My friend and former colleague, the wonderfully incisive Juan Benito, wrote to me recently about an essay written by the science fiction author Orson Scott Card (asterisks mine):
I want to go on the record as saying that I've always thought Ender's Game was a great short sci-fi story for children, stretched to novel length, and that everything else Card has written is crap.
I also want to go on record as saying that when I met Card, although it was not politic to say so at the time, I thought him to be an insufferably arrogant f**ktard. This confirms my intuition:
I wish I had the time for a point-by-point rebuttal of his seriously medieval views, so I had to settle for the pithy summation "f**ktard," which is my current fave epithet of denigration. It should be noted that a person's political views should not necessarily impugn their artistic credibility, but in this happy case Card's views are as stunted as his fiction.
Card's "medieval views" -- medieval
being a good one-word summary -- are on same-sex marriage. From his essay:
Humpty Dumpty Logic
The Massachusetts Supreme Court has not yet declared that "day" shall now be construed to include that which was formerly known as "night," but it might as well.
By declaring that homosexual couples are denied their constitutional rights by being forbidden to "marry," it is treading on the same ground.
Do you want to know whose constitutional rights are being violated? Everybody's. Because no constitution in the United States has ever granted the courts the right to make vast, sweeping changes in the law to reform society...
Pardon me? Did Card actually say that? So is he saying that the Supreme Court didn't have the right to issue its decision in Brown v. Board of Education
? Going back further, is Card saying that Marbury v. Madison
was an illegal and invalid decision -- that the Supreme Court doesn't have the right to interpret the Constitution and strike down laws it sees as un-Constitutional? If the answer is "yes," then he's out of step with 198 years of jurisprudence. If the answer is "no," then he himself disclaims one of the required bases for his own argument.
Regardless of their opinion of homosexual "marriage," every American who believes in democracy should be outraged that any court should take it upon itself to dictate such a social innovation without recourse to democratic process.
And we all know the course this thing will follow. Anyone who opposes this edict will be branded a bigot; any schoolchild who questions the legitimacy of homosexual marriage will be expelled for "hate speech." The fanatical Left will insist that anyone who upholds the fundamental meaning that marriage has always had, everywhere, until this generation, is a "homophobe" and therefore mentally ill...
This is too easy. Just pretend it's 1955 and substitute "interracial" for "homosexual" and "racist" for "homophobe."
In the first place, no law in any state in the United States now or ever has forbidden homosexuals to marry. The law has never asked that a man prove his heterosexuality in order to marry a woman, or a woman hers in order to marry a man.
Any homosexual man who can persuade a woman to take him as her husband can avail himself of all the rights of husbandhood under the law. And, in fact, many homosexual men have done precisely that, without any legal prejudice at all.
Ditto with lesbian women. Many have married men and borne children. And while a fair number of such marriages in recent years have ended in divorce, there are many that have not.
So it is a flat lie to say that homosexuals are deprived of any civil right pertaining to marriage. To get those civil rights, all homosexuals have to do is find someone of the opposite sex willing to join them in marriage...
This is so nonsensical, it's amusing. Card to gays: "You can marry! Just not each other! What's the problem?" Does he actually believe
[N]ot only are two sexes required in order to conceive children, children also learn their sex-role expectations from the parents in their own family. This is precisely what large segments of the Left would like to see break down. And if it is found to have unpleasant results, they will, as always, insist that the cure is to break down the family even further...
See "herring, red." No one of whom I am aware -- no one
-- wants to see "sex-role expectations... break down." Speaking honestly, I hope my children grow up to be heterosexual. For one thing, I'm selfish, and I'd like to have grandchildren to dote upon. For another, it's still difficult to be gay in this country, with Card's troglodytic comments Exhibit #1. But should any of my children grow up to be gay, I will still love them just the same, care for them just the same, and want for them exactly the same rights as their straight peers -- including the right to marry the person they love.
Of course, in our current society we are two generations into the systematic destruction of the institution of marriage. In my childhood, it was rare to know someone whose parents were divorced; now, it seems almost as rare to find someone whose parents have never been divorced.
And a growing number of children grow up in partial families not because of divorce, but because there never was a marriage at all.
The damage caused to children by divorce and illegitimate birth is obvious and devastating...
This is like the old joke about Microsoft technical support: it's technically correct but has nothing to do with the original question. Card is right that the institution of marriage has broken down over the last few generations. Does he blame gays for this? No, that would be too
intellectually dishonest, even for this essay. Instead, he seems to be drawing a line in the sand: "It's too late to turn back the clock on the causes of the breakdown of the nuclear family, but by God, we can stop gays from marrying." And that will accomplish what again?
[S]ociety has a vital stake in child-rearing; and children have a vital stake in society.
Monogamous marriage is by far the most effective foundation for a civilization. It provides most males an opportunity to mate (polygamous systems always result in surplus males that have no reproductive stake in society); it provides most females an opportunity to have a mate who is exclusively devoted to her. Those who are successful in mating are the ones who will have the strongest loyalty to the social order; so the system that provides reproductive success to the largest number is the system that will be most likely to keep a civilization alive.
Ah, here we're getting to it. Monogamous heterosexual marriage, "the system that provides reproductive success to the largest number," is "the ystem that will be most likely to keep a civilization alive." So marriage is about procreation. Okay. I can see that.
Wait a minute, though. We let people who can't have children marry. If the core of Card's argument is that same-sex marriage detracts from procreation, then shouldn't we outlaw any marriage in which the participants can't procreate? If, say, a sterile man marries a fertile woman, that man has just removed a potentially child-bearing woman from the pool of women available to be fertilized. Clearly this detracts from procreation. If a still-fertile man marries a post-menopausal woman, that woman has just removed a potentially child-creating man from the pool of men available to fertilize women.
Calling a homosexual contract "marriage" does not make it reproductively relevant and will not make it contribute in any meaningful way to the propagation of civilization.
Card can't be more clear than he is here. Marriages that are not "reproductively relevant," that "don't contribute in any meaningful way to the propagation of civilization," aren't marriages at all. Tell that to every couple who can't have children, Card. Go ahead. If you can't, then your intellectual dishonesty is staggering. If you can, then your heartlessness is beyond measure.
In fact, it will do harm. Nowhere near as much harm as we have already done through divorce and out-of-wedlock childbearing. But it's another nail in the coffin. Maybe the last nail, precisely because it is the most obvious and outrageous attack on what is left of marriage in America...
This is actually surprisingly honest. Card says that same-sex marriage won't do as much "harm" as divorce and out-of-wedlock childbearing. So if he wants to outlaw same-sex marriage, then clearly he must also want to prohibit divorce and criminalize out-of-wedlock births. Right? Right?
Card goes on to dismiss the genetic basis of homosexuality. I'll leave it to others to dissect that particular argument.
If parents stop transmitting the culture of the American elite to their children, and actively resist letting the schools and media do it in their place, then that culture will disappear.
If America becomes a place where the laws of the nation declare that marriage no longer exists -- which is what the Massachusetts decision actually does -- then our allegiance to America will become zero. We will transfer our allegiance to a society that does protect marriage.
We will teach our children to have no loyalty to the culture of the American elite, and will instead teach them to be loyal to a competing culture that upholds the family. Whether we home school our kids or not, we will withdraw them at an early age from any sense of belonging to contemporary American culture...
The barbarians think that if they grab hold of the trunk of the tree, they've caught the birds in the branches. But the birds can fly to another tree.
And I don't mean that civilized Americans will move. I mean that they'll simply stop regarding the authority of the government as having any legitimacy...
If Card and his like-minded friends go down this path, they'll find themselves in the same place as people who think the government has no right to levy income taxes, or no right to tell them they can't own and use any weapon they want, no matter how destructive: in jail.
It is the most morally conservative portion of society that is most successful in raising children who believe in loyalty and oath-keeping and self-control and self-sacrifice.
And we're tired of being subject to barbarian rules and laws that fight against our civilized values. We're not interested in risking our children's lives to defend a nation that does not defend us.
Who do you think is volunteering for the military to defend America against our enemies? Those who believe in the teachings of politically correct college professors? Or those who believe in the traditional values that the politically correct elite has been so successful in destroying?
This is a great question. Let's see:
- President George W. Bush: Served in the Texas Air National Guard.
- Vice-President Richard Cheney: No military service.
- Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert: No military service.
- House Majority Leader Tom DeLay: No military service.
- Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist: No military service.
What about those "politically correct elite"?
- Former Vice-President and 2000 Democratic Presidential nominee Al Gore: Volunteered and served in Vietnam.
- Senator and probable 2004 Democratic Presidential nominee John Kerry: Volunteered and served in Vietnam. Received the Silver Star and Bronze Star for bravery. Received three Purple Hearts for wounds suffered in combat.
Okay, I'll bite: who do I "think is volunteering for the military to defend America against our enemies?" I'd say it's the "politically correct elite."
By the way, since by Card's standards, I'm "politically correct" (though not "elite"), I suppose I should point out that I served in the US Army from 1980-84. I was fortunate enough not to see combat. As for Card, since by his own standards, he is one of those who "believe in traditional values," as far as I can tell, he never served in the military.
My friend Juan is right. Card's views are "medieval." But that would be okay if they were logically consistent and intellectually honest. They're neither.
[Disclaimer: I, too, once met Card, in 1997, when I was a principal at a game development firm and I went to meet him to discuss the possibility of collaborating on a game based on one of his books.]