Monday, September 03, 2007

The So Called Gay Debate

Now that former Sen. Larry Craig's political life has been terminated, public opinion in some quarters appears to be shifting in his favor.

Colin McEnroe, a Hartford Courant columnist, blogger and radio talk show host, appears to be having second thoughts.

‘The Larry Craig deathwatch is ticking down to its final tock as I write this, and -- now that we've all had our hearty laugh over his plight -- I have to ask what the man did that warrants expulsion from the Senate. Is he gay? I think yes. Has he been a bit of a phony? I think yes again, but if you're going to set the bar there, we have a lot of senate cleaning to do.”

And Courant columnist Bill Curry wants to wring some valuable lessons from Craig’s ordeal, principal among them that Craig is gay; that his gaiety was suppressed as a child, not an unusual occurrence in homophobic America; that the humiliation of being gay in straight Idaho caused psychological perturbations; wherefore Craig, in serious denial, wandered into a men’s bathroom in an airport, propositioned somebody who was a cop and got arrested.

“There's no telling what epiphanies Craig's having,” Curry wrote in his Sunday Courant column, “but in his brief public remarks you may hear a heightened sensitivity to the right to privacy and a very new awareness of the rights of the accused. At home, he's no doubt learning that it is indeed love that makes a family.”

Realizing that this is a sensitive subject, let me tread carefully here. There is enough rhetorical hokum in that one paragraph to choke a shark. It leaps off the assumption that Craig is gay. But this is by no means certain. At least one gay “expert” – on the Nancy Grace program, of all places – speculated that Craig may have been bi-sexual, which is not precisely the same thing as being gay.

Surely Curry cannot believe that the right to privacy, a manufactured “right” that some judges higher than a kite on interpretive improvisation found in the “aura” of rights surrounding the constitution, obliges us to fire the cop who arrested Craig for lewd behavior -- on the grounds that the right to privacy should protect us from peeping Tom's with badges.

Love certainly is important in a marriage, but love, as any Greek philosopher might have told Curry, is not Eros. Craig didn’t love the stranger in the next bathroom stall with whom he sought to make contact, and he especially did not love him after he was arrested. Craig was hankering after a groping session in a bathroom stall.

What’s love got to do with it?

Whatever… as the kids say.

But we can learn valuable lessons from Craig’s plucked and stripped carcass, Curry thinks. Though Craig is an unsympathetic figure, we can use the pain felt by his family to transport us to a higher truth.

Craig, it turns out, was the victim of a “syndrome” that affects many people. According to the examples provided by Curry, Republicans are especially hard hit by it. Curry provides some lurid examples of Republican politicians who, while denouncing homosexuality and stirring up the public against gays, were themselves hypocritical gays.

“The right," Curry concludes, “tries to infect children with homophobia." If there were no homophobia, the syndrome, the downward spiral that has caused such grief to Craig’s family, would be defused. No homophobia, no random sex in public bathrooms.

One wonders how Curry would account for heterosexual random sex in public places: bathrooms, libraries, cars behind tobacco sheds, and once, if we are to believe my highly eroticized cousin, on the roof of a college planetarium.

Craig’s great failing is not hypocrisy, according to Jeff Jacoby in the Boston Globe, but rather inconsistency and infidelity.

Curry reminds us that the culture is moving on: “Many Democrats espouse a cultural politics rooted in the right to privacy and dedicated to mutual acceptance.” And he implores Republican presidential candidates to move with the times and accept… what? Erotic free love?

What, exactly, are we being asked to accept? Should there be no public sanctions for the kinds of behaviors that a society wishes to condemn? No public or legal sanctions for, lets say, adultery? Craig may or may not be gay. But there is little question that he was flirting with adultery in that bathroom.

Curry and McEnroe may be pleasantly surprised to hear the Catholic Church views adultery under the rubric of "injustice," and it heartily condemns it along with other injustices.

Mrs. Matos McGreevey among countless other victims of Eros, have felt the weight of that injustice. Is it not possible that what we have here is a confusion centering around the age old difference between fidelity in marriage, which makes a family, and Eros run amuck, which destroys families? It’s getting to the point in our public discourse where people will not be able intelligently to discuss these subjects without being unjustly accused of homophobia. In the future, such prohibitions can only have deleterious effects on scholars, philosophers, theologians and political commentators, impelling them to seek erotic gratification in public bathrooms.

Could we stop and think for a moment, maybe make a few important distinctions between Eroticism and Love? Love may make a family – or not -- but adultry in public bathrooms destroys families. Just ask Matos McGreevey. Would it not be more pleasant to live in a society in which public sympathy flowed away from Mr. Craig towards Mrs. Craig – even if Mr. Craig should turn out to be gay rather than a suicidal homoeroticist?

Is it even possible to discuss such questions honestly without having thrown at your head the dirty wash water of homophobia?

Against hope, one hopes so.


fuzzyturtle said...

it's not that anyone cares that he' diddling men in public restrooms (I think even Mrs Craig doesn't REALLY care!) it's the fact that he's so judgemental and hypocritical. His civil rights record is PATHETIC and he didn't hesitate to condemn others who had tumultuous personal affairs.

I'll save my compassion for the COMPASSIONATE.

Don Pesci said...

I can agree with that, up to a point. Politicians are a little bit like stage actors: You act to the audience you expect to vote for you, and in Craig's state that means conservatives. This shouldn't shock grown-ups. By the way, there are lots of gay conservatives. As for his wife not being bothered by his bathroom liaisons, I think you missed something. Re-reading Media might help. I'm not sure I can agree that on a moral scale, hypocrisy would outweigh adultery, but we all have our priorities. Thanks for being interested enough to comment.

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