November 20, 2003

The Scourge of Richard Cohen, Vol. XCIX

(Ed. -- The following is a bit of mean spiritedness that will be an on-going feature of this blog. Normally the author will endeavor to be reasonably fair, but this is an exception.)

Vive la non-difference!

Full frontal disclosure: I am in favor of civil unions for gay men and women, but there is something about gay marriage that doesnít seem right to me. Iím not doctrinally or ideologically opposed to it, but it just doesnít feel right. I canít really explain my reservations about it any better than that. If thatís not good enough, well, my explanation is worth every penny you paid for it.

As you might have guessed by now, Richard Cohen has fallen head over heels in love with gay marriage and heís prepared to knock anyone who isnít ass over tit. Watch in rapturous awe as Dick swings from an uncertain statement of hoping heís right in the title to a growing rock-hard certainty in his manly conviction (Ed. Ė Iíve never heard it called that before) to see justice done, with gratuitous ad hominem attacks and slanders thrown in for good measure. Perhaps you will be able to see farther and clearer than I why This May Be Good for Marriage:

If Tom DeLay had half a brainÖ

Multiple choice:
a) Heíd be twice as smart as Richard Cohen!
b) He could be the other bad guy in the next bad sequel to Silence of the Lambs.
c) He couldnít be the Scarecrow in the next Wizard of Oz revival.
d) Being ambidextrous would be right out.

As fond as Richard Cohen is of straw men, Iím going with c.

Ö (if pigs had wings), Ö

(It would pose even more serious problems for Muslims everywhere. Unless, of course, said hallucinated pigs remained flightless like ostriches, penguins and many other birds, but then Dick would be making even less sense than usual, if thatís possible.)

Ö he would have cheered the news that Massachusetts may legalize gay marriages.

Let me see if I understand this correctly. If Tom DeLay were half as smart as he is, then heíd support gay marriage. But since heís twice as smart as Richard Cohen thinks, he doesnít. This is supposed to be an insult? Of course, from a purely political perspective, how do we know that he didnít cheer this news?

The institution for which the House majority leader has such concern, traditional marriage, is both wobbly and wheezing -- the butt of cynical jokes, a gold mine for divorce lawyers and, even for the non-initiated, the triumph of hope over experience.

Sort of like a drunk Bill Clinton. Or would that be the triumph of Hope over experience?

Gays, bless 'em, may wind up saving marriage.

Gays, or the courts? Dickís confused about cause and effect here. Or is it cause and affect? Well, there is certainly a cause. But how will it affect the desired effect? Or is it the desired effete? (Yes, I know Iím converting an adjective to a noun. And I could also go a lot further than this, but to do so would be in really bad taste.)

In ways that DeLay and his conservative cohorts seem not to recognize, marriage itself is on the rocks.

Itís only missing the twist.

Twenty percent of all first marriages don't make it past five years, and after a mere decade, one-third of all marriages are kaput. Married couples, once dominant in both life and sitcom TV, have gone from 80 percent of all households in the 1950s to 50 percent today.

Yes, and out of wedlock births have skyrocketed, our inner cities have deteriorated, high school dropout rates for black males have reached historically catastrophic proportions, church attendance has declined, Arnold Schwarzenegger is now the governor of California, and the ozone hole has disappeared. HmmÖ, could any of this be related?

If you peek into the average home,Ö

Perhaps you should be arrested.

Ö the chances of finding a married couple with kids are just one in four.

Maybe, just maybe, there are other sociological forces at work here. And whatís more, maybe some people legitimately think that this is exactly whatís wrong with society -- and marriage -- and that further weakening marriage as in institution is not the answer.

DeLay, don't delay, marriage needs help.

Jeez, thatís weak use of his name. Howís this? If Richard were a lesbian, maybe heíd be looking for a co-hen to marry.

Now along come gay couples to rescue marriage from social and economic irrelevance, casting a queer eye on a straight institution.

But, no matter how you dress it up, isnít it just a little premature to make this claim?

They seek it for pecuniary reasons -- issues such as estate taxes, etc. -- but also because they seem to be among the last romantics.

No stereotypes here, no siree bob.

(No shotgun marriages here.)

(Well, duh. I will assume that Richard Cohen knows the etymology of this phrase.)

The odd thing about the opposition to gay marriage is that if the opponents were not so blinded by bigotry and fear, they would see that gay men and lesbians provide the last, best argument for marriage: love and commitment.

There are many things I love and to which I am committed, none of which I am going to ever marry. No doubt, lots of people are blinded by bigotry and fear, but if the foolishness of your opponents is your best argument, may I therefore assume that President George W. Bush is the greatest man in the world? Anyway, if gay marriages started to fall apart faster than non-gay marriages, would Richard Cohen then think they are a bad idea?

There is scant reason for marriage anymore, Ö

Then why advocate it for others?

Ö which is why it has become a dicey proposition -- and why 86 million adults are unmarried.

Huh? Iím going to have to start inventing new Latin terms for these new errors in logic.

Women don't need men to support them or defend them from saber-toothed tigers -- and they can, I have read, even have babies on their own.

And what other possible reason could there be to get married?

Men, of course, still need women, if only to bear children and to remind them that they are uncommunicative.

I am beginning to feel sorry for Mrs. Cohen, if she exists.

(Is a marriage between two men a zone of total silence?)

(Gosh, I donít know? Is a marriage between two women a cacophonous shouting match where no one can ever get a word in edgewise? Well, you sexist pig? Is it?)

But single guys can adopt kids, and sex is readily available almost anywhere, or so I am told by various city magazines.

This is a very strange collection of words that brings you know who to mind.

There is an analogy here -- I think.

Or not -- I know.

Just as gays are renowned for moving into urban areas that others have fled, for refurbishing whole neighborhoods and making them attractive, so they might rehabilitate and renew marriage.


Of all people, they need it the least. They have already shattered convention with their lifestyles, and demolished our comfy and parochial notions of sexual categories -- heterosexual male, heterosexual female and nothing else.

We must destroy this tradition in order to preserve it. (HmmÖ, where have I heard that before?)

But when it comes to marriage of all things, some of them want to veer toward the traditional.

Well, technically, the non-traditional.

They want commitment and love -- a universal truth in a manner that Jane Austen never envisaged.

You can have commitment and love without marriage. Just ask some of those 86 million unmarried adults. Or is Richard implying that love and commitment can only be found within holy matrimony? Holy matrimony? Holy separation of church and state, Batman, what am I saying? Richardís quite right about one thing though. I cannot imagine Jane Austen envisaging this.

The dour Republican Party, Ö

Dour? (Ed: Is there any other kind?)

Ö with DeLay and others promising a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage Ö

Fortunately, neither Tom DeLay nor any other wannabe dictator can just will constitutional amendments into being.

Ö (can Elizabeth Taylor be included, too?), Ö


Ö is once again willing to stand athwart history, yelling stop.

Well, letís be fair, that is what good conservatives do.

In the short term, it will work, since little in politics has the power bigotry does -- certainly not reason.

Bigotry certainly runs roughshod over reason in Richard Cohen columns. But I do take great offense at the idea that all opposition to gay marriage is motivated only by bigotry. You know, Dick, not everyone is an Episcopalian.

The many GOP politicians who have gay children will have to stifle all that their kids have taught them and fall behind DeLay in his backward march toward a vanished world.

[Many remarkably crude comments deleted at this point.]

Some, though, may succumb to knowledge and empathy and suggest -- softly, of course -- that love and commitment are universals and not confined to a single category of sexual orientation.

Conservatives must succumb to knowledge and human feelings. They are, after all, so unnatural to conservatives. But again, love and commitment do not necessarily imply marriage.

Gay marriage will not and cannot weaken the institution of marriage.

Q.E.D. No argument necessary. At least, I havenít seen one yet.

A heterosexual is not somehow less married because a homosexual has tied the knot.

But thatís not the point now, is it?

On the contrary, the institution will be strengthened, bolstered by the very people who for conservatives represent everything loathsome about modernity.

And conservatives are just bigoted idiots not to realize that what they believe is just totally, completely wrong. They just cultural Luddites, eh Dick? I mean, they donít even know any metrosexuals.

Gays are not attacking marriage. They want to practice it.

Actually, I think they want to practice that most postmodern pastime of redefining the language to mean whatever they want it to mean as a means to power.

"Love. Of course, love. Flames for a year, ashes for 30." So says the prince in Giuseppe di Lampedusa's classic novel, "The Leopard."

Sorry, never heard of it. But I do live in flyover country, had a public education and attended a state university, so maybe that explains it.

This cynical observation, attributed to a 19th-century man by a 20th-century writer, is hardly out of date.

But Iíll bet ďThe LeopardĒ is out of print.

Love is as much a recipe for failure as it is for success, and yet we cling to it because it ennobles us.

What in the hell is he talking about?

Love is our emotional opposable thumb, what differentiates us from lower animals, and why we vow -- sometimes over and over again -- a lifetime's commitment, marriage.

Oh thatís what heís talking about. ďLove is our emotional opposable thumb.Ē No wonder Dick gets paid to write and I donít. I never could have come up with that.

If gays can do it Ö

I think they can, or so I am told by various city magazines.

Ö and maybe do it better, Ö

I wouldnít know, though I am told so by various city magazines.

Öthen Tom DeLay could do us all a real public service by just stepping aside.

And, after all, getting Tom DeLay to step aside is what is really important here, isnít it.

A whole lot of wonderful people want to come down the aisle.

Such a poor choice of words. Someone without my well-practiced restraint might be tempted to make some truly crude remark about this sentence as well. Fortunately, I can restrain my inner juvenile delinquent. I will, however, note that Mr. Cohen has studiously avoided the concerns that most conservatives do have about gay marriage in favor of his well-worn straw men. I donít particularly subscribe to most of the conservative arguments, but I donít casually dismiss them out of hand as being ignorant and motivated by bigotry and hatred either. And anyway, if marriage sucks so much, why is Richard Cohen trying to sucker gay men and women into it? Sometimes, I think Dick would have trouble selling ice cubes to the denizens of the nether regions.

Posted by Charles Austin at November 20, 2003 10:09 PM

Short history of human progress:
1)What could it hurt?
[followed sometime later with]
2)How was I supposed to know?

Posted by: Jon at 09:15 AM said "nether regions." Heh-heh.

Posted by: Scott Chaffin at 11:07 PM