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Sick and tired of the same-sex marriage debate? Here's why

By Mark Christensen - posted Tuesday, 29 August 2017


Tony Abbott and his mates are right. Whatever the outcome of the plebiscite or a parliamentary vote, the rage and sanctimonious bullying will go on. New grievances will be unearthed. Australia Day must be moved. The constitution changed. Gender quotas enforced. LGBTI extended by a few more letters.

Australian culture, historically easy going and accepting of others, is being ravaged by self-important political activism. And it's sucking the life out of all of us.

Alas, conservatives only feed the beast.

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Without a radical shift, Australia will surely end up in the same divisive mess as America.

The introduction to Charles Krauthammer's popular book Things That Matter neatly spells out the key dilemma for modern Western societies.

"First and above all else, you must secure life, liberty and the right to pursue your own happiness," the columnist writes.

"That's politics done right, hard-earned, often by war. And yet the glories yielded by such a successful politics lie outside itself."

There's great irony in this.

Malcolm Turnbull is big on "first and above all else". He regularly affirms he is here to keep us safe and protect jobs and growth. But this is true only up to a point.

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Once life, liberty and the right to pursue your own happiness has been secured – which is pretty much the case in Australia – his priority becomes drawing a very firm line and reminding us of a difficult reality: more politics is likely counter-productive. The hard-earned platform, including genuine recent efforts to recognise past sins inflicted upon Aborigines and others, will count for nothing if the country doesn't move on and embrace what is truly important, the glories that exist beyond the democratic machine.

The thing is, what lies yonder defies political meaning, by implication. It's a connection, not something to be legislated for. It concerns what power can't touch, nor money buy. And – surprise, surprise – it's where we find equality.

This terrifies politicians, left-leaning media and professional activists. Not only does it threaten their identity and livelihood, it makes real the prospect they might have to surrender their simplistic us-and-them mindset and actually relate to, and assume the best of, their fellow human beings.

Take a try-hard like Tim Minchin, who recently posted a dittyonline commending the postal vote for at least enabling enlightened good guys like himself to identify which Australians are homophobic c-----. This is not a man interested in the welfare of homosexuals or building bridges. He wants a political fight, mainly because he needs a distraction from the troubling fact he is just as elitist and dogmatic as the hard-line Christians he mocks.

Bill Shorten practices a more subtle form of posturing.

His marriage equality campaign deliberately blurs the line between effective politics and what lies beyond. People crave connection and solidarity more than ever. So much so they are readily exploited by false promises. Why not take the easy, box-ticking option? Why not believe the fiction that changing the law will somehow promote and dignify the glory of love?

Same-sex marriage advocates often rightly ask why it matters to those on the No side. Why is it skin off my nose if two blokes get hitched?

I believe it will be detrimental to Australian society. Not the issue, per se. It's about overreach. A Yes will further galvanise an ill-founded confidence in politics at the expense of the things that matter, including acceptance of minorities.

Malcolm Turnbull has a chance to demonstrate the head-and-heart combo many Australians – myself included – once thought he could bring to the prime ministership.

Political stability is not half-way between Abbott and Minchin. Standing in the middle of the culture wars is liable to get a reasonable person shot (Turnbull is already badly wounded).

Balance isn't left-right; it's inside-outside.

Australia – indeed, the world – yearns for a leader brave enough to mark off the limits of democracy in order to create the space needed for us to get on with getting along with each other. Exchange faith in the system for faith in real people. We want someone who will risk it all by drawing this line and defending it with conviction.

Same-sex marriage represents that opportunity.

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This article was first published by the Australian Financial Review.



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About the Author

Mark is a social and political commentator, with a background in economics. He also has an abiding interest in philosophy and theology, and is trying to write a book on the nature of reality. He blogs here.

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Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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