Postmodern Conservative

Truth and Pseudogamy

I learned about a remarkable book by a certain Anthony Esolen from Matthew J. Franck in this well-titled post at Public Discourse:  The Beauty of the Country of Marriage.

The whole book (“Defending Marriage: 12 Arguments for Sanity”) can be seen as a powerful amplification, rife with literary examples (Shakespeare, Spencer, and much more), of the central argument that Maggie Gallagher makes in her published debate with John Corvino (“Debating Same-Sex Marriage”): 

Social institutions affect behavior by creating habitual patterns that govern the way people think, that is, the way they perceive reality. When norms become “optional” for marriage in the public mind—then practically speaking, they cease to be norms… Cultural power is the power to name reality… But a sexual union of two males, endorsed by law and society as a marriage under a new governing norm of “marriage equality,” will change the public perception of the relationship between marriage and procreation both in itself and by making this older understanding virtually unsayable.

(And Corvino in fact makes Gallagher’s case for her by avowing that, not only homophobia, but “heteronormativity” will have to go in order to satisfy the cause of “gay rights.”)

There are many things wrong with “pseudogamy” (Esolen’s apt term), but the main thing, the basic wrong, is just that it is a lie, as it was a lie for Smith (in Orwell’s 1984) to say that O’Brien was holding up three fingers and not the two he was in fact holding up. 

What the State essentially does, when it requires us to be parties to the lie that a man can marry a man, is to deny the anterior reality of marriage itself. It says, “Marriage is what we say it shall be,” and that implies, “Families are what we say they are,” and that implies, “There are no zones of natural authority outside the supervision and regulation and management of the State.”

To be sure,  pseudogamy movement has not by itself destroyed the institution of marriage.  It aims rather to seal the deal that has been in the works for decades.  But this is by no means a reason to acquiesce to the claim that O’Brien is holding up 3 fingers.

There are some ideas that are so absurd, so divorced from reality, that only an intellectual can think himself into the pretzel requisite for justifying them. … They [homosexuals] may do what they will in their homes. But that is no reason to flaunt it in the streets. That flaunting is a demand for social approval which, for all the reasons I’ve offered, we should not give, no more than we should give social approval to men and women who shack up, to divorcees, to pornographers, to porn users, to prostitutes, to adulterers, or to anybody else who violates the goodness of being male or being female.

We cannot have things both ways. All marriages, in effect, will be regarded as pseudogamous, pretend-affairs that are valid so long as the feelings that prompted them persist, or so long as the partners (notice the disembodied language deriving from the business world) agree, but involving no reality outside their wills.

The go-ahead for casual adultery cannot reasonably be limited to the male homosexuals.

What we need, then, is an index of social dissolution. How many sexual relationships of any duration—say, one year—dissolve? How many of these failed relationships have produced children? We should not “protect” the numbers by ruling out of bounds all the other “divorces,” some of them more socially disruptive than divorce proper. If we look at the whole picture, it resembles a bombed-out city, with here and there a house that has managed to survive intact

Some readers are no doubt asking themselves, “Why is Hancock talking about this?  This battle is clearly lost.”

Well, I’ll tell you why.  This is not a battle, this is the war.  If the defense of marriage is lost, we are lost, and our children will live in a much worse world than the one we grew up in (especially those of us who have seen a few decades go by).  It is important to call a disaster what it is.

So we may have lost, for now — but, as I’m told Horace wrote, even if you throw out nature with a pitchfork, it will blow back in.

And while we await nature’s running its course, or the return of Kipling’s “Gods of the Copybook Headings,” I still say: O’Brien is only holding up 2 fingers.




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