Does anyone know what ‘marriage’ is anymore, let alone why they think gays should (or shouldn’t) be part of it? The answer is, basically, ‘No’ on both counts.
For our purposes, civil marriage was invented in England so that non-Anglicans could live together without being charged with fornication and bastardry. At first, only Jews and Quakers were extended this privilege, though Catholic and other Protestant marriages were eventually declared legally valid, too. But with fornication and bastardry laws – Hell, even the social stigma of premarital sex and out-of-wedlock birth – long since abolished, why on earth is the government involved in marriage at all? What purpose does it serve today, and what good do we expect to come of broadening its definition? It’s ridiculous.
Put it this way. Imagine a town where 64 percent of the public voted to widen the dock on a lake that had been bone-dry for over a century. We’d think them all seriously mentally ill. Now imagine that 64 percent was in the habit of calling their opponents bigots, philistines, and fascists. We’d be justified in wanting them quarantined.
Now let’s go one step further. Imagine 30 percent of that town wants to keep the dock just the way it is. And, sure: there’s an argument to be made that it should be preserved in its narrowness for the sake of ‘tradition’. It may be a very finely-built dock with a storied history. But it would be equally absurd to say it should be preserved for the sake of functionality: that narrow docks are superior to wide docks. Now imagine that the pro-narrowers get red in the face accusing the pro-wideners of endangering the local fisheries.
This is the marriage debate in Australia. Both of the two major solutions are not only wrong, they’re insane. Neither can see that the lake is dry, and there’s no need for a dock at all. Whether this useless dock is wide or narrow is perfectly meaningless. What’s alarming is that we invest so much time, energy, and emotion into a debate that’s of no practical consequence whatsoever – that we’re oblivious to the fact that there’s no bloody water.
There’s a good reason for that. We like to think that ‘social issues’ are one-off, localised phenomena. We prefer not to notice that our society is built on hundreds of these legal fictions. Most of them are the result of our desire to maintain a veneer of rootedness and respectability while embracing an egocentric, deracinated worldview. And the descent of marriage into pure idiocy began long before gays decided they’d like a slice.
It started, in fact, with no-fault divorce. Forward-thinking yuppies wanted to be able to have sex with hundreds – perhaps thousands – of partners, while still making their parents shell out for a big white-dress wedding. But they also wanted the option of reneging on their till-deaths when things got stale and dragging everyone out for another white-dress wedding. They wanted to be able to repeat this process ad infinitum until they found ‘the one’ or simply lost their libido.
I don’t blame gays for expecting to have equal access to that ritual, except that it’s a total sham and a mockery of a once-sacred institution.
That civil marriage is a blatant lie isn’t my opinion. It’s a fact. That’s evident to anyone who looks at pro- or anti-SSM propaganda with any objectivity. ‘Love is love’ might sound nice, until you ask yourself whether it’s right for the government to issue licences validating you and your partner’s love. No one actually wants that. And, as should be perfectly evident, defending the ‘sanctity’ of civil marriage is like screening porn to a school assembly but putting black bars over the (ahem) actors’ privates. Thanks for trying, but you’re not fooling anyone.
Still, I applaud organisations such as Tradition, Family and Property, and all those working to preserve one man/one woman unions. I think they intuitively realise that, if we can’t right the ship, we may as well start bailing water cup by cup. They know that this is only a microcosm of the culture war: the horrible, decades-long struggle between the forces of tradition and Christianity, and those of progressivism and secularity. Our political, social, and religious institutions are the dock; the dried-up lake is our culture. It’s of no use whatsoever worrying about the docks when there’s no culture – no shared sense of morality, history, or custom.
But these two paradigms will duke it out until one of them triumphs and refills the lake. What’s sad is that the worst of the casualties – economic, political, and reputational – could be avoided if we only had the guts to admit what’s really going on. Instead, we’ll probably just keep heaping these legal fictions on top of each other, until eventually the whole rotting pile comes toppling down.
A pity, but oh well. Best not to think about it. See you at the docks.
– Michael Warren Davis is a native Bostonian who has contributed essays to the Sydney Traditionalist Forum. He tweets at @KermitLaphroaig