On a Sunday talk show, Mike Huckabee found himself in the spotlight of the gay-marriage uproar for suggesting that the Supreme Court’s gay marriage decision could lead to principled disobedience on a civil rights era scale.
Well, might it? Would the court majority care? Has the court majority anything in mind besides affirmation of that “right to personal choice,” which is “inherent in the concept of individual autonomy”?
We live at an odd and dangerous moment — one framed only in part by the court’s recent extension of marriage rights to same-sex couples. There is much else to flummox and worry us. “Consent of the governed” seems the last thing on the minds of those determined to herd the sheep — you and me — to supposedly brighter pastures.
“We know what’s good for you!” is their loud, if unarticulated, injunction. Generally succeeded by: “Shut up — didn’t you hear what we said?”
Chief Justice John Roberts posed a broader, sounder question — “Just who do we think we are?” — to his colleagues in the marriage case. By a vote of 5 to 4, the court handed to Americans a new, untested definition of human domestic relationships. Old understandings of marriage were off. We needed a new one — see? — and we got it.
Justice Antonin Scalia, as is his wont, saw to the bottom of the matter, writing in dissent: “A system of government that makes the People subordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy.”
You can take all this if you like as a succession of harrumphings by angry losers. Or you can consider, shall we say, the Big Picture: one bigger than the court, bigger than any wedding party, whatever its sexual composition.
The United States of America — your country and mine — has for several decades been unmooring itself from allegiance to truths once generally agreed on as essential to human happiness and freedom. Whether we necessarily meant to slip ancient anchors, that has been the effect. The old American vision no longer serves! A new one is wanted! That’s been the consistent narrative.
Scalia’s scathing dissent in the same-sex marriage case notes the elitism that thwarts consent of the governed. He naturally mentions the Supreme Court, dominated by Harvard-Yale law school graduates. He could have extended his critique to my own profession, the media — an intellectually closed shop in most venues. He could have brought in the clergy and the professoriate, domains of accredited liberal thought, increasingly intolerant of viewpoints they see as outdated, e.g., the social and cultural priority of male-female marriage.
The elitist viewpoint was born before the 1960s, but in the ’60s it came to flower. Man, wasn’t America oppressive and awful? The question was put to us over and over by the counterculture generation and its slightly older boosters. We needed something better — something less oppressive and sexist and racist and genocidal.
What the victors in the culture wars want isn’t just to improve things. They basically want to start over again — to make America look the way they would have had it look, given the opportunity and the absence of slave-owning, Indian-persecuting white men.
The victors want to sweep off the table everything that doesn’t please them, replacing it with creations of their own design. What’s more, by virtue of their patience and persistence, the victors run vast regions of our country, both geographical and intellectual. They’ll tell you Alexander Hamilton doesn’t belong on the $10 bill and that our president was right to bathe the White House — the people’s house — in the rainbow colors of gay liberation.
There’s just one trouble. Uprooting truth, or that which has historically been taken for truth, requires more than Justice Anthony Kennedy’s say-so. Our elitist Supreme Court has guaranteed for us cultural and constitutional headaches for which no pharmacological remedy exists, headaches possibly of the sort that Mike Huckabee forecasts, involving defiance and division.
And what after that? Something juicy and exciting, no doubt. The victors will apprise us, and on their own terms — got that?
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