Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Great Divide

There is a great divide in the United States between ordinary people and the ruling elite. The public's strong opposition to the "bailout" versus the virtually unanimous backing of it by every major politician from both parties reflects this divide. The public does not want to be lied to, about WMD or 9/11 or the Israel/Palestine conflict or any other pretext for waging war. The politicians all lie to the public about these things. The public wants more equality, especially with respect to job security and retirement security and health care security. The politicians all pursue corporate-endorsed policies that go in the opposite direction.

Clearly what is needed is for the public--the great majority of ordinary Americans--to overthrow the power of the corporate-elite and the politicians they control: a revolution.

But virtually nobody says so. Instead, people continue to hope that the next president will turn things around. The evidence is overwhelming that the next president willl, like every single one before him, carry out policies determined by the corporate elite in their policy-setting organizations like the Council on Foreign Relations and the Committee on Economic Development and the Brookings Institute. All the evidence is that he will fill top government positions with people reflecting the views of these organizations just like the people who filled them before. Yet despite this evidence, people believe there is no alternative but to hope for the best.

Why is this the only alternative? It only seems so if one dismisses the possibility of revolution. But why do people dismiss this possibility?

The main reason is that Americans are told, over and over again, that large numbers of other ordinary Americans are bad in some way, and that if the public were truly in power (instead of just allowed to vote for a politician beholden to the corporate elite) then it would only be worse. This takes many forms. "Blacks are criminals." "Illegal aliens are freeloaders." "Middle class people are yuppie snobs." "Whites are racist." "Poor whites are stupid 'rednecks'." "People who don't go to church have no morals." "People who go to church are homophobic." A former acquaintance of mine wrote a short poem that captures this: "I hate my fellow countrymen. It shows, you know, I'm one of them."
These "Other-Americans-are-bad" themes come and go in terms of emphasis. New ones replace old ones that have worn thin. Because such divisive notions prevail, people cannot take seriously the idea of revolution. Lesser-evil politics replace revolutionary aspirations. What people really want is out of the question. What the corporate elite will permit is all that can be considered. Be thankful if the president has dark skin and a way with words; try to ignore what he actually does.

Lately, the issue of same-sex marriage has been used by the corporate-controlled media to persuade younger people with more college education and more income that huge numbers of Americans different from them are "homophobic" bigots on a par with the racist segregationists who attacked the Civil Rights movement in the 60s. That is why I post on this issue. And that is why I wrote "What Is a Liberal to Do"

What Is a Liberal to Do?

Seventy percent of African-American voters in California voted for Proposition 8 to ban same-sex marriage. Liberals, however, say that opposing same-sex marriage is a form of bigotry no better than the racism of those who wanted inter-racial marriage to be illegal and Jim Crow laws to remain. How, liberals wonder, can African-Americans--the victims of racism-- switch from being champions of equality to champions of bigotry? It is a true paradox.

Liberals, by definition, support the victims of racism. But how can they do that when those very same victims are bigoted against gays? Oh dear! What is a liberal to do?

I would like to offer two helpful suggestions.

Suggestion #1

It would be wise to consider that what is seemingly paradoxical generally turns out not to be when examined more closely. What makes the behavior of African-American voters seem paradoxical is the assumption that opposing same-sex marriage is bigotry and a rejection of the principle of equality. Were this true, we would indeed have a true paradox. But if liberals would look closely at why people oppose same-sex marriage they would discover that it has nothing to do with hatred of gays and everything to do with concern for children.

Maggie Gallagher, a leading supporter of Proposition 8, appeared on the Dr. Phil show last night as part of a debate (including San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom on the other side) about same-sex marriage. Gallagher, in her opening statement, said that she opposed same-sex marriage because it is important for a child that its biological mother and father should know, and be known by, the child--and that this cannot happen when the child is produced by a same-sex couple. Her debate teammate cited Rosie O'Donnell's son who wanted a daddy but was told by Rosie that he couldn't have one because Rosie wanted another mommie. They said that the needs of children should come before the desires of adults. One may disagree with Gallagher on this point (I agree with her) but one can hardly call her view bigotry.

Nonetheless, Mayor Newsom and his team did declare Gallagher's view to be bigotry, with the familiar charges that she was calling for gays to be denied the same right that straight people enjoyed. But did Mayor Newsom or his debating team members ever, even once, even obliquely, respond to Gallagher's point about the welfare of children being more important than the desires of adults? No. Not once. Did Dr. Phil chime in on this point? No. Not once. The liberal response to the 70% of African-Americans who voted for Proposition 8 is to completely ignore their reason. Liberals don't want to hear it.

When African-Americans relied on religion to back up their claims for equality, liberals had no objection. But when those same African-Americans rely on religion to back up their opposition to same-sex marriage, then liberals dismiss them as "religious fundamentalists."

Liberals seem to view African-Americans the way some people once viewed children: they should be seen (as victims of racism) but not heard (as people with opinions worth taking seriously.) When applied to 70% of the adult African-American population, this view of people has a precise technical name: elitism. Only through the lense of elitism do liberals see a paradox in the California vote.

Suggestion #2

It would be wise to re-consider if anybody, gay or straight, actually has a right to marry. Does it make sense, in other words, to say that gays are being denied a right by Proposition 8 if even straights do not have that right? To help liberals think this through, here are some questions they might try answering, in the privacy of their own homes of course.

1. Do straight people who are siblings of each other have a right to marry?

2. Do the laws against sibling marriage deny anybody their right?

3. Why are there laws against sibling marriage?

4. Do such laws reflect hatred of siblings?

5. Do straight people who are infected with syphilis have a right to marry? Does the law in California and other states that prohibits such people from getting a marriage license violate anybody's rights? Why not?

6. What do the laws against siblings and syphilis-infected people marrying have in common? Is it a concern for children, or hate and bigotry?

7. Do children experience emotional pain from not knowing and being raised by both their biological mother and their biological father?

8. Are syphilis infection and genetic deformity the only things from which society should try to protect children with laws about who can and who cannot marry?

9. Is it possible that the reason Maggie Gallagher and 70% of California's African-Americans voted for Proposition 8 is the same reason that virtually everybody, even liberals, agrees with the laws against sibling and syphillis-infected marriage?

10. Is it possible that the same-sex marriage issue does not, in fact, have anything to do with equal rights and everything to do with concern for children?

11. Is it really a paradox that people who fought against segregation also oppose same-sex marriage?

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Why They Voted For Obama But Against Same-Sex Marriage

Liberals are baffled. How could people vote for Obama and also vote (52% at last count in California) to make same-sex marriage unconstitutional? Chief liberal blogger, Daily Kos author, "kos," lamented the day after the election, "What a night of contrast, going from celebrating the first African American president and the defeat of another anti-abortion ban in South Dakota, to the narrow victory of the hateful and bigoted Proposition 8 in California...That California would vote for a black president with a margin of 61-37 and then shit on gays was horrifically disappointing. We have a long way to go."

The reason liberals are baffled is because they have listened to, and believed, their own silly propaganda about same-sex marriage. Proposition 8 in California said, "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." An accurate characterization of the debate on this issue would frame it as a debate over whether same-sex couples should have a right to marry. An honest discussion of the issue would enquire into the reasons why virtually everybody today agrees that some kinds of couples--those who are siblings to each other--even if consenting unmarried adults, should NOT have the right to marry. An honest discussion would ask whether or not the concerns and values that lead to denying such couples the right to marry, namely the principle that the welfare of children who may be produced by such a marriage trumps the desires of adults, may also apply in the case of same-sex couples.

The liberal "vote no" side refused to engage in such a debate. Instead it chose to act as if there were already an uncontroversial concensus that same-sex couples, like any other couples, had a right to marry, and the only question now was whether they should be denied that right, which of course would be an intolerant, discriminatory, and evil thing to do.

Here is how the liberal propaganda argued the case for voting "no." If one goes to the anti-Proposition 8 website at you will find their online videos that they played on television to make their case. It is fascinating to watch them, because they all have the same theme: that it is wrong to take away rights from certain people, and that to do so is discrimination and intolerance. California's liberal attorney general, Jerry Brown, was so determined to frame the issue this way that he gave proposition 8 the formal title of "Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry." The proposition 8 proponents challenged this title with a lawsuit, but lost.

In contrast, if one goes to the pro-proposition 8 web site at one will find the videos that they used to train people how to campaign for the proposition, which give substantive reasons why children raised by same-sex couples are worse off for not having both a mother and a father, and why therefore equating the value of same-sex marriage with opposite-sex marriage by legalizing the former is a bad idea if we believe that the welfare of children trumps the desires of adults. Here is one example of what the speaker says in one of the videos.

[start of the excerpt from the video:]

Is the same-sex family about the needs of children or the wants of adults? In order to answer that question, we can learn a lot from the world's most famous lesbian mom, ... Rosie O'Donnell. Rosie O'Donnell a number of years ago did an interview with Dianne Sawyer, and in that interview she talked about her family and she talked about being a lesbian and a lesbian mom and the experience of that, and her children, and the subject of her little boy Parker came up. Parker was six years old at the time.

And Dianne Sawyer asked Rosie, she said, "Does Parker ever ask about his dad?"And Rosie said yes. In fact I'm going to read it from the transcript, just so you get the impact of this. "What does little Parker say?" Rosie says this. "He says, 'I want to have a daddy.'" And Rosie says, "I can imagine that would be great. And it would probably be easier for them if I were married to a man. But here's what I tell them. 'Parker, if you were to have a daddy you wouldn't have me as a mommy because I'm the kind of mommy who wants another mommy.'"

That is a stunning statement. And I don't even know if Rosie appreciates what she said. Little Parker wants a daddy. And little Parker didn't learn about needing a daddy because Rosie unwittingly enrolled him into a fundamentalist day school where they indoctrinated him with that. Or he didn't get the idea from listening to Dr. Dobson on the radio every day. He knows he needs a daddy because he's a little boy and there's no adult in his home that is like he is, who can teach him what it's like to grow up to be a man. And so he has that desire. "I want a daddy." And what's the answer from his mom? The answer is, "Parker, I'm sorry. You don't get what you need because I want what I want."

There are a whole lot of systems of parenting out there, but I don't know of anyone who thinks THAT is a good idea of parenting.

[end of excerpt from the video]

Apparently the pro-Proposition 8 (anti-same-sex marriage) argument--that same-sex marriage ought not to be a right-- was more convincing to more people than the argument of the other side that refused to engage the question at all and instead just repeated over and over again that it is wrong to deny anybody their rights.

According to the liberal punditry, however, people who voted Yes because they think it is more important for children like Parker to have a daddy than for adults like Rosie to have their desires met, are "hateful and bigoted." People who think that it is wrong to make same-sex marriage legal because it would give social approval to the practice of using sperm or egg donors to conceive children who will, by design, not know their biological mother or biological father are, according to liberals, "hateful and bigoted." In the world of these liberals, placing the welfare of children before the desires of adults is "hateful and bigoted."

Why are liberals so dead wrong on this issue? For most, it is simply because they believe the liberal propaganda. They don't know why people oppose same-sex marriage because their liberal magazines and bloggers and the Hollywood TV shows, which all reflect the pro-same-sex-marriage viewpoint, never tell them. Liberals really don't have a clue. They think it is only because of bigotry or Bible fundamentalism. What the liberals don't understand is that, while many people cite the Bible to justify their opposition to same-sex marriage, they don't oppose same-sex marriage only because of what the Bible says. Nobody, for example, who cites the Bible on same-sex marriage defends slavery, even though the Bible says slavery is permissable. Nobody who cites the Bible on same-sex marriage says we should "smite one's neighbor" if he works on the Sabbath because the Bible says so. People pick and choose from the Bible according to the values they hold independently of the Bible. Placing the welfare of children above the desires of adults is one such value.

But why do the liberal opinion-shapers keep their followers in the dark on this question? I think the reason is this. The liberal opinion-shapers are connected to big money; they are employed by the corporate-controlled mass media and they have a green light from the corporate elite to push same-sex marriage and to frame the debate as one between "hateful and bigoted" people versus enlightened and tolerant people. As the LA Times reported (Nov. 5), "Most of the state's highest-profile political leaders -- including both U.S. senators and the mayors of San Francisco, San Diego and Los Angeles -- along with the editorial pages of most major newspapers, opposed the measure. PG&E, Apple and other companies contributed money to fight the proposition, and the heads of Silicon Valley companies including Google and Yahoo took out a newspaper ad opposing it."

What's in it for the corporate elite? Social control through divide-and-rule. The aim is to pit the college educated, professional types against the more working class church-going types in a conflict where the former view the latter as "hateful bigots" and the latter view the former as arrogant selfish jerks who look down on regular people. The aim is also to make regular people wonder if maybe they are indeed "hateful and bigoted" and therefore unworthy to have a real say in society--in other words to undermine the basic idea of democracy, which is that ordinary people are fit to rule society. This has always been a goal of upper classes in all societies.

While I think that Obama will be a huge disappointment to the millions of people who voted for him, it is clear that the reason people voted for Obama had absolutely nothing to do with being "hateful and bigoted" and the reason many of those same people in California voted for Proposition 8 also had nothing do to with being "hateful and bigoted." The fact that liberals cannot understand how people could have voted for Obama and for Proposition 8 shows just how wrong and confused liberals are.

Eight years ago California voted 61% against same-sex marriage. This time the vote was only 52%. Part of the explanation is certainly that the pro-same-sex marriage side has learned how to skillfully suppress the substantive debate and replace it with a pseudo-debate about whether it is right or wrong to deny people their rights. (What next? Will state attornies general in other states now title similar propositions against same-sex marriage "Eliminates a basic and fundamental right for some people for hateful and bigoted reasons"?)

Though they lost the vote twice now, the pro-same-sex marriage organizations have announced that they intend to do in California what they always do, which is to rely on the courts to trump the will of the people. They hope to overturn Proposition 8 by arguing that--of course, what else?--the voters have no right to change the constitution to take away rights from certain people. Time will tell if they succeed, but the mere fact that they resort to a handful of judges to thwart the will of the people illustrates how they are tied to the most anti-democratic forces in our society, namely the corporate elite.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

California's Fishy Proposition 8

Proposition 8 in California calls for making same-sex marriage illegal. But there is something very fishy about it, or rather the people who are behind it. They have given the proposition a title that, by itself, undermines the case for voting "yes." Now why would they do that?

They* titled the proposition "Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry," thereby accepting the fundamental premise of their opposition, namely that same-sex couples do indeed have a "right" to marry and that making same-sex marriage illegal amounts to denying people this "right." But the question at issue is whether same-sex couples have such a right, by any reasonable moral standard, in the first place. The debate is about whether the so-called "right" truly exists, not whether a true right should be denied to certain people. Who, after all, would be in favor of denying a legitimate right to anybody?

The idea that any two consenting adults have a right to marry is bogus. Nobody, I mean nobody, actually believes that, as proven by the fact that nobody believes adult consenting siblings have a right to marry. The right to marry means the right to "have a child of our own" and siblings are denied this right because the children produced by siblings are at greater risk of genetic harm. The question for same-sex marriage is whether the "child of our own" children of such a marriage, meaning necessarily children from a test-tube conception using either donated sperm or a donated egg, are psychologically harmed as a result of not being raised by (often not even knowing) one of their biological parents. If society thinks this causes enough harm to make test-tube conception illegal, then that would be the same as deciding that same-sex couples do not have a legal right to have a "child of their own" just as siblings have no such right, and it would mean that same-sex couples, like siblings, do not have a right to marry.

If the question were framed properly as above, then it would promote a genuine and important public discussion, one in which religious and secular people might find themselves as likely to be in agreement as disagreement. It would probably result in far more people being persuaded that same-sex marriage was not a right, compared to the approach that the backers of proposition 8 are using. As reported here, proposition 8 backers are targeting the Hispanic voters because they are mainly Catholic. They are using religious arguments instead of arguments that would make sense to people whether they were religious or not. The backers of the proposition are going out of their way to use a title that undermines their case, but which frames the question in terms that pit Catholics versus non-Catholics. I smell a rat.

[See "Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage: What is at Stake?" for more discussion about how test-tube conception is harmful to the child.]

*Postscript: I have been informed by a friend in California that the title of proposition 8 was determined by California's Attorney General, arguing that same-sex marriage had been found by a California court to be a right under the state's constitution. Also, the sponsors of the proposition filed a suit against the state and lost. The point remains that the debate on this issue is being framed by both sides in a way that pits Catholics against non-Catholics by avoiding the kind of discussion that would be less polarizing by focusing on how same-sex marriage affects the children it may produce.