SmagBoy's Mission Log, Sea Date: Late October, 2009

Hey all. The purpose of this section is to serve as a central hub for any regular blogs I undertake, but also for me to show you a little bit of the real me, not "The Submariner" me. I'm not really that guy. He's a character that I play on Thursdays (a character that I really enjoy--you can read more about him in my post below, titled "The Making of a Submariner"). So, on occasion, I'll publish a story or some pictures, or maybe just an anecdote or two that I hope will be fun or enlightening.

If you don't care for learning about the really-real SmagBoy and just want "The Submariner", no worries! He can always be reached here: Send in your questions, observations, concerns or rants. But be forewarned, as you know, that guy has very little patience for the stupids. You can send questions to me there, too, the non-fictional SmagBoy1 (or "Smaggie" as I'm affectionately known). Don't worry, I'm not nearly as tough as I pretend to be. Fair winds to you, shippers! And enjoy!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Language as a Toy, Language as a Weapon...

Language has always fascinated me. Well, I say “always”. I guess what I mean is that, from my very first realization that language was a national, cultural, societal, personal construct, it’s interested me. And though that doesn’t quite qualify as “always”, it really has been a long time that I’ve felt that way. In order to get to that point of fascination, though, one has to first understand a bit about nations and cultures, and, too, a little about what makes them different, one from the other. One must begin, also, to see how society is different still, how social expectations play on language, and, too, how even personal tastes can alter its use. It’s pretty heady stuff to really delve into. But I love it!

For example, my personal tastes would lean toward the making up of words, regardless of national identity, cultural or social background. Well, at least I hope that’s true. I’m not naïve enough to believe that my cavalier approach toward words would, with certainty, be the same had I grown up under a dictatorial regime, or worse, illiterate. So, I do understand the limitation of my hopes. That said, regardless of how I got here, I do like to play with language. I like to insert my own, made-up words into communications in such a way that the reader either instantly accept the word (with the definition I intended, I hope), or, even if they do not accept the word, that they at least understand the intended meaning. I see this as a challenge. For example, in a recent column, I admonished a frustrated letter writer to not get “huffity” with me. I like to talk about the “acronymous” (rhymes with “anonymous”) origins of words (like SCUBA and RADAR, or, scuba and radar, depending on your tastes in capitalization). It’s what I do. And if you get to know me well enough, this playfulness might even start to piss you off! Or make you laugh. Or both.

At any rate, that’s a little background to explain why I’m writing today. I want to encourage you all to participate in a plan that I’ve hatched!  See, I like it when language is, for the sake of fun, twisted in new and exciting ways. When the intent of the twisting is good-natured there’s not too much that thrills me more, actually. Oscar Wilde is an all-time favorite of mine for just that reason. However, over the last several years, I’ve noticed our friends from FOXNews and the far right using language as a weapon (I realize they’re not the first, nor are they the only ones currently doing it, but, I don’t like them, so, they’re where my interest is currently focused). Take, for example, the changing of the phrase “suicide bombers” to “homicide bombers”, a seemingly subtle, but very telling, change, or, the creation of the “War on Christmas”, or, “It’s not freedom from religion, it’s freedom of religion” and many others (I’m sure you can all think of several of their gems). These are frustrating, but, none of them have irked me so much as the following three: Obama as “The Chosen One” or “The Messiah” or “The Second Coming”, liberals as “sheeple”, and finally, any liberal idea that challenges the status quo or attempts to remove religion from politics as “political correctness run amok”. I hate those three examples with a passion. Why? I’m not sure. Perhaps because they’re particularly vile? Perhaps because they’re very cleverly constructed in that to resist any of them in any way almost lends credence to the claims they make? Perhaps it’s because they’re typically delivered with such shit-eating grins that they get my goat.

So, what to do about it? Well, in a moment of lucidity last night, the solution occurred to me. I am going to co-opt those terms and use them in exactly the same way that our conservative friends have been using them. I’m not going to do it wildly, or at every opportunity. I’m going to wait until a wonderfully prime moment, perhaps one where a friend or colleague is going on and on about the greatness of Sarah Palin and I’m going to respond in as matter-of-fact a manner as I can muster, “You mean The Chosen One? Is there nothing she can’t do?” I may even call her “The Third Coming”, thereby co-opting and embracing even more the Obama as The Second? I’m going to start calling Bill O’Reily, Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh, et. al, “The Apostles”. I will call Tea Partiers “sheeple”, and I will absolutely, positively, and without fail, point out the “political correctness run amok” whenever any of them talk about immigration reform, or drilling, baby, drilling. I’ll say of those topics, “Man, you guys just say that stuff like it’s from rote memory. Do you not even care about your country or engage your own brain? It’s just words with you, isn’t it? Some sort of politically correct speech, straight from The Chosen One right down to you, her sheeple!” Or something like that. I’m sure that I’ll be able to refine it to a nice pointy tip in due time. Practice makes perfect, right?

I want to stress that I’m not necessarily angry so much as just done with it. I’m not trying to piss off anyone. Per se.  It’s just that I’ve listened to those terms being used against liberals for long enough. I’ve heard the Tea Partiers, with my own ears, mind you, upon Obama’s election or any action that he takes, say with absolute certainty that “I can’t believe he wants to act in a way that’s not in line with the will of the people.” As if the man wasn’t elected by, oh, I don’t know, a majority of "the people"?! I’ve stood by and turned the other cheek. I’ve listened while Palin’s sheeple, in very well-meaning tones, tell me, “Well, I hope that you enjoy your ‘hope and change’!” Well, not only am I enjoying it, I’m about to give some of it back. So, my conservative friends, open wide and, as the French would say, "Bon appetite!"

Like my ideas? No? Any other ideas? List ‘em in the comments section, below!


  1. Smagafragalidocious....You know I think you're the bees knees, I hope.

    But, I really, really hope you don't go too overboard with this. I considered myself a strong conservative until the past 8 years or so where that has changed to mean "batshit crazy hysteria-stirrer." I keep hoping, and keep striving for as much as I can around my little corner of the world, that we can, as a nation, somehow work our way OUT of the political rubber room of not hearing anyone who has a different opinion.

    Hyperbole and radical language is not a new political construct. What is new is that so much of the country has lost sight of what is true behind the hyperbole. Honestly, I think that the drain started being circled during the Clinton Impeachment scandal. Not to say that there wasn't political hyperbole before then, or that it wasn't heinous before then, but it was when, as a nation, we started drawing big lines of "us" vs. "them," depending on which side we were on, and holding GRUDGES over it.

    And damn, apparently I'm just gonna off-load my well-saved-up political ranting here today. ;-)

    At one point in time, those heading off to Washington viewed their task there as a civil service. An opportunity to do the best they could for their constituents. I'm sure that the power they wield corrupted them long before the end of the 20th century, but around the mid-to-late-90s, the country, as a whole, seemed to lose its mind when it comes to civil discourse.

    Quite frankly, I'm tired of being the person who's pissed on no matter which side of the political spectrum I'm speaking with. Some of my relatives spend so much time following Fox News, that they firmly believe the world will end sometime within Obama's administration, and if ONLY McCain had made it in, instead, the world would not only have not come to an end, but turned into a sparkling diamond where everyone shits rainbows. It's awfully exhausting loving people you are constantly having to ask to rethink what they just said, or at least refrain from being so damn negative, because you need some positive in your life.

    And then there are my friends and relatives who are so far in the other camp, that there is no way anything that could be seen as a conservative principle is a good thing, because look at those kooky Palin-followers.

    Even worse is my work environment where political conversations, excepting with ONE rational coworker, who agrees that the country needs to take some political valium and calm the hell down, are all knife fight rants leaving anyone who doesn't immediately and loudly agree with the political opinion du jour (which, incidentally, swings all over the spectrum) is left with the tail end of the anger bleeding over into questions of competency for every time they sneeze for the following week. (If that mangled mess of a run-on makes any sense at all.)

    So instead of fighting fire with fire, I suggest, and do my best to use this method, I say fight fire with dandelion fluff. Make up words/phrases. Use them inventively, but in such a way as to derail the whole conversation, not potentially leave the other person holding tinder to light a new fire. For example - "The government is responsible for the volcano in Iceland erupting." "Well, now that I now they have phenomenal cosmic power, I'll have to ask if they are stuck with an itty-bitty living space. =-)"

    I hope that my rant has made some sense...and that whatever course you choose, please remember that any willingness I ever had to consider Palin as a good political leader went out the window when she quit her job that she'd committed to do because there were consequences for her choices. (Pansy-assed, yellow-bellied, gives-women-in-leadership-positions-bad-names, wish-she'd-never-landed-as-the-"good looking"-conservative.)

  2. Hi Smag! Mermaid here ~

    You know ~ I still prefer Glenn Beck's original name for this political party (before some studio tech came and whispered in his ear while he was on camera and he quickly turned red and removed his foot from his mouth) of TeaBAGGERS, but that's just being a smarty pants and not what you were talking about. It just feels good, dammit, and if done with the appropriate air of innocence ~ is quite effective... "oopsie!"

    They coach their language in the good ol' red white and blue and if you dare try and peel it away to the rotten fundamentalist core, they accuse you of being unAmerican. They try and pit their God against our "Messiah" ~ the ultimate battle against good and evil. Blanket statement much, Mermaid? Sure, but if the NRA vest fits...

    I'll join you in your campaign, Smag, and suggest another that particularly gets MY goat ~ whenever someone from the far right starts screaming about how "those gays" are "ruining this country" and how "marriage should be between a man and a woman" ~ I'll look him dead in the eye and ask him ~ how can he live with himself, knowing he's SUPPORTING A LIFESTYLE CHOICE THAT THREATENS TO DESTROY THE AMERICAN FAMILY? As if gays are not "the people". As if gays are not "families". As if gays are not "Americans".

  3. Ah, but Mermaid, love, from a religious perspective, people should have the right to define marriage however they want.
    I happen to believe the government should get out of the marriage business. Anyone with an on-the-books marriage, gets it grandfathered into a "civil union." The "civil union" is a contract with legal rights and responsibilities similar to the marriage contract, but sex has no part of the equation. If two people, same sex or opposite sex, who have decided, for whatever reason, they want to have that responsibility for each other (making medical decisions, being responsible for the distribution of the estate, helping to support one another so the state doesn't have to, raising any children together, again so the state doesn't have to)why should it be ANYONE's business if they sleep in two rooms/beds, or one, or what OCCURS in those beds/rooms?

    From a religious perspective, the word marriage then becomes reserved to ONLY being a religious term, and each religious entity can define it how they will - polyamorous, hetero, homo, whatever. The religious sanctioning of a relationship in that context will ONLY mean something to those who subscribe to that religion. At which point it ceases to have any impact on people who DON'T, because we've taken the teeth out of the whole argument. The state is fulfilling it's 14th amendment duty to provide equal protection under the law, and, incidentally is providing protection to those out there who may have life-long platonic relationships with no blood or marriage family left, who want to be able to have the comfort of their "family by choice" being legal recognized in hospitals, taking care of each other with better medical insurance, being able to step in to handle their affairs in emergency situations, etc.

  4. Greetings Libby,

    Oh, I think that you and I can have civil political discourse all day long. Where there is respect, there is civility.

    I would like offer my version of when the country fell into its current State of Hate, though. It's close to your version, but a little earlier. Same players, though. After eight years of Reagan and four years of Bush Sr., Republicans/Conservatives were mighty happy with themselves and with the state of things. Upon Clinton's landslide victory, his immediate announcement of "Don't Ask/Don't Tell" and other "crazy liberal" ideas, conservatives lost their minds! I don't mean *all* conservatives, but, think about the conspiracy theories right from the beginning! Vince Foster being killed by the Clintons? Whitewater? Etc. This was a freakin’ sitting President?! Has that ever happened before? That was all within the first 18 months of his term! Kenn Starr spent over $20 MILLION dollars and in the end got nothing on Clinton except the opportunity to lamely feed information about a blue dress and its owner into a civil trial.

    And then there was “W” and all was fine again. Liberals weren’t allowed to question the war or else we were “traitors”. Remember? Well, after eight years, another Democrat was elected, and, amazingly, before the man was even sworn into office, we find the "Birther" movement, more conspiracies, etc., which continue to dog the man to this day. Think anyone asked about “W”’s birth certificate? So, unless I'm wrong, it was the fair election of Clinton that started this...

    Now, as for me fighting fire with fire, I feel I should explain how I got here because, as you suggest, normally I’d never go fire to fire. See, typically, liberals don't tell conservatives how to live. We're all "Live and let live, man! Peace! Be happy! Why can't we all just get along?" As a political philosophy, I like that a heckuva lot better than "Live the way I want you to live or leave *our* country." I love what you suggest about marriage being a non-government institution. That way, anyone can enter into it, but, their entering into it means nothing to the state, carries no benefits, is only for the purpose of those who witness it, and the parallel idea of making the state responsible for the laws/benefits governing civil unions (regardless of gender). I have to say, though, that that's not something that I think would fly in anyone's camp other than us crazy liberals. I'm all for it, but, as you well know, your conservative family and associates would likely blanche at such talk.

    Libby, it's just that, as a rule, because we're all about peace and getting along, most liberals don't fight back. We typically (and stereotypically) think that we're past that. Well, I've decided that I'm going to use that language right back. I'm not going to instigate. I'm not going to search out confrontation. But, from now on, if I get it, I am going to give it back. I hope you can understand why. :-)

  5. Greetings MM! Ahoy to you! Yes, agreed, the Tea Bagger movement was a much better name and had they not caught themselves, just hearing them use it to describe their movement might have been enough to placate me. ;-)

    As I said to Libby, I don't think the government should be in the marriage business. At all. And, like you, I think it's Constitutionally wrong to limit benefits (legal rights, tax breaks, land, medical, etc.) to heterosexual couples while denying them to homosexual couples. As such, I like your ideas. It's important to question. It's important that we quit quietly listening to the negative, nasty, mean statements made about us and our countrymen.

    As I say, I'm not about being agressive and taking the fight to them. But, I am certainly about no longer being passive when it's said directly to me. For what it's wroth. :-)

    Plus, I sincerely like the idea of using those names on Palin. :-)

  6. Smaggy, I understand where you're coming from, I truly do, but you have to understand that where I live (literally) it was a different view for the past decade.
    Yes, there was some craziness at the beginning of Clinton's term, and yes it spiraled out of control, but I refer to that whole mess of 94 Whitewater-everything-that-followed, because Whitewater was just the first attempt to impeach Clinton, and it failed miserably. That having been said, when W got elected, at least in my neck of the woods, there was outright hatred and vitrol lobbed at anyone who admitted to voting for him, even though our electoral votes were clearly for Gore. There were protesters on street corners screaming ugliness at people getting out of their car with "Proud mother of a soldier" bumper stickers," before March of 2002. Anyone found to be professing a belief that there was something hinkey going on in Iraq was labeled a empire-building-power-hungry-war-crazed-psychopath, and nevermind that we may have had a legitimate reason for trying to fix the mess we started by PUTTING Saddam in power in the first place. Anything that didn't fit the W is evil, his policies are evil, and it's only a matter of time before all you batshit crazy conservatives take this country to hell in a handbasket, general political thought in this area was treated as an open declaration of war, and was responded to with levels of harassment that you experience in the opposite level where you are.

    That's why I see it as the country in general. Anyone who is moderate (not extreme right or extreme left in philosophy) is probably getting the crap beat out of them, metaphorically, when it comes to politics, right now. Anyone who is in the political minority for the area they are in, probably has seen levels of craziness that makes them wince. Because I have worked very hard to look past propaganda (1984 was never so effective in training an independent thinker), regardless of where I live/who I'm speaking with/what the news source is saying, I see very clearly that both sides are no longer anywhere near civil, at least as their political party incarnations lobbing volleys on the national media are concerned.

    As for the state getting out of the marriage business concept...I've gotten members of my family to consider it, and they agree that there are benefits to it for everyone involved. Not *all* members of my family, by any means, but several members of my family. =-)

  7. First of all, Libby ~ I'm not your "love", so spare me your patronizing tone.

    Second, I doubt you'd find any detractors here to your quite obvious stance that "civil unions" are different than "religious unions" and the government shouldn't be comingling the two ~ but unless and until those two entities are separated in the eyes of our government and a good portion of its people ~ we will, unfortunately, continue to debate with those less-enlightened amongst us what should constitute a "marriage" in this country.

  8. I'm sorry, MM, I realized after I hit post, that the genuine affection in the term wouldn't come through. I do apologize for that, because patronizing was not the tone I was attempting.

    As to your second point, I don't know that debating what constitutes, or should constitute, a marriage is a winning proposition for either side. Which is why I choose to enter the debate from door number three - the government shouldn't be using the term at all, and when religions do, they should with the full knowledge that it means nothing outside of their religion.

    However, I think my stance about civil unions may be a bit different from what most people think of them as, since I don't think that any sort of sexuality should come into play, whether the relationship is heterosexual, homosexual, or asexual.

  9. Smag: you go. Why not? In much the same way that discourse has changed to the degree "gay" people used to simply be "happy", and "bro" used to just be "pal", and "bad" meant...well, it meant "bad" and still does, unless it means "good", which sends the whole mess into a tailspin.

    This is the popularized patois of the age, it seems, and wordsmithing - like you said, nowhere near a new habit of the press - is hard wired into everyone's psyche and day to day jabber at gigabit speeds.

    Democratardation and conservatardation already make the rounds as commonplace conversational expression. This is play stuff. Scary, but play stuff. Spin, baby, spin!

  10. Thanks for the reminder to take my music player to my barber--she has Glenn Beck talk radio on for some of her other customers, tactfully switching to country for me. She's an awesome barber, and we talk about how her kids are doing.

    I certainly think that church and state definitions of marriage have been commingled to the point of incoherence. It would be ironic, I think, if the insistence that only He/She couples could Really Be Married resulted in the withdrawal of the government's sanctioning of the term, altogether. Might be logical, might be fair, but ironic. What price 'defense of marriage' then? We had to destroy the institution in order to save it?

    The arguments that marriage depends on straight sex, to say nothing of procreative sex, has always been absurd.

    Actually, though I've not been tempted to engage in it myself, I see a place for the institution of marriage, and believe that nothing short of including same-sex couples, at least as far as the governmental costs and benefits, will get the job done. All the questions of property, inheritance, parenting, taxes and pensions, shouldn't have to be recreated from scratch.

    People who have religious scruples about the civil use of the word have their categories mixed up. They should have no more right to ban same-sex marriage than they have to ban divorce (which, if you were really intent on Defending Marriage, is where you'd start, no?) --But what a nightmare, for both men and women--imagine Ronald Reagan not free to marry Nancy--don't even mention Gingrich or McCain--Just saying--that's just not how we have chosen to live, in this country.

    Ending Don't Ask Don't Tell has 75% approval in this country; equal marriage is going to get there, too.

  11. "People who have religious scruples about the civil use of the word have their categories mixed up."

    I disagree, it's been a religious term for at least as long, if not far longer, than it has been a legal one.

    Although, again, what I'm advocating isn't governmental sanctioning of ANY sort of sexual relationship, but rather a mutually supportive one.

  12. "nothing short of including same-sex couples, at least as far as the governmental costs and benefits, will get the job done. All the questions of property, inheritance, parenting, taxes and pensions, shouldn't have to be recreated from scratch."

    I agree. Civil unions do not come close to giving all the rights and benefits of marriage. And I have to admit, I just don't "feel" right about getting rid of marriage and calling it a 'civil union' even though I understand in principle what you are saying. I'd call myself a liberal, and I'd never go for it. I just don't think that idea would fly.

    I think it goes back to what our fearless leader the Smagmeister said from the first: language is powerful, and we get very attached at some primal level to our little words and phrases. They have meaning. They have power. In any event, I would never willingly let the government decide I was not formally, legally, governmentally-(Is THAT a word?)-sanctioned style married, but instead just someone who had a civil union from a legal standpoint. No, I have to admit. I'd NEVER go for that. I understand everything you are saying, but I'd still not go for it. Ever.

    You know something though? I see in both my students and in my own kids a tremendous acceptance for 'alternative lifestyles' to the point where they scratch their heads and wonder even at THAT little language nugget. The young people today just don't get our hangups about sex and about homosexuality. At all. Give the county fifty years...less I bet. And we will have same sex couples not only allowed to marry legally, but we'll have people looking back and wondering just what all the fuss was about.

  13. Yeah, good luck with that, Smag. No-one has been more widely satirised, ridiculed and insulted than Sarah Palin and yet she still has a solid base among conservatives. Why ? Because they've become like a cult with a a cult's need to block out any dissenting viewpoints. I think this deliberately blinkered attitude has developed naturally out of the need to reconcile their faith in the GOP with such obvious lies as 'WMDs in Iraq' and 'GOP = party of fiscal responsibility'.

  14. Ahoy, Libby! I understand what you mean about all of the vitriol. And, I understand why it's happening, even. Gerrymandering. Our politicians have engineered (whether on purpose or not) little liberal and conservative enclaves. And, too, the liberal ones are in cities, where there's typically more money, education, etc. But, I'm looking at it from a national perspective. Nationally, prior to Clinton, how many presidents had to deal with the press up their rear ends? I mean, the whole country knew Kennedy was boinking Marylin Monroe, but it was an unspeakable. Definitely an unwritable! What about Churchill and his "habits" or, Hoover's purported cross-dressing? Silence. With Clinton, the gloves came off. National politicians were openly nasty about him--and, as you say, voted to impeach the man over a little cigar spelunking! That's specifically what I'm talking about.

    So, while I fully understand and respect what you're saying, I place the blame squarely at the feet of one party. Is that fair? No. I realize cable news with its 24/7 news cycle was really coming into its own then, etc. But still, that doesn't explain the instant and extreme nastiness with which the national republican party went after Clinton. That was due to one thing and one thing only. After twelve years, they lost. And they got their feelings hurt. And so they went after him in a way that's caused us down this road. Again, just my humble opinion, but, you have to admit, I've not stated a single untruth here.

  15. Ahoy, Schuyler, and greetings! Thank you, kind sir! :-) I'll admit, I'm only interested in doing this because, a) I think the tags that I've suggested are VERY fitting, and, b) because I love me some irony. My ideas are probably not nearly as clever as I think they are, but, I'm having fun with them for now! :-) I'll surely find some other shiny object to keep my attention in a day or so. ;-)

  16. Ahoy, Cantahamster! Outstanding! Agreed 100%. :-) As you see and know, there's a lot of history tied up in the language, terminology, so we have to proceed with caution, but, as Bella says, the high schoolers/college kids of today? They'll fix things. :-) We can hope, anyway! Good stuff, as always. Cheers! :-)

  17. Ahoy, Libby! You said: I disagree, it's been a religious term for at least as long, if not far longer, than it has been a legal one.

    I disagree with you. Not in what you've said, but, I think you missed the rest of Cantahamster's sentence. It reads: ...They should have no more right to ban same-sex marriage than they have to ban divorce. I think that's the main point. That marriage as a state of being under its current manifestation should not be governed by the church. The solution, of course, is as you've laid out. Allow anyone to get "married" in any way they see fit! If a person wants to marry a tree, fine, if he can get someone to perform the ceremony, more power to him. Marriage then, becomes the ONLY spiritual ceremony and bonding, but, holds no legal weight. The legal weight of coupling two people for the benefits that are offered should be done via the state and, as you've said, wouldn't be called marriage, but would simply be a contract. Of course we've all discussed this aspect to death, so I apologize for repeating, but, I think it's an important point. :-)

    Cheers! :-)

  18. Ahoy, Bella! I think the idea here is as I've said above to Libby. Your marriage wouldn't be nulled or voided! At all. Under this idea, it would be exactly as it was before. But, the 'marriage ceremony' itself wouldn't carry any legal weight. The legal weight would come from the state-governed contract that you'd sign with your husband. The ceremony of your choosing would be for your personal, familial and societal benefit only.

    That way, the contract with the state is where your rights as a couple like property, medical, insurance, taxes would come from. It wouldn't have to be called a civil union. It could be called a Benefits Contract. Point being, that way the rights of the civil union or benefits contract couldn't be protested on religious grounds. It's just a contract between two people granting each other certain right privileges and it would be protected on equality laws preventing discrimination based on race, religion, sexual orientation, etc.

    The marriage ceremony would be performed solely for the purpose or spirituality. So, a Christian couple could be married in their church under the religious vows they so chose. The church would have the right to allow the marriage or refuse to perform it. At their whim! Since it wouldn't be a legal ceremony, the church would have that right. The arrangement would allow for separation of the concepts without invalidating either one. As a say, in this way, a person could marry a tree. It wouldn't gain him any legal rights, but, hey, if he wants to, he could. :-)

    Good cheer, Bella, and here's to the future! :-)

  19. Ahoy Tarky! Agreed, she's pretty resilient. My proposal here is more for exposing the hypocrisy of her followers and their zippy one-liners than it is for actually gigging her. She'll do that on the podium once she runs for the office at a national level. She'll likely be elected anyway. :-(

    But, that speaks to a dynamic that I think you missed. You said: I think this deliberately blinkered attitude has developed naturally out of the need to reconcile their faith in the GOP with such obvious lies as 'WMDs in Iraq' and 'GOP = party of fiscal responsibility'.

    And I think you're correct, but, you missed this: GOP = party of godly morality and spiritual righteousness. Think about that for awhile. It's the same stuff that drives the Islamic terrorists, just tamped down a little. It's the absolute certainty that they are acting to fulfill God's will on Earth. That their religious morality is above all other reason because it is absolute. It's pretty hard to reason with someone when they believe that. And believe me when I tell you that far too many of them do believe it. And it's not getting better, the chasm is widening. :-(

  20. But that's all marriage is! It's a contract, nothing more. Never has been. Sure religions love to wrap it up in shiny paper and add all kinds of rules in an effort to force conformity, but they've never changed the actual purpose of getting married. (Which has NOTHING to do with procreation, BTW).

    Read any set of marriage vows, from any church or religion and from any period in history. They're a series of not-so-romantic promises to take care of each other and let the community know that the deal is done. That's all there is to it.

    The religious aspect is about recording. When there WAS no city or state authority - when even births and deaths didn't matter as far as any government was concerned, these things were recorded by churches. If you wanted to find out when someone was born, you had to check the parish register.

    That system was cumbersome and easily abused, naturally. Rights weren't respected because that information was the property of the church. When governments took over, at the very least everything became somewhat centralized.

    That's why legal, recorded marriages are so crucial. Rights to inheritance, medical permissions etc. MUST become law. There's no reason to change anything for the sake of ANYONE'S marriage rights. The rules are already in place.

  21. Oh, Messy, I agree with you! 100%! However, even though marriage was/currently is just a contract (in its most raw essence), it's not currently protected by law in that way. If it were, then a homosexual couple should have no problem entering into the contract. Therein is the problem. If we can define it solely as a contract, we can argue that, by law and Constitution, it's illegal to deny a homosexual couple the right. If it's only a contract, we say, "Look, the government offers certain rights, privileges, benefits to any two people who'd like to enter into the contract. The government does not offer those right to more than two people, or any person and a tree, only two people, and two people with one another only." So, while I agree with your premise, I note that, in practice, we still have a way to go.

    Cheers! :-)

  22. But I wasn't disagreeing with the rest of Cantahamster's statement, merely that portion of it.

    I can see it from the religious perspective, and there are aspects to different religions (not just sects of Christianity, but Wicca, Islam, Hinduism, etc) that vary so widely, that I think reserving it as a religious term is really for the best, because then the differing definitions stop being an issue on the political front, they go back to being just another way to tell the different religions from each other.

    But, I see that I've at least talked my point out enough for Smag to get it.

    Bella, I do understand your reaction. My mom was NOT HAPPY the first time I threw this idea out there, but she's come around to the point where she'd be ok with it, if the laws all went down the way I've outlined.

  23. Smaggy, I understand completely that your idea (and Libby's) is that the new thing, the "Benefits Contract" would have all the same legal ramifications as marriage.
    I still don't go for it. I'd never support something like that. Why break something (which is what you are saying to do...not break it exactly, but change its name) that is working well, simply because some people don't want to share it? Marriage works. We already have it. It is like what someone else here said: that is like saying the way to save marriage is to get rid of it. And this blog post was about language. Taking away its name and giving it something like “Benefits Contract” would be very severe. Language is powerful; you are right. And the names of things are maybe some of the most powerful words in our language.
    We have a legal marriage contract in this country. I for one am not willing to give it up. And I just don't think others would be willing to do it either. And yes, I do understand that you are saying that the religious marriage would still, of course, count. How about the people who are not religious? They would not be able to get married. They’d just get to be benefits partners. Yuck. And no, I can’t get inside their heads, and I am religious, so I don’t KNOW that they’d hate that. But yuck.
    A much better idea is to keep marriage the way it is (with both the religious version of it and the legal contract version of it having the same name) and just give any two people who want to be married that right.
    No need to change the name of marriage on the civil side to something else. What needs to happen is people need to share this wonderful benefit already open to heterosexuals with others. And I truly believe that will happen within a few decades anyway.

  24. AH! Ah-ha! Okay, I'm with you, Bella. So, let's call them both "marriage"! I mean, we already have to do both things. We already have to go to the state for a license. Right? That could be the "contract" portion that I'm talking about, but in this new plan, that would be the portion that actually gives people the rights of marriage under the law. Then, just as we do now, people could choose to go wherever they want for the "ceremony" portion.

    So, the names of this can be whatever we want. It can all be marriage, just as it is now. That's fine. But, the problem is that right now, the ceremony is what makes things legal, where the officiator says, "By the power vested in me from the state..." The tweak suggested here simply removes the vesting and makes the license the legal binding. And certainly non-religious people get married now, yes? That wouldn't change. When I say "spiritual", I don't mean "religious". Why do non-religious people do the ceremony now, anyway? For "spiritual", communal, familial reasons. Plenty of people just go to the Justice of the Peace and have a wham-bam-thank-you deal. No ceremony. No pomp or circumstance.

    So, the ceremony and all of it could still happen just as it does, we just need a way to shift the legal rights out of the hands of a capricious entity (the church/"values" voters) and into the hands of the government, without vote, in order to protect the rights of *all* citizens, not just the (moral) majority.

    Does that make more sense, or am I just getting all old and repeating myself and waving my cane at you youngsters? ;-)

  25. Libby and Smaggy, I haven't yet read the rest of the comments so I'm responding here only to something that got my goat in your first ones.

    I thought the "state of hatred" in the US started with the Civil War, ooops, actually with the Indian Wars, and before that... well, you get my drift.

    You think verbal attacks on Obama are bad? A friend of mine (even older than me!) keeps on reminding me of the viciousness of the attacks of FDR: he was accused of having "Jewish blood" and his wife was accused of being a "negro" --this based on the old "one drop rule" laws that were enacted during and stayed in force after slavery... (in the same spirit as the Nazi laws that classified you as a Jew if one of your 16 greatgreatgrand parents had been Jewish --but then it went on forever because that person might have been Jewish merely on account of one of her/his 16 great great grandparent beign a Jew ... etc etc etc). (I digress but there was actually lots of contacts between American and European eugenists throught the nineteenth century and of course at present)

    Sorry about being grumpy, but for heaven's sake, weren't all those lynchings of black men and women and children "hateful"? And how about Japanese internment camps which Schuyler brought up in his post? How about the persecution of the first waves of Irish immigrants (the KKK used to refer to Irish people as "nigger"), and of all successive and preceding immigrants waves.... and the pogroms of Chinese workers when they were no longer needed to build the railroads, and the Pinkertons terrorizing workers, etc etc etc.

    Sorry about all that pessimism. The fact is that hatred comes easy to so many human beings. Most of the rest go with the flow, but some individuals resist. Do these latter redeem our species? I like to think so because I'm an optimistic sort of pessimist.

  26. Smaggy, I love your use of language. I sure hope your brilliant "huffity" and "acronymous" will become part of the English language.

    Keep it up, my linguist friends remind me that that's how languages change all the time. Language is the most democratic thing human possess. Anytime we open our mouth we participate in that process.

    I mean if we didn't invent new words to suit our creativity as well as new needs and circumstances, wouldn't we all still be speaking Proto-Sanscrit?

  27. Smaggy, I just read a comment on the draft in the NYT. The poster suggested that there should be an international agreement that all countries have the draft with the proviso that only people aged 50 to 80 would be drafted so that the people who lead us to war would also be the ones fighting them. Love it!

  28. Ahoy there, Kati. As you read the other comments, I think you'll see that I agree with you. On the individual level especially, but even township, regional, etc., levels, too, this has always existed. It is part of the human condition, apparently. However, my point was simply that on a national level, in the press and amongst our lawmakers, save for a haywire moment here or there, Presidents were given an amount of public respect that at least provided the appearance of professionalism (hell, even Nixon was flown home in AF-1 after resignation!).

    My point was simply that, in my humble opinion, even that thin veneer of public professionalism was lost when Clinton was elected. However, as always, I'm happy to be corrected if, in this point, I'm mistaken. :-)

  29. Ack, two more posts as I wrote my previous one! :-) Thank you for the compliments, Kati. I can only strive to one day obtain as much literary talent in my entire self as you possess in your pinky finger! :-)

    And, yes, as for the draft, I find that solution to be quite appealing. Which means I'd better get ready to go register soon. :-)

    Good cheer, Kati! :-)

  30. Libby, I don't know why you've decided to commandeer this idea as if you thought of it all on your own ~ the idea that civil unions (which is what any legally binding contract is called) should be the only thing recognized by the government and religious marriages should be left to the jurisdiction of each individual church is not something you invented, and you are not unique in your opinion. You didn't bother asking me my opinion on this, which you would find aligns exactly with your own, you just came at me as if you were rebutting something for which I made no argument against in the first place.

    Here's been my argument all along on the subject:

    When two people go to get a license to marry, they have to sign on the dotted line and have it witnessed by the court clerk. They have, in fact, at that very moment, made a legally binding contract with the government. Why is it then that there is a further requirement, for a "ceremony" to be performed over this legally binding contract? There should not be a requirement for any third party, not even the justice of the peace, and ESPECIALLY a non-member of the entity to which the couple is binding themselves legally (the gov't) in the form of a religious magistrate, to have to say magical words over this legally binding contract to make it legally recognizable! As Smag says ~ remove the vesting that's presently required and you separate the church and state ~ and isn't that what we all want? Or is it? (as we'll see in a moment...)

    Two consenting adults of any flavor should have all the rights to a legally binding civil contract with the government, which protects all those rights we're talking about (estate, children, etc.) And those that then want to have a religious ceremony afterward should be free to do so, according to their beliefs. I just don't want my government to be forced to recognize a religious ceremony as a legally binding contract with the government. The twain never should meet on that.

    And that's where you run into a lot of problems. There is a large percentage of people that absolutely BALKS at the idea that when they stand at that clerk's counter and sign the marriage license ~ that they'd be legally married right that second. Some religious people object to that greatly. They want their "marriage" to be recognized the instant a member of the clergy says it is ~ and not a moment before that. So what has to change is the percentage of people that WANT their religious ceremony to be recognized by the government as a legally binding contract. People will have to come to accept the fact and/or idea that what filling out a marriage license is ~ is signing a contract with the government, right then and there. No more, no less.

    I know this topic has been beaten to death and my sweet SmagBoy's initial topic has been badly derailed ~ but in reading through this thread I had the unsettling feeling that sides were aligning and I was somehow on the side ~ simply because I was discussing the topic at hand of working within the confines of the present debate, which is "marriage is between a man and a woman" ~ that I had some sort of opinion that the government should have any say in it AT ALL. This is a mistaken notion to have about Mermaid, and I thank the thread for their indulgence in allowing me to set the record straight. :)

  31. Mermaid, I'm not saying that my idea is so novel or different that other people haven't also had it, and if that was the impression I've been giving, I do apologize.

    When I say "my idea," I'm referring to the fact that this was something that came out of a debate vacuum in my discussion circles at the time I came to it.

    I think that you and I are pretty close on this, the one thing that I do think needs to change on the whole government-sanctioned contract side of things is that there is an implicit expectation that the government-sanctioned contract is government approval of sex between the parties. I don't believe the sex lives of legal adults should be the governments business as long as everything that occurs (or doesn't) is consensual. I think if we managed to remove that implicit aspect of the legal contract, it would make it easier to convince people that the legal contract has just as much to do with whatever religious ceremony as a power of attorney does. If that makes sense.

    I appreciate you indulging me by further clarifying your views.

  32. Kati,

    I'm with Smaggy on this one, I believe that there was a period in our nation's history, not so long ago, in fact, when on a national level there wasn't the immediate jump to hyperbole and vitrol when confronting someone with a different opinion. I am well aware there have been heinous acts of hatred throughout our nation's history, some perpetrated explicitly by the government, and some implicitly by the government, and some just by wacked out individuals, but it seems that the whole cycle of hysteria feeding more hatred feeding more hysteria has gotten much worse in recent decades from my perspective. Perhaps I just need a new perspective. ;-)

  33. MM, this is the thing that I was responding to in your first post:
    "I'll join you in your campaign, Smag, and suggest another that particularly gets MY goat ~ whenever someone from the far right starts screaming about ... how 'marriage should be between a man and a woman'"

    Because, from a religious perspective, they damn will should be able to scream about that all day long if they want. I agree completely that from a legal perspective they are hosed, if we really believe in the rule of law as outlined by the Constitution and its amendments, but what I see happening too often, in my opinion, is people reacting to a belief based, religiously motivated statement as if it were a declaration of fatwah.

  34. Libby, it sort of *is* a declaration of fatwah! See, if enough people vote using their belief-based, religiously-motivated philosophy, they impose their viewpoints on the rest of society, even if that rest of society is not made up of believers in that or any faith. That's a particularly dangerous viewpoint. It's one thing to practice marriage based on male/female relationships if one lives a belief-based life. It's another thing entirely to enact laws to force *everyone* to do so. So, please forgive me for saying this as I mean no personal insult, but, in that way, it really *is* a sort of declaration of fatwah, IMHO, in that it is the will of some over the lives of all. And while that important when the laws protect citizens (e.g. murder, theft, slander), it's dangerous when it puts on group's religious views in charge of the lives of all citizens.

  35. Libby, I have no problem if religious people want to define their version of "marriage" as "between a man and a woman" (or whatever) but at present ~ when they say "marriage" ~ they are meaning "civil union" and I damn sure do have a right to object to their point of view in this respect ~ which is that a civil union should be between a man and a woman ~ especially when they use their religious viewpoint to vote on an issue that doesn't affect my religious rights ~ it affects my civil rights.

    And there you go again, making a statement as if you're rebutting something I just said ~ but maybe it just sounds that way?:

    "I think that you and I are pretty close on this, the one thing that I do think needs to change on the whole government-sanctioned contract side of things is that there is an implicit expectation that the government-sanctioned contract is government approval of sex between the parties. I don't believe the sex lives of legal adults should be the governments business as long as everything that occurs (or doesn't) is consensual. I think if we managed to remove that implicit aspect of the legal contract, it would make it easier to convince people that the legal contract has just as much to do with whatever religious ceremony as a power of attorney does. If that makes sense."

    Of course it makes perfect sense ~ because it sounds an awful lot like the very comment you were responding to from me:

    "Two consenting adults of any flavor should have all the rights to a legally binding civil contract with the government, which protects all those rights we're talking about (estate, children, etc.) And those that then want to have a religious ceremony afterward should be free to do so, according to their beliefs. I just don't want my government to be forced to recognize a religious ceremony as a legally binding contract with the government. The twain never should meet on that."

    Libby, imho, (and I'm not implying that I'm rebutting you ;) the quickest and best way to remove the "implicit expectation that the government-sanctioned contract is government approval of sex between the parties" is to remove the requirement that any particular sex be involved in the making of the contract! For, what is the implication of "between a man and a woman" other than "for the purpose of procreation"?

  36. Neither my brother nor my sister has ever married and have no plans to do so. At one point, we had the discussion of how they didn't think it was right that they shouldn't be able to pool their resources and enter into a civil union and therefore be entitled to all the rights and benefits of legally married persons ~ which at this time centered less around children and estate, obviously, but more on insurance, 401K plans, Social Security, etc. Things that "married people" get that single people do not. And the conversation turned to wondering why the government "awards" married heterosexual people with these benefits and not single people, or homosexual homosexual people, etc.

    If the government would remove the caveat that any particular sex must be involved in the making of the civil contract, then it would remove the implication that the purpose of the civil union i.e. "the marriage" is for the purpose of procreation only! It is because it has been allowed to continue that the government sanctions religious ceremonies that it now appears the government is sanctioning the product of those religious ceremonies, which is a "marriage", which, for the most part, is primarily for the procreation of children.

    The religious community does not want to see that happen, however, because it enjoys the belief that the government has sanctioned their way of life above all others, and they do not want that power taken away from them. They know if they start at the ground level and put laws through that define things like "marriage (which at present means a civil union in addition to a religious ceremony) is between a man and a woman" then their unions will continue to be seen as sanctioned above all others by the laws of God AND man.

  37. Smagster - A statement does not a fatwah make. Prop 8 does. There is a clear delineation in my mind between to two. Does that make sense?
    And that actually ties back to the original post, to my mind. I have no problem letting foolish people behave foolishly and not even listening to them. If I'm forced to listen and respond to the foolishness, I will either (depending on the situation and my relationship to the person)ask them how they got to that conclusion, and show them why I believe differently (always acknowledging that this life is so perception based that there is no way any two people can see the same thing the same way); or respond in an equally foolish manner (for example, mis-quoting a Disney movie in response to a genuine conspiracy threat). So for all the "Messiah" talkers out there or "Sarah Palin is the best" speakers, I choose not to listen to them, wherever possible, and when it's not possible to avoid them, I do my best to either show my disinterest, as nicely as possible, or de-escalate the conversation so higher reasoning can re-enter the conversation. So much of the political hysteria in this country has gotten to the point where most everything political, that is debated publicly, is debated on a hysterical emotional level, as opposed to on facts.

    MM, I'm with you.=-)

  38. OMG, it's going to take me days to read all the posts and catch up.

    You all have been very busy today.

    I would simply like to see the day come when it's not a political death to be divorced. Maybe then we'll have some chance at actually voting in someone that does not have some hidden lover waiting to jump out of the bushes at the last minute, male or female. Do they think we don't notice there's an issue when one more happily married man running for office has his girlfriend show up, with the baby that is not his? How to trust the government when this simple fact is lied about more often than not?

    And when Don't ask, Don't tell first came out, my first thought was we (American's) just look dumber than shit to the rest of the world, how stupid. Another dumb idea that gets us NOWHERE. Part of me is usually wondering if the rest of the country is aware that it is now 2010...not 1950.

    And Sarah Palin...begs the that the best we can do? She is the most qualified woman in the United States? How the hell can that be so? I fail miserably to be politically correct with my inability to say her name without following it with, is dumber than a rock. I am a Maverick, yup. Going Rogue as we speak...yup.

    And I am a firm believer in separation of church and state. Regardless of what term is used for marriage, the rules need to be fair and equitable regardless of gender in all areas, estates, taxes, name it. This term "under God" needs to be completely eliminated from everything, seems there are many gods these days to choose from. My neighbor believes Rush to be some deity if not his God of Choice.

    Now I am in need of a moment to myself, I'm going to fortify myself for when I return to read all the posts.

  39. Ahoy Libby! :-) I understand what you mean about the difference between talk and Proposition 8 being voted in. But, fact is, a fatwah is just an order issued by a cleric. Words from one man's mouth. To be carried out, the people have to go out and act upon the fatwah. In the case of Proposition 8, the talk, the religion-based stand that marriage should be between a man and woman only, was the fatwah. It's directives were carried out in the passing of Proposition 8.

    I contend that words are dangerous, Libby. They're certainly allowed. And they're certainly protected. But, that doesn't make them any less dangerous. And in the case of faith-based initiatives that affect all lives, not just the lives of the faithful, I find the words that lead to said affect particularly vile. I'm all for freedom of religion! I will protect it and advocate for it. But, I cannot be asked to ignore it when it presumes to know what's best for all society, all people, and not just its own members.

    I hope that makes sense? As I say, I'm all for the religious restricting themselves to heterosexual marriage, or whatever rules they wish to restrict themselves to, but they shouldn't have that choice over me.

    Cheers! :-)

  40. Oh, Smaggy! I've just been reading Press Box over on Slate. There's an article there about Joe McGinnis, a reporter who has rented the house next door to Wailin' Palin for the next five months. They all know about it and she even put it on her web page (which I will not befoul my computer by visiting).

    I'm sure SHE has no intention of talking to him - his book comes out next year - but I'm also fairly certain that her neighbors most assuredly will, and her entire family is dumb enough to make friends with the nice writer fella from next door while Mommy is away on speaking tours...

    But that's all beside the point, and this is where you and your splendid language skills come in. Baltimore Aureole is a Palin worshipper! You got it, dude. ba is defending the Wailing One all over the place! You know, at one point I thought ba had a brain. Seems I was wrong. I was kinda snide about it, too.

    You should go check it out. Seriously...

  41. It makes sense, and I'm completely on the same page, when the words are used to spur on actions.

    I just see words themselves, even sentiments expressed, as generally neutral. Powerful, yes, but neutral. The change comes when the words are used specifically to spur on action - that order issued by the cleric, which is more than a mere expression of sentiment, but rather a prod to those who wish to be faithful to that cleric's teaching, to get out there and be active, a call to arms, a spark toward a crusade.

    The simple sentiment of "marriage should be between one man and one woman" does not include any of those prods. Comparing such a statement, which can be completely benign with a fatwah, appears to me to be the same as someone stating a preference for tall, blond/blue, athletic men being responsible for the Nazi genocide. Yes that preference, or perception of that physicality being an ideal was one of the building blocks, but not at all the final keystone in the lead-up to the vile action.

    Does that mean that we shouldn't be wise in our word choices? Not at all, as I've apparently set out and proven unintentionally in this conversation, the words we use are powerful. I just wonder why it is necessary to see pretty neutral phrases as being as dangerous as calling Obama "The Second Coming." Which,frankly, is ironic on so many levels when it is uttered by Christians, since that is a fairly blasphemous sentiment....Except, that is, after all, the point, and why that phrase seems so much more dangerous to me. It carries an inherent call to action against the blasphemy. Not against those who speak it (because that would be logical and not the emotional response they were seeking), but against the individual they have set up to take the fall by labeling him with it.

    I agree with you that THOSE words are pretty vile, because they are much closer to that fatwah we were discussing. =-)

  42. Messy, I caught a glimpse of that earlier, and I just shook my head. I don't understand how people can still find anything about her to support or admire.

  43. Oh! Is this a dead horse lying before me? And is that a bat?

    What say we were to flip the language on its head on the Marriage argument? When two adults sign a Marriage License, they are "Married", with all the current responsibilities and benefits under the law. If a religious person wishes to then have their marriage "sanctified" or "uplifted", or "consecrated", or what have you, through a ceremony at their church, they can have at it. I know that many "religious" folk would balk at this "re-defining of marriage", but I think it would make sense for the reasons ably explained above.

    As a counter-point, I DO think that a "Domestic Partnership" option should be available to any two people who (otherwise unmarried) have decided to rely on each other for the long term. A brother and sister who find themselves happily sharing a residence in their older years, a widowed mother and son who find themselves relying upon one another almost exclusively, a couple of friends who are happy sharing their lives without sexual entanglements, etc... If my employer offers "spouse" benefits, and I have no spouse, but do have sole care of my adult sibling with developmental disabilities, should I not be able to have my benefits cover my sibling?

    Don't know if this all makes much sense, I'm logy after scraping and painting my house all day, but perhaps I've been able to bring this horse a little closer to truly dead.

  44. skoorba, pretty much what we've agreed (well, Smag, MM & I) have agreed should be, except the "domestic partnership" thing is what I think it should all be called, I.E. not two separate terms for the relationships based on expectation of sex within it, but one term to cover the entire contractual situation without regard to sex. Thereby eliminating all sorts of angles and dangles for future political dismemberment. The government loses any say in consenting adults sex lives, even by as small a measure as consenting or failing to consent to a marriage. The government is no longer seen as meddling in the affairs of churches by mucking in the terms and ceremonies dealing with religious rights. It's a win for everyone! =-D

  45. Mermaid put it this way: “When two people go to get a license to marry, they have to sign on the dotted line and have it witnessed by the court clerk. They have, in fact, at that very moment, made a legally binding contract with the government. Why is it then that there is a further requirement, for a "ceremony" to be performed over this legally binding contract?
    …So what has to change is the percentage of people that WANT their religious ceremony to be recognized by the government as a legally binding contract. People will have to come to accept the fact and/or idea that what filling out a marriage license is ~ is signing a contract with the government, right then and there. No more, no less.”
    Hmmmm. I’m giving this some thought. On the surface of it, it does not seem like a bad idea. But I do see some problems. First and foremost---it takes away from the sacredness of marriage---sacred not in a religious sense, but in a cultural sense. Haha, there’s that language thing again. I thought and thought about a word I could use instead of sacred because I know how that’s gonna make those who want all religion out of marriage go bananas. But see, there is something really fundamentally---important---about getting married. And yes, of course I am aware of all those people who don’t take it seriously and get divorced and etc. But still, marriage, there is something about it. And if it just happens in a county clerk’s office, even with a formal wedding planned later, that just seems wrong. I mean, actually, let those who don’t care about such things DO THAT. Legally, I have no problem with it---but I know I would not have wanted that afternoon in the clerk’s office (four or five days before I actually had my wedding) to be my “real” wedding day. See, for me, the religions aspect and the legal aspect are equally important, I think. So what to do? One idea that occurred to me is to make that magic moment when you get married actually BE when you sign your contract ---but let people do that wherever they want. I mean, I remember the priest signing something after our wedding. Why can’t a priest or a minister take the classes involved to be a clerk ---yes MM, he is still a religious figure, but he is a government figure too. So that way, for those who want it, the magic moment would not happen in a county clerk’s office but at the time and date of their big ceremony. Remove the requirement that the important contract signing HAS to happen in a town clerk’s office, and let the religious figures go get qualified to be town clerk’s, however that would work, and I’d be okay with it.
    Now Mermaid goes on later to say this: “The religious community does not want to see that happen, however, because it enjoys the belief that the government has sanctioned their way of life above all others, and they do not want that power taken away from them. They know if they start at the ground level and put laws through that define things like "marriage (which at present means a civil union in addition to a religious ceremony) is between a man and a woman" then their unions will continue to be seen as sanctioned above all others by the laws of God AND man.” As a member of the religious community, I can attest that there’s actually a huge contingent of us who DO NOT feel that way, at least about homosexuals marrying. But the thing about your brother and sister----I’m not ready for that. I mean, it goes to the way we define marriage, and it is not really just about sharing responsibilities and assets, and certainly not just about having children. If that were the case, no one over childbearing years would be allowed to marry. There is so much more to it than that, and not just from a religious standpoint but from a cultural and historical standpoint too. But how about Smaggy’s “Benefits Sharing” contract for people like your siblings? That would work for me. Just don’t call it marriage. There’s the power of language again.

  46. Dang, it's too early--I wish we could edit. Remove the possessive from "town clerks."

  47. I think I said my piece, and was well heard, but I have a couple of stories that seem to be to the point.

    I know one couple that had lived together twenty years and owned a house together, who married so they could share health insurance in retirement; and another who married because his company would pay her moving expenses as a wife but not as a girlfriend.
    I know a woman who had the flowers/rings/guests wedding at a country club in Florida on December 30th. Nice party. The officiant met her and her spouse at the airport two days later to Marry them legally. That way, her income wouldn't count on his kids' financial aid forms that year.

  48. Oh heck, I'd still better say it again.

    Don't know how widespread this is, but the Episcopal priests of my acquaintance don't do the 'power vested in me by the state' part of weddings at all. Either the couple does it at the courthouse, or they ask someone else to act as an officiant for that part of the wedding.

    This is hardy and practical, and very Episcopalian of them. They are saying, 'your state-sanctioned marriage and your heaven-blessed marriage are each wonderful and important things, but the one is not the other. I speak for God (as far as that's possible,) and I don't speak for the state.'

    To return to linguistics: nobody talked about a 'manual typewriter' till electric ones were invented. 'Acoustic guitar'--same thing. It was just a guitar. Only people who live near water skiing refer to 'snow skiing'--in Aspen, it's just 'skiing.'

    What I said about people making remarks based on the religious marriage ideal as if they applied to state marriage being an category error is just a fact of language. When people start a sentence with 'Marriage should...,' they don't spell out 'marriage in my faith' vs. 'marriage by the state' because the two have overlapped so thoroughly for so long. Both are deeply cultural instutions; they shape our world view.

    We desperately need a disambiguating term, and we haven't yet found one that will work. Seems to me, CA Prop 8 was voted in on that category error--people reacted to a change in the state-marriage ideal as though it applied to their faith-marriage, because the identical word had to be used.

    Fun thread, guys!

  49. That's interesting, Cantahamster, about the Episcopalian tradition. So they have to get a justice of the peace or someone like that to come to their church service? That is also something I would have no problem doing---but see, they are not married until that happens right? Either at the church or in their backyard or at the town clerk's office. So if they actually WANTED to be married at a certain place at time, they can plan it that way. That's all I am saying I'd want. So if signing that document made me legally married, I'd want that to happen at the same time as the religious ceremony. And it seems like I should be able to do that, don't you think?

    Anyway, yes yes, those stories about people marrying for convenience. Of course. There are tons of stories like that out there. People getting married in a drunken fog and then divorcing three days later---was it Brittany Spears who did that? People getting married six and seven times on a whim. I mean, yeah, I get it. My mom is a divorce attorney, and she ended up having a specialty in our area representing the gay community in divorces. Yes, divorces. They get married all the time, working out a deal with a friend or another gay couple of the opposite sex to share all the legal rights of marriage. It gets REALLY complicated when one of them wants out in the couples arrangement. So she ended up creating a little sub specialty of making contracts that accompany these kinds of marriages, pre nuptial agreements actually, to make things less complicated in the event of a divorce. I worked for her for a few years between under grad and grad school, and that was my favorite part of the job, working with those folks (on the prenup side, not the divorce side, which is always a bummer).

    Of course I understand that marriage is not sacred to everyone---but since it is to a whole lot of people, it seems like the idea of it happening at a special time and place should be accommodated.

    On a completely different note, Smag, I LOVE your idea of calling Sarah Palin "The Chosen One" and her followers "sheeple." I'm going to do it too. If it is not offensive, they should not mind, right? I'm already thinking of ways to work this into a political discussion. Let me know if you have any segue ways already figured out.

  50. Bella, the problem with making ministers specific agents of the state the way you suggest, is then the state will be required to futz with the ministers' scruples of whom they will "marry."

    This is part of the reason that I think more of the religious movement in this country may be willing to embrace this whole separation thing than seems obvious on the surface. The way our litigious society works what will happen is this: (And, technically it could happen now, though the argument is thinner, since the marriage isn't official until after your officiant signs off that he asked you both if you were willing, and you both sign the forms IN HIS PRESENCE after the ceremony) Couple A wants to get married in that pretty church. They have the cash available, and really think the setting would be perfect for their family and friends to gather to witness this moment of commitment in their lives. Problem is, the pretty church has a theology that says homosexual behavior is wrong, and that they cannot sanction a marriage between two people of the same sex. Couple A decides they are being discriminated against, and, since the minister is an agent of the state, he is bound by the same anti-discrimination laws that bind the rest of the plethora of state agents. So then they sue the state for discrimination, since they couldn't utilize the venue/officiant that they wanted to. The state then looks at it and realizes that they have a problem, and either revokes the agent of the state status for any churches who have this policy (and if they let others who don't have this policy continue, face a counter-suit), remove the right of any religious authority to become an agent of the state (and you wind up with the two separate moments thing), or try to force all churches to perform any wedding that is legal (at which point you run into first amendment issues because it is preventing the free exercise thereof).

    Because I believe that anyone SHOULD have the right to worship how they choose (excepting that choice involves harming innocents), I cannot, in good conscious, advocate for any path that has the potential to lead to that first amendment being walked on for the sake of the fourteenth.

    Because I believe that equal protection, SHOULD MEAN equal protection, I cannot, in good conscious, advocate for any path that has the potential to leave any segment of our society without the option of enjoying the benefits of that society.

    Because marriage has so many differing levels of meaning to it, and really the legal aspects with the contract are the least emotionally tied to the word, is why I think we should assign the newer, more equally protecting legal contract a different term THAN marriage, because the term shouldn't mean anything less sacred than those who use it want it to mean.

    Cantahamster, I see what you mean, and that I can agree with. =-)

  51. Bella ~ I think you've misunderstood the point of my comments somewhat.

    I never said that a brother and sister entering into a domestic partnership should call it a "marriage". My point was that any two consenting people should be entitled to enter into the same benefits contract presently enjoyed by heterosexual couples.

    I'm well aware that the reason people marry goes "beyond having children" and that wasn't my point, either. I was trying to explain that the government's present backing of "marriage is between a man and a woman" is what has given the nod to heterosexual unions only ~ in other words, injected (no pun intended) the "implication that the purpose of the civil union i.e. "the marriage" is for the purpose of procreation only" ~ and history can tell us that the fundamental reason for marriage in the first place was to sanctify the offspring of that union. Sure, property rights and other aspects of marriage come into play, but are secondary to the primary role of a married couple and that was to provide more members of the church.

    Why do you think "people want religion out of marriage"? We feel that "marriage" IS religion (however you define it)! And that's kind of the whole point! We don't think the government should be in the business of sancifying a religious ceremony and we want "marriage" out of "government" or "government" out of "marriage".

    You really shouldn't assume that because a person does not feel the necessity to have the government sanction their religous ceremony or "marriage" that they do not hold the idea of marriage sacred, as if anyone who feels this way is flighty about marriage or does not take it seriously. We simply advocate for a complete separation of church and state.

    I think you nailed it right on the head, Bella ~ exactly what I was trying to say is the difficulty with proposing that the government do away with sanctionining religious ceremonies as a means of entering the legal civil contract ~ "It takes away from the sacredness of marriage." In other words ~ you want to believe the government has sanctified your union. Which is something, to be blunt, that I think religious people are just going to have to get over.

    And this stance does puzzle me somewhat, this idea of "the religions aspect and the legal aspect are equally important" for I cannot for the life of me understand why a religious person would feel that the sanctifying of their religious union by their government would hold as much weight as the sanctifying of it by their church ~ unless in your mind the two are equal entities.

    And why would you not be able to think of the wedding you had with your family and friends as your "real wedding day?" It WOULD be your real wedding day! The day you sign your "domestic partnership" papers is the day you enter into a legally binding contract with the government ~ and the day you say your vows is your wedding day. The problem is that you want to make having a religious ceremony equal to entering into a legal contract with the government, and I feel the two should have nothing to do with one another.

  52. Ok, my take on gay marriage: I think barring it is completely unconstitutional. The const guarantees all persons equal protection under the laws. Back during desegregation days, the Supreme Ct said unequivocally that the fundamental right to marry meant the right to marry the person you choose. This was in the context of laws that disallowed marriages between mixed race couples. So how is gay marriage any different? It is a marriage between two people that is politically unpopular in the current climate. Period. They are still "people" and equal protection still applies.

  53. Wow, I sure got off the track of the discussion! I'm all for any two persons getting married. It might be easier in most European countries where the civil marriage/contract is separate from the religious one.

    Last wedding I attended in France, the whole of the wedding party including guests first went to City Hall where the mayor himself (it was a small town) performed the civil ceremony --yes it was a ceremony and the mayor was sporting the tricolor sash.... Then the wedding party moved on to the church for another ceremony which didn't have the force of law, and then it moved on to party....

    So yes, separating the religious from the civil makes sense, but a number of churches are already marrying GLBT people anyway, so hopefully this trend will continue (actually it's pretty much certain that it will and a generation from now they'll be wondering what was the issue...)

    What amazes me in this whole polimic is that half of marriages in the US end in divorce and the rate for Fundamentalist Christian marriages is higher than that of the population at large. If they want to "save marriage", why don't the fundamentalists stop marrying each other?!

  54. Hi Kati,
    I don't know if some of the folks here in this discussion would like that idea, on account of there still being a ceremony. But I like it. That would work fine for me, as long as I could have it done on the same day. I'd love the mayor to even come to the wedding.

    Libby, on a note you brought up a while ago (sorry)---I know I should understand this, but why is it that just because a religious figure gets certified or whatever to do a civil service, he or she automatically HAS to do it for everyone (when it is something that is regularly available City Hall?). I guess it is the law but it just does not make sense to me.

    Oh and MM, well of course one should not assume "that because a person does not feel the necessity to have the government sanction their religious ceremony or "marriage" that they do not hold the idea of marriage sacred, as if anyone who feels this way is flighty about marriage or does not take it seriously."

    That seems very obvious to me, as was (I thought) it obvious that I understood that although I was saying marriage was sacred, I understood that lots of other folks, religious and non religious alike, didn't act as though they did. Funny because I think most/all of the examples I was thinking of were of people who DID, in fact, want the government to sanction their marriage...but whatever. I remember very vividly Marie Osmond getting married in the Mormon church and saying that unlike OTHER churches, she was not swearing her love until death---she was gonna be with her honey though all eternity, two souls united, blah blah blah. That was until she got divorced that is. That made a real impression on me. No, I definitely don't see any correlation at all, unfortunately, between being religious and taking marriage seriously.

    Separation of church and state is fine; I just don't see how that negates the possibility of having the civil and religious events together. It is all well and good to say that religious people just have “to get over that”, I just don't see it being accepted by a majority anytime soon.

  55. Bella, I could be wrong about it, but I think the argument could be made (whether it would be upheld is another matter) that as de facto agents of the state, the religious figure who has been certified must act in accordance with all laws governing agents of the state.

    The county clerk can't decide not to issue you a vehicle registration if you pay the appropriate fees because you have green eyes, more melatonin than them, are gay, etc. The argument could be made that just because there are other opportunities to achieve the end of marriage, that doesn't give the religious figure the right to deny any comers from getting it taken care of there, just as the county clerk (or licensing agent) is barred from referring you to another location if they don't want to help you.

    If that makes sense.

    I'm not saying that the argument has been made and upheld anywhere in the courts, yet, but I could see that as being part of the eventual end game to achieve equality on this issue if there isn't some serious detanglement of the religious and legal aspects before then.

    Sorry it took me so long to get back to you. First time I checked back here this week. ;-)