[An e-mail exchange from July 2004 with my sisters and brother in law.]
Brother in law: You guys will love this. And I know it's from the Weekly Standard.
I got into that most boring of "talks" today, gay marriage, in which I was told that Sweden is declining as a nation because of gay marriages. I just started laughing, came back to my desk and searched Google for Sweden and marriage. I found the influence for this statement. This article is long, laughable and absurd – and scary.
The End of Marriage in Scandinavia
Me: Enforced androgyny that pushes women from the home? Rampant secularization? Sweden's position as the world leader in family dissolution? Norwegian energy minister Arnstad getting pregnant in office and declining to name the father. Gay marriage?
Wow! Thank God the real danger here has been made manifest. We're facing the decline of the West. Why have we been focusing so much attention lately on the instability of the Islamic world when the Danes, Swedes, and Norwegians pose such a threat to our way of life?
This is so ridiculous. If I borrow the author's reasoning and state that the separation of marriage from parenthood is an incontestable evil, then I may easily argue that foster parenting and adoption also pose serious threats to the Western World. That such practices arise not from compassion but from moral subversion!
I would like to ask the author why he may so confidently ascribe sexual perversion to the state of being unmarried. Ahem, do heterosexual married couples exhibit exemplary behavior? Where should we start? John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton, Prince Charles, Henry "fat ass, savings and loan bailout, youthful indiscretions, our values" Hyde, J. Edgar "cross-dressing" Hoover, Jack "I want to have sex in public with my wife" Ryan, Strom "miscegenation" Thurmond, Newt "divorce my cancer-afflicted third wife" Gingrich. Give me a break.
I love when the author cites Italy as an example of a society that has resisted the decline into sexual liberalism, family dissolution, and general moral decadence. Yeah right, Italian men are so sexually restrained. Are we supposed to pretend that cheating on your spouse, then confining this secret sin to the Catholic confessional is preferable to openly recognizing the presence of philandering in adult society? Are we supposed to believe that fostering an edifying lie creates a healthier society than open discourse? Is it healthy to pretend we are something we are not? The attitude that favored edifying lies over uncomfortable frankness created an unsustainable society that eventually collapsed in the 1950s. For all the happy June and Ward Cleaver or Nancy and Ronald Reagan marriages one is likely to find an equal number of unhappy ones. A society cannot be both dishonest and progressive at the same time. For that's the historical judgment on the 1950s. Not all men or women are content to be dumb, staid, and satisfied.
Why is authority so often concerned with regulating sexuality? Because suppressing sexual impulse has a stultifying impact on creativity in general. To snuff out one is to snuff out the other. Many writers have connected sexual desire with creative desire (Freud and Dostoevsky to name two) and argued that these forces are entwined and not easily constrained by rational argument or religious moralizing. This truth may make some people uncomfortable, but that's how we're made. Certainly the sexual revolution of the 1960s confirmed this linkage. Compare popular music- as a barometer of prevailing social temperament- made before the 1960s with popular music made during that decade. It's night and day. Boring affirmations of social propriety contrasted with critical examinations of inherited social structures: the dispersion of political power, racial inequity, economic class warfare, religious superstition, xenophobia, and yes, sexual mores.
One of Dostoyevsky's favorite tactics as a writer was to contrast a person of low social standing who felt severe guilt over his moral failings with a man of high repute and high social standing who had long since dispensed with burdensome emotions, though not with proper religious facade. Dostoevsky would then arrange for a third character, known to both, to point a finger at the lowlife during a moment of high drama, and declare to the nobleman, "He is more of a believer than you!" That's the 1960s in a nutshell. That sentiment is so well expressed at the conclusion of one of my favorite films, The Graduate. Benjamin and Elaine by their actions pose the same challenge to the reigning social authority as does Dostoevsky's prostitute or drunkard: You value this world? Then go and live in it!
The social/sexual trends cited by the author are not an indicator of moral decadence. They are the result of societies becoming more open and honest about their humanity. The more liberty man gains, the more his true character shows. Conservatives cannot fathom this reality because it exposes the artificiality of their standards. It scares them because they are so ill-prepared to discuss and debate social mores with anyone but like-minded people. They have chosen the weaker Darwinian strategy (control others rather than control oneself and cope with difference, ambiguity, and nuance), and they fear that as traditional social institutions (the Church, male authority, Big Brother government) lose influence, they become less and less prepared to face the world they find. Conservatives may delude themselves into believing theirs is a passionate concern for the Rejuvenation of Man (and it's likely a majority really do believe this), but in my opinion this is a self-righteous pretext, and is quite far from the truth. Their real fear is a primal Darwinian one, and that is that they will become less and less able to compete in society.
To those who've sided with the conservative Darwinian strategy, unfettered creativity poses a serious threat to their social dominance because it inevitably begins to question the fictitious pillars upon which conservative rule is founded. Sexual mores are just one of the pillars.