One of the Dumber Arguments I've Heard

At the risk of being radically misunderstood, I must comment on an argument that I have run across many times regarding homosexuality.

The radically misunderstood part is that my comments have nothing to do with homosexuality itself. I don't intend to address homosexuality per se at all on this blog. If you want to witness people calling each other names go to some political pundit's blog.

But I am an English teacher, and I get tired--oh, so tired--of illogical arguments. And I consider this particular argument to be illogical.

So, here we go: I recently picked up Neal Boortz's book Somebody's Gotta Say It. He's a libertarian. I'm a libertarian. Why not? I became rapidly disenchanted. There's a few too many assumptions floating about the book, which is probably why I don't read books by pundits in the first place.

This particular assumption goes something like this: Homosexuality is not a choice (this is the claim part of the argument; it can be refuted or supported) because no one would choose to be ostracized by society (this is the silly part of the argument).

No one would choose to be ostracized by society.


Oh, yeah?

This is not the first time I have encountered this argument; it always astonishes me. Even when I was in my 20's and supposedly more naive than I am now, I never could give credence to this argument or take seriously the people who proposed it.

My first thought is always, Uh, what about the history of, I don't know, the human race?

The fact is people have been making choices that ostracize them from their societies, families, cultures, and planet earth since, well, since the first scientist made a claim that annoyed his government and the first hippie went over the proverbial wall and the first artist sat around going, "I'm not going to hunt bison. I'm going to paint them."

The Impressionists ostracized themselves from the powers that be in the arts--until they singlehandedly created the picture postcard industry. (Okay, not really.) Thomas Hardy ostracized himself from British society when he published Jude the Obscure (although it could have just been Hardy's personality; he ostracized himself from his wife as well). Tons of religious leaders (including Joseph Smith) ostracized themselves from 19th century American society with their unique sexual practices. And then there's all those people who have changed their political parties or their religious affiliations or, gosh, their dietary habits and ostracized themselves from their families/friends/societies.

According to the "No one chooses to be ostracized" argument, the chick from My Big Fat Greek Wedding would never have even contemplated marrying a non-Greek since the moment she did WHAM! possible ostracisim.

Now, you could argue that the chick from My Big Fat Greek Wedding didn't suffer very long from her decision but what's the rule here? If people don't suffer long, it must be choice, but if they do suffer long, it isn't?

The second possible refutation would be, "But, Kate, most of your examples are edgy, culture-changing personalities. What about ordinary people who just wish to live within the status quo?"

Well, I believe that even ordinary people who want to live within the status quo are desirous of an identity. You don't have to be a teenager or Picasso to define yourself by what you are not or by what will meet your desires.

Again, I am not going to argue here whether homosexuality is right/wrong, choice/non-choice. I simply don't believe that since people don't like negatives, every negative effect in their lives is therefore not the result of a personal choice. I realize that many people don't anticipate negative effects. But there are still many, many people in this world who anticipate the negative and still make the choice.(For several years after breaking with the Catholic Church, Martin Luther suffered intense psychological depression; he believed he was hounded by the devil--how's that for a negative effect?)

To go to the furthest extreme of this argument, let's take drug or gambling addicts. They ruin their healths, go into debt, lose their jobs, disappoint their families, and, possibly, undermine the fabric of society, yadda, yadda, yadda, and what, you think they did it because they didn't get a buzz? It just kind of happened to them?

Here's my stance: I think discussions about human nature would go a lot better (meaning, from my perspective, make more sense) if all arguments would start from the proposition that culture is not the final determinant for how a human being will behave: destructively or not.



Eugene said...

Here's another good example: a Syrian Jewish community in Brooklyn that ostracizes anybody who marries outside the faith. And they mean it.

A calvinist preacher said...

There would be no such sanction as ostracization if people did not at least occasionally choose it.

Why is it chosen, though? The answer to THAT question is one of the more intriguing sources of insight into the human character.

Anonymous said...

A Calvinist preacher your question is one of the very things sociologist have been trying to uncover forever and a day.