Sunday, June 04, 2006

Aunt Ken's Cabin

For an assignment in my business ethics class, I am currently reading up on a couple of civil rights cases from the 1960s, one of which is Heart of Atlanta Motel vs. United States. This was a case of a southern motel owner appealing the Civil Rights Acts, by attempting to assert his "right" to continue refusing service to, erm, "Negroes".

It is cases such as that one that occupy the back of my ethical mind as I watch the Headline News Channel this frabjous Sunday morn, and listen to the bile spewed by activist groups such as Focus on the Family, roundly asserting that homosexual couples simply cannot ever, by virtue of biological equipment and sexual temperament, provide a decent and loving home for children. Groups such as FoF are media blitzing with commercials in preparation for their preznit's Big Speech tomorrow from the Rose Garden, in which the nation's valuable time and energy will be wasted yet again in the quest to Protect The Children.

You want to protect the children, start with a Britney Spears intervention. One more mishap with her kid, and the poor little bugger will have to wear a helmet everywhere. Between his clumsy, diffident mother and his useless father, once the money runs out (and it will, count on it), the kid will probably wish his parents were a couple of lesbian corporate lawyers in Palo Alto.

Anyway, I'm undoubtedly about the billionth person to whom it has occurred that the current arguments over gay rights rather closely mirror the arguments over "Negro" rights forty years ago. On the one hand, a mere forty years ago. Enormous societal change occurring in a mere two generations (or for southerners, five generations). That sort of thing is not to be regarded lightly; such changes are nothing short of tectonic in a sociological sense, which is largely glacial in velocity.

On the other hand, cases such as Heart of Atlanta, or Loving vs. Virginia (which legalized "interracial" marriage) also illustrate something much more poisonous in our culture. I am not interested in debating the socio-economic or quasi-cultural causes of such things; I couldn't possibly give two shits why racists (no matter their race) are racist, any more than I would want to understand why child molesters molest children. My point is merely that such cases, embarrassing as they may be to ponder nowadays, quite simply reinforce the fact that nothing would have changed -- would ever have changed -- if the rational majority had not simply had enough of this nonsense and forced these fucking people to grow the hell up.

Southerners, when inveighing against federalized "nawthun" intervention in what they felt was their own bidness, frequently insist that they would have cleaned up their act anyway, that all the violence and riots and what would now be referred to as domestic terrorism were merely the by-product of a proud culture that had been unfairly clamped down on by an impatient federal government.

Well, bullshit. The south would have kept black people down for just as long as they could have gotten away with it. They had been doing it for a hundred years already; they were never going to change the system until they had to. Again, behavioral inertia -- people rarely change until the cost of not changing is made greater than the cost of changing. That's just the way people are.

And this time around, now that gays might be considered (fairly or not) the blacks of the new millennium, the mossbacks have an ironic ally in black churches. I'm not going to point the finger or cry foul at what some may perceive as hypocrisy. I don't think it's hypocrisy on their part; I think it's simply cultural short-sightedness. Because homosexuality is still essentially considered an affliction by most conservative religious groups, regardless of specific denomination or race or ethnicity, there is plenty of denial to go around. The actual gay people from those groups are forced to stay in the closet for fear of social opprobrium, while the leaders of those groups content themselves with insisting that as a disease, homosexuality can be "cured".

Like we always say: How's that been working for you folks?

Now, what is shamefully hypocritical is the number of known and assumed homosexuals working around and within this administration, who do and say absolutely nothing to defend themselves from the snake-oil bastards their bosses kowtow to every time they need a couple extra votes. How does Ken Mehlman live with himself? How does Mary Cheney stand it, as James Dobson and Pat Robertson trash people like her and her partner for political gain, as Cheney's own father just sits there and takes it? And for what? Another fucking tax cut for the 1%?

Look, I realize that it is just as unfair to define gay people solely by their sex life as it would be to do so to heterosexuals. But the thing is, I don't have a dog in this fight, not really. I have no skin in this game, as they say in the 'hood. The only person I personally know who is gay is a friend of my wife's who lives on the East Coast. So this really is not an issue for me because it affects me or anyone close to me. It's something that pisses me off simply because I consider it a matter of right and wrong.

So it's nice that people like Ken and Mary and the Log Cabin Republicans continue to delude themselves that they're really working for change from the inside, but deep down inside, they know it's bullshit, and they know that we know it's bullshit. If they want to spend their lives being Vichy Queers, fine. But let us be clear about whether or not theirs is any sort of "principled" stance, because it is not. It's as cynical and self-loathing a moral stance as one could hope to find.

And let's also be clear that the activists they are dealing with are never going to compromise. I think that is one of the prime delusions of the Republican agenda over the past 25 years, since the "Moral Majority" became serious political players. Centrist Republicans have persisted in the notion that they can co-opt this slice of dispensationalist fervor to achieve a more common goal, that of returning America to the Gilded Age, which is really why an empty suit like Dubya was the perfect choice for them.

But the corporate class is now finding that they've had a tiger by the tail the whole time, and that tiger expects to be fed at regular intervals. The corporate Republicans (let's call them "Corpugs" for short) failed to realize just how serious and implacable the "Pat" Robertson/James Dobson faction (aka "Patdobs") really are. Two Supreme Court justices are not enough of a bone for the Patdobs; their goal is and always has been complete domination of the U.S. legal system, thereby relegating "unbelievers" to second-class status. They're dead serious about amending the nation's most revered document to tack on a silly, useless codicil about "protecting" marriage, as if the likes of Larry King and Mickey Rooney hadn't already done some damage.

(And this is nothing short of an obsession with these people, really. I suspect that a prime reason is that many of the major players have gay family members, for whom they feel shame. Their religion and social circles have blinded them to the sad fact that that shame is largely self-inflicted. There has been no clearer recent illustration of this than Phyllis Schlafly's appearance via satellite on Real Time last year. As Bill Maher diplomatically -- seriously -- brought up the fact that Schlafly's son is gay, you could see the surprise and anger instantly register in Schlafly's eyes. You could practically see her thinking about her mah-jongg club "friends" clutching their pearls and cracking "fudge-packer" and "pillow-biter" asides about Schlafly while she's out of the room. The perceived social pressure has only compounded the problem already rendered by selective adherence to Bronze Age tribal dogma.)

The most important -- and overlooked -- problem with the Patdobs is the sheer moral certitude with which they approach their holy crusade. Not content with the offensive presumption that they are the moral arbiters for the rest of us, they appropriate God as their middleman, and Jesus as their mascot. Rather than exhort Jesus' actual deeds and words as messages to emulate, as leadership by example, they simply abuse Him as a totem for their more worldly tactics, which is mostly a bunch of mind control, smiting, and the usual hellfire and brimstone. That they abuse our political process to achieve their selfish ends is orthogonal to the rather lurid imagery they employ at their stadium-sized indoctrination rituals, where they have made it quite clear that extremism in the name of supposed virtue is certainly no vice.

So again, people like Mary Cheney and Ken Mehlman are quite welcome to content themselves with the delusion that if they just keep their pieholes shut, take the abuse, get that book deal or that plum job, that things will just magically work out anyway, because things always do.

Except they don't, they really don't. Things didn't start working out for blacks until they finally had had enough, and had some help from some principled lawmakers. Gays not standing up for themselves in solidarity just passes the problem along to the next generation, where they will have to contend with the next wave of dominionists who quite literally think that God hates gay people. There's just no getting around that. The Christianists have been quite explicit about their agenda, and I do not understand why more people aren't taking them at their word.


samuel nelson said...

saml, thank you for your post.sam nelson

Star Finder said...

As a member of the Landover Baptist Church I have to say that you are quite correct. All Gays are going to burn in hell and it our job to send them their sooner.

Heywood J. said...

Star Finder:

Ha! Tell Betty Bowers I said hi, and that Jesus is coming, so everybody should look busy.

Heywood J. said...


No problem. I just wish groups like the Log Cabiners were honest enough with themselves to admit that the only reason they can sit on their principled high horse is because there's just enough Democrats and moderates to keep the crazy aunt in the attic from taking over and actually criminalizing their private behavior, not just prevent them from getting married.

Still, you'd think they'd just get tired of riding in the back of a bus driven by animals like Dobson and Robertson.

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