Krauthammer on Kristol and the evolution of marriage

by CynthiaYockey on September 27, 2009

Charles Krauthammer published a lovely appreciation of the late Irving Kristol on Friday, Sept. 25. I have bolded the lines that leapt out at me because of how they apply to the objection of social conservatives that homosexuals should not have marriage equality because marriage should never be re-defined, or evolve:

His gloriously unheroic view of himself extended to the rest of humanity — its politics, its pretensions, its grandiose plans for the renovation of . . . humanity.

This manifested itself in the work for which he is most celebrated: his penetrating, devastating critique of modern liberalism, and of its grand projects for remaking man and society. But his natural skepticism led him often to resist conservative counterenthusiasms as well. Most recently, the general panic about changing family structures.

Irving had an abiding reverence for tradition and existing norms. But he thought it both futile and anti-human to imagine we could arrest their evolution. He never yelled for history to stop. He was less concerned about the form of emerging family norms, such as France’s non-marriage Civil Solidarity Pact, than whether they could in time perform the essential functions of the traditional family — from the generational transmission of values to the socialization of young males.

Re-defining marriage to include same-sex couples will leave intact the essential functions of the family. Young males will be socialized. Values will be transmitted from one generation to the next. We work for laws that provide us with equality so we can build lives together using the same advantages and responsibilities that straight people have. We love each other. It’s that simple.

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  • Attmay

    The “traditional family” is itself a product of millennia of human evolution.

    Furthermore, gays need an alternative to a life of meaningless, emotionally detached one-night stands and clubbing. Gay marriage may take a generation or two to take root in gay culture, but there really is no viable “separate but equal” alternative. Civil unions have already damaged marriage in France, but since they refused to give same-sex couples equal marriage rights, they decided to do this. And allow heterosexuals to enter into it. They don’t need it because they have marriage rights.

  • Ah, Cynthia, if only “we love each other. It’s that simple.” were that simple. Unfortunately there is a whole helluva lot more than love involved in a marriage. Mrarriage is a social construct for the raising of children and the preservation of capital, along with the maintainance of the surviving widows. Now at least some of those purposes have been made at least somewhat obsolete by changges in society, not to mention some of the ways that various cultures have taken care of widows was somewhat ugly, for instance putting the widows on the funeral pyres in India.

    Still, loving each other is about the tenth place down on the list. Throughout most of history men and women have been in arranged marriages and most have been reasonably happy. Perhaps because up until very recently people have realised that happiness comes from within.

    Our marriage started out about “love”. Then it was about the kids. These days? Habit? Affection? The knowledge that neither of us could live near as well alone as we do now? She only married me for my money and now that she has spent it all she can’t afford to leave? All of the above? Or is it still love, only far different in our 60s than when we were kids?

    I stick with the she married me for my money…. explanation, all three dollars and fifty-two cents of it. Of course that was when three bucks was real money. My word, that was ten gallons of gas!

    • Peter,

      My post was about the fact that marriage equality for homosexuals does not have any hidden agenda and asserts that when the definition of marriage evolves to include marriage equality for homosexuals, same-sex couples will join in the purposes of marriage that Irving Kristol deemed vital: the generational transmission of values and the socialization of young males.

      Homosexual couples are not directly going to produce biological children, but many enter the relationship with children from a heterosexual marriage. In addition, we are fighting for the right to adopt children — sometimes the children of our life partner, so the children have another legal parent for life, sometimes the children that heterosexuals so casually create and abandon. Regarding marriage as a construct for children, heterosexuals are not barred from marrying if they are unable to reproduce. Heterosexual marriages do not become null and void if the spouses either fail or refuse to produce children. And people who produce children outside of marriage are not forced to marry by the state. So the definition of marriage already has evolved to be based far more on the love of the couple and the tools that they need to build a life together, rather than being “a social construct for the raising of children.”

      Certainly the other issues you assert are fundamental to the purpose of marriage apply to same-sex couples and are at the heart of our quest for homosexual marriage equality: the preservation of capital and the maintenance of surviving widows.

      Romantic love as the reason for marriage and the right to choose one’s spouse have varied by culture and over time (see Wikipedia on the history of marriage). It looks to me like liberty in a society and personal autonomy for women favor a definition of marriage that starts with love.

      I was not attempting to describe everything that goes into a marriage. My own same-sex marriage, while it was never legally or formally recognized in any way, was one of great mutual devotion through enormous adversity, since we both had life-threatening, progressive illnesses that we would never had survived so long and so well alone. If Margaret had lived, Friday, Sept. 25, would have been our twenty-fifth anniversary. I tried to write about it this weekend, but my heart was too full and I just couldn’t do it. Knowing you, I think you may have intended your comment to be somewhat facetious, but your timing in denigrating same-sex couples in general, and my 20-years-plus same-sex marriage in particular, is very poor.

      Love is where it starts, Peter. There’s no hidden agenda in the campaign for homosexual equality to bring down capitalism or destroy democracy — even though the Left hardly ever espouses a group or cause without that hidden agenda. Come to think of it, since the Left is now exposed as being utterly apathetic about equality for homosexuals and Obama is shaping up to be more devastating to the cause than the current champ, Bill Clinton, what better testimony can we have that there’s no hidden gay agenda for the downfall of the republic than the fact that even the Left can’t hijack it for that purpose. Instead, the quest for homosexual equality in marriage, adoption and military service is a noble one — legally establishing our equality in federal, state and local laws will unleash a great force for good that will make our nation stronger, more stable and more prosperous.

      Cynthia

  • For years I’ve been on the fence over the same sex marriage issue. I’ve always been pretty socially libertarian while solid right wing on fiscal and foreign policy. I favored a domestic partnership solution to that issue, until I started reading your blog and your detailing/linking to the (literally) thousands of benefits extended to married couples that wouldn’t be under pretty much every domestic partnership proposal I’ve ever seen. It’s not right.

    You shook my fence, and I fell off on your side of it. Thank you for that.
    .-= Graumagus´s last blog ..Not the way I’d like to wake up =-.

    • Graumagus,

      Thank you for letting me know! You made my day!

      Cynthia

  • Miss Orange

    Peter, the constructs may be social, but they are utilized by individuals. Hence this institution in which two people promise fidelity and solidarity unto death to each other is “about” different things for different couples. Would you say that older people whose capital is stable and who are past their child-bearing years don’t actually have “marriages”? Newt and Calista Gingrich would be an example.

    Maybe I’m being unnecessarily argumentative, because you do make certain concessions about changing times and changing conditions.

  • Cynthia, I am sorry you thought I was denigrating same sex couples. Even after rereading my comment I can not see where I did so.

    I am on that same fence Grau spoke , er wrote, of. I have no quarrle with same sex couples, I know many. Or at least I used to before my world shrunk to a house in the country and it being a Big Day to go to the nearest small town to the supermarket.

    My only point is not to denigrate any human being on this. It is that changing marriage is a very big thing, the family is the basic building block of our society, The changes are coming at this building block, fast and furious. I do not object to same sex marriage, I object to the way it is being hustled through with only the pro same sex marriage getting any news while anyone saying “hey! Let’s talk about this. ” is considered Neanderthal or even more backwards. Nor did I see or accuse you of having that hidden agenda.

    There is a lot of hollering about this (and many other) issue(s). Trouble is, each side is talking to itself and shouting at the other. I thought I could actually talk, er write, to you about this without being lectured like a second grader. Sorry, I shall not speak of this to you again.
    .-= Peter´s last blog ..Nose Water And Other Adventures =-.

    • Peter,

      I forgive you and I apologize in turn. I hope that you will forgive me and continue our conversation.

      For one thing, 9/25 was the twenty-fifth anniversary of Margaret coming to live with me, which we celebrated as comparable to a wedding anniversary. I hardly posted over the weekend because I wanted to write about that, but it makes me cry and I just couldn’t do it. So my feelings were more vulnerable than usual.

      What bought you my reply — where I was trying to explain my point of view, not lecture you — was that your mention of marriage as a construct for raising children is THE argument that opponents of gay marriage equality always use to shut us out. So, frankly, that’s where you came across as lording it over homosexual couples. You may not have intended that, but most of the people saying the exact same words are saying that because same-sex couples do not directly create children we are therefore intrinsically inferior to heterosexual ones and therefore eternally undeserving of equality.

      Also, my perception is the opposite of yours — there’s hardly any discussion of same-sex marriage and when there is, it tilts negative. In the Right Blogosphere, it’s overwhelmingly negative. People think nothing of telling me I deserve second-class citizenship as a lesbian. I have no idea when I approach another blogger or online magazine if they will be interested in a word I have to say — just because I’m a lesbian. I have gotten a much kinder and warmer reception on the Right than I expected — but I make my way carefully because I am walking through a minefield.

      Furthermore, homosexuals are TOTALLY being scapegoated for the changes in the institution of marriage. Exactly what did gay people do to make straight people commit adultery, conceive children out of wedlock, use abortion as birth control, or abuse their spouses, or abuse drugs or gamble, or be shiftless, or be spendthrifts, or any of the thousand other things that cause people to ruin their marriages? Because we have nothing to do with those changes. But we’re the ones getting scapegoated and denounced from pulpits for the downfall of marriage! It’s crazy! But you know why preachers use us like that? Because if they told off their congregations about their sins, their congregations would leave and never come back! It’s so much more comfortable blaming gay people for everything that’s going on in marriages we aren’t in and can’t have!

      By the way, I didn’t say you accused me — or gays — of having a hidden agenda. I was clarifying for you that my post was about telling conservatives that while most noble causes on the Left have been hijacked for anti-capitalist, anti-America agendas, the cause of homosexual equality has not.

      Peter, I forgive you for hurting my feelings and I certainly hope you will accept my apology for hurting yours. And I hope that you will forgive me and be willing to continue our conversation on this issue. I do want you to feel welcome, safe and comfortable expressing your opinions here. I do want to hear your point of view. And so what if we make each other angry from time to time? We are friends, and will get through it.

      Love and hugs,

      Cynthia

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