What could the proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution defining marriage as the legal union of a man and a woman possibly have in common with the security fence Israel is building to block West Bank terrorists from entering the country and killing civilians?
The two stories share the front pages lately, but that's about it. A philosophical debate over a political process, no matter how contentious, has nothing to do with the nuts and bolts (literally) of building a wall high enough, strong enough and smart enough to fend off terrorist killers.
Except for possibly one thing. Both stories, in their way, show societies engaged in fundamental struggles over their futures and resorting, respectively, to dire measures to preserve themselves culturally and physically. With a marriage amendment, the United States could go to the mat -- the Constitution -- to draw a new line in the sand against continuing cultural revolution. With the security fence, Israel is drawing a line -- and building it, too -- to safeguard the lives of its citizens.
The possibility of homosexuals "marrying" in San Francisco, New Mexico and Massachusetts, even by the thousands, hardly constitutes the mortal danger posed by any one suicide bomber. Even so, there remains something else that links the two issues: namely, what they tell us about 21st-century civilization. The fact is, the proposed American amendment and the Israeli fence are defensive reactions to unprecedented assaults on principles so fundamental that they have never before required much in the way of articulation, let alone defense. For millennia, Judeo-Christian marriage has been the union of a man and a woman, and unremarkably so. Similarly unremarkable has been a nation's right to protect itself against unceasing, barbarous attack. Today, these basic precepts have come under fire -- and unremarkably so -- indicating the extent to which the very foundations of modern civilization have shifted.
That shift is visible between the lines of President Bush's explanation of why, after "more than two centuries of American jurisprudence and millennia of human experience," he believes a constitutional amendment is necessary to bring "clarity" to the definition of marriage. That is, when a president believes he has to bring "clarity" to the definition of marriage, the lens on the world has gone fuzzy. Not that everyone doesn't know that the bride is the girl and the groom is the boy. What's out of focus is the basic notion, as Bush put it, that "marriage cannot be severed from its cultural, religious and natural roots without weakening the good influence of society."