Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Time runs Dobson viewpoint on Mary Cheney and her intended family

The December 18, 2006 issue of Time (p. 123) ran a Viewpoint by Dr. James C. Dobson, “Two Mommies Is One Too Many: Mary Cheney is starting a family. Let’s hope she doesn’t start a trend.” The title of the piece refers to two “gay” children’s books from the early 1990s: Leslea Newman and Diana Souza, Heather Has Two Mommies (Boston: Alyson, 1989).; Michael Willhoite, Daddy’ s Roommate, (Los Angeles: Alyson, 1990).

First, let’s hope that Time will run a contrasting viewpoint on the gay parenting issue soon. Dr. Dobson is head of Focus on the Family, a conservative advocacy group in Colorado Springs, CO, a city which I visited in 1994, when I visited a friend and also corresponded with a gay paper from the 1990s, Ground Zero News, which published some of my pieces. I even recall driving Pike’s Peak, and being glad that my rental car was a stickshift when I descended. Maybe the fictitious Everwood is not too far away.

But let's look at this. Dr. Dobson, after introducing the controversy caused when Vice President Dick Cheney’s daughter announced that she was pregnant but would raise the child with her lesbian partner, writes “That’s why public policy as it relates to families must be based not solely on the desires of adults but rather on the needs of children and what is best for society at large.” Dobson talks about gender-specific roles-models for children that parents fill, and then compares gay parenting to no-fault divorce as a reckless social experiment.

True, the supposed “birthright” of every child for a legally married mother and father is a societal good. But so is the availability of adoptive or foster parents at all. There are other goods to consider. These include equality of all citizens, and the idea that people will marry out of love rather than out of a need for social approbation. Finally, a vital good is that everyone share the “duties” of securing freedom by sharing some of the risks and “burdens” (I don’t like to use the word here, but it is somewhat apt) of caring for those of other generations who are not on their own, including both children and some of the elderly. This is that “pay your dues” idea. Oh yes! But a little analytical thought shows that satisfying all of these goals perfectly, even out of “what is best for society,” is a mathematical and logical impossibility. Something has to give.

That is why the political fight over military service for gays and gay marriage and gay parenting is so important. Gays need to participate in meeting these common needs. Without the ability to do so, we are sitting ducks to be chosen to sacrifice to meet the needs of others. It happens, believe me. We become the second class citizens. (Someone has to in this zero-sum thinking.) I can think of some derogatory terms (based on the days of slavery and segregation) but won’t list them here.

You could say that modern society has called undue attention to "equality" with its hyper-individualism, which came about partly because previously "The Family" had provided a convenient shield for preserving unearned disparaties of wealth, and for evils like segregation. Openness about sexuality arguably puts some individually more "marginal" people on the spot. If you keep sexuality confined to the socialization of the family (through the abstinence outside of legal marriage paradigm) and especially if you don't let people talk about it too openly, you may let some people feel that they can function in the family, have and raise children, and be taken care of themselves, whereas in an open, individualistic and globalized society they will be told that they must "compete" before having children. That comports with Vatican ideas about marriage and the priesthood which, as we know, have broken down. Of course, you can try to extend Vatican-style arguments with large scale social programs to address poverty and disparity among classes and races.

Of course, some of you will say, that is why we turn to scripture and faith. Man, it is said, cannot solve all of his problems perfectly with the “knowledge of good and evil” alone. Even God can't change the theorems of mathematics, only the axioms.

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