The future is always a dystopia and the past is always better than this mess we live in right now. That’s if literature has any ability to tell us about ourselves. Stories about the future: Forewarning. Stories about the good ol’ days: Heartening. Somewhere in our collective unconscious we believe there was a golden era of innocence and irresistible quaintness. The present is far from that—so the future has to be worse. Most likely involving robots … emoting and plotting their revenge.
The future scares us and we wish it could be more like it used to be. Therefore we freak out about change and demand tradition because it connects us to this proverbial Garden of Eden in our minds.
This logical glitch is a pestilence in American politics. Conservative politicians in particular pander to this notion; we must go back to the past. There it’s better because we were better.
Presumptive presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s punt on same-sex marriage is: “I agree with 3,000 years of history.” To him this means a love-based consensual marriage between one man and one woman; our current interpretation of marriage. Of course plural marriage, like that of Romney’s grandfathers, has also been practiced in the last 3,000 years. As were arranged marriages. As were loveless contractual nuptials. Deuteronomy is pretty clear if a woman isn’t a virgin when she gets married she should be killed. It wasn’t until 1993 that North Carolina became the last state to remove the marriage exemption for rape. Regardless Romney, admits to agreeing with 3,000 years of marriage history. His Etch-a-Sketch must be set to history revision.
I personally don’t agree with any history before sewage systems, women’s suffrage or the Loving decision. I also refuse to romanticize any era before the advent of antibiotics.
The GOP’s objection to state-sanctioned monogamous homosexual relationships is, they offer, based on their belief in the Bible. The current crop of Republicans are less into Jesus (who didn’t like rich people or capital punishment) than they are into 1st Century values like stoning misfits in the public square. They’ve picked gay marriage to condemn as an evil out to kill us all, because for Republicans there actually IS a magic time in the not-so-distant past to be nostalgic for—specifically 2004. Then gay marriage was the perfect catalyst to get people to vote Republican. Hence Dubya’s second term.
And now? Now in the wake of the unremarkable ending to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (which, funny enough, is no longer talked about), gay rights doesn’t have the same bite. In 2005 the Supreme Court made sodomy legal in all 50 states and since then there have been absolutely no reports of anyone turning into a pillar of salt. But Republicans who pride themselves on being traditional and firmly planted in the past—regardless of folly—are going to try and chum the water with something as anemic as spousal privilege.
Last week, President Obama said he supported gays being allowed to marry. This was the right thing to do. But it wasn’t the radical thing to do—it’s popular. Most Americans agree that homosexuals should be able to be married. According to a recent Gallup poll 51 percent of Americans agree with President Obama on this issue.
Will gay marriage corrode the foundation of this country? When gay marriage becomes the norm (which it will eventually) we probably won’t even notice. We’ll get the same amount of wedding invites, only all of these will be legal. You’ll know the same amount of gays you know now. Our children will have the same likelihood of being homosexual as they do now. Very few American’s lives will change. It’s just a minority—a persecuted, ostracized, demonized minority—of Americans whose lives will improve with the option for full-legal rights as a married couple.
That’s if the past is actually prolog … instead of paradise.
Taking Eternal Vigilance Too Far