The Tyranny of False Choices
posted at 9:14 am on May 8, 2009 by Doctor Zero
Carrie Prejean has been having a rough couple of weeks. She was denied the Miss USA crown because she gave an honest answer to an ambush question from an angry gay-rights activist. (Do you suppose they’ll have an equally militant pro-life activist hosting the pageant next year, asking “gotcha” questions about partial-birth abortion?) The consequences of her honesty have included being dressed down with the kind of sexist language that had feminists screaming for the cops in the Nineties, before their movement burned itself to ashes in defense of America’s most powerful sexual predator. Her views on gay marriage have been chalked up to childhood trauma, as if they were a subject for treatment, rather than debate. As Laura brilliantly pointed out, Miss Prejean has been treated as if she were substantially more dangerous, and less understandable, than John Walker Lindh, the “American Taliban.”
The anger and vindictiveness of the gay-marriage movement is unsurprising. They are the aggressors in a cultural battle, which is entering a critical stage. Aggressive behavior is to be expected. Mainstream society has something they want, and they’re going to have to take it, because it will not be surrendered voluntarily. They must take maximum advantage of every opportunity to put their cultural opposition on the defensive. What answer do you think Perez Hilton was hoping Carrie Prejean would give?
Whatever the merits of gay marriage, it must be understood that it’s a tremendous change from the traditional understanding of marriage, which stretches back for centuries. This change is being pressed upon society with great speed and urgency. Two or three generations is a very short time to push an idea from unthinkable to inevitable. Many Americans don’t like the way this particular change is being presented as mandatory, with all opposition dismissed as evil, insane, or ignorant. It’s bad enough to be told you must put forth an opinion about something you’d rather not think about. It’s even worse when you’re told that only one opinion is acceptable. Perez Hilton wasn’t asking Carrie Prejean a question – he was demanding submission. Thoughtless genuflection to “the right of gay persons in love to get married” is the jizya paid to the dominant culture, and you’re not allowed to squeak out so much as a tepid salute to traditional marriage until you’ve paid it.
The question asked of Carrie Prejean was whether she thought every state should legalize same-sex marriage. The answer that got her in so much trouble was, “Well I think it’s great that Americans are able to choose one way or the other. We live in a land where you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage. You know what, in my country, in my family, I do believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman, no offense to anybody out there. But that’s how I was raised and I believe that it should be between a man and a woman.” She’s not exactly getting in anyone’s face there, is she? She even began with a polite disclaimer that made it clear she respected the “choice” of people that disagreed with the viewpoint she was about to declare. Are those who passionately believe in global warming expected to begin statements of their faith with cheerful salutes to the validity of their opponents’ choices, and end with an apology to anyone who doesn’t share their fanatical beliefs?
Carrie’s declaration of respect for the advocates of gay marriage was, obviously, inadequate to a culture that needs the defenders of traditional marriage to “feel themselves subdued,” as the Koran puts it. It was also unnecessary to begin with. Those who revere traditional marriage do not need to apologize for the defense they offer. For one thing, in a nation where everything has been politicized – down to the food you eat and the car you drive – I think we can take it as a given that any strong belief is going to offend somebody. Worse, offering pre-emptive apologies to the likes of Perez Hilton is a concession that the time-honored traditions of ordinary people are inherently vicious and offensive… and once you’ve conceded that, you’ve lost the argument over whether those traditions need to be junked. You’re just negotiating over the timetable.
Ordinary people should strongly reject the idea that respecting the tradition of marriage is automatically an insult to those who do not share that respect. Elevating marriage does not require hatred of gay people. Celebrating marriage as among the highest achievements of the human race does not require us to dismiss those who will never be able to marry as less than human. You can say something is special without damning everything else as meaningless. I wish Carrie Prejean had explained that to Perez Hilton, instead of beginning her declaration of traditional beliefs with a weak apology for daring to hold them. I hope the treatment she has received will give other defenders of those beliefs the resolve to dispense with the apologies.
Everyone who believes in marriage as the union of a man and woman had better realize they are under attack, by an ideology that defines itself through attacking. The most zealous proponents of gay marriage will never be satisfied with legalistic civil unions, which I doubt straight America would have any sustained objection to – there’s no reason any given group of people shouldn’t be allowed to enter into contractual agreements to guarantee access to sick partners in a hospital, or the distribution of an estate, or similar practical considerations. Where middle America stands its ground is recognizing these arrangements as a “marriage”… and that very recognition is what the leading advocates of gay marriage demand. Its exclusivity is exactly what they desire. They cannot abide millions of tradition-minded men and women declaring that the bond they share is precious and unique, because they will not see that declaration as anything but an insult. To the leaders of the gay marriage movement – the people with microphones and cameras pointed at them – the battle to redefine marriage is not about gaining something, it’s about taking something away from those who don’t deserve it.
Initiative in defense is required, because in today’s politically supercharged atmosphere, sitting quietly and waiting for your beliefs to be redefined as indefensible is suicide. All of the slanders directed at Carrie Prejean are variations on the tactics deployed against everyone who stands for traditional marriage. The attempt to treat opposition to gay marriage as a psychological disorder is an obvious bid to silence opponents with a Hannibal Lecter mask. The hypocrisy charge, currently being made by strangling Miss Prejean with her own swimsuit, boils down to an assertion that she opposes gay marriage out of pure, mindless hatred – if she’s such a naughty little minx in every other respect, she can’t have any logical reason for refusing to get on board with the gay agenda. The less subtle accusations that support for traditional marriage is motivated by “homophobia” imply there is no sincere respect or admiration for marriage itself – it’s All About the Gays, as if your parents’ next anniversary party will celebrate a thirty-year schoolyard taunt directed at oppressed homosexuals. The charge that marriage isn’t worth defending, because so many marriages produce no children or end in divorce, misses the entire point of celebrating the ideal of raising a family through a loving union that lasts a lifetime: if it was easy, it wouldn’t be worthy of celebration.
If the reader is strongly sympathetic to the cause of gay marriage, and finds any of the above to be harsh or confrontational, I can only say that traditionalists did not start the marriage wars. We reserve the right to offer a spirited defense of what we believe, and the hardball rules of engagement were set by the aggressors, as they are in every conflict. We will not allow the question to be framed as a choice between accepting gay marriage or endorsing hatred and bigotry, because that is the kind of false choice a tyrant offers his subjects. The real question is whether traditional marriage is worth defending… because if it is, then Carrie Prejean is being persecuted for taking a noble stand, and if it isn’t, she foolishly threw away a glittering prize out of blind loyalty to a tired superstition.