I received a survey from the Republican National Committee (RNC) yesterday asking me for my opinion about the Defense of Marriage Act. I was a Bush Republican (note the past tense) before I reverted to being the independent that I usually am. Somehow, the Bush American identity agenda of the Class-of-Mayflower-and-all-else did not sit well with me even though I generally agree with Republican politics. I did not become a Democrat because the Obama identity agenda of black-white-brown multilingual, multiculturalism was not comfortable either. I felt that the United States was experiencing an identity crisis after 9/11. Somehow, the country seemed to have forgotten its Constitution. Had I had more choices in the Republican survey, I would have responded that the country needs a Defense of Constitution Act.
The nation’s first president George Washington’s Farewell Address is a seminal document in defense of the Constitution, in both its word and spirit. The word is reflective of his times but the spirit foreshadows the future. The speech is an ode to non-partisanship. Today, the country is everything but partisanship, down to neighborhoods, let alone Washington.
In wanting a Constitutional amendment to enshrine marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman, the Congress is sacrificing principle for a sense of social comfort, unable to do anything about social stigma. The long tradition of seminal leadership that characterized the country since Washington’s emancipation of his slaves in his will to the Civil War, women’s rights and Civil Rights is retracting back into the shell of preserving a perceived sense of social stability by catering to a view rigid social order: the white, red, black and yellow America of 1776 is now black and white. The First Amendment religiosity is now Christian. The rights of the demographically marginal homosexual Americans are de facto acceptable, but not de jure until the experimentation in the states converges onto Washington. And the country is now supposed to have begun in 1620 on 11/9 rather than after the Revolutionary War that spanned from 1763 to 1783. Little is Washington realizing, in its zeal for ideology, that there is another revolution underway that could perhaps last just as long as the first one to remake the country for returning it back to its aspiration for civilizational transcendentalism through individual liberty. This disconnect is what is troublesome.
The government should have nothing to do with marriage, neither its defense nor its makeup ― gay or straight or multiracial or multicultural or multilingual. Marriage is an ancient social custom, the oldest social institution that is as old as ancient tribalism after the birth of settled human communities by river banks. Legally, all modern marriages are civil unions giving certain privileges and rights to those declared married under the law, the modern American legal tradition being a normative scientific derivative of ancient tribal and religious laws, based in the belief enshrined in the Declaration of Independence that all are created equal and are therefore entitled to equal justice under law. Both the letter and the spirit of this tradition would be dispensing injustice, not justice, if some Americans are denied equal rights to not only cohabit but also to serve their country in the military or politically engage solely based on social preferences which have been subject to the winds change since the dawn of history.
This same mentality extends to other social preferences, effectively disenfranchising all those who do not fit the prevalent view of what the society must look and feel like. The preferences for social texture could compromise the Constitution itself. The law becomes a fig leaf, not an agent of justice. Individual rights are sacrificed on the altar of group politics, preferences, social heuristics and insecurities determined by demographics. Rights become legal technicalities rather than products of common sense. The very spirit of the American Revolution becomes undermined by socially opportunistic politics.
The expression of social preferences is not the same as their political expression through the exercise of power to per force mold individuals, trumping their liberty, to de facto social preferences. Preferences are individual: for oneself. Not for projection onto others lives.
Citizens of the United States make the Constitution and the law and fight for its interpretation. And we should all also learn to live by the laws we have made, because the only recourse is to change the Constitution and the law, not to not follow it as a matter of social or political preference.