In the recent public hysteria about marriage equality following Obama’s off-the-cuff endorsement, we’ve heard repeated complaints from the religious side of the fence that marriage is an institution ordained by their God, to be run a certain way (i.e. 1 man + 1 woman), and that the evil permissive secularists are ruining it by trying to redefine it so that just anyone can do it. Now, the Christian Right is, of course, claiming Christian ownership of marriage as a concept, though I’m sure they’d magnanimously agree that of course non-Christians can do it too, as long as it all stays properly traditional and heterosexual.
It’s at times like these that it’s interesting to note how the supposed idyll of “traditional” marriage isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and that in religious communities, circumstances can really go pear-shaped when you’re dealing with controlling, narcissistic men who’ve bought into the patriarchalism idea with open arms.
Which, of course, leads me to my old bete noire, Yomin Postelnik. For those of you relatively new to the blog, here’s the short history: Yomin is a Jewish blogger and wannabe politician from Florida whom I angered about four years ago, when I posted a scathing beatdown of an article he had posted on some right-wing Canadian website purporting to prove God’s existence. I admit that my big mouth can often get away from me, and I just let him and his bad arguments have it.
He discovered my post, and things looked like a mildly interesting flame war was going to roast for a while. But then Yomin bizarrely leveled up, and began slinking around the web, making edits to my Wikipedia entry as well as posting on such venues as the RD.net’s old forum, saying things about me that crossed the line from the usual flaming and trolling into actual, legal defamation. I think the child molestation accusation was where I decided enough was enough, and I actually had my attorney file a libel and defamation suit. I later withdrew it on his advice once it was clear just how beyond the pale a personality Yomin was. The lesson I took from all this (though I admit it didn’t really cause me to reel in my tongue altogether) is that online, you never can tell if the person you’ve just blasted with both barrels is really right in the head. You could, one day, just piss off the wrong guy.
Though I know of no formal diagnosis, I’m convinced (as are Tracie and Jen and those who were present as this whole thing was unfolding) that Yomin may have, at the very least, narcissistic personality disorder. As Wikipedia describes the symptoms, people with NPD “have such an elevated sense of self-worth that they value themselves as inherently better than others. Yet, they have a fragile self-esteem and cannot handle criticism, and will often try to compensate for this inner fragility by belittling or disparaging others in an attempt to validate their own self-worth.” Yomin basically responded to a single blog post of mine by waging a six-month campaign of online harassment, including starting no fewer than three separate blogs dedicated solely to smearing me. Overreact much?
After everything had blown over, I was dismayed to find out late in 2010 that Yomin had been arrested on a charge of misdemeanor domestic battery.
Tracie opined that this was probably not the first such event in Yomin’s marriage, but might finally have just been the one where his wife decided enough was enough, and got the law involved. Based on my brief and not at all pleasant experience with the man, I can see how it might have unfolded, taking possible NPD on Yomin’s part into account. He had just run an embarrassingly inept campaign for the Florida State House (really, he did that), in which he alienated the GOP voter base with many of the same bizarre behaviors I saw him exhibit firsthand, like sock-puppeting on numerous comment threads to make it appear he had a slew of enthusiastic supporters. He garnered 6% of the vote. His need to fulfill his self-image of A Very Important Person (part of his campaign platform was to oppose pretty much anything Obama did, which was a little outside the purview of a state representative) was not coming to fruition. More and more, he found it harder to fill the gap between who he is and who he wants to be with his fantasies. Already a person unable to face criticism, he lashed out at the one person present in his life for that purpose. Again, I know none of the above for a fact, but personal experience tells me he’s the kind of man for whom this is not an unrealistic possible scenario.
Anyway, Yomin and his wife eventually got a civil divorce, but here’s the catch. They are practicing Orthodox Jews. Under Jewish rabbinical law, Yomin is supposed to sign a get, formalizing the divorce in Jewish courts and allowing his wife to remarry. And this he has steadfastly refused to do, despite repeated orders from rabbinical courts. The narcissist must maintain control at all times. As the DSM IV-TR describes it, those with NPD have “a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations.”
Things have now gotten so bad that the Beth Din of America, one of the top rabbinical courts in the country, has issued a Shtar Seruv against Yomin, which is basically a contempt order. This obliges members of the Jewish community to shun Yomin until he comes to his senses and complies with the court order to sign the get. He’s now an unperson to his own people. And he still won’t budge. In fact, he has rather stunningly said — in quintessentially un-self-aware Yominish fashion — that he’ll only sign the get if his wife agrees to get counseling, conveniently choosing not to remember that he was the one arrested for beating her. One stalwart rabbi has taken to social media, to keep the pressure on Yomin with humiliating tweets. It’s all just a sad and absurd spectacle. And he’s not the only one. Apparently, Jewish husbands refusing to sign a get for their wives is a widespread problem.
So what’s any of this got to do with marriage equality? Well, as is my wont, I’ll finally get to it here in my windy and roundabout way.
Gay couples aren’t any more perfect than anyone else. They’re comprised of people, and people can be emotional and messy, with problems they often don’t know how to deal with. But they are people. Yet they’re being told they’re unworthy of the exalted right of marriage, for reasons entirely to do with religious disapproval of their sexual orientation. Wholesome, traditional marriages would be devalued by allowing gays and lesbians the privilege.
But I look at all the ludicrous spectacle in the marriages of the straight (or at least straight-for-the-cameras) and godly, and I facepalm at the cluelessness that it never occurs to them that anything they do could devalue the institution of marriage. I see Ted Haggard, and Jim and Tammy Faye. I see Newt Gingrich, serial adulterer. I see men like Yomin, casually treating their wives as possessions, not even bending in their recalcitrance despite the threat of ostracizing from the only real community to which they can belong. I see all this lunacy, and I marvel that none of it is ever seen as mocking the very institution of marriage.
And yet, two people who deeply want a marriage commitment, and the chance to share their lives together with the same legal rights and protections as the rest of us, are told they cannot, because they are of the same gender, and to even think that they could is destructive to the very idea of marriage, even (according to Kirk Cameron) to the very bedrock of civilization itself.
Madness. It’s all just madness, chaos and disorder.
Addendum: As I look over the blog by Rabbi Goldberg, I notice salient passages (that I have highlighted in bold) that demonstrate Yomin is exactly the same person who engages in exactly the same behaviors as he did in 2008. I feel my informal diagnosis of NPD is more and more confirmed, the more I read about him. Sad, disturbing, and probably dangerous. (Though I am not unsympathetic to critics who say Goldberg overstepped a line by trying to pressure Yomin by contacting his employer. In short, religious peoples, dey crazy.)
Leah came to me asking for help feeling abandoned by the Jewish community who have expressed no outrage and offered little to no help or support as she suffers in this limbo status and is tortured by a manipulative man. I began by contacting Yomin and gently and without judgment, offered to help coordinate the giving of the get as per the Beis Din’s instructions. Suffice it to say my offer, both on voice mail and in email, was not only rejected, but Yomin began a campaign to malign and defame me, including emails to our Congressman and others.
The ex-wife began her testimony, and within minutes, the husband was interrupting her with cries of “Shut up, shut up!” Having sat on dozens of Dinei Torah, it was the first time I had ever witnessed such a breach of decorum and simple decency. When I insisted the husband stop – he would have the right to respond when his turn to testify came – he unleashed his venom upon me: “Shut up, you pig! Shut up, you punk! Shut up, you fool!”
Seriously. Holy fuck.