Lovers Slaughtered in India

 Posted by on 17 May 2008 at 3:44 am  Culture
May 172008

As a point of contrast to yesterday’s post, Three Cheers for Marrying Whoever You Damn Well Please!, consider the concrete meaning of forcibly preventing marriages for the sake of the supposed good of society: Indian village proud after double honor killing.

Five armed men burst into the small room and courtyard at dawn, just as 21-year-old, 22-week pregnant, Sunita was drying her face on a towel. They punched and kicked her stomach as she called out for her sleeping boyfriend “Jassa,” 22-year-old Jasbir Singh, witnesses said. When he woke, both were dragged into waiting cars, driven away and strangled. Their bodies, half-stripped, were laid out on the dirt outside Sunita’s father’s house for all to see, a sign that the family’s “honor” had been restored by her cold-blooded murder.

A week later, the village of Balla, just a couple of hours drive from India’s capital New Delhi, stands united behind the act, proud, defiant almost to a man. Among the Jat caste of the conservative northern state of Haryana, it is taboo for a man and woman of the same village to marry. Although the couple were not related, they were seen in this deeply traditional society as brother and sister. “From society’s point of view, this is a very good thing,” said 62-year-old farmer Balwan Arya, sitting smoking a hookah in the shade of a tree in a square with other elders from the village council or panchayat. “We have removed the blot.”

This story reminds of me of Ayn Rand’s notable comment on the essence of civilization: “Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The savage’s whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men.”

Hatred of the Good

 Posted by on 16 May 2008 at 4:53 pm  Culture, Politics
May 162008


I’m going to talk a little politics now, but nothing I say should be taken as an endorsement, nor should approval of one isolated aspect or policy of a candidate be taken as agreement with or approval of anything else about him or her.

I’ve become a bit of political junkie this election year because of the historic demographics of the Democratic party candidates. It has been informative, usually painfully so.

I took a hit watching television this morning as Pat Buchannan and Katrina Vandenheuvel discussed the problem of the “elitist” label that Barack Obama has been fighting. The accusation of “elitism” has been political Kryptonite, so this is serious stuff.

Buchanan said Obama reeked of Harvard Law Review, or something to that effect (Obama is a past President of the Harvard Law Review). Vandenheuvel pointed out that President Bush went to Yale and Harvard Business School. Buchanan laughed, shook his head, and replied derisively, “But Bush was helped through Yale and Harvard!”

The clear implication being that the fact that President Bush didn’t earn admission into an Ivy League school, while Obama had earned it, meant that his alma mater couldn’t be used to tag Bush as an “elite” the same way it could be hurled as an accusation at Obama.

So down is officially up — to demonstrate that someone has earned a value is to indict him for it.

Not that I haven’t been aware all along that the “elitism” issue is perverted, in that it turns what should be an achievement into a slur. This morning’s exchange was just so close to an explicit denunciation of the good for being the good that it blew my hair back.

May 152008

First, via GVH, I found this interesting NY Times article on the history behind the Loving v. Virginia case that ultimately legalized interracial marriage. That case was decided just 41 years ago. I’m very grateful — in a very personal way — that race is no longer a factor in marriage in America. It’s not a legal obstacle whatsoever, and not even much of a social obstacle. That’s absolutely wonderful.

Second, the California Supreme Court has ruled that laws restricting marriage to heterosexuals violate the state’s constitution. While I might not agree with the reasoning of the court, I do wholeheartedly support gay marriage. The essence of marriage is the total integration of two lives: sexually, legally, socially, financially, geographically, sexually, morally, etc. The fact that most marriages involve two people with contrasting genitalia is not of any grand significance. My marriage, for example, has far more in common with the relationship of a committed, rational lesbian couple than to the now-dissolved insane marriage between Brittney Spears and Kevin Federline.

Significantly, to recognize gay marriage as fundamentally similar to heterosexual marriage — i.e. as a primary, enduring relationship fundamentally integrating two lives — is not a lapse into subjectivism. That’s because such integration is only possible with certain kinds and numbers of people.

  1. Marriage to beasts is impossible, as the marriage relationship requires the capacity for rationality, not to mention a basic equality in rights. The relationship involved in pet or livestock ownership is wholly different even from that of a fleeting and unserious romantic relationship.

  2. Marriage to children is excluded for the same basic reason: children are not yet able to fully exercise even the basic rationality required to live independently. That capacity for independence is required for the integration of lives involved in marriage. In other words, a child has no financial, social, moral, or legal life of his own to integrate with another person. Of course, I need not even mention the abhorrent evil of foisting a sexual relationship on a child.
  3. Polygamous marriage is excluded because whatever relationships would result from multiple unions would be fundamentally different than that of a two-person marriage. Most polygamous marriages, I suspect, would not be a genuine integration at all, but rather a juxtaposed set of individual marriages, each half-starved due to competing demands on time, resources, and attention. Even if the various husbands and wives do live a single, integrated life together, the resulting relationships would be hugely different than an ordinary marriage. Decisions might be made by majority vote. (Sorry Sally, but you were outvoted: we’re moving to North Dakota.) Social norms would be completely different. (Do I have to invite all Joe’s wives to dinner, or just the mother of our daughter’s classmate?) The laws governing divorce, child custody, medical power of attorney, inheritance, testifying against a spouse, and so on would have to be totally re-worked. (If I don’t have a medical power of attorney, which husband directs the course of my medical care while I’m in a coma? If I die, how will my property be divided? Also, should each person be able to marry multiple people?) Notably, sex is basically a two-person activity, so that would have to be juxtaposed, rather than integrated. Basically, polygamous relationships — even if somehow recognized by law (and I don’t oppose that) — would be fundamentally different from marriages between two persons, whether of the same or opposite sex, along multiple dimensions.

Marriage is an extremely important institution in a civilized culture. It’s the full-blown, across-the-board public commitment to share one’s life with another person. It’s a fundamental value in life that my gay friends deserve just as much as my straight ones.

So… as the title of the post says: “Three Cheers for Marrying Whoever You Damn Well Please!”

(Note: I have no idea whether my co-bloggers agree with me on this issue. They can speak for themselves…)

The Inside Scoop

 Posted by on 10 April 2008 at 6:47 am  Culture
Apr 102008

Phoebe Damrosch used to hold a very unusual position as a woman: she was a head waiter at an insanely high-end New York restaurant. She’s writing a book about that life — and this fascinating essay by her gives a bit of a taste. It’s like Waiter Rant, but rather less bitter.

Mar 112002

National Review has a delightful article by Victor Davis Hanson on the US-Kuwaiti relationship. Regarding our foreign aid in the Islamic Middle East, Hanson writes that “it would be far more intellectually honest — and cheaper — simply now to allow them all to be the enemies that they wish to be rather than the friends they do not.” Indeed!

Here’s my favorite bit:

“…public opinion in Kuwait confirms that the root of anti-Americanism is not poverty (they are rich), not exploitation (they do not give oil away), not past grievance (we saved them), not purported solidarity with the Palestinians (whom they ejected), but a basic sense of umbrage and accompanying envy that grows with greater exposure to the West.”

Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha