Thursday, January 19, 2012

He That Is Married Cares for the Things of the World

I guess we all need demonic Others to give us an excuse to run around screaming and waving our hands limply at the wrists. Rick Santorum has Homosexuals. We Homosexuals have Rick Santorum. I clicked through from a post describing to a confrontation between a transgender activist and Santorum in South Carolina:

Kneena Raheja, 20, yelled, "Mr. Santorum, you have spilled queer blood!" as the GOP presidential hopeful finished speaking, according to BuzzFeed. It was a tough crowd; just one man reportedly snickered.

Raheja, who was born a boy, later told Buzzfeed that she thinks "people like Rick Santorum are actively violent towards the queer population."

You know, I really hate it when my people (and they are my people, drunk or sober) trivialize our very real problems with overwrought, inflationary rhetoric. "Spilled queer blood" is, I guess, normal if not acceptable hyperbole: the phrase "blood on his hands" is a common metaphor, as is "bloodbath," and hardly anybody takes it literally. But "actively violent" is not, except in the La-la Land where "violence" covers everything from turning down the corners of your mouth in distaste to spraying a crowd with automatic weapons fire. (Cf. "rape," which "continues to evolve from a word meaning 'violent, forced sexual intercourse' to its more modern definition as 'something kind of upsetting that happens to famous people.'") Santorum may be inciting other bigots to violence, though like any person in his position he'd surely disavow any such intention and condemn anyone who physically attacks homosexuals in his name. But "actively violent" can't, as far as I can tell, mean anything but that Santorum picks up the baseball bat himself; and if Raheja has evidence of that, the police need to have it and charges need to be filed.

Anyway, the article alluded to Santorum comparing gay marriage to polygamy in New Hampshire, so I clicked through to that story:
When his answers failed to persuade the crowd, he was forced to resort to Socratic method -- a tactic that frustrated some in the audience and led to shouts that he was avoiding the questions.

"If it makes three people happy to get married, based on what you just said, what makes that wrong and what you said right?" Santorum asked a young woman grilling him on marriage equality, comparing same-sex marriage to polygamy.

When she responded that his question was "irrelevant," Santorum replied, "You know, it's important, if we're going to have a discussion based on rational, reasoned thought, that we employ reason." There were audible groans from the audience.

I'm not sure that that was really "Socratic method," but two things should be noticed about this exchange. One is that Santorum's basic analogy is sound: if same-sex marriage should be allowed because it will make the partners happy, then it's legitimate to apply the same standard to other models. The "young woman grilling him on marriage equality" was wrong when she claimed that the question was irrelevant; if anyone was dodging the issue, it was she. And isn't it inspiring that the audience groaned when Santorum invoked reason?

The other is that they were both wrong, because polygamy is a traditional, biblical value. Instead of whining that he was changing the subject, his interlocutor should have asked him why he opposes polygamy -- if it was good enough for Moses and Solomon, why isn't it good enough for us today? (Jesus and Paul, on the other hand, are models for total sexual abstinence if not for becoming a eunuch for the kingdom of Heaven. Santorum, with his seven children, is no follower of theirs.) Putting same-sex marriage on the same level with plural marriage should have backfired: was he saying that, like polygamy, same-sex marriage was acceptable under the Old Covenant even if it isn't today? Wasn't he equating Adam and Steve with the patriarchs and their numerous wives and concubines? (If he brings up incest, remind him of Abraham and Sarah.) Is he aware that Augustine wrote that Christians didn't practice polygamy merely to conform with Roman law and custom? If so, he's a radical moral relativist. If not, he's ignorant. Either way, he painted himself into a corner.

Instead, the advocate for marriage equality revealed that she's just as narrow as Santorum. Like him, she hasn't thought much about the meaning or history of marriage and is just parroting slogans. It isn't like I needed to be reminded how little there is to choose between Santorum and his cultured despisers.