Q. When is Bob the Builder like Whelan the Wrecker?
A. When they set out to do the job saying, "Yes we can!"
Whether one is building up or tearing down, whether one is gathering stones or casting away stones, the answer to the question about a job, "Can you do it?" is the same. "Yes we can!"
It's not hard to see the ironic relevance of this little joke to our current political reality. Public declarations by elected public officials announcing "Victory!", an end to poverty, or [fill in your own example], are only one part of complex political reality. "Yes we can!" is an answer to the question, "Can we do it?" It shows resolution. It indicates a belief that something needs to be done. A problem needs to be solved. Political resolution might want to build up, but such statements can presage shoddy construction, or even the deeply regretted destruction of something valuable. "Yes we can!" may start with loud fanfare and end as a great weariness. Pious decisions can turn into a nightmare. The Preacher knew this when he said it was all "a futile, stupid and meaningless striving after wind" (Eccles 1-3). When futility prevails, the wise will keep silence waiting patiently for the right time to speak (3:7).
The frenzy that has been generated by President Obama's "Yes we can!" announcement this last week indicating that he accepts "gay marriage", is strongly reminiscent of the "Of course we did!" euphoria that accompanied the "Victory!" proclaimed on May Day 2003 by President George W Bush. The US Commander-in-Chief landed on the USS Abraham Lincoln and told his country, and the world, that victory had been achieved in Iraq. "Could we do it? Yes of course we could!"
Bush in May 2003 and Obama in May 2012 fervently issued their statements as evidence of their eschatological faith in the US as the world's "lead nation", the nation of destiny, leading the way in opening up the entire created order.
After 8 years of "Victory!" in Iraq, the US still holds the faith that led President Bush to say "Yes we did!" Eight years of unsuccessful "risk management" has only made that country's problems more intractable. The problem-solving invasion it unlawfully engineered with UK and Australian military support was no "Victory!"
Obama's announced "turned around" was clearly intended as a domestic, rather than international action, but the reception has been in the self-same spirit of George W Bush and his "illuminist" appeals in his inaugural on 20 January 2001:
"After the Declaration of Independence was signed, Virginia statesman John Page wrote to Thomas Jefferson: "We know the race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong. Do you not think an angel rides in the whirlwind and directs this storm?"
To resist this US commitment to the US as the globe's serendipitous player in the realisation of everybody's future (the globe's "realised eschatology"), means we are willing to draw attention to the deep problems that stand ready to be unleashed by this world-view. President Obama's "turn around" does not challenge the American whirlwind, but simply takes another of those US steps which those committed to the American experiment want to believe are giant steps for all. To refuse to join Obama and the gay marriage movement on the grounds that to do so would be to support this latest phase of American problem-solving pragmatism, is to commit a global heresy.
But there's a real logical problem here and it concerns the US presumption that it is the world's great problem solver. Instead of being swept along, let's think carefully.
What problem is actually being resolved by the political demand that the law re-define marriage in order to enforce a legal fiction? What fiction is that? It is the presumption that the consequences of equating B to A for those who identify themselves as B, are EQUAL and the SAME as the consequences of equating A to B for those who identify themselves as A. [Read that again and think about it!]
So, Mr President, you now sit on the coat-tails of an angel riding the US whirlwind, joining those who insist that the ages-long assumption that marriage is not the same as a non-marriage relationship is all wrong. Can you prove it? No you can't! It's a nonsense. Keep in mind that you are now suggesting that the view of marriage you held formerly was only a "conventional" view. You've obviously forgotten that in your own life-time an earlier generation of those advocating homosexuality repeatedly and persistently justified their way of life by maintaining that theirs was a way of life in which marriage was not at all necessary and which was, in any case, an altogether different relationship from the freedom they demanded and wished to enjoy.
So, Mr President, is your "turn around" going to solve any problems? The problems your attempted equation will create are likely to be a lot more difficult and defy permanent resolution than the legislative problem of addressing any inequities that arise because of the 1,138 rights, benefits and responsibilities that a leading US union official claims are triggered by the word "marriage" under federal law. So tell us, how does redefining marriage to include what is not marriage going to address these problems and resolve them?
Playing legislative word games with the word "equality" will not address the empirical legal problems created by a civil legal régime that has increasingly reduced marriage to the status of "civil right" or at most the "right that gives an entitlement to entitlements." Now that is an possible root of injustice that truly needs to be addressed and it's not going to be resolved by taking the route you suggest. Redefining reality to conform with what the "marriage equality" movement demands will provide no alleviation to the ambiguities that already threaten to swamp the marriage institution.
Are you not taking a position that presumes that the current definition of lawful marriage must be unjust because some people want to view a same-sex relationship as a marriage. That assumes that the fact that there are same-sex couples living together in permanent and supportive relationships apparently proves that the "conventional" definition of marriage is unjust. Can you prove that? No, you can't.
So what's actually going on here, Mr President, if it isn't simply an accommodation to the wind of the liberal-humanist way of life? That way of life, in its latest utilitarian redaction, seeks to re-design reality in terms of "rights". Aren't you ignoring that an ends-justifies-the-means utilitarian world-view has a potential to make marriage problematic? Despite all the positive developments in civil rights legislation for which your country should be proud, your "turn around" now confirms a further politicizing of the marriage institution. The deeply troubled status of the marriage institution within the American polity, and further afield as well, is the issue. Is marriage, qua institution, in trouble? Yes, it is! And will your "turn around" address that? No it won't.
Mr President, a legal attempt to legislate a new definition of marriage to include what is not marriage not only further problematises marriage, it also indicates a truly problematic turn in the US's view of public governance. How do you propose now to ensure that marriage is not politicized? How do you now propose to reckon with the fact that marriage is NOT within the state's gift? Please explain. Yes, you must!
The recent Presidential and Vice Presidential statements suggest that such a change to the way homosexual friendship should be lawfully understood, will be able to avoid any impact upon the way the law considers marriage between a man and a woman. But in fact you, as elected public officials, have stumbled into a view of government that considers it to be a tool to change reality, a means by which to change the way citizens, if not the peoples around the globe, think.
The promethean reach in this "turn around" is masked by indulging silly and childish illuminist talk about "wanting to create history," which as I said we also heard from President George W Bush in his 2003 view of US "victory" in Iraq, as well as in the National Security Strategy that was promulgated under his watch. This is a political commitment to a religious faith in the US as the conduit of the future. It is a domestic way of building upon President Reagan's "Star Wars" initiative. This same-sex marriage "turn around" is of the same civil religious stuff, and the incumbent of the office of US President is now presiding over a society that prefers pragmatic dreams to the reform of public and legal affairs. The presidential embrace of "gay marriage" marks yet another milestone along the sad road by which the US stumbles and falls because of a religious commitment to the "American experiment."
, a project of Bruce Wearne, aims to encourage a sustained Christian political contribution, heeding the gentle and merciful rule of Jesus Christ, the ruler over all the earth's political regimes, who calls all people everywhere to humbly and patiently seek justice for all their neighbours.
May 2012 © The contents of this email are copyright. Editions may be photocopied or retransmitted in their entirety but not otherwise reprinted or transmitted without permission. Comments are welcome and should be sent to