08 August, 2004


I dropped my brother off at law school this weekend, Michigan State University in East Lansing - more on that later. On the way back I had fourteen hours of deep conversation with my dad, with the result that a lot of things are tumbling around in my head. Be warned that some of them might tumble out here over the next couple of days.

Anyway, I've been listening to people grumble and hedge for a while regarding this whole "gay marriage" issue. "I support their right to do what they want," People say, "although I don't know if I agree with the whole marriage thing."

I'm slowly coming to the realization that this is a huge point of departure between me and most of my lefty compadres. I have not rejected, and maybe never will reject, marriage as an institution. I've often been dismayed by the fact that I don't know a single bloody person who has a positive outlook on marriage (outside of my conservative Indian friends).

In fact, I really dislike the concept of divorce in general, and it bothers me that so many people around me accept it, or don't feel the need to confront it as a social issue. See, I know what conservatives are talking about when they talk about marriage as the basis of society, and the nuclear family as the fundamental unit of society. I see many movements in the contemporary left attacking that traditional institution, and I find that disturbing. Not because I agree with Christian ideas about the sacred nature of marriage or the like, but because I deeply believe that the social fabric of society is knitted through families.

Many of the politics of the contemporary left are based on ideas of individual liberty and the obligations of society to the individual. But my own politics are, I think, rather more strongly rooted in the duties of individuals to society. This ethic exists in the environmental movement, but it hasn't transmigrated into social theories yet. I find this extremely short-sighted and, well, selfish.

Most people in this country, as far as I can tell, seem to see marriage as self-satisfying. You're forming a partnership with someone you love because you want to find happiness. When it makes you unhappy, you break that partnership, just like you'd terminate any business relationship that's gone sour. The more transient and less committed the marital relationship becomes, the happier it seems to make lefty movements.

This is assanine. Marriage is not about individual happiness or fulfillment. It's about children. It's about raising children. And my god, if the least thing you contribute to this world is raising your children in a decent and responsible way, that's no small achievement.

Children deserve parents. Not just one parent, or even two parents, but many parents. I understand very well that I am a product of my parents. Both of mine are amazing individuals, and had I been brought up by other hands, I would be a lesser person today. And I value their bonds to their own parents and relations, which tied me into a much larger family and indeed a whole other society. That's what makes me Indian - the strength of my family's bonds. That's a huge source of personal strength for me, and I wish to god that other people valued that.

For all our cries for "community" and our railings against alienation, our politics still press inexorably in the direction of individualism. Personal identity, at some point, has to be subsumed to the good of others if a healthy social fabric is to develop. The immediate family, the extended family, the village, the society - they can't hold together if we reject the basic glue that creates them.


You are saying all of the things I am saying and I hear you. I am 56, which means that at your age I was into as liberal a culture as you could get, and I sytill consider myself a bleeding heart liberal, but I am beginning to wonder and ask myself if I instilled enough of a sense of honor and responsibility in my daughter that she could raise her children in a stable family. Of course, she thinks I am disrespectful. she doesn't understand that I am frightened. I have just begun to believe in the value of the nuclear family myself, did I oast it on to her? Did I even believe in the ne3cessity of a nuclear family when she was growing up?

Maybe our society has become narcissistic as a whole, and our whole focus on personal identity is simply a compulsion to justify meeting our own needs constantly 

Posted by Valerie Balavage

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