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Posts Tagged ‘tradition’

One of the funny things about history is how quickly we forget what the history was. We often assume that the way we do things is the way we have always done them, but this is generally far from the truth. As in my previous post about prisons in America, we assume that prisons have been around since forever (see: depictions of prisons pre-Enlightenment in films), but in fact, the penal system as we understand it is quite new.

Which brings me to one of my favorite terms: “traditional marriage.” With the Prop 8 upholding by the California Supreme Court and another possible marriage equality bill on the way in New Hampshire, we have been subjected to another round of “traditional marriage”-ites.

But of course, traditional marriage is very, uh, untraditional. Traditional marriage has included everything from polygamy to forced remarriage to required dowries to arranged marriage. No marital system in recent years, it would seem, has lasted a very long time before it has been upended by another. Victorian marriages were beset with accepted mistresses and courtesans, while the idealized 1950s nuclear family only lasted a short period before being uprooted by the sexual revolution. “Traditional” all depends on which tradition you’re talking about.

That doesn’t mean that same-sex marriage is traditional; it just means that almost no marriage today is traditional. Our historical viewpoint is skewed by our inability to see the world at a truly historical perspective; we always see the previous world through our own.

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