April 8, 2009

This Is What Theocracy Looks Like

It gains power through the democratic process by demonizing its opponents -- preferably a small, mostly-invisible "enemy". It blurs the line between civil government and religious ethics, and it wraps itself in the flag while proudly displaying its cross. It makes ridiculous statements and takes advantage of your blubbering disbelief that something so asinine could have just been said to move on and present a call to action. It is doing it, today, in the form of Iowa Congressman Steve King. Quoth Congressman King:
... [I]f we don’t save marriage, we can’t remain pro-life. The values we have we pour through marriage into our children and into the next generation. Our religious values. Our values of faith. Our values. Our work ethic. Our entire culture comes through a man and a woman joined in holy matrimony, being blessed with children and pouring those values into the children and then living vicariously through them as they go off and we are blessed with grandchildren. ...[I]t has been thus since the beginning.
Note the reversion to Biblical language at the end there. The demonization of a small minority came later (although it was hardly necessary):
We have no residency requirement in Iowa law, which means that people can come from all over this country — a man and a man, a woman and a woman — it could be, I suppose, a father and a son or a mother and a daughter. They can come to this state and get married and then go back to the state where they reside. And then what they will do — and this will be a national effort — is file suit in their own state.
See, what people like me don't realize is that gay people only want to get married to their same-sex parents and they're coming to Iowa to do it! To arms, to arms! It makes me wonder if Congressman King even knows any gay people at all. (Come on, he has to. He works with Barney Frank -- who is not married to his own father.) Bear in mind, this guy is probably running for Governor of Iowa in 2010 and no doubt harbors ambitions to end his political career in a slightly off-white house on Pennsylvania Avenue.

It's enough to put me off my food, I tell ya.

The good news is, King was only able to muster about fifty people to listen to this hateful speech. In a state as socially conservative as Iowa that's a good sign. The bad news is that there are still plenty of people out there who seem to have forgotten that "Live and Let Live" is a distinctly American ethic, one we should be proud to espouse.

EDIT: Please read the comments, in which trumwill rightly takes me to task for deviating from the Principle of Charity.


S said...

Wow. Just wow. How did he go from recognizing same-sex couples to legalizing incest? That is an interesting leap of logic.

I think I'm ok with it if Congressman King's values can't be poured through to our children and grandchildren.

trumwill said...

I oppose what King is saying in multiple grounds, but... theocracy? Really? By the guy whose previous post was titled (and drawing attention to) "Hyperbole"?

Supporting or opposing a policy (and saying stupid things) on religious grounds waters the term theocracy down to virtual meaninglessness.

Burt Likko said...

Will, your point about intemperate rhetoric is well-taken and noted here at NAPP HQ. He's using religious code words but you're right, that may not necessarily mean he wants to institute a theocracy so much as simply gather political support using a convenient tool. I'll try to do better next time.

Nevertheless, even when I applying the "principle of charity" to King's remarks, though, I still cannot conceive of any more charitable an explanation for his remarks other than caution with altering social institutions, as an inherent good, so as to avoid unintended negative consequences. And given the wealth of experience that same-sex marriages have caused no discernable social harm in places like Canada, the Netherlands, and Massachusetts, more than sufficient data exists to dispense with caution for caution's sake.

In my mind, that leaves King with no other cover but prejudice, and his blending of political and Biblical rhetoric, combined with his appeal to a religiously-motivated group of Iowans, led me to the conclusion that he was using religious code words to support a prejudiced political policy position. Religious people should be offended that he is manipulating their beliefs this way, and Americans in general should be offended that he is using religion as a tool to restrict individual rights.

trumwill said...

In King's mind, the exploration of one's homosexuality is a bad result in itself. If homosexuality is mainstreamed, more people will ask themselves why they aren't as interested in the opposite sex as their peers. More people will embrace their sexuality. You and I might consider that a good thing, but to him it's not.

That this belief is rooted in his religious beliefs is mostly immaterial, in my mind. A lot of not-particularly-religious people are contemptuous of homosexuality. A lot of people squirm at the sight of it. A lot of people think that making such things more public would be a bad unto itself. And a lot of people believe that to suggest that these "disgusting" relationships are just as valid as their own does adversely affect the institution itself.

I disagree with almost all of that, but the primary opposition here is xenophobia rather than religion. I would even go a step further and say that religion harnesses rather than produces these energies.

Have you read Megan McArdle on the subject of gay marriage? She (tentatively in favor of gay marriage) has a lot of interesting things to say.

Burt Likko said...

I haven't followed her for several months. As I recall, she would applaud Vermont for enacting SSM through the democratic process, because she thinks legislatures are the place to have this issue discussed. I certainly agree that legislatures are a superior forum for that purpose. But I also think courts are there for a reason and one of those reasons is to give unpopular causes a chance to present their claims on the merits.