Last stop for crazy town

For those of you who don’t live in the interesting state of mind that is California, I thought you’d like to know that we out here on the far left coast are aiming at the end of democracy in America.

Yep, that’s us. Although most of us are more interested in figuring out ways to ride out bicycles to work without getting pulverized by idiots on four wheels, and a certain percentage of the population spend more energy on getting the local Trader Joe’s to bring back those cans of mixed beans they used to do.

One of the drawbacks of letting writers (Hi!) outside the covers of their novels is that, while lots of them turn out to be great fellows you’d love to have a beer with or invite over for your next barbecue, there are others who make day-old dishwater look sparkly, and then there a few you feel rather like backing away from, slowly.

I like and admire a number of Orson Scott Card’s novels—not all of them, and I admit his take on the acts and attitudes of very young children seems very off to me—but Ender’s Game and the Alvin Maker series belong on anyone’s shelf of permanent science fiction. However, when he opens his mouth, it’s like Mel Gibson after the drunk-driving arrest: Maybe I don’t want to see that next movie. And maybe I’m not so keen on Card’s next book, because my hands might feel a little grubby after I pick it up.

Card has written a vicious article for the Mormon Times (thanks to John Scalzi for bringing it to my attention—and aren’t we all subscribers to the Bloggernackle?) that might have come in from planet Far Far Away. He hits all the stock rant points, including that court decisions have made legal “any abortion up to the killing of a viable baby in mid-birth.” Mid birth? I’m sorry, that interpretation of abortion law is just plain nuts.

He goes on to say, “Marriage is older than government.” Well, relationships certainly are, but marriage as an institution?

Marriage is both a personal institution, and an economic and legal one. Our current recognition of gay marriage here on the left coast addresses the latter concern: when two people live together, share assets, and raise children, there need to be means of fitting their legal status into the system. The states have no interest in dictating how churches deal with gay relationships, merely what happens to the kids when the parents separate, what insurance the homemaker of the pair can expect from the company that employs the other, and who gets to make health-care decisions for a severely ill person.

Card promises that in another column he’s going to talk about the causes of homosexuality and the reasons is persists. I just can’t wait.

I’m sorry, I could go on frothing at the mouth over each subsequent paragraph of his article (“Human beings are part of a long mammalian tradition of heterosexuality”—clearly, since that’s how the whole reproduction thing is designed, but on the other hand, homosexual behavior is found in all kinds of species) however, to be honest, I began to feel ill before I reached his conclusion.

But I’m just a Californian, and everybody knows our chief goal in life is to end democracy. Have a good day, now.

Comments

  1. corgimom says:

    For the first time in my life I can actually give marriage some serious consideration, and for that I’m thankful. Never mind that it has taken until I’m almost 49 years old, have been with my partner for 19 years and together with her raise a beautiful child.
    Mr. Card is exhibiting the biggest fear of all bigots, religious or otherwise: fear of loss of control. It is a powerful fear and in its worst manifestation leads to individuals and groups being willing to kill people and destroy property in an attempt to regain or enforce control.
    The inner life of these fearful souls must be a desolate, gibbering place.

    No wonder he can’t adequately capture the acts and attitudes of young children.

  2. Unless something happened that I missed, I think you mean “Mel Gibson,” not “Tom Cruise.” I don’t remember Cruise getting picked up for drunk driving. 🙂

  3. Laurie King says:

    Yes, sorry, all those Australian actors look alike to me….

  4. I’d love to foist responsibility for Cruise (aka “Mr. Scientology”) off on another country, but he’s home-grown, I’m afraid. He was married to a famous Australian, Nicole Kidman, for a long time, however.

    In a related vein, I noticed this wonderful link on kottke.org (one of the Great Blogs), today:

    http://jaslarue.blogspot.com/2008/07/uncle-bobbys-wedding.html

  5. I haven’t read Card’s column, which probably qualifies me as a dumb yutz, but I gather he has reference to the California Supreme Court decision of a few months back? If so, he does have the tiniest grain of justification on the democracy bit, and I’d like to point it out in the mildest possible (I hope) terms.

    The legal and economic needs you speak of were covered (were they not?) by the California statutes then in force, instituting domestic partnerships that were marriages in all but name (correct me?). I am one of those INTP types to whom the name matters; I’m stubborn on the point that marriage has a definition, and only certain relationships meet it. You can be good people, and worthy of protection and support, but there’s a definition.

    The California legislature is (within limits) omnicompetent. It can do what it likes. If it wants to broaden the term “marriage” beyond my definition, I’ll defend it to the death. But it was a matter for political consensus.

    There _was_ a consensus. People on both sides — _both_ sides — accepted less than they’d preferred in the faith that they would get no less than they’d agreed to. The California Supreme Court taught a different lesson: Both parties to that compromise were indistinguishable from the worst bigots. The people on the conservative side of the compromise were taught: Compromise is worthless; the other side will always renege; go for a constitutional amendment as the first option, and because there’s no percentage in cooperating with the other side, make it draconian. (Abrogating an agreement doesn’t mean you’ll win. It just blows away the protections for both sides.)

    The conceit of supreme courts that they can put an end to social controversies by outlawing one side has a very bad record. They don’t further social reform; they just empower a permanent opposition. Yes, it’s antidemocratic. It overrides the democratic process, and it makes further democratic progress impossible.

    There is another view of this, that the issue is beyond the scope of popular will, that there are higher values than democracy, and that the urgency does not permit the evolution of a peaceful social consensus. I understand this. I adore my gay daughter. I’ve lost sleep over this issue.

    I know there is a choice of values. But please don’t insist the choice is easy, or one side corrupt.

    Now, I’ve probably taken this farther than necessary. Probably I’ve opened the door to a painful cascade of “me too” and “shame on you” replies. (May I propose a rule on this? Only substantive additions, and absolutely no imputations against others’ morals and good faith?) If LRK or her admin want to delete this comment, I’d understand. It had been an ambition of mine (a minor one) to have LRK’s good opinion, and I’m sorry that I’ve probably lost it.

  6. Mr. YoungerSon, you write:
    <>

    Actually, isn’t that _exactly_ how the courts further social reform, by recognizing that there are some ideals (whatever they may be) which are worthy of recognition in our social institution which, if left up to the voters, won’t become normalized for many years? Consider things like the integration of schools as an example: sure, there were plenty of compromises on both sides, but until the decision in Brown vs the Board of Education, this was an institutionalized evil.

    In theory at least, the courts exist to help stop this sort of thing, especially when the general population are dragging their feet. So in this case, it’s the same “antidemocratic” process at work which ended segregation and a host of other things; in fact, this appeal to a higher ethical judge than the populace of the US is the same argument as evangelical (and other) Christian groups who are *against* gay marriage on faith-based terms are making – you’re just sore that your side has lost.

  7. Strawberry Curls says:

    As a fellow “left coaster” I have to admit that over the years I have been both proud and frankly ashamed of many of the things that have gone on in the political arena and other places in California. Sometimes both at the same time, and admit this has given us the reputation as a somewhat flaky state. But, we at least try. We don’t stand on our old staid values and traditions, we honestly try to make positive changes to better the state (I’ll leave the whole country out of this) and the lives of its people. Sometimes it works, sometimes it fails, but at least we, as a state, are willing to look at new ideas.

    In TAoD, one of my favorite lines is from the “Holmes manuscript” and truly sums up what California is: “Everyone in California is from somewhere else, which means everyone in the state has had to re-invent themselves.” Although this is not entirely true, there are many native Californians (I’m not one), but there are so many of us who came from other states and other countries and we are a hodgepodge of cultures, and languages, but we do honestly try to be Californians, it is why we came here. A place where new ideas are not just ignored or shouted down just because they are new.

    –Alice

  8. I wish they’d excise the term “marriage” from the legal system altogether and call all such relationships “domestic partnerships” for the purposes of determining legal rights and obligations among the parties. It’s that overlap of the religious and legal terms that causes a good bit of the freaking out, it seems to me. Really, the word means two entirely different thinigs in the two separate contexts.

    In religious terms, marriage is a sacrament or symbolic ceremony celebrating a commitment between two people who are embarking on a life together. But in legal terms, marriage is nothing more than a construct through which the government enforces certain rights and duties between those in relationships that lie within the bounds of the construct (and, on occasion, between those people and third parties–ie employers who offer health insurance to spouses or families). Protection under the legal term is not tantamount to a general religious endorsement of any particular relationship, as some people seem to fear.

    Better differentiating the two beasts might prevent some muddy thinking and needless consternation on the subject, at least.

  9. Having lived outside in the social cold for many years, the idea that we could actually marry is very precious to me. For better or worse, marriage is both a legal and a religious construct in our society and reverberates in both spheres. Being accepted by my in-laws is one thing (and they are very good to me). But Connie and I will remain separate and unequal until we can marry in the eyes of the law, just like everyone else. That is what the courts are saying when they give me that right. Not that I have to marry because we’ve lived together so long, but that we can. I didn’t think, at first, that the court’s decision meant anything to me. I’ve lived as an outlaw for so long I make jokes about it. But I found, after a couple of weeks, that I stood up a little straighter and I felt a little less defiant. It meant a lot when friends congratulated me for winning another civil right. When the US Supreme Court struck down laws forbidding interracial marriage they did the same thing that the California Supreme Court just did, they told the people who disagreed that they could, but they couldn’t prevent what they didn’t like. I will always make some one nervous, to say the least, but if I am not harming anyone by being me, I have the right to, even more now, be me. Faith, Hope, and Love, and the greatest of these is Love. How could that be wrong.

  10. Pat Floyd says:

    As would be expected of LRK readers, we have thoughtful comments on a controversial subject. Alice, let’s be grateful to California. I recall a discussion years ago about the value of uniform marriage and divorce laws across the U.S. A counter argument was that such laws would be a least common denominator or at least a compromise of rights. At that time many states had racial and other restrictions on marriage. The more liberal states led the way.

    Vicki, you make an excellent point about the need to make “domestic partnership” the legal term for all committed relationships and “marriage” the religious term. I’m inclined to agree.

    As one who has spent her working life in the Christian church, I believe that religion should have led the way in promoting same-sex marriage. If we had been open and hospitable to all people, we would have seen de facto marriages between gays and lesbians in our midst. For Catholics marriage is a sacrament, that is, something tangible through which we know the sacred, through which God’s love is present to us. Protestants see marriage as a sacred covenant. I think of Ed and Al who offered God their home as a place to care for the dying, of two other men who adopted the children of a prostitute–a baby dying of AIDS and a traumatized little girl who has grown into a lovely young women, of Dot and Barb who are raising a child with cerebral palsy. I could name many others whose partnerships are a revelation of love that is like divine love and who regard the covenant between them as sacred.

    The religious opposition to gays and lesbians is bound up in ideas about sex that owe more to Augustine and others than to scripture and in ideas about the nature and interpretation of the Bible–a whole realm of discourse to itself. However, those who use scripture as an absolute need to study the meaning of words in the original languages and in terms of what they meant in the social context of the time.

  11. Amen to both Pat and Vicki. You have said it much better than I could.

  12. I’m frankly shocked by Orson Scott Card’s comments. I had actually never heard of Mormonism until I read and loved his books years ago. And as a result have always had this deep-seated belief that—though the general perception of Mormons was “conservative” “right-wing” and “fundamentalist”—one shouldn’t believe everyting one hears. Because here was an example of a thoughtful, tolerant person who also happened to be a devout Mormon. How my ideals have been dashed!

    It makes wonder, do we all have these blind spots? Do I? Areas in which we, though balanced and tolerant in other areas, fall all to pieces and become raving loonies?

    Thanks Laurie for being as kind, tolerant, funny and wise in “person” as you are in your books!

  13. sara berger says:

    Here in Massachusetts, we have had gay marriage for a few years. It has not interfered with my marriage in any way. I was glad to see that California has joined us in recognizing all folks, not just those of a certain point of view.

  14. Meg Gardiner says:

    Well said, Laurie. Like you, I’m a big fan of some of Card’s work. But his article is just… nasty. As a science fiction author, Card has explored issues such as political philosophy, and the role of religion in communities, with real thoughtfulness. But his op-ed reveals such anger, and so misconstrues the way the law and the courts work in America, that I can only attribute his opinions to fear and rage.

  15. mspeed44 says:

    I live a long way from the west coast–in the deepest part of the south. Y’all want to know something?? Most of us DON’T CARE who gets married and who doesn’t. Everyone who wants good schools, health care, safe neighborhoods–go vote, do not stoop to read what idiots write or listen to what they say. Overnight, this country, this world would change. Believe it or not, we actually have celebrations down here for same sex couples who live together and raise families. More power to them. I’d rather have a liberal lesbian teach my child than a bigot any day.

  16. When Ender’s Game came out, I loved it. Same with Speaker for the Dead & Xenocide, and the first 3 in the Alvin series. After that, he lost me. I had a hard time following his logic and storylines and I was saddened at the loss. I had heard about his rants in recent months and felt even sadder for him. What kind of life can you have when you are so angry and frightened of people because they are different?
    I followed LK’s link to the article and struggled thru it. I wonder what happened to the erudite writer of the past? The article makes me think of an angry man, foaming at the mouth angry, who cannot stay on topic. There are many, many threads in the article which seem to bounce about like a can of silly string in the hands of an eight year old. He goes from homosexual to abortion to divorce without linking the ideas or even having researched to ensure his “facts” were correct. Again, I wonder what happened to the writer of Ender’s Game whose storytelling was so brillant.
    As to “gay” marriage, it seems that the arguments against it are basically the same as the arguments against interracial marriages. In the end, the same things will occur. There will be good marriages. There will be bad marriages. There will be abusive marriages. There will be admirable marriages.
    I respect every one has an opinion, I do not respect any one who dictates what my opinion should be.

  17. @beishang_ai – Thank you for making this excellent point, succinctly and with style.

    Laurie, I’m so glad to read your take on this. I adored Ender’s Game and then, even more, Ender’s Shadow, but this is a deal breaker. A friend of mine led me to your posting after she read my blog this morning about Card’s ranting (which I read on Cracked.com–go figure).

    Sad, sad, sad. He used to be one of my favorite Mormons, too, and that’s saying something, as I live in Utah.

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