Walt Kelley’s most famous quote, “we have met the enemy and he is us,” best illuminates how gay activists – a tiny percent of the population – have so successfully upended age-old understandings of gender and marriage.
Truth is it’s not the one percent of gays who are winning the day – it’s the 99 percent who have more or less adopted a gay perspective on marriage who are making the difference.
To put it provocatively, we’re all gay — or at least most of us are — in terms of our ideology of gender and marriage.
But first, the traditional view …
The core function of society is to perpetuate itself and its values. Throughout human history, societies have accomplished that core function by channeling male sexual energy to the benefit of women and children through the institution of marriage.
Marriage is economically suited to that purpose via the efficiencies of (1) shared consumption, (2) shared production, and (3) shared risks. Of those three efficiencies, the only one of unique value to society is shared production; more specifically, the shared production of well-socialized offspring capable of carrying on the culture.
Such production takes a long time, so wise societies are keenly interested in long-lasting marriages. Investment of males in family also takes a long time, so wise societies are also interested in having the foundational social relationship – even when it comes to marriages beyond child-bearing age – at least point young men (and women) toward a procreative norm.
Times have changed though and influences too numerous to mention here have allowed Western societies to lose sight of their core function.
Traditional marriage is grounded in a “forsaking all others” commitment that disavows the possibility of a future, competing romance as a basis for breaking the union.
Modern marriages, in contrast, are now made and unmade precisely on the basis of romance, regardless of effects on children or society. Marriage no longer belongs to society for the benefit of society, but to individuals to make of it whatever they will. (Ironically, writing one’s own vows cheapens rather than deepens the marriage ceremony in undermining common understandings of what the vows entail.)
Gay marriage is just an extreme, but natural extension of those new understandings and deservedly symbolic of all negations and caricatures of traditional sexual mores. So abandoning one’s spouse after having fallen in love with another may be a moral failure among traditionalists, but it’s also a very “gay thing” to do among non-traditionalists — so also with cohabitation and egalitarian marriages.
The ease in which couples move from cohabitation (a relationship premised on an unwillingness to suffer on behalf of the other) to marriage (traditionally premised on just the opposite) suggests “for richer or poorer, in sickness or in health” in contemporary vows may be more pro forma than serious. Egalitarian marriages are “gayer” yet, and differ from the marriage of gays only in that the former are not same-sex — the ideology of gender and marriage is the same.
Accepting such degradations of traditional marriage has been the slippery slope to gay marriage for us all. A nation’s currency can become so debased that equating it with play money can seem more and more plausible to more and more people. That’s the point we’ve come to on marriage in America. Traditional marriage has become so devalued as to make its extension to gay couples seem like no big deal.
The debasements can’t last forever though. Progress is not progress when the latest developments accelerate decline. Gay marriage does exactly that. Since Western societies are already below the replacement rate in terms of child-births and Western institutions no longer have the will to champion traditional Western, largely Christian, values, it is profoundly unwise to make a sterile and dysfunctional lifestyle more attractive and available to more and more people.
There’s a natural stopping point for the “gayness” of us all. It’s called cultural extinction and it draws nearer every day.