Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Valid Comparisons

Just a brief (well, not really) note on one aspect of the struggle for gay rights in America, because once MGK is missing the point [1], then it's a fair bet other people are as well, and an interesting signal is getting lost in the noise.

George Takei is in MGK's sights for sarcastically noting that the ten weeks Kim Kardashian managed to be married before filing for divorce is clearly proof that what would really demean the entire institution would be letting gay people get hitched. MGK's stance is that since KK is pro-gay marriage, calling her a hypocrite over this is spectacularly unfair.  My stance (along with several other people) is that Takei's point has nothing to do with whether Kardashian is a hypocrite, and everything to do with hypocrisy in general.

And that's what needs to be focused on.  How can a society which is willing to allow two people to get divorced after less time married than "Umbrella" was at number one also hold that marriage is so sacred an institution, so foundational to society, that it needs to be legally protected from people not treating it the "right" way?

That's a question I'd like to ask every single American politician who stands opposed to gay marriage (as, presumably, would this guy). Would they favour a legal minimum on the amount of time between tying the knot and filing for divorce? (One might already exist, of course, in which case you could ask whether they'd favour it being longer than the average HBO season).  How long a period of time would be necessary to avoid demeaning marriage to the same extent as allowing two people of the same gender to devote their lives to each other? Ten weeks?  Ten days?  Ten minutes?

For that matter, would they favour making adultery illegal?  I'm pretty sure Newt Gingrich has slept with more women than Portia de Rossi since their respective wedding days.  I've not seen much support for putting playin' away back in the statute book.  We'd rather just tut about it and get back to our lunch, thanks.

It would be nice to force politicians to take stances on these things.  Much like abortion, these incoherent positions can only come about by pretending to not understand the logical endpoint.  If two men getting married damages marriage as a concept, then so does cheating on your wife whilst she's dying of cancer.  If abortion is murder, then women who have them are accessories and co-conspirators, and need to locked up.  Let's see how those ideas poll, shall we?

We can go further, and link this into another desperately aggravating argument regularly trotted out by those in power: "what we did wasn't technically illegal, so what's the problem?", as though legal and illegal were the only measures of one's behaviour in society. The truth, of course, is that (very roughly speaking) behaviours fall into one of six categories: encouraged, approved of, shrugged at, disapproved of, discouraged, and illegal [2].  Leaving aside the fact that not everyone will agree on what goes where, and what should go where, and the fact that society itself is more clear on some issues than on others, all of these arguments are based around the idea that anything they want discouraged should be illegal, and anything legal they do should be approved of. 

Justice by solipsism, basically.  Everything else that comes out of their mouth is just a smoke-screen for that fundamental fact.  Why they want it is irrelevant.  What would logically follow from what they want is irrelevant. 

All that matters is that what they want, they must have.  And if they can't have it all, because no-one is going to get elected by promising to bring back jail sentences for cheating on your wife is going to get themselves elected outside of Georgia (and maybe Utah; I've never completely understood the exact circumstances in which it's permissable to double dip your flesh celery over there), then they'll at least make sure the groups they can beat up on without consequence are going to feel their wrath.

Why else do you think they bristle when you call them bigots?  It's not about their bigotry, it's about society's bigotry allowing them to be insufferable fuckers selectively on issues for which they'd rather be insufferable fuckers across the board.

[1] Actually, to be fair, I'm sure he does get the point, he's just focussing on defending one celebrity over a snark attack by idiots on Twitter by pretending they're aping another celebrity, who in fact hasn't said what MGK thinks he has.  I don't have any problem with "people are idiots on the internet!" posts, but I think they should be fairly labelled as such, rather than conflated with other, more intelligent positions.

[2] If people wanted to argue that "approved" and "encouraged" are essentially the same thing (and the same with their opposites), then I might not argue too hard.


darkman said...

"It would be nice to force politicians to take stances on these things. Much like abortion, these incoherent positions can only come about by pretending to not understand the logical endpoint. If two men getting married damages marriage as a concept, then so does cheating on your wife whilst she's dying of cancer. If abortion is murder, then women who have them are accessories and co-conspirators, and need to locked up."

You shouldn't force politicians (espeically not american ones) to take stances on these things because the result is almost always horrible:

SpaceSquid said...

Yeah, I read about that at the time. That isn't because politicians were forced to make a horrifically monstrous stand, it's because politicians were comfortable passing a horrifically monstrous stand, because a plurality of their constituents were horrifically monstrous.

SpaceSquid said...

Or, put another way, forcing politicians to take a stand that would only play in Mississippi (well, maybe Georgia, too) is a good idea, even if it won't work for the people who are from Mississippi to begin with.

darkman said...

You could probably add Pennsylvania to that list too:

Seeing as american politicians seems eager to either restrict or ban abortion forcing them to take stand on it seems like a pretty bad idea, you probably wouldn't even have to force them to make them say that abortion is murder and women who have them should be locked up.

SpaceSquid said...

I think you and I are talking at cross-purposes. In states in which this nightmarish bullshit has the support of the population (though apparently even Mississippi balked at the idea of enshrining "life begins at conception" in the state constitution), then obviously one cannot force politicians to take an unpopular stand on the issue because their stances are already popular. Fearing that politicians announcing their true feelings about abortion will cause a wave of anti-women legislation to sweep the US is, I think, to put the cart before the horse.

If we were to take a very simplistic view, one could divide American citizens into three groups - those who don't have any problem with abortion being legal, whatever their personal feelings on the matter (group 1), those who actually do believe that women who have abortions should be locked up/exiled/lined up and shot (group 3), and those who exist in the middle - uncomfortable about abortion as a concept, keen to see it curtailed, and not necessarily too fussy about how it's done, and whether some people (i.e. women who are pregnant and don't want to be) get messed around in the process (group 2).

My point is that a lot of the politicians who advocate laws (like the on you linked to in Pennsylvania) presented as half measures to appeal to group 2 are actually pushing a strategy that only makes sense if one is of group3. Forcing politicians to admit that, that the only consistent interpretation of their rhetoric (as oppose to their legislative results) is that they are part of the slavering hordes of the "You're a mother, or you're a murderer" brigade, would make them even less palatable to group 1, and I believe to group 2 as well. Group 3 were going to vote for them anyway.

I suppose one could argue that the more mentalist GOPpers who suddenly start ratchetting up the hyperbole, the more members of group 2 would feel comfortable moving to group 3. I don't think that's true, however, and the Mississippi vote seems to strengthen my case.

(Indeed, as I see it part of the problem in America is that the right has been using "salami tactics" since Nixon, and have managed to drag the country into a nightmarish battle between centre right plutocrats and insane-right corporate whores by gradually dragging the debate in their direction over the last forty years. We're almost at the point where there's literally nothing too fucked-up psychotic for someone on the right to spout, and if these people aren't revealed as the callous ghouls they are soon, there just won't be anything they won't be able to suggest within the next two decades).