Tuesday, February 24, 2004

The Ghost of Edmund Ruffin

Andrew Sullivan is absolutely blistering about the President's proposed "Fag Amendment" ban on gay marriage. And he's absolutely right. This is a farce. This is not why we have a Constitution. It's an insult to the integrity of that document. You don't have to be a fan of gay marriage to support the integrity of the Constitution.

I hope this is just Bush playing to the base, with a plan he has no intention of really pursuing. But even if that's the case, it's cheap, cruel, and frittering away another chance to bring the country toward dialogue and away from internal confrontation. And it's frittering away me. I've been supporting the administration almost entirely based on foreign policy. The domestic side is pretty dreadful.

I've been impressed by the photos from San Francisco. Average people, dressed in tuxedos and wedding gowns, or business suits, or jeans and flannel shirts, lining up to get a simple piece of paper that validates their emotional attachments. Who is harmed by that? Images like that, if they have enough time to seep into the public consciousness, will change more minds than any argument, however logical.

25th. (Christmas-day). To church in the morning, and there saw a wedding in the church, which I have not seen many a day; and the young people so merry one with another, and strange to see what delight we married people have to these poor fools decoyed into our condition, every man and woman gazing and smiling at them. [Samuel Pepys, Diary, December 25, 1665]

The Santorum objection -- that allowing gays to marry with lead to a slippery slope of condoned bestiality and paedophilia -- seems to be easily answered by defining marriage/civil union (on the state level) as a contract between consenting adults. The other objection I can see is to San Francisco's flouting of state law; a bit of "nullification" on an odd modern context. The ghost of Edmund Ruffin walks Castro Street at midnight. Civil disobedience isn't the answer to every bad law, but this one, again, seems to harm no one.

It irks me to read that the GOP pulled this wedge issue stunt "to appeal to conservatives." One of the core definitions of a conservative is someone who has a strong respect for the Constitution as it was written, and one who tends to support state's rights. This amendment proposal is poison to them.

Passing on "The Passion"

I have no intention of seeing Mel Gibson's big-budget Aramaic snuff film, but some things can be noted even without seeing the movie. The debate among critics and pundits about whether Gibson "took liberties" with the Gospel is amusing. It shows how Americans still have few clues about the book that many of them revere above the law and common sense.

Just turning the New Testament into a narrative involves gross liberties taken. There are four versions of the story. Each one is different from the others. In some places one or two agree, but in key places they give four different versions of events. To pick one, the writer has to ignore the majority.

There are variant readings of all those gospels, some of them very ancient.

Gibson may use Latin or Aramaic in his dialogue, but the gospels were written in Greek, including most of the dialogue. To figure out what anyone said, you'd have to guess which word of Latin or Aramaic was translated into which word of Greek.