A friend posted on Facebook about his interest in the new Ender’s Game film based on the classic novel by Orson Scott Card. Another person chimed in with joy over a news story that Card would not profit personally based on the performance of the film. Why would such a thing be an occasion for joy? The answer is that Card (a Mormon) is a known opponent of same-sex marriage.
Card’s career of late has been affected by his view of marriage. He lost prospective work writing for a Superman project when voices piped up in opposition to him. Was it because of his poor writing? No. It was because of his politics. These same people who villify Card and hope to destroy his career are surely the same persons who curse the “Red Scare” and “McCarthyism.” What is the phenomenon in either case? It is the attempt to prevent a person with a particular worldview from getting work or to prevent others from associating with that person.
In the course of conversation I have pointed out to Card haters that he merely holds the same position that Barack Obama claimed to hold just a few years ago. In return, I have been criticized for associating two such disparate things. I do not understand the criticism. What would be the difference between Orson Scott Card, a creative writer, being against gay marriage and Barack Obama, a politician, being against gay marriage? It is, of course, true that Barack Obama has changed his mind, but he stated publicly that he felt marriage is between a man and a woman in the course of his first election campaign. Surely, that statement was more consequential than anything Orson Scott Card might say. Indeed, we might add that Proposition 8 in California passed largely because of an especially high turnout among African-American voters in 2008 who were on their way to bring Barack Obama an historic victory.
Was there at any point an effort to undermine Barack Obama or destroy his career because he stated his belief that marriage is between a man and a woman? Why not? What is the difference between Barack Obama and Orson Scott Card? Yes, Obama has changed his mind. But is the left so intolerant that they cannot extend poor Orson Scott Card a couple more years than President Obama got before they really get on his case? After all, we are talking about something essentially new in human history.
Or maybe the person on the left hearing my critique would say something else. Something like, “Well, we all knew that Obama was not really against gay marriage. He just had to say that in order to maintain electoral viability in 2008.” Very good. So the president is to be celebrated for saying something he clearly did not mean, while Card is to be villified for saying what he did mean?
Or perhaps one might argue that the reason Card deserves this shoddy treatment (even from those who admit to having loved and benefitted from his work) is because his opposition to gay marriage is, indeed, evil. There are many problems with this point of view.
First of all, it would be strange to suddenly discover this NEW source of evil. While it is true that homosexuality has been accepted at different times and places, gay marriage is an entirely new thing in human history. We did not even see it in Greco-Roman times. How odd for this refusal to sanction gay marriage to suddenly be an evil point of view. I can bolster this point by demonstrating that even though slavery has been durable in human history, it has always had its opponents. Aristotle reviews arguments for and against slavery. The same cannot be said about gay marriage. Marriage was about men and women and that was it.
Second, people are treating Orson Scott Card as though he were a white supremacist or something of that nature. Is it really fair to treat those two things similarly? I can conceive no rational reason to discriminate between people based on skin color. Can one, though, think of non-arbitrary reasons to limit marriage to men and women? Of course. Those reasons need not ultimately be convincing to everyone. They need merely be non-arbitrary. And they are not. They are largely based on the physical complementarity (by design or evolution) of men and women.
Our culture has decided that individual self-determination is more important than whatever reasons can be adduced in favor of not permitting same-sex marriage. The issue has suddenly become like a Berlin Wall in our community. Activists are eagerly building it and marginalizing people they view as standing on the wrong side of the barrier.
Intellectually, I think this way of thinking is disastrous. When I was younger, I tended to dismiss Rousseau because I knew he refused to marry his mistress or to take responsibility for his newborn babes. Instead, he dropped them off at orphanages, which were not happy or safe places. Likewise, I wanted nothing to do with Marx because of the disastrous Soviet experiment. I have learned, however, that there is great profit to be had in reading both men, and not merely because of the things I think they got wrong. They got some things right, too. I am grateful to professors and others who helped me overcome the need to constantly prevail over those with whom I disagree.
Those who would try to knock Orson Scott Card out of the stream of broad acceptability would do better to listen to him and seek to understand him. They may still be utterly convinced he is wrong, but perhaps they would abandon this quest to brand him as “evil.” Perhaps I can sell this point to the activists by noting that more humane treatment and more respect for Card’s ideas might improve their chances of conveying their concerns to him, too. We will not be able to communicate as long as we play this game of intellectual banishment.