Fraysters recite their vows on the gay marriage flap.

Fraysters recite their vows on the gay marriage flap.

Fraysters recite their vows on the gay marriage flap.

What's happening in our readers' forum.
Nov. 20 2003 5:12 PM

One fabulous Boston Tea Party

Fraysters recite their vows on the gay marriage flap.

The Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling continues to provoke donnybrooks all over the Fray, most centrally in Ballot Box Fray — in response to William Saletan's contention that if Democrats can parse "marriage" from "gay," they can inoculate themselves from a electoral backlash on the issue — and Faith-Based Fray, where Fraysters get religion.

Subject: "The Case for Gay Marriage"

Re:     "It's the Commitment, Stupid: How to sell gay marriage."

From:  jimsum

Date:  Thu Nov 20 0727h

It is illogical to ban gay people from getting married. There is no reason to have any biological basis for marriage; I don't see why the gender of the married people should make any difference.

Consider the roles of people in a family, parents and children. There is no biological basis for the child-parent relationship, children may or may not be related to the parents, and the parents may not even be physically capable of having children. Legally, all dependents are treated equally, regardless of the biological relationship between parent and child…

[Find this post here.]

Subject: "A Teaching Moment for Conservatives"

Re:     "It's the Commitment, Stupid: How to sell gay marriage."

From:  Mitch

Date:  Thu Nov 20 1320h

The Massachusetts Supreme Court's ruling, imposing gay marriage on the State, gives conservatives the ideal platform to educate voters on the importance of winning the battle on judicial appointments. What is at stake is literally democracy, whether the people are allowed any say in their government. This ruling, like Roe v Wade it proceeds from, reflects a profound contempt for the ability of democratic institutions to decide important questions of public policy, and to change in the face of societal change. Roe v Wade by imposing a single judicial rule on the entire nation, profoundly insulted the diverse nature of our republic (the accommodation of which of course is the particular strength of a federal democracy). That insult resonates today in the unhealed division over the issue, because the process of democratic debate, and of different states reaching different balances, has been denied to the people.

Once again, an "enlightened" judiciary has decided to deny the people of a State (but ultimately all states) any right to debate, to compromise, to experiment with a new social reality. No. Marriage, with all its religious and historical overtone, is an absolute constitutional right (one discovered magically for the first time after 200 years of jurisprudence overlooked it), and anyone who doubts that is a benighted bigot. Whatever one thinks of gays and marriage, this should be seen as a profound insult to democracy, to the intelligence of the people. I would say to my gay friends, do you really want gay marriage to be like abortion, an unhealed wound, festering in national politics 50 years from now? No, if we want our democratic experiment to succeed, we must have faith in the people. That, ultimately, is what the struggle over the federal judiciary is about.

[Find this post here.]

Subject: "Fear of a Gay Planet"

Re:     "How Radical is the Gay-Marriage Ruling?"

From:  ShriekingViolet

Date:  Wed Nov 19 0939h

Here I am, after years of pushing for legal recognition of gay marriage, and Massachusetts has finally gone and done the right thing. So what's my first emotional response?

Fear of the inevitable backlash.

I'm concerned that this court ruling goes too far, too fast. In Vermont, the courts left enough wiggle room for a compromise solution that conferred the legal benefits of marriage without producing the sort of marriage license that can be transferred to other states. My hope has been that other progressive states would eventually follow suit, creating a regional alternative system of family law that would confer basic freedoms to gays and lesbians without stirring up a hornets' nest of resentment in the Red States…

I fear that nothing short of an amendment to the US Constitution outlawing gay marriage may be the end result of this process. And that could set us back for generations…

And in the end, I'm forced to concede that most of America is not ready for this sort of social change yet. Forcing civil rights measures down the throats of an unwilling majority is a drastic step to take in a democratic nation. It is a measure of last resort, that can create bitterness and resentment for years, as seen in the Southern U.S. to this very day. In 1964, Civil Rights for African Americans was an absolute necessity. Gay Americans today are fooling ourselves if we believe we are in the same category of oppressed minority.

[Find this post here.]

In response to Waldman's interpretation that, to the religious:

...homosexuality is wrong because it involves sex that doesn't create life. In the case of Judaism, a key Bible passage is the story of Onan, who sleeps with his dead brother's wife but, to avoid giving his brother offspring, doesn't ejaculate inside her. Instead, he "spilt the seed on the ground." God slew him, which some might view as a sign of disapproval

Subject: "The real 'missed conception'"

Re:     "A Common Missed Conception: Why religious people are against gay marriage."

From:  Srrurhino

Date:  Wed Nov 19 1359h

This is yet another misinterpretation of the story of Onan; the other is that the Onan story is the Biblical equivalent of an injunction against masturbation (i.e., "wasting one's seed"). Here's the actual story: Onan was ordered by God to have sex with his late brother's widow, so that she could conceive a child (I believe that Deuteronomy has a law relating to this). Onan rebelled against this command by practicing what amounted to a primitive form of birth control, removing himself from his sister's body just before ejaculating. God then killed him for disobeying the command to help his sister-in-law conceive. It has NOTHING, repeat, NOTHING to do with homosexuality or masturbation. One might just as plausibly argue that the story of Onan should be cherished by bankers, for inspiring the disclaimer "substantial penalties for early withdrawl."

All seriousness aside, there are specific verses in the Old Testament (Leviticus) and the New (Romans) condemning homosexuality. These are the bases for most conservative Christian objections to gay rights. As a supporter of gay and lesbian rights, I think there are constructive arguments to be made in rebuttal of the way in which Christians use these verses to advance their position. But we might as well be "straight" (pun intended) regarding the basis for their arguments.

[Find this post here.]

Subject: "The religious objection"

Re:     "A Common Missed Conception: Why religious people are against gay marriage."

From:  RufRuf

Date:  Wed Nov 19 2138h

Regardless of the reason for the prohibition of male homosexuality (I challenge anyone here without a Yeshiva background to find a Biblical verse prohibiting lesbianism), it is a sexual offense that carries capital punishment. It is in the same category as adultery. Masturbation and the use of birth control are simply not treated as harshly under Biblical law. (Neither is abortion for that matter, which is not a capital offense under Biblical law.)

The sense I get is that the religious in this country are willing to tolerate sin, and no one is advocating that adulterers be executed. There is a difference though between tolerating adultery, and granting it State sanction. If a married woman's lover were granted legal rights by the government, you would see a similar outcry here in America (France is another story). The fear is that by allowing the government to formalize a sinful union, the government becomes partner to it, and by extension the people who voted for such a government would bear the burden of such a sin.

I made a prediction in this area a few months ago. I'm not sure if I'm still as confident with it.

[Find this post here.]

Fray Notes: Diary Fray semi-regular MT has seen enough in that rubric to pitch this concept next pilot season:

…Might I suggest a survival series be created around Jodi Mardesich, MaryJane Butters and Neil LaBute? I can see it now: The three of them marooned on Tristan da Cunha. Ms. Butters looking for edible plants. Ms. Mardesich objecting vehemently to a fire being kindled. Mr. LaBute losing weight, and working out the technical bugs in his writings with the assistance of his fellow castaways. A sure-fire hit!

Remember Slate Staff --- you read it here first. Just be sure to send that 7-figure royalty check to MT.

Meta4 is running a sideshow in BOTF, a "submit your caption" contest surrounding a snapshot of Bush's early Thanksgiving Break jaunt to England. Early favorites? Adam_Masin … but it's still early.

Department of Astral Affairs: Just what the Fray Cosmos needs — another Bay Area attorney. Nevertheless, Fraywatch endows JCormac with a long overdue star. Check out his work here, here, and hereKA2:05 p.m.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2003

This week's V.P. comes by way of Hateur, the user formerly known as Cicero. Hateur offers a generational testimony here, having watched the events in Iraq unfold through the eyes of a smart 17-year-old schooled in military history, but whose grasp of the war is filtered through a lifetime of simulated reality: 

It is my privilege to tutor a high school senior who attends an elite private college preparatory environment. He and his fellow future graduates are the ones automatically earmarked to attend Yale, Harvard, Stanford, M.I.T. and etcetera. He might someday go on to become a history professor; and then again, maybe not. He has got the potential. He just has to live up to it. He is in possession of strong ethics and morality and he is one among what we mean when we say, "elite." For all of that, I am somewhat disappointed in him.

In a way there is a generational gap of experiences rather than values dividing us. I am approximately thirty-five years older than he, which means that I grew up under the omnipresent danger of the Vietnam war-hammer of doom. He, on the other hand, barely recalls the Soviet Union as any sort of dangerous presence in this world. Then, too, he is a product of an age of information glut and an environment of unending entertainment.

Military history has always been a hobby of his. He knows the World War Two European campaign inside and out. But despite being firmly grounded in military tactics, strategy and knowing that people die in wars I think that he approached Gulf War Two as an entertainment junkie rather than as a sober young citizen witnessing an important event in his life and in his country's existence.

He grew increasingly anxious and excited as the due date for the war approached. Then after the war started, he avidly followed every troop movement report and spent many hours analyzing events during and after their unfolding. With the same eagerness evinced by an ardent baseball fan, as he watches his team move toward the pennant, he enjoyed every moment of the war up to the point of the fall of Saddam's statue in Baghdad. That event was some sort of an event milestone in his mind, as if some prankster of a deity had flipped a switch. Abruptly the boy was bored with the entire event. Now he wanted to switch gears and talk about abortion or the upcoming Matrix movie sequel. Now that the war was in-the-bag it had become boring.

Now here is the interesting thing, he was against the war from the beginning. He had followed the unfolding international politics for months. He was a witness and analyst for every Bush Administration justification and what were later determined to have been the Administration's blatant lies. His anxiety as the war approached was as much over anger at what our President was doing to commit a great injustice as it was excitement over witnessing his first real United States war. Still, I am convinced that the war itself was far more a source of vicarious thrills and real time entertainment for him than anything else, and once victory was a mathematical certainty he was ready for his next hit of entertainment. Now war bored him.

This youngster is not at fault. He already has got the equivalent of a first or second year of entry-level college under his belt considering the advanced nature of his private high school curriculum. His is, in fact, a classic example of bread and circuses. He is firmly middle class—okay, upper-middle class—and wants for nothing in life including structure and discipline. He has abundant bread, so to speak. Additionally, he, like most of his generation, is an entertainment junkie, and unless something directly affects him in life the event—no matter how awesome or horrendous—is slightly unreal. He has his circuses, too, you see.

I find that I cannot condemn him or his generation as they are a product of what MY generation created. We are the ones who thought it perfectly fine for these children to be raised by the television, the news media, by school, and even by church while we went on about our business earning a living—pretty much just as our World War Two generation parents did with us. I think that aside from war, it is the outrageous intensity of the entertainment that mentally or spiritually separates us. I may, of course, be wrong about this.

Particularly our middle class children have been drowned in a sea of Sega, Nintendo, Gameboy fantasy scenarios, by movies so high tech that the division between reality and fantasy has blurred. All that, and then we—particularly in regards to these middle class kids—cram their heads so full of facts, figures, and statistics that they become walking calculators, having left some of their humanity behind them in the process of becoming more than we were at their age. All that and then we [well I] wonder why they react differently to vital news of the day?

Oh, there is more to it that the above, of course. This current generation of high school students, in fact, has been raised in a rarified fantasy world so safe and protected that even the tragic events of 9-11-01 barely left a psychological scar. For most of them it was simply unreal. It was too much like one of their fantasy game scenarios for them to quite take all that seriously.

Far from condemning this youngster for his nonchalant attitude toward a United States war, I feel rather sorry for him and his generation. Nothing is truly real to them unless it impacts them directly.

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Monday, November 17, 2003

While the companion pieces by David Edelstein and Christopher Hitchens on Master and Commander didn't attract all that much traffic, some of the finer posts hail from Movies Fray—in response to Edelstein's review—and Culturebox Fray, where Hitchens, a fan of the Patrick O'Brian series of Aubrey-Maturin books since childhood, dissects Peter Weir's new flick.

Subject: Hating Hitchens

Re:     "Empire Falls: How Master and Commander gets Patrick O' Brian Wrong."

From:  oldie

Date:  Sun Nov 16 0904h

I think Hitchens is exactly right in his interpretation of the books. And, to the extent that the movie is an adaptation of the books, it is perfectly reasonable to discuss to what extent the main points have been preserved. Maturin may not get any more ink than Aubrey, but he is, nevertheless, a far more significant character in the series than Aubrey is.

Aubrey, as complex as he may sometimes seem to be, is still a cookie cutter creation when compared to Maturin, and, most importantly, he is continually defined and measured by Maturin's presence in all that matters. Next to Maturin, Aubrey is revealed as little more than a hot-headed simpleton. On the other hand, beneath his civilized veneer, Maturin is both a more serious and a deadlier character than Aubrey. Maturin allows O'Brian to tells us his stories on different levels and turn them into something more than simple naval capers. Maturin's presence makes the stories rich, complex, cynical, and intelligent.

So, with this in mind, what explains the unreasonable reactions of Slate readers to Hitchens' perfectly reasonable review of this movie? My guess is that these reactions are nothing more than payback for the politically incorrect positions that Hitchens has taken since 9/11.

[Find this post here.]

Subject: Master and Commander—Echt, but ...

Re:     "Naval Gazing: Peter Weir's swashbuckling Master and Commander."

From:  rob_said_that

Date:  Sun Nov 16 1915h

This movie felt genuine, and was very well filmed in (mostly) dim grays and blues and browns. The language was, as Edlestein says, faithful to the language of the books, though I wonder how many lubbers in the audience understood Crowe when he said things like "even let her ride up and luff from time to time" (when he's working a ruse on the French captain).

I had a good time at this movie, but I didn't think it was as emotionally affecting as a really great war picture might be. This was essentially an Errol Flynn movie updated for the post-Bounty, post-Lord Of The Rings moviegoer. The frippery and foppishness are gone, as is the '30s mis-en-scene and political influence, but it's really just a hearty sea tale that works hard to be a vehicle worthy of the star of Gladiator ...

There's a lot of grim reality—bones being sawn, cannonballs atomizing men, and, of course, water and wind aplenty—but is that all we expect from a movie like this? I'd say this was far below The Bounty as a sea adventure of the late 18th century, though it was certainly more enjoyable than, say, an Adam Sandler movie. Maybe if it hadn't tried to hard to be An Important Movie it could have better navigated the treacherous waters of novel adaptations.

[Find this post here.]

Subject: Hitchens the Saveur of Character

Re:     "Empire Falls: How Master and Commander gets Patrick O' Brian Wrong."

From:  MHaag

Date:  Sun Nov 16 0908h

... Hitchens, as shown by this piece, is really less a political critic than a kind of ideological aesthete. Rather than polemicizing on current events, he should stick to rendering his impressions and appreciation, however skewed and bilious, of artistic representations of ideas. For that is where his facility as a writer truly lies.

[Find this post here.]

In response to Hitchens, who writes:

Unlike Forester, O'Brian set himself not just to show broadsides and cutlass work and flogging and the centrality of sea power, but to re-create all of the ambiguities and contradictions of England's long war against revolutionary and Napoleonic France. (This, I argue, was the true and real "First World War," because it extended itself to every ocean and almost every nation, not exempting this one.)

... we get this history lesson from the newly-starred Jack_Baltimore.

Subject: The Real "First World War"

Re:     "Empire Falls: How Master and Commander gets Patrick O' Brian Wrong."

From:  Jack_Baltimore

Date:  Sat Nov 15 0615h

The first world war, in my view, was the global conflict between England and France otherwise known as The Seven Years' War, 1754 through 1760. In Britain's American colonies and in the US thereafter, the war was known as the French and Indian War.

To students of history I refer you to University of Colorado at Boulder's Professor Fred Anderson's book, Crucible of War (Vintage Books, 2000) to learn how a young surveyor and planter from Virginia, by name of George Washington, accidentally started this war, the battles of which ranged from Madras and Bengal in south Asia to Manila in the Phillipines to the West African coast, to the siege of Havana, the siege of Minorca in the Mediterranean, major European land battles in Hanover, Saxony, Austria, and what is now the Czech Republic and Slovakia ...

The war of course, also encompassed the destruction of Pittsburgh, the mass expulsion and trans-shipment of the French from Acadia to New Orleans, the collapse of French colonial ambition in North America, and most importantly, the rise of the first global British Empire, its dominance of North America, and the creation of a sense of distinction between the American colonists and their British cousins.

... Which growing sense of distinction eventually resulted in the founding of the US sixteen years later.

How's that for a world war?

[Find this post here.]

Fray Notes

What's in a Name: More good stuff on Maturin and his fictional context as a Catalan-Irishman in the Napoleonic War here from the aptly named, though dubiously spelled, 0Brien.

Suggestion Box: In a long-term effort to improve the Fray, Slate is taking suggestions from users as to how we can make your Fray-perience more enjoyable and user-friendly. Please submit suggestions, parodies, missives, and personal vendettas with Fray_Editor here.  

Department of Astral Affairs: Nothing has preoccupied Fray veterans in recent weeks quite like the preoccupation over the criteria for a star, the responsibilities of a star, the shape, size, fungibility, market value, prestige value, and hue of the star. Onanism aside, Arlington, nose to the mousepad, logs away in stellar fashion. Along with Jack_"Balmer," Arlington earns a star. Sample his style here ... KA9:40 a.m.

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Thursday, November 13, 2003

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After a rumble of criticism in Ballot Box Fray over his characterization of comments made by SEIU chief, Andy Stern, William Saletan enters the fray to clarify the remark. In his piece ("Howard Dean's Quagmire: He's won the campaign war. Now comes the postwar"), Saletan writes of Stern's reassurances that the union is copasetic with Dean:

The testimonials reek of defensive language. In his speech, Stern says his members are "totally comfortable" with Dean's positions on health care issues. That's like a white person saying he's "totally comfortable" with the black family next door.

Here, Saletan spells it out:

What could be funnier than a bunch of Dean supporters who, thinking their guy got misinterpreted and smeared about the Confederate flag, commit the same racial misinterpretations and smears against a sentence critical of a Dean supporter?

... My point about "totally comfortable" is that it's the faintest of praise. It's what people say when they can't muster genuine enthusiasm and have been wrestling with whether they can even stand the thing they're trying to praise. The classic example is when somebody who's uncomfortable with gays or blacks says he's "comfortable" with them. If you're really comfortable, you don't have to say it. You're just at ease with them.

So to those of you who think you saw racism in that sentence: What you actually saw was awareness of it as a contemporary phenomenon.

For RicNCaric ("Howard Dean: Hard-Ass Moderate"), the larger issue with Saletan's posture on Dean is ...

In one of the world's most dishonest self-characterizations, Bush ran as a "compassionate conservative" as a way to appeal to the moderate vote from a right-wing perspective. Dean actually is a moderate, but he's been running as a hard-ass opponent of the Bush administration as a way to appeal to the Democratic left. Dean's advantage in pitching himself this way is that he doesn't have to fake it. He is an authentic confrontational, bad-tempered, sharp-tongued hard-ass and that's what a lot of Democrats want to see right now. Dean has a lot of work to do on the Democratic politics of race and class, neither of which he seems to be very good at. However, if he can inject some hard-ass energy and dynamism into appealing to blacks and labor, he would be a formidable challenger to the Republicans.

In contrast, The_Slasher-8 sees eye-to-eye with Saletan on Dean's wholesale opposition to the Bush tax cut here:

Dean's position on middle class tax cuts is his death knell. I want to see Bush out as much as anyone, and I think it's true that by retaining the middle class tax cuts, we prolong the economic problems which will be caused by the whole package.

But if we don't get Bush out, we're going to GET the entire package, along with some new cuts (complete repeal of capital gains?). Dean simply refuses to understand this, and I don't give a rusty fuck how much more consistent he has been on Iraq than the others. HE CAN'T WIN.

Fraywatch encourages Democratic primary voters—particularly the undecideds—to visit their respective caucus boards and mix it up. Official caucus rules are forthcoming ... KA3:25 p.m.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Emily Bazelon's piece ("Monument From Hell: Make room for a Matthew Shepard hate monument in a town square near you") has Jurisprudence Fray popping off. Bazelon chronicles how Casper, Wyo., has painted itself into a constitutional corner by displaying a granite replica of the Ten Commandments in its Central Park. Rev. Fred Phelps—the least-actualized Kansan since Dick and Perry—has seized upon the tablets as a precedent to erect a monument of his own, effectively condemning the late Matthew Shepard to hell.

"Many people who read" rjc's post will "will probably take issue with the idea that the Bible might be used as a source of truth or as a basis for moral judgment." Rjc prefers the Sermon on the Mount to the Ten Commandments and introduces a hypothetical whereby we "start putting the beatitudes and the greatest commandment everywhere we used to put the ten commandments." To read rjc's post in its introspective, meandering entirety, click here.  

BenK charges Bazelon with "misinterpreting the establishment clause" of the constitution.  Here, Ben writes:

Localities, even states, should be free to establish whatever religion they want, as long as they can still give 'full faith and credit' to other jurisdictions, in terms of things like extradition and commerce ...

Nobody seems to recall that the bill of rights, for example, was meant to restrict the Federal Government, not bind the local communities to some generalized notions of freedom.

Not so fast, says PubliusJr, replying to BenK that:

Your argument that the state of Utah could blithely decide to be Mormon would probably come as a surprise to the city fathers of Salt Lake, whose petitions for statehood were routinely rejected between 1849 and 1887, partly on the grounds that the Mormons practiced polygamy, prohibited by federal statute in the 1860s.

Zathras argues that Casper can avert the e.c. because:

It is not only possible but easy to make an argument that display of the Ten Commandments as a foundational document of American law is permissible and refusal to similarly display passages from the Koran or Bhagavad Gita is as well, provided one is basing the case on historical grounds.

Z contends that "the legal structure of this country, so exceptional in the world, was developed primarily by men raised in the Christian tradition," which:

deeply offends people like Emily Bazelon who sincerely believe that there is no difference between the Ten Commandments and a hateful statement about a murder victim.

Here, historyguy takes strong issue with Zathras' attribution:

The founding fathers modeled this nation on Roman models of representative democracy, with a nod to the Greeks. They thought well of Jesus' teachings. Some were worshipping Christians as well. They had little use for the Old Testament, and less for the Ten Commandments.

Outstanding work from The_Bell, as always, who agrees with Zathras on the issue of moral equivalency:

Personally, I think Ms. Bazelon is correct and to protect citizens from things that might offend them, I think we have to interpret the Establishment Clause such that the Ten Commadments need to go. But I also agree … that although the law needs be broad enough to cover them both, let us not pretend there is the slightest equivalence in the offense intended either by the monuments themselves or by those who would erect/maintain them.

OWH has a compelling question for the Fray's G.C.s:

I'm not convinced that the Matthew Shepherd conundrum is as difficult as it appears to be. Couldn't the city refuse to allow the "Monument of Hate" on the grounds that it is libelous and would subject the city to tort liability?

The schadenfreude enjoyed by the "anti-religious crowds" annoysRipley, because the baby invariably goes out with the bath water. Secularists will "use this as an excuse to drive all forms of religious expression out of the public view."

Mike_Murray finds that "hate speech given a religious overlay is as much political speech than religious (both not either)." Here, MM expands, posing the board's most thoughtful—and trickiest—question:

Would not an identical argument be made for speech (particularly political speech)? If I am allowed to put a monument to WWII veterans (a political opinion if a very common one) do I necessarily take on a burden to allow Nazis and such to place a monument to the SS? If we allow a monument to be placed to Martin Luther King do we have to allow the KKK to plant a monument as well?

The result would be the banning of all speech (message) of any sort in any public place; in other words, the banning of all monuments of any nature.

If the answer is no, then the answer is no for religious messages as well as political ones (and for exactly the same reasons).

... could make for more interesting airport foyers and street maps ... KA4:00 p.m.