Apparently there was a referendum on the ballot in North Carolina yesterday. 61% of the participating electorate chose to adopt an amendment to the state constitution. That amendment happens to codify the illegality of same-sex marriages into the state’s constitution.
While there has been a lot of vitriol and hot air unloaded today from all corners of cyberspace about the nature of the ballot measure and last night’s results, I am not writing today about the measure itself or the measure’s subject matter, I am writing about how all sides of the issue–any issue, at this point–have fantastically debased the American experiment while also have voted to deprive themselves of freedom.
It is clear from yesterday in particular that our citizenry, regardless of political affiliation, is officially unconcerned about the fact that the ultimate arbiter of morality is none other than government. The mad–pun intended–rush to decree, enact or push for referenda demonstrates that we aren’t any longer content with antiquated notions of governing ourselves, but lording ourselves over the other. What has happened is that the electoral process is now little more than the online ad hominem bacchanalia we have grown accustomed to on political websites. Nothing foments true and despicable hatred than the cocktail mixed with pure democracy, free speech and the inability to critically think.
The fact of the matter is that matters of marriage, like just about anything else, are not meant to be legislated. Rights or restrictions which can be enacted can also be repealed. Prohibition was enacted, later it was repealed; it didn’t change much of anything other than the fact that it made criminals out of people who otherwise weren’t. Prohibition is actually a great example of the folly of legislating morality, because eventually, morality has nothing to do with legislation. Ultimately, the government had no place in outlawing liquor, much as it has no place in declaring marriage to be one thing or another.
If we’re really concerned about life, liberty and property, due process and the sort, then why the rush to open or close the floodgates? Benefits? Go sue your employer for them, or find another place to work. My workplace takes care of all its employees, to its credit. Tax benefits? I’ve filed taxes five times since I’ve been hitched: there’s no benefit. HIPAA? Another example of a legislative boondoggle with tragic consequences. (See also: insanity, definition of.) The more law you put in place, the less liberty can be exercised; less liberty, less common sense. Less common sense, and you have Murka, 2012.
Yes, there are problems with positive rights: the referendum as it is currently phrase does not play nice with the 14th amendment. In the same way, the Affordable Care Act infringes on the 9th, amongst others. I am personally against both in particular because they, in my opinion, have no place in a free society under the rule of law. If I am fair and consistent in my philosophical worldview, then I will not fall victim to special pleading by picking and choosing. My political orientation does not inform my worldview, my worldview informs my political orientation.
The deeper problem is that much of American society gladly have made politics their religion. Those who vote one way are saved, others are damned. As we lurch toward another presidential election where we choose between idiot A and idiot A’, we see the faceless nameless launching into one another with all the vocal zeal of a fundamentalist and the collective brainpower of a lampshade. (Apologies to lampshades everywhere.)
This week, a video went viral of a minister in North Carolina speaking out against the amendment. He rightly points out the dissonance between the poll questions and the amendment itself, and rightly notes the democratic problem, but then fails to consistently follow his own logic by noting, but demonstrably not understanding, that legislative efforts to bring civil rights to all Americans have not stamped out racism by any definition, and then resorts to sophistry. Never mind that if an evangelical pastor offered a similar public argument in favor of the amendment, we’d have that as a viral example of bigotry and then the heaping helping of establishment clause lamentations on top. The best way to guarantee fairness or equality is to keep government out of that business altogether.
So, when politics becomes ultimate concern, elections aren’t just citizens fulfilling their civic responsibility, but the voting faithful doing the Lord’s work. The results are either revival or judgment, the other side something necessarily subhuman. Protesting is evangelism. Lobbying is priestly work. Taxes are tithes. In other words, we’re just like Israel in the era of the judges:
Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah and said to him, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the LORD.
And the LORD said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. According to all the deeds that they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.”
So Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking for a king from him. He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots. And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the LORD will not answer you in that day.” [1 Samuel 8.4-18, ESV]
Regardless of whether or not one believes the narrative as true, the principle remains salient: if you want tyranny, you want to make more of your political leaders than they ever should be, for they are gloriously and utterly human. Scott Walker is not the antichrist, nor is Obama. Romney is not going to usher in a new era of the lion laying next to the lamb. In 1994, the religious right, along with a considerable independent bloc, brought the Republicans into control of Congress. They had the Contract With America, and they betrayed almost all of it. Bush was elected in 2000 with Republican control of Washington, and they blew it. Obama was elected in 2008 with a complete control of Congress; they blew and Congress, as currently constituted, are blowing it. When will we learn that they don’t care about us?
When will we learn that government does not and cannot solve our problems, but creates greater ones? When we make our goal enshrining things into law, we are not looking for victory as much as we are looking to destroy our opposition. It’s all about power, control and hegemony, no matter who holds the majority. No, it’s not that the people weren’t heard in North Carolina yesterday, or that what happened was somehow a miscarriage of democracy. Instead, the system worked exactly as it should. Democrats, if they are in any way committed to their moniker, should be content with the result, for it was purely democratic. And now there’s a constitutional amendment which outlaws something for which the law should have remained silent. But the law has become vocal for so many things for which it never should have been given voice, what we have now a race to see who can get the most laws passed in their favor before the next election, who can stack the courts with people who are politically amenable and who can raise the most money to ensure the right people stay in the right places. Fairness? Justice? Liberty? Equal protection under the law?
Sexual orientation, ultimately, has nothing to do with it. Advocates and allies ultimately get pimped out, just as conservative evangelicals were 20 years ago. Lather, rinse, repeat. Like anything else pertaining to politics, what happened yesterday, regardless of opinion or outcome, is a symptom and not the disease. We’ve torn past Jefferson’s warning of the 51 percent taking away the rights of the 49, and are heading full-bore toward the 51 lining up the 49 to be shot.
The tragedy is that it’s a circular firing line.