Thursday, August 20, 2015

More Blooms (or Weeds?) from My Garden: Catholic Mexico Has Marriage Equality, "Progressive" Australia Doesn't — What Gives?; Why the Huge Overlap Between Men's Rights Movement and Libertarian and Atheist Movements?

I keep plucking blooms (Or are they weeds? It's often hard to distinguish) from my garden, and want to offer you a few more today as a little nosegay:

1. Oscar Lopez has a Mexican father and an Australian mother. His answer (at Salon) to why Mexico has legalized same-sex marriage and adoption by gay couples while "no worries" Australia keeps dithering: Mexico is 82% Catholic, while Australia is 25% Catholic. Catholic culture places a huge emphasis on family, and on including family members even when they seem odd, refractory, troublesome to bring to the table:

If you've ever read Catholic doctrine or heard anything coming out of the Vatican, you'd think this would make for a very homophobic society. But when you consider that Catholic bastions like Ireland, Spain, France, Argentina, Uruguay, and Mexico have all legalized same-sex marriage, it's clear that's not quite right. 
Catholic social values have changed dramatically. A recent Pew Research survey found that 60 percent of U.S. Catholics supported same-sex marriage, while a 2013 survey of Mexican Catholics also revealed majority support. Meanwhile, the referendum results in Ireland, where 84 percent identify as Catholic, speak for themselves. 
The reasons for this shift in Catholic attitudes to homosexuality are vast and merit a more detailed discussion (for a great overview, check out Peter Weber's discussion in the Week). For me, though, the most important factor is the Catholic emphasis on family. As Mo Moulton writes in the Atlantic, Catholic doctrine, with its "emphasis on family ties and community cohesion," was a key element in Ireland's same-sex marriage win. 
Whenever I go back to Mexico, the dozens of cousins and second cousins and third cousins I have there—many of whom I haven't seen in years—are quick to embrace me as primo, inviting me into their homes and telling me all the family gossip. By contrast, in Australia, I didn't even know I had family outside of my first cousins until my grandmother passed away a few years ago and other relatives sent their condolences.*

One conclusion I draw from this analysis (which I find thought-provoking): the many U.S. Catholics, both liberal and conservative, who still find it well-nigh impossible to value and include their LGBT brothers and sisters in Catholic institutional life are far more American than Catholic in their values. They're far more influenced by American individualism (which is deeply rooted in the Calvinist ethos of our Puritanical culture) than they are by the Catholic communal vision of the world, in which I cannot repudiate you without tearing a part of myself away. All this, no matter how loudly those non-gay-affirming Catholics claim to represent Catholicism (of either a liberal or conservative stripe) in all its purity . . . . 

(And, of course, it's also important to note that Australia's PM Tony Abbot opposes marriage equality precisely because he's a right-wing Catholic with strong Opus Dei ties. Which should cause us to ask whether that wealthy, secretive, and powerful Catholic cult really does stand for Catholic values in all their purity, or for something else, instead.)

2. At Vox, Emmit Rensin reports about what happened when he hunted up a vocal men's rights advocate, "Max," who often posts anti-feminist comments at various websites. This section of the lengthy (and engrossing) essay leaps out at me:

There are some other things Max is proud to be. He is an outspoken atheist and an active libertarian. The contours are the same: a proactive anticlericalism and a distaste for regulatory apparatus couched in a vague sense that this distaste constitutes a moral stance. 
This trinity is not uncommon. A survey taken last year of the Men's Rights subreddit found that 94 percent of their membership identified as "atheist" or "religiously indifferent." Another, broader study of the men's rights movement on Reddit found that 84 percent identified as "strongly conservative," with particular policy preferences along a libertarian, not traditional, bent. 

A growing body of evidence suggests to us that libertarianism is, in the formula of Conor Lynch, "for white men." CJ Werleman and others have pointed out that atheism has a "white male problem."

And so the question that seems to me worth posing: can movements that so baldly represent the interests and aspirations of only a slice of the human population — and a privileged slice at that, on grounds of gender, race, and economic status — really represent a formula for the liberation of our culture and other cultures? Or, at the same time that we recognize the corruption of moribund religious forms and the need to address that corruption critically, do we also need constantly to push for responses to that historical development that are here-come-everybody responses, and not the responses of privileged groups masquerading as revolutionary fixers of cultural malaise?

Why are many women steering clear of the libertarian and atheist movements? Why are people of color doing so? What does this say to us? What does it say to us that men intent on beating up on women are so often drawn, moth to flame, to both liberarianism and atheism — to two movements that significantly overlap in American culture today?

I'm asking, not prescribing. I don't have the answers that others seem to find so much more confidently than I do. I have, instead, questions, intuitions, suspicions — in this case, that liberating movements always have to expand their horizons (to include excluded others) if they bear any true promise to be liberating. And that really liberating movements never use their easily obtained answers as tools to sort the world into sheep and goats, wheat and tares . . . .

But, then, I also have trouble distinguishing weeds from garden flowers, I'll also freely admit.

* I learned of Oscar Lopez's article by reading Bob Shine's valuable analysis of it this morning at the Bondings 2.0 blog.

When we decided to stop trying to grow grass in our shady front yard, where a huge silver maple stands, wild violets ran riot. They've also filled the in-between areas of our sandstone walkway. This is a photo of some of them from April this year.

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