By Maxwell Klausner
The Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision Friday that the right to same-sex marriage is indeed guaranteed by the Constitution. While same-sex marriage was legal and in practice in 37 states prior to the ruling, the decision will require all fifty states to grant marriage licenses and legal recognition to gay and lesbian couples. Writing the majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy stated
“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.”
Opponents of the ruling and ideology will claim that the definition of marriage should not and cannot change because it is proscribed by tradition and by God, and to un-write millennia of consistent practice would be to unhinge the very balance of society. That is, of course, assuming the definition of marriage has never been changed, and that the rise of same-sex marriage is the sole transformation that has ever affected the years-old tradition.
But this is untrue.
Marriage—like every social custom—has transformed immeasurably over time. The “love” of which Justice Kennedy writes was seldom present in the marriage of biblical times, when the institution was nothing more than a monetary agreement between families, an arrangement in which girls were traded to predetermined suitors for procreation. And this definition of marriage hardly matched the early Twentieth Century’s definition of marriage, when courting turned into dating, and young people were suddenly allowed to pick and choose their mates. Marriage became more personal, no longer a contractual agreement with a stranger, but a willful engagement in which individuals could choose their paths.
Time waned, and of course the meaning of marriage transformed even more in the 1960s, when people stopped thinking of sex solely as a means for reproduction, and more as a form of social interaction. Procreation was no longer the central benefit of marriage. The Second Wave of Feminism demanded rights for married women, and called for a revision of gender dynamics. While men once held power and domain over their wives, who promised obedience in the wedding vow, the ideal marriage in the late Twentieth Century allowed for a mutual partnership, where both male and female participants could have equal power, equal domain, and equal dignity.
And who could deny that the very recognition of marriage has changed drastically since Biblical ages, when states and nations didn’t yet exist, and marriage was nothing more than a religious promise. Today, marriage in the United States is a social contract, and while it does not need to be recognized by any Church, it must be recognized by the State.
The modern concept of marriage is not at all what it once was, even between one man one woman. The modern marriage is a public promise to honor, uphold, respect, and love another
individual, to increase personal happiness by devoting oneself to another and entering into an equal partnership. It is a social arrangement that did not even exist half a century ago.
In his dissenting opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia argues “When the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified in 1868, every State limited marriage to one man and one woman, and no one doubted the constitutionality of doing so. That resolves these cases.” But what Justice Scalia fails to see is that modern marriage was inconceivable in 1868. It was inconceivable even in 1968, when social conservatives warned that if women were allowed to enter the workforce, the family unit would be irreparably destroyed. If we want to have a conversation about the definition of marriage, we have to accept the 2015 definition of marriage, and not the Nineteenth Century line of thinking of which Scalia seems to be so fond.
As time passes, people, ideas, and traditions change. That is Sociology 101. To say that the definition of marriage has stayed the same over time is to ignore even the most basic facts about how our world functions. Modern marriage between men and women is new and revolutionary, just as dating was once new and revolutionary, or non-procreative sex was once new and revolutionary. It is a novel institution created by modern humans, and to exclude the gay community from participating in such a brave new institution is antithetical to the very concept of “equal protection under the law.” Friday’s ruling did not change the definition of marriage— society did.
By Eric Jeffery
Remember when formspring was popular? Anyone could post a link to an anonymous chat room where the subject at hand is the user who posted the link. Questions and answers went beyond secret admirers. Content on formspring turned vulgar quickly. It became a digital stage for cyber bullying.
For this reason, formspring disappeared after a short run. Now its 2015 and anonymous chat rooms are back in a new format. YikYak is an anonymous posting mobile application based on geographic data that allows users of a community to chat aboutvirtually anything. The app has taken off on college campuses nationwide, but was forced to geo-block high school campuses to prevent cyber bullying.
The content on YikYak is a mix of common cultural truths, desperate lonely complaints, inside jokes, and teasing between Greek houses and GDI’s.
By Maxwell Klausner
This week Gov. Jan Brewer (R-AZ) has been tasked with a grave decision. She must choose whether to veto a new measure passed by the Arizona Legislature that would allow businesses to deny service from gay individuals on account of “strongly held religious beliefs.” Why this is even an issue in the year 2014 defies every ounce of logic I have the ability to grapple with. Gov. Brewer has received heavy pressure to veto the bill from Republicans across the nation, including both United States senators from Arizona, who fear that the passage of such a draconian law would hurt their chances in the upcoming midterms. I guess blatant discrimination of a minority is no longer attractive to voters?
What sickens me most about this measure (which is similar to a measure recently scrapped by the Kansas Legislature) is the whole “religious beliefs” garbage on which the law is based. In such a tempest of scapegoating and public humiliation, have we forgotten what it means to be Christian? The basis of the religion is the acceptance of Christ as the one true Lord and Savior. Wouldn’t it be of higher interest to pious businesspeople to deny services from Jews or atheists, those who flat-out deny the very doctrine of the religion? If God were really bent on condemning a bakery owner because he sold a cupcake to the wrong person, certainly that person would be a denier of Christ and not simply a sexual deviant.
Logically, the law would allow those with strong religious convictions to discriminate against any person he or she deemed ungodly. Logically, this bill should be about Christians protecting themselves against haters of Christ. But as I stated before, this case defies all logic, and picks out a very particular, non-insidious minority upon whom to spew hatred. It’s like conservatives got together and said “they already tried the discrimination against Jews thing, and it didn’t really work out. Let’s find a new group of people to screw over.”
Any level-headed person could see that this isn’t a matter of religious conviction at all, in the same vein that the Crusades weren’t a matter of religious conviction, or the Spanish Inquisition wasn’t a matter of religious conviction. It’s just another instance of personal hatreds being masked as some sort of godly obligation. The Arizona Legislature isn’t serving God. It’s serving its own prejudiced interests.
This law is a very frightening one, one which may lead to a sort of American segregation some of us thought was abolished decades ago. In the 1960s, when restaurants were still allowed to deny service from African-Americans, at least then it was based purely on ignorant concepts of white superiority. But for whatever reason, when someone says “God tells me you have to be my subordinate,” it is very hard to prove that person wrong. And that is why this measure is so scary. When people claim to be on the side of God, no amount of logic can convince them otherwise.
If Gov. Brewer has any scintilla of intelligence (which I do hope she does), she will see that this law has nothing to do with religious freedom. Christianity is a red herring. Ultimately, “religious beliefs” are a façade for a group of angry white men who yearn for the days when they could dominate over others. But although the Houses of Arizona have already made a dangerously ignorant mistake, it’s not too late for their governor to stop a form of discrimination that is based on pure prejudice. That would be the truly Christian thing to do.
By Maxwell Klausner
This week in idiocy, the lovely Megyn Kelly of Fox News—my go-to source for comedy the whole family can enjoy. Ms. Kelly, as I’m sure you’ve gathered, has made some major sludge out of this season’s snow by asserting, however tongue-in-cheek, that our dear Santa Claus is a white man, and that this is a non-debatable topic. As a secular Jew who has never been personally visited by the jovial gifter, I can’t help but laugh at the outrage that Ms. Kelly’s comments have incited by the national community. Who knew the fat man giving liberals anxiety this season would be Old Saint Nick and not Chris Christie?
In all fairness, I’ve always imagined that Santa Claus—a gluttonous industrialist whose capital is dependent upon the underpaid labor of a minority—had to be Caucasian. But joking aside, we have to wonder why Ms. Kelly’s words have sent the world to fact-check a fairy tale. We might as well be debating whether Cinderella historically wore pink or blue to the ball. And yet, the Santa Claus issue strikes people quite personally, because we want to convince our children that his omniscient wisdom, his superhuman abilities, and his unquestioning love for the deserving are nonfiction. Were I not so cynical, I would certainly take comfort in such a divine character.
If we examine the origin of the folklore, we find the olive-skinned Saint Nikolas, the patron saint of prostitutes who, in Fourth Century Greece, left gold coins in the stockings of young women so they would not have to sell their bodies for a dowry. Saint Nikolas was modified by the Dutch who called him Sinterklaas, a figure who leaves gifts in the shoes of children on December Fifth, a custom them altered by Latin cultures, where children wait for the Triad of Wise Men to leave gifts in their hay-stuffed shoes on Three Kings Day.
And of course, the legend evolved even further in the United States, where Clement Clark Moore’s 1823 poem known as “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” detailed the ordeal Saint Nicholas faces in order to leave presents for children on Christmas morning. This version of the character was given its most famous visualization by a 1931 Coca-Cola ad campaign, which illustrated for the first time that rotund, red-cloaked, white-skinned Santa Claus. And the lore has changed ever-rapidly since then, with an onslaught of films, books, and stop-motion animation specials in the Twentieth Century consistently altering our image of the big man.
And yet, with the bloodbath that Ms. Kelly has created this week, the national community has suggested for the first time that the legend of Santa Claus is a specific, graven one—one which possesses particular, unchanging, black-or-white details. This notion seems to be against our nature as a society, especially considering our love for storytelling and our predilection to modify tales with the times. Were we truly capable of setting lore into stone, Santa would still be a skinny Greek man whose closest friends are unwed women.
In the larger spectrum, Ms. Kelly’s resolute logic would denounce the entire tradition we so revere. What have Wal-Mart discounts and a decorated coniferous to do with the birth of a Savior who, after all, is the actual center of the holiday? The answer is nothing, really. But even as these pagan and consumerist idols engulf the nature of the season, we seem content as a society to continue to call it Christmas, despite its absence of Christ or Mass. The meaning of the custom has changed, but its importance to us has not.
Don’t misunderstand: I am no advocate for God, and my leading criticism of religion at large is its general reluctance to change. And yet, even institutions as old as the Catholic Church are capable of transforming, and that’s never been more evident than in the year of progressive Pope Francis, whose tone demonstrates that modernity and faith are not always mutually exclusive. Old perceptions of Christ and the Path to Grace are fleeting, and as the New Millennium wages, the Pope hopes to deliver a new image to the Establishment, one which involves what he calls a “personal encounter” with the Lord. And if Jesus can be a token of our own personal image, can’t Santa be as well?