The Marriage Business
By Frank Scott
Just as gays and lesbians develop a middle class and conservative values which not only accept, but desire marriage and family, a reactionary movement would deny them. In trying to stop unavoidable change, fundamentalism will ultimately fail. Though the aging process makes it seem desirable-and the cosmetic industry profits greatly from that desire-time cannot be stopped. Nor can the changes it brings that are both personal, and social.
American culture has moved from the 20th century TV Nelsons to the 21st century TV Osbornes. Both semi-fictional families were led by patriarchs named Ozzie, but there the similarities ended. Many still accept the family values popularized by the Nelsons, in opposition to the threateningly "different" Osbornes. Such values, however sanitized , do nurture the kinship supports that offer security in a hostile marketplace world, where everything has a price. But they deny the dysfunction, divorce and depression that plague many families, not to mention the important role they play in developing consumers for the multi-billion dollar drug and therapy business.
But given the violence and sexploitation of much popular culture, it's understandable that some long for an innocent past, however imaginary. Such rejection of the present helps provoke a fundamentalist religious movement that pushes people to the political right, partly because there is no political left.
The lack of a political party that stands for the majority's material needs helps create conditions that pass for a culture war. This cultural divide is based on an income gap, but that economic chasm is rarely mentioned in an environment that makes politics a dirty word for the majority who don't participate in its process, and a successful career for a minority who work for corporate capital, and against majority interests. The conflict isn't simply between a liberal left and a conservative right, but more between a reactionary establishment that wants an unregulated marketplace-with protection for the rich-and a more liberal establishment that tolerates some regulation-with protection for the rich .
Reactionary marketeers fear and oppose anything new, while liberal hustlers welcome all new groups as potential markets, so long as they don't threaten the system. Marriage, whether among people, their pets, or their furniture, represents no threat to commercial values.
The gay-lesbian middle class has brought major changes in acceptance of a previously closeted community, mainly through its marketplace power. In some municipalities, gays have even more clout than racial minorities. As in many cases, the changes that have brought progress for gays and lesbians have been good for the larger society as well.
Nevertheless, reforms that only benefit specific groups, or specific individuals within those groups, do not make substantial social change. Affirmative action, for instance, has benefited many but excluded most, and is still a sign of division as well as progress. Most of our reforms enable groups to better participate in the marketplace culture, while doing nothing to change the problematic substance of that culture, which is its political economic foundation. The same sex marriage issue is a case in point.
It will resolve in favor of gays and lesbians, who deserve the same right to make a state sanctioned union of their relationships as do heterosexual couples. The touching scenes of love and devotion that have been witnessed in news coverage of same sex marriages have been enough to convince most people that, as Martha Stewart used to say in happier times, "it's a good thing." Any religious criticism of these marriages belongs in a church , mosque or temple. It has no place in the state market, where business is business, and marriage is really big business.
Many oppose same sex marriage because of the fears of change that move people to religious fundamentalism and the political right. But the desire of some to amend the constitution to exclude these marriages is hateful and stupid. It is based on reactionary belief in a god of vengeance and pain, who punishes transgressors of "his" law. The alternative god, inspiring a relatively silent majority to accept and love without bias, is unfortunately still confined to imaginary worship, and weak in material life.
Such differences related to belief in the invisible universal force are what help tear the world apart. The patriarchal god of war and fear fronts for the political economics of corporate capital; "he" offers scriptural rationale for the worst human behavior , while condemning anything that leans even slightly in the direction of peace and love.
That people wish to commit to love, marriage and family means little to those who see only damnation if what they site as biblical law is transgressed. A biblical passage can be found to cover anything, since its books were all about everything that once happened, and became the stuff of legend in telling, retelling and eventually being written long years after these events allegedly took place. So it's possible to find biblical evidence of punishment and reward for just about everything: incest, genocide, bigotry, market values , love, compassion, brotherhood and socialism.
Uncritical belief in biblical tales makes even less sense than uncritical belief in what goes on at present , some of which is distorted and misunderstood as it is taking place. Relying on legends relates to qualities of faith based on a vague "transcendence" which needs no material foundation. So, pick a biblical tale and enjoy it, but don't use it to interfere with people who want marriage because they care enough to make themselves a family.
And don't forget that families buy more stuff than single people. And that gays and lesbians deserve the tax , health care, insurance and other commercial benefits that come to married, and not single people. Political hypocrites who spout biblical legend as a defense for bigotry will soon learn that In the present marketplace, they haven't got a prayer. And that's probably a good thing.
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