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Remember the Gulf War? The original one, under Poppy Bush? Seventeen Americans remember it very well; they were US soldiers captured by Iraq, tortured, and threatened with death if they didn’t reveal American military secrets. Last year the former prisoners were filed suit under a 1996 law allowing terror-sponsoring governments to be sued for damages. They won, and a judge awarded them damages totalling nearly a billion dollars to be taken out of Iraqi assets.
The Bush administration, having frozen Iraq’s assets, has blocked the award, arguing that the money is needed for the Iraqi reconstruction. After all, “No amount of money can truly compensate these brave men and women for the suffering that they went through at the hands of a truly brutal regime,” says White House spokesman Scott McClellan. So might as well give them no amount of money, right?
Happy Veterans Day everybody!
Eve Tushnet’s recent piece on marriage as both a religious and a civil institution, and the fact that these are two distinct things, is mostly right on the money. My main problem comes in her second paragraph:
But there are serious misunderstandings on the pro-[same-sex marriage] side as well. Two of the ones I've seen are: 1) Marriage is a religious institution, so the state shouldn't get involved, and 2) Marriage is a religious institution, so if civil marriage doesn't recognize e.g. Unitarian same-sex unions, that's religious discrimination.
I’ve never heard anybody favoring same-sex marriage make those arguments, though I have heard a superficially similar one: Opposition to same-sex marriage is based in religious belief, and thus a violation of the First Amendment.
But that’s not what I’m here to write about. This afternoon I realized that Eve’s point about the discreteness of civil and religious marriage gives us a way of addressing one of her main complaints about same-sex marriage — that boys need rituals to become men, and that turning marrying a woman into something women can do would undo marriage’s usefulness as one of those rituals.
See, if we think about civil and religious marriage as separate things, we can work around this. Just allow same-sex partners to have civil marriages, recognized by local, state, and federal authorities, and let various religions make their own rules about whose marriages they’ll recognize for religious purposes. So if the Vatican wants to declare that no Catholics can have same-sex church weddings, that’ll be the Vatican’s right. Catholic boys will still have a woman-proof manhood ritual, and if this means the Vatican has to formally endorse bigotry, well, it’s shown no reluctance to do so on this matter previously.
And still more from Eve:
I should be crystal clear: People whose parents chose sub-optimal family forms, or had said forms thrust upon them, or some combination of choice and constraint, generally go on to lead only reasonably screwed-up lives just like everybody else. Nobody's doomed because mommy and daddy didn't marry. But it makes things harder. Often, a lot harder. Kids grow up, and they work through it, because we're a tough breed, humans. But why should they have to?
But by denying gay couples the right to have their families formally recognized by legal authorities, you’re making life harder for them and their kids, not easier. Why make them labor under that added burden?
Eve Tushnet is going after same-sex marriage again, basically just restating her earlier arguments, none of which convince me.
She argues that men need rituals to prove their manhood, and marriage is one of those rituals. If marriage really worked for this purpose, would American sitcoms be so full of married men who still do stupid things to prove their manhood? (If Eve can argue from anecdote, I can argue from sitcom.) I’m sure we all know (and some of us may even be) married men who get embarrassed shopping with their wives or picking up feminine hygeine products at the supermarket. Why aren’t they secure in their masculinity if marriage proves them male?
She argues, by raw assertion, that the debate isn’t “about gay people”. (I wrote earlier that marriage isn’t about any one thing, and the same applies to the argument over same-sex marriage.) Eve, if the federal government and fifty states ruled that they wouldn’t recognize marriages performed in Washington DC, would denizens of that city listen to arguments about how “this isn’t about DC”? It’d sure as hell feel like it was about DC. What makes you think that the benefits you list:
[...] children's need for a father. A couple's need for a promise of fidelity (and consequences for breaking that promise). Young people's need for a transition to manhood or womanhood. And men's (and women's, but mostly men's) need for a fruitful rather than destructive channel for sexual desire--a way of uniting eros and responsibility.[...]
...don’t apply to gay couples? You admit that the desire for fidelity could apply, but since when to young gay people not need transitions to adulthood? And don’t you realize that plenty of gay people have children?
Apparently not. She quotes Maggie Gallagher:
Therefore, in giving marriage to unisex couples, we are saying that we think it is a great idea of unisex couples to acquire children. We are saying children do not need mothers and fathers.
In witholding marriage from unisex couples, we are saying that children are better off with single, unmarried parents than with married parents who love each other.
And the recipient of the 2003 George Bush Award for Excellence in Public Service is: US Senator Edward Kennedy!
Former President Bush has the sole discretion on who receives the award, said Penrod Thornton, deputy director of the George Bush Presidential Library Foundation. Thornton said he doesn't think the award is anything other than a way for Bush to honor Kennedy.
"Knowing President Bush, it was more about personalities and contributions of the individuals and it didn't have anything to do with politics," Thornton told the Bryan-College Station Eagle for its Saturday editions.
Glenn Reynolds again! What is it with this guy?!
Here he is giving the Bush administration advice on covering up federal crimes by subpoenaing reporters who know about the Plame leak, as aptly summed up by Mark Kleiman. Kleiman also points out a fatal flaw in one of Reynolds’s arguments:
Kleiman: Second, the law, signed by President Reagan, specifically covers the conduct of officials and specifically excludes the conduct of those to whom they make illegal revelations.
The bit that really amazes me comes at the end, where he quotes Howard Kurtz:
Kurtz: "It's a tough question for journalists," said Columbia's Lemann. "I see why not revealing a source is very powerfully in your personal professional interest. But why is it also in the public interest?"
Reynolds: Again: why, indeed?
Answer: It doesn’t have to be in the public interest, you hypocritical dipshit! Since when does a so-called conservative ask businesses to sacrifice their competitive edge for an abstract public good? Especially since it would be only a very short-term public good. Once the journalistic tradition of protecting sources dies, then sources clam up, and it gets harder for the public to learn about things it needs to know.
Yet another example of why I don’t read InstaPundit regularly. Glenn seems to think that the CIA giving an important mission to someone with views that Glenn disagrees with is a greater scandal than high officials in the White House breaking federal law and endangering national security assets to score petty revenge on someone for revealing a politically inconvenient truth.
Yet another post about same-sex marriage.
I keep seeing posts saying “marriage is about children”, generally stated in the kind of firm, definitive tone that indicates the author has made up his mind on the matter and isn’t going to listen to any counter-argument. Personally, I’m convinced that marriage isn’t about any one thing, and anyone claiming otherwise is trying to build (or tear down) a strawman. I’ve known a lot of married people, and I haven’t actually asked any of them why they tied the knot, but if I do I suspect each couple will be able to give me more than one reason. Kids, financial security, love, health insurance, sex, religion — there are a lot of reasons.
The odd thing is that it’s obvious that people get married for a lot of reasons. How could any intelligent person think otherwise? They couldn’t, of course, which is why the assertion is almost never phrased as “people get married because”, and instead the more abstract “marriage is about” phrasing is used. Remember your literature classes in high school? When the teacher would ask what the poem was about, as if there was just one secret answer to be extracted? Maybe you figured out the right answer, or maybe you didn’t and you just got told, but you learned about aboutness, the single meaning that gets pointed to.
I don’t like talking in terms of aboutness, but if I had to decide on the single thing that marriage was about, the one meaning it had that was most essential, most definitional, I’d say that marriage was about building families. Marriage is a tool that groups of people (only two in the west, at the present, but more at some times and in some parts of the world) use to formally commit themselves to each other. So it’s about children in the sense that you ought to have a commitment to family before having kids, but kids aren’t an essential part of marriage. Most of us would probably agree that a married couple that didn’t consider themselves a family — say, a couple that just got married for citizenship and hardly ever see each other afterwards — were in a sham marriage, but we don’t say that about loving yet childless families.
Likewise, marriage isn’t definitionally about love, since it’s possible to love without marriage or be married without love, but love is part of the ideal, it makes that promise much easier to keep.
Looked at from this perspective, you might be able to see why those of us who support same-sex marriage see opposition as a form of bigotry. Opponents seem to be saying My idea of what marriage should be is more important than your ability to build a family with someone you love, even if you already have children.