Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Fisking Dennis Prager

I thought Dennis Prager had some mighty level-headed things to say about relations between Jews and Christians in this article. His views on relations between the same-sex couples, however, aren’t just archaic, they’re positively hysterical. Oddly irrational. His arguments were so simplistic, so junior high debate level, they just cried out for a right royal fisking.

San Francisco and Islamists: Fighting the same enemy
by Dennis Prager
March 2, 2004

America is engaged in two wars for the survival of its civilization. The war over same-sex marriage and the war against Islamic totalitarianism are actually two fronts in the same war -- a war for the preservation of the unique American creation known as Judeo-Christian civilization.
Wow, did he really just say that?!
One enemy is religious extremism. The other is secular extremism.

One enemy is led from abroad. The other is directed from home.
Right, gay = terrorists. (Let's not even pretend he's not tacitly saying this: look at the piece's title.) That formula's so vulgar, I’m not even going to touch it with a barge pole. I’ll focus on fisking the specific ill-conceived arguments against gay marriage below.
The first war is against the Islamic attempt to crush whoever stands in the way of the spread of violent Islamic theocracies, such as al Qaeda, the Taliban, the Iranian mullahs and Hamas. The other war is against the secular nihilism that manifests itself in much of Western Europe, in parts of America such as San Francisco and in many of our universities.

America leads the battle against both religious and secular nihilism and is hated by both because it rejects both equally. American values preclude embracing either religious extremism or radical secularism. As Alexis de Tocqueville, probably the greatest observer of our society, wrote almost 200 years ago, America is a unique combination of secular government and religious (Judeo-Christian) society.
“America leads the battle against secular nihilism.” Love the way hard-right conservatives couple those words "secular nihilism" together as if they’re inseparable. Such sophistication. And then there’s the myth alluded to that the US is a Christian country. That’s a whole other set of arguments, though, and I’m just here to defend my gay friends.
Not only has this combination been unique, it has been uniquely successful. America, therefore, poses as mortal a threat to radical secularism as it does to Islamic totalitarianism. Each understands that America's success means its demise.

This is a major reason why the Left so opposes anti-Islamism (just as it opposed anti-communism). In theory, the Left should be at least as opposed to the Islamists as is the Right. But the Left is preoccupied first with destroying America's distinctive values -- a Judeo-Christian society (as opposed to a secular one), capitalism (as opposed to socialism), liberty (as opposed to equality) and exceptionalism (as opposed to universalism, multiculturalism and multilateralism). So, if the Islamists are fellow anti-Americans, the Left figures it can worry about them later.
The Left opposes anti-Islamism. Boy, where to start with that one. Prager doesn’t even bother to put a modifier (like "fanatical") in front of Islamicism, so yes, I guess the Left does oppose anti-Islamism, just as it would oppose, anti-Americanism, anti-Semiticim, anti-Buddhism, etc. So . . . tempted, but no, I’m here for the gays.
All this explains why the passions are so intense regarding same-sex marriage. Most of the activists in the movement to redefine marriage wish to overthrow the predominance of Judeo-Christian values in American life. Those who oppose same-sex marriage understand that redefining the central human institution marks the beginning of the end of Judeo-Christian civilization.
“Most of the activists in the movement to redefine marriage wish to overthrow the predominance of Judeo-Christian values in American life.” Wow! How do you even begin verify that one! Did you take a poll, Mr. Prager? I think most of the proponents of gay marriage simply think they deserve the same rights as the rest of us. I think the gay couples themselves just want to get married and live happily and in peace—and enjoy the same benefits as the rest of us.

Now, admittedly, some of us do think a secular society (which we already have) is worth maintaining, whilst simultaneously allowing people to practice whatever religious beliefs they like. We just ask that those religious folks don’t attempt to force their beliefs on the rest of us—for instance by saying that gays shouldn’t enjoy the same rights as the rest of us because some religious people buy into superstitious ideas about the gay lifestyle being “an abomination.”
Let us understand this redefinition as clearly as possible:

With same-sex marriage, our society declares by law that mothers are unnecessary, since two men are equally ideal as mothers and as the creators of a family; and that fathers are unnecessary, since two women are equally ideal as parents and as the creators of a family.
Take the percentage of the population, which is gay. Take away those who don’t want to marry. Now, take away those who don’t want kids. What percentage of the population do you think you’re left with? Mothers aren’t necessary? Biologically, that’s ludicrous, of course. But sociologically, who’s to say two gay men can’t raise a child as well or better than one single man? (Would it make you feel better, Mr. Prager, if one member of the gay couple were to take on the traditional motherly roles?) Should it be illegal for a single man to raise a child since that would declare that “that mothers are unnecessary”? (Such drama!)

Obviously, the argument holds no water. Hysterical arguments like these are really just thin fronts for the real issue: sheer and visceral feelings of homophobia on the part of the critic; such feelings press such critics to generate arguments to defend their feelings. They’re horrified. So they grasp awkwardly for arguments, which fall apart under the barest scrutiny of logic. Just come right out and say that you think homosexuality is “an abomination” or whatever other superstitious nonsense you believe. Then folks can either choose to agree or disagree with you, but at least they’ll know your real motivation.
With same-sex marriage, our society declares that there is nothing special or even necessarily desirable about a man and a woman bonding. What is sacred to the proponents of same-sex marriage is the number of people marrying (two, for the time being), not that a man and woman bond.
Why shouldn’t love between any two people be considered sacred? Quit trying to define sacred for everyone! Let each couple decide what’s sacred for themselves. How a gay couple’s decades-long commitment to each other hurt you? It’s a sacred, tender thing to them; it’s none of your damn business.
With same-sex marriage, when taught in school about sex, marriage and family, children will have to be taught that male-male and female-female sex, love and marriage are identical to male-female sex, love and marriage. And when asked, "Who do you think you will marry when you grow up?" thanks to the ubiquitous images of media, far more children will consider members of the same sex.
All this plays into the ol' homophobic, nonverifiable “gayness spreads” myth. So what if kids are taught that they can love people of either gender and it’s OK. Great! Gay kids are still gonna be gays kids and straight kids are still gonna be straight kids. Might more kids experiment? Sure. Does that horrify the homophobes? Sure? Can they show that there’s any real harm in such a fascination? Of course, not. It’s just fear-mongering, pure and simple.
With same-sex marriage, no adoption agency will ever be able to prefer a married man and woman as prospective parents. Aside from the tragedy of denying untold numbers of children a mother and a father, this will lead to a drastic diminution in women placing children for adoption, since most of these women will prefer something that will then be illegal -- that agencies place her child with a man and woman, not with two men or two women.
Since the number of gay couples wanting to adopt compared is unlikely to be equal to the number of hetero couples this argument doesn’t even initially hold water. Furthermore, there’s absolutely no evidence that gay couples can’t be as good parents as straight couples. Should being a single parent be outlawed, too, since (to be consistent with Prager’s argument) single parents couldn’t possibly do the job a hetero couple could?
With same-sex marriage, any media -- films, advertisements, greeting cards -- that only depict married couples as a woman and a man will be considered discriminatory and probably be sued.
Right, the same way that now films, ad and greeting cards—not to mention TV shows, magazine covers and cereal boxes--without inter-racial couples are sued. “Probably sued”? That’s not even remotely verifiable either.
With same-sex marriage, those religious groups that only marry men and women will be deemed beyond the pale, marginalized and ostracized.
Not remotely verifiable or even very likely either. Churches could still choose not to marry gay couples, even as many still choose not to marry divorced people. (I certainly pray that Mr. Prager hasn’t divorced; another practice said to undermine the sanctity of marriage.) And I bet there’s quite a few churches here in the South that won’t marry inter-racial couples either. No one’s stopping them.
There have been many Christian countries, and they are no longer. They have been replaced by secular countries, and they are weakening. Only American civilization remains strong, and it does so because of its unique amalgam of values rooted in Judeo-Christian morality.
Secular countries are weakening? Care to verify that one, Mr. Prager? (There’s that ol’ Christian country myth again, too. Blech.) The United States never has been and never will be a Christian country. Nor is Australia. Nor is Canada. Nor is the Czech Republic, Germany, Japan, Korea (you get the idea) – and, guess what? They’re all doing fine, thanks!
This civilization is now fighting for its life -- as much here as abroad. Join the fight, or it will be gone as fast as you can say "Democrat."
This civilization is evolving—right now perhaps with a rapid burst toward homosexual tolerance (hopefully). It’s evolving into a more sophisticated and tolerant society. It’s slowly evolving into a society that’s more suspicious of superstitious and nonsensical beliefs. (Recent polls must scare the hell out of the old conservative guard: they reveal that young conservative males aren't nearly so concerned with restricting rights from gays as their elders are.)

Prager’s arguments disintegrate upon even a cursory examination. This column is no more than hysterical, non-verifiable nonsense, steeped in superstition and ripened by homophobia.

No comments: