Saturday, 13 July 2013

More on Orson Scott Card

I've written about Orson Scott Card before, since he's a good example of a writer whose fictions I have loved and whose other words I have not. I'd like, now, to bring out someone who could stand up to Card and challenge his uglier statements, point for point, without name-calling but without compromise. I've found that man. Orson Scott Card, I'd like you to meet your nemesis: Orson Scott Card.

It's no joke. Back in 1986, at a science fiction convention, the Orson Scott Card of that time gave a brilliant, funny, and accurate defence of the split between church and state (or, if you prefer to put it otherwise, a brilliant, funny, and accurate attack on Fundamentalists' efforts to put their understanding of morality into law). He called it The Secular Humanist Revival, and I very much recommend it.

Recently, Card alienated many of his fans by forcefully criticizing the legalization of gay marriage. The reasons that he gives are exactly the ones that his earlier alter-ego had attacked in 1986.

Shall we have a look? Here is the recent Card on gay marriage.
Here's the irony: There is no branch of government with the authority to redefine marriage.
Marriage is older than government. Its meaning is universal: It is the permanent or semipermanent bond between a man and a woman, establishing responsibilities between the couple and any children that ensue.
The laws concerning marriage did not create marriage, they merely attempted to solve problems in such areas as inheritance, property, paternity, divorce, adoption and so on.
I'll give this to recent Card, with a small tip of the hat, that he doesn't appeal to religion as the reason for the "daddy, mummy, and baby" model of the family. He defines that form of marriage as a "permanent fact of nature." However, let's hear the early Card on how to approach such a claim of fact. He challenges his audience to
...go after truth every time, even if it leads you into places that scare the holy shinola out of you.
So, is recent Card right? Is our current definition of marriage part of the definition of being human? Is it a "permanent fact of nature"?

I haven't believed that since I watched the film Little Big Man at the age of fourteen and found that the Cheyenne allowed a man (defined physically) to dress as a woman and marry another man. OK, is that just Hollywood? Apparently not. Follow the link and see: it wasn't just the Cheyenne.

In addition, Card should be one of the last people to say that the definition of marriage is the bond between a man and a woman, given his religion's history of polygamy. And the Jewish people's. Not to mention Muslims.

Let's take another of Card's reasons for supporting one definition of marriage.
Husbands need to have the whole society agree that when they marry, their wives are off limits to all other males. He has a right to trust that all his wife's children would be his.
Wives need to have the whole society agree that when they marry, their husband is off limits to all other females. All of his protection and earning power will be devoted to her and her children, and will not be divided with other women and their children.
These two premises are so basic that they preexist any known government.
Unfortunately for recent Card, those statements, too, seem contrary to fact. The rich tapestry of ways to live together and raise children includes the avunculate, in which fathers do not live with the mother and child, and have no role in raising the children, but the mother's brother does both. We'd also have to include group marriage of three to six adults, also common in some cultures, or even of three hundred adults in America's own Oneida Colony. Finally, we would have to include the Nayar people, who raise children in almost exclusively female groups and have little concern for the number of sexual partners they take.

To accept that marriage--defined as "daddy, mummy, and baby"--is not universal may scare the shinola out of recent Card, but taking his own advice would lead him to changing his mind because he once said nasty things about those who do not.
If you answer 'I believe' then you're saying yes to things you don't even know. You are signing a blank cheque--and let me fill it in later. You are signing a blank cheque against the belief account in the bank of your brain...and, brothers and sisters, I can promise you--it will bounce.
Recent Card, whatever his own reasons, is on the side of many people who have religious reasons to want to prevent gay marriages from being recognized. They would like, in other words, to put their religious beliefs into the law. The early Card recognized that this desire was a common human fault. He said,
It is the nature of all men, when they see the power of government within their grasp, to try to use that power to try to make everyone else comply with their idea of virtue.
And so he says,
I say woe unto you Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Jimmy Swaggart, hypocrites! You pretend to be ministers of religion, but all your acts declare that you want to lay your hands on the power of the state. They do not want to establish America as a Christian nation. [One with a Christian population]. They want to establish America as a Christian state.
There's so much good in the early Card, it's hard to read the non-fiction of the recent Card. It makes me wonder if Card had been offered a choice between remaining part of the Mormon community, which is, on the whole, a conservative one, or retaining his socially non-conservative beliefs.

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