If You Can’t Join ‘Em …

Postpartum gay parents.

Mincing words? How else to describe an essay which dissects the case against Mary Cheney and endorses gay parenthood? Respondents to William Saletan’s latest Human Nature cover the field on the “Double Mommy Front” of the Culture Wars.

Speaking up for the status quo, nicekitty adopts a stance too inert to call reactionary:

Deep down inside something in my gut says “two mommies is bad for kids.” It may not be logical, it may be absolutely wrong. But all of those Southern Baptist preachers, that military brat upbringing, being in the military, and my grandmothers left an imprint that is hard to shake. But unlike those moralists that Saletan is speaking of, I am not so fervent or for that matter so convinced that my gut is right that I am willing to get out there and make life hell for those who believe otherwise.

Tracker takes umbrage at the suggestion fathers are bad for children:

Every kid has the prima facie right to grow up with his mom and dad. […] Any kid would gladly take his or her own screwed up Dad over someone else’s Father of the Year. It matters to children that they come to be who they are through the training of their biological parents. […]

Conservatives don’t want government telling everyone what to do, but when society gets as screwed up as it has, their last resort is to start urging the making of laws and amendments to keep families sound. Simply because traditional families have problems doesn’t mean Mary Cheney is right to get a child by sperm donation, or however she got it, and raise that child in her preferred setting. She hasn’t got the right to demean the child’s father that way, and her child will most likely resent her deeply for it. […] Mary has demeaned Fatherhood, and the actual father of her child.

From the perspective of a gay man, uh-huhh is bothered by Saletan’s flip conclusion that men are bad for kids:

I was astonished that, in his next to last paragraph, he chose to conclude his piece by attacking gay male parents: “You want to protect kids? Here’s my proposed constitutional amendment: ‘Marriage in the United States shall consist of a union involving at least one woman.’” That, of course, would mean banning only gay male marriages. WTF?

Was Mr. Saletan just being tongue-in-cheek and looking for a clever close? I assume so, since nothing in his piece supports any claim about gay male parents. […] To the uninitiated, Mr. Saletan blamed gay men for misbehaviors overwhelmingly committed by straight men (e.g., sexual assault by a mother’s live-in boyfriend), validated attacks by the most trite and extreme radical feminists on gay male couples, and reinforced ugly stereotypes that the Family Research Council loves to stoke about gay men as pedophiles and incompetent parents. How clever!

Arguing that single-parent families are unfairly maligned, plusgurl thinks their rise has burnished the luster of the nuclear unit:

I was happy to see this piece until I stumbled onto the portion that states how we all know that 2 parents are always better than one. Is this a neo-con agenda? […]

Men continue to do diddly squat on the domestic front, forcing many progressive mothers to put these evolutionary relics out to pasture. Children are better in families with one functional person who is not being exploited by a man - especially if she is raising a son and this is his primary role model. […] One committed and loving parent is preferable to the “thing on the couch” role modeling sexist dysfunctionality.

RMLReturns takes feckless straights to task for enabling “alternative families”:

Gay parents have been welcomed with open arms by state child custody services because these people work hard at being parents and will often take kids other parents will not-handicapped or abused or unstable kids. My wife is heavily involved with adoption issues and knows many cases of gay parents taking on the challenge of being parents to kids their own parents wouldn’t keep because of serious disabilities. Just imagine being a paraplegic or having some other awful disabling condition and your own mom and dad give you up for adoption……

Olcott_Beach shares a harrowing tale of life as a stepchild:

I was born into what would have been considered a normal family; the youngest of three and I know, initially, that we were all wanted. […] My mother passed away one-week before my fifth birthday and my father married the women he had been keeping company with while my mother was on her death bed.

By today’s standards; his second wife would have been diagnosed as psychotic. Being the youngest, and not altogether the brightest, I became the family punching bag with the daily mind games and taunts.

This woman’s entertainment—mind games with a six-year old, was dismissed as “just joking” but the hate was born like a spreading cancer. I have no “family values” and the word “father” and “mother” really has no meaning.

As I read this story I could not help but wonder what it would have been like to have two, loving parents. Or even one who would have provided a single word of encouragement.

So far, the only party escaping blame appears to be the children (although, blame for what isn’t very clear). If you’d like to add some balance to the debate, or simply take a closer look, please direct your attention to the Human Nature Fray. GA1:37am PST

Saturday, Dec. 23, 2006

Jacob Weisberg’s assertion that the strangeness of Mormon beliefs should and will give the American electorate pause in considering Mitt Romney’s 2008 candidacy for president revealed the familiar fault lines of religion and politics.

CalLawyer thinks we should take all claims of religious belief by politicians with a grain of salt: “Sure, most politicians and public figures claim to believe in their religion. But this is a charade, and an extremely elaborate one.”

On the question of true believers, Bionerd emphasizes the human mind’s ability to perform intellectual compartmentalization:

Folks who think that those who hold irrational beliefs shouldn’t be trusted with jobs, like President, that require complex rational thought underestimate the extent to which people are capable of compartmentalizing irrational belief so it doesn’t interfere with their ability to interact with the world in a completely rational manner or to solve complex real world problems.

Weisberg is wrong to assume that someone who truly believes absurd things like virgin births, angelic visitations, partings of seas, and other “transparent frauds” is necessarily dogmatic or irrational in contexts outside of personal religious observance, or that such a person fails to think for himself or see the world as it really is. Most believers who’ve given it much thought will concede that what they believe doesn’t have much rational basis. But they choose to believe anyways because it helps them make sense of the world, gives them a sense of purpose, provides a foundation for family strength, or any other number of personal reasons.

For AspiringSkeptic here, Weisberg’s piece is less of a dig at Mormonism than it is an effort to determine whether Romney “is the type of man like G.W. Bush who may put faith and ‘gut feeling’ before logic, science, and reason.”

Azathoth is the first to characterize most religions as kooky but doesn’t think we should single out Mormonism: “It is easy to find open holes in any religion, picking on one and pretending the others are OK is not honest or fair.” Similarly, viqtohr criticizes Weisberg’s scrutiny of Mormonism as “totally arbitrary,” given that all religions are irrational to some degree:

The only thing that the passage of time does to religious myths is give them an air of respectability. The more ridiculous tenets of Mormonism only feel more absurd to us than Biblical stories because they allegedly happened so recently. In religious services, the preacher doesn’t focus on the strange idiosyncrasies of dogma, but on how to live a “holy” life and find true happiness. That’s what religion is actually about.

The candidate’s willingness to separate politics and religion is really what’s important, writesBaba: “The question isn’t whether or not a candidate is a believer in this or that religion (or none). It’s whether or not he/she will try to impose his/her beliefs on the rest of us.” For donq, the religious test for office should take a more comprehensive view of the individual candidate’s background and accomplishments:

Romney is not the first candidate with unique religious beliefs. Eisenhower grew up in the church that was the forerunner to the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Nixon was a Quaker. Barack Obama has a background in the Muslim faith.Religion has always been a way of explaining an endermatic universe. We should not choose our national leader based on adherence to a more ancient and venerated irrationality than her opponent. The only rational religious question for a national leader is “does the person’s belief interfere or assist the candidate.” As Jesus said “by there fruits ye shall know them.” Let’s judge Romney and all other candidates on their life and what they have done. Romney is intelligent. First in his class out of Harvard. His life’s work has involved turning around struggling companies. He did a great job with the winter Olympics and as a Governor. I am sure not every one agrees with these points. But that is what we should be talking about.

Contribute your ideas in The Big Idea. AC 7:32am PT

Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2006

For a certain kind of character, nothing brings out the surly quite like the Christmas season’s mandatory merriment. And what technology nurses anti-social behavior better than the Internet? Thus, Scrooges and the Fray make as natural a Christmas concoction as egg and nog. It’s risen to the level of an institution—Best of the Fray holds an annual Humbuggery Convention for airing your dirty Christmas stockings.

But for those who want to get an early start to their Christmas ranting, switters has started a great thread on that endangered American institution—the Christmas office party:

God but I hate office Christmas parties. Lame, lame, lame. Mine was last night. I didn’t go, of course. But that certainly wasn’t going to stop people from harassing me. First I get a call from a young friend I haven’t talked to in months because of the fallout. Then I get a call from “the one that got away” who’s there for whatever reason.

“Why aren’t you at the party?”
“Oh, I don’t know. I guess it’s because I have to spend all day with those retards, and I’m not exactly inclined to give up a hard-earned evening away from them. Call me selfish, but watching my coworkers get plowed knee-walking drunk while fighting over a Craftsman tool set during Dirty Santa isn’t really my idea of having a good time celebrating the birth of a dude who’s ultimately going to off himself via his virgin-birthed son. Bye.” [click]

Office Christmas parties are inherently flawed, as The Office’s Christmas episode brilliantly pointed out last week. Did you see it? That’s the most awkward 1 hour of television I’ve seen in years. The last time I was that uncomfortable watching a show, the whole family sat down to enjoy Buddy Hackett live on HBO in 1982. Who knew The Love Bug veteran had a mouth on him? If I’m not mistaken, mom remarked, “Why don’t you just drag a garbage can into the living room and watch it?” Ouch.

Anyways, office Christmas parties are doomed from the start. Why? Well…

It’s the one night of the year in the south when teetotalers (closet drinkers) and hardcore drinkers (closet Baptists) finally meet. It’s hard to describe. It’s sort of like a combination of The Days Of Wine And Roses and Invasion Of The Body Snatchers. “Just hear those sleigh bells jingling, ring ting tingling too…”

It’s the one night of the year when the south reverts to Montgomery, Alabama circa 1845, complete with black servants wearing white and white people wearing down black servants.

It’s the one night of the year when employees try to eat and drink their yearly salary in food and adult beverages in an effort to get back at “the man”. Inevitably that ends with a headache and beaucoup resentment.

It’s the one night of the year when spouses and significant others get to see their spouses and significant others get a little tipsy and hit on the chesty receptionist. Again.

Last year I heard someone giving advice on NPR’s Sound Money about how to handle the office Christmas party, which was, essentially, to cover the room in a circle, saying hello to everyone, chatting briefly, limiting oneself to 2 drinks maximum, staying only as long as it takes to visit with each person in attendance.

That’s insane. 2 drinks? Call me old fashioned, but 2 drinks is the alcoholic equivalent of foreplay without the actual sex part. Blueball Fest 2006. And if I had to chat with everyone in the room, I’m going to need to do a couple lines in the men’s room. Because talking to some of these people is like being paired with a midget in the 3-legged race at the church picnic. Someone’s gonna get his feelings hurt.

In past gatherings, I’ve usually had the unfortunate luck of getting trapped in a corner with some divorced, under-sexed ad exec lady who for Christmas really needs to get a T-shirt that says “I [heart] self-medication” and who wants to talk about work.

“Great party.”
“I thought that project turned out great.”
“Uh… Which one?”
“The one with the little kids and the guy in the wheelchair.”
“Yeah, I didn’t work on that one.”
“Oh. Right. Did you know I haven’t had sex in 5 years?”
“Is that more Krab dip!? Excuse me. I love that stuff…”

Then there’s the unavoidable play-by-play the next day.

“Oh man. You should’ve been there. Steve’s wife broke a bottle over her head, squeezed Heather’s ass, and then threw up all over the boss’s daughter! It was awesome!”
“Yeah, sorry I missed that. Although that would explain why Steve’s secretly gay, wouldn’t it?”

And let’s not forget the half-dozen or so 45-minutes-late-to-work Walks Of Shame past the front desk. Sweet.

You know, Christmas is bad enough as it is. The last thing I need to ram that point home is a bunch of hypocrites pretending not to loathe each other for 3 hours. And that’s just the married couples.

Happy Holidays!
Happy Holidays!
Let the merry bells keep ringing.
Happy Holidays to you!


Would you like to get some seasonal grievances off your chest? Join the commiseration in Best of the FrayGA1:20pm PST

Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2006

Writing in Jurisprudence, Kenji Yoshino laments the demise of a recent proposal by the New York City Board of Health to give people more freedom to change the sex on their birth certificate. HopefulCynic extends a heartfelt thanks to Yoshino for

succinctly making the case that self-determination of gender is an important and insufficiently recognized right, is not purely biological, faces important logistical problems, and is better dealt with by facing these problems directly than papering over them or ignoring them.

Pious progressivism without due diligence is indeed problematic, and needless. As the author points out, the problems outlined can and could have been worked out given adequate forethought.

But many doubts persist, most notably among self-identified gay Fraysters, about the wisdom of supporting such a radical position. Complaining of an inclusiveness within the gay community that has gone overboard, emry for his part cringes

every time I hear the (ever expanding) queer alphabet: LGBT, I keep hearing that Sesame Street song “one of these is not like the others, one of these doesn’t belong”. There is a huuuge difference between sexual orientation (what sex are you attracted to), sexual identity (what gender you “think” you are), and sexual expression (what gender you choose to look/act/dress like).

Brian-1 worries that the birth-certificate policy would put us on the path toward a dangerous “relativism ultimately lead[ing] to an unstable and fractured culture.” eg4109, while “crazy liberal on most social issues,” also professes having

a very hard time buying the argument that anyone should be able to change their birth certificate after going to a shrink for two years. If the pro-transgender argument elicits an uncomfortable reaction from me, then I can only imagine how quickly it’s dismissed by the majority in this country who think regular old gay people should either crawl back under a rock or die…

I don’t have a problem with changing the birth certificate after surgery (even though the idea makes me cringe a bit), but doing it with a mere doctor’s note just seems like way too much of an abstract approach to such a concrete issue.

Joe_JP steps in to defend against the mischaracterization of transgenderism as a cavalier choice:

As to transsexuals, it is not just a matter of “feeling.” The proposals, for instance, required one to live as the designated sex for a set period, and be found to be psychologically of that sex as well. One could not just one day say “I feel pretty, let me change the ‘M’ to a ‘F’” If one lives as a sex, yes, it might make sense that their id so designate.

And, biological sex is a matter of various criteria. The blunt use of genitalia is a rather messy way to decide thing in various cases. This is shown by those who have some cosmetic sex characteristics at birth, their parents decide to “set” their sex at that, but later the person is mentally of another sex.

New frontier in the fight for equality or a case of identity politics gone awry? Share your thoughts in Jurisprudence. AC6:50pm PST

Thursday, Dec. 7, 2006

In his recent piece, Michael Kinsley criticizes the Bush daughters for their lack of moral seriousness and public silence on the Iraq war, citing their status as “independent moral agents.” Fraysters disagreed sharply whether and how much scrutiny should be applied to presidents’ children for the policies of their fathers.

For some, the hedonistic ways of the Bush twins are hardly legitimate grounds for indictment: Newsflash: 20-somethings like to party! quips RoboTombo, asking “in what moral universe are the sins of the father visited upon the children?” The daughters have the right to abstain from politics, arguesFritz_Gerlich, as “an American’s most precious freedom is the freedom to be non-political…if they want to remain airheads till they die, that’s their right. It won’t make them guilty of anything Britney Spears isn’t guilty for.” Kija similarly implores us to leave the twins alone:

They didn’t choose to be presidential daughters - it was thrust upon them. They are not responsible for their father’s infatuation with war and death. They are not responsible for his incompetence.

Politician’s kids should be left out of the discussion unless they choose to involve themselves. It would be lovely to see them marching in an anti-war march, but that’s got to be their choice. 

Pandyora criticizes Kinsley’s “bad moral philosophy“:

To choose not to serve does not prohibit any citizen from supporting or opposing a war, let alone prohibit them from voicing (or not voicing in the case of the Bush twins) their support or opposition.

Conversely, military service does not entitle one to greater moral clarity. Some percentage of military personnel presumably enjoy to party, while some percentage of military personnel probably opposed the war. Military service does not make their partying any less frivolous or their opposition any more justified.

In no uncertain terms, DavidFlores begs to differ:

Bullshit: when our nation is at war, and arguably the ultimate cause of 1/2 a million deaths over-seas, being “non-political” is a morally repugnant stance. If your country is killing people, then as one who benefits from your country’s government, economy, miltary and other institutions, you have a moral duty to take a stance on the killing. It is the status quo that benefits from an ignorant and apathetic body-politic, and thus the powerful who promote ignorance and apathy among our citizenry.

Citing the long tradition of presidents’ children who have served in the military or otherwise contributed to the war effort of their times, ARChitect expresses similar distaste for apathy in the face of human casualties:

I was taught to have nothing but contempt for neutrality when people are dying. I don’t blame the girls for not pitching into Dad’s stupidity–but I do blame them for not taking a stand one way or another. Who gave them the free pass?

I’m reminded of all the times we’re told we are a “nation at war.” Bullshit. What war? No draft, no rationing, tax cuts–and government officials who won’t lead the way, and whose kids obviously don’t even believe enough to play a part themselves.

But in practice, whether or not the children of presidents serve in the military is a false litmus test of mor(t)al commitment, points outscout29c: “anybody who knows anything about the military knows that even if the Bush twins had been super gung ho, they would have never been allowed in harms way. No son or daughter of a senator is allowed in danger unless they try and push and force their way into it. The military doesn’t want the responsibility of losing a politician’s offspring.”

As Dallas75 sees it, given the Bush daughters’ position of privilege, some minimal engagement in politics is a more than appropriate demand to make of them:

The Bush twins, for the rest of their lives, will enjoy direct economic and social benefits because their father and grandfather were Presidents. Therefore, it’s not too much to ask for them to take the war seriously and to make some sacrifice, even just a symbolic sacrifice, that recognizes the war. Maybe they oppose the war - that’s fine - make a sacrifice that says so.
Join the Peace Corp, start a non-profit, volunteer with the Red Cross, anything at all. But the twins should at least acknowledge the personal debt they owe the military families fighting daddy’s war.

Since there are two of them, couldn’t one come out in support and the other in opposition? The polemic continues to flare in Readme, producing one of the better Fray turnouts in recent weeks. Thanks to all who have been visiting since Passport problems were resolved. We’re glad to have you back! AC5:53pm PST