Posted by: ilanasmith | February 25, 2006

One? No, how about four?

Five years ago, when I moved to the US, I did not expect to be surprised by much.  Twenty years of American TV, movies and literature had led me to the arrogant belief that I knew what I was getting myself into.  I may not have been exactly correct.
 
The sheer scale of opportunity here is astounding.  Someone once asked me where in Australia I was from, and then asked me what famous companies were there.  (Some people will do anything to find something to relate to.)  I drew a blank.  Sure, Brissie has a few big companies, but they’re mostly regional, or branch offices.  Off the top of my head, I can’t even think of any world-famous companies in Sydney.
 
Compare this to Seattle.  The area has a population of 3.5M, about the same size as Melbourne (not that much smaller than Sydney’s 4.2M though a bit bigger than Brisbane’s 1.8M).  And yet Seattle has produced Boeing, Microsoft, Amazon, Real and Starbucks.  It feels like if you have a great product or service to sell, there are enough people and dollars in the US to make you a success.
 
The other big surprise was the weight of the right-wing.  I’m Little Miss Lefty Leftington but I’m constantly surprised by how conservative things can be.  I really had no idea that evolution was still up for debate.  I had no idea that a gun could be considered a right.  I’m shocked that unemployment benefits aren’t funded by the state and have a term limit.
 
The spirited debate that goes on about some of these big issues is really quite fascinating.  It has led me to reassess (though not actually change) many of my own beliefs.  I had a little bit of crisis of faith in myself when considering the almost paradoxical combination of my strong support for the availability of abortion and my strong opposition to the death penalty.  (I dealt with it by applauding my own ability to appreciate complexities.)
 
I’ve discovered too, rather inconveniently, that if you take a hard line on an issue for a really good reason, that really good reason doesn’t always cooperate and restrict itself to the issue.
 
Take Marriage Equality.  (Apparently, we’re not supposed to call it "gay marriage" anymore.)  The opposers have the lamest set of arguments you’ve ever seen.  It’s almost pitiful.  Most contentious issues have a least some decent weight on either side, but not this one.  But on the pro side, it’s all about supporting loving stable households and not legislating specific belief systems.  Oh, and "what harm does it have?".
 
Of course, as I was thinking today when reading a terribly colourful news story about a judge in Utah, you can make exactly the same arguments about polygamy.
 
UPDATE March 23: Ha!  Slate just published an article sub-titled "The Difference between Gay Marriage and Polygamy".

Responses

  1. You mean ‘poligamy’, right? I think ‘bigamy’ refers specifically to illegal attempts at poligamy in societies where poligamy isn’t permitted. It usually also implies that such a multiperson union is kept secret from some spouses involved. You could make arguments for poligamy, but you’d have a hard time making arguments for bigamy. :)
     

  2. I can’t spell today. It’s "polygamy", not "poligamy". I go punish myself now.

  3. Ha, I had already changed it before I read your comment.  I did more mean polygamy rather than bigamy, not because of what they actually mean (i.e. "two" vs "many"), but more because of what they imply (which is what you mention).  Bigamy tends to imply the travelling salesguy with two ignorant families, polygamy does more seem to resonate with the Fundie Mormons and their openly "plural" marriages.


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