Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Liberty to Take Liberties with Reality

You recall the immortal distinction, graven into our cultural memory by James Bond. 007, as he is fondly called, wanted his martinis: “shaken, but not stirred.”

One might fairly apply this pithy piece of wisdom to the recent Supreme Court decision on gay marriage. Justice Kennedy’s words stirred many people, but left others shaken.

Justice Kennedy’s opened his opinion with the following stirring statement:

The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity. The petitioners in these cases seek to find that liberty by marrying someone of the same sex and having their marriages deemed lawful on the same terms and conditions as marriages between persons of the opposite sex.

To which Justice Scalia, in his dissent, replied that he had been shaken, but not stirred:

If, even as the price to be paid for a fifth vote, I ever joined an opinion for the Court that began: “The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity,” I would hide my head in a bag. The Supreme Court of the United States has descended from the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall and Joseph Story to the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie.

If I may take exception to the view of a man who is a great aphorist himself, I would add that Justice Kennedy’s opinion would never be good enough to make it into a fortune cookie. If it did, the unfortunate soul who opened it up would be most likely to laugh at the absurdity of it all. As for the head-in-a-bag trope, Scalia is cleverly pointing out that Kennedy's opinion is shameful.

Surely, one needs to mention, if only to avoid misunderstandings, that those who dissented from the Kennedy opinion did not oppose same-sex marriage. They asserted that it was a matter for public debate and discussion, accompanied by legislative action. Since the general will of the populace has been quickly moving toward legalizing it, the dissenting justices saw no reason to take the matter out of the marketplace of ideas and effectively shut down debate.

After all, there's more it than the way things are seen in the metaphoric eyes of the law.

And yet, one sympathizes with Scalia’s larger point about freedom. The notion that individuals are free to define and express their identities is pop psychology and postmodern critical theory. More accurately, it’s mental drool.

When Kennedy added a few more freedoms to marriage, he went further off the rails of rational thought:

The nature of marriage is that, through its enduring bond, two persons together can find other freedoms, such as expression, intimacy, and spirituality.

One expects better of the Supreme Court. In truth, freedom comes in many different shapes and forms. Free love is not the same as free will. Freedom from responsibility is not the same as freedom for responsibility. Free will is not the same as free lunch. And, of course, free expression and the free trade in ideas do not constitute a free-for-all.

By extending the concept of freedom indiscriminately Justice Kennedy has sowed confusion.

As for Kennedy’s musing about pop psychology, it’s one thing to say that marriage has evolved to include the possibility that a couple be in love. It’s quite another to say that the “nature of marriage” is to grant access to a freedom for intimacy and spirituality. In truth, Scalia pointed out, marriage circumscribes and restricts your access to intimacy. It limits your freedom to covet your neighbor and to commit adultery.

In the past Americans believed that intimacy and sexual freedom were divine rights that people could practice premaritally and extramaritally. What happened to all that?

Unfortunately, Kennedy’s idea makes no sense within the context of gay marriage. If gays were free to create themselves as they wished they could recreate themselves as straights.

Admittedly, some people who are involved in homosexual activities are not, strictly speaking, gay, but homosexuality, nearly everyone will agree, is not a choice. It is a natural predisposition.

If Kennedy meant that gays should be allowed to define themselves as straight, thus, to marry as though they were straight he was suggesting that gay relationships, those that differ from socially recognized marriages, are somehow inferior to marriage.

One notes that Kennedy also mentioned, rather mindlessly, that the alternative to marriage was loneliness.

In fact, once you enter into the marital institution that institution defines and delimits your relationship. Those who have avoided entering into the institution of marriage have done so in order to gain a greater liberty in defining their relationship. Feminists, for example, have insisted that marriage is an oppressive institution, one that would unduly constrain the exercise of their freedom.

Dare we mention the obvious point, that a married couple is not free to change the definition of their marriage without passing through a judicial process called divorce.

Kennedy seems to have granted us the liberty to take liberties with reality.

One ought to note that the Supreme Court decision has not transformed reality. It has changed the way that certain couples are treated “in the eyes of the law.” The law can confer dignity and it can deny dignity, but it is not the only arbiter of the way dignity is conferred or denied.

Most Americans would probably agree that the law should be blind to gender differences. And yet, the problem is not so much the way it looks to the law, but the way it looks to people, here, there and everywhere.

Keep in mind, marriage is a universal institution. If Jack and Jill are married in Timbuktu they are recognized as married everywhere else on the planet. The same is not true of same-sex couples. It is unlikely that it will be true of same-sex couples in our lifetime. In America, it would be closer to realization if the people, through their votes and representatives, had decided the case.


Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

"The notion that individuals are free to define and express their identities... [is] mental drool."

Precisely. One of the best pieces I have read on this subject. Postmodernism is infecting this Court, and this restricts liberty because people don't know what's coming next in the subjective world of five people. Signaling is important. There are lots of ways for individuals to define and express their identities, but we needn't build an entire society around it. If Bruce Jenner wants to be called "Caitlyn," I will oblige. Everyone has the right to define their own name. But saying that he is a she --and maintaining that this kind of "justice" is binding on everyone else -- is crazy. It is the refuge of unserious people.

Anonymous said...

If we really care about marriage, we would not want to associate it with deviant and gross behavior. That is why we don't allow incest marriage. But using Kennedy's logic, we should have that too. Ever twisted logic used for 'gay marriage' can be used for incest marriage.

The truth is none of this has anything to do with reasoning or logic but with power. Homosexuals have immense power in government and elite industries. And sad to say, a very powerful group in America, the Jewish community, used its muscle to promote and push the 'gay agenda'.

So, that is why 'gay marriage' became an issue but 'incest marriage' didn't. It was all about power and who has it.

But then, the weakening of the family began when government stepped in to play the role of father. When government hadn't play that role, men had to fulfill their roles as husbands and fathers. But once government sent checks to single/unwed mothers, women no longer needed men and men no longer needed to be responsible for their kids. Also, shame went out the window, and young males now brag that they got such-and-such 'ho' pregnant. There's no stigma attached to loutish sexual behavior; there is stigma attached only to moral condemnation of irresponsible sexual behavior. If some punk got a whole bunch of women pregnant and took off, we don't condemn him. If a woman got pregnant without securing a man, we are not supposed to judge her. But judge and condemn those who morally criticize such destructive sexual behavior.
Now, some punk in the hood can get 20 women pregnant and expect the government to provide food, medicine, housing, clothes, and etc for the women and the kids. Thank you, Great Society.
This is why FDR's New Deal limited welfare payments to widows. With Great Society, it expanded it to every pregnant teenager.

In a society defined by such morals, is it surprising that 'gay marriage' became reality?

Anyway, real sexuality has thus far produced billions of lives all over the world. Homosexuality hasn't create a single human life--or any life form.
Yet, we are to believe that homosexuality has equal value with real sexuality. Actually, to the extent that we have 'gay pride' parades but no real sexuality pride parades, it seems the majority of Americans think homosexuality is SUPERIOR to real sexuality. America might as well be Michael Jackson's Neverland. It is now built on a sick and demented illusion.

Sam L. said...

As I've said elsewhere, this will be the Roe v. Wade case of the 21st century.

Ares Olympus said...

re: In America, it would be closer to realization if the people, through their votes and representatives, had decided the case.

Stuart, are you saying we should vote which minority groups can be legally discriminated against?

The whole point of the Supreme court in such cases is to recognize minority to be treated equally under the law.

We might argue "let states decide", and state supreme courts can offer 50 some individual recommendations to individual challenges discriminatory laws.

But as long as we have federal laws that deal with legal marriage, then its reasonable the federal court can make rulings that unify the union so to speak. In the minimum the U.S. Supreme court might make a ruling for federally related laws in marriage, while enabling states to limit state laws for recognzing marriage.

Interestingly the age of consent does very by states, so if you get marriage at age 16 in Minnesota (or 13 or 14 in parts of Mexico), it won't be recognize util they are 18 in Wisconsin.

It is fun to imagine how laws can vary between regions and nations. I don't think we should exclude possibilities when many people feel strongly on both sides.

And I do keep thinking that divorce" in the secession sense will also be challenged in this century. If one state has a majority who really strongly object to some federal law, secession seems like a valid position.

Perhaps someday soon the South can have its Confederate Flag, and then we'll just have to decide who gets the Nukes, and who gets the national debt. That could be a zinger of a divorce case for the lawyers.

It gets to be amazing that there's any agreement in anything anymore. Meanwhile at least Wallstreet is free from uncomfortable attention while they prepare for the next market crash and bail out demands. Citizens United was the best decision money can buy.

Anonymous said...

"Stuart, are you saying we should vote which minority groups can be legally discriminated against?"

This is total BS.

Every law, every word, every institution, and every definition discriminate against some people.

After all, 'chair' cannot mean just about anything. It has specific meaning and doesn't apply to tables, cars, and airplanes.

Medical association discriminates against those (1) lack credentials to be doctors (2) lack the intelligence and ability to study medicine and graduate with a degree.
Well, that's just too bad. There are lots of Americans who are too dumb to ever be admitted to medical school due to low IQ. Well, too bad. Should anyone be allowed to study to be doctors and become doctors in the name of Physician Equality?

The idea of 'Jewish organization' discriminates against those who are not Jewish.

The idea of 'woman' discrimination against those who aren't women. (To be sure, our debased culture now says a man is a woman if he cuts off his ding dong and gets a fake vagina.)

So, the idea of 'marriage', as defined biologically and morally, necessarily discriminates against those who don't qualify. Actually, homosexuals can marry according to rules of marriage. A homo man can marry a woman, a lesbian can marry a man. As long as homosexuals follow the rules of marriage, they can marry too. What homos have been demanding is the wholesale re-definition of marriage to the point where it must bless and honor deviant, gross, and perverse sexual behavior.
Marriage was a moral institution that developed out of biological fact that it is natural and necessary for man and woman to have sex to have children. They may choose not to have children, but the possibility is always there.

Also, marriage is a MORAL institution, and no morality says all things and values are equal. Morality is about right and wrong, and it says something things are of higher value than other things. If marriage must be morally egalitarian, then why have any rules at all? Why not allow incest marriage, polygamy, and whatever? Why not have 'friend marriage' between straight men who just want to share benefits? It could be such is now allowed under 'same sex marriage', which further erodes the whole meaning of marriage, which was a moral institutionalization of natural and healthy biological process. Marriage went from a bio-moral institution addressing facts of nature and needs of society to some lifestyle game and stunt.

For any law or definition to have meaning, it must uphold and defend certain standards while excluding and discriminating against others. Homosexuality is NOT the equal of real sexuality. It is biologically deviant and perverse, especially among men as it involves male sex organs pumped into fecal holes. Homos should have the freedom to indulge in their behavior, but they have no right to force all of us to praise and honor what they do and associate their behavior with marriage. (Today, criticism of homosexuality gets people fired and blacklisted, so don't tell me about freedom and liberty.) But when homos say that homosexuality is deserving of the same recognition as real sexuality, they are going for moral equivalence between things that are not equal.

Anonymous said...

It is like idiot Creationists saying schools should teach creationism alongside evolution in the name of science equality or voodoo practitioners saying they should be accredited as 'doctors' in the name of 'medical equality'. If schools refuse, are they discriminating against Creationist idiots? YES, as schools should as science has rules and principles. Science must discriminate against fake science and false practitioners of science. Likewise, the bio-moral meaning of marriage must discriminate against those whose actions and attitudes undermine and befoul the meaning of marriage.

It is like blind people arguing that being blind should be recognized as just as valid as having vision in the name of Optical Equality. But blindness is not the same thing as having sight, and two guys doing 'butt sex' is not the same thing as man and woman doing proper sex with complementary sexual organs.

I oppose 'gay marriage' whether it is forced through courts or by the vote. It is a crime against nature and morality. If you allow rot to spread, it spreads and fouls up everything. Letting 'gay marriage' get a foothold in one state led to this vast disease of the mind and soul all across America.

Leo G said...

As in yesterday article, where does the line exist? I have already read that polygamists are now lining up to challenge the marriage laws.

Anonymous has a point about inter family marriages.

The German Green Party, up til recently, had an official position in favour of legalizing pedophilia. Why can't that nice 33 year old woman, marry her 11 year old lover? DISCRIMINATION!

It is like architecture, the Greeks and Roman's, and maybe others even earlier, have discovered the golden mean for arches and pillars. What style looks natural and good to human eyes. Yet about every 5 years or so, I get on a job, and some homeowner/builder, decides that they are more knowledgable then thousands of years of human trial and error, and decide that they are going to change this mean. IT NEVER WORKS!

priss rules said...

Hi, I'm for Truth Equality.

But too many people privilege truth over lies.

That is unfair to us liars.

It is unfair to say liars are not equal in truth with truth-tellers.

It discriminates against liars.

Who is to say a lie isn't just as good a truth?

Saying that truth is better than a lie is saying that a truth-teller is better than a liar.
Some people assure us that it is not a crime to lie and that we liars shouldn't complain since we liars are tolerated in society. But tolerance isn't enough. We liars need to be welcomed, praised, celebrated, honored, and glorified. We need to be associated with rainbow colors.

If a man says he is a woman because he had his penis cut off and replaced with a fake vagina, some people would say he is lying. But under Truth Equality, his lie would be equal to the truth. And that would be justice.

If a man said his anus or fecal organ is just as much a sexual organ as a woman's vagina, some would say he is lying. But so what? A lie is as good as a truth if we commit ourselves to the principle of Truth Equality.

If I'm a Mexican woman but insist that I'm a Nigerian man after I put on an Afro, darken my skin, and wear men's clothes, then some people would call me a liar, but under the principle of Truth Equality, my lie would be as good as any truth. That is justice.

And if I say my counterfeit money is as good as real money, that should be accepted also under the principle of Truth Equality. Why should society privilege truth over lies? Why should social institutions favor truth-tellers over liars?

Indeed, we should come up with a new name for 'lies' and 'liars'. Just like illegal aliens are now called 'undocumented immigrants', lies should be called 'unverified or uncertain truths'. And liars should be called 'creative truth-tellers'.

And if we want to believe that the knockout games are perpetrated by 'teens' and 'youths', that is just creative truth-telling.

And that is the path to real justice.

Ares Olympus said...

I just saw David Brook's June 30 column "The Next Culture War" where he is calmly trying to discourage the Christian Right from making a cultural war over the Same-sex marriage ruling. But I think his prescription sounds more like the Christian Left than the Christian Right.

But Left or Right, it does seem political fighting is more about consolidating power by making people afraid than solving any real problems. How much money will be lost from political fundraising if each side can't make their political rivals into existential threats? But maybe that can end soon as billionaires can fund all the political campaigns.

But I do agree after the next economic crisis/collapse, we'll need some more Dorothy Day types to help clean up the mess we're leaving for the future.
Christianity’s gravest setbacks are in the realm of values. American culture is shifting away from orthodox Christian positions on homosexuality, premarital sex, contraception, out-of-wedlock childbearing, divorce and a range of other social issues. More and more Christians feel estranged from mainstream culture.
Most Christian commentary has opted for another strategy: fight on. ... These conservatives are enmeshed in a decades-long culture war that has been fought over issues arising from the sexual revolution. Most of the conservative commentators I’ve read over the past few days are resolved to keep fighting that war.
The defining face of social conservatism could be this: Those are the people who go into underprivileged areas and form organizations to help nurture stable families. Those are the people who build community institutions in places where they are sparse. Those are the people who can help us think about how economic joblessness and spiritual poverty reinforce each other. Those are the people who converse with us about the transcendent in everyday life.

This culture war is more Albert Schweitzer and Dorothy Day than Jerry Falwell and Franklin Graham; more Salvation Army than Moral Majority. It’s doing purposefully in public what social conservatives already do in private.

I don’t expect social conservatives to change their positions on sex, and of course fights about the definition of marriage are meant as efforts to reweave society. But the sexual revolution will not be undone anytime soon. The more practical struggle is to repair a society rendered atomized, unforgiving and inhospitable. Social conservatives are well equipped to repair this fabric, and to serve as messengers of love, dignity, commitment, communion and grace.

Anonymous said...

"but homosexuality, nearly everyone will agree, is not a choice. It is a natural predisposition."
I disagree. John Maynard Keynes was famously homosexual. Then he fell in love with the Russian ballerina Lydia Lokopova and changed his sexual orientation and married her.

Ares Olympus said...


I think the modern term is "Bi-curious", as Stuart said, homosexual behavior is not the same as homosexuality.

Even mythical Zeus was bisexual.
One day, looking down from his throne on Mount Olympus, Zeus spied Ganymede up in the meadows of Mount Ida, chilling with his friends under the watchful gaze of his aged tutors. Instantly, the King of Heaven flamed with love for the young Trojan’s thighs. Zeus shook himself once and turned into a powerful eagle. Straightaway he swooped down upon the world of men. Casting shafts of lightning every which way, he whipped up a fierce tempest turning day into night. Under cover of the storm the majestic eagle pounced and tenderly seized the boy in his talons. The aged guardians reached out to stop him, the hounds barked madly. Paying them no heed, the god and the boy rose up higher and higher and vanished into the blue.

In the blink of an eye the two arrived in Olympus. The eagle folded his wings, shook himself once and turned back into a god. He took Ganymede to bed and then appointed him cup bearer. But to make room for him, Zeus had to chase away Hebe, Hera's daughter and his, who served the drinks at the divine feasts. Clumsy, he called her, claiming she once stumbled. Hera saw it all and went insane with rage and jealousy.

... In the time of the [ancient] Greeks there was no such identity as gay - or straight - and they did not compartmentalize their sexuality into homosexual and heterosexual. Their homosexual passions were part of their erotic expression as sexual beings. They would not have considered their love for boys as gay or homosexual, as separate from other sexual expressions, and the worth of the relationship was judged not by the gender of the person one loved, but by its results. Nevertheless, throughout this site you will see the use of the words gay, homosexual and homosexuality when referring to ancient practices. Indeed this very section is titled "Homosexual Greek Myths." This is done for practical purposes, so we can easily describe the sexual relations of the ancients with familiar vocabulary. Things, however, were much more complex then the words might indicate.

Anonymous said...

"...homosexuality, nearly everyone will agree, is not a choice. It is a natural predisposition."
but then why is its heritability damn near zero?

Ares Olympus said...


How did you perform your statistical analysis? But science is fun. What do we know?

Like what if male brains give away their sexual preferences, while women are all potentially bisexual? (see article below, 12 years old, perhaps there's newer experiments that confirm or reject that?)

Biology also says males fetuses start as female, and only become male by hormones. Male new borns are thus less developed and more vulnerable at birth. More male fetuses are conceived, but a smaller fraction survive to birth.

So we could consider that homosexual males are "flawed", or we could consider evolution takes avantage of everything, even potential mistakes, so homosexual males may have different "gifts" to bring to the world, and don't need to pass on their genes because we all carry those genes and its just a matter of how those genes are activated or suppressed in development.
Three decades of research on men's sexual arousal show patterns that clearly track sexual orientation -- gay men overwhelmingly become sexually aroused by images of men and heterosexual men by images of women. In other words, men's sexual arousal patterns seem obvious.

But a new Northwestern University study boosts the relatively limited research on women's sexuality with a surprisingly different finding regarding women's sexual arousal.

In contrast to men, both heterosexual and lesbian women tend to become sexually aroused by both male and female erotica, and, thus, have a bisexual arousal pattern.

Ares Olympus said...

p.s. Another statistical fact to consider, not that this is a good source here, but a good rationalization is ready.
3.Researchers note that men may be more likely to be homosexual if they share their birth mother with older brothers. Each older brother increases a man’s odds of being homosexual by approximately 33%.

i.e. if evolution is about passing on genes, you only need a few males, and so perhaps natural development actually does make first born males more hyper-competitive, and younger male siblings are less necessary (in terms of hyper-masculininty), so nature allows more freedom of expression, and doesn't waste as much energy making men who can only "think with their penis".

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Ares, what studies will you not believe?