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It was my wife – really – who wanted to have a look at the Miss U.S.A. pageant on television last Sunday night. I obliged her just in time for us to catch the last round, in which five finalists (each more gorgeous than the last – in my wife’s, Julie’s view, that is — and average height about 6’4”, as far as I could tell), having sufficiently proven their beauty and grace, at last had the chance to demonstrate their wisdom. Of course the contestants were asked questions that at least one PhD in Political Science (me, I mean) would have difficulty answering — you know, how to solve the world financial crisis, that kind of thing. I could hardly stand to hear the answers, but Julie seized the remote and wouldn’t let me change to ESPN. And so I was forced to behold the spectacle of a very proudly homosexual (I’ve since learned) judge putting the question to Miss California (a spectacular beauty, to the point even of causing weakness in the knees – this again in Julie’s opinion) whether “gays” should be accorded the right to marry. Now I was riveted. The contestant’s response was in no way eloquent, perhaps not altogether coherent, and certainly not aggressive, but, given the context, stirringly courageous. She simply gave it as her opinion, and that of her family and her “country,” though not wanting to offend anyone, of course, that marriage should be between a man and a woman. As far as I could tell, the audience reaction leaned strongly in favor of Miss California’s old-fashioned sentiment.

But all of you readers know this by now, don’t you? And you noticed the unconcealed look of disgust offered by the judge in response to the contestant’s quite mild and ingenuous answer to his question. Clearly this was not intended as a question to which there might be more than one kind of legitimate answer. Probably you have seen bits of some later interview in which the judge expressed unbridled contempt for the “dumb b____” who had dared to give an unauthorized answer.

Though we may never know for sure, it is possible that Miss California, who was soon to be named the First Runner-Up, sacrificed the title by giving her honest answer. Such a little (possible) injustice, in a competition we may not take seriously and in which the criteria are notoriously subjective, may not concern us much. But as a portent of many injustices to come, large and small, it should. The outraged judge does not know or care that his “progressive” view is still very much a minority view. He is confident that it is the only truly moral and legitimate view, and that any who disagree deserve no more respect than other ignorant bigots. And he is far from alone, as many visible supporters of Proposition 8 in California found out the hard way. At the same time, many whose sensibilities align with Miss California’s are culturally or intellectually intimidated by our “progressive” judges of culture, the arbiters of perceived “elite” opinion, who they sense are scrutinizing their prejudices.

If we articulate ones who do not embrace the idea of “progress” as limitless liberation from all authoritative practices and structures do not soon do a better job of countering this cultural and intellectual intimidation, there will before long be few left to cheer another Miss California who would dare to stand up for an anti-progressive view. If the liberated judge and his friends and allies are allowed to set the tone of respectable opinion, they will also determine laws and policies. And anyone who imagines that under such a regime of opinion believers in traditional marriage will be respected in their views and practices should carefully examine the expression of contempt in the judge’s eye. There’s more than a beauty contest at stake.

More on: Culture

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