Considering how meaningless marriage has become, I hereby withdraw any opposition I’ve ever had to gay marriage

Playland at the Beach fun houseFor an almost 80 year run that ended only in 1972, Playland at the Beach was San Francisco’s Coney Island.  Beginning in 1928, and subject to a few minor changes over the decades, Playland settled into the form known to City residents through its final days:  it had roller coasters, the camera obscura, a merry-go-round, and the famous Fun House, home of Laughing Sal (who now lives at the Musee Mecanique).

At its peak, Playland was a vital entertainment hub. It was bright and shiny and fun and funny. The roller coasters and the Fun House were state-of-the-art entertainment. The latter boasted a giant barrel roll; rocking, moving floors; air vents to blow up girls’ skirts; long, wavy slides; spinning floors; wavy, distorted mirrors, and all the other accoutrements of 20th century amusement park culture. You can get a sense of Playland’s attractions from this clip from 1973′s Damsel in Distress, featuring Fred Astaire, George Burns, and Grace Allen:

I went to the Fun House several times in the late 1960s and very, very early 1970s. There was still a musty magic to the slides, mirrors, vented floors, and, of course, Laughing Sal, but mostly the Fun House was a drab, depressing place. For starters, it was filthy, clotted with five decades worth of grime, made sticky from a nice Pacific Ocean salt overlay. All of the attractions were rickety. I always had the lowering suspicion that the moving, rocking sidewalk would suddenly buckle, either throwing me into the air or dropping me into some damp, spider-ridden basement.

playlandfunhouse620x618The Fun House’s clientele was no longer made up of a cheerful amalgam of families, young couples, and children old enough to go there on their on. Instead, it was overrun by screaming, usually overwrought children. It wasn’t bright and shiny. It was less Disney and more Lord of the Flies. We children ran around frantically, evidencing a grim determination to have fun in this hallowed San Francisco amusement park, a bleakness captured nicely in the picture to the right, which was taken shortly before the Fun House closed for good.

I was always delighted with the offer of a trip to the Fun House (I really liked the idea of Playland at the Beach), but I was even happier when it was finally time to go home. I invariably left there tired, dirty, overwhelmed, and both depressed and demoralized. The only magic left was the patina of age, which I was too young then to appreciate.

Sara Gilbert And Linda PerryPerhaps because my brain is wired a bit differently, I thought of Playland at the Beach when I saw this headline: “‘Roseanne’ Alum Sara Gilbert, Rocker Linda Perry Wed.” I have no idea who Sara Gilbert and Linda Perry are, so I was unexcited by their wedding (although I naturally wish them many happy years together).

Thinking about it, it occurred to me that, even if I had known who they are, I probably still would have found the headline uninteresting. Looking at the state of modern marriage, I can no longer articulate a good reason to care about other people’s weddings and subsequent married life.

Just as the Playland I knew was a faded, dirty, broken-down relic of its past, barely hinting at its former grandeur, so too is marriage today leached of the meaning that once gave it such preeminence in Western society. Historically, marriage has been an extremely important event, both at the individual and the societal level, controlling as it did sexuality, paternity, and property.

Up until our very modern era, before a girl got married, she was (in theory, at least) a sexually uninitiated child under her parents’ care. Marriage was her entry into the adult world: she left her parents; her faith and her state both encouraged her to have sex (with her husband); and she began producing and raising the next generation. For centuries, even millennia, the wedding was the single most transformative event in every woman’s life. It marked a profound change in her standing in society, from child to woman.

Victorian wedding photoWhile men weren’t necessarily the sexual innocents their wives were supposed to be, marriage was an equally life-changing event for them. They might not have been virgins, but their previous sexual relations were illicit, carried out with prostitutes or lusty widows. Any children that resulted from these relationships were not supposed to be acknowledged. They were bastards without legal rights, and the man’s obligation to care for these children was a personal decision, rather than something mandated by law or religion.

By marrying, the man got unfettered access to sex, with his church’s and his state’s approving imprimatur, and he got children that were presumptively his, with all the legal and moral responsibilities that entailed. The man’s carefree bachelor days were over, and his days of maturity and responsibility began. If he wanted to be assured that his wife’s progeny were indeed his, he’d better be a good husband.

Marriage’s centrality in pre-21st century society wasn’t just about questions of sexuality and paternity unique to heterosexual relationships. It was also an important economic relationship. For rich people, it meant the blending of fortunes or even of nations. For poor people, it meant that the man and woman formed an economic unit, with the man laboring outside of the house to bring in food or goods, and the woman laboring inside the house (and in the garden), to enable the man to work and to do whatever it took to stretch his earnings as far as possible.

In America’s past, a healthy society depended on the marriage partnership. It regularized sexual relations (and paternity issues), creating social stability and slowing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. It also increased men’s economic opportunities, thereby enhancing America’s potential economic growth, which operated to everyone’s benefit.

No wonder marriages were celebrated, not just by the participants, but by society at large. Add in the fact that traditional religions sanctify marriage, elevating it from a social and economic relationship into a covenant before God, and it’s easy to understand marriage’s preeminent position throughout Western history, generally, and American history, specifically.

Nowadays, every one of those reasons for marriage is gone. Sex is unrelated to marriage. Childbearing is controlled by birth control, abortions, and fertility rituals . . . er, fertility treatments. Paternity is determined by genetic tests. Economically, marriage is a good thing, but the state will step in and help the mother and children out if the father decides that all the responsibilities that flow from impregnating a woman are just too burdensome and too little fun. Only people who have a middle class aversion to poverty and welfare enter into marriage for economic reasons. Religions still support marriage’s importance, but many congregants seem more interested in the party than the sacrament.

Sexy wedding dressAnd of course, there’s modern divorce. Marriage isn’t a permanent commitment; it’s a relationship experiment that is easily shucked. It’s a very good thing that we no longer live in a time when only death would part a couple, leaving married people (usually women) at the mercy of abusive, insane, or absent spouses. It’s not so good a thing that we now live in a time when people divorce simply because they’re bored and want the thrill of a new relationship. (And yes, I have known people to divorce for just that reason.)

Modern marriage no longer serves any of its necessary societal functions. It’s a relic, just like the Fun House I knew as a child was a relic. What once was shiny and central to American life has become a peripheral excuse for a frenetic party. The couple standing at the altar have already had sex (with lots of people), they (with financial help from taxpayers and employers) are controlling the woman’s fertility, and they’re making financial decisions irrespective of their marital status. Societal changes, mass media, and the vast wedding industry have ensured that modern American wedding is primarily about the right dress, the beautiful cake, and the most viral wedding video.

All this means that the LGBTQ crowd is arriving at the party when the party’s already over. Looking back on my Fun House experience — high expectations in advance, followed by a disappointing reality when faced with a dusty ghost from the past — I actually feel sorry for those same-sex couples rushing to take part in an event that’s long past its heyday. As a society, we haven’t quite reached the point of Miss Havisham presiding over her long-gone wedding feast, but the decay is setting in.

The end of Playland at the Beach

The end of Playland at the Beach

Modern American marriage has become a form without substance . . . a Fun House without the fun. Given that reality, why should we care that the LGBTQ crowd is flocking to catch the tail-end of the party? Let them have their last dance as the lights dim and the tables are littered with dirty plates and half-filled glasses.

For those Americans who have a religious commitment to marriage, they should go and have that religious ceremony and live their married life in accordance with God’s commandments. And for those Americans who subscribe to the belief that the children’s well-being is best served in a stable, heterosexual relationship, they should get married (in a church, synagogue, temple, or mosque, or before a registrar) and they should stay married for the children’s sake. For everyone else, the caravan has already passed on and it’s probably long past time for the dogs to stop barking.

When it comes to same-sex marriage, the Civil Rights Act cannot trump the First Amendment *UPDATED*

Gay-flowerI find irritating gay marriage supporters’ reliance on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to justify their contention that religious individuals cannot opt out of actively participating in gay marriage ceremonies.  They contend that the Act mandates that (1) a Christian baker, who welcomes gays seeking all other baked goods, must bake a gay-themed wedding cake; (2) a Christian photographer, who would happily take pictures of a gay birthday party, must photograph a gay wedding; (3) a Muslim florist, who would be delighted to sell bouquets to a gay couple, must bedeck a church with flower arrangements for a gay wedding; and (4) an orthodox Jew who owns a small hotel, and who doesn’t quibble at all when same-sex couples check into a room where they have privacy, must host a gay wedding in his reception hall.

I contend that these activists are dead wrong about the scope of the Civil Rights Act.  While, the Civil Rights Act s a virtuous law, it cannot trump the First Amendment.  I’ve made a handy-dandy chart outlining why I believe this to be the case (click on image to enlarge):

Bill of Rights versus Civil Rights Act 1

My usual disclaimer about my views regarding same-sex unions:  It is not semantic quibbling to say that I support civil unions but do not support same-sex marriage. While a religious organization can perform a marriage, it cannot perform a civil union. Civil unions are solely the state’s provenance. Leaving civil unions to the state and marriage to religion perfectly preserves the separation of church and state. (And as always, irony abounds here, because it is the Left that routinely sets up a hullabaloo about even the most minute intersection between church and state.)

If I had my way, I would remove marriage from the government’s vocabulary and make all unions — whether they are heterosexual or same-sex relationships — “civil unions.” States can then promote whatever unions they deem most beneficial for individuals, for children, and for society as a whole, while religious individuals and institutions need not worry that they will be targeted because they hew to the traditional definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman (or women).

People running the entire gamut of the gender-orientation spectrum — as recently defined by Facebook — manifestly believe that it’s important to get the state’s imprimatur on their relationships.  (This makes sense, since most of them are Left-leaning statists, who worship at the Big Government shrine.)  Civil unions joining together various sexual identity configurations (opposite sex, same sex, etc.) would give every American equal access to the benefits and burdens (economic, legal, and social) of a state-sanctioned relationship.  What civil unions would not do is force a direct confrontation between church and state.

The recent Obamacare abortion kerfuffle should warn people that a Progressive government won’t have second thoughts about forcing such a confrontation.  In 2008, when California had its Prop. 8 gay marriage referendum, I first raised my concern that gay marriage would result in a head-on collision between church and state.  A Progressive scoffed at this, telling me that, even though abortions are legal, the government has never gone toe-to-toe with the Catholic Church.  He was taken aback, and had no response, when I pointed out that the Catholic Church doesn’t provide, or withhold, abortions; it simply speaks against them doctrinally.  The Church does, however, marry people, and that leaves open the possibility that a gay couple will sue the church for refusing to perform a marriage service.

Mine was a good argument then, and it’s a better argument now.  With Obamacare, our Progressive-run federal government is forcing religious institutions and organizations be actively complicit in abortion by mandating that they fund abortifacients (and birth control) through “health” insurance.  (It’s “health” insurance, of course, only if the very act of becoming pregnant is a disease — which is funny when you think about it, because feminists in the 1960s and 1970s were outraged at a male patriarchy that treated pregnant women as if they were fragile and sick.)

I welcome your comments regarding this post.

UPDATE:  A lawyer I know commented that the Commerce Clause gives the federal government the power to legislate any type of commerce related activities.  (Sounds like a familiar argument, right?)  My response was a simple one:  The Commerce Clause represents a power that the People granted to the federal government.  The First Amendment represents an right inherent in each individual that the federal government (in theory) may not touch.  It seems to me that, especially when a law is narrowly drawn, the First Amendment, which states the People’s inherent rights, must trump the Commerce Clause, which merely reflects a power the People granted the government under contract.

 

Monday afternoon mish mash

“Monday morning mish mash” would have been more alliterative, but we do what we can.

How corrupt is Lois Lerner and the swamp-like federal system from which she emerged?  This corrupt.

How crazy has the gender obsession at America’s institutions of higher education gotten?  This crazy.

How horrible was the misbegotten Obamacare launch?  This horrible.

Could it be that some Europeans are realizing that socialism is a societal dead-end?  Why, yes it is possible that they are.

Is it possible for you — not “you” collectively, but “you,” the individual reading these words — to change our political culture?  Yes, but it requires some organization and work.

And finally, not a question, but a promise:  If you go into your marriage knowing that marriage isn’t for you, you will be happy.

If there are any questions you’d like to ask, or answers you’d like to give, here’s your Open Thread.

Morning roundup — and Open Thread

My very strong sense is that the shutdown will reveal how much of our federal government is inessential.  I’m not the only one who feels this way.  And no wonder, because the shutdown reveals waste everywhere.  This shouldn’t be a surprise.  Monopolies are invariably poorly managed and unchecked bureaucracies invariably grow.

PowerLine takes on a disgusting piece of revisionist history.  (I’d seen the underlying grotesque revisionism myself, but hadn’t had the time to challenge it.)

When it comes to Obamacare, is the government shutdown both a means and an end?  Buzzfeed thinks that the shutdown on its own, without any specific defunding measures, will damage Obamacare quite badly.  Considering Obamacare’s disastrous first few hours, Buzzfeed may be right.

Even in my most atheist days, I recognized that religion, whether or not there really was a God, is a moral necessity.  Dennis Prager’s challenge to Richard Dawkins hones in on that fact.

Britain’s NHS continues to show us just  how coercive government-run healthcare is.  I’m no fan of smoking, but this type of bullying is sickening.

As we already saw in the Balkans, when it comes to Islam, the call to jihad always trumps all other loyalties.

Obama’s foreign policy in a nutshell — sort of.  I actually think there’s a malevolent consistency running through it, which sees Obama’s hierarchy:  Most favored are Muslim tyrannies; second place to Muslim nations; third place to Leftist tyrannies; fourth place to socialist nations; fifth place to free countries and traditional American allies.

Did I mention bullying somewhere above?  Why, yes I did, in connection with Britain’s NHS.  The fact is, though, that leftists are always bullies, as Christian troops in the American military are discovering to their cost.  The First Amendment promises religious freedom.  America hasn’t always been true to that, as with her attack on Mormon polygamy.  (I hold no brief for polygamy, but it was a core Mormon doctrine.)  There are certainly practices one can quarrel with.  For example, I don’t think the First Amendment should extend to human sacrifice.  To the extent, though, that heterosexual marriage is one of the core doctrinal concepts in all of the world’s religions, and that it reflects biological and reproductive reality, the bullying and coercion from the left is unconscionable.

Arthur Laffer (the repeatedly proven Laffer Curve) and Stephen Moore write Obamanomic’s epitaph.  (And one should add that Obamanomics, which is simply Marxist economics has already been repeatedly proven . . . as a failure.)

This is an open thread, so please add anything you’ve found that’s interesting.

If you think marriage between a Democrat and a Republican is bad…

NPR reports that mixed marriages don’t work.  It’s not talking about mixed race or mixed religion, it’s about mixed politics.  Democrats and Republicans make for bad bedfellows.  What NPR doesn’t discuss is marriages in which one partner has a mid-marriage political conversion.  Believe me when I saw that doing so is as bad, if not worse than, having an affair.

A nice break from politics, as we look at dating today

Today’s young people don’t date.  They hang out.  A relationship is lasting if the couple is still together after a week or two.  Hook-ups (i.e., casual sex) are normative.

Is this a good thing or a bad thing for long-term relationships?  Do people know each other better than they did before or less well?  And where does the wedding fit in when it comes to these New Age lead-ins to marriage?

Good questions all and the Anchoress points to some answers.  As for me, I’ll say only that I think that it’s impossible to have a happy marriage unless it is premised upon mutual respect.  I further believe that, while traditional dating doesn’t guarantee mutual respect, a hook-up, hang-out culture makes that respect even less likely.

Dennis Prager on adultery, character and politics

I happen to think Dennis Prager is right — and I say this as someone who does not have a personal stake in the adultery issue.  I’ve known people who committed adultery because they were obnoxious jerks, and people who committed adultery because it was the only way to survive emotionally in a terrible marriage that nevertheless needed to continue as a marriage.

I’m curious as to what you think.

Ah, the irony of the good marriage gone bad

As you may recall, after I saw the movie Julie and Julia, I wrote a very scathing post about the movie, arguing that it contained completely unnecessary attacks on Republicans.  Long-time blog friend Earl left a thoughtful comment arguing that the movie was redeemed, completely, through its presentation of marriage:

What I LOVED about Julie and Julia, and the reason I’m telling all my friends and relatives to go and see it, was the positive portrayal of marriage…..loving, imperfect, “real”…..especially Julie’s. The “modern”characters each act badly at times, but they realize it and make amends and get back together and do better. They’re truly committed in a way that young people need to see…and self-centered as Julie is (and she REALLY is – but I act a bit like that [ignoring 'most everything in my focus on the immediate] when things get tough at work, so I was cutting her some slack), she “gets it” pretty quickly, and she deletes a mention of the fight from her blog, and really does reach out to her husband when he shows up. “Please be back” just hit me in the solar plexus — she didn’t have to say that, but it communicated everything!

While very much respecting Earl’s viewpoint (and wishing more movies met his standards), I argued that the modern Julie character was so awful the movie made the marriage look more like a martyrdom than a partnership.  This was separate from the fact that Julia Child’s marriage apparently was a true match of adoring equals:

However, I also find that it’s a woman’s movie in that, with the modern Julie character, it says that you can be utterly self-centered and demanding, as long as you cry prettily and express remorse when the chips are down. That Julia’s husband would love her makes sense. Although I found the shrieks and whoops irritating, her lust for life was clearly an attraction. With the Julie character, I just didn’t get it — and maybe that’s because I’m a gal and saw only another in a series of neurotic women. I’m good friends with a lot of neurotic women — heck, I am a neurotic woman — and there’s a fine line between charming and unlovable.

Perhaps because I’m such an aficionado of women’s romance novels, it turns out that my read was probably a more accurate one, if not of the movie, than of the real situation in the real Julie Powell’s life.  You see, Julie has written another book about what happened after fame, and it’s ugly, at least as applies to her and her attitude towards marriage, fidelity and her husband:

But now, in Ms. Powell’s “Cleaving,” two years have passed, and things have changed. Despite her phenomenal literary success, her 10-year marriage to Eric is falling apart. She is having a sado-masochistic affair with “D,” an old flame, whom she ends up stalking. Oh, and she has decided to become a butcher’s apprentice.

[snip]

Ms. Powell juxtaposes the details of her butchering with her obsession with the dreaded “D.” She loves being bruised and roughed up by him. It makes her feel “fierce, strong—emancipated.” How could this be so? “The first time he slapped me across the face, after all, I was bound in trusses I’d given him.” Readers may find such passages disturbing, as they are no doubt meant to be, not least because they echo earlier scenes of humans lethally dominating animals.

The author shows a certain sadistic streak of her own in the way she treats Eric. A tiny detail says it all. Did she really have to write that, when “D,” in one of their trysts, unzips Ms. Powell’s black high-heeled boots, he finds that she is wearing what she calls “stupid argyle socks,” adding “Eric’s socks, actually”?

I continue to applaud Earl’s belief that marriage is neither a sleaze-fest nor a relationship of impossible perfection, both of which are normative for Hollywood movies.  I wish that Hollywood would portray the ordinary tensions of truly loving matches.  And while it might have touched upon that in Julie and Julia, there’s no doubt that the real Julie’s narcissism made such a relationship impossible to sustain.

For once, it really is about the children

(This is the first in what I hope will be a series of very civil essays examining marriage.  Suek got me started with this idea based on a comment she wrote saying that, well, we need to figure out what marriage is all about.  Planned future essays will involve separating the religious aspect of marriage from the civil strand, examining polygamy and polyandry, the effect of feminism on marriage, the Hollywood culture and marriage, and, possibly, the economic benefits that flow from marriage.

I am not writing these posts to oppose gay marriage.  I am writing them because I still want to do what the courts have prevented me from doing:  I want to take a good, analytical look at our social institutions and determine how proposed changes will affect them.  The changes may be good, bad or neutral.

Please do not take this post as an opportunity to engage in attacks against gays or even against gay marriage.  On the other hand, please do use this post as an opportunity to give your views about the core nature of marriage in American society.)

Long-time readers know that I tend to be suspicious of Democratic initiatives that start off with something being “about the children.” Illegal immigration should be allowed because it’s about the children of illegal immigrants. The corollary is that deporting illegal immigrants should be disallowed because it’s about the children of illegal immigrants. Socialized medicine should be created because it’s about the children.

For every Democratic initiative, children are the wedge. If you’re against the Democratic viewpoint, you’re obviously a monster who is against children. This is not reasoned argument. This is emotion-based demonization of the political opposition, and I don’t like.

Some things, however, really are about the children, because children are central to the issue. I’ve been worried — not adamantly opposed to, but worried — about gay marriage because I’m unclear whether its existence, which takes marriage away from its procreative function, will affect the children.

I’m no fool, of course. I know that not all heterosexual marriages result in children. Heck, I don’t even know if half of the heterosexual marriages end in children. However, I’m firmly convinced that the heart of marriage, going back into the dim recesses of pre-recorded time, is about a man’s ability to recognize his own children without a DNA test.

Marriage, regardless of the society or the time in which it was created, either gives the man an assurance that the child from his wife’s body is in fact his, or it forces him to accept that child as his (placing on him the burden to police his wife’s access to or desire for other men). This worldwide, time-long societal construct, which has men either know that a child is actually theirs or be forced to pretend that it is, places on men an overriding obligation to provide for that child, so that the state doesn’t have to.

The socialist state, of course, flips that pattern on its head, by substituting the State for the father. (Just the father, not the mother, because of the direct biological connection of pregnancy, childbirth and lactation.)  We’ve now seen “the socialist state as father” play out three times, and none of the results have been pretty.

In America, the test case for socialized fathering, starting in the 1960s, was the African-American community. Up until social workers with the welfare state actively convinced African-Americans that they’d do better to place their faith in government than in African-American men, the community was making great strides. Despite racism in the North and Jim Crow in the South, black families were nuclear and were seeing solid economic progress. Crime rates were only slightly higher than among white families who were similarly situated economically.

Thus, while life in a very- to semi-racist country was not easy, it was getting better. What changed all that was the Nanny State. Well-intentioned social workers, trained in Marxist doctrines of reallocation of wealth, poured into the black communities, and bullied, cajoled and blackmailed families into applying for welfare. And the deal with welfare was that you got more of this “free” money if (a) there was no bread winner and (b) you kept having children. Being economically reasonable people, the women kicked their men out and kept having babies. And being equally reasonable, the men got free sex and no responsibility. Sounds good.

Except it wasn’t good. It was awful. It turns out that men aren’t useful just to bring in the money. Instead, it’s actually very positive to have them around, serving as a role model of male maturity for both boys and girls. Children need those models. And if they’re absent, they’ll start seeking them wherever there is an alpha male. In the ghettos, sadly, that alpha male was likely to be the corner drug dealer or the gang banger — and the latter could hang around being tough because he didn’t have to work to bring home the bacon for his one wife and his children.

As to that latter point — his children — the situation worsened as the women started having children by multiple fathers. When a mom does that, no one father has an interest in providing for that family, since he knows that, even though he may earmark funds for his child, those same funds will inevitably benefit the other man’s (men’s) children as well. In any event, the Nanny state provides, absolving him of all responsibility.

What happened to African-Americans was not some fluke, unique to America. Precisely the same thing happened in England, as Tom Bethell details in an article that discusses myriad areas in which Britain — which has traveled quite far down the path on which Obama wishes to place America — has collapsed. It’s a long and excellent article, with a lengthy discussion about the effect the welfare state has on families.  I’m going to quote from that section at some length here, since it so precisely parallels what we in America, with our “Great Society,” did to blacks:

The ruling-class embrace of semi-capitalism has brought about the rise in prosperity, but this has been accompanied by mounting social chaos. One of the main indicators is the rise of family breakdown (or non-formation) and out-of-wedlock childbearing. The key enabler of this change has been the transfer of tens of billions of pounds to fatherless households. Only a society wealthy enough to collect and redistribute revenue on this scale can sustain widespread illegitimacy. Without the tolerance of wealth-creation, redistribution on this scale would not have been possible. Traditional families and moral standards were undermined in consequence.

Melanie Phillips, a Daily Mail columnist and a refugee from the left (formerly she was with the Guardian newspaper), wrote recently that the “overclass” has “deliberately and wickedly created over the years a legal and welfare engine of mass fatherlessness and child abandonment, resulting in a degraded and dependent underclass and a lengthening toll of human wreckage.”

A couple of sensational crime stories were in the headlines when I was there, illuminating this “welfare engine of mass fatherlessness.” The rot beneath the surface became conspicuous.

One involved a 15-year-old girl named Scarlett whose hippie mother had taken her to the drug infested beaches of Goa, a former Portuguese colony on the coast of India. The mother then headed off to other Indian beaches with her other children, leaving Scarlett behind. A few days later the young girl was raped and murdered on the Goan beach.

The amazing part of the story was that the mother had nine children by five men, lives in two trailers in Devon, and receives government “benefit” (welfare) for each child, adding up to about $50,000 a year. Having saved about $14,000, she was able to take eight of her children on a six-month holiday to India, and return, sadly, with seven of them.

The mother was shocked to find that the Goan police seemed to be protecting the guilty parties, but then (when the tabloids got hold of the story and ran with it) was even more shocked to find that, instead of being regarded sympathetically, a few residual bluenoses and moralists in England viewed her conduct with some opprobrium.

The second case involved a nine-year-old girl called Shannon who was reported missing by her mother and then found, 24 days later, hiding in the house of one of her numerous step relatives. She may have wanted to escape from the chaos at home, but one of her step-relations was charged with kidnapping. Shannon’s mother, it turned out, had seven children by five different men. The shocking detail in her case was that she referred to Shannon and another of her children, born a year earlier, as “twins.” She actually thought that they were twins because they had the same father.

The truth is that decades of intervention by social engineers who either do not understand the importance of fatherhood and family, or, more likely, think they ought to be undermined, is reducing British society to something barely recognizable.

As for Scarlett’s mother, her “whole lifestyle has been one from which the words responsibility or judgment have been excluded,” Melanie Phillips commented. People have been increasingly encouraged to think “they have an absolute right to live exactly as they want without anyone passing judgment on them.” Further, “our deeply irresponsible overclass has put rocket fuel behind the exponential growth [of broken family life] through tax and welfare incentives.”

Now we have an “N” of two, both showing the devastation the Nanny state creates when it makes fathers superfluous, whether in African-American communities or traditional white British communities.  Let’s add a third “N” — this time, the whole of Europe (h/t:  Danny Lemieux):

There is one marital breakdown and one abortion in Europe almost every 30 seconds, a report that claims to chart the collapse of family life said yesterday.

In a survey of life in the 27 European Union countries, the Institute for Family Policy said that pensioners now outnumbered teenagers, and more people were living alone.

The report, The Evolution of the Family in Europe 2008, which was unveiled in the European Parliament in Brussels, described the European birth rate as “critical”.

It said that almost one million fewer babies were born in the 27 EU countries last year than in 1980. There were six million more over65s than under14s in Europe last year, against 36 million more children than pensioners in 1980.

The institute said: “Europe is now an elderly continent.” Almost one in every five pregnancies ends in abortion. The marriage rate fell by 24 per cent between 1980 and 2006. Two out of three households have no children, and nearly 28 per cent of households contain only one person.

The report urges national governments to set up a ministry for the family.

That’s kind of “N” squared, isn’t it?  Family hasn’t just been damaged, it’s been destroyed entirely.  With the government inserting itself as a wedge between man and woman (essentially by emasculating men), and with its ability to infantalize both men and women by making it unnecessary for them ever to grow up and take responsibility either for themselves or for another, Europe has simply disintegrated entirely.  It’s citizens are no longer capable of or interested in fulfilling their primary biological functions.

I want to see marriage restored to preeminence in America, not just because I’m a stubborn reactionary, but because I think it’s an absolutely necessary thing for a high functioning society, with a thriving “next” generation.  If gay marriage will reignite the excitement about marriage for everyone, then I think gay marriage is a good thing.  However, if it devalues marriage, I have a problem.

Fundamentally, I’m a pragmatist, and I don’t think marriage is about true love (which should be available to all), or financial benefits (which should be available to all who wish to partner permanently in a society), or about registration at Williams-Sonoma (which should definitely be available to all).  Marriage should be about children:  having them and raising them in a way that is best for them and best for the larger society.  (Incidentally, as a pragmatist, if gay marriage is a wash, neither helping nor harming a fatally wounded institution, I also think citizens, not courts, should be in favor of it.)

Marriage is not an individual right

Marriage is not, and never has been, a personal right.  In Western society, it operates at two levels.  First, it functions at a religious level.  This is a deeply personal level, because in every religion, marriage is, or is equivalent to, a sacrament.  In America, you have the Constitutional right to be married in the church of your choice — if the church doctrine allows your type of marriage to be performed.  A further Constitutional right is that the state cannot force a church to change its doctrine to accommodate your desires.

Second, marriage functions at a state level.  The state has an interest in encouraging marriage because a dynamic state needs a growing population, and the best way to assure that is to have men marry women and have babies.  (Even polygamy has that point behind it:  in ancient times and primitive cultures, with excessively high maternal and child mortality rates, you wanted to ensure that as many women as possible are breeding.  Polygamy advances that cause with a vengeance.)  Married men are also a more stable population:  they are more likely to defend, rather than attack, the home front, because they have acknowledged children to protect.  (You see, marriage means that a man knows who his children are.)

To advance the benefit it receives from married couples — increased children, and a stable male population invested in protecting the country — states create marriage incentives.  They embrace religions that advance marriage and they give financial incentives and status recognition.  These perks are not for the individual’s benefit or freedom; they are for the state’s benefit and strength.

The problem arises when people conflate the deeply personal nature of the religious marriage ritual with the highly political nature of the state’s interest in productive heterosexual marriage.  When this happens, they suddenly start babbling about personal rights in and from the state where none existed before.

The state can, of course, determine that its interest is served by any marriage and that encouraging gay couples to settle down will advance some state interest.  But when I say “the state can,” I really mean that, in a democratic society, “the voters of the state can” determine that it is in their collective interest to extend to all comers the right to a state sanctioned marriage.  The one thing that should never happen is that judges, to advance their own personal biases, create a personal right where none has ever existed before.

Two further points regarding this issue.  First, read Stuart Taylor’s excellent explanation of why the California Supreme Court decision was a strikingly dishonest piece of judicial activism.

Second, if this judicial activism offends you, vote for John McCain.  And don’t fall into the trap of thinking that, because only liberal justices are old enough to leave the Court, Obama won’t be able to harm the Supreme Court if he’s elected for four, or even eight years.  Bad things happen.  It is entirely possible, although God forbid it should be so, that right in the middle of the Obama presidency, Roberts, Scalia, Alito and Thomas could all drop dead from freak accidents or illnesses.  Even if that happens to only one of them (again, God forbid), Obama will have the ability to change the Court in ways that will certainly affect the Court into your grandchildren’s lifetimes, and possibly change the separation of powers forever.