Thursday, November 09, 2006

Lileks Sums It Up Pretty Well

In today's Bleat:

Noon today: Rumsfeld steps down, making a typical speech on the way out. “The question is, Do we know why I am leaving? Yes. Are we looking at the screen door, which may or may not hit me on the way out? We are, but you can’t say the hinges are oiled until we know how dry the hinges were before.” (Crinkly smile.) Reporters later note that while the speed of the resignation was impressive, press aides failed to plan for the chaos that would follow in the Q & A period.

I’m sad to see him go, even though people whose opinion I respect called for his keister a while ago. I’ve heard things about his replacement that supposedly spell ill news for the Bush Doctrine, but if that was still in force Syria would have been confronted long ago, instead of treated an this odd stray dog that wanders into the room from time to time and pees on the carpet. There’s that dog again! What’s his story? Check his tags.

But more on that later, if you care. Warm day, good spirits. [Yup. One of the reasons I identify with the right is that we're the kind of people for whom the loss of an election is not the loss of our entire reason for being. You don't hear us shrieking THEY CHEATED!! or Americans SUCK!! You will not be reading articles about post-election selection trauma and our visits to group therapy sessions, and about how we're all going to move to Texas.]


Trolled around some radio and websites today, and noted something interesting: no rancor. Well, you say, this reflects the circles in which you choose to move, and I suppose it does, but the places I haunt were not brimming with outrage and fury and tales of Diebold deviltry or voter suppression. If anything, mixed among the rue and worry, there was something unexpected:


I’m serious: no one said as much, but I have the feeling that many on the right & center-right are relieved to have this Congress repudiated, as much as they dislike the potential effect of the alternative. Two more years of the same would have been two more years of tentative dithering, culminating in another appeal to hit the polls lest the Republic crumble. But we haven’t seen an innovation in policy or rhetoric since the last election. It is the adult thing to expect you will get half of what you want in politics, but this is not an excuse for making an lackluster attempt to get one-quarter and serving it up as one-hundred percent.

As everyone is fond of saying, we need two parties, and if this re-engages one and re-focuses the other, good. It doesn’t mean that Jesusland became Rosie O’Striesandland overnight, of course; there were all sorts of different messages, as you might expect in a gigantic nation of 300 million people. I was surprised to learn that the gay marriage amendment in Wisconsin included a ban on civil unions – that strikes me as overkill, to be polite. I understand the rationale – brick up the back door! – and it may seem like linguistic casuistry to insist that “marriage” means something separate when civil unions are permitted, but the word does have a certain power. As I’ve said before, my qualms about redefining marriage have nothing to do with anyone’s sexual preference; it strikes me as unwise to undo a long-standing institution NOW, PERIOD, and there’s the issue of child-raising and adoption and whether the state should favor one arrangement over another, or, inevitably, whether the state should permit a private institution to favor one arrangement over the other. Surely we are still able to say that a male-female dynamic, all other things being equal, have an advantage. I’ve had this argument with a few friends, and the look on mothers’ faces when you say “well, there’s nothing you bring to the table a man couldn’t provide” is priceless. They don’t believe it for a second, but they also cannot make the leap to admit that same-sex child-rearing situations lack certain inherent qualities, because that suggests a difference, and the difference implies a hierarchy, and we can’t have that. You inevitably get sidetracked on a discussion of bad hetero couples and great gay couples, which is interesting but irrelevant; we're talking about state policy here, and if you wish the law to regard the absence of a mother or father as irrelevant, tell me why that's a good thing.

Anyway. Point is, I think the majority of Americans wouldn’t balk at civil unions, and I think the same majority would accept laws that afford gay couples the right to have the same benefits as unmarried hetero couples via medical visitation, insurance plans, etc. Unlike 50 years ago, most people know someone who’s out. That tends to soften hearts. I know some thing that every evangelical thinks Sorry, sis, I love you, but your godless practices must keep you from being present at your life partner's funeral, but somehow I suspect that is not the norm. But when the matter of civil unions gets twinned with redefining marriage, it appears people will vote against the redefinition regardless of the secondary consequences. Preserving the traditional definition trumps any vague sympathetic acquiescence to some flavor of statutory equality. Twenty years from now, attitudes may change – but they’ll run up against constitutional amendments that arose in reaction to the decisions of a few judges.

And that’s one of the reasons I like judges who tap the brakes instead of flooring it through the red light.

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