Put the Hammer Down

On October 19, 2014, an advertisement ran in the Los Angeles Times (on pg. A4). It stated that an “apparition” of the Virgin Mary had revealed that Pope Paul VI was replaced with “an impostor pope” leading to the “destructive Vatican II reforms.” The ad then showed two pictures of Pope Paul, one labeled “Pope Paul VI,” the other “The impostor (1975-1978) created by highly skilled plastic surgeons.” Never mind the fact that Vatican II ended in 1965, and never mind the fact that the pictures are obviously of the same man, just at different ages. It’s a ludicrous story—but one that someone clearly believes, whole-heartedly, as it gives them a reason to avoid change.

I wouldn’t mention this at all, except that the ad struck me as remarkably parallel to something else going on right now: “GamerGate.”

If you’re unfamiliar with GamerGate, you’re a fortunate soul, but it’s a real problem that needs attention, because it shows how determined people are to Keep Things The Same, and how willing they are to threaten people to get their way. Continue reading

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Choices

The issues of abortion and contraception seem to be in the air these days, and the pro-life camp has its standard-bearers out in force. After listening to the public discourse, and after conversations with some of my pro-life friends, I feel that I would have much more respect for the pro-life camp if I could be certain that all of them were focused on preserving life, and not on preserving control. In short, I’d be happier if I could be certain that the whole of the pro-life camp is actually pro-life, instead of anti-women.

I can understand the belief that abortion is killing. I think that saying so raises both biological and theological questions that we can’t answer with certainty at the moment. I and many others could raise many objections to the abortion = murder position, but I can understand and respect the principle. I know many people who hold to that belief, and my friends believe it honestly and reasonably.

But knowing as I do that a significant percentage of abortions are performed because the women in question just can’t afford a child… knowing as I do that the Pill prevents both ovulation and implantation, and thus has effects both before and after conception… knowing as I do that abortion rates barely even twitch when abortion is criminalized, and only go down when contraception is readily available… I must look to a different strand of the pro-life camp, which to my dismay and astonishment seems to not only seek an end to abortion, but to birth control and education on reproduction. Continue reading

Forgive Us

For over a century, women in this country had no real legal rights, except perhaps as widows. They had no right to vote, no right to own property while married, no right to a divorce except in cases of adultery, no right to even a modicum of control over their own bodies. That last was not a comment about abortion: women were denied access to information about controlling their fertility. Not abortions, not condoms, just pamphlets. Such information was declared “obscene” by the Comstock Laws, and Federal officials would routinely search the mail and seize educational material on human sexuality. The lack of control would go even further, as spousal abuse was not considered a crime and rape would generally be blamed on the victim.

For over a century, African Americans could be killed with impunity in this country. They could be lynched for talking back to a white man, whistling at a white woman, owning a gun, or trying to vote. As local law enforcement usually organized the lynch mobs, blacks had no legal recourse or protection (State and Federal officials ignored the problem). Nor was this an exclusively southern phenomenon. The north and west had “sundown towns,” so called because the rules were simple: blacks could come into town during the day to work or do business, but had to be beyond the city limits by sundown, or face arrest or worse. Lynchings the country over were family affairs for whites, an occasion for a picnic and taking photographs. They were so solidly entrenched in the American culture that Franklin Roosevelt could not get an anti-lynching law passed in the heyday of the New Deal.

For nearly two centuries, gays and lesbians in this country were effectively persecuted. Sodomy was a felony. Just being at a gay bar could get you arrested for public indecency. If a gay man got arrested, he could expect to be beaten by the police (who would he complain to?) and have his name published in the newspapers, unless he could bribe his way out of it. If his name was printed up he could expect to lose his job, his friends, even his family.

Lesbians could expect all of the above as well; they would also be raped.

Things are better now, of course. Teachers can’t get in trouble for teaching about sex, just for teaching anything other than abstinence-only birth control. Blacks can’t get lynched by the police, just shot by them. Gays and lesbians can’t get beaten by the police, just by the general population. Continue reading

Tradition!

I am not a huge fan of traditional marriage.

By “traditional marriage,” I mean the way marriage was established for thousands of years: a partnership formed by consenting adults. The adults, however, were not the people getting married — but instead their parents, specifically fathers. It usually had everything to do with property management, and very little to do with the feelings of those involved. The women in particular were traded around almost like poker chips, and were often considered so worthless that a father had to pay a dowry to get her off his hands. There could also be horrible age mismatches, particularly older men with younger women. Of course the women could also be legally beaten, had no right to refuse sex, and had no control over their fertility.

That is how it was done for a very, very long time. Speaking as someone who supports liberty for all peoples, especially women, I just can’t get behind the idea.

The idea that young people should have the right to marry who they choose is actually a fairly new one. More loving parents would take their children’s opinions into consideration… but they, and not the two getting married, would have the final say. Letting people decide for themselves is so recent that within my grandparents’ lifetimes it was still “the done thing” for a young man to ask a young woman’s father for permission to marry her, as if she couldn’t make her own decisions.

Speaking of my grandparents, the story goes that my grandfather’s father did not approve of him marrying my grandmother. Great-Grandfather Crawford was a wealthy man, whereas the Myers family wasn’t well-off, and great-grandfather felt that the marriage was beneath his family’s station. So he went to Great-Grandfather Myers and asked, “How much will it cost me to call this off?” You see, he was playing by the old traditional rules that a marriage was decided by the parents, and also by the old traditional rules that marriage had nothing to do with love and everything to do with property. A business transaction, and in this case one that he thought he would lose by.

Great-Grandfather Myers, bless him, answered simply: “They’re in love, and they’re getting married.”

So you see, I have something of a personal stake in disliking traditional marriage, too: if we still played by traditional rules, I wouldn’t exist.

As such, I’m rather in favor of expanding the rights of marriage to pretty much every consenting adult. I’d point out that marriage isn’t for everyone, of course, and also I have points to make about the religious side of affairs elsewhere. Moreover, when we get married for love alone we overlook that marriage still does have a lot to do with property and finances; legally speaking, that’s the only thing marriage is about. Finally, when we get married for love, we  forget the way love changes and grows over time, that the passion makes way for the peace, and that love in our age looks very different from love in our youth. Regardless, by all principles of liberty and justice, the decision to marry should rest with those doing the marrying, and neither other people nor the laws of the land should stand in their way.

So when people object to expanding the right of marriage to non-traditional couples such as two men, or two women, I have to ask the objectors: what do you mean by traditional marriage?

If you mean “marriage between a man and a woman because my church says so,” or “marriages between men and women because I’m not comfortable with the idea of men having sex,” or “marriage between a man and a woman, just like mine,” then you are certainly entitled to your belief, and we can hash things out using different terminology. But I have to say, on the basis of the historical evidence, that traditional marriage isn’t exactly what you’re talking about.

Do you instead mean an institution where fathers would dictate the rest of their children’s lives? Do you mean one where blacks and whites could not marry, or where rich and poor couldn’t either? Do you mean one where women surrendered all legal rights as soon as they said “I do,” and one where wife-beating and husband-wife rape were actually encouraged? Going further back, do you mean one where a man could have many wives if he wanted, but a woman having two husbands would be grounds for stoning? Do you mean one where a woman was worth two cows, if they weren’t terribly valuable cows? Because that’s how things went for a long, long time. That’s the real tradition. And most of us have walked away from that — indeed, fiercely fought it — because the tradition intolerably trespasses on our liberty and our love.