Richard Cohen: narcissist or bigot?: Update: Special return engagement!

Posted: December 23, 2008 in Uncategorized
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Special UPDATE: With the return of Gay Marriage as a big issue I’m bumping this post from my first month of blogging to the top. I think the points within concerning Gay Marriage are just as valid two years later and as the blog was only a month old it got very little play. So I present my blast from the past, my very first post on the subject of Gay Marriage.

I’m am constantly amazed at the lack of memory in this country, it might have to do with the lack of knowledge of history in this country. As evidence I quote Richard Cohen today:

“I’m opposed to redefinition of a 5,000-year definition of marriage,” Warren told Beliefnet.com’s Steve Waldman. “I’m opposed to having a brother and sister being together and calling that marriage. I’m opposed to an older guy marrying a child and calling that marriage. I’m opposed to one guy having multiple wives and calling that marriage.”

Waldman asked, “Do you think those are equivalent to gays getting married?”

“Oh, I do,” said Warren.

There you have the thinking of the man Obama has chosen above all other religious figures to represent him in this most solemn moment.

Lets cut to the chase; under 10 years ago that statement would not be very controversial except with maybe Andrew Sullivan. 20 years ago that statement would not be controversial at all.

Now maybe the picture on the Washington Post web site is deceptive but the gray hairs suggest that Mr. Cohen is a tad older than me. I would assume he has some memory of events before the year 2000 and perhaps even before then. Lets look at a little history:

It was only in 1993 that the Hawaii Supreme court in Baehr v. Lewin ruled that the state had to show a compelling interest in denying the “right” of same sex marriage.

It was in 1996 that the Defense of Marriage Act passed congress by a vote of 342-67 in the house and 85-14 in the Senate. At the time I recall people were saying how this was a waste of time as Gay marriage was not on the horizon.

Less than a decade ago Vermont didn’t even have civil unions. (The law took effect in 2000) and that law was proceeded by a court ruling to force it. At the time it was said by supporters that it wouldn’t lead to gay marriage and anyone who said so was an alarmist.

It was only through a 4-3 court ruling in 2003 and the strenuous efforts of the Massachusetts legislature to block a vote by the people that allowed Gay Marriage to take place here. (Funny when it comes to the budget or lowering taxes or solving problems they never seem to make that same effort). But the law is under 5 years old.

Again in Connecticut gay marriage has only taken place due to a court ruling and currently in California it is only through the courts and first overruling a law voted on by the people and the current attempt to overrule a constitutional amendment passed by the people.

This is cultural change at breakneck speed. I will go as far as to say that it would have been an impossibility to have a clergyman who publicly SUPPORTED gay marriage give the invocation before the year 2000 and in 2004 if John Kerry had won it would have been an incredibly controversial decision.

I’m 45 years old and I’ve always been a news junkie. I must have been the only kid in town to watch the impeachment hearings of Nixon in awe. I don’t recall any of our liberal stalwarts during the 70’s or the 80’s and VERY few in the 90’s (and then only in the late 90’s) argue for gay marriage.

Apparently by Mr. Cohen standards all of the people who lived in those days were cowards and bigots. Jimmy Carter must have been a coward and a bigot, Reagan, Clinton, Johnson. FDR and yes even JFK and RFK must have been the worst kind of bigots. JFK junior must have been one, Sam Rayburn, Barbara Jordan, Earl Warren and Martin Luther King bigots all.

Lets not leave reporters out of it. Mr. Cohen must believe that Huntey, Brinkley, Bradlee, Cronkite , Rather, Reasoner, Murrow et all must have all been a bunch of bigots or cowards as they never brought it up when they could have.

Now lets look at Mr. Cohen in particular. I’m sure his sister is a nice lady and I’m equally sure he loves her very much. According to his column today his sister has been in her current relationship since 1989.

I don’t recall a single column by Mr. Cohen pre 1990 supporting gay marriage. I was unable to find online a column of his supporting it pre 2000. Mr. Cohen has been according to the Washington Post a columnist since 1976 and a reporter since 1968 when I was 5.

Despite his love and respect for his gay sister he never wrote in favor of gay marriage until very late. Where was his voice when people were bringing this to court shopping for a win? By his own words and standards he condemns himself as a bigot at worst or a coward at best.

My standard is of a different sort. Mr. Cohen is not a bigot, he is a joiner. The Gay marriage movement has all the trimmings of both a pop fad and a political movement by a loud group of elite people with money and clout; no different than the eugenics movements in the last century. I suspect beyond the core set of true believers the support is actually very thin. It is what the “enlightened” and “right” type of people support to show how good and tolerant they are. It allows people to feel good about themselves without actually doing anything. It keep them safe from that most dreaded charge of bigotry. In short it is an exercise in narcissism.

This is a republic. If the people who support gay marriage can move enough of the public in the individual states or on a national level to support it in an actual vote then the more power to them. That is how a republic works. With the media’s help they are well on their way to doing so, but let the people vote for it and if you win, you win. If your argument holds water it should be capable of doing so and you should be able to make that argument stick.

Personally on a religious level I can’t support gay marriage but this is not a valid argument for a non-religious person. On a non-religious level it seems to me you can not rationally say that gay marriage is ok and should be legal without also allowing either polygamy and incest between consenting adults. Both have a longer and more accepted cultural history worldwide.

And PLEASE don’t give me the “ick” factor argument about these other things being accepted. Ick is just an argument about culture. It is the same argument that one would have heard concerning gay marriage less that 20 years ago. It is particularly galling when gay people are subject to state sponsored murder in places like Iran and ick is invoked beside Islam.

Cohen is correct on his statement that sooner or later President Elect Obama will have to actually stand for something. It’s an argument that he didn’t make prior to the election much. (boy that sounds familiar) but this bigot business is a crock. Considering the actions of the supporters of gay marriage in California post election being called a bigot by them would be a badge of honor.

If you want an example of someone who gets it right read Debra Saunders today:

Warren did say, “I’m opposed to the re-definition of a 5,000 year definition of marriage. I’m opposed to a having brother and sister be together and call that a marriage. I’m opposed to an older guy marrying a child and calling that a marriage. I’m opposed to one guy having multiple wives and calling that a marriage.”

Is that equating same-sex marriage with incest and pedophilia? If it you want it to, sure. Or you could see the quote as proof that Warren holds traditional religious views — and cut the guy some slack.

You know, show tolerance while seeking tolerance.

Instead, many critics have chosen to brand Warren as a “hater” and a “bigot” — words that fire up the base and alienate everyone else. They are sending the message that anyone who dares speak as Warren did — except Obama, of course — runs the risk of being tarred and feathered, 2008-style. Think Scott Eckern, who resigned as artistic director to spare the California Music Theatre in Sacramento from a boycott threatened because of his $1,000 donation to the Yes on Prop. 8 campaign.

I suppose the Warren critics could argue that gays and lesbians simply want the same rights as others; that this is a big country, with room enough for the traditionally devout and same-sex couples.

Except groups like the Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force do not want to make room for people like Rick Warren. They want him muzzled and out of the picture.

Or you can look at Melissa Etheridge on the other side of the argument than me making sense:

Maybe in our anger, as we consider marches and boycotts, perhaps we can consider stretching out our hands. Maybe instead of marching on his church, we can show up en mass and volunteer for one of the many organizations affiliated with his church that work for HIV/AIDS causes all around the world.

The real problem here is the use of the “angry mob” to move people. The thing about using the angry mob approach is you never know when that mob will turn, just ask Robespierre.

Update: The Pirates cove gets it.

So does Dan Riehl.

The reclusive leftist’s guest poster gets it on the Obama part, but unlike Mr. Cohen has the virtue of consistency. They have a different primary argument against Rev Warren.

Full disclosure, I have a soft spot for the Reclusive leftist. She is a very liberal and we disagree on a lot but she is honest, consistent, usually makes her case well, and is not afraid of opinions she disagrees with. In short she strikes me as honorable. It’s one of the liberal blogs that I read regularly.

Another update: The Anchoress speaks of warren and as usual makes sense

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