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Health Care & Environment
09.16 The Health Care Debate We’re Not Having [we need to fully expose and root-out America's profit-obsessed, mafia-like healthcare practices]
09.15 Half of Canada's monitored wildlife is in decline, major study finds [would the Koch brothers like to make a comment?]
09.14 On The Road To Extinction, Maybe It's Not All About Us [all of us—but especially oil & gas companies—need to know the harm and death we've caused to all life as we know it, and we must undo that damage]
09.14 The entrepreneurs turning carbon dioxide into fuels [end-products later burned and polluting aren't helpful]
News Media Matters
US Politics, Policy & 'Culture'
09.19 Gone Baby Gone
09.13 Bernie Sanders unveils universal healthcare bill: 'We will win this struggle' [assuming typical cost-controls and efficiencies, ongoing total savings will be at least a $Trillion per year with government paying a larger portion of over-all costs]
09.17 The Forgotten Victims of Agent Orange [why was there no war crime trial and punishment for this?]
Economics, Crony Capitalism
09.18 GOVERNMENT BY GOLDMAN
09.18 College in the U.S. Is More Expensive Than in Any Other Country in the World [our 'mafia capitalism' is the best in the world!]
09.16 Capitalism and Poverty [as disemployment from automation and offshoring increases the population at risk of poverty will grow, so we'll have to help them or society will become more suicidal and violent]
International & Futurism
09.15 Migrants stuck on endless ferry journey as countries refuse entry [like the Jews on the Voyage of the St. Louis in 1939]
09.15 Moscow flaunts might against fading Isis as it alters balance of power in Syria [endless war cultivates a cavalier attitude]
The Only Winning Way to Fight the Ban on Gay Marriage
Those of us who oppose the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage would be far more effective if we were to become the progressive pro-families movement that sought to advance a “New Bottom Line.”Now that President Bush has endorsed a constitutional amendment banning gay marriages, those who hope to stop it need to understand why their strategies have been so unpersuasive in the past.
Gay and lesbian groups have tried to use the language of “equal rights” as their launching pad for mass support, posing themselves as a victim of discrimination akin to that suffered by African Americans. But while many Americans stand with them in relationship to issues of non-discrimination in hiring or equal rights to visit their partners in hospitals or inherit their partner’s property, they draw the line at marriage.
There are two such concerns. The first is that there is a huge crisis in family life today, and the Right has been able to convince people that the crisis is in part generated by homosexuals. A movement to defend gay rights must address that family crisis.
That’s why the Network of Spiritual Progressives, which recently held a national gathering and teach-in to Congress in D.C. in May to reconstitute a religious left made the first plank of its eight-part Spiritual Covenant with America a commitment to build a world based on love and caring—to counter the ethos of materialism and selfishness that are rooted in the world of work and in the me-firstism and “looking out for number one” that have increasingly become the yardstick of “common sense” in advanced capitalist societies.
All day long people work in corporations that teach them that their own worth is dependent on their ability to contribute to “the bottom line” of maximizing money and power. People quickly learn that their own ability to succeed requires learning how to see other people through a utilitarian or instrumental frame: “how can these others be of use to me in showing the people who have power over my employment that I am going to be useful to them in terms of contributing to their bottom line?” People who spend all day long learning how to use others to maximize their own advantage bring home with them a consciousness that tells them that “everyone is just out for themselves” and that it is self-destructive and irrational not to be a maximizer of self-interest.
It is this way of seeing each other that undermines loving families. Increasingly people make commitments to each other within this kind of utilitarian framework: “I’m with you as long as I think that you are able to satisfy my needs better than anyone else who is likely to want to be my partner or spouse.” Instead of seeing the other as an embodiment of the sacred who deserves to be loved and cherished, the legacy of the old bottom line of the marketplace is to teach us to think in terms of how others will satisfy our own needs, and to discard them if we can ever find someone who wills satisfy yet more of our needs.
No wonder, then, that so many people feel insecure in their families. And the homophobic sections of the Right have then used that insecurity to blame the problem on homosexuals. Yet there is nary a family that has ever broken up because there were homosexuals in the neighborhood.
Those of us who oppose the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage would be far more effective if we were to become the progressive pro-families movement that sought to advance a “New Bottom Line”: corporations, legislation, government practices, social institutions should be judged efficient, rational and productive not only to the extent that they maximize money and power, but also to the extent that they contribute to our capacities to be loving and caring, kind and generous, ethically and ecologically sensitive, and capable of responding to others as embodiments of the sacred and respond to the universe with awe and wonder.
Spiritual progressives could show that this New Bottom Line, when applied to our economic and social institutions, could actually make a difference to families, while no families at risk of break-up will be helped by a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
The state should enforce laws imposing obligations on people who bring children into the world, and it should enforce contracts between consenting adults (civil unions), but it should get out of the business of giving state sanction to what had always been a sacred sacrament.The second objection to gay marriage comes from those who point to marriage as a holy sacrament whose dimensions have for most of human history been set by religious communities. They are correct, and for that very reason marriage ought to be taken out of the state entirely and replaced with civil unions with agreements like other contracts enforced by the state. Let all marriages be conducted in the private realm with no legal sanction by the state, and then those religious communities that oppose gay marriage will not sanction them, and those like mine that do sanction gay marriage will conduct them, and the state will have no say one way or the other, nor any role in issuing marriage certificates or divorces. It will enforce laws imposing obligations on people who bring children into the world, and it will enforce contracts between consenting adults (civil unions), but it will get out of the business of giving state sanction to what had always been a sacred sacrament.
Imagine if we could create a culture of resistance to state power over personal life.This strategy could prove far more powerful. Imagine if we could create a culture of resistance to state power over personal life that led tens of millions of liberal heterosexuals to simply stop using the state's marriage as a legitimator, and instead had spiritual ceremonies (some based in religious communities, others based in secular spiritual communities or friendship circles that affirmed marriage, using their own criteria for who could be married. These couples could then draw up their own legal contracts that were the equivalent of a "civil union" and enforceable by state laws just as any other contract would be. As this movement spread, the power of the state to accept or deny homosexual marriages would become irrelevant, because gays and lesbians would be getting the same kind of marriage as everyone else--the one that heterosexuals were voluntarily getting in order to protect and identify with homosexuals. Within a decade this would create tremendous pressure on the state to either rescind its anti-homosexual legislation or validate this new kind of reality in which most people were not going to the state for marriages but instead going to their own spiritual community to insist that marriage is a sacred and not state-power-dependent relationship.
But of course, in the meantime, with the struggle being waged in the public sphere to explicitly deny homosexuals the rights granted to heterosexuals, there needs to be a powerful movement against those offensive measures. If that struggle focused on the commitment of both hetero and homo sexuals to lead a campaign in defense of the family by challenging the Old Bottom Line and demanding changes in all our institutions to foster in us the capacities of love, caring, etc. that nurture our abilities to be loving, and rejecting the ethos of the marketplace that undermines those capacities, we'd be far more effective than with any struggle that was simply an attempt to demand "equal rights" and frame the struggle entirely in the language of "rights." This approach is far more likely to be a winning strategy for those who wish to beat back the ongoing assault on gay rights.
Rabbi Michael Lerner is editor of Tikkun Magazine, national chair of the Network of Spiritual Progressives (NSP), and author of ten books, most recently: The Left Hand of God: Taking Back our Country from the Religious Right (Harper San Francisco, 2006). He is the Rabbi of Beyt Tikkun synagogue in San Francisco. He may be reached at RabbiLerner@tikkun.org.
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This story was published on June 6, 2006.