Maureen Dowd recently slammed Barack Obama for relying on Vice President Biden to nudge him to “do the right thing”. Back home, Annabel Crabb has proclaimed it all comes down to a decisive yes or no response to a confronting but simple question. “Could you look at your neighbour, or your workmate, or your sister, or – in the fullness of time – at your child, and tell them that your recognition of their love and commitment will depend on the equipment of the person they’ve chosen?”
While the answer is, of course, no, neither addresses the core issue of irony.
Not only do love and commitment have absolutely nothing to do with sexual orientation – or whether God disapproves of an amendment to the Marriage Act – they are also utterly independent of matrimony itself.
Marriage, like all other institutions, only works effectively if those involved understand it is, in the end, inconsequential. One should only propose if you realise such a step is meaningless in terms of what truly matters.
Regrettably, not all men and women are conscious of or practice such metaphysical subtleties. It’s usually a struggle, with fear and doubt placing unreasonable expectations on what can be seen, measured and expressed, the size of the ring, elaborateness of the ceremony or binding vows perhaps rustled up with the help of a Google search.
The human condition is defined by how we cope with our futile attempts to formalise what must necessarily defy words and reason. It’s a potentially crippling dilemma.
If all that is seemingly real and structured about true love is ultimately useless, why participate in wedlock at all? My mate Dave regularly employs this line of argument to rationalise why he still hasn’t asked his fellow parent of three and partner of 30 years to marry him. He’s over-thought it, and pulling him back from the brink using reason is innately difficult.
Though marriage is technically senseless, one can’t make it so by trying. To avoid it, to consider it literally meaningless, is just as dangerous as believing the legal act will secure ever-lasting love and happiness.
By incorrectly suggesting it is the marital contract that matters most, that relationship bliss is contingent upon a pledge recognised by society, the gay marriage movement makes the process of finding and retaining ‘The One’, heterosexual or gay, all the more difficult. Like Dave, same-sex advocates are being too rational, though for different reasons. Their everyday cause is divisive identity politics, not the unifying transcendence of love.
The misbegotten framing of key debates of this type reflects a subconscious desire to mask a depressive pathology: social democracy, the definitive vanity project.
Liberal contempt directed at perceived bigots presumes our political system capable of solving all social ills, completely. To confess otherwise would let the narrow-minded off the hook. Goaded by such idolatry, perpetually aggrieved minorities agitate for exquisite goals – respect, equality, fraternity – all the while convinced the tools of government sufficient to make their dreams a reality. Exploitation of middle class guilt leads to new legislation, regulation and funding, even though it’s known deep down they cannot prevail.
Whatever the difficulties faced by families with two mums or two dads, there is still a point of inflexion in the journey of progressive politics where we all have to accept such gaps cannot be overcome directly, that making it the issue risks institutionalising failure.
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