Sunday, March 06, 2005

Why Not Harems?

This is the stuff of which sociological studies are made.

A gentleman was shot in a bar after an altercation involving a woman. The gentleman was laid to rest, and the usual obsequies were observed. In attendance at the funeral were the four women with whom the gentleman once had intimate relations, along with the gentleman’s twelve children. The gentleman was not married to any of the four mothers of his children, all of whom who spoke in glowing terms of the deceased as a wonderful father and a “good family man.”

The occasion, featured on the front page of a state-wide Connecticut newspaper, produced the expected stir, and in due course a letter appeared in the paper written by a lady of liberal persuasion.

“Over the years,” the aggrieved correspondent wrote, “I have come to accept a broadening definition of marriage and the family.” Connecticut is now on the legislative brink of broadening the definition of “family” to include persons of the same gender, and a stretcher bill extending the definition of the family is expected sometime after the ink dries on yet another broadening bill that creates “civil unions” for persons of the same gender.

“Although I fully support civil unions and same sex marriages and do believe love makes a family,” the correspondent wrote, the gentleman’s “various liaisons did not make a family. It made a harem.”

For reasons the correspondent did not disclose in her letter, harems were repugnant to her – a frightening demonstration that liberalism here in the state of Connecticut does after all set limits to the extension of some rights and privileges.

If the deceased gentleman praised as a good family man had been the center of his own legal harem, he would not have been bar crawling, and his twelve children would have retained a daddy whose moral probity no one would have been able to question. Despite quaint notions that morals and the law should not mix, it is generally accepted that whatever is legal in a society is also moral.

In the typical harem, casual sexual relations with those outside the harem are severely prohibited, and the moral code that overarches these small tribes in which “love makes a family” is much more stringent than might be expected in, say, the instantly dissolvable celebrity marriages one finds advertised in the gossip sections of major newspapers.

A harem also is a practical economic unit and offers a pragmatic solution to a problem that now bedevils large urban areas in our country where women, mothers of children without husbands, far outnumber unmarried men. The four women who produced twelve children with the deceased “good family man” shot in the bar were in effect a defacto harem.

So then, what are the objections to a law legalizing harems – or, better still, to a Supreme Court order striking down all state anti-harem laws on the grounds that such statutes represent a constitutionally impermissible expression of religious prejudice frowned upon in a country committed to the wall of separation doctrine?

Religious objections to harems are bound to be struck down as unconstitutional, and the notion that harems are repugnant because they are strange is easily answered: Strange practices become less repugnant as they become more common. They enter into the sociological stream when walls of separation, intolerance and prejudice have been effectively breached. Slavery was commonly accepted in the United States before a civil war, an emancipation proclamation and years of struggle against ingrained prejudices led to an integrated society. Why should pro-harem citizens forever be denied their imprescriptible rights?

Apart from an inchoate feeling of repugnance at being confronted with the an inevitable sociological change that may seem at first blush odd, what are the practical objections to harems? Is there no good reason to suppose that the correspondent who had over the years “come to accept a broadening definition of marriage and family” that includes same sex marriage should, once residual religious prejudices are overcome, embrace harems as a possible solution to a sociological crisis that has made a wasteland of urban America?

To be sure, harems are not for everybody. An enlightened society certainly would not force the correspondent to join a harem. But in a free country, shouldn’t women and men be free to choose? Would it not have been better for the children fathered by the lamented and deceased unmarried gentleman and “good family man” if the law and society held him responsible for his continuing presence as a (ITALICS) real (END ITALICS) father in the life of his family – which would have been the case had harems been legal?

Why not harems?
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