Forget terrorists.  Mike Huckabee has identified a threat right here at home that would result in the downfall of our whole civilization.

GQ: Is the strategy shifting because social conservatives are losing on those core issues? Ten years ago, it would have been unimaginable to have gay marriage even in liberal Massachusetts. Now it's there.

Huckabee: I don't think the issue's about being against gay marriage. It's about being for traditional marriage and articulating the reason that's important. You have to have a basic family structure. There's never been a civilization that has rewritten what marriage and family means and survived. So there is a sense in which, you know, it's one thing to say if people want to live a different way, that's their business. But when you want to redefine what family means or what marriage means, then that's an issue that should require some serious and significant debate in the public square.

Huckabee isn't the first to make these kind of statements.  The idea that marriage is so sacrosanct that disturbing one dot in the word "license" would be enough to end us, has become part of the right's standard patter.

So, I'm wondering, who were these civilizations that re-wrote the meaning of marriage or family, and met some horrible doom.  Was it the many civilizations were marriage was arranged and decided long before children were of marriageable age?  Was it the Jewish civilizations of Jesus' day where brothers were required to marry their brother's widows?  Was it civilizations that allowed siblings to marry?  How about first cousins? Could be it civilizations who adopted the silly idea that you should marry for love.  Perhaps it was the Mormons who decided to practice polygamy.  Perhaps it was those who decided to stop.  Or maybe it was the polyandrous cultures in many mountainous or arctic regions.

The truth is that every society rewrites the rules of marriage and family.  That's what happens to all our social values as they respond to changes in how we live, what we know, and our available resources.  Yes, friction occurs when the boundaries of a social convention no longer match those of a society in which it's embedded, but the societies that survive are exactly those which demonstrate the flexibility to change and adapt.

We stand at the end of a long line of rule-changers, of civilizations that have made institutions like marriage work for them, instead of against them.  The dust under our feet is composed of all the civilizations that just the kind of rigidity that Huckabee wants for us now.  The civilizations who fail are not those who acknowledge changing conditions and reshape their rules, but those who don't.  

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Thu Dec 06, 2007 at 11:40 AM PST.

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