician or a parent of young children, but if something happens that you need to deal with, it's none of our business, and it should stay that way unless you really need to tell us that you have to go deal with someone bleeding to death. Leaving your phone in a purse or velise and then turning it up so you can hear it through the bag at arm's reach (and please keep track of your ringtone--even if a ringing phone doesn't sound like yours, assume it is anyway and check; don't let it keep ringing while you wonder how long that jerk is going to let his phone go) may seem convenient to you, but it's quite the opposite for everyone around you while you rummage through your personal effects trying to find it and then decide to answer it or not.

We are sympathetic to your emergencies. We are less so to your casual call screening.

I'm not sure, but I suspect all phones also have a feature where you can hit one of the buttons that are for use when the phone's closed, and the ringing will terminate, without immediately shunting the call to your voice mail. If you're the kind of person who has to ruminate on call screening, ruminate on finding that button before you take the phone out of the house again. You can stare at that phone all you want, after digging it out of your bag, and not bother anyone else--in fact, it might even help you ruminate more quickly, since there won't be that jarring noise coming from the device in your hand or angry-looking people all around making you nervous.

Am I still the only person who understands that the ice makers in freezers will automatically stop when the tray is full?

The yellow traffic light means "slow down and prepare to stop." It does not mean "hurry up; it will be red soon." The early part of the red light is not an ambiguous safety margin. While it is not necessarily a ticketable offense not to have completely cleared an intersection by the time the light turned red, if you can remember doing it more than once in any given week, you're probably being a little reckless. The standard is "If the light will be red before I can make it past the intersection, I should stop before reaching it," not "I can keep going unless I have the time and distance to stop before reaching a red light." In the interest of safety, assume that the cross traffic is going to underestimate the time between their light turning red and yours turning green, since it's going to vary depending on location and time of day. Also assume that the guy in front of you is going to stop whenever the light turns yellow; probably more than 99% of rear-end accidents are the fault of the driver of the rear car.

Just sayin'.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

"Come on, time to get up and go to church!"
"Mmm...naw, you go."
"You're crying off on me? This is good for you."
"I worship God in my own way."
"What, by sleeping in? I sleep in too and I love it; doesn't make it a spiritual experience."
"No, not just now--"
"Then what, praying by yourself somewhere, sometime during the week? I do that too; it doesn't earn me an excuse from doing what we're supposed to do--unless you have some sort of private mass in your head, as well."
"I don't need to sit there for an hour and have someone read the Bible to me. I can do that just fine for myself."
"People say that, but do they ever get around to to doing it?"