Thursday, May 31, 2012

Boiling it Down

Conservatives need a new language on same-sex marriage. The case against government-redefinition is too heady, too philosophical, and too abstract. And it will lose, because though it is true, it is not good propaganda.

The point of this post is not to engage in propaganda, but to figure out how to allow some truth to be heard by a public whose ear is deaf to much else.

First, let's discuss language. Here are the top three bad terms and phrases used by conservatives, and how they need to revise their language:

  • Avoid "traditional marriage" - First of all, dear Republicans, please understand that Americans have a deep, white-hot hatred of "tradition" as an argument for the status quo. Using the 'T' word is sounding the death-knell for your cause.

    Look. I get it. "Tradition" comes from roots meaning roughly "what has been given to us." That's great. So far it goes, I'm all for "traditional marriage."

    But the people listening to you have only two mental categories: (1) artificial, changeable things, and (2) absolute, unchangeable things. And the word "tradition" always belongs in the first one.

    Instead, say: "Marriage." Seriously. Stake your rightful claim. When you must clarify, you may use the mouthful "sexually complementary marriage," but at the risk of coining neologisms, I like the phrase "original marriage". "Original" carries some of the same denotation as "traditional"--however, unlike the latter word, it includes a reference to marriage's origins, which thus constitute its content.
  • Avoid "natural" - It's sad that this word will never be heard with its intended meaning--see my previous post. When liberals hear "natural" they knee-jerk into diatribes about monkeys and the animal kingdom.

    What conservatives mean when they say "natural" is that, among humans, marriage is a natural outgrowth of our sexual complementarity, fertility, intellect, and social qualities. Marriage is coextensive with human societies, and thus it is not an institution in the same vein as "baseball" or "political parties"--which exist solely at society's pleasure.

    Similarly, avoid "biological" - If "natural" conjures inappropriate zoology, "biological" invokes inappropriate anatomy. The science of biology, in isolation, can never serve as the basis of law. Biology's method and logic is atomistic and value-neutral. Biology never asks about the meaning of organs; and strictly speaking, biology cannot even definitely discuss their purpose.

    There's nothing wrong with the science of biology; but it is thoroughly out of its scope in the politics of marriage.

    Instead, say: "Organic;" or else pair "organic, spontaneous". "Organic" isn't just marketing buzz-language; it is also, in marriage politics, absolutely applicable. The word taps into a non-partisan hunger for things that are as un-meddled-with, or as little-meddled-with as possible. It unveils marriage's link to our organism and hence our very being--a link that same-sex relationships have nothing to do with.
  • Avoid "between one man and one woman" - I'm all for monogamy, but stressing it right now complicates the issue. Nobody's debating monogamy. It doesn't help that the accepted number of people in a marriage is historically fluid. Liberals will be keen to point this out as evidence that every aspect of marriage is up for grabs.

    Of course, monogamy and sexual complementarity are two very different things in this regard. As common as polygamy has been in history, same sex marriage has been the opposite. But liberals won't address this and will instead repeat their previous argument louder.

    Instead, say: "between a man and a woman". Just soften it a little. Or avoid the trite phrasing altogether and get on board the "sexual complementarity" train. SC is necessary for marriage. It's good for families and it's good for society. It's an objective, organic fact; and securing its unique status is not a bigotry.

Now let's boil the issue down to the most basic talking points:

  1. Same sex marriage is government madness. Government redefining marriage is not so much an evil thing as much as it is bonkers. Marriage wasn't invented by government. Government doesn't institute marriage any more than it institutes puppies or trees. Ultimately, redefining marriage makes as much sense as redefining puppies or trees. Two men equals a marriage like kittens equal puppies and like utility poles equal trees.

    Ultimately this means that governments can say anything they please, but non-insane people will know better--that the government is being silly. There will be a giant disconnect between enforced public policy and social belief. Schools and institutions will have the "new math" rammed down their throats. And as the HHS mandate has taught us, religious schools and institutions are no exception.

    Liberal counter: "But marriage is an institution. Government has the right and responsibility to regulate it."

    Conservative response: Two things. (1) Marriage is a universal organic and spontaneous human fact before it is an institution. As such, marriage does not derive its definition or constitution from policies, but out of its own essence. (2) Governments regulate lots of things without redefining them. There are laws controlling trees and puppies. There are no laws saying that utility poles are trees, or that kittens are puppies.
  2. People who understand marriage aren't bigots. Government redefining marriage doesn't just create a new kind of married people. It also creates a new class of bigot. It doesn't just redefine marriage, it redefines hate. Your grandparents were bigots. Your parents are bigots. And you're a bigot too, if you don't follow the new math.

    The problem is that most people who know what marriage is aren't bigots. Many of them don't have a hateful bone in their body. The propaganda promoting same-sex marriage is inherently antagonistic and it is bound up with the policy itself. Redefining marriage becomes a legally sanctioned public condemnation against people who haven't lost their common-sense.

    Notice that the reverse is not true. Government keeping marriage what it is does not produce a condemnation against people who disagree. Liberal institutions are not forced to violate their consciences or their sanity (whatever sanity they have left anyway).

    Liberal counter: "There is nothing hostile about same-sex marriage. We just want to marry who we love! It's people who hate us who want to keep us from equality."

    Conservative response: 
    Of course same-sex marriage isn't hostile. It's madness (see #1) but it's not hostile. The hostility doesn't come from the movement's goal directly. It comes from the false narrative of civil rights.

    Legally, nobody is advocating for extending a right from one class of citizen to another. Redefining marriage takes a legal recognition already available to all people (including gay people), and appends a new legal recognition also available to all people (nothing stops two straight women from marrying, e.g.). It is meant as an accommodation to an urgently felt desire of some people. But there is no civil right to marry your own sex (see #3).

    By adopting civil rights language, the political left has turned everybody who disagrees into bigots. This is not about hurt feelings. This is about a new foundation for policy that will target innocent people and institutions with the charge of hate. The Catholic Church, the LDS, and all individuals who "get" marriage, are now to be classed with holocaust deniers, the KKK, and the extreme right.

    The second that the gay lobby used the word "hate" to describe the conservative position, it forsook all claims not to be a hostile movement. Make no mistake: governments and societies that go down this road will not tolerate the conservative position operating publicly within their borders. 

    It didn't have to be this way. If the left had advocated for redefined marriage without reinventing it as a "civil right," it might have allowed a space where conservatives could continue to live as they please. But that opportunity is long past us now.


Alex Z said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alex Z said...

Where is #3?