by Patrick Appel
A reader writes:
I like Ross Douthat and think he is a clever guy, but at some point he has to look over his own writing and realize he is arguing a losing hand.
Near the end of the segregation debate in the mid 60's, the thoughtful supporters of segregation were having a similarly tough time making their case. It was no longer possible to argue that blacks were inferior. Both societal conventions and empirical evidence had turned their back on those types of arguments. Listening to King and Marshall make their thoughtful, articulate case against segregation had rendered the "inferiority" argument moot. Instead, segregation supporters shifted, ignored black people, and began to make the argument for the "superiority" of white people. They began to argue that the great inventions, philosophies and institutions that had been created by white people throughout history were the reason why whites needed to maintain an elevated status.
Needless to say, that tact proved to be completely unpersuasive.
The inherent superiority of white people seemed like a dubious proposition given the large amount of white knuckleheads all of us meet on daily basis. The dissonance between the white people's theoretical superiority and the inferiority of our everyday experiences turned that argument into something indefensibly silly. Thomas Jefferson may have been superior, but that obnoxious jerk at the gym is clearly not. Civil rights became codified in law and segregation ended as a legal creation, though its practical cessation was much slower to take hold.
I think that is where Ross finds himself now. It is no longer viable to argue that homosexual unions are a danger and should be prevented. Instead, he is arguing that heterosexual unions are superior in some way and deserve some elevated status. That argument won't last long in the face of what all of us see every day - piles of rotten heterosexual marriages, infidelity, and all manners of unserious matrimony nonsense. While there are many good marriages, we all know of heterosexual unions that seem anything but superior. I am curious to see where Ross goes with this argument, but I sense it will crumble in the face of what is right in front of our noses.