"Traditional Values" and the Death of a Community
During December, 2004, the "Traditional Values Coalition" put out a call for "action" (spelled D O N A T I O N $), claiming that the institution of marriage was being destroyed by the very idea of legally recognizing same-sex marriages as such. The author, TVC's Chairman, Mr. Louis Sheldon, is clearly pitching to a slightly more affluent and possibly brighter group of donors in the hopes of raising the amount of the take from the campaign. But despite the toning-down of the emotionalism usual to the genre, the TVC campaign piece "The Destruction of Marriage Precedes The Death Of A Culture" is still propaganda - and the irony is tragic, for its success will favor the very thing he purports to oppose.
Sheldon begins this poisonous ploy by using quotes from various sources to establish that nations decline when sexual immorality becomes rampant. One of the sources is Pitrim Sorokin, who claimed in his work the American Sex Revolution that America was committing "voluntary suicide" through unrestrained sexual indulgence. Sorokin was a distinguished professor of Sociology at Harvard and his findings make some sense. According to Sorokin, a healthy society can only survive if strong families exist and sexual activities are restricted to within marriage. Sorokin's arguments, and those of other reputable academics, are about the consequences of unrestrained promiscuity. Such claims are easily supportable by common sense and experience. After all, it doesn't take very much intelligence or insight to realize that promiscuity is not healthy for either individuals or their community over the long term. One has only to honestly look around at one's own community to see the evidence.
But how does an argument against promiscuity suddenly become an argument against marriage? One of the best cures for promiscuity, the one that Sorokin and other sociologists recommend, is the formation of committed life partnerships, marriages, and avoiding any sexual activity outside of marriage. If we accept that promiscuity is a bad thing, and that the best cure for promiscuity is marriage, then the obvious answer is to promote marriage rather than to discourage it. Is there really any practical difference between the promiscuity of irresponsible heterosexuals and that of homosexuals? No. Promiscuity is promiscuity, regardless of the genders or sexual orientations of the players. The same cure, encouraging people to marry and to sustain their unions, works for both. Why, then, is Sheldon so stridently against marriage for homosexuals? Because he thinks that using the bogeyman of homosexuality will sell well with his audience.
The obvious goal of Sheldon's campaign is not to prevent gays from gaining access to the basic civil right of marriage; it's to gain donations to his organization's coffers and political power for himself. He knows that a sizeable segment of the American population is both older and concerned about the state of the nation. This segment is Sheldon's target audience, and he's hoping that they won't look any farther than his surface posturing before reaching for their checkbooks. He's using the classic propaganda technique of blaming all of the world's ills on a despised minority while suggesting that they're out to "get" the rest of "us."
Let's look at a key fact that Sheldon doesn't mention at all. TVC is not so subtly promoting the idea that only "Christian" marriage can save us from drowning in the seas of promiscuity and lust. But the people who have the worst record for maintaining stable marriages of all, according to the Barna studies (www.barna.org), are those who self-identify as Christians. How's that, Mr. Sheldon? Who is "destroying" marriage? Given that the divorce rate for same-sex marriages in Denmark, where it has been legal for more than 10 years, is around 11%, and the divorce rate for Christian heterosexuals in this country is 34%, perhaps it is the Christians who need to learn from their gay brothers and sisters about how to keep a marriage intact.
But the real impact of Sheldon's ploy is far more serious than the ability of two gay men or women to gain full legal recognition of their life partnership. Sheldon, and others of his ilk, are doing substantial damage to the essential fabric of our culture by their work - despite their crocodile-teared claims to the contrary. They are preaching polarization and discrimination, seeking to divide Americans rather than bringing them together to work on our common problems. It is Sheldon and TVC, and the other so-called "family" fund-raising mills that are destroying traditional American values and contributing to the death of our community and nation.
One of the best things about America, in the ideal, is that it doesn't matter what color your skin is, or what religious creed you profess, or who your family was or even what gender you are - what counts is your ability to get the job done. True Americans hate discrimination of any kind; we're proud of our melting-pot society, where a poor kid with drive can go all the way to the top. That's a "traditional value" worth fighting for, to open doors and provide opportunities for all who are willing to do the work. However, that's not what Sheldon and his so-called Traditional Values Coalition is about. Celebrating and encouraging our free society of equal opportunity, Mom & Apple Pie doesn't fill the bank accounts of people like Sheldon and the TVC.
So, what is the job of marriage? Can a marriage be beneficial to its members and to their community if people who aren't heterosexual do the job? In a word: Yes. Marriage is an agreement between the couple on one side and their community on the other, and it benefits both sides. The community stands to gain because people in committed lifetime relationships tend to be healthier and live longer, to be more prosperous (and therefore pay more taxes) and they are far less likely to be in trouble with the law. To encourage people to marry, the community offers a "toolkit" package of privileges and benefits to people to help them build and maintain their relationship over their lifetime. There are over 1,000 separate items in that toolkit that you get to have access to when you marry and stay together.
"But what about children?" Some people will ask. Well, what about them? Not every married couple wants or needs to or even should have children. If you do have kids, then you get access to the extra handful of rights, privileges and benefits that pertain to having and raising children. If you don't have kids, you are not any less married than those who do. Having children is not a job requirement of marriage.
Two people want to stand together in the presence of their community to promise to take care of each other for life. They'll work at their jobs, make the mortgage, keep the house up, take care of their elderly parents, serve as volunteers, walk the dog, and pay their taxes - all of the standard tasks of any American marriage. The community stands to benefit from this relationship as much as the individuals do. But instead of encouraging people to make that commitment to life, Sheldon and his ilk are working overtime to sell fear, to deny us all the benefits of marriage. Every dollar that goes into the TVC campaign pot increases the damage being done to our community by the flow of hateful propaganda being churned out and sold. Every elected official who panders to the crowd by making ugly speeches about "defending marriage" increases the polarization of our people. Instead of emphasizing the true values we share in common as Americans, the TVC "defenders" of what they falsely call "traditional" have become the destroyers themselves.
What's the answer? There's a very traditional American response to people like Sheldon and the TVC who sell shoddy goods. Don't buy them. Tell them to take their hateful trash and to go away. Don't sign their petitions and don't vote for the politicians they buy with their campaign dollars. Discrimination is not a traditional value. Look past the slogans to see the propaganda for what it is - and don't be fooled.
The TVC Propaganda Piece is located here.
Copyright May 29, 2005, by VoxRationis. All rights reserved, except that free distribution via any medium is permitted as long as author's credit is given and no profit is involved.