The Future of Marriage with David Blankenhorn and Jonathan Rauch | On Being.
I’m recommending this program/podcast to everyone I know.
I’ve listened to it twice now, and, whether you care about the definition of marriage, or gay marriage, (or straight marriage, for that matter), I think this program really epitomizes what I would hope we could all aspire to in these highly fractured and fractious times – having a civil conversation, as the title of the 4-part series suggests.
Some key phrases that caught my ear:
“We called what we did achieving disagreement” (David Blankenhorn)
“Marriage, I took for granted. I didn’t know — I don’t think I knew anybody whose parents were divorced.” (David Blankenhorn)
This statement made me smile because, for me, growing up in the 1970s in California, I knew very few families whose parents weren’t divorced!!
Mr. Blankenhorn: “You know, he would — you know, because like he had this — he knew this speech as well as I did. And marriage is the way that connects men to fatherhood because, you know, mothers and their children, there is such a bond between the mother and child. The mother doesn’t need anyone’s permission. The mother doesn’t have to audition for this role. She has it, she claims it, it’s the strongest bond in the human species.”
Ms.Tippett: “She doesn’t get to audition either. She just…” (audience laughter)
Well, this idea really gave me pause. As an adoptive mother, I don’t feel like I am necessarily any more tied to our kids than my husband, and yet, there is a really close bond that I have with our sons, the younger a little more than the older, and yet, this isn’t about biology. And I think it’s very strange that men feel this way – that this man, David Blankenhorn, who is a father, should express this sentiment that basically says to me that his relationship with his own children is one the relies on the institution of marriage.
I also end up thinking about many mothers that I have known, often in a clinical setting, who are no more attached to their children than any absent father. I think there is a false mystification of the unique relationship of the mother with the child (biologic, step-, or adopted).
But, maybe, for both men and women, there are some of us who fall more naturally into the parenting role, and others who don’t. I just don’t know, and I am struggling with this idea…
Mr. Rauch: “Tocqueville wrote about it — ‘Tyranny of the Majority,’ he called it. Something very, very important happened around 2009. The Gallup poll for the first time showed a tie in people saying homosexual relationships were morally acceptable with people saying they were not morally acceptable. And the lines have now crossed. There is now I think it’s like a nine-or 10-point gap of a solid majority of Americans saying it’s OK to be gay. So this is new. This means we’re now the moral majority.
This means the burden of proof is now on the other side. And this means it’s going to be tempting for gay people to press our advantage and try to use the law to make it difficult for people who want to preserve religious traditions that are anti-gay to do so. And we have good reason for that. We have suffered very directly and very concretely and quite often with our lives from religious bigotry. It’s not to say all religion is bigotry. So it is very tempting for us to say let’s drive this out of society altogether. All forms of discrimination, whether religious or not, should be illegal and I’m saying to gay people, no, we’ve got to share the country.”
I love this!! I grew up in an activist progressive household, and the frustration I always had was that our “side”, and that of the “other”, never had a way to meet in the center, because to do so, we’d have to cede a little bit, or maybe a lot. And here, this gay man is saying, let the religious traditions hold their beliefs, even if that might include saying that homosexuality is immoral, or against the will of the Divine. Wow!
There is so much here, and I urge anyone reading my little post to listen to the program, and also to listen to the companion programs in this series: The Next Christians, Pro-Life, Pro-Choice, Pro-Dialogue, Political Bridge People: Restoring Civility to the Debt Discussion (video).
It’s always easier to talk to those with whom we agree on these controversial issues. But, it doesn’t get us anywhere, other than further entrenching our prejudices and biases. Consider reaching across and engaging with the acquaintance that you know that holds the other view. See where it leads.
Near the end of the discussion, Jonathan Rauch makes the following observation:
I think we have a seventh grade class here today. You guys are, what, 12, 13, that kind of thing? … So you guys in high school very soon now and then even more in college are going to start to be confronted with choices about how you’re going to conduct yourself. And you’ll be offered opportunities to write blog posts where knowing very little about stuff you start popping off and insulting people because that’s really easy. … But now and then, you’ll have the opportunity to stop yourself and say, now wait a minute. Suppose I take the other person seriously. Suppose I take seriously the idea that I might be wrong. Suppose I try to inform myself and look at the world from the other person’s point of view.
That is really, really hard, but if you start doing that once or twice in high school, then you’ll do it a little more often in college, and it’ll inflect your life in a very different direction. And it doesn’t take much of that to make a difference, in my opinion.
What a powerful and simple instruction to the future citizens of our nation.