Moral Values

Via Andrew Sullivan comes this:

Take two iconic states: Texas and Massachusetts. In some ways, they were the two states competing in the last election. In the world’s imagination, you couldn’t have two starker opposites. One is the homeplace of Harvard, gay marriage, high taxes, and social permissiveness. The other is Bush country, solidly Republican, traditional, and gun-toting. Massachusetts voted for Kerry over Bush 62 to 37 percent; Texas voted for Bush over Kerry 61 to 38 percent.

So ask yourself a simple question: which state has the highest divorce rate? Marriage was a key issue in the last election, with Massachusetts’ gay marriages becoming a symbol of alleged blue state decadence and moral decay. But in actual fact, Massachusetts has the lowest divorce rate in the country at 2.4 divorces per 1,000 inhabitants. Texas – which until recently made private gay sex a criminal offence – has a divorce rate of 4.1. A fluke? Not at all. The states with the highest divorce rates in the U.S. are Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas. And the states with the lowest divorce rates are: Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Every single one of the high divorce rate states went for Bush. Every single one of the low divorce rate states went for Kerry. The Bible Belt divorce rate, in fact, is roughly 50 percent higher than the national average.

The complicated truth is that America truly is a divided and conflicted country. But it’s a grotesque exaggeration to say that the split is geographical, or correlated with blue and red states. Many of America’s biggest “sinners” are those most intent on upholding virtue. In fact, it may be partly because they know sin so close-up that they want to prevent its occurrence among others. And some of those states which have the most liberal legal climate – the Northeast and parts of the upper MidWest – are also, in practice, among the most socially conservative. To ascribe all this to “hypocrisy” seems to me too crude an explanation. America is simply a far more complicated and diverse place than crude red and blue divisions can explain.

Chepooka’s reaction is of course the cry we liberals should be sounding every moment of every day: How can we live together and reconcile all of this? Well, I think somebody is going to have to find a way to communicate that while liberals mostly talk about personal liberty, they are certainly NOT the “anti-God” party, the “pro-abortion” party, the “Robin Hood” party … because damn if we’re not completely misunderstood.

Fact is, we share the goals of the “moral right” and are pretty damn good at achieving those goals. We just don’t know how to communicate this because we’re spending too much time being pissed off about the hypocricy.

Over at Unspun, Rick speaks on a related topic – the quieting of disent of Christians, by Christians. This relates to the refusal by several tv conglomerates to carry a pro-gay, pro-Christian tv commercial that you may have noticed I talked about earlier.

What does all of this have to do with all of that? The Right is trying to convince America that it is the party of religious values. To do that, it must convince America that leftists are anti-god, anti-moral, and that they are pro-god, pro-moral values. This commericial threatens that message by presenting a pro-god, pro-leftist agenda message.

Rick writes of The United Church of Christ, “a group of Christians with about 1.4 million members in the United States … I know that they’ve been around awhile. In 1700, they were the first mainline church to take a stand against slavery.”

As in the past, they’re once again proving that liberalism goes with Christianity like chocoloate syrup on bowl of stawberry ice cream.

There is war going on in this country for the freedom of our thought, and the freedom of our expression. Jeff Jarvis isn’t far off the mark when he says that the Blogosphere will soon be targeted. Most of us on the left see this war, many on the right who should be our allies on this, don’t — not yet, anyway. But with the Republican’s failure to pass the FMA, and the minority of Republican Representatives opposing the rule changes to favor DeLay, there is hope that they will soon see this for what it is, and fight with us on the side of freedom.

As for myself, I’m an athiest. But that’s what is great about the left — we welcome all kinds. If politics were tv shows, the Republicans would be 90210 – all white and rich. The Democrats would be Deep Space Nine — blacks, whites, asians, religious, non-religious, shape shifters, and Ferengi.

Thanks to Chepooka, Rick at UnSpun, and Andrew Sullivan.

0 thoughts on “Moral Values

  1. I am honestly confused.

    I lived in New England for my first 25 years and then a handful more after the Navy.

    In New England you can’t buy booze on a Sunday, you can’t have a pro football game before 12:30 because of church. There are so many “Blue” laws on the books from forever ago that were all designed to protect the common puritan morality of the citizens that I guarantee that getting a divorce in Massachusetts is much more difficult and drawn out then most other states. My divorce was in Rhode Island and was considered a “quickie”, it only took five months.

    The thought behind that article (comparing Texas and Massachusetts to the differences between candidates) is just wrong. All you’re doing is comparing state legal systems. One is about 125 years older than the other and filled with laws to “protect” the citizens from the seven deadly sins, not each other.

    This whole gay marriage issue in Massachusetts is funny to me. I also guarantee that the common people of Massachusetts (all of New England for that matter) would pass an anti gay marriage law in minutes. The people who are getting all the attention are in the college towns around Boston and are mainly from out of state.

    Yes, Massachusetts has Provincetown which is the exception that proves my rule. Ptown is located at the furthest point on Cape Code, as far away from mainstream as you can get. That’s just the way the common folk want it because they have little tolerance for it.

    Again, just like in our debates about Christianity and politics, it’s the vocal fringe groups that get the press. Pat Robertson does not speak for one one hundreth of the Christians he claims to but the press will run to him for their sound bite every time. Liberals (especially bloggers) have to be very vigilent not to chase every “article” and makes fools of themselves. If the Liberals are going to be perceived as a legitimate political group, they have to deal more with the mainstream groups and less with the vocal PACs that get all the press. Fact has to reign over rumor and knee jerk reaction.

    Gay marriage will still be a topic a century from now in New England. It just isn’t going to get enough support to become law, especially if New Englanders feel like its being shoved down their throats. The gay marriage people may have been successful in drawing attention to themselves but the backlash is going to be painful for them. Massachusetts, in no way shape or form, wants to be identified as the gay marriage capitol of the country. They leave that for the fruits and nuts in California.

    And the national backlash could be even more painful. It obvious that ethical issues were an important part in voters decisions. The Democratic party is going to have to come up with some “ethics” quickly and it will probably cost many of the fringe groups their national soapboxes.

  2. Well, Bob beat me to the punch on that one.

    Another law student originally from the South (who now lives out here in wacko California) and I were discussing this very point via email. Comparing the divorce rates from one state to another to draw conclusions about values held in those states may be a red herring.

    I don’t think I’d go quite as far as Bob, though. The difference in the laws may very well impact the speed at which divorces are obtained. And that may have an impact on slowing the divorce rate, if, in fact, people in states where it’s easier are making decisions that they wouldn’t make if they had some time to cool off.

    But just as Bob’s point is correct that you have to take into account the different legal systems before jumping to the conclusion that the original article-writer did, so, too, you have to do that before deciding that there’s no significance to the difference in divorce rates.

    Even in the states where it’s more difficult to get a divorce, or takes longer, will people continue to stay together if their moral values dictate that doing otherwise is okay? Will people in the states where divorce rates seem higher divorce just because the laws make it easier? Or is it a reflection of their values?

    I think the question isn’t so easy as either of the points of view so far expressed suggest.