I was perusing through some of the returns regarding the "off-year" elections that took place last night, and there was something in particular that caught my eye. That little something was the repeal of Maine's gay marriage legislation which came about via a referendum in the previous election cycle (Fall - 2008). Of course, at the time, this was heralded by New England progressives as a huge win for the gay movement. I remember shaking my head about it and wondering if they (progressives in general) have ever really concerned themselves with the nature of the supposed victories and concessions they'd made over the years. And as many people of that movement woke up today, most likely with a sense of vitriol and disgust, I wonder if this repeal will give any of them pause.
Let me be clear here. I very strongly support the act of, or more specifically the contracting of, gay marriage. Both during times in my life when I'd considered myself liberal and conservative, I'd never had an issue with anyone's sexual preferences regardless. So it's probably not surprising to anyone that I still don't take issue with it today either. However, I find myself in the odd position of not being able to endorse the conservative approach nor the liberal approach to handling this issue. As such, I've found myself in many verbal exchanges with both gay progressives and straight conservatives about the issue. If there's anything I've learned about adopting the libertarian mantle, it's that you're going to find yourself at odds with damn near everyone. It's part of the reason why people will constantly use the handle of their opposition to describe your views, no matter how inaccurate it may be. I can't even begin to count how many times conservatives have tried to malign me by calling me liberal or how many times liberals have tried to malign me by calling me conservative. I think that's just part of the reflexive mantra you can expect from people who haven't thought about politics enough to be able to couch anyone's views outside their own as being something other than that of the opposing major party.
That being said, i disagree with both parties very strongly on their stances regarding gay marriage. Not on the act itself, but rather the ridiculous ways in which they believe it's appropriate to handle it. I had stated previously, in my comments regarding an article I posted, that it often seems like the two major political parties just seem to be fighting over who has control of the guns anymore. I proffered that maybe, just maybe, there should be a discussion regarding the scope and role of government...that maybe we should return to some of our roots as Americans and begin to question the purpose of our government in all its monopolistic glory. And what took place in Maine last night is the perfect example of why we need to stop engaging in this push-pull leveraging of our fellow man.
Of all the people who woke up ashamed of their neighbors in Maine, how many of them, at any point in their political evolution, had ever thought to consider that the best way of approaching the marriage issue wasn't through democratic legislation, but rather through the dissolution of state control regarding marriage? And I don't mean a relinquishing of marriage law to the federal government. I mean the abolition of the marriage-interface in the government apparatus. I'm going to make a crazy assumption (based on my life-long experience) and say that very few of them thought to consider this as an appropriate approach. Let's not be coy here. The conservatives, who have come to pride themselves (somehow) as being the arbiters of freedom and liberty, should be ashamed and disgusted at their own propensity to try to tell others that they can or cannot conjoin. The fact that they support the state suppressing such voluntary contracts (marriages) should be reprehensible to any proponent of individual liberty. There is no excuse for people of that ilk in my honest opinion. But for all that I may agree on, ethically, with my liberal brethren on this particular issue, I have to take them to task as well here.
The problem that I have with the approach of progressives is the same problem our founding fathers had when they wrestled with the same idea in their time; people put an innocuously (from their perspective) dangerous confidence in democracy. It seems like from the time we are born in this country we are led to the stream of democracy. And drinking from that stream is about as American as apple pie or baseball. "Democracy and freedom" have become a cliche, although they honestly have little to do with each other. There is nothing mutually exclusive about totalitarianism and democracy. Both can exist simultaneously. Think of it this way, we rightfully decry monarchies, historically, because of the structure of overwhelming power exerted against the individual. A monarchical power structure would look, typographically, like a pyramid; with the absolute ruler on top, his appointed subjects underneath him, and the masses at the bottom. So when we decry monarchy, is it the fact that we dislike the shape of such a structure, or is it the quashing of individual liberty that such a structure implies that bothers us? In a pure democracy, such a pyramid would be inverted; with everyone as a collective appearing at the top, and the lowly individual at the bottom. From an individual's perspective, in terms of true freedom, these two structures aren't entirely different. In both cases, my liberty is subject to others. This is why our founding fathers fought to actually stifle pure democracy and obfuscate its capacity...which is a point that has been dearly lost on most of us.
This brings me to my liberal friends, who often mock the concept of democracy (particularly in the last eight years). But they don't typically mock it because they believe it to be problematic, but rather because they feel that it's asinine for certain parties and/or administrations to use it as bantor when we don't even have a true democracy here. In other words, they mock it to the extent that they actually want a democracy but that they believe one doesn't exist in our country right now. On the contrary, they very much believe that democracy is not only applicable but necessary to bring about various social reforms. And yet, even on mornings like this, when they inevitably fall upon their own proverbial sword, they move not to strip such power from the purview of government but rather to expand the scope of their fight. Fraught with the early morning headlines, leader of various progressive movements have already realigned their focus towards national legislation to control marriage; to subsequently allow it in all states in the Union. But setting aside the many constitutional issues that would bring up, what would make a democratic referendum at the national level any better to you than one at the state level? Even if you achieve such legislation, and you are temporarily elated by the prospect of such a victory, how will you feel with the reigns are in the hands of your opposition, and they use the very legislation you crafted as a framework to BAN GAY MARRIAGE in every state in the Union? They've already tried it at least once. Do you really think this would be out of their reach?
As a casual observer, it seems to me that the rational approach to such an issue wouldn't be to keep trying to place your individual liberties within the perpetual tug of war within politics. The real solution to such a problem is to get government out of licensing marriage altogether! I wouldn't want to leave my right to make voluntary marriage contracts up to the whim of my fellow citizens any more than I'd want them to decide what church I went to on Sunday. It's simply NO ONE ELSE'S FUCKING BUSINESS. It's not their place to make such decisions for you and it never should be. And as has been painfully witnessed today, as long as such decisions are within the scope of your government, and you continue to frame it that way in your quest for social change, you can't be surprised when your opposition gets a hand up on you every once in a while. And when you start to realize exactly how silly the tug of war is over your individual liberties is, you may start to also realize how trying to enact federal legislation regarding marriage licensing may just put you in the hot-seat for even more regressive setbacks.
I don't intend to be too hard on some of these people. I realize the road they are walking is long and frustrating. And perhaps harder to handle than various laws and legislation is the social prejudice they have endured and must overcome on their journey. I certainly do not envy such burdens and I'm in no place to question the kind of overwhelming pressure that is exerted on them from day to day. In fact, in many ways this, often single, small sliver of sentiment that we share for the abolition of control over the individual would make us fellow travelers on some level. But that compassion is hard to reconcile when I stride for absolute liberty from afar, and often see their proposals for more government control to hold up their one-dimensional view of liberty. If it's liberty you want my friends, then I will gladly share your burden and take up arms beside you. But if you continue to only proffer the strength of the state and an extension of its role in our personal lives, even if you erroneously believe that is the path to social acceptance, then I can only stand back and shake my head in disappointment.
"Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule - and both commonly succeed, and are right."
- H.L. MENCKEN