Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Polygamy and democracy ...

The two cannot co-exist.  Or so argues this wide-ranging essay by Stanley Kurtz in the Weekly Standard.  Touching on imperialism, Islam, immigration, Mormonism, same-sex marriage (even India, in passing).  Worth the effort. (Right now it was my "reading-while-waiting-for-pages-to-load-on-oh-so-darn-slow-dialup" choice :-)).
The history of polygamy in Utah is fascinating --- and he draws an interesting parallel between the attack on polygamy in Utah and its democratization and the current efforts in the "War on Terror."  Also lots on polygamy in the French in banlieux.
I had no idea that there was an active case being made for the legalization of polygamy as well as polyamory.  And, of course, Kurtz highlights that those advocating these arrangements do not talk about children.  Monogamous marriage contineus to be the best situation for child rearing.  Which is one of the biggest compelling interests that the state has in promoting, fostering and promoting marriage.
One point that he makes is that the Western conception of romantic love as central to marriage helps make monomgamous marriage an institution that promotes a demcoratic ethos in society.  That may very well be.  What came to mind was that this centrality of romantic love is not something that makes marriages necessarily stable. And the idea that romantic love is the only thing that holds a marriage together is probably disastrous.  Other, external factors contribute to marriage stability.  [Heck, I am in India.  This week a cousin is getting marriaged. Six days after the proposal between the families had been finalized.  I simply cannot fathom this!  All that said, arranged marriages tend to weather the years pretty darn well, it would seem].  Anyway, that's a quibble and doesn't detract from the larger point.
And a warning to traditonalists:
But Turley's greatest ally may be religious traditionalists themselves, who will push to separate marriage and state once same-sex marriage gains a foothold. With same-sex marriage nationalized, and the emergence of an open polyamorists'-rights movement, traditionalists will demand that the state get out of the marriage business. That might temporarily protect a few traditionalist enclaves, but it would also effectively remove the broader social supports for stable, monogamous, parenthood-focused marriage. If that happens, intentional single-motherhood and European-style parental cohabitation are likely to proliferate, as are a raft of experiments in open marriage, polygamy, and polyamory. Family variety will markedly increase, while family stability will continue to erode. The precipitous decline of marriage already seen in parts of Europe and the African-American community will take hold in mainstream America. Welcome to the bottom of the slope.


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