The Culture War is On


The culture war is on… and nothing less than the sanctity of marriage—or is it the sanctity of the U.S. Constitution?—is at stake.

Two weeks ago, as the Moon turned new in conjunction with Uranus, I first mentioned the issue of same-sex marriage as exemplifying the effect of Uranus finally settling (if Uranus can ever be said to 'settle'!) into its 8-year transit through Pisces. And over these two weeks, we've watched the spotlight on this issue intensify—with President Bush calling for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage—along with the waxing of the Moon, which reaches fullness this Saturday.

Gay marriage is a lightning rod for our national attentions right now, not only because it's a convenient way for conservatives to distract us from pressing economic concerns and the war in Iraq. As an issue, it embodies the growing tensions between organized religious fundamentalism on one hand and decentralized civil freedom on the other. At this juncture in time, forceful advocates for both sides are mobilized and exercising their power. And we should expect nothing less during this unique moment of transition between two astrological ages, a shift brought to the forefront with Uranus's current travels through Pisces.

As I've described before, our entire lifetime sits on the cusp of the outgoing Age of Pisces and the gradually unfolding Aquarian (or 'New') Age. The Piscean Age has been characterized by a collective spiritual unity based on emotional self-sacrifice to higher power, epitomized by Christianity but also seen throughout the world's religions. At its best, the Age of Pisces provides beauty, romance, ritual, faith and inspiration to help us overcome personal difficulties. At its worst, it's led those in power to draw moral conclusions and to expect everyone to abide by such unifying (er, unilateral) codes. The Age of Aquarius, meanwhile, promises a backdrop of scientific pragmatism, social equality, spiritual independence, and a new type of technology-fostered community based on individuality. As we're already seeing, the new age is more easily regulated by market forces than by central authorities.

Our current cusp period embodies all the qualities of both ages, battling each other for dominance in, well, a culture war. Uranus (Aquarius's ruler) moving into Pisces combines with Neptune (the ruler of Pisces) in Aquarius for a double-dose of merged Aquarian/Piscean energy from now through 2011. At the same time that same-sex marriage comes closer than ever to becoming a reality, it also comes closer than ever to becoming explicitly outlawed. The Catholic Church struggles with how to curtail long-tolerated sexual abuse by (celibate?) priests, while other Christian denominations debate whether to ordain gay clergy. This might lead us to declare an official decline to Christianity's power, if Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ wasn't making record-breaking waves at the box office. Uranus in Pisces may be shaking stuff up, but it's certainly not leading to any decrease in religiosity; if anything, it's the opposite. During this transition, both Aquarius-ness and Pisces-ness are clearly in full effect.

Interestingly, the last time Uranus traveled through Pisces was 1919-1927, the period in American history which coincided with Prohibition, the last time the Constitution was amended in an attempt to legislate morality. After a lengthy campaign by temperance movement activists, the 18th Amendment, which outlawed the 'manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors', was ratified in January 1919, to take effect the following year.

1919, when the country anxiously awaited the dramatic consequences of prohibition to take effect, was a year—like 2003—in which Uranus moved into Pisces, then retrograded back into Aquarius, offering a preliminary 'first taste' of the new generational zeitgeist about to begin in full force. Once 1920 rolled around and Uranus entered Pisces to stay for a while, Prohibition became the law, and its 'big changes' swept the U.S.—in the form of secretive speakeasy culture, out-of-control organized crime, and billions of gallons of unlawful home-brewed concoctions. Not much of a moral reform.

If you start with the Bill of Rights and read through each of the constitutional amendments, perhaps you will be struck, as I was, by the glaring oddness of the 18th Amendment within the document as a whole. (One of these things is not like the others!) For the most part, the Constitution and its amendments serve to outline the manner for administering the federal government and to establish rights for U.S. citizens. And its tenets usually err on the side of individual states' rights over a powerful central government. The 18th Amendment prohibits, on a national level, activities which were already widely occurring, trying to contain a cultural stream in motion through imposing top-down authority, not a strategy in line with the prevailing American spirit of populist multiplicity. It's no wonder that Prohibition was a massive failure, leading to the only repeal of a constitutional amendment in U.S. history. (I'll drink to that!)

The recent explosion in popular acceptance of gays and lesbian within American society is another cultural stream that will be difficult to contain. So much has already changed in such a short time. When Ellen DeGeneres came out on national TV in 1997, it was a really really big deal. Less than a decade later, Will and Grace and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy are popular pop-culture staples, generating far more viewership (and ad dollars) than controversy. Gay is now both everywhere and somewhat commonplace.

Too many gays and lesbians have become too entrenched in mainstream American culture to be shoved into submission like a jack-in-the-box crammed back into its cage. (A pack of angry queers is not a pretty sight!) And if the proposed amendment were to make it through the ratification process—which seems questionable at best—I believe it would read as 'out of context' as the 18th Amendment, the last instance of the Constitution being used for similar purposes (halting a cultural stream) during a similar astrological moment (Uranus in Pisces).

In my opinion, trying to stop gay marriage at this point is like trying to kick Howard Stern off the radio (clearly a direct result of Janet Jackson flashing her breast during the Super Bowl a month ago), when he's already been doing his same shtick for years. Censorship of centralized media (e.g., TV, radio) by centralized forces (the FCC) is a residual effect of the Piscean Age. The symbol par excellence of the Age of Aquarius, meanwhile, is the Internet, a decentralized medium powered by the people, by nature uncensorable and impossible to simply shut up. Once the people become a unified force of their own independent will, it's hard to crack down from atop a throne or any similarly monarchic perspective.