The Great American Genitals Caper

If you happen to live in the State of Ohio—and just to be clear, I mean ‘state’ in the sense of a sovereign political entity, not state in the sense of a condition or mode of being-in-the-world—then come the New Year, you will live in a State wherein:

Only a union between one man and one woman may be a marriage valid in or recognized by this state and its political subdivisions. This state and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance or effect of marriage.

This is because on Tuesday, November 2, in the Year of Our Lord, 2004, voters in the State of Ohio approved an amendment to the State’s Constitution by a margin of 62-38 percent which asserts suchandsuch about marriage, men, and women—and that excludes from the State’s recognition of a lawful marriage so-called “same-sex” marriages, with every legal implication for real human beings you can imagine.

Ohio was but one of 11 American states in all to adopt similarly-worded amendments banning same-sex marriages on Tuesday. The other ten were Arkansas (75-25 percent), Georgia (77-23), Kentucky (75-25), Michigan (59-41), Mississippi (86-14), Montana (66-34), North Dakota (73-27), Oklahoma (76-24), Oregon (57-43), and Utah (66-34). To these 11, add the states of Alaska, Hawaii, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, and Nevada, all of which have adopted similar amendments in the past, making the total of U.S. states currently in the state of legal non-recognition of same-sex marriages 17 in all. In fact, only Massachusetts and Vermont have recognized same-sex marriages.

Ohio’s wasn’t even the scariest of these amendments passed on Tuesday. Far form it, in fact. Here’s what voters in the State of Georgia were asked to vote up-or-down:

(a) This state shall recognize as marriage only the union of man and woman. Marriages between persons of the same sex are prohibited in this state.
(b) No union between persons of the same sex shall be recognized by this state as entitled to the benefits of marriage. This state shall not give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other state or jurisdiction respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other state or jurisdiction. The courts of this state shall have no jurisdiction to grant a divorce or separate maintenance with respect to any such relationship or otherwise to consider or rule on any of the parties´ respective rights arising as a result of or in connection with such relationship.

Or how about this beauty, compliments the State of Oklahoma:

A. Marriage in this state shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman. Neither this Constitution nor any other provision of law shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups.
B. A marriage between persons of the same gender performed in another state shall not be recognized as valid and binding in this state as of the date of the marriage.
C. Any person knowingly issuing a marriage license in violation of this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

According to Associated Press, “More than 20 million Americans voted on the measures, which triumphed overall by a 2-to-1 ratio.” And every one of Tuesday’s referendums was a “political dress rehearsal for the federal Marriage Amendment,” the Alliance for Marriage‘s President Matt Daniels pledges, his group’s promotional literature reminding us that the “Marriage Amendment is a reasonable response to the crisis for our democratic society created by those who would use the courts to overcome public opinion with respect to marriage. Gays and lesbians have a right to live as they choose. But they don’t have a right to redefine marriage for our entire society.” (“Multicultural Coalition Reintroduces AFM Marriage Amendment in Congress.”)

Welcome to the Global Outlier, the United States of America. Surely one of the most whacked-out countries on the planet. And insofar as the history of Great Powers goes, the wackiest.

Now. I myself have always thought marriage a very conservative, establishment, even right-wing institution. Particularly when the various priests and nuns of the American political culture start slinging all of that “The Institution of Marriage” crap around. (Not just the terminally lame and the really goofy ones, either.) God only knows why so many philosophically astute and otherwise liberated souls have permitted themselves to be ensnared by the institution, over the centuries.

But this aside, a more serious point arises. People are having a hard time figuring out how the Democratic Party could have lost the November 2004 presidential election to an incumbent Republican administration which has been haunted from its first day in office onward by truly awful news about its lack of legitimacy, integrity, and sheer criminality, including exposure (provided anyone was paying attention) as warmongers willing to capitalize on 9/11 to pursue pre-established agendas; as serial liars and cheats and corporate philanderers and Federal budget absconders, willing to throw old widows, single moms, and children out in the streets, and tear down the orphanages for a new high rise; as torturers and killers and everything else you care to throw at them, all of which is so weighty, that even partial revelations should have sunk their ship a long time ago. But, in whole? Short of outright fraud and election rigging (always possible), people just can’t understand how this incumbent administration could be a disaster both for itself and for the Americans—not to mention for the world—which didn’t have a vote, after all—yet win not only a majority of the Electoral College’s votes (274 at minimum, with 12 others still up for grabs), but a majority of the popular vote as well (51.1 percent). And, on top of this, do even better at the polls than in November, 2000.

In the “battleground” State of Ohio, Bush defeated Kerry by 136,483 votes. Reverse the outcome of this one single state by removing some 69,000 votes from Bush’s ledger and awarding them to Kerry, and the Democrats win Ohio’s 20 Electoral College votes—and the November 2004 presidential election.

But this is America, friends. The Global Outlier, wherein statewide constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage motivate voters to turn out and, in 2004, helped to boost turnout in some of the key “battleground” states, Ohio in particular.

To zero-in on the State of Ohio, it seems to me that an important, and perhaps the decisive, factor behind the Bush Campaign’s victory in 2004 might be called the Genitals Factor, which in polite ideological literature they refer to as “moral” or “cultural” issues, so-called “wedge” issues, as the professional manipulators employed by both parties used to refer to them in past elections, but which in plain English all come down to penises and vaginas and every last piece of baggage the Americans carry with them: That is to say, otherwise undecided voters swinging toward Bush on election day on an issue related to the morally “proper” use of penises and vaginas. (The overwhelming majority of the rest of the Bush voters long ago having swung behind the Republican Party on all other genital-related issues, of course.)

So my gut sense is that, having paid such close attention to the proper management of the sexual organs—as the Ohio voters just did with their 62 percent support of an amendment banning any recognition by their State of same-sex marriages—a sufficient number of these Ohioans in turn decided to re-elect the Party that in their estimate, will also manage the organs of the American state in an equally proper manner. (Acknowledging, of course, that the Republican Party’s even more genitally-conscious candidates, such as Alan Keyes, Gary Bauer, and The Rev. Pat Robertson, simply didn’t contest the Oval Office this election cycle. But also acknowledging that, on all issues related to statecraft—quite contrary to the genital issues—the proper use of the American state is to screw as much of the world as proligately as you can—before the orgy ends.)

(Quick aside. I wish I could produce a transcript for what I’m about to tell you, but late last night, in a completely atypical deviation, I turned on the TV even though all of the election coverage was on—something I never do. And right there, before my very eyes, I saw none other than The Rev. Pat Robertson on his Christian Broadcasting Network, interviewing the Wall Street Journal‘s editorial board member, John Fund, on this very topic. Wish you could have seen it. Robertson and Fund discussing the “Black Voter” and the “Black Vote” as if they were discussing someone real, not just something constructed and reified by a whole battery of sociopolitical-slash-opinion-manipulating weapons. Fund attributed to no less a Republican reifier than the top Bush adviser Karl Rove the insight that it would be this same-sex marriage business—the Genitals Factor, in other words—that moved a decisive segment of the “Black Vote” into the Bush Camp, and would give Bush victory in Ohio and, ultimately, the required 270 minimum.—No exaggeration on my part, friends. This was what John Fund told Pat Robertson, reporting something Karl Rove had told him in the past. And Fund told Robertson this hours before the final results from the State of Ohio were in.)

(Quick aside to this quick aside. Epiphany of epihanies! I thought to myself. And on the Christian Broadcasting Network, no less. Precisely these are the kind of analysts The Nation wouldn’t dream of asking.—It takes a commentator like TomDispatch not to realize—at least until the morning of November 3, that is, when everything shifts accordingly—which country he’s living in.)

What this means, in turn, is that the real problems facing the rest of us Americans whose interests and concerns are not similarly mutilated by so-called “moral” and “cultural” issues remain exactly the same as they are for the world beyond the State of Ohio—beyond fundamentalist America: Not how to ensure that our neighbors are using their genitals properly. But, rather, how to ensure that those in control of the American state are using its weapons properly?

Or, more frankly: How to contain the most dangerous and threatening state in the world— acknowledging that we just failed to accomplish this objective through the vote, and acknowledging that the Democratic Party, institutionally speaking, doesn’t appear to want to help?

How to prevent the American state from destroying itself and the whole planet along with it?

That these weren’t exactly the “issues” with which the mercifully just-completed American presidential campaign dealt goes without saying.

Still. They very much are the issues, globally speaking. And rest assured: They won’t be avoidable forever.

And no Marriage Protection Amendment is going to help us deal with them, either.

Postscript. Lurking beneath the undeniable popularity of this basketful of so-called “value” issues, which holds such brightly colored eggs as “same-sex” marriage, “abortion,” “stem-cell” research, and, last but not least, the utterly manipulative “character” issue—and please note that this basketful of issues predominated in the minds of something like one-in-five of the Americans who voted Tuesday—is the desire not only to be on the right side of these socially corrosive “wedge” issues. But, more important, to smite those Americans who, for whatever reason, happen to fall on their wrong side. (According to righteous opinion, that is.)

Recalling the important (and massively documented) Chicago Council on Foreign Relations-Program on International Policy Attitudes opinion surveys that were released on September 28 and October 1: If, on November 2, a referendum on the Ohio ballot (non-binding, obviously) had asked voters whether they thought the Federal Government should conduct its foreign affairs (i.e., its relations with the rest of the world—outside the confessionals, bathrooms, and bedrooms of this great nation) within a multilateral structure of institutions, even when the decisions taken within this multilateral structure may not be the first choice the Federal Government itself would have taken, there would have been some kind of plurality in favor of such a structure. Maybe even a majority. (Though note that my phrasing of the question on multilateralism here combines a lot of more specifically targeted questions. And you’ll simply have to look over the very extensive CCFR-PIPA questions to see what I mean.—And while you’re at it, maybe also “If Only the World Had a Vote” (Oct. 16), and “A Hall of Mirrors” (Oct. 19).)

And if, on the other hand, a referendum question on the Ohio ballot asked voters whether they wanted to adopt a statewide constitutional amendment denying to same-sex partners the same legal protections of “marriage” that heterosexual partners traditionally have enjoyed in their State, there was going to be some 62 percent of voters who responded “Yes.” Along with implications for the final vote tallies for the Republican and Democratic presidential tickets in the State. As well as similar consequences, at least across the other 10 American states were these loaded “same-sex” marriage referendums were held.)

Now. It is a tribute to the abject failure of the American Democratic Party’s leadership to provide any kind of clear alternative in 2004 that placed their positions on truly important issues before the American public and kept them there (e.g., launching aggressive wars is criminal and wrong; national health care is right—and ought to be a Right), while permitting loaded, “wedge” issues such as the genitally-related ones to remain at the forefront of so many Americans’ minds.

(Quick aside. Maybe next time, George Soros ought to just roll up all of his ill-gotten cash into one big pyramid-shaped wad, and set it ablaze. It’ll probably warm more homeless people then, than it persuaded “undecided” voters now that the Bush regme had to go. I will gladly provide the gasoline and the match, come the Democratic primaries in the winter of 2008. Imagine how many of the heroes of the Great Democratic Revival since Soros decided to speculate on something other than the currency markets and Central and Eastern European states he’d take with him! I’ll bet they’d really move on, as soon as their Sugar Daddy’s money dried up.)

(Quick aside to this quick aside. And the next time any of you click-on The Nation‘s webpage, and see one of Soros’ splashy advertisements there, running right across the top of their homepage—I suggest you move on, too.)

Likewise, Tuesday’s outcome is a tribute to the success of the Republican Party’s manipulators (Can’t really call them strategists. Can we?)—like the ones whose great thoughts I happened to overhear discussed on the Christian Broadcasting Network late Tuesday night—to place and to hold the diversionary “value” issues before the American public—the State of Ohio being only one case in point. With next-to-zero challenge from the American Democratic Party’s leadership and campaign manipulators, it’s worth adding. All of whom are doubtless studying the exit polls to determine how their candidate could have come in a distant second on the genital-related issues, so that in 2008, their next presidential candidate—Hillary Clinton? Al Gore? Barack Obama???—will take the genital-related vote, and come in first.

But Tuesday’s outcome, both statewide in Ohio as well as nationally, is also a tribute to the deep-seated inclinations of the Americans who swallow this kind of crap in the first place. For on its intellectual merits alone, and without this substantial and growing segment of the very screwed up and in many ways decimated American public, the “value” issues never would receive more than a fraction of one percent of the attention in the first place.

Only the American state bestrides the planet like a colossus, posing a constant threat to peace and security internationally, and increasing the risk to its own population in direct correlation with every time it places the populations of other countries at risk.

And yet, in this country, on Tuesday, November 2, in the Year of Our Lord, 2004, it was the “value” issues, foremost among which was the Genitals Factor, that decided the day.

Think about it.

Postscript II. According to Reuters (Nov. 7), none other than the victorious Republican campaign manipulator Karl Rove appeared on Fox News Sunday and pledged that during his second term, the American President would “push the Republican-controlled Congress for a constitutional amendment…to ban same-sex marriage as essential to a ‘hopeful and decent’ society,” as Reuters puts it. “Renewing his push for an amendment—despite its slim chances of success—would be a way for Bush to reward his conservative base,” Reuters continued. “The amendment would face a steep hurdle winning the needed approval of three-fourths of the states.” (“Bush to Seek Gay-Marriage Ban in New Term—Aide,” Nov. 7.)

According to one of the Religious Right’s websites—and notice that in the United States, there is no Religious Left to speak of—and why should there be? The Left in the States utterly decimated, religious or otherwise—

25 percent of Ohio voters called themselves evangelical—a number higher than the national figure of 22 percent. Among those Ohio evangelicals, 76 percent voted for Bush.

Compared to 2000, the 2004 election in Ohio saw an additional 900,000 voters cast ballots. Bush won this year by some 136,000 votes.

Could the amendment have been the difference? It’s possible. During the campaign to pass the amendment, churches and pro-family groups were involved in registering 54,500 new voters. Thousands more, who were registered but rarely voted, are thought to have voted for the amendment, and subsequently for Bush.

“I had seen polling data from six months ago that if this was on the ballot, that it would help the president by 3 to 5 percent,” said Phil Burress, who as chairman of the Ohio Campaign to Protect Marriage organized a petition drive to place the amendment on the ballot.

“But that’s not why I did it. I did it to protect marriage. Apparently, it did have an impact.”

The gentleman was crowing after a sweet victory, of course. But this is America, don’t forget. And in 2004, the genital-related issues made a huge—and perhaps decisive—difference.

Did the same-sex ‘marriage’ issue hand Bush a victory in Ohio?” Michael Fourst, Baptist Press, Nov. 4, 2004
Bush to Seek Gay-Marriage Ban in New Term—Aide,” Randall Mikkelsen, Reuters, November 7, 2004

State-by-State Ballot Initiatives on Same-Sex Marriage,” National Organization for Women (accessed Nov. 3, 2004)

11 U.S. States Outlaw Gay Marriage in Legislative Sweep,” Agence France Presse, November 3, 2004
“Voters in 11 States Approve Bans of Same-Sex Marriage,” David Crary, Associated Press, November 3, 2004
“National Groups Heed Leader of Ohio’s Campaign to Ban Gay Marriages,” Carrie Spencer, Associated Press, November 3, 2004

Gays look ahead with uncertainty,” Sonji Jacobs, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, November 3, 2004
Gay Marriage Bans Passed,” Michael Kranish, Boston Globe, November 3, 2004
Same-Sex Marriage: Amendments to Ban Practice Pass Handily in All 11 States,” Chicago Tribune, November 3, 2004
Same-Sex Marriage: 11 States Back Bans on Gay Unions; Georgia, Ohio Bar Partner Benefits,” Elizabeth Mehren, Los Angeles Times, November 3, 2004
Constitutional Bans on Same-Sex Marriage Gain Widespread Support in 10 States,” Sarah Kershaw, New York Times, November 11, 2004
Rain, Lines and Litigation Slow Smooth Effort in Ohio,” Ford Fessenden and James Dao, New York Times, November 3, 2004
Issues: 11 States Nix Gay Marriage,” Charisse Jones, USA Today, November 3, 2004
Same-Sex Marriage Measures Succeed; Bans in Several States Supported by Wide Margins,” T.R. Reid, Washington Post, November 3, 2004
A drubbing for same-sex marriage,” Brad Knickerbocker, Christian Science Monitor, November 4, 2004

Retro Poll (www.retropoll.org), Marc Sapir et al.
The Public Opinion Polling Fraud,” Marc Sapir and Mickey Huff, Z Magazine, October, 2003
A Full Investigation Is Warranted,” Marc Sapir, Retro Poll, November 3, 2004

Democrats in End Time: Republicans gain shattering victory; who to blame this time?” Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, CounterPunch, November 3, 2004
Why Kerry Lost,” Doug Ireland, ZNet, November 3, 2004
The Morning After,” Justin Podur, ZNet, November 3, 2004
The Election Of Homophobia And Misogyny,” Vijay Prashad, ZNet, November 3, 2004

Global Public Opinion on the U.S. Presidential Election and U.S. Foreign Policy,” Program on International Policy Attitudes, September 8, 2004 (and the accompanying Media Release)
America’s Place in the World,” The Guardian, October 15, 2004 (This webpage provides links to each of the ten news organizations that participated in the international survey of public opinion toward the upcoming American presidential election.)
If Only the World Had a Vote, ZNet Blogs, October 15, 2004
A Hall of Mirrors, ZNet Blogs, October 19, 2004

An Appeal from Fallujah to Kofi Anan and the UN, Kassim Abdullsattar al-Jumaily, President, Center for the Study of Human Rights and Democracy, Fallujah (In case you’re wondering, I’ve included this Appeal because of its real-world relevance and the immensity of the challenge.)

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