Nothing Personal, Santorum

We all know Rick Santorum, that laughable twit
The existence of gays gets him in such a snit
On marriage and sex and relationships queer,
He’s made himself famous for stirring up fear
If you aren’t straight, then his stance is quite clear:
You deserve but a sneer and a jeer and a smear.

For years up in Congress, this served him quite well
Back then, bashing gays was a guaranteed sell
To whip up your base in a grand frothy mix,
Despising the queers was the greatest of tricks
“They’re a threat to us all!” Nothing more need be said,
Before riding to victory on dark waves of dread.

So you’d think, indispensable as this trick was,
It consistently keeps all the voters abuzz
Yet this was not to be, to our shock and surprise
For it seems the electorate opened their eyes
No more can Santorum turn hate into clout
The wedge has been blunted – the froth has run out!

And now our friend Rick finds himself quite harassed,
For he’s dogged by his history, stuck in the past
As he strains to catch up, he may soon be outclassed
In a world where, for once, bigots might come in last.

He’s jumped into this year’s Republican mire
To be our dear leader, Santorum aspires
But the hateful cliches he once called solid ground
Will not be enough to make him the one crowned.

At campaign stops all over, poor Rick has been chased
By his own phobic stain that just won’t be erased
In South Carolina, it came down the wire,
A supporter had asked him a question most dire
This mother was cheering for Rick all the way –
But what would she say to her son who is gay?

Standing right at his side, his wife Karen piped in
To tell us how “vilified” Rick has now been
By dastardly activists gay as a blade,
Who are “bullying” him for his righteous crusade
He “doesn’t hate anyone,” Karen opined,
Then Rick himself gave us a piece of his mind:

It’s mere “policy difference,” and it’s not his fault
If we think that’s “personal” or an “assault”
He “loves everyone”, Rick Santorum insists,
It’s just that gay marriages shouldn’t exist
“Accept everybody,” that’s what he’s “called to”
So this hullabaloo is undue and untrue.

Such hate and revulsion, he’s clearly above,
But let’s see how Santorum has shown us his love…

Back in 2003, in an AP report,
His remarks were of such a remarkable sort
Addressing gay marriage, that bane of his life,
He insists matrimony must be man and wife
“It’s not man on child,” the senator said,
It’s not “man on dog” – no, not even purebred.

Presumably also it’s not man on frog,
It’s not man on building, it’s not man on bog,
It’s not man on tree, man on tripe, man on tram,
And it’s certainly not man on green eggs and ham
So whatever the case, mill or mare or Manx cat,
It can only be woman and man, and that’s that.

And further, he said with his mouth tinged in foam,
There’s no right to consensual sex in your home
Against sodomy laws, there can be no sound case
If you’re gay, don’t have sex! And remember your place,
Right next to the barnyard and NAMBLA’s home base.

So I guess that’s the “policy difference” of Rick
He says that’s not personal? I say: You dick!
Perhaps you forgot that we’re people with lives,
We’re partners, we’re families, we’re husbands, we’re wives
We even have children to raise in this land,
And so we will not stand to live under your hand!

But I’m sure we’re alright – no, we’re not in poor shape
If our whole country thinks we’re as bad as child rape
And I’m certain you really do like us, of course,
When you say that our love is like sex with a horse
If people should ever believe what you say,
What effect could that possibly have on my day?

And what would you think if I said, with a smile,
“I love you, you rapist! I love you, zoophile!”
Would that seem sincere and resoundingly true?
It doesn’t sound much better coming from you.

So let’s all take pity on poor bullied Rick,
Who thinks we’re no better than screwing a tick
Poor vilified homophobe, Christian and straight,
And legally married in all fifty states
He loves everyone! So call off the attack,
I’m sure you’re all making him feel quite blah.

A napkin is not an argument: Deconstructing Santorum

I really hate it when I have to make someone’s own argument for them. Simply being wrong is one thing – at least this can be handled directly. But if you’re so unintelligible that we all have to try and reconstruct what you meant before we can reply, that’s just laziness. Yes, I’m looking at you, Rick Santorum.

Over the past month, the former senator has deployed an increasingly bizarre series of analogies in an attempt to explain why marriage should be reserved for heterosexual couples. The typical structure of his argument involves claiming that a certain thing is not another different thing, and that this thing will remain what it is regardless of what anyone calls it. To illustrate this, he’s pointed out at various times that a napkin is not a paper towel, a glass of water is not a glass of beer, a tree is not a car, and a cup of tea is not a basketball.

What are the implications of this? Santorum insists that the essence of marriage is not something that can be changed, indicating that he seems to envision marriage as some kind of untouchable abstract concept that exists independently of humans and their opinions. In other words, marriage is something that’s between a man and a woman, regardless of how we choose to define it. As an argument in favor of his position, this is almost entirely devoid of substance. If the question is why marriage should consist of a man and a woman, his answer is only a restatement of this claim: that marriage consists of a man and a woman. All the talk about napkins and beer is just an attempt to make such a simple assertion seem more meaningful than it really is.

Even if marriage did exist as some concrete and unchanging entity in the space of abstract ideas, this still doesn’t make that particular definition binding on us in terms of how we treat marriage in a legal, social, and practical sense. In reality, marriage is a complex and detailed phenomenon, and we’re in charge of how we choose to manage this regardless of any static metaphysical definitions of what marriage is. In practice, marriage is whatever we designate as marriage. And if we were beholden to this supposed Platonic form of straight-only marriage, what’s to stop us from simply developing some kind of inclusive super-marriage that encompasses a variety of marital relationships? Marriage could remain as whatever Santorum claims it is, but that doesn’t mean we have to incorporate this particular concept into how we regard people’s intimate relationships.

Of course, this is not the only component of his argument. As he sees it, marriage must be between a man and a woman because it provides a benefit to both partners, serves the purpose of raising children, offers stability to the family, and contributes to society as a whole. While this is at least more informative than merely claiming that marriage is inherently heterosexual, none of these elements of marriage are exclusive to straight people. It makes no sense to say that only heterosexual couples could possibly benefit from marriage, or have children to take care of, or require stability, or contribute to their community. If gay couples serve the very same role as straight couples, why wouldn’t they be included under this definition of marriage? A napkin may not be a paper towel, but the corollary to this is that a napkin is indeed a napkin.

Santorum contends that any departure from a heterosexual ideal of marriage would then legitimize marriages that are polygamous or incestuous in nature. But this is equally applicable to his own argument. If this limited definition of marriage is supposed to preclude the possibility of any other such marriages being recognized, why would another limited definition that includes gay couples be unable to do the same? And if another exclusive definition that goes no further than encompassing gay and straight couples would somehow open the door to incest and polygamy, how is his own definition any more capable of preventing this?

Marriages of an incestuous or polygamous nature have taken place throughout history, and these marriages still happened regardless of his Platonic marital ideal. Clearly, they were also not the result of same-sex marriage being recognized. Widespread disapproval of homosexuality did nothing to stop people from committing incest and polygamy. As Rick Santorum would say, if two people can get married, then why not three people, or 10 people?

In light of this, it’s plain to see that his heterosexual definition of marriage does not occupy some privileged position in terms of its ability to prevent any such additional unions. So what grounds does he have to demand this from a standard of marriage that includes gay couples? If incest and polygamy are what he objects to, then he can make an argument against incest and polygamy. But an argument against incest and polygamy is not an argument against gay marriage. And it’s also not a napkin.

Yep, you’re a bigot!

Nowadays, one of the most common arguments made by opponents of gay marriage is that they would be considered bigots if gay marriage is legal. The National Organization for Marriage gets a lot of mileage out of the claim that children will be taught that their parents are bigoted, and people of faith will be seen as discriminatory. Recently, former senator Rick Santorum got into an argument with a high school student, where he complained:

I had Piers Morgan call me a bigot – because I believe what the Catholic Church teaches with respect to homosexuality, I’m a bigot. So now I’m a bigot, because I believe what the Bible teaches – now, 2000 years of teaching and moral theology is now bigoted.

Well, yeah! That’s because it is. This fatuous argument reveals two important things about Mr. Santorum and other anti-gay Christians. First, they’re much more concerned about being perceived as bigots than whether they might actually be bigoted. Second, they are unable to conceive of any kind of moral progress that could be inconvenient to their positions or contrary to a particular faith. The sheer self-absorption of this mindset is breathtaking. Imagine if any other prejudice were defended with such an argument. How seriously would we take the protests of white racists that they would be seen as bigots because of integration? How much would we care about the complaints of men that they would be considered bigoted if women are allowed to vote?

It’s plain to see that the discomfort that bigoted people may have with their bigotry being recognized does nothing to change the fact that it is still bigotry. And the idea that we should accommodate their preferred self-perception by continuing to deny equal rights to the targets of their bigotry is so brazenly narcissistic it defies all comprehension. You are not that important! If you have to put up with being seen as bigoted so that people can finally receive their equality under the law, then you’ll just have to deal with it. It’s too bad you got the short end of the stick on this one, but if every hint of moral realization and social change was immediately quashed because some people want to be assured that they’ll always be in the right, there would never be any kind of progress.

And no, your religion does not have the power to legitimize bigotry. Bigoted beliefs do not become excusable just because a church or a book endorses them. You don’t get a pass on bigotry by claiming that a god agrees with you. People came up with the very same justifications for all kinds of prejudice. It changes nothing. Like it or not, your religion will evolve. It might deny this, it might lag behind, but religions are dragged along with the moral climate of society at large. The Catholic Church doesn’t hold trials of alleged witches anymore. Mormon leaders decided that God changed his mind about allowing black people to be ordained. And some day, you will have to face the reality that your 2,000 years of moral theology are helpless next to a moment of moral reflection.

By focusing only on the legal aspects as the key factor in whether or not they’re considered bigots, they’ve failed to understand that this is just a symptom of ongoing social progress. We already see them as bigots, and that’s the very reason why the legal standing of gay people is now a point of contention. The moral validity of anti-gay prejudice has been cast into doubt, and homophobia is no longer regarded as an unquestionable constant of our society. Fighting this on a legal front is just trying to close the barn door after the horse is long gone. It’s not going to stop anyone from seeing you for exactly what you are. And no law, whether earthly or divine, will change that. The only one who can keep you from being a bigot is yourself.