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Why Knot?

Who gets to get married. Brooks appeal. Plus: Fox bad news day, the life of O’Reilly, and more.

11.25.03

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THE RIGHT OF MARRIAGE
Re: R. H. Sager's Guess Who Came to Dinner:

One of the points Sager makes, and quickly glosses over, isn't getting enough attention in this debate: "Nearly half of all marriages end in divorce." It seems that this fact is far too easily accepted as one of those trends that just "is." I am against homosexual marriage as it will most certainly have a dilutive effect on the institution as a whole. And I think we need to find ways to return marriage to its former, more respected interpretation. Why do we have to accept the increased divorce rate and all the related social problems that come with it? Why can't we look to promote the institution and change the trend of single-parent families?

Therein lies the rub that liberals always lack: Always fighting for the "right" to have something rather than focusing on the responsibility of electing that choice. The "right" to choose, for example, vs. the responsibility one has in their sexual conduct. The right to marry vs. promoting what the responsibility of marriage entails. If we, as a society, spent more time educating young people on what the responsibility of marriage is all about, we could turn around the divorce rate and that benefits us all. By buckling to the pressure of allowing another group to join the marriage pool, solely for the sake of political correctness and inclusion, the definition of marriage becomes more stretched, and less meaningful with respect to its original intent: To provide the optimal secure setting for raising children.

Gay unions are fine. Put all those structural changes in place that levels the playing field for gay couples (taxes, visitation rights, beneficiaries, etc.). But there's no need to further erode the institution of marriage -- already on shaky ground -- just to placate the oppressed group du jour.
-- William H. Stewart
Boston, Massachusetts

R.H. Sager demonstrates why "libertarian conservative" is as much an oxymoron as "big government conservative."

Of course there's a libertarian dimension to conservatism (both original recipe and the extra crispy, Connecticut-Maine-Texas compassionate variety). But limited government doesn't mean that stop signs are immoral or that the first order of government is to get out of the way so citizens can indulge their every whim.

The story goes that someone once asked Louis Armstrong what "soul" is. The great Satchmo is reported to have answered, "If you listen to the music and you don't hear it, I can't tell you what it is." Just so. "Socially conservative types" don't need to look for reasons to oppose homosexual marriage (yet another oxymoron). The reason stares us all in the face. If Sager can't see it, no one can explain it to him. (Furthermore, if Sager argues we can't say no to a man who wants to marry another man, using his logic how could we say no to a man who wants to marry three men, his sister, a horse, and a Buick?)

And this isn't about "accepting homosexuals fully into civil society." American society is about the most welcoming on the planet. Anyone who behaves civilly -- homosexual, straight, or variations thereof -- can make his/her way quite nicely now.

Another obvious truth Sager hasn't yet stumbled over has to do with his main point. Sager is just wrong when he says marriage will tame homosexual males as it has tamed straight men. No. Marriage doesn't tame men. Women tame men.

I suggest Sager spend more time outside of Manhattan. Maybe his head would clear a little.
-- Larry Thornberry
Tampa, Florida

Mr. Sager's article had a disturbing aloofness about marriage in general and gay marriage in particular. I agree that the gay community can through other means achieve the trappings of marriage (property, domestic arrangements, living wills, etc.). But what I found disconcerting is the presumption that we are on some grand experiment at the state level on issues of gay vs. straight commitment arrangements.

The danger of course is, having let the genie out of the bottle, if the effects are found debilitating, how does society undo the damage? And at what cost? To date the track in Western societies are that once social changes are unleashed seldom are past social norms reinstated. So Mass. uncorks the bottle, what if in 10 years time it is found that such a decision was a bad one? Does one nullify the existing commitments made?

Paradoxically, I am not for a Federal Marriage Amendment. This country has traditionally left issues of social norms to states and local authority. To now federalize such social constructs permits an ever more widening intrusion into private affairs, whether gay or heterosexual.

I suggest that before we head off on this grand expression of "equality for all," we first understand why for most civil societies around the world and for hundreds of years, recognized unions were between a man and a woman. Or maybe I should just wait to move to Mass. when they enshrine polygamy.
-- John McGinnis
Arlington, Texas

At least Mr. Sager's support for homosexual marriage is couched in thoroughly honest, and modernist, terms. For fifteen hundred years marriage in the West was primarily sacramental. With the Reformation, however, a predominant Protestant authority (albeit well distributed) largely discarded the sacramental nature of marriage and replaced it with, for lack of a better term, a prevailing social nature. Divorce was soon available and eventually proliferated, though slowly. As a result of the further degradation of marriage, we now do indeed live in an age where marriage is merely a contract. The acceptance of homosexual marriage is a logical consequence of this slippery slope. Mr. Sager claims that change does not have to be for the worse. All I can say to Mr. Sager is: Look around you. Do you think things are getting better? Are we on the right track?
-- Bill Murphy
San Jose, California

P.S. Please see the article by John Witte, a Professor of Religion at
Emory University, on "The Meanings of Marriage" in First Things here.

Top drawer, R. H. Many conservatives worry that marriages between homosexuals will corrupt the institution of marriage with frantic sodomy and the crooning of idiotic show tunes. This is silly because, as my main man R. H. pointed out, the American marriage is already corrupt. It is a wounded, limping beast riddled with adultery and divorce. On a lark, I would even go so far as to call it a conceptual and literal failure, at least in the broadest sense. Indeed, what many more conservatives actually detest most is the idea that giving gays the choice to marry will, by legally recognizing the rights of those of a different sexual persuasion to lead traditional domestic lives, somehow legitimize the lifestyle choices some Americans find to be so repugnant. That is an obvious one, but most interesting because it springs from fear, not moral disapproval. Some detractors might be able to cope more easily with a poly-amorous passel of drag queens living down the street rather than a devoted same-sex couples with nice business casual attire and a Dodge Stratus in the driveway because the latter upsets the short-sighted vision they hold.
-- A. Simmons
San Francisco, California

HIGH STAKES
Re: George Neumayr's Babbling Brooks:

The crux of the argument by David Brooks and others seems to be:

* Many married heterosexuals fail to fulfill their marriage vows.

* Some homosexuals are dedicated to one another and say they would fulfill their marriage vows.

* Some homosexual couples may live a more fulfilled life as a result of being able to have their relationship accepted by society in the same manner available to heterosexual couples.

* In some mysterious way, the institution of marriage may actually be strengthened once the experiment is carried out.

Thus, marriage should be redefined to include any couple/group (it is inevitable that group rights follow) that says they will do a better job of fulfilling their vows than the worst example one can find amongst heterosexuals.

Result: The worst examples become the only standard for defining the social institution.

The social institution further unravels since it has no real standard and it will be replaced by something new.

The new institution may indeed be better, but statistics tell us that the biggest factor leading to poverty and crime in the U.S. over the last 50 years has been the breakdown of the institution of marriage and the family.

So why do we take this risk? So a relative handful of people can experiment and see if they will feel more fulfilled and whether the traditional family will die or survive.

Pretty high stakes with little upside and huge downside.
-- Chris Harley
Oakland, California

In his piece supporting gay marriages David Brooks ought to have pointed out that a big winner would be the lawyers that would handle the divorces that are sure to come.
-- Dick Melville
Ozone Park, New York

For the purposes of political calculation, David Brooks is ahead of the curve. In the next 20 years, or, perhaps as early as the next decade, this issue is going to rapidly favor the Dems. The GOP needs to show a little leg here and there while still keeping the dying religious right happy -- not an easy task, but not impossible. As for morality, he is right on the money. Conservatives need to let this one go.
-- Dale R. Mader
Springfield , Missouri

WITHOUT IRONY
Re: William Tucker's Trial Lawyer on Trial:

I thought the author of Profiles In Courage was Theodore Sorensen, not Kennedy.
-- Gwen Itskowitz

FOX HOLES
Re: Paul Beston's Garbage Time:

Finally, a voice of reason that must be read rather than heard. Fox may have been the focal point of Mr. Beston's column, but all of the 24-hour news stations are the iceberg that sank common sense. The gossip rot that once was relegated to the Hedda Hoppers of the world are now front and center. Actually reporting of news and global events are available to those only with computer access.
-- Ellen Weisbord
Havertown, Pennsylvania

Mr. Beston was more than a little unfair in his claim that Fox News lacks coverage of the troops in the Middle East and Asia. Just last week, for example, during prime time the network broadcast Geraldo Rivera interviewing soldiers in Afghanistan, then switched to another Fox correspondent talking with soldiers in Iraq. It may not have been enough coverage in Mr. Beston's estimation, and that's reasonable enough, but it certainly outclasses that of any other television news source.

As to the Fox coverage of the Jackson, Bryant and Peterson cases, I agree with Mr. Beston; it is excessive, although no more than any other cable network. But it is important to remember that at the end of the day Fox is a commercial news organization. It cannot serve as an effective counterweight to the leftist bent of it network and cable competitors if it doesn't earn enough money to stay in business. That is why they have to cover these stories.

I also think that his attack on Sean Hannity was over-the-top. While Mr. Hannity may get a bit confrontational with guests, it is generally not with those who merely disagree with him, but with those who dodge his questions with evasive answers and mealy-mouthed responses. He has no patience with cowardly, dishonest people. Good for him.
-- Paul DeSisto
Cedar Grove, New Jersey

Mr. Beston properly castigates Mr. Hannity, Mr. O'Reilly, and Ms. Van Susteren at FOX News and I concur in his opinion and reasoning. However, he does not go far enough. He fails to include Mr. Cavuto. If Mr. Cavuto were to ever let a guest express a complete thought in more than sound bite form, I would probably have a heart attack. Mr. Cavuto doesn't have the time to give to the guests, since he has to save time for the latest Victoria Secret video and for the e-mails extolling his wonderfulness and sexiness.

Mr. Beston also fails to mention the "panel" that seem to be obligatory on FOX shows. Particularly on the Cavuto and Van Susteren shows. These panels" are a constant dose of supposed experts yelling, screeching, interrupting each other, and generally exhibiting their expertness in being rude and un-civil.

The true shame of it all is that one must either tolerate these insipid traits at FOX or endure the consistent and constant Liberal propaganda on the other networks. I do not wish to go back to the 24/7 war coverage on FOX, but I do wish that there would be a more realistic balance among the varied news items available on any given day. Oh, and where are all the retired military talking heads that I grew to so appreciate on FOX during their 24/7 war coverage. We could do with more of them and fewer "expert panels."
-- Ken Shreve
New Hampshire

Thank you for the critique of Fox news and its lack of coverage. I find its lack of coverage of the 911 commission to be even more egregious, especially on the part of O'Reilly, who initiated that touching crusade on the part of the victims. He evidently doesn't care much about avoiding another 911, as evidenced by his inaction. Hopefully, another opportunity for him to play the pseudo-hero again, will not surface. But if we have yet to determine what failures, if any, led to that tragic day, then there are few assurances that it won't happen again.
-- James D. Willett

Thanks for recognizing shallow and empty reporting. They think by putting a "pretty face" to deliver what could be considered "trash" is Fair and Balanced. Keep up the good work, but what about CNN, MSNBC, and the rest, whom have never questioned why the troops are over there in the first place. I hope this email doesn't put me on the FBI watch list. Peace,
-- unsigned

Well done. Hopefully editors at Fox will do some soul searching.
-- Mike in Alaska

SHAME
Re: James Bovard's My Best $2 Cigar Cutter Ever:

"A gentleman, likely of Middle Eastern origin, asked why the U.S. should not also go after other terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah. I answered that these groups have not attacked the U.S."

Startlingly ignorant. Beirut, 1983. Tell it to the Marines, Mr. Bovard.
-- Jed L. Babbin

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