Marriage is a little bird, tweeting in a meadow…

[Title=cult. non-seq. ref.; 10 pts.]

I don’t yet have the second part of my last post.  In fact, I’ve been avoiding all mention of politics for the past several weeks, ever since the Green convention.  I’ve been told by reliable sources that I haven’t missed much, which was rather my perception that led to the sabbatical in the first place.

I’m still thinking that I’m not quite ready to come back.  I’ve been paying a lot of attention lately to baseball and theatre and my kids and trying to get a better job.  I went bowling over the weekend, which I didn’t do well at, but I could console myself that I was a helluva lot better at it than Barack Obama.

You have to pay attention to politics in this country for the same reason you have to pay attention to deer by the side of the road while driving, because God alone knows what’s going to happen if you take your eyes off ’em.  This isn’t necessarily a criticism as much as it is one of the problems of democracy, or at least the democracy-cum-kleptocracy that we’ve developed…and yes, you can cue one of Jefferson’s quotes about liberty right here.  I’ve done a great deal of paying attention over the last several years, and sometimes it’s just good to let your mind dwell on other subjects for a bit.

Alas, Churchill has some equally prescient and profound quotes concerning liberty and democracy as well.  (I once got taken to task by a fellow Green – who shall remain nameless except to say that it was Myles Hoenig – for quoting the “arch-conservative” Churchill, which was an obvious indicator of my “true sympathies” or some other nonsense like that.  Leave it to me to pick the one place in the entire world where I’d be thought of as a right-winger.  My fellow people in that place do keep an open mind, as most on the left do – but unfortunately, some do to the extent that their brains fall out.)  A five-minute conversation with the average voter is in fact an excellent argument against democracy, and taken to its logical conclusion, the same can be said for a recent forum at which Barack Obama and John McCain appeared.

I was tuned into Michael Phelps’ inspiring performance at the Olympics that day, and thank Ghod I was, because it restored my faith in the possibility of basically good, local guys like myself being capable of extrordinary things, and it also likely saved our TV from having something heavy thrown through it.  Consensus of the bloviating morning-after talking-headery is apparently that McCain “won” because Obama was “too thoughtful” in his responses, and Lord knows we don’t want a President that thinks about things before he responds.  This is bad enough, except that one of the examples I was cited of a question where Obama didn’t do this was on the question, “What is marriage?”

Now I hate to risk the wrath of the pundits by asking this of readers – after all, they are on cable 24 by 7 and they do just fine without the messy business of having to think before they say anything – but I do ask you to just take an extra munch or two of your donut and just consider that end of that last graf while doing so.  An opportunity was presented for questions to be asked of the two leading candidates for President of the United States, and the question, “What is marriage?” was thought to be perfectly fitting in that context.  Further, both chose to take the church-proffered bait and answer the question in the same way.  After all, this is the People’s Glorious Two-Party System, and gays have to vote for Obama, sez right here…so what was the harm?

Now there’s a great deal of wrong to go around here, and I’ll apologize in advance that I might miss some…but let’s give it a shot.

I mentioned baseball previously.  One of the good things about it is that there are 30 teams, not two, and you generally don’t have to worry about a lot of mealy-mouthed, go-along bait-taking as we saw here.  As an example, when hearing that this question was asked, I was reminded of Tommy Lasorda’s response to a question, back when he was manager of the Dodgers, after a game they lost to the Cubs in which Dave Kingman hit three home runs:

What’s my opinion of Kingman’s performance!? What the fuck do you think is my opinion of it? I think it was fucking horseshit! Put that in, I don’t fucking care. Opinion of his performance!? Jesus Christ, he beat us with three fucking home runs! What the fuck do you mean, ‘What is my opinion of his performance?’ How could you ask me a question like that, ‘What is my opinion of his performance?’ Jesus Christ, he hit three home runs! Jesus Christ! I’m fucking pissed off to lose the fucking game. And you ask me my opinion of his performance! Jesus Christ. That’s a tough question to ask me, isn’t it? ‘What is my opinion of his performance?’

People in baseball, when needing to make a point, are given to, shall we say, individualistic responses.  In short, they can and do call bullshit when necessary.  Politicians do not.  In fact, politicians can do this, but it takes some guts, and it’s usually much, much easier to hide behind the two-party racket and just not be the other guy.  (This is really the main function of the two-party system, in fact, but that’s our sermon for next Sunday.)  The correct response to the question, “What is marriage?”, aside from a diatribe worthy of Lasorda, would be, “What difference should it make to the President of the United States who is getting married?  Why is this an issue that the government has to weigh in on?  I assume that as a church, which does marry people before God, you already have an answer to this question.  If you’re against gay marriage, don’t marry people of your own sex…but don’t then come to the government and suggest that we deny to other people what you yourselves do not wish to do.

For suggesting things such as these, I have been called “revolutionary” in the recent past.  (Yeah, it was my sister.)  That’s not necessarily my intention.  I suggest what makes sense, both to myself and in some objective way, such as being backed by actual facts, or having a working example in place elsewhere that is doing the stated job.  Republicans usually react by saying something pithy, in no more than one sentence using small words, and wrapping themselves in a flag, or perhaps strapping on an armband and doing one of those jaunty salutes.  Democrats react by saying “um”, “er”, and “well…” a lot, and shifting their weight from foot to foot as if they have to go to the bathroom.  Doing something else gets me called “revolutionary” – or, more commonly, “stupid” and “unrealistic”.

Hmmm, Churchill may have had something here.  I think I’ll stick with baseball for the time being.

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7 Responses

  1. Wow. I don’t check your blog for a couple of weeks, and I come back to find I’ve been misquoted (or misinterpreted, or… something). I never said you were “revolutionary” for believing the government should be out of the marriage business. You and I may disagree on the degree of importance of the issue of gay marriage, but our positions are probably identical. I don’t know what I think about completely doing away with the concept of civil marriage (making marriage an entirely religious institution), but it’s certainly not a – “whoa! how radical!” – moment.

    Now, I will say that both Obama and McCain were speaking at a forum on faith and morality. You can argue that that isn’t an appropriate setting for Presidential candidates if you want. But… if you do accept the invitation, I think you should be prepared to answer questions about personal morality and beliefs. It’d be a bit weird if they blew off those questions with a “what-in-the-world-does-that-have-
    to-do-with-the-job-of-President” answer.

    As for the thoughtful thing, replace the word thoughtful with “cautious” or “mealy-mouthed” and McCain’s answers as “direct” and “blunt,” and you’ll get why people (like me) thought McCain’s performance was stronger. You’re more on the lookout for examples of anti-intellectualism than I am on the lookout for examples of elitism.

    Still, I can understand why you’d want to tune politics out for a bit. Took me quite a long time to start paying attention again after the Dean campaign (and even then, it took a while for me to lose most of the cynicism). But you have to snap out of it – at least for a few minutes – because I have some questions for you about some stuff I read on Progressive Review.

    As for the politics vs. baseball exchange:

    I don’t know… the Orioles have lost 2 in a row to the Yankees after losing a series to the Red Sox. Looks like another under .500 year, with the added bonus of a likely last place finish. As you mentioned last night, my Great Commoners haven’t exactly dominated the Dove Circle League.

    In comparison, politics is looking pretty good…

    On a sidenote: I got a bit of a laugh from your “no one in the two-party system is willing to call bullshit.” I mean, I get that you wrote this last week before the addition of Joe Biden to the ticket… but… he kinda literally DID call bullshit. Hehe… I said “literally.”

  2. P.S. On the baseball front?

    Happy birthday Cal!

    And…

    Happy 25th anniversary of Tippy picking off the side!

  3. Wait…how is that “blowing off the question”? That is, to my mind, the correct answer.

    The unfortunate part of all of this, and the reason why I brought Churchill into this is that “the answer that people want to hear” and “the correct answer” are not always the same thing. Jefferson knew that, as did many of those founding our country, which is why such emphasis was placed on public education. The terse, thought-terminating answer is a hallmark of the Republican Party as of the last several terms: foreign policy becomes “Bomb ’em!”; domestic policy becomes “No taxes!”; and so forth. Say that in a NASCAR accent with a “Hoo-ee!” every so often and you get the picture.

    This is where populism, without the mitigation of education, falls apart. I don’t want to deal with immigration issues by just saying things about “them meskins”. Those who’ll apply reason do have to step forward and allow intellect and conviction to jointly lead the way. Both Obama and McCain have one of those qualities, but lack the other.

  4. I said nothing about pandering or answering something that you think the crowd wants to hear. I just said, be prepared to answer SOMETHING about your personal morality if you accept an invitation to a faith forum. If you don’t think personal or religious values have any place in Presidential politics, then don’t go to the forum.

    And seriously – how offensive can you get? You completely linked populism with ignorance and basically said that the there is a choice between intellectualism and racism – no other option.

    Why is it that you can’t imagine a gut answer being anything other than right-wing, backwoodsy, and embarrassing?

  5. Don’t think it’s a relic of the two party system. Here in Canada, where we got at least 3 parties (and recently had up to five!) they do the same thing. Little fish (ie “third parties” in the US) can call bullshit every chance they get, and should because the consequences for them are less (they’re not getting much of the vote in a two-party system anyways. Kinda like telling the boss what you *really* think of him on your last day. What’s he going to do, fire you?)

    As to it not being the President’s business to opine on marriage, correct me if I”m wrong (being a Canuckistani I don’t know as much about your devolution of powers as you do) but isn’t it up to the President to make gay marriage legal? (Or is it a state-by-state decision?) And I agree, churches should be free to opt out of any marriage they feel is against their religious tenet, and no government, state or federal, should force them against their wishes. (Separation of church and state and all that)

  6. @Mary: Because a “gut answer” is exactly that: it is a pre-critical, non-thought-out answer…one that did not require any intelligent consideration beforehand. Sometimes that works – you just have one, single, obvious answer and you snap it off and act on it immediately. Sometimes it doesn’t, and you just leap into something you can’t handle or a place you shouldn’t go.

    There’s a reason why the Populist Party of the mid-20th Century was racist, and why a “populist” approach to, as an example, immigration would have many of the same hallmarks. Populism hits its limits when you realize that uneducated people acting in a group do not necessarily gain knowledge. They can also act as a mob.

  7. @David: Marriage laws are pretty much entirely dictated by the states. The Federal government steps in only to settle disputes of interpretation between the states.

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