Thursday, December 01, 2011

A Simple Logic

The following conversation was had between Presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann and an Iowan high school student:

BACHMANN: Well, No. 1, all of us as Americans have the same rights. The same civil rights. And so that’s really what government’s role is, to protect our civil rights. There shouldn’t be any special rights or special set of criteria based upon people’s preferences. We all have the same civil rights.

JANE SCHMIDT: Then, why can’t same-sex couples get married?

BACHMANN: They can get married, but they abide by the same law as everyone else. They can marry a man if they’re a woman. Or they can marry a woman if they’re a man.

JANE SCHMIDT: Why can’t a man marry a man?

BACHMANN: Because that’s not the law of the land.

Now, let's break this logic down. The beginning of this exchange is my favorite, mostly because I believe it is almost 100% correct.

The role of government is to ensure our civil rights. All full citizens should have the same civil rights without special exceptions. Therefore, in America, all citizens should be given the same civil rights despite belonging to certain groups, such as gender (i.e. being a man versus being a woman).

Alright, that was easy! Way to go Bachmann. We actually agree on the role of government. I was a bit surprised. Let's keep this ball rolling.

Civilly, marriage is when two citizens are joined together in legal union. A citizen has the civil right to get married.

Now, we can't say that a man's civil right is different than a woman's civil right, because that would be special treatment. No citizen should have different civil rights than the other. If a woman can marry a woman, for instance, then a man should be able to marry a woman as well. A woman should no be disallowed from having the same right to marry a specific gender because of her gender.

Usually it's best to simply say "citizen." That keeps us from tripping up on that pesky special groups thing. For instance, I would not want to say that Latino citizens have a right to vote on Tuesdays. Or that old citizens no longer have the right to free speech. By specifying a specific subgroup of citizenship one rhetorically excludes others. Instead, it is proper to say "American citizens have the right to vote for their elected officials," or, "American citizens have the right of free speech."

Ok, so, American citizens have the right to legally wed other American citizens. Excellent. We're on the same page here.

Now, as Bachmann then continues, since we all have the same civil rights as citizens, gays should not have the right to marry.

Huh? Please, explain.

"Ok, so, you're a guy," Bachmann might answer, "You have the same right as any other guy to get married to a woman."

"Correct, but as a guy, I should have the same rights as all citizens, including women, right?" I would probably inquire.

"Yes, because, as I said before, 'all of us as Americans have the same civil rights... There shouldn't be any special rights or special set of criteria...' While I intended this to be a gay thing, logically it would have to apply to women and men as well." She would be forced to reply.

Ok, let me get this straight. All American citizens should be given the same rights. I am a man. I, as an American citizen, should have the same rights as a woman despite being a man. Women have the right to marry men. Therefore...

Now, here is where Michelle Bachmann and I differ on our logic.

JOHN'S ANSWER: Therefore, I, as an American citizen, should have the right to marry a man. Legal and civil marriage is based on my status as a citizen, not my gender or status as a separate group.

MICHELLE'S ANSWER: Wait, can you repeat the question?

If faced with copying test answers from someone during a big final, I would put my money on the high school student rather than the presidential candidate from Minnesota. Well, actually I'd just use my own brain. I am getting my doctorate, you know. I'd hope those few extra years of schooling are good for something.

Now, for your next logic assignment, try to figure out the line of reasoning on this.

In case you want to see more about the exchange between Bachmann and Jane Schmidt, the Iowan high school student, check it out for yourself.

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