I was thinking about the arguments by Cavell, and realized that the frustration with “not being able to tell”, or know with certainty, that shows up when you try to define your way into Truth, was related to some other frustrations, particularly at the intersection of conservative religion and modern mores:
“Marriage equality threatens traditional marriage in the same way that abolishing slavery made freedom less enjoyable for white people” — Michael Shiller [for all I know, this quote is out of context; I’m still running with it]
Where’s that threat, exactly? It comes from taking away a previously-percieved pathway to Goodness and Certainty-of-Ones-Goodness. When you can claim that being straight makes you a better or more blessed person, people who happen to be straight have an automatic Goodness boost. Similarly, if you pray every morning that it’s just ducky that you were born into a particular faith, or born in a particular gender, you’re celebrating something that seems to just be natural for you….but you’ve chosen to count it as a Certainty bonus. I’m Good and, in fact, Better than those people, and I can say this with confidence because I am straight and male and in x splendid tradition.
Funny how people who claim to view the Biblical texts about there being “neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female” as inerrant seem to forget how threatening those lines really are. You _don’t_ get to claim that you’re special because of a cultural or gender status.
The step to saying “and you don’t get bonus points for being straight, either” is really not that far, but apparently is so much more threatening [well, maybe because the admonishment from the previous paragraph is conveniently ignored most of the time ;-)]. You don’t get to be confident of your Good status just because you made sure you only love one variety of human being.
Nor do you get to tell your children they are Good because they are following those instructions and damned if they don’t [I almost wrote ‘damed’ there, due to a finger injury that’s making typing a little tricky this week. Hah…]. Goodness is both easier and harder than making injunctions. I remember talking with a man at church one Sunday who was absolutely furious that Martin Luther King might be celebrated as a prophetic voice in our times, when, Dr. King had maybe not been a perfect scholar or husband [please note: I am not starting a debate about these claims; I’m just relaying why this parishioner said he was upset]. The upshot of the complaint, though, was “Why did I bother putting so much effort into staying on the straight and narrow when someone who _does_ seem to stray gets seen as Good?!!! This is unfair!”
Oh, the tragedy of ‘wasted’ effort. Arguments of waste are deeply powerful: we send more young people into the breach insisting that we can’t let the last batch of soldiers “die in vain”. So we spend more lives, as if the first lives lost were not sacred enough on their own. We hate the loss, we hate fearing that we might lose more, we hate thinking we will lose face if we don’t do something, something BIG in order to “take a stand” and …and yet….. At some point, when we run out of Certainty, we have to find some other way. Maybe a way that was willfully ignored because it looked messy, impure, imperfect, surely NOT what the Boss had in mind in the original blueprints…
The news photos of thousands of happy couples kissing in celebration of newly-legal wedding vows twist knots in the hearts of people who have defined their Goodness by denying their own desires and the changing laws strike fear into the hearts of parents/Patriarchs who wonder how their rules are going to stand against a tide of Love.
Unclench your hands and hearts from that dead lump of Certainty, and come to the table of celebrations: We have Cake!