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Arrested development
Monday, July 13, 2015 - By Don DeMarco, PhD

A five-year-old girl, known to the world as Yasmeen, has become a celebrity of sorts, if not an acclaimed moral philosopher. Her letter to President Obama supporting same-sex marriage has made news. In her message, tweeted to the president by her aunt, Yasmeen asks him to “stop war” and to “please give a speech to tell everyone that [sic] can marry who they want.” The latter request may be more difficult to execute.

The president could hardly ignore a memo of such importance. “Tell your niece,” he tweeted back, “I really like her letter. Couldn’t agree more!” What Yasmeen is probably not aware of is that her White House role model has already given such speeches in support of same-sex marriage. On June 14, 2014, for example, he delivered a commencement address to the graduating class of the University of California at Irvine in which he applauded those states “where you’re free to marry who [sic] you love.”

Yasmeen’s fairy tale conception of marriage, given her tender age, is excusable. Obama’s, given his education and position of responsibility, is not. Moreover, his exploitation of a young girl’s ignorance is scandalous, and we know what Mark, Luke, and Matthew have to say about scandal and millstones.

A moment’s reflections remind us that no one has ever been free to marry another merely on the basis of his love. The statement, which may sound good on first hearing—“I can now marry the person I love”—must be amended. Love reaches out to many, family members, children, neighbors, even strangers. The definite article is much too restrictive. The grammatical presumption here is that I love only one person and I should be free to marry that person. Changing to the indefinite article, we might say, “I can now marry a person I love.” This is an improvement, but far from either reasonable or acceptable.

What do I know about that person whom I love? Is it a member of my immediate family? Is it someone underage, someone already married, or someone who does not want to marry me? To ignore these time-honored restrictions is to invite incest, pedophilia, bigamy, adultery, exploitation, and slavery. King Midas, of fairy tale lore, could turn everything he touched into gold. Yet not even in fairy tales do we have an imaginary figure who can turn any other person into his spouse. Even elixirs of love were not offered to just anyone.

Love is omnifarious and omnidirectional. C. S. Lewis, in his classic study, The Four Loves, examines the difference between storge (affection), philia (friendship), eros (love), and agape (charity). Furthermore, love can be directed over a wide range of recipients from one’s pet dog to the deity. Not all love is marital and not all recipients of love are potential spouses. No one ever before, except for very young children, has ever been so thoroughly confused about such an important subject.

President Obama has boasted that his views on same-sex marriage have “evolved.” It seems more accurate to say that they have devolved to the point that they now appear to be utterly childish. The world of politics has been compared to Camelot (“One brief shining moment that was known as Camelot”). Politics should belong to the real needs of citizens, not to imaginary folk who inhabit a fantasy land. The 1975 parody, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, presents, despite the accustomed zaniness of its characters, a more sober attitude toward Camelot. In the story, King Arthur decides, “On second thought let’s not go there. It’s rather a silly place.”

Fairy tales are for children, not for presidents, leaders, parents, or teachers. Politics is the art of working for the good of people. The word is derived from the Greek, politikos, meaning “of, for, or relating to citizens.” Abraham Lincoln’s well-known thumbnail description of democracy as being “of the people, by the people, and for the people” is profoundly realistic because it outlines the need to harmonize how people should act with how people would benefit. In other words, the political actions of people in a democratic society should be tailored so that they truly serve the needs of the people.  This is a task that demands intense realism.

Fantasy is appealing to the imagination. The work of politics is one of hard-nosed realism. Children should be educated, not imitated. Presidents should be able to think on a deeper level than that of a five-year old. Jos Ortega y Gasset warned, in The Revolt of the Masses of “the sovereignty of the unqualified.”

Donald DeMarco is a senior fellow of Human Life International. He is professor emeritus at St. Jerome’s University in Waterloo, Ontario, an adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College in Cromwell, CT, and a regular columnist for St. Austin Review. His latest works, How to Remain Sane in a World That Is Going Mad and Poetry That Enters the Mind and Warms the Heart are available through Amazon.com.

This article has been reprinted with permission and can be found at http://www.truthandcharityforum.org/arrested-development/

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