Opinion » Columnists

On gay marriages and civil liberties

As I look at the state of the world today, and the evil people who control it, I am beginning to realize how desperately we need those chosen, enlightened few to once again touch our lives.
On American television in the early 1990s, there was an episode of the popular comedy series SEINFELD, where one of the principal characters, named Elaine, jokingly started a fictitious rumor that Jerry Seinfeld and his best friend George were "gay" (a.k.a. homosexual) lovers.  This led to a series of misunderstandings about Jerry and George's sexual orientation, constantly compelling them to deny the rumor.  What made their situation especially humorous was how they always felt obliged to conclude their denials with the phrase, "Not that there's anything wrong with it!" (i.e. with being gay).

A synopsis of this episode seemed an appropriate way to begin this essay, particularly since the issue of "same-sex arriage" has recently aroused much controversy in the United States.  Like Jerry and George, I am not gay. 

And also like them, I have no quarrel with what consenting adults do in the privacy of their own homes, nor do I believe that same-sex marriages will mark the end of western civilization.  I say this simply so readers will not automatically presume a bias on my part, since I personally have nothing to gain or lose, regardless of whether same-sex marriages are
legally recognized or legally banned.

What is disturbing, however, is the level of hatred, hypocrisy and bigotry directed against same-sex couples.  It is a hatred so intense and so irrational that there is now a campaign to ban same-sex marriages through a constitutional amendment.  But no matter what one may think of same-sex marriage, it is disconcerting to imagine the ominous precedent that will be set if a document that many, if not most, Americans revere as the very foundation of freedom becomes an instrument of hatred and discrimination.

Particularly hypocritical is how those clamoring for a constitutional amendment have consistently put gay people into "no-win" situations.  During the Clinton administration, for example, controversy erupted over whether gays should be permitted to serve in the military. Many of those arguing against this proposition stereotypically presumed that being gay was automatically synonymous with being "promiscuous," and thus gays, unlike "normal" people, would be unable to control their desires, and therefore could harm troop morale and even jeopardize the lives of their fellow soldiers.  But now that the issue of same-sex marriage has arisen, suddenly an antithetical argument is being promulgated:  that gays have no right to engage in monogamous relationships through the rite of marriage.  Yet heterosexuals have no such encumbrances.  Whether they are promiscuous, monogamous, or even adulterous, the right to marry is not foreclosed to
them.  The cases of two "conservative" politicians graphically illustrate this point.  The first case is that of the late Senator from South Carolina Strom Thurmond who, as a "state's rights" proponent, once actively supported racial segregation.  Yet Thurmond also fathered a mixed race child out of wedlock.  The second case involves Indiana Congressperson Dan Burton, an opponent of same-sex marriage, who also fathered a child outside the bonds of matrimony.

Unfortunately this legacy of hatred, hypocrisy and discrimination is not unique.  In fact the original Constitution of the United States contained the now infamous "three-fifths" compromise," where individual slaves (even though they could not vote) were counted as three-fifths of a human being for purposes of Congressional representation.  Even after this compromise was erased by the "post-civil war amendments," many state constitutions still had provisions banning marriages between persons of different races. 

It was not until 1967, in the case of LOVING vs. VIRGINIA, that such bans were finally lifted.

Of course there are those who will argue that sexual orientation is not analogous to race, since the latter is an "immutable characteristic," while the former involves a lifestyle choice.  But this ignores the reality that humans are both anatomical and physiological beings.  Some scientists have theorized that certain chemical or biological processes are more responsible for one's sexual orientation than physical appearance, and while there certainly are people who are gay by choice, there is merit to the argument that few people would voluntarily pursue a lifestyle where they are the constant targets of hatred, ridicule, discrimination and violence.

Not surprisingly the Bush dictatorship is leading the campaign for a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, and, in a depraved sort of way, such an amendment would be a fitting reminder of this dictatorship's legacy of hypocrisy, dishonesty, intolerance, corruption, venality, bigotry, criminality, bloodlust, usurpation of democracy, and contempt for basic human rights and freedoms.  And, in keeping with this hypocrisy, many of those in Bush's party, who incessantly harangue about the intrusions and power of "big government," are now also pushing for the ban.  And why not? 


To them big government is unacceptable only when it impedes their ability, or the ability of their wealthy campaign donors and political cronies, to enrich themselves through the exploitation of their fellow human beings.

Naturally they deny this is the reason, and pontificate instead about the "sanctity" of marriage.  But exactly what "sanctity" is being defended?  Marriage once provided Bush's fellow war criminal, the lying, venal Dick Cheney, with one of the many deferments he used to avoid serving in the military during the Vietnam era.  Ronald Reagan, the demigod of conservatives whose legacy is so "sacred" that gutless television networks like CBS refused to air a mini-series about his presidency, divorced his first wife.  In fact, roughly fifty percent of all marriages in the United States end in divorce, and the corporate-controlled media exult in celebrity divorces as though they were spectator sports.

In reality, the drive to ban same-sex marriage is a natural outgrowth of the alleged quest for "decency" now gripping America.  And the timing, in many ways, could not be more ironic.  In December of 2003, the late comedian Lenny Bruce, whose constant legal battles over the use of "indecent" language in his nightclub act drove him to a premature death, was posthumously pardoned by the governor of New York State for an "obscenity" conviction that had resulted from a 1964 performance in Greenwich Village.

This pardon, the governor stated, was a "declaration of New York's commitment to upholding the First Amendment," where the provision protecting freedom of speech is located. Yet less than a month later, the same battles that killed Lenny Bruce are being fought again.

The primary dilemma in dealing with issues involving decency is that "decency" is often nothing more than what the existing power structure wishes it to be.  For example while "indecency" in America, as demonstrated by Janet Jackson's Superbowl performance, often involves the human body in a state of partial or total nudity, it conveniently does not involve a human body suffering in pain, largely because the greed and political influence of the insurance and health care industries have made the United States one of the few industrialized nations where health care is not a fundamental right for its citizens.

While this alleged concern for "decency" also demanded that democratically elected President Bill Clinton endure impeachment proceedings for lying about an extramarital affair, such concerns obviously do not extend to corruptly appointed dictators, like George W. Bush, who lied about the "reasons" for waging war against Iraq.  "Decency" also compelled pundits to argue that Clinton's offense was not the affair, but the crime of perjury. 

Yet the crime of wiretapping the offices of United Nations officials, that was carried out by Bush's lap-dog and fellow war criminal, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, at the behest of the Bush dictatorship, is apparently not an impeachable offense, but simply "business as usual."  Nor, it seems, is waging a war of aggression a violation of international law, provided of course the aggressor is victorious.

This arbitrary definition of "decency," when taken to its logical conclusion, produces some disturbing scenarios.  It means parents would rather sacrifice the lives of their children in wars based upon lies than have those children hear a "dirty" word on television.  It presumes that the efforts to install content ratings, warning labels, and "V-chips" in televisions were wasted because people are incapable of using them.  But, perhaps most disturbing of all, it means that adults in an allegedly free society do not possess the right, nor the ability, to make adult decisions for themselves, being forced instead to rely upon a ubiquitous "big brother" deciding what is "best" for them.

Another dilemma when dealing with issues of "decency" is how rarely people question the "decency" of those enforcing "decency" standards.  Where was the decency when George W. Bush openly boasted that not one of the more than
one hundred and fifty people executed "under [his] watch" as governor of  Texas was innocent, even though he routinely denied inmates facing execution thirty-day reprieves for DNA testing--a procedure that was exonerating numerous death row inmates in other states across the nation?  Where is the decency in a self-professed "wartime president" appearing aboard an aircraft carrier wearing military attire and a Cheshire grin, when his own "military" service consisted of National Guard duty to avoid serving in Vietnam, and allegations that he was even AWOL (absent without leave) from that?
 
Where is the decency in Bush boasting he is "pro-life" when his entire political career has been built upon exploiting death?  Where is the decency in lusting for power so maniacally that Bush willingly defied the will of the majority of Americans, and relied instead on a corrupt United States Supreme Court to steal the presidency?  Where is the decency in seeking to deny historically oppressed minorities employment and educational opportunities via affirmative action programs, allegedly because such programs provide "preferential treatment," when Bush has benefitted from preferential treatment his entire life?  And why is it not viewed as "preferential treatment" when the person primarily responsible for enforcing "decency" standards, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairperson Michael Powell, was handed his job because of the political connections of his father, Secretary of State Colin Powell?

Furthermore, where is the "decency" in watching a venal, warmongering, draft-dodging Dick Cheney profit from a war that he helped to instigate, while billions of tax dollars are being spent, and thousands of lives are being sacrificed to enrich companies where he has financial interests?  Where is the "decency" in watching one of history's biggest sell-outs, Colin Powell, lie to the United Nations and to the world about alleged "weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq?   Where is the "decency" in allowing a man like Donald Rumsfeld to preside over the most powerful military on earth when his conduct and contempt for other nations and cultures frequently borders on the psychotic?

Finally where was the "decency" in Michael Powell's efforts to permit media ownership to become even more monopolized, knowing that such monopolies would invariably result in more propaganda, more propagation of lies, more sensationalism, more superficiality, more censorship, more blacklisting of persons or groups like the Dixie Chicks, more reprisals against people like Ed Gernon, who was fired as co-producer of a television mini-series about Adolph Hitler after remarking that the repression of civil liberties in Nazi Germany resembled events occurring in the present-day United States, and more silencing of rational voices of dissent, all for the sake of ratings and profits?

Ironically one of the most perceptive statements Lenny Bruce ever made - that "every day, people are straying away from the church and going back to God"--did not involve the use of any "indecent" words at all. Yet this statement is significant in a nation where Mel Gibson's movie THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST has raised concerns about anti-Semitism and other forms of religious bigotry.

The primary question fueling these concerns is, "Who was responsible for killing Jesus?"  Yet the answer is so simple:  Human nature was responsible for killing Jesus--the same human nature that finds it easier to hate than to love; easier to kill than to heal; easier to disseminate and embrace lies than seek and speak the truth; easier to denounce prophets as agitators and praise the myopic as saints; easier to loath anyone who dares to challenge the status-quo, no matter how corrupt or unjust that status-quo happens to be; easier to praise goodness with one's words but reward evil with one's
deeds by giving power to those undeserving of it; easier to exploit fellow human beings for self-aggrandizement and profit than to "treat others as you would wish to be treated."

There is an adage that "those who do not learn from their mistakes are destined to repeat them." If this is true, then there is little doubt that if Jesus were alive in physical form today, there would still be calls for His death, and many of these calls would undoubtedly reverberate from the very people professing to love and honor Him most.  Jesus's blessing of the peacemakers would cause His voice to be banned from radio and television by corporate-controlled media that avariciously salivate over the ratings and profit potential of war.  He would be denounced as "unpatriotic," and
perhaps even treasonous, for asking us to "forgive our enemies."  He would be ridiculed for daring to believe that human worth should be measured by one's capacity for mercy and compassion, instead of one's material wealth and ability to consume.  He would be scorned for remarking that a camel would have an easier time getting through the eye of a needle than the rich will have getting into heaven, since American culture is built upon images of wealthy celebrities residing in opulent mansions, and adorned in clothing and jewelry costing thousands, and sometimes millions, of dollars.  He would
be condemned, as He was in His day, for criticizing those who treat religion like a business and market it like a product.

And imagine the outrage a modern-day Jesus would generate if He walked into the halls of Congress or the White House, as He did in the Temple in Jerusalem, and denounced the hypocrisy, dishonesty and corruption of the Bush dictatorship, or overturned the tables of the "moneychangers" who are gorging themselves on wartime profits and lobbyist "perks."  Imagine how quickly He and His followers would be branded as a dangerous cult, or even terrorists.  And imagine how easily the corrupt legal system, through machinations such as "military tribunals" or "secret trials" (the same method used to crucify Jesus centuries ago) could be used to execute Him once again.

Despite two thousand years of alleged progress, it is sad to realize that human nature has not dramatically changed.  The world continues to remain in the grip of latter-day Caiaphases and Pontius Pilates willing to sell their souls for a few years of mortal wealth and power.  I have often wondered whether the founders of the world's great religions would have chosen to remain silent had they known how much bigotry, divisiveness, hatred, bloodshed, greed, discrimination, repression, hypocrisy, suffering and warfare would result from people exploiting, manipulating or distorting their words and deeds.  Perhaps the answer lies in the story of Mara the Tempter's final appeal to Buddha.  Mara argued that Buddha would be wasting His time sharing the great truths that had been revealed to Him because unenlightened people would be unable to comprehend them.  Buddha simply remarked, "Some will understand."  Perhaps Jesus addressed these same concerns when He acknowledged that "many are called, but few are chosen." 

As I look at the state of the world today, and the evil people who control it, I am beginning to realize how desperately we need those chosen, enlightened few to once again touch our lives.

David R. Hoffman, Legal Editor of PRAVDA

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