Monday, August 09, 2010

"Conservatives" attack Prop 8 ruling for "hyper-rationality"; more on Manning

Inevitably, the “conservatives” are going to hit back on the Prop 8 ruling (the apparent “conflict of interest” with the judge doesn’t help), but a piece by Rebecca Hagelin on p B5 of the Monday Aug 9 Washington Times stings a bit. Hagelin’s “How to save your family” column sounds defensive (and I reviewed a book of hers last Nov. 19 along these lines on the Books blog), but here she says “Teach truth, don’t yield to ‘new morality’”, link here.

First, we can get into an epistemological argument about “Truth” (from a Rosenfels perspective), but what she seems to be attacking here is the “rationalism” of the judge’s logic, the desire to force the logical consequences of some set of ideas taken as principles, here of individualism (but, legally, derived from the 14th Amendment and several other constitutional sources).

Here the principle seems to be “equality” and avoiding a legal situation where one’s person’s relationships are “better” than someone else’s, at least in the eyes of the law.

What always mattered to me in practice was “autonomy”, and in some situations in my own life, my need for autonomy was not properly respected by others. But for long stretches it was respected, more or less, as I could “do what I wanted” as long as I did my job. For decades I cared more about privacy that “equality” as we know it now. In a world where everything is a lot more public (Facebook has a role here, but so does my own authorship of books and blogs), equality comes back as a practical concern.

The problem is, when you don’t have equality, sometimes the life of one person can be expropriated involuntarily to meet the “needs” of someone else. Without equality, the rights of an LGBT person can be taken away and used to satisfy the passions encountered in heterosexual marriage (or even courtship). Some of it is a kind of subsidy: the unmarried help subsidize the relationships of the marriage, with tax policy and the like (and, no, I really don’t object to paying school taxes), but also sometimes with “sacrifices” that are a lot more substantive – perhaps because family responsibility doesn’t always depend just on one’s own chosen (sexual) acts. (Is that why marriage is "institutionalized" -- so that it can, when convenient, pick the pockets of the unmarried?)  Eventually, one can reach a point that if one’s “autonomy” is not “respected”, one’s own life seems corrupted (that is, driven by “someone else’s enjoyment of sexual intercourse”, or at least someone else's purposes, not one's own) and may seem not to be worth living, or the moral lesson that might follow death may seem to be the only remaining meaningful outcome. Of course, anyone who lived under slavery in the past could say that (and I know this is a particularly dangerous, and sometimes tragic, area, but many people would experience "second class status" with a great deal of personal shame, an unacceptable emotion). There’s another angle, too: there is a limit to how pure “justice” can be in a free society; sometimes people have to accept “living in a community.” Only an individual knows whether her or she really would benefit from Grace.

Today the New York Times added to the campfire brewing under the “gay soldier” Brian Manning with a front page story Monday by Ginger Thompson, “A soldier’s path toward a leak investigation: friends see a smart misfit, searching for his place”, here.  Is Manning an example of "hyper-rationality"?

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