Skip to comments.Civilization Watch: Humpty-Dumpty Logic (Orson Scott Card on Gay Marriage)
Posted on 02/25/2004 8:50:11 AM PST by Sloth
A little dialogue from Lewis Carroll:
"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less."
"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master -- that's all."
The Massachusetts Supreme Court has not yet declared that "day" shall now be construed to include that which was formerly known as "night," but it might as well.
By declaring that homosexual couples are denied their constitutional rights by being forbidden to "marry," it is treading on the same ground.
Do you want to know whose constitutional rights are being violated? Everybody's. Because no constitution in the United States has ever granted the courts the right to make vast, sweeping changes in the law to reform society.
Regardless of their opinion of homosexual "marriage," every American who believes in democracy should be outraged that any court should take it upon itself to dictate such a social innovation without recourse to democratic process.
And we all know the course this thing will follow. Anyone who opposes this edict will be branded a bigot; any schoolchild who questions the legitimacy of homosexual marriage will be expelled for "hate speech." The fanatical Left will insist that anyone who upholds the fundamental meaning that marriage has always had, everywhere, until this generation, is a "homophobe" and therefore mentally ill.
Which is the modern Jacobin equivalent of crying, "Off with their heads!"
We will once again be performing a potentially devastating social experiment on ourselves without any attempt to predict the consequences and find out if the American people actually want them.
But anyone who has any understanding of how America -- or any civilization -- works, of the forces already at play, will realize that this new diktat of the courts will not have any of the intended effects, while the unintended effects are likely to be devastating.
-- Marriage Is Already Open to Everyone. --
In the first place, no law in any state in the United States now or ever has forbidden homosexuals to marry. The law has never asked that a man prove his heterosexuality in order to marry a woman, or a woman hers in order to marry a man.
Any homosexual man who can persuade a woman to take him as her husband can avail himself of all the rights of husbandhood under the law. And, in fact, many homosexual men have done precisely that, without any legal prejudice at all.
Ditto with lesbian women. Many have married men and borne children. And while a fair number of such marriages in recent years have ended in divorce, there are many that have not.
So it is a flat lie to say that homosexuals are deprived of any civil right pertaining to marriage. To get those civil rights, all homosexuals have to do is find someone of the opposite sex willing to join them in marriage.
In order to claim that they are deprived, you have to change the meaning of "marriage" to include a relationship that it has never included before this generation, anywhere on earth.
Just because homosexual partners wish to be called "married" and wish to force everyone else around them to regard them as "married," does not mean that their Humpty-Dumpty-ish wish should be granted at the expense of the common language, democratic process, and the facts of human social organization.
However emotionally bonded a pair of homosexual lovers may feel themselves to be, what they are doing is not marriage. Nor does society benefit in any way from treating it as if it were.
-- Marrying Is Hard to Do. --
Men and women, from childhood on, have very different biological and social imperatives. They are naturally disposed to different reproductive strategies; men are (on average) larger and stronger; the relative levels of various hormones, the difference in the rate of maturity, and many other factors make it far, far easier for women to get along with other women and men to get along with men.
Men, after all, know what men like far better than women do; women know how women think and feel far better than men do. But a man and a woman come together as strangers and their natural impulses remain at odds throughout their lives, requiring constant compromise, suppression of natural desires, and an unending effort to learn how to get through the intersexual swamp.
And yet, throughout the history of human society -- even in societies that tolerated relatively open homosexuality at some stages of life -- it was always expected that children would be born into and raised by families consisting of a father and mother.
And in those families where one or both parents were missing, usually because of death, either stepparents, adoptive parents, or society in general would step in to provide, not just nurturing, but also the appropriate role models.
It is a demonstrated tendency -- as well as the private experience of most people -- that when we become parents, we immediately find ourselves acting out most of the behaviors we observed in the parent of our own sex. We have to consciously make an effort to be different from them.
We also expect our spouse to behave, as a parent, in the way we have learned to expect from the experiences we had with our opposite-sex parent -- that's why so many men seem to marry women just like their mother, and so many women to marry men just like their father. It takes conscious effort to break away from this pattern.
So not only are two sexes required in order to conceive children, children also learn their sex-role expectations from the parents in their own family. This is precisely what large segments of the Left would like to see break down. And if it is found to have unpleasant results, they will, as always, insist that the cure is to break down the family even further.
-- The War On Marriage --
Of course, in our current society we are two generations into the systematic destruction of the institution of marriage. In my childhood, it was rare to know someone whose parents were divorced; now, it seems almost as rare to find someone whose parents have never been divorced.
And a growing number of children grow up in partial families not because of divorce, but because there never was a marriage at all.
The damage caused to children by divorce and illegitimate birth is obvious and devastating. While apologists for the current system are quick to blame poverty resulting from "deadbeat dads" as the cause, the children themselves know this is ludicrous.
There are plenty of poor families with both parents present whose children grow up knowing they are loved and having good role models from both parents.
And there are plenty of kids whose divorced parents have scads of money -- but whose lives are deformed by the absence of one of their parents in their lives.
Most broken or wounded families are in that condition because of a missing father. There is substantial and growing evidence that our society's contempt for the role of the father in the family is responsible for a massive number of "lost" children.
Only when the father became powerless or absent in the lives of huge numbers of children did we start to realize some of the things people need a father for: laying the groundwork for a sense of moral judgment; praise that is believed so that it can instill genuine self-confidence.
People lacking in fundamental self-esteem don't need gold stars passed out to everyone in their class. Chances are, they need a father who will say -- and mean -- "I'm proud of you."
This is an oversimplification of a very complex system. There are marriages that desperately need to be dissolved for the safety of the children, for instance, and divorced parents who do a very good job of keeping both parents closely involved in the children's lives.
But you have to be in gross denial not to know that children would almost always rather have grown up with Dad and Mom in their proper places at home. Most kids would rather that, instead of divorcing, their parents would acquire the strength or maturity to stop doing the things that make the other parent want to leave.
-- Marriage Is Everybody's Business. --
And it isn't just the damage that divorce and out-of-wedlock births do to the children in those broken families: Your divorce hurts my kids, too.
All American children grow up today in a society where they are keenly aware that marriages don't last. At the first sign of a quarrel even in a stable marriage that is in no danger, the children fear divorce. Is this how it begins? Will I now be like my friends at school, shunted from half-family to half-family?
This is not trivial damage. Kids thrive best in an environment that teaches them how to be adults. They need the confidence and role models that come from a stable home with father and mother in their proper places.
So long before the Massachusetts Supreme Court decided to play Humpty Dumpty, the American people had plunged into a terrible experiment on ourselves, guided only by the slogan of immaturity and barbarism: "If it feels good, do it!"
Civilization depends on people deliberately choosing not to do many things that feel good at the time, in order to accomplish more important, larger purposes. Having an affair; breaking up a marriage; oh, those can feel completely justified and the reasons very important at the time.
But society has a vital stake in child-rearing; and children have a vital stake in society.
Monogamous marriage is by far the most effective foundation for a civilization. It provides most males an opportunity to mate (polygamous systems always result in surplus males that have no reproductive stake in society); it provides most females an opportunity to have a mate who is exclusively devoted to her. Those who are successful in mating are the ones who will have the strongest loyalty to the social order; so the system that provides reproductive success to the largest number is the system that will be most likely to keep a civilization alive.
Monogamy depends on the vast majority of society both openly and privately obeying the rules. Since the natural reproductive strategy for males is to mate with every likely female at every opportunity, males who are not restrained by social pressure and expectations will soon devolve into a sort of Clintonesque chaos, where every man takes what he can get.
-- Civilization Is Rooted in Reproductive Security. --
There is a very complex balance in maintaining a monogamous society, with plenty of lapses and exceptions and mechanisms to cope with the natural barbaric impulses of the male mating drive. There is always room to tolerate a small and covert number of exceptions to the rule.
But the rule must be largely observed, and must be seen to be observed even more than it actually is. If trust between the sexes breaks down, then males who are able will revert to the broadcast strategy of reproduction, while females will begin to compete for males who already have female mates. It is a reproductive free-for-all.
Civilization requires the suppression of natural impulses that would break down the social order. Civilization thrives only when most members can be persuaded to behave unnaturally, and when those who don't follow the rules are censured in a meaningful way.
Why would men submit to rules that deprive them of the chance to satisfy their natural desire to mate with every attractive female?
Why would women submit to rules that keep them from trying to mate with the strongest (richest, most physically imposing, etc.) male, just because he already has a wife?
Because civilization provides the best odds for their children to live to adulthood. So even though civilized individuals can't pursue the most obviously pleasurable and selfish (i.e., natural) strategies for reproduction, the fact is that they are far more likely to be successful at reproduction in a civilized society -- whether they personally like the rules or not.
Civilizations that enforce rules of marriage that give most males and most females a chance to have children that live to reproduce in their turn are the civilizations that last the longest. It's such an obvious principle that few civilizations have even attempted to flout it.
Even if the political system changes, as long as the marriage rules remain intact, the civilization can go on.
-- Balancing Family and Society --
There's a lot of quid pro quo in civilization, though. Not all parents are good providers, for instance. So society, in one way or another, must provide for the children whose parents are either incapable or irresponsible.
Society must also step in to protect children from abusive adults; and the whole society must act in loco parentis, watching out for each other's children, trusting that someone else is also watching out for their own.
The degree of trust can be enormous. We send our children to school for an enormous portion of their childhood, trusting that the school will help civilize them while we parents devote more of our time to providing for them materially (or caring for younger children not yet in school).
At the same time, parents recognize that non-parents are not as trustworthy caretakers. The school provides some aspects of civilization, but not others. Schools expect the parents to civilize their children in certain ways in order to take part safely with other children; parents expect to be left alone with some aspects of child-rearing, such as religion.
In other words, there are countless ways that parents and society at large are constantly negotiating to find the best balance between the parents' natural desire to protect their children -- their entrants in the reproductive lottery -- and the civilization's need to bring the greatest number of children, not just to adulthood, but to parenthood as committed members of the society who will teach their children to also be good citizens.
-- America's Anti-Family Experiment --
In this delicate balance, it is safe to say that beginning with a trickle in the 1950s, but becoming an overwhelming flood in the 1960s and 1970s, we took a pretty good system, and in order to solve problems that needed tweaking, we made massive, fundamental changes that have had devastating consequences.
Now huge numbers of Americans know that the schools are places where their children are indoctrinated in anti-family values. Trust is not just going -- for them it's gone.
Huge numbers of children are deprived of two-parent homes, because society has decided to give legal status and social acceptance to out-of-wedlock parenting and couples who break up their marriages with little regard for what is good for the children.
The result is a generation of children with no trust in marriage who are mating in, at best, merely "marriage-like" patterns, and bearing children with no sense of responsibility to society at large; while society is trying to take on an ever greater role in caring for the children who are suffering -- while doing an increasingly bad job of it.
Parents in a stable marriage are much better than schools at civilizing children. You have to be a fanatical ideologue not to recognize this as an obvious truth -- in other words, you have to dumb down or radically twist the definition of "civilizing children" in order to claim that parents are not, on the whole, better at it.
We are so far gone down this road that it would take a wrenching, almost revolutionary social change to reverse it. And with the forces of P.C. orthodoxy insisting that the solutions to the problems they have caused is ever-larger doses of the disease, it is certain that any such revolution would be hotly contested.
Now, in the midst of this tragic collapse of marriage, along comes the Massachusetts Supreme Court, attempting to redefine marriage in a way that is absurdly irrelevant to any purpose for which society needs marriage in the first place.
-- Humpty Has Struck Before. --
We've already seen similar attempts at redefinition. The ideologues have demanded that we stop defining "families" as Dad, Mom, and the kids. Now any grouping of people might be called a "family."
But this doesn't turn them into families, or even make rational people believe they're families. It just makes it politically unacceptable to use the word family in any meaningful way.
The same thing will happen to the word marriage if the Massachusetts decision is allowed to stand, and is then enforced nationwide because of the "full faith and credit" clause in the Constitution.
Just because you give legal sanction to a homosexual couple and call their contract a "marriage" does not make it a marriage. It simply removes marriage as a legitimate word for the real thing.
If you declare that there is no longer any legal difference between low tide and high tide, it might stop people from publishing tide charts, but it won't change the fact that sometimes the water is lower and sometimes it's higher.
Calling a homosexual contract "marriage" does not make it reproductively relevant and will not make it contribute in any meaningful way to the propagation of civilization.
In fact, it will do harm. Nowhere near as much harm as we have already done through divorce and out-of-wedlock childbearing. But it's another nail in the coffin. Maybe the last nail, precisely because it is the most obvious and outrageous attack on what is left of marriage in America.
Supporters of homosexual "marriage" dismiss warnings like mine as the predictable ranting of people who hate progress. But the Massachusetts Supreme Court has made its decision without even a cursory attempt to ascertain the social costs. The judges have taken it on faith that it will do no harm.
You can't add a runway to an airport in America without years of carefully researched environmental impact statements. But you can radically reorder the fundamental social unit of society without political process or serious research.
Let me put it another way. The sex life of the people around me is none of my business; the homosexuality of some of my friends and associates has made no barrier between us, and as far as I know, my heterosexuality hasn't bothered them. That's what tolerance looks like.
But homosexual "marriage" is an act of intolerance. It is an attempt to eliminate any special preference for marriage in society -- to erase the protected status of marriage in the constant balancing act between civilization and individual reproduction.
So if my friends insist on calling what they do "marriage," they are not turning their relationship into what my wife and I have created, because no court has the power to change what their relationship actually is.
Instead they are attempting to strike a death blow against the well-earned protected status of our, and every other, real marriage.
They steal from me what I treasure most, and gain for themselves nothing at all. They won't be married. They'll just be playing dress-up in their parents' clothes.
-- The Propaganda Mill --
What happens now if children grow up in a society that overtly teaches that homosexual partnering is not "just as good as" but actually is marriage?
Once this is regarded as settled law, anyone who tries to teach children to aspire to create a child-centered family with a father and a mother will be labeled as a bigot and accused of hate speech.
Can you doubt that the textbooks will be far behind? Any depictions of "families" in schoolbooks will have to include a certain proportion of homosexual "marriages" as positive role models.
Television programs will start to show homosexual "marriages" as wonderful and happy (even as they continue to show heterosexual marriages as oppressive and conflict-ridden).
The propaganda mill will pound our children with homosexual marriage as a role model. We know this will happen because we have seen the fanatical Left do it many times before.
So when our children go through the normal adolescent period of sexual confusion and perplexity, which is precisely the time when parents have the least influence over their children and most depend on the rest of society to help their children grow through the last steps before adulthood, what will happen?
Already any child with any kind of sexual attraction to the same sex is told that this is an irresistible destiny, despite the large number of heterosexuals who move through this adolescent phase and never look back.
Already any child with androgynous appearance or mannerisms -- effeminite boys and masculine girls -- are being nurtured and guided (or taunted and abused) into "accepting" what many of them never suspected they had -- a desire to permanently move into homosexual society.
In other words, society will bend all its efforts to seize upon any hint of homosexuality in our young people and encourage it.
Now, there is a myth that homosexuals are "born that way," and we are pounded with this idea so thoroughly that many people think that somebody, somewhere, must have proved it.
In fact what evidence there is suggests that if there is a genetic component to homosexuality, an entire range of environmental influences are also involved. While there is no scientific research whatsoever that indicates that there is no such thing as a borderline child who could go either way.
Those who claim that there is "no danger" and that homosexuals are born, not made, are simply stating their faith.
The dark secret of homosexual society -- the one that dares not speak its name -- is how many homosexuals first entered into that world through a disturbing seduction or rape or molestation or abuse, and how many of them yearn to get out of the homosexual community and live normally.
It's that desire for normality, that discontent with perpetual adolescent sexuality, that is at least partly behind this hunger for homosexual "marriage."
They are unhappy, but they think it's because the rest of us "don't fully accept them."
Homosexual "marriage" won't accomplish what they hope. They will still be just as far outside the reproductive cycle of life. And they will have inflicted real damage on those of us who are inside it.
They will make it harder for us to raise children with any confidence that they, in turn, will take their place in the reproductive cycle. They will use all the forces of our society to try to encourage our children that it is desirable to be like them.
Most kids won't be swayed, because the message of the hormones is clear for them. But for those parents who have kids who hover in confusion, their lives complicated by painful experiences, conflicting desires, and many fears, the P.C. elite will now demand that the full machinery of the state be employed to draw them away from the cycle of life.
Children from broken and wounded families, with missing parents, may be the ones most confused and most susceptible. Instead of society helping these children overcome the handicaps that come from a missing or dysfunctional father or mother, it may well be exacerbating the damage.
All the while, the P.C. elite will be shouting at dismayed parents that it is somehow evil and bigoted of them not to rejoice when their children commit themselves to a reproductive dead end.
But there is nothing irrational about parents grieving at the abduction-in-advance of their grandchildren.
Don't you see the absurd contradiction? A postulated but unproven genetic disposition toward homosexuality is supposed to be embraced and accepted by everyone as "perfectly natural" -- but the far stronger and almost universal genetic disposition toward having children and grandchildren is to be suppressed, kept to yourself, treated as a mental illness.
You're unhappy that your son wants to marry a boy? Then you're sick, dangerous, a homophobe, filled with hate. Control your natural desires or be branded as evil by every movie and TV show coming out of P.C. Hollywood!
Compassion and tolerance flow only one way in the "Wonderland" of the politically correct.
-- Loss of Trust --
The proponents of this anti-family revolution are counting on most Americans to do what they have done through every stage of the monstrous social revolution that we are still suffering through -- nothing at all.
But that "nothing" is deceptive. In fact, the pro-family forces are already taking their most decisive action. It looks like "nothing" to the anti-family, politically correct elite, because it isn't using their ranting methodology.
The pro-family response consists of quietly withdrawing allegiance from the society that is attacking the family.
Would-be parents take part in civilization only when they trust society to enhance their chances of raising children who will, in turn, reproduce. Societies that create that trust survive; societies that lose it, disappear, one way or another.
But the most common way is for the people who have the most at stake -- parents and would-be parents -- to simply make the untrusted society disappear by ceasing to lift a finger to sustain it.
It is parents who have the greatest ability to transmit a culture from one generation to the next.
If parents stop transmitting the culture of the American elite to their children, and actively resist letting the schools and media do it in their place, then that culture will disappear.
If America becomes a place where the laws of the nation declare that marriage no longer exists -- which is what the Massachusetts decision actually does -- then our allegiance to America will become zero. We will transfer our allegiance to a society that does protect marriage.
We will teach our children to have no loyalty to the culture of the American elite, and will instead teach them to be loyal to a competing culture that upholds the family. Whether we home school our kids or not, we will withdraw them at an early age from any sense of belonging to contemporary American culture.
We're already far down that road. Already most parents regard schools -- an institution of the state that most directly touches our children -- as the enemy, even though we like and trust the individual teachers -- because we perceive, correctly, that schools are being legally obligated to brainwash our children to despise the values that keep civilization alive.
And if marriage itself ceases to exist as a legally distinct social union with protection from the government, then why in the world should we trust that government enough to let it have authority over our children?
-- They Think They Have the Power. --
The politically correct elite think they have the power to make these changes, because they control the courts.
They don't have to consult the people, because the courts nowadays have usurped the power to make new law.
Democracy? What a joke. These people hate putting questions like this to a vote. Like any good totalitarians, they know what's best for the people, and they'll force it down our throats any way they can.
That's what the Democratic filibuster in the Senate to block Bush's judicial appointments is all about -- to keep the anti-family values of the Massachusetts Supreme Court in control of our government.
And when you add this insult onto the already deep injuries to marriage caused by the widespread acceptance of nonmonogamous behavior, will there be anything left at all?
Sure. In my church and many other churches, people still cling fiercely to civilized values and struggle to raise civilized children despite the barbarians who now rule us through the courts.
The barbarians think that if they grab hold of the trunk of the tree, they've caught the birds in the branches. But the birds can fly to another tree.
And I don't mean that civilized Americans will move. I mean that they'll simply stop regarding the authority of the government as having any legitimacy.
It is the most morally conservative portion of society that is most successful in raising children who believe in loyalty and oath-keeping and self-control and self-sacrifice.
And we're tired of being subject to barbarian rules and laws that fight against our civilized values. We're not interested in risking our children's lives to defend a nation that does not defend us.
Who do you think is volunteering for the military to defend America against our enemies? Those who believe in the teachings of politically correct college professors? Or those who believe in the traditional values that the politically correct elite has been so successful in destroying?
Let's take a poll of our volunteer military -- especially those who specialize in combat areas -- and see what civilization it is that they actually volunteered to defend.
Since the politically correct are loudly unwilling to fight or die for their version of America, and they are actively trying to destroy the version of America that traditional Americans are willing to fight or die to defend, just how long will "America" last, once they've driven out the traditional culture?
Oh, it will still be called America.
But out of the old American mantras of "democracy" and "freedom" and "home" and "family," of "motherhood" and "apple pie," only the pie will be left.
And even if few people care enough to defend the old family values against the screaming hate speech of the Left -- which is what they're counting on, of course -- the end will be the same. Because with marriage finally killed, America will no longer be able to raise up children with any trust in or loyalty to or willingness to sacrifice for that society.
So either civilized people will succeed in establishing a government that protects the family; or civilized people will withdraw their allegiance from the government that won't protect it; or the politically correct barbarians will have complete victory over the family -- and, lacking the strong family structure on which civilization depends, our civilization will collapse or fade away.
Remember how long Iraq's powerful military lasted against a determined enemy, when the Iraqi soldiers no longer had any loyalty to the Iraqi leadership. That wasn't an aberration. It's how great nations and empires fall.
Depriving us of any democratic voice in these sweeping changes may not lead to revolution or even resistance. But it will be just as deadly if it leads to despair. For in the crisis, few citizens will lift a finger to protect or sustain the elite that treated the things we valued -- our marriages, our children, and our right to self-government -- with such contempt.
Copyright © 2004 by Orson Scott Card.
If you want to bookmark his articles discussed at FR: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/k-orsonscottcard/browse
His own political website: http://www.ornery.org/index.html is heavily populated by American- and other Leftists who are delightfully annoyed by Mr. Card's conservatism. He does not post on that site and its moderated by somebody else. He is a registered Democrat upset with hijacking of his party by the Left.
His literary, non-political website: http://www.hatrack.com
His fresh articles appear in the Rhinoceros Times, Greensboro, NC: http://www.rhinotimes.com/greensboro/ (before being posted permanently on his ornery website). He has 2 columns in the RhinoTimes: one on political/international events, and the second one: reviews on movies, books, and anything he wants (!). I check his and Michael Medved's reviews and found myself reliably relying on them.
I do not believe in democracy, precisely because it relegates moral matters to the visceral whims of an uneducated and unpredictable public.
The Founders thought much the same way, which is why they created a Republic ("if [we] can keep it").
I just hope tomorrow doesn't come along with a "hoax notice" of any kind. In any case, it's a better read than "Ender's Game".
|What We Can Do To Help Defeat the "Gay" Agenda|
|Homosexual Agenda: Categorical Index of Links (Version 1.1)|
|The Stamp of Normality|
I agree, in general. However there are issues, I believe, that lend themselves well to a democratic process. Like choosing ones representative. I think certain things like basic rights should NOT be on the table of democracy, however, for the reasons you stated.
In the case of marriage, I see it as a social contract, therefore, I think it does call for some democratic action.
Nor did I. He is a democrat, in the Zell Miller mold.
I was happily surprised by his conservativism, since he authored one of my favorite books of all time (Ender's Game).
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