Saturday, August 07, 2010

Thought of the Day: Conservatism and the Contradictions of "Definitions" -- Torture and Marriage

What should we make of a conservatism that twists, parses, revises, and otherwise mangles the definition of the word and concept of "torture" in order to justify behavior which would "traditionally" be actually considered torture, a behavior whose purpose is to inflict unimaginable pain and harm, physically and psychologically, on another human being for what can only be called a questionable greater good, and at the same time demand adherence to a "traditional" definition of marriage for the express purpose of denying something that would give immense joy and happiness to another human being and which would have absolutely no discernible impact on its adherents' own ability to experience joy and happiness? It is a contradiction that exposes both the mean-spirited irrationality of this strain of conservatism and the underlying intentional harmfulness and disrespect for human dignity that defines this strain of conservatism.

8 comments:

eric said...

You're right. In fact, it's almost as hypocritical as the intentional harmfulness and disrespect for human dignity that President Obama, the guy you support, shows towards gays:

"The President has spoken out in opposition to Proposition 8 because it is divisive and discriminatory. He will continue to promote equality for LGBT Americans.” -White House Spokeperson Ben LaBolt

“I believe that marriage is between a man and woman and I am not in favor of gay marriage.” - Barack Obama

Huck said...

Eric - As you well know, I have been critical of Obama precisely on this issue. You won't get any defense of Obama's duplicity on this point from me. This is one issue on which I have been deeply disappointed in Obama. And, come to think of it, even though Obama has ended the torture regime, his unwillingness to prosecute those who engaged in torture (along with his foot-dragging on closing Guantanamo) is also a point of disappointment for me.

Huck said...

Also, Eric, I think it is fair to point out that liberalism as an ideology generally supports gay marriage and does think that torture means torture, in spite of Obama's individual failures in this regard. I would say that Obama's failures (and yes, they are both intentionally harmful to and disrespectful of human dignity) are because he is not a good "liberal" on these issues. You are talking about a person in Obama deviating from liberal ideology and I am talking about a powerful strain of conservative ideology that guides many individual conservatives.

eric said...

So then the fact that a small majority of latinos and the overwhelming majority of blacks in California supported Prop 8 must mean you believe they are "bad" liberals as well. It almost sounds like your political party is as screwed up and nonsensical as mine.

eric said...

Here's what I believe, Huck: both parties and both ideologies are open to people who support gay marriage, and both have strong factions within that are against the idea.

There is nothing inherent to conservative ideology that is against homosexuality, although there is an aspect of the ideology that doesn't agree with granting special rights to identity groups, and that invites an argument against gay marriage (or an even better argument for getting the government out of marriage altogether if you ask me, and that is a debate that is becoming more and more common on the right, though I never hear it discussed on the left).

The right does have a larger number of people than the left who argue, quite correctly, that Christianity views homosexuality as a sin, and that serious Christians can't just ignore this. But even then you don't hear people on the right calling for a return to anti-sodomy laws, which is what you'd expect to hear from them based on the kind of picture you like to paint. These people on the right often do have a hard time trying to integrate secular society's acceptance of homosexuality with their own religious aversion to it. But you know what? Most of them try to reconcile this. Maybe that means they don't support gay marriage, but maybe it also means they get onto their kids if they hear them denegrating somebody for being gay.

Huck said...

Oh, to be sure the Democratic Party is screwed up and nonsensical on many things. Heck, we even have some fiscal deficit-hawks among our numbers! ;-) But, who's talking about political parties? I'm talking about ideologies. Yeah, there are a good number of Democrats (and not just minorities) who are illiberal when it comes to the question of gay marriage. The only thing that screws up the Democratic Party on this topic is when half its members embrace conservative ideological orthodoxy on the question of gay marriage and the other half doesn't.

I think we both know that that conservative ideology (note: NOT Republicans, per se) opposes gay marriage and liberal ideology (note: NOT Democrats, per se) supports it. And I'd be very surprised if you were to argue that gay marriage advocacy is as much a conservative cause as it is a liberal one.

Huck said...

Oops! Sorry, Eric. I posted my comment above while you were writing your most recent comment, and our postings just crossed in the electronic ether of the internet. I'll have to read your most recent posting more closely and respond; but I just wanted to note that my last comment was posted before reading your most recent.

Huck said...

Eric - I think just about every liberal would support having the government get out of the marriage business altogether. The only reason this fight over gay marriage is taking place is because it is an institution so built into our civil society, laws, and institutions, ranging from alimony, to child support, to beneficiary policies for private insurance, not to mention tax policy, immigration policy, retirement policy, and health care protocols. My idea would be to have the state sanction a union that gives those who commit to it the exact same benefits and rights under the law; and then to let those participating in the union call it whatever they want and have that name be recognized by civil authorities. So, if I want to bind my life to another (whether same sex or opposite sex) and if I want to call it a civil union, then the civil authority recognizes it as such, just like the civil authority recognizes my name as Jimmy. If I want to call the exact same thing a marriage, then the civil authority recognizes it as a marriage because I and my partner call it that, just like it recognizes my name as Jimmy.

I also happen to think that the reason why conservatives are more and more embracing the idea of getting government out of the marriage business (without really thinking about what the implications of this truly are, and in spite of the fact that there still is a strong conservative push or a Federal Marriage Amendment to the Constitution) is that they see themselves losing the battle and, in a measure of spite, would rather cut off their noses to spite their faces just because they wouldn't want gays to share in this thing they revere called marriage. I see it as more an attitude of "if I have to either share the institution of civil 'marriage' with gays or just get rid of civil marriage altogether, well I'd rather get rid of it altogether."