“And, ultimately, same sex-marriage is not true.”
That “not true” has been nagging at my mind since I quoted it in my last column. Brian Brown of the antigay National Organzation of Marriage (NOM) uttered those words.
Nothing is “not true” about two people wanting to join together as a family.
Does Brown consider the marriages of little girls sold by their impoverished parents to older men to be “true”?
Probably not, even in Brown’s cosmology, but if pushed, his answer summarily would be reduced to this tautology: “My definition of marriage is true.”
Over the last couple of weeks, in my reading, I’ve run across several historical examples of the same reasoning used by the wealthy and powerful to minimize and subdue others.
Lyndall Gordon’s Lives Like Loaded Guns, which explores the dysfunctional, litigious family of poet Emily Dickinson (1830-89), is one example.
In Letters to a Young Lady, Reverend John Bennett admonished Dickinson: “A passion for poetry is dangerous for a woman.”
Dickinson’s friend, publisher Josiah Gilbert Holland, posited, “The genuine classics of every language [are] the work of men and not of women….women could not create ‘the permanent treasures of literature.’”
The poetess, thus circumscribed, was both an invalid and invalid.
I also read that Mary Dyer was hanged in Boston in 1660 for refusing to acknowledge the “true” religion. She held Quaker beliefs, which the Puritans, who themselves had fled religious intolerance in England, could not tolerate.
Brown believes: “If gay marriage is allowed, then the state is essentially saying that my views on marriage…are equivalent to discrimination….”
Similarly, the Puritans thought: “If there be Quakers, Congregationalists are devalued.”
What the Puritans—like Brown, like 19th-Century publishers, like many others—used as a strategy was preemptive devaluation. Invalidate the seekers, render them nugatory, and fortify the power of your own beliefs at their diminished expense.
It is imperative to examine the words of the world’s Browns. Invalidation is a psychological and sociological “sending to Coventry” that can be used to deny the existing rights enjoyed by other Americans. It opens the door to legislation that would withdraw rights their target already possesses.
In knowledge is strength—and a warning that our arguments must be crafted and executed as carefully as Brown’s already are.