May 21st, 2012

humped zebra

A Jekyll and Hyde kind of day

I scooted over to Wilderstead yesterday afternoon to try to get my tractor fixed. It wasn't a cakewalk, but I did get my new ignition installed. I put the battery in, and tried to fire it up. Nothing. I put my battery booster on it, and the glow plug worked. The driveshaft spun, but I didn't get the engine to catch. Not enough power.

The good news was that I had hooked everything up correctly and that it wanted to work. So I got out my generator and hooked the battery booster up to it for a few hours. In the morning, I tried again. Still couldn't get the engine to catch. I need to get a legitimate battery charger, which means I'm going to have to spend some serious money. But, as I said, the tractor works.

I did some other chores out in the holler this morning. It was lovely. A beautiful day. A pleasure to just be there. As I was finishing up lunch, I heard a *gobblegobblegobble* outside. I went to the window and saw a huge Tom turkey strutting up the road past the cabin. I locked up and headed for home, utterly at peace with the world.

At home, I opened up my e-mail and started to catch the weirdness being thrown at me. Got some major stressors for this weekend coming up that have to be dealt with. Other people are all needing responses from me RIGHT NOW on various things. Sheesh. I shoulda stayed out in the woods.

Oh, well. Get 'er done. No way out but straight ahead.

What value tradition?

My apologies to those who may think I'm beating a dead horse. But I think we need to think about this from every angle, instead of just buying into the arguments presented to us by those who just want what they want and think we're bigots for not giving it to them.

Those in favor of gay marriage believe that those of us who hold the traditional view are "on the wrong side of history." Maybe so, but history's a funny thing. When we point out that no major society -- ever -- has given full recognition to homosexual marriages (however much they may have turned a blind eye to gay sexual relationships), we are told, so what? And when we invoke the slippery slope argument, that as soon as we legalize gay marriage, we'll be asked to legalize something else, they say we're just setting up straw men. But here's the thing. Gay marriage is entirely new -- but there are a lot of marriage arrangements that we discarded in favor of the (more or less) Christian model of marriage, which were once perfectly legal and could be again.

1. Polygamy. Having more than one wife is perfectly legal in many parts of the world. It goes on in this country, even if it's illegal everywhere. The US Congress refused to make Utah a State so long as the LDS Church practiced polygamy, and the newly-revised eternal truth showed up right on schedule. I doubt that that would be the big deal now that it was then. Those advocating the incorporation of parts of Sharia law into Western law codes are already figuring out how to accommodate plural marriage. Of course, being the open-minded types that we "progressive" people are, I suppose that polygamy (plural wives) is too old-fashioned. We will eventually be asked (I know those asking for it now) to affirm polyandry (plural husbands) and polyamory (any number of persons of either sex in a marriage).

2. Concubinage. Many societies have made possible having more than one legal relationship at a time by declaring one to be "marriage" and the other(s) something else. In the early 19th Century -- even after incorporation into the USA -- the Creoles of New Orleans practiced a form of concubinage. Wealthy white men married white wives to provide heirs, and also contracted stable relationships (including legally enforceable transfers of property, etc.) with mixed-race women called placees. During the social season, these men would divide their time between white balls and colored balls, hosting both their women and spending time with both their families. It was called "the custom of the country."

3. Child marriage. The age of marriage has fluctuated a bit over our society's legal history. Once arranged marriages fell out of fashion, the prospective partners had to be of age to consent to the relationship. This has usually meant that you had to be at least a teenager to get married legally, though some have gotten married very young. I have a friend whose grandmother was married on her fourteenth birthday. Jerry Lee Lewis married his cousin when she was thirteen, though that became a public scandal. Nor are we just talking about two very young people getting married. Lots of very young women married fairly old men in the late 19th Century when the first Civil War veterans' pensions were offered. Suddenly, the old guys had a lot to offer the sweet young things. My great-grandfather, Civil War veteran Zechariah T. Pulliam, was older than his father-in-law. (By all accounts, my great-grandparents were very happy together.) There's nothing magic about the age of consent. Once you decide that we can redefine marriage any way we want, it's all about who wants an outcome the most and how many votes they can scrape up. And a lot of the bold, crisp lines we've drawn to protect the young become very faint and fuzzy.

Tradition doesn't just mean "old." It means also, what has been shown to work. But other things used to work, too; we just didn't find that they fit into the kind of society we were trying to be. We didn't magic our "traditional" view of marriage out of nothing, but we dropped some things along the way, emphasized this a bit more than that. We evolved, to borrow a phrase from somebody. But remember, if we're going to ignore the wisdom of tradition because we think it doesn't matter, then there will be no argument that will hold water when somebody presents one of these old arrangements as something "new" and greatly desired by VOTERS.