Tuesday, January 27, 2009

An eeeevil Plan? The terminology of War

Mormons have been in the news alot lately. Much of has to do with our supposed "war" on gays. I don't plan on interacting with the temper tantrums of the gay community. I instead want to focus on the place that war has in our moral reasoning.

Often our children want to play war because it is a basic morality tale. You learn who is good and bad, as well as the benefits of certain virtures such as sacrfice and courage. Henry Kissinger in his book Diplomacy, also outlines how America wants to fight its wars with the rhetoric of a moral crusade. (war to end all wars, war to make the world safe for democracy etc)

The political borrowing of wars moral terminology tries to impart that same sense of moral focus. Ironically, it is mostly used by liberals who eschew regular war in favor of social causes: the war on poverty, war on drugs, etc. This tries to gain a sense of moral high ground for the progressive advocates. The prosecutors of this war can feel justified by their intrusion into others lives or increased government control because of they are "fighting" for their noble cause.

In this case, the gay community is trying claim the opposite of the usual moral terminology. They are trying to portray the prop 8 campaign as an evil war. (Think Dr. Evil from Austin Powers when you say it). So instead of liberals wrapping themselves in a flag with their "war" against various social evils, they are trying to cast their opponents as evil aggressors (probably wrapping themselves in a Nazi flag).

This reveals a language of victomology, where any loser in a vote suddenly becomes a victim similar to those in Darfour or the refugees in Palestine. These are blatant appeals to emotion that skip any logical and rational case for gay marriage in favor of simply guilting their opponents into giving in. In my experience defending prop 8, I always start with a few logical reasons why I want to preserve marriage; in return, the first card my opponents always play is to call me hateful.

Its also rather passive aggresive. They try to obfuscate their hateful and rude attempts at fighting back by dramatically painting their oppoenents as the aggresors. Hugh Nibley described this type of langauge in the Book of Mormon. Laman and Lemuel both complained that their brother was tyring to usurp power from them even as they repeatedly tied down, beat, and fought their brother. In Alma 54, Ammoron complained that his war was to avenge the wrongs done to him, when he was the one that fled after his failed revolution. The robber Giddianhi complained in the same fashion (3 Nephi 3:4-11). Giddianhi was a robber that lived in the mountains, and he complained of the wrongs done to him as he was threatening to rob and plunder Nephite lands.

In short: we should not be surprised that the aggresors, those who want to dramtically redefine marriage to suit their indulgences, should then try to wrap themselves in the language of the victim. As we examine the moral rhetoric that comes with war we see one more way Warfare in the Book of Mormon can help us today.

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