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Once again, on Gender Difference & Marriage

One of the great difficulties of having a serious conversation on marriage with the great majority of gay marriage activists is their refusal to understand the significance of the social change they are proposing.

Yes, a number of cultures throughout history have recognized same-sex unions, but such recognition has been the exception, not the norm.  In all my studies (which have been pretty extensive), I have yet to encounter a culture (prior to the 1990s) which identified same-sex unions with the same term it used to describe different-sex relationships, what we now call, traditional marriage.

As I’ve noted before, those cultures which called such unions “marriage” required that one partner live his (or her, as the case may be) in the guise of the opposite gender.  In short, sexual difference defined marriage.

In the two best books published in recent years on marriage, only David Blankenhorn coming out against gay marriage in The Future of Marriage addresses gender difference.  Jonathan Rauch, in his excellent book making the case for gay marriage, brings it up only to dismiss it.

In order to make a better case for gay marriage, advocates of expanding the definition of this ancient institution need make clear that they are indeed promoting a change.  They can’t hang on the rights argument, particularly in a state like California which grants the same privileges to same-sex couples as it does to different-sex married couples, but just calls them by a different name.

Right now, in the Golden State at least (but perhaps nationally given this past weekend’s rallies), all the hullabaloo is over that name.

As one who recognizes that gender differences are real, I am sympathetic to those opponents of same-sex marriage (proponents of Proposition 8 ) who root their opposition in that understanding of this institution.  Many of them actually favor (with some saying as much in the recent campaign) state recognition of same-sex couples just so long as the state calls them something different than marriage.

It seems that Arizona voters agree, rejecting a draconian 2006 ballot measure which would have barred state recognition of such unions, but two years later, voting (by a comfortable margin) for a measure which would have just prevented the state from calling such unions marriage.

If people are serious about gay marriage as something more than a means to get a government seal of approval on our unions, they need address the gender difference argument.  They are proposing a change to an ancient institution.  Let’s acknowledge that and say why it’s a good thing.

Hillary as Secretary of State?

If you had told me at the beginning of this year that as the year drew to a close, I would be warming to the idea of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, I would have laughed in your face.  But, now that President-elect Barack Obama has been floating the idea, well, I kind of like it.

It’s not that I think she’ll be a diplomat of the caliber of the greatest and most successful Secretary of State in the past quarter-century, George P. Shultz.  But, she would certainly be a better choice than most of the mediocrities and incompetents who followed the man who helped the Gipper win the Cold War.

HIllary has a keener intellect and shown more flexibility in thought than her husband’s two choices for that position (the incompetents identified above).  During the Democratic primaries, she demonstrated an understanding of the threats facing our nation.  She may well be the best we could get from her rival for her party’s nomination.

To be sure, I would prefer John Bolton as our nation’s chief diplomat.  But, there’s no chance the president-elect would appoint that good man.  And Hillary would be a much better choice than the Democrat campaigning the most aggressively for the post.

On the Greatness of John Adams & Paul Giamatti

Posted by GayPatriotWest at 9:00 am - November 17, 2008.
Filed under: American History,Movies/Film & TV

I have been a fan of John Adams at least since the first time I saw the musical 1776, perhaps even before that.  I recall, as a child, looking forward to watching The Adams Chronicles on our local PBS station, Channel 48  I still treasure the companion volume my Mom bought for me.

I’ve always admired Adams’ tenacity in pushing for our nation’s independence.  The more I read about him, the more I learned about his flaws, his insecurity.  His humanity seemed to enhance rather than detract from his greatness.  And of course there was his affection, his devotion for his “dearest friend,” his wife Abigail.  Few presidents have so completely loved and depended upon their wives.

Given my admiration for the Atlas of American Independence, it’s strange that I would wait this long to watch the DVDs of the eponymous miniseries.  For Paul Giamatti‘s performance alone, it was more than the worth the cost the collection.  Giamatti captured both the insecurities, passion and essential integrity of our nation’s second president.  And we believed he loved Laura Linney‘s Abigail.

Save Tom Wilkinson (as Benjamin Franklin) and David Morse (as George Washington), I was not so keen of some of the other actors.  To be sure, most did play their parts well, but all too many were Brits and did not get the American accents right.  Some didn’t even seem to be trying.  It was a bit jarring at times.

Much as I enjoyed the mini-series, I wished the filmmakers had shown more of the friendship between Adams and Thomas Jefferson when the two men spent many a long evening discussing freedom, independence and self-government when together in Philadelphia for the Second Continental Congress.

Even in a program as long as this miniseries, they had to leave out many events from Adams’ life.  It seemed there was focus more on his domestic situation than on some of his political accomplishments.  They didn’t show him negotiating the Treaty of Paris which secured our independence.

All that said, it was a marvelous production.  I loved the way the screenwriters wrote lines from both Adamses’ correspondence and his public statements into the characters’ dialogue.  They seemed to pay homage to the 1776 when, in the final episode Abigail says, “For God’s sake, John, sit down,” a line from the musical’s opening song:

Just as I watch this movie musical again and again, I’ll be watching the mini-series again. And again.

2008 Elections: The Republicans’ DUI

One of the biggest mistakes my party made this year was not to learn from the results of the 2006 elections.  In the immediate aftermath of that defeat, party leaders should have done on domestic issues what the president did on Iraq, acknowledge past mistakes and implement a new strategy.

Maybe we needed the electoral shellacking we took earlier this month the same way an alcoholic “needs” a DUI arrest.  Only when he suffers a serious consequence of his drinking to realize how destructive his habit has become.  The penalty makes him realize he needs to change.

Given the failure of the GOP to hold true to conservative principles, we deserved what we suffered on November 4.

But, the problem for our nation is that the Democrats haven’t been doing much better.  They succeeded largely because they were the non-incumbent party on the executive level.  At the same time that Democratic legislative candidates enjoyed significant electoral successes, their party’s legislators had approval ratings which made the last Republican Congress and the incumbent president seem popular by contrast.

As Democrats did not suffer defeat for their Congress’s low approval, we can expect more of the same.  They did not experience any adverse consequences for their unpopularity.  Given their leadership’s eagerness to increase federal spending (proposing to bailout the domestic automobile industry and to enact a multi-billion dollar “stimulus” package), it seems they’re hell-bent on going on a bender.

Alas, that the American people won’t be able to cite them with a DUI for two more years.