So to source
Glenn Greenwald's column in The
the other day, " The
gay marriage snowball and political change
," makes an important point about
how the growing momentum of the movement for same-sex marriage rights
demonstrates that change, even radical and rapid change, is possible. No matter what the outcome of the present Supreme
Court deliberations, we have already witnessed an extraordinary, and
extraordinarily rapid, change in social ideology, as well as legal and
institutional practices. As Greenwald says: "It's conventional wisdom that
national gay marriage
inevitable; the tipping point has clearly been reached . "
It really is a
bit shocking how quickly gay marriage transformed from being a fringe,
politically toxic position just a few years ago to a virtual piety that must be
affirmed in decent company."
For Greenwald, this dramatic cultural and political reversal is an
object lesson against defeatism, showing that "
even the most
ossified biases and entrenched institutional injustices can be subverted - if
the necessary passion and will are summoned and the right strategies found." And a true and good point that is.
Greenwald, for whom this issue is a matter of personal as well as
social injustice, also recognizes that acceptance of same-sex marriage has "one
could say ... been more institution-affirming than institution-subverting."
As well as "revitalize[ing] a
traditional institution - marriage - that heterosexuals have been in the
process of killing with whimsical weddings, impetuous divorces, and serial new
spouses," it's a change that "tak[es] a once marginalized and culturally
independent community and fully integrat[es] it into mainstream society, thus
making that community invested in conventional societal institutions." And, he recognizes, same-sex marriage does
not "threaten entrenched ruling interests: "undermine oligarchs, the National
Security State, or the wildly unequal distribution of financial and political
power." As Greenwald understands, same-sex marriage's fundamental non-challenge
to oligarchy and imperialism is among the reasons that "gay Americans and their
close supporters were able to assemble substantial financial and political
clout (a redundancy) that remains unavailable to opponents of other types of
I think Greenwald shares my hope that everyone who supports, as I
do, the right of everyone to love and marry whomever they want, will be equally
persistent in speaking up and fighting
for change that will make our society one where no one lives in poverty,
homelessness, and healthcare penury, and one which does not impose on select
children and other living things around the world a cowering fear of the next
bomb falling on their heads, or the next bulldozer crushing their homes,
because they happen to be the kind of people who displease the Exceptional
American Imperial Gods.
Let's start simply. Everyone in the decent company for whom gay
marriage is now a virtual piety might, for example, advance their thoroughgoing
concern for human rights by taking up the challenge
posed by Andy Thayer
of Chicago's Gay Liberation Network, and support -- with
their voices and bodies and dollars -- the cause of Bradley Manning, a young gay
man whose struggles with his emerging gay identity both helped him to see and
act against injustice and aggression perpetrated by his own country, and have
been used by his own country to subtly pathologize his actions. Bradley Manning is a young gay man who, at
least as much as prospective gay husbands, is standing up for the human rights
of everyone, and for the right of all citizens to know what kind of crimes
their government has got them involved in.
He is arguably "the most important whistle-blower of our era, a gay man"
standing up to a "Justice Department that has prosecuted more whistle-blowers
than the combined total of every [previous] President." For his impertinence he
has been subject to "sexually humiliating torture " tinged in homophobia," and
indicted under charges that carry the death penalty. As Thayer points out: "[U]nlike
any number of air-head celebrities, he's actually done something to support
social justice, rather than mined charitable causes for personal fame and
I'm sure that Glenn Greenwald, who has written
about the man, would agree that Bradley Manning's cause, among others, is one
that deserves the full support of all the proponents of gay marriage rights as
a color in the rainbow of human rights.
It's a great place for the couples who are winning their rightful place
in conventional societal institutions to carry on the fight for righteous and courageous
whistleblowers to be protected from somewhat more oppressive societal institutions,
and a great place for everyone who has been posting red squares on their
Facebook profile to demonstrate their commitment to the full spectrum of human
and political rights, even in ways that may not be as welcome today in decent
company. (Especially if "decent" means "Democratic,"
since -- let's face it -- supporting Bradley Manning and what he stands for means
his persecutors and what
they are doing.)
So, by all means, let's take Greenwald's point, and summon "the necessary
passion and will" to make some more of the changes we need -- changes that are
going to have to be at least as radical and rapid.
I admit being quite skeptical that the wave of support that's gone
from progressives and liberals to moderate Republicans for same-sex marriage rights
will snowball into an avalanche of passionate commitment among any of these
groups to changing other egregious social ideologies and practices that have become,
if anything, more firmly embedded in the American psyche over the past dozen
years, creating a truly sulfurous political landscape. One has only to look at
what Greenwald identifies, in his
own previous column
, as the "ugly mindset " that leads the US public to
support more than a decade of US killing and rights abridgments aimed primarily
at Muslims, including their fellow citizens" -- a mindset that has been ignored
(i.e., implicitly accepted), and sometimes explicitly defended, by many prominent
liberals and progressives.
So I carry a sense of how slim the prospects are at the moment for
building the kind of momentum that can sweep away all that, even as I fully
endorse Greenwald's rejection of defeatism. We must hold to the truth that "radical,
positive, and relatively fast political change is always possible, no matter
how formidable the obstacles seem."
Former college professor, native and denizen of New York City. Blogging at www.thepolemicist.net, aiming to be intellectually rigorous, politically challenging, and occasionally snarky, from a left-socialist perspective.
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