The Real issue, Bare and Ugly

Thanks to Reverend Wendy von Zirpolo for alerting us non-Heartlanders to the new pronouncement out of Michigan:

“One of the paramount purposes of marriage in Michigan — and at least 37 other states that define marriage as a union between a man and a woman — is, and has always been, to regulate sexual relationships between men and women so that the unique procreative capacity of such relationships benefits rather than harms society.” — MI Attorney General on behalf of Gov. Rick Snyder. 

This is wrong in so many ways that we’re gonna have to do a little list:

1) The first issue is eugenics. That is, a dominant subgroup has decided some other group needs to be eliminated. At its worst, this means sterilization – which we tried up here in Vermont in the early twentieth century (as did many other states) and now deeply regret. It is still, generations later, one reason our genuine cultural minorities hold back on proclaiming their heritage, whether French or First Nation, unless it is one of the preferred groups. 

2) One step down from eugenic sterilization is restricted marriage, in the hope that weaker gene pools will interbreed, fade, fail, and die out. That is one reason lynchers focused not on the weakest members of local minority communities, but on their leaders, their strongest. For the success of these business people, family members, church leaders, disproved the belief that some races or cultures were inevitably inferior to the self-appointed dominant culture.

3) But most advocates of one-man-one-woman don’t have any of this in mind. They are just trying to control their own children and grandchildren. Their personal American Dream is a large house filled with loving children, successfully raised, married, and now presenting them with even-more-admirable grandchildren.  This is not just an American Dream: this hope of living through later generations are universal among species who cannot even speak the word hope. Among humans, it transcends religion, race, culture: the dream of offspring passing on one’s own best self as one defines that. It’s about that last living sermon or warning, not from one’s own lips, but through one’s grandkids.

4) And if that’s too abstract for you, here’s what might be the strongest motivation: people need a set of measures around which to organize their lives, measure their own progress. Despite all the brave talk of introverts, idealists, and people on the autism spectrum, for most of us, the only way we climb these ladders is in the eyes of others. How few of us can pick ourselves up without support from others, without encouragement when we’re discouraged, without praise when we’ve done well. Even more important is praise for trying on the many occasions we fail ourselves. Messing with the definition of marriage deprives many people of the only ladder on which they still believe they have any kind of foothold: a healthy, happy, self-perpetuating family.

So it is good that we who support all families have shifted our language from “same sex” marriage — which does indeed sound like a gay agenda to folks who see laws as guides for behavior — to “equal marriage.” What we need to do now is take the next step, and start referring to it as “covenantal marriage.” Some traditionalists have a different meaning for this term, which describes ways of making it harder to divorce. That is not what I speak of here. I refer to the Reformation (not just Radical Reformation) term which defines marriage as a legally binding, freely-made, publicly-honored agreement between two adults. 

For people who want to choose their own grandchildren, this is the scariest part of all: their children’s right to choose. But as anyone can tell, except in the most oppressive cultures, children DO choose. And smart parents adjust, accept, and, eventually embrace. Not because their child has necessarily made the wisest choice in the world, but because otherwise, the elder might not get to spend so much time with the grandkids. And that is what leads them to shift the approval they themselves wanted as struggling young adults — for social prestige — to the deeper, more glorious glow of love in those young people’s faces, each time the grandparent walks through the door.

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