Monday, July 4, 2011

Same Sex Marriage - it just isn't dangerous

I'm still enjoying life at Camp Coleman, which means that I'm pretty unplugged from the outside world. I get the basic news and such, but I don't have any feel for what's really making the rounds. So, I don't know if many people noticed, or cared, that David Frum happily gave up the fight against same-sex marriage.

Frum was, for a long time, one of the more vocal mainstream opponents to same-sex marriage. His opposition was based mainly on the danger that he believed it posed to marriage as a wider institution, and to families, in general. Well, he says, that's just not a tenable position, any more:

...the case against same-sex marriage has been tested against reality. The case has not passed its test.

Since 1997, same-sex marriage has evolved from talk to fact.

If people like me had been right, we should have seen the American family become radically more unstable over the subsequent decade and a half.

Instead -- while American family stability has continued to deteriorate -- it has deteriorated much more slowly than it did in the 1970s and 1980s before same-sex marriage was ever seriously thought of.

There seem to be two basic arguments against allowing men and women to marry someone of the same gender. One is that it's just wrong. That one is most often phrased in religious terms - God doesn't approve, and so on. The other is Frum's former argument, that it's somehow dangerous.

Well, I suppose that you can still hold the former view, if you'd like. People's certainty about what God does and doesn't like continues to amaze me, as does their often arbitrary fidelity to some parts of the Bible. But, it's not an argument which can ultimately be logically refuted, I suppose.

But, that other argument? The one which posits that somehow society will be destroyed if men are allowed to marry men, and women to marry women? Sorry, but I think that one is dead. Besides the fact that it never made much sense*, it's now been proven, in the laboratory of the world, to be wrong. Gays and Lesbians get married - all of the time. And, sorry to say, there are no side-effects.

* you know, it's been on overused joke for some time, now. "No one has ever seen two men walking down the street, holding hands and thought, 'Hey - that looks great! I think I'll leave my wife and give that a try!'" But, the fact that it's a joke shouldn't take away from the fact that it contains a very important truth. The idea that same-sex marriage is somehow dangerous to other institutions may sound compelling, but it doesn't hold up to any serious scrutiny. I think that the burden of proof would be on those who make that argument - how, exactly, do you see this as dangerous? Draw me that line, from one to the other, would you? From what I've seen, the attempts to do so are fairly pathetic.

By the way, can someone who opposes same-sex marriage tell me why it's the marriage part that is the problem? I mean, even if we do ban it, men and women are living together, as married couples, without any official sanction. And (I'm shocked - shocked! - to see that) they've been doing this for a very long time. How, exactly, will giving them civil rights have an impact that simply letting them live as if they were married won't? I mean, I'll see Frum's retraction and raise it - same-sex marriage hasn't been tested since 1997. It's been tested ever since two men, or two women, decided not to lie about living together and sharing their lives.

So, I guess that what I'm trying to say is that if you oppose same-sex marriage - well, you have every right to do so, I guess. But, please stop pretending that you are holding that view in the name of some larger, more noble value. The only reason left, it seems, is hate.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Why is the Dead Sea dead?

A great teaching, about which I was reminded by Bobby Harris, the Director of Camp Coleman, this Shabbat.

The Dead Sea is well known - it's the saltiest body of water in the world. It's so salty that nothing can live there*, hence "Dead." But, do you know why it's so salty, and so dead?

* ok - technically they've found some bacteria that live in it. Don't kill a lovely teaching with facts, ok?

Well, the Dead Sea is also the lowest point on the face of the earth. So, when water flows into it, mainly from the Jordan River, which begins at the Kinneret (or, if you prefer, the Sea of Galilee), it can't go anywhere. It simply stays there until it evaporates, leaving behind any salts and other minerals it may have been carrying.

The Kinneret lets water leave, so it, like all other bodies of water, can get rid of some of that stuff which piles up further south, in the Dead Sea.

In other words, the Kinneret, which gives as well as receives, is full of life. The Dead Sea, which only takes, and never gives back, is dead.