Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Theocon alert

I generally respect Daniel Larison, and I find him a persuasive and cogent (if overly pessimistic) writer on foreign affairs and intra-right squabbles, among other things. But his writings on church/state issues are often bothersome--not because we disagree, but because he simply cannot adequately defend those positions as well as his others. In this post he calls same-sex marriage unnecessary change. His reasoning is, that because gay marriage will not necessarily strengthen straight marriage, it isn't necessary to enact it. It's a neat trick: rather than prove how men marrying other men will destroy society like other theocons--something I have yet to hear--he establishes an entirely different standard, in which it is up to us to prove that it is an affirmative good. Sullivan, as one would expect, is all over this, and even the premise underlying the argument (that gay marriage doesn't improve straight marriage) is ill conceived, but I just find the way he sets up his analysis to be really unsatisfying. Why should the burden of proof be upon us to prove that gay marriage is a positive good, and why should that even matter? We allow a lot of things, like alcohol and cigarettes, which don't lead to "good" outcomes but whose use is, nevertheless, permitted because our nation believes in freedom of choice. I think that a lot of the Warren Court's rulings on criminal issues didn't necessarily lead to a safer society, and weren't a "good" as such, but they did clamp down on a lot of police departments that were doing all sorts of illegal shit in the name of justice, and those rulings increased the amount of liberty that we all enjoy. I don't think that anyone likes the thought of more criminals on the streets, but it's a small price to pay for a, um, legal legal system.

This is the theocon mind in a nutshell: only "good" things should be allowed, and anything else should be banned. The "good" things are determined from the prevailing religion of the region, of course. Never mind that this nation was founded on precisely the opposite idea, which was that people ought to be free. Theocons don't much like freedom because it makes their jobs more difficult, I suppose, but I simply don't think that God meant for this stuff to be easy. Otherwise He would have made it easy, y'know? Think about it: the argument Larison is making is that he wants to ban something that he doesn't even assert will harm anyone--something that isn't harmful--solely because his religious dictates say so. It's the same sort of logic that led kite flying to be banned in Afghanistan, or dancing in Footloose. It is disappointing that someone who is generally very lucid about any number of subjects clings to such shoddy reasoning on such an important issue.

The Man, The Myth, The Bio

East Bay, California, United States
Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.