Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Gay Marriage: Political Sleight of Hand

Before I share my musing, let me state that I have no issue with gay marriage as in the right for two people of similar gender to be married and share the benefits of marriage.  I have friends on both sides of this argument who passionately defend their respective sides as being “the right one” and I love and respect all of them.

Why do I not have an issue? Apart from basic human rights, I think there are a lot more important things in the world that demand our attention right now.

That being said, the political and media circus that I see around gay marriage concerns me.

Here’s why.

According to a Gallup study in 2012, 3.4% of Americans considered themselves to be a member of the LBGT community.

That’s a pretty small percentage of the population.

According to recent US Census figures, 15.1% of Americans live in poverty.

Despite the huge disparity between these two statistics, I don’t see us tackling the problems of the destitute with the same passion and vigor that I see us addressing the gay marriage issue nor do I hear the cry of outrage from the media regarding the destitute.

Why is this?

Because gay marriage, while representing a very small minority of Americans, is much easier to tackle and scores more “sex appeal” (no pun intended) for politicians and the media. 

The LBGT community also contains within its ranks, more of the powerful, the beautiful and the articulate than the destitute community does, at least as far as the media and others are concerned.

And while media / social media, legislative branches of various governments and judicial entities going right up to the Supreme Court are consumed by giving “victory” to a small minority of people, such a victory for politicians allows them to score huge personal points while simultaneously directing our attention from what they are not accomplishing.  Don’t forget that many public figures were against gay marriage until they realized the personal benefit that they would receive by being in favor of it.

What are politicians not addressing or correcting?

Here are some examples:

1. Previously mentioned poverty levels in America.

2. The cost of maintaining a prison system that is bursting at the seams with no solution in sight in regards to cost, ever-growing prison populations and disturbing recidivism rates.

3. Unemployment levels which remain too high, preventing the economy from powering itself back to prosperity.

4. The Fed, continuing to pump funds into the stock market and thus providing citizens with a false indication that the economy is healthy.

5. National security concerns, both inside America’s borders, outside of its borders and on the border-less Internet, including but not limited to threats against public transit, infrastructure, institutions (from cyber crime), etc.

6. The war on drugs which many concede has already been lost.

7. Legislators who don’t read / understand legislation (Patriot Act, Obamacare, etc) before passing it, unaware of the downstream impact of such far-reaching legislation.

8. Mixed messages from the government and the courts that enable some people to practice their personal beliefs (including their religion or lack thereof) at the expense of others.

The gay marriage debate is also another example of our ever-increasing choice of intimidation and bullying (from all sides) instead of seeking compromise through respect-based dialog.  Why aren’t people entitled to their opinions any more or why are they considered to be “wrong” if they disagree with someone else’s personal choice?

Moving beyond America ….

1. A crisis in Europe which continues to limp along with no easy answers in sight, now manifesting in “solutions” such as the one seen in Cyprus in recent days.

2. 24,000 children under the age of 5 who die daily from tainted water.

3. One in every two children worldwide who are considered to live in poverty.

4. Interesting military entanglement potential in Iran and North Korea which may have more profound impact globally than people are aware of.

5. Institutions like the UN, a bloated, expensive, toothless example of what pretending to be of value looks like in the modern world when it comes to tackling global difficulties in the areas of poverty, disease and conflict.

The Art of Misdirection

Most of us know that a magician doesn’t really have the power to bend the laws of physics, relying instead on the art of misdirection or subterfuge to make sure that the audience is looking where the magician wants them to look.

That’s what makes a good magician seem amazing.

I wonder if politicians are using the LBGT community in the same way, scoring easy points and redirecting our attention from the things in America and the world that remain unsolved, thus demonstrating that we are not as intelligent, empowered and loving a species as we claim to be.

Admittedly, they are difficult problems to solve and we face a difficult balancing act in the world, a balancing act that grows exponentially in complexity daily.

But many of the people we elect to solve these issues are doing little or nothing to even try to fix them, thus reducing the efforts of the many great people who are doing their best to right the wrongs in the world.

And when it comes to the gay marriage issue, we are not seeing appropriate levels of effort / attention commensurate with measurable social / human impact.  A lot of energy is going into benefiting a small group of people.

Everyone has to pick their battles

But I wonder if too many influential people are choosing their battles for political reasons and not human / humane ones.

There will always be some who make this choice but I wonder if we have passed a dangerous, critical mass of such people.

I worry that if such a critical mass of people exists, some people will win in the short term (such as the LBGT community in this case) but everyone will lose in the long term when examining the list of unresolved “stuff”.

Well … not everyone will lose but we may be disappointed or angered to discover who the “winners” are.

And when I hear, implicitly if not explicitly, “Ta daaaaaa, it’s maaaaaagic”, I would like to think that what we have just witnessed is helping the world as best as we are capable of.

But somehow I don’t think that’s what we are focused on.

What do you think?

In service and servanthood,



  1. This is a fabulous, thoughtful view of our selective attention in civil (or uncivil) discourse. I have my own strong feelings on the same-sex marriage question, but I will not offer them here, precisely because I want to stand with you and say, "Why are we not tackling the issues that affect more people, more profoundly?" The answer to that question is in our hearts.

  2. Thanks for your kind words, Doug.

    Frankly, I like the way you said it better than how I did. :-)

    Create a great day!


  3. This reminds me of the typical work day. Get some easy stuff out of your way (start early to maximize this) then get to work on the hard stuff. Gay marriage is a no brainer. Helps a small number of people, hurts no one, so let's just get out of other people's private lives. Poverty and disease may not be personally experienced, but the failures (like war and prison, etc.) hurt all of us in one way or another.

  4. Hi Janice,

    This may be so, but $10 says that they will then move on to something else similar, always avoiding the difficult stuff which must be solved in an enabled species.

    It's like the UN. Every time people pressure them to do something about the difficult issues, they commission another study. I have friends who have made a living for over 20 years consulting to the UN and studying the same things over and over (just in case they have changed). :-)

    Thanks for the comment, Janice!

    Create a great day!


  5. You nailed it, Harry. Governments are tackling this issue purely because the media has brought it to the forefront, not because a significant number of people are affected. Media has made this a big ticket item and government is taking advantage of it in order to deflect from their complete avoidance of dealing with the hard issues where people are actually hurting. Politicians seem to be more media oriented than task oriented. How many previous presidents appeared on "The Ellen Show" or "The View" ??

    With regard to making an actual difference in the world, this issue is very low on the scale and is taking time away from tasks of greater magnitide.

    But pfft, who cares as long as the politicians are in the spotlight and viewed as being aligned with "the right people"

    Who's running the USA, anyway? Washington or Hollywood?