The Great Rejection

The presidential campaign in the U.S. is inevitably doomed to turn into a discussion about recognizing or not recognizing same-sex marriages as a constitutional norm.

The first shot was fired by Hillary Clinton, who urged the Supreme Court to recognize these marriages as a constitutional norm for all states. Such a decision is quite likely since the U.S. judicial system has been systematically overturning bans on same-sex marriages that were introduced by popular referendums. Between 1998 and 2012, 33 states voted on the issue: In 31 states, the people spoke out in favor of a ban, and as a rule, by a large majority — between 60 and 80 percent. In a majority of cases, the ban was overturned by the courts.

There’s a gap between “popular opinion” and the position of the judicial establishment together with Democratic politicians, as gay marriages are very unpopular among the Republicans. Public opinion is split in half, the liberal Northeast and West in opposition to the conservative Midwest and South. At any rate, in 2011, 48 percent of Americans (versus 44 percent) supported an amendment to the Constitution affirming the institution of marriage as a union between a man and a woman — the same norm the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional in 2013.

The country is seriously divided on the fundamental moral issue of preserving or abolishing the traditional family. The policy Clinton is calling for is, in essence, forcing the recognition of same-sex unions at the cost of infringing upon the autonomy and will of the citizens of individual states. It’s a dangerous arrangement.

Let me remind you that the Civil War in the U.S. began with the election in 1860 of a president of a minority faction, the Republican Abraham Lincoln, who promised to use all the federal government’s resources to limit and gradually abolish slavery. Southerners in the Civil War were standing up not for slavery as such (many, especially in the Confederate high command, believed that it would surely soon be abolished) but for state’s rights, for the freedom to govern themselves without the federal government.

In the Civil War that followed, the Southerners, in the minority, held out against an economic blockade for four years: Their armies covered themselves in glory, and the Southerners’ generals acquired a certain cult status in American history — this despite the fact that they were fighting for a cause that’s ultimately hard to consider just.

By contrast, the justness of the North’s cause, fought with the song [lyrics] “As Christ died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,”* doesn’t change the fact that Lincoln had to install a dictatorship in the country. He was just barely re-elected with the help of blatant electoral fraud. The Northerners’ assault force was made up of regiments of immigrants who often didn’t have the right to vote. So it was possible to call the war “civil” only with a degree of conditionality.

The parallel is obvious: Both then and now the country is divided on a serious issue; both there and here the North ends up one way or another against the South; and both there and here is the threat of a forced emancipation under the pressure of the federal government, an emancipation pursued by a liberal politician of an authoritarian mentality who is supported by immigrants.

But there are, of course, differences too. The South’s cause was objectively unjust: One person should not enslave another person. And by contrast, the cause of the defenders of the traditional family is objectively just since they are defending the very social institution upon which the human race is, in principle, based.

Everyone understands that gay marriage isn’t just the establishment of equal rights for gays but the destruction of the institution of the family as such, because the fundamental law of life, not sexual preference, forms the basis of marriage. There is not and cannot be natural marriage, gay marriage, BDSM marriage, bestiality marriage, and so on. The family is a naturally occurring social union based on marriage between a man and a woman and meant for the reproduction of human life, for the birth and raising of children, and for the preservation of ancestral memory and the inheritance of property and social attainment subject to inheritance.

Sexual practices might be of whatever kind, but they don’t produce families. And the introduction of sexual practice as a criterion for marriage and the creation of a family, the transformation of same-sex couples into a social structuring unit (and in the U.S. there is the question regarding social benefits) is the introduction of the principle that “marriage is a union of whomever at all with whomever for whatever purpose.” In essence, it differs little in its degree of social destructiveness from the idea of communal wives that was popular among utopian communists but quickly disappeared in the practice of real socialism.

Hence the question of how that half of Americans that defends the traditional family and that adheres to Christian beliefs will react to the government’s coercive diktat. A century and a half ago, angry Americans took up arms over far more dubious rights. But back then the political and military establishment, the institutions of the formerly truly independent states, and their own economic interest were on their side.

With Hillary Clinton’s intention to become the “president of gay marriages” and of radical feminism, America is entering a zone of serious political turbulence that will concern Russia as well. The questions of practical geopolitics that divide us may well take a back seat in comparison to a conflict about the nature of the individual, family and society.

Speaking in Kaliningrad at the brilliant intellectual forum “Berdyaev’s Readings” which was held April 16 to18 and which brought together Russian and foreign thinkers, political scientists, sociologists and philosophers, I ventured to remind the participants of Fernand Braudel’s formulation: Civilization defines itself through rejecting the adoption of certain features of other civilizations. There is no civilization worthy of the name that wouldn’t reject some of the “gifts” of the neighboring Greeks. Civilization’s most conservative institution, according to Braudel, is precisely the model of the family.

Byzantine civilization, notes Braudel, forever defined itself by rejecting unity with the papacy, and paid for this choice with physical destruction, but spiritually it carried on in Russia’s rejection of unity. Mediterranean Europe rejected the Reformation by responding to it with the Counter-Reformation. In 1917, Russia hurried to adopt Europe’s seemingly inevitable choice of socialism and was cruelly deceived: Europe rejected socialism and hung the “blame for communism” on Russia.

Today for us such a “great rejection” is a question of bioethics, a question of the traditional family and traditional anthropology. The West is hurrying to reform the “traditional individual”; we are prepared to defend him. Don’t speak of the “decline” of the traditional family. It isn’t about a “decline” but a conscious, revolutionary abolition of the family and its social delegitimization, an abolition in which gay marriage blurs its boundaries, while radical feminism turns the conversation toward broadly declaring the family a “criminal, authoritarian institution.” Before us is the most serious attempt to reconstruct the foundation of the individual since New Testament times and with the sign opposite to that of the Testament.

America’s Hillary Clinton and Russia’s Vladimir Putin promise to be their own kind of Geneva and Rome in the era of the new “religious wars” in which not Protestantism and Catholicism but feminism and familism go head to head.

We don’t know whether the traditional half of Americans will come out in defense of the family or accept the choice imposed by Hollywood and the White House. We don’t know to what extent defenders of the traditional family will survive in Europe and whether they will be able to consolidate their position politically anywhere in defiance of the liberal political establishment. In the end, the entire “familistic” West will begin to search for its “Rome” not just anywhere, but in Moscow.

While not professing to be a fortune-teller or clairvoyant, I won’t rule out the possibility that we are now witnessing a fundamental division of the world along a line that will remain fundamental for the future era.

*Editor’s note: These are lyrics from “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

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About Jeffrey Fredrich 199 Articles
Jeffrey studied Russian language at Northwestern University and at the Russian State University for the Humanities. He spent one year in Moscow doing independent research as a Fulbright fellow from 2007 to 2008.

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