Thursday, March 26, 2009

Morality, Homosexuality, Liberals, and Conservatives

For the purposes of this post, I am going to talk about liberalism and conservatism in a broad sense, separate from the political dogma that has attached itself to each. This may be a bit jarring, but try and bear with me.

A basic, undeniable truth : Change has consequences. Some of those consequences will be desirable, some will not. Some will be intentional, some will not. Some will be predictable, some... well, you get the picture.

Liberalism can be defined as a tendency to see the desirable effects of changes, and a relative lack of concern with the unpredictable effects.

Conservatism can be defined as a tendency to see the undesirable effects of changes, and a focus on the unpredictable effects.

Each has it's place, each is necessary. Taken too far, each gets ugly. Used together with a healthy dose of moderation, they create balance, and balance is damn near the key to all things.


To leap sideways a bit, homosexuality, most specifically homosexual marriage, has been in the news and all over the blogs lately. It is drawing a deep and bitter divide between two groups; religious conservatives who see their way of life under attack, and homosexuals who are tired of being treated as non-people and see no reason to tolerate it anymore.

Myself? For the life of me, I really find it hard to believe that this is actually an issue. How it could possibly be my concern if any two (or twelve, for that matter) people decide to get married completely escapes my comprehension.

The most effective argument I have seen mustered against homosexual marriage is something about 'How do I explain to my kids when they see two men out holding hands and they call themselves Mr & Mr So-and-so?". But, to loosen my normal rule against snarky statements : That whole answering kids tough questions? It's called parenting. Look it up. Sorry about the lapse, back to being polite.


And now to tie this together.

We are in the midst of a sea change. As a society we are stepping away from a dogmatic system of morals, where some things are just immoral because that is just how it is, to a functional system of morals, where right and wrong are based on the consequences of a behaviour.

You can still see the remnants of the old system. . The courts have in numerous cases used the simple fact that something is traditional as justification that it is therefore valuable, and within society's mandate to regulate, encourage, or even enforce. To some extent, this is really an appropriate thing for the courts to do.

We are in a process of change now that can be likened to rebuilding the foundation of a house. You can do this by propping things up, removing a footing, replacing it, and moving to the next. You'll get a few cracks in the walls, but nothing that can't be fixed. What you cannot do is rip out all the footings at once. The house will simply collapse.

I am in my mid-thirties. The generation before mine saw equality as a struggle, that might or might not happen. My generation saw it more as a process, something to work towards. The generation that follows sees it as a given, that just hasn't been fully implemented yet.

The whole fight over marriage will, in the end, just be a footnote, the last gasp of dogmatic morality. This is really the last identifiable 'issue', and it will end not with homosexual equality, but with people equality. It is just a matter of time.


TAO March 26, 2009 at 3:26 PM  

Oh, and YOU call me a LEFTY?

Well, I agree wholeheartedly with everything you have written; so I guess that makes you a LEFTY!

Just wait till the radical right find your blog!

There is a tendency in this country to believe that conservatism is about returning to the past and fighting all change.

It is not and never has been.

Conservatives understand that change is unescapeable but we also realize that change, if not controlled and moderated can lead to unintended consequences.

Personally, I would rather spend my time focussing on how to instill a sense of responsiblity in individuals, so to cut down on our abortion rate, our divorce rate, and our adultery rate than I would spending time fighting gay marriage.

I would rather have a debate over the consequences of irrational behavior...and I believe that abortions, divorce, and adultery are irrational and go against ones own self interests.

I read where 60% of all married men admit to committing adultery once in their life and 40% of women do and our divorce rate is like 43%...which means this is a much greater moral and social issue than gay marriage will ever be....and thus a much greater threat to our society.

Time March 26, 2009 at 4:57 PM  

Wouldn't a conservative want the government to stay out of the personal/sexual lives of its people?

Shouldn't marriage be strictly a religious ceremony?

The government should not be setting laws about marriage, heterosexual or homosexual.

We should get out of the business of giving preference (taxes etc.) to married vs single.

As with many issues the people have to wait for the law to catch up with the people. What a loss.

Slavery went on way to long. Woman's right to own property, or vote was way past due.

When younger people realize that the laws don't follow their beliefs, they will vote and the laws will change.

There is nothing wrong with giving the law, a little push.

(O)CT(O)PUS March 26, 2009 at 10:05 PM  

OMB: Taken too far, each gets ugly. Used together with a healthy dose of moderation, they create balance, and balance is damn near the key to all things.

We used to call this "compromise and consensus," a normal part of our political process. Today, however, we have smear and jeer followed by obstructionism. We need to return to a time when grownups could talk without having a food fight.

OMB: religious conservatives ... see their way of life under attack, and homosexuals who are tired of being treated as non-people and see no reason to tolerate it anymore.

My bugbear with theo-cons is that they are authoritarian, social-dominators who want to poke their noses into our bedrooms and tell us how to do it, when to do it, and do on their terms. None of their damn business, thank you very much! Worse still, many of them want to establish a theocracy and suspend the Constitution. Theo-cons are the most dangerous, anti-democratic force in America (you see, OMB, I can be quite the libertarian for a liberal).

OMB: How it could possibly be my concern if any two ... people decide to get married completely escapes my comprehension.

Beyond me as well. It became a wedge issue for the purpose of dividing and conquering the electorate. Just a political gimmick ... and a dastardly one.

You see, OMB, I can have very conservative views for a liberal but what makes me more liberal than conservative is my sense of fairness and social justice.

I am older than you and recall the struggle for civil rights in America, and the fire bombings of churches with children in them, and the murders of college students who supported voter drives.

I consider myself liberal because I saw conservatives wait too damn long to correct the injustices of this country ... and some conservatives who even supported segregation.

Sometimes a man 's gotta do what a man 's gotta do. Otherwise, our views are really quite similar.

OpenMindedRepublican March 26, 2009 at 10:06 PM  

Tao - a while back you said I was more of a conservative than a libertarian. I didn't argue at the time, but I also didn't think that opinion would survive prolonged exposure to my positions :)

'More conservative than most conservatives economically, more liberal than most liberals socially"

As for the radical right finding me? I been needing to blow off some steam lately, just need a deserving target.....

Time - unfortunately, it is the nature of government to try and interfere in things. I will probably go into why I think that is soon.

I would personally say that the extent of government involvement with personal relationships should end at establishing a framework for shared property, which is I think exactly what you are saying.

And yes, each of those flaws in society went on too long. But eliminating each also created new problems. There is a certain limit to the rate of change a society can handle.

OpenMindedRepublican March 26, 2009 at 10:20 PM  

Octo - I am pretty heavily invested in trying not to ascribe the worst motives to people right now. Perhaps this is an overreation to the whole smear campaign thing.

So I try to put myself into the shoes of people I don't agree with. The religious right really does feel under attack from the shifting morality of society.

And although I disagree with them on many things, they do have a point about some. The religious right does not own a monopoly on trying to force it's morality onto others.

Time March 26, 2009 at 11:17 PM  

OMR says,

"There is a certain limit to the rate of change a society can handle."

"The religious right does not own a monopoly on trying to force it's morality onto others."

In fact I would say that it's the progressive Left that has forced its morality on society, especially during the last 40 (baby boomer) years.

To say that is good or bad would depend on your own personal morals, but certainly society has had to learn a few new ways of acceptance.

The Civil rights movement, the sexual revolution, woman's movement, drugs, rock and roll, homosexuality, etc...

I think my parents generation were not so reactionary compared to the diagonally opposing moral viewpoints between them and their children.

Every generation goes through that kind of battle with their authority figures, but the baby boomers were probably more extreme than most generations.

There's no denying (for me) that progress (if you call it that-some would not)is natural and necessary.

Part of people's complaining about the law, is their impatience waiting for the laws to reflect their thinking.

It's tiring to be having the same debate on issues that we were having 40 years ago. (medical marijuana is only one example).

We still can't come to a resolute compromise on some issues, like the age able to drink alcohol. The Federal drinking age has changed 3 times in the last 40 years. Within some States, drinking laws change every year.

OpenMindedRepublican March 26, 2009 at 11:32 PM  

Time - Some laws are idealogically based, some are functionally based. They are actually quite easy to tell apart, without ever even looking at the issue itself.

'Fuzzy edges', constant changes, 'loopholes', and a long lasting opposition are all hallmarks of idealogical laws.

If you look at the underlying patterns, the behaviour of the Right and Left are not really very different.

As far as the attack on the religious, I actually meant something a bit more direct than just the changes in society. To some extent they have accepted the changes in society.

It is the nature of activists to go too far. After they have pretty much won everything reasonable, they don't stop; The movement has an inertia all it's own.

The far left, especially those elements coming out from under repression, have a huge lack of respect for the religious right and a complete disregard for their rights.

It's understandable, but it's not acceptable.

Matt March 27, 2009 at 1:12 AM  

TAO writes: Well, I agree wholeheartedly with everything you have written; so I guess that makes you a LEFTY!

Chalk me up on the "lefty" side too, then. (Or maybe you're secretly a "righty", since I agree with what you wrote!)

The problem that I see is that "marriage" has two not-entirely-compatible definitions: a government-sanctioned contract of mutual support between two adults, and a mostly church-sanctioned contract of spiritual harmony between -- in most states -- a man and a woman. Separate the first (which includes tax breaks, legal resolution of divorce, spousal benefits, and so on) from the second -- make "marriage" an entirely secular institution from the government's point of view -- and we're all set.

OpenMindedRepublican March 27, 2009 at 1:20 AM  

Matt - yeah, I think that is where it is going to end up. Do an end-around the whole gay marriage issue by making 'civil unions' the government term, and let folks call it what they may.

TRUTH 101 March 27, 2009 at 6:05 AM  

Gay marraige will continue to be a wedge issue because right now it's one of the few thing the Republicans have that still can excite it's base. "Lower taxes and less regulation" have been exposed as failed policies. It is too bad that issues like gay marriage and other issues that can be blown up into the realm of ridiculous like sane gun control divide Americans when on important issues that affect us and we are close to agreement upon are ignored.

TAO March 27, 2009 at 6:33 AM  

20 years ago I bought an existing home in a very established neighborhood. I was actually the first person to move in to the neighborhood who had not originally built the home I lived in. All the homes were built in the 50's and my elderly neighbors had built their homes, raised their kids, and were then in their 60's.

It has been a neigborhood in transition since then. Now, I and my neighbor are the two with the longest residency in the neighborhood.

We have watched black families move in, asian families, and our first Bosnian family, and now gay couples.

I call our neighborhood "Soho"

Its funny to watch attitudes change as time goes by and everyone begins getting accustomed to each other.

I remember when the first gay couple moved in and hearing comments about sin, evil, and on and on...

Now, its all waves, smiles, and neighborly respect.

CHANGE can be a good thing....the neighborhood has actually improved with diversity and I believe with the change the neighborhood has become more concerned about each other, and more compassionate.

We have become a true neighborhood over the last 20 years.

My newest neighbor was born in the house that I now live in. She moved in across the street with her husband and three kids.

I also found out that her stepbrother (her father divorced and remarried a women with two sons) came home from NYC to die of AIDS a few years before I bought this home....

I think he would be proud to know that a gay couple lives in the house next door and I now know whos initials are written in the concrete foundation for my old antenna....

(O)CT(O)PUS March 27, 2009 at 7:24 AM  

OMB: " The religious right really does feel under attack from the shifting morality of society."

What I perceive from public debate is actually the opposite. It is MY LIFE that is under attack, and the lives of my adult children.

Abortion, gay rights, embryonic stem cell research, school prayer, sex education, access to health care ... these are under assault by those who would change the laws and impose their religious views on me and my family ... even turn us into felons and subject us to persecution.

Case in point: An Evangelical can choose not to have an abortion (good for them) under current law; but once laws are changed, none of my three daughters will have a right to reproductive choice and all will be considered criminals subject to imprisonment.

A true conservative would preserve the anti-establishment clause of the Constitution. What these theo-cons do not understand ... once you open the door to established religion, all religious denominations risk losing their freedom to worship as each group tries to monopolize the public pulpit.

This turns into oppression and tyranny in the extreme, and one need not look beyond the Taliban to foresee these implications. This issue rankles me perhaps more than any other.

TAO March 27, 2009 at 7:44 AM  


What you have just stated is the fundamental reason for the current meltdown in what was once the 'conservative' movement.

You cannot be for less government and dismantling governmental regulations and then demand that we establish a morality police.

That is a contradiction and you can only dance around contradictions for so long...

If one believes as Reagan preached, then you cannot be a social conservative in anything other than your own life.

The current 'conservative' movement (I always put that term in quotations because I have never found what currently passes for 'conservative' thought to be anything other than extreme libertarian, self interests, and fascistic frustrations....)has basically found themselves being passed by by the natural passage of time and the inherent change that evolves through the passage of time.

The basic difference between true conservatives and liberals is one of whether the glass is half empty or half full. That is why we can discuss and debate on OMR's blogs and a few others because we are discussing the same thing.

When you get off to the radical conservative blogs you either have to totally agree or you are an unAmerican.

No much grounds to debate, discuss, and improve when there is nothing shared.

I think our whole poltical debate has gotten way to urgent and demanding over the last 20 years....and thus our extremes have gotten vicious on both sides.

I am glad that I found this blog, Swash Zone, Shaw's and a few others because it does remind me that there are sane people in the world where one can have intelligent discussions....

I hope that we can overcome the damage of the extremes and move forward....

Which is basically what OMR said in his last post

OpenMindedRepublican March 27, 2009 at 7:47 AM  

Octo - The issues you speak of are real, but they are being won. Like I said in the original post, it is just a matter of time.

But you need to look at it from the other side, as well. Pushing the liberal point of view in schools (especially universities) has reached really excessive levels. And when they try to change to home schooling to avoid it, home schooling gets attacked. Agree with their beliefs or not, when you shift from defending yourself from them, to pushing your beliefs onto them, you have crossed a fundamental line.

Some cases are hard to decide. The case that comes to mind is pharmacists and the 'morning after pill'. OK, we agree that the 'pill' should be legal, but does it follow then that a pharmacist who opposes it morally should be forced, under pain of loosing their livelihood, to violate their beliefs? In a big city, the easy answer is no. But what about in a small town, where there is only the one pharmacy?

(note that 'you' and 'your' are used genericaly in this, not personaly)

(O)CT(O)PUS March 27, 2009 at 9:05 AM  

OMB: The case that comes to mind is pharmacists and the 'morning after pill'. OK, we agree that the 'pill' should be legal, but does it follow then that a pharmacist who opposes it morally should be forced, under pain of loosing their livelihood, to violate their beliefs?

Should a woman who has been brutally raped be denied the pill (standard issue in cases of rape) due to religious objections by hospital personnel? This has already occurred, and if I had the link, I would supply it.

"a small town ..." A rape victim denied treatment in a small town has less recourse than the same victim in a large city, where there are more options available. One cannot discriminate between towns and cities.

I have no sympathy for hospital personnel who would deny a rape victim needed treatment. No sympathy at all. In fact, it offends me.

Let me repeat a point: Once the laws are changed, my freedom and those of my daughters vanish. Poof! No more choice unless we choose prison. As the law stands, Evangelicals still have a choice which they can exercise freely. BIG DIFFERENCE.

So who is forcing whom to choose between freedom versus prison? Liberals or Evangelicals? I don't consider Evangelicals as "conservative" when I see them as potential persecutors who would take away my freedom.

Anonymous,  April 7, 2009 at 10:03 PM  

What a fresh breath of air you are!! I found your blog at TAO's and am so glad I did. I recently just started a new blog because I was so tired of the "radical rights" as tao likes to call them. I always considered myself conservative, but got blasted by them because for some reason I wasn't quite conservative enough for them. We've had some really good discussions over at Thinking Out Loud until my recent sabbatical but I am hoping to be back in the mix of things soon. There is a really good idea, someone posted about regarding gay marriage.

I see some of my friends here, (TAO, Octo,) so you must be doing something right!! Anyway, just wanted to stop by and say Hi! I've added you to my blogroll and hope to see you at my place when I get back into the swing of things!!

OpenMindedRepublican April 7, 2009 at 10:22 PM  

Jennifer, hello and welcome!

I'll certainly swing by and take a look.

And feel free to chime in on anything, this blog is at least as much about the discussion in the comments as it is the posts.

  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by 2008

Back to TOP