Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Orson Scott Card

So, I just finished reading this lengthy essay by Orson Scott Card that essentially states that gay marriage will be the end of society. I had never heard of Card, apparently a famous science fiction writer whose novels ironically espouse tolerance, before reading two webcomics. One, Something Positive, had a series where one character, Mike, can't decide if he wants to go to a Card autograph session. Growing up, he loved Card's novels. But now he isn't sure if he can reconcile that with Card's recent writings. The other Queen of Wands mentioned the Card dilemma in recent commentary. Both comics echoed the same thing. Card, once a hero of both writers, is now diminished in their eyes.

Mr. Card's essay is one of the worst examples I've ever seen of a rant that blurs the lines between issues to the point that consistent logic is impossible. [As a side note, yes, I admit that my blog posts can do the same at times, but I don't think mine are ever this bad.] First, he refers to marriage as the way to reign in "natural activities" like male pomiscuity. He then states that gay and lesbian couples cannot be marriages because they are outside of the "cycle of life" (a phrase he uses often). I.e., that are not natural for the survival of the race. So, certain natural tendencies are good but others are bad. And Mr. Card is to be the judge of which is which.

In a letter to the editor response called "No Teetering Here", Bob Herman mentions the inconsistency that Card's argument does not extend to post-menopausal women and impotent men. In his essay, Card states, "At the same time, parents recognize that non-parents are not as trustworthy caretakers." And yet, "All heterosexual marriages, with or without children, present normalizing role models that affirm the institution of marriage; childless people can still function as effective surrogate parents in society at large, encouragin children to remain within the cycle of life." So, I believe it's pretty safe to say that sterile couples are outside the cycle of life. They cannot produce children. So why are those couples able to encourage children to remain within the cycle of life, but gay couples cannot?

I'm not going to get into refuting logic point-by-point because I don't have the time. However, I wanted to point out a few more intriguing quotes. One such quote is, "In the first place, no law in any state in the United States now or ever has forbidden homosexuals to marry. The law has never asked that a man prove his heterosexuality in order to marry a woman, or a woman hers in order to marry a man. Any homosexual man who can persuade a woman to take him as her husband can avail himself of all the rights of husbandhood under the law." I've seen the results of this. My cousin married a man who turned out to be gay. It ended in divorce. Is Mr. Card trying to encourage unstable relationships?

Then there is this one: "In order to claim that they are deprived, you have to change the meaning of 'marriage' to include a relationship that it has never included before this generation, anywhere on earth." When I first read this sentence in the context of the article, it struck me as odd. The essay seems to blame the Massachusetts Supreme Court for this gay marriage dilemma. It gives the first impression that this is only something existing in modern America. Then I realized I was viewing that last part of the sentence as two facts rather than one. In fact, during this current generation, many countries have changed their marriage laws. So apparently the MSC is not the devil. They are just the dolts doing the will of the devil.

One of my favorites is this one here. "And yet, throughout the history of human society -- even in societies that tolerated relatively open homosexuality at some stages of life -- it was always expected that children would be born into and raised by families consisting of a father and mother." On the surface, this seems like a fairly valid point. However, it is laughable coming from Mr. Card. Mr. Card is a devout Mormon. So, it is absurd for someone of a religion with polygamous roots to state that every society has always expected monogamous parenting.

One quote that is absolutely disgusting is the following: "However emotionally bonded a pair of homosexual lovers may feel themselves to be, what they are doing is not marriage. Nor does society benefit in any way from treating it as if it were." At best, this statement reveals an ignorance of the definition of "benefit." At worst, it is utterly demeaning. Large corporations now offer benefits to same-sex partners exactly as they would to married couples. Why would they do this if there is no benefit? Because they know that people with stable, happy home lives are far more productive than those that aren't. If society were to provide proper recognition of the commitments that many same-sex couples are making, these couples would be far more productive in their work, which benefits society, in turn.

OK, I'm done going through individual points. For me to do that to all of them, I would be here all day. What I really wanted to get to was the fact that there are three fundamental issues underlying my disagreement with Mr. Card. First, my view (or definition, if you will) of marriage is, in fact, vastly different than Mr. Card's. His is child-centric. Mine is family-centric. I will explain below. Second, Mr. Card tries to portray himself as wholeheartedly democratic. Put everything to a vote. Fortunately, our Framers were more intelligent than that and incorporated checks and balances into the Constitution. Third, Mr. Card's view of "natural behavior" seems so egregiously negative that I would hate to know what really goes on in his mind.

For the first point, Mr. Card makes it very clear that the purpose of marriage is to have children or aid in doing so. Everything is about the continuous cycle of life. Even those couples that can't have children are still encouraging this cycle by providing an example of the proper pairing. Because, apparently, the next generation will only figure out how to procreate if everyone in this generation enters a heterosexual union. Strangely absent in Mr. Card's rebuttal concerning sterile pairings are the DINK grouping. I.e., what about couples who enter into marriage with no intent or desire to procreate? Surely they are not providing a proper example of the continuous cycle of life. Every argument Mr. Card makes about marriage is entire about doing what is necessary for having and raising children. Nothing else matters. That is patently absurd and insulting. Marriage is a union of souls and a union of lives. It is about loving someone so completely that you are willing to commit your life to being with them and no one else. Having and raising children is the ultimate expression of this love. Even after that happens, though, the marriage must still be about more than just the children. The relationship of the parents needs to continue to grow and evolve to deeper levels. In doing so, the parents will be able to offer even more love and security to the children. Thus, the focus of the marriage is the whole family. Not the children.

Mr. Card lambasts the courts that have overstepped their boundaries. "Activist judges" is the term that is in vogue to describe this. He ends his rebuttal to Mr. Herman by saying, "Studies have shown that when you let dumb people vote, it works out way better than letting experts make all the political decisions." I.e., absolute democracy is the greatest thing in the world and should never be questioned. I wonder how he would feel if a large group of people got sick of Mormons coming to their door and managed to get a law passed that made missions illegal. In that case, in step the courts to repeal this law on the basis that it violates the Free Practice clause. Mr. Card then goes on to state that previous progress (women's suffrage, ending slavery) has been done through the process of amending the Constitution. Sure, the 13th-15th Amendments made blacks equal in the eyes of the law. However, it took a ruling of the court (Brown v. the Board of Education) to enforce these laws. Passing laws through majority vote is not adequate in and of itself. The Framers recognized this. Replacing tyrannical rule by the one with tyrannical rule by the many is still tyranny. A system of checks and balances must be created to prevent a majority from trampling the rights of the few. The anti-court rantings of Mr. Card and other conservatives ring like the whiny complaints of activists unable to push their beliefs through legislation.

The last point is the way Mr. Card talks about civilization as a way to suppress certain natural behaviors. He makes the point that, "Civilization depends on people deliberately choosing not to do many things that feel good at the time, in order to accomplish more important, larger purposes." Right before that, he describes, "If it feels good, do it!" as the slogan of immaturity and barbarism. He later refers to the "natural barbaric impulses of the male mating drive." Barbarism. So man's natural state is barbarism. He goes on, "Civilization requires the suppression of natural impulses that would break down the social order. Civilization thrives only when most members can be persuaded to behave unnaturally, and when those who don't follow the rules are censured in a meanigful way." These statements reveal Mr. Card's belief that human nature is fundamental barbaric and evil. Suppression of human nature is the only way to achieve civil society and civil society can only be wrought by suppression of human nature. If this is the case, why are children revered for their innocence? If human nature is so barbaric, children must be reviled as sources of evil until they prove their ability to function in civil society. I do not agree with this idea that human nature is always bad and civilization is always good. That argument is a complicated one and I have already spent way too much time on this post.

So I will simply end with saying that I fundamentally disagree with the underlying assumptions of Card's essay.


At 5:54 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

Hey, I know this is all sorts of years late, but I'm just wandering around the web, and thought I'd make a few comments here.

In response to your sentences: "Sure, the 13th-15th Amendments made blacks equal in the eyes of the law. However, it took a ruling of the court (Brown v. the Board of Education) to enforce these laws. Passing laws through majority vote is not adequate in and of itself."

That is EXACTLY the point. Checks and balances. The court ENFORCES laws. They do not make them. In Brown v. Board of Ed, it worked the way it's supposed to. In Mass and Calif, the process got turned on its head. I believe in Democracy, and in response to your hypothetical Mormon-missions-made-illegal situation, if there ever were enough people to legitimately make a majority ruling against Mormon missionaries, then we ('cause I'm one) would just have to suck it up and accept that. We try to make a point of obeying the laws of the country we are in, no matter how they may inconvenience us. Hence no proselytizing in China, because it's not allowed. We do our best to get our toes in the door where it *is* permissable, of course. What proselytizing religion doesn't? But we obey the laws, and would continue to do so in America if the tides were so changed. We would merely be as politically active as possible to change legislature back to our favor, through tried and true and perfectly legal means.

After all, in the early days of our religion, we patiently left one home after another until we'd been chased completely *outside* the US's borders, to Utah, where we made our peaceful but determined stand. We wanted to be Americans, but we weren't going to force the issue--we just waited patiently and worked hard until America let us in. We would do so again.

And if majority rule leads to homosexual marriage, again, I will suck it up and deal, even if I don't agree with it. (I like the individuals just fine. I have my share of gay friends.) I hope you don't mind if I do vote against it, though. My vote counts, as does yours. And may the majority fall where it will.

At 6:10 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

I will agree with you though, that Scott Card gets to rambling and contradicts himself here and there. I had a few thoughts while I read it of what I might bring to his attention were I his editor . . . :P

At 2:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No one never contradicts themselves. As hard to stomach Cards words were, I found them to be as logically sound as anything, because even this blogger contradicts himself once or twice.
But, the thing is, he just stated "I simply disagree with Card fundamentally" (paraphrased) lots of people disagree with Card, lot's of people disagree with the blogger, and lot's of people just disagree. How do we solve problems when people disagree? Either we break off and start our own society (American Revolution) or we create a new society and attack the former one (Civil War) or we suck it up and wait for the tides to change.
No matter how you, there will be tyranny. Someone somewhere will have to impose a decision on someone else. A tyranny of the minority is still a tyranny. We've just chosen to believe, as a society, in the tyranny of the majority. Majority rules minority rights.


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