Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Relativism's Unintended Consequences

With all of the bad news emanating from the penumbras of last night's election results, it's easy to overlook the one bit of good news: for now, marriage is still between a man and a woman, and has returned to being that in California. Excerpt:
Of the three measures to ban gay marriages, California's was the most closely watched as the state is the most populous and is perceived as a political and cultural leader.

With 96.4 percent of precincts reporting, the California proposition -- which came about half a year after the state's highest court opened the way to gay marriage -- was ahead by more than 4 percentage points.

In San Francisco, where Mayor Gavin Newsom initiated gay marriages in City Hall and launched the legal battle resulting in recognition of same-sex unions, Obama's victory and message of change consoled proposition opponents.

"We have Obama," Noelle Skool, 29, said as she checked identification at a popular lesbian bar in San Francisco's Mission district. "It's small steps. Eventually they'll warm up to the fact that, hey, we're all equal."

Los Angeles attorney Gloria Allred said she planned a lawsuit to challenge California's new gay-marriage ban on behalf of two lesbian clients involved in the earlier suit that reached the California Supreme Court.
Sadly, the pro-life amendments on the ballot in various states didn't fare so well:
Meanwhile, in one of the most emotionally-fought U.S. social issues, abortion rights advocates declared victory in two states.

Colorado voters rejected a measure that would have made abortion the legal equivalent of murder by defining human life as beginning at conception.

South Dakota defeated a ban on abortion that, if passed, had been expected to spark a court battle leading to the Supreme Court.

"We defeated it here, and it won't spread to other states," said Sarah Stoesz, president of the local Planned Parenthood chapter. "And now we've started a counter movement in a very conservative part of the country."
In other state ballots, Michigan voted to allow medical use of marijuana, Nebraska ended affirmative action, or policies to help minorities, and Washington voted to allow doctor-assisted suicide.
There's probably going to be a lot of analysis over this: why was gay marriage defeated, while pro-life measures were also defeated? Why did assisted suicide pass in Washington? What does it mean that traditional marriage was defended, while other traditional and life-affirming measures went down in defeat?
Sadly, I think it just illustrates that relativism is the underpinning of our national philosophy.
There isn't a coherent idea of what is right and what is wrong beneath two such dissimilar actions on two similar (from the moral perspective) questions. The only coherent reason to oppose gay marriage is that one recognizes that is profoundly and fundamentally wrong to redefine an institution almost as old as humanity itself to extend in ways and to people who were never described by it; the only coherent reason to oppose abortion and assisted suicide is because one recognizes that it is profoundly and fundamentally wrong to kill innocent human beings. They are radically linked, these two questions, and the answers to them are going to define who we are, what it means to be a twenty-first century American, whether we are still swayed in any way by the moral traditions and understandings of countless generations before us, or whether we have thrown all of that away and are deliberately seeking new definitions of our foundational relationships that depend on nothing more than what it is materially convenient for us to believe at any given moment.
I don't think the rejection of the one set of questions and the acceptance of the others means that Americans have become so self-aware that they seek formally and deliberately to redefine their relationship to the universe, to their historical ancestry, or to anything else, for that matter; I think all it means is that Americans have now elevated momentary subjective "feelings" to the level of rational thought, and use nothing more than this to guide them when they are asked to weigh in on questions of such awful import.
So enough Americans still "feel" that there is something a bit off about same-sex marriages to vote accordingly, while some of these same Americans "feel" that abortion is more or less a good idea, or "feel" that they don't want to be the ones restricting it, and so forth. Of course there are people who are opposed on principle to both, and their efforts and contributions to preventing same-sex marriage and protecting the unborn should never be overlooked; but we couldn't have the results we do, of prevention of gay marriage but failure to protect the unborn, without a lot of people voting not on principle, but on how they feel about it all, on what feels right to them at this given moment.
I know that liberals encourage this kind of thinking--or feeling--because they believe that more often than not they will be able to encourage the correct sort of feeling that will result in people voting the way the liberals want them to. Yesterday's results, though, show that this is by no means the case; people's feelings are capricious and unreliable, and while the Left has had decades now to make people "feel" happy about abortion, they haven't had as much time to create the correct sort of "feeling" about same-sex marriage.
But if your philosophy is relativism, and you sincerely believe that everyone's "truth" is equally valid, then how can you possibly complain when some people's truth isn't what yours is? Isn't the feeling that we'd rather not have same-sex marriage just as valid as the feeling that it ought to be allowed? How can you elevate one feeling to a level of greater importance than another?
You can't--you can only unilaterally impose your will and force everyone else to accept it, with greater and greater use of force to do so. That's when the illusion that relativism is willing to accept all ideas equally dissolves into the mush that it really is, and when the pope's phrase, "the dictatorship of relativism," illuminates the truth about what relativism will always eventually become.

5 comments:

Deirdre Mundy said...

I've read several pieces suggesting that African-American turnout actually helped to defeat gay marriage...

So here's a question... If we went to the Black Churches, and really took the case against FOCA to them (and pointed out the ways it would effect the Black communtity) could we get traditional-values African Americans to help us out on this? Calling congressmen, etc... you know... a 'Pelosi, we gave you our votes, now you give us your ear' situation?

Siobhan said...

Deirdre -
Great question, and it would be interesting to see what kind of response that approach would get.
One of my co-workers today also had a great proposal, that we work really hard to make the 2009 March for Life in Washington the biggest ever, with at least a million people, preferably several million. Enough to make Obama - and Congress - realize that the FOCA is not a uniting strategy. Enough that the media can't ignore the event for a change. Not much time to plan and fundraise, but Obama's win should serve as a mobilizing force.

Rebecca said...

Don't forget the march in San Francisco; we had five thousand the first year, and 25 thousand last year, the fourth year, by the cops' count. The media described it as "several thousand". I remember too, when I happened to be in the D.C. area for the 1999 march, the media described it as "hundreds of people" when there were obviously thousands. It's very 1984.

As a CA resident I am very pleased at the outcome of prop 8 in CA; however, since the supreme courts have been more and more openly brazen in their tyranny, I'm believing they will somehow overturn the constitutional amendment soon enough (especially since it's pretty much a direct challenge/rejection to their previous decisions), and Californians will roll over and accept it without too much fuss. The whole supreme court thing fascinates/horrifies me. The founders of our country seemed so careful in all the checking and balancing of powers; it didn't seem to occur to them at all that the justices, who are supposed to be chosen from among the more learned, solid, virtuous citizens, would actually end up being more vicious than the general population. I don't think that possibility even entered their minds. Something which was supposed to be a check on the whim or vice of the general populace has actually become a practically unchecked tyrant. I'd love to understand this more.

eulogos said...

I thought the million people at the RTL March in DC thing was my idea. Well, let me second your co-worker's suggestion. Please, if there is any way you can manage to travel to DC for the March, please do so.
Susan Peterson

Red Cardigan said...

Hey, cowardly anonymous drive-by gay marriage (e.g., redefinition of marriage) supporters, your intolerant bigotry will be removed, so don't bother. If you have a real argument to make as to why we should all bow down to your will and change the definition of marriage, and can make it without name-calling and obscenities, go ahead; otherwise, you'll get deleted as soon as I see your nonsense.

Bye now.