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    Run-up

    Posted by Sean at 03:37, November 4th, 2006

    Since I’ve already cast my vote, I can settle in to enjoying the frantic final week before the election with no pressure.

    For US Senate, I ultimately decided on Casey. I know, I know: The power elite among the Democrats are traitors who want to promulgate the Culture of Death and you can’t expect the GOP to be perfect and anyway I’m just throwing a fit because Santorum won’t let me marry my dog.

    I really did have serious misgivings when I was filling out my absentee ballot, but they’re dissipating. To find out why, consider Peggy Noonan’s latest column (via Michael). I like Noonan very much. Her writing style isn’t showy, but she has a distinctive voice–careful and sober and considered. It’s a voice that makes her love of America come across very movingly, especially when she talks about the textures of daily life or personal interactions.

    Unfortunately, it’s a voice that also betrays her when she says stupid things. There’s nothing worse than saying something way-ass dumb while making it clear that you’re thinking real hard about it:

    Rick Santorum’s career (two Senate terms, before that two in the House) suggests he has thought a great deal about the balance, and concluded that in our time the national is the local. Federal power is everywhere; so are the national media. (The biggest political change since JFK’s day is something he, 50 years ago, noted: the increasing nationalization of everything.) And so he has spoken for, and stood for, the rights of the unborn, the needs of the poor, welfare reform when it was controversial, tax law to help the family; against forcing the nation to accept a redefining of marriage it does not desire, for religious freedom here and abroad, for the helpless in Africa and elsewhere. It is all, in its way, so personal. And so national. He has breached the gap with private action: He not only talks about reform of federal law toward the disadvantaged, he hires people in trouble and trains them in his offices.

    One thing that’s really starting to get on my nerves: Can we please stop referring to politicians who are publicly opposed to gay marriage as if they were being brave and taking a political risk? Such a stance may get you into hot water at certain cocktail parties and rubber-chicken dinners, but voters have demonstrated in state after state that they concur with it.

    Anyway, the things Noonan discusses–Santorum’s prankish sense of humor, his genuine gratitude at the support he gets, his concern for the Casey family as human beings, his personal efforts to help individuals in straitened circumstances become self-sufficient–are all wonderful. They speak well of the man. But we’re not voting for a church choir director.

    Santorum genuinely does seem to voice his beliefs more candidly than most senators; but then, who wouldn’t look like a straight-shooter next to Arlen Specter? Speaking of Specter, Jacob Sullum hasn’t forgotten that Santorum supported him in the last primary against challenger Pat Toomey (an odd choice for someone who’s restoring principledness to the GOP). Additionally…

    I realize social conservatives are a big part of NR’s audience, but Miller offers economic conservatives, the other major component of Frank Meyer’s grand fusion, little reason to root for Santorum, aside from the fact that he supported welfare reform (so did Bill Clinton) and “has served as a leader” on Social Security, which seems to mean he favors Bush-style baby steps toward “personal” (not “private”) retirement accounts. On the down side, he opposed NAFTA, supported steel tariffs, and considers Bush’s immigration reforms “too lax.”

    And Sullum didn’t even mention the $20 million-ish in federal money Santorum scored for farmland preservation in the commonwealth.

    My point here isn’t that Santorum is a closet social democrat, or even that he’s been a bad senator on balance. My point is just that going off the deep end and portraying him as an implacable opponent of federal waste and mission creep is ridiculous. He plays the game just like his ninety-nine colleagues, and it’s condescending for opinion-shapers to cherry-pick his record in the hopes of convincing us otherwise.


    Orange Appled

    Posted by Sean at 22:54, November 1st, 2006

    Wonderful. This is just what I wanted to hear:

    Stephen Viscusi, 46, of Manhattan, said the divide has made dating even more fraught. Mr. Viscusi, who is gay and a Republican, said he has been rejected by Democratic suitors once they learn his political views. [from this NYT article–SRK]

    (Gee, I think it’s even worse for them than for 40-something single neocon Jewish women in NYC.)

    I know for a fact that I would have had more sex, and maybe a long-term relationship by now, if the social arena was not so polarized. Spirited argument is sexy to me (think William Powell and Myrna Loy), and a marriage with someone who disagrees with me on various issues sounds energizing and playful and always interesting. (I would insert a link to Mary Matalin and James Carville here, but I think Carville is just too weird.) But most people don’t feel that way anymore, at least not liberals. Champions of diversity, they want lovers and friends just like themselves.

    It’s probably as good a time as any to mention that Atsushi and I are no longer a couple. Though it’s not something I’m eager to discuss, I’ll say that we’re still friends, there was no animosity, the long-distance thing was hard on both of us, it’s very unfortunate but we’re fine, et c. My buddies have been doing a great job of making sure I don’t spend these few months sitting on the floor of my darkened apartment drinking Laphroaig from the bottle and listening to Dusty in Memphis.

    Anyway, one of Atsushi’s many wonderful qualities is that he knows how to argue. He’s perfectly willing to discuss sticky topics such as World War II and hold his ground, while giving you an honest hearing and without being an asshole. Most other Japanese gay guys I know are…well, Japanese: they just avoid unpleasant subjects, including politics. Most American gay guys here assume, when politics comes up, that I’m a Democrat. And most other foreign gay guys put any right-ish tendencies down to my being the usual simple-minded, unworldly Yank.

    Eric links to the Kesher Talk post above and adds:

    I’ve noticed this for years, and it seems to have gotten worse. You’d think that none of these liberal activists knew that about half the country voted for Bush, and the other half for Kerry.

    Like many people, Judith notices that Republicans don’t behave this way towards Democrat friends. I think the reason is that Republicans are very accustomed to keeping their mouths shut, to not telling friends and coworkers how they voted. In some cases, their very livelihood depends on being “in the closet.”

    Have things really gotten that bad in New York and Philadelphia? I only spend a few days a year home, so I have no real way to judge. The friends I visit tend to be those with whom I’ve been debating politics since those 3 a.m. conversations in college, so nothing about my policy positions is news to them; and we still have good, rousing arguments. When politics comes up in a conversation with someone I’ve just met, I generally say what I think as firmly but genially as possible, and that’s that. Sometimes I’ll have to answer a bewildered follow-up question (“How the hell could you not be in favor of gay marriage?!”), but the discussion usually remains respectful.

    That said, it really is true sometimes that people will practically refuse to believe that I’m not a lefty fellow-traveler. The probability that a random urban gay guy who works in educational publishing is a liberal is very high, so I don’t mind the initial assumption that I am. What’s irksome is the half-hour of incredulity–expressed through lots of hamming, mugging, and double-takes–I have to work through to convince people that, you know, I really am right-libertarian on most issues and tend to vote Republican. No one likes being told what he thinks, especially by people who purport to be open-minded.

    Added on 3 November: Eric is trying to decide which senatorial candidate to vote for. I don’t envy him.

    Ooh, and, I almost forgot about this old but very good post from Megan McArdle:

    When the Q&A came around, unsurprisingly, the majority of the questioners turned out to be Democrats. And every single one of their questions started off something like this:

    “I think that one of the major problems we face, as Democrats, is that our policies are all about nuance and deep intellectual focus on maximizing the welfare of the public at large, while Republicans are a pack of venal liars who want to kill poor people and minorities. The American public seems to be far too stupid to understand the subtle genius of our ideas. How do we, as Democrats, overcome that?”

    The answer, from the Democrats on the dais, generally went something like this.

    “While the rest of the American public may not actually be drooling lackwits who should herded into camps for their own protection, they are clearly struck insensible by the blinding power of our intellects. As their voting record demonstrates, they are constitutionally incapable of comprehending the overwhelming superiority of the Democratic platform on the merits. We will have to make sure that this election cycle we speak very slowly, and clearly, and make our visuals on very large sheets of construction paper with pictures of puppies. We may also consider lying, since after all, the shameless mendacity of the Republicans is the only reason anyone ever votes for them.”

    Now, is all this embarassing self-congratulation because Democrats are inherently arrogant bastards, crude elitists out of touch with the simple, homespun virtues of the common man? Or because losers need to lie to themselves in order to salve their egos? I’ve heard both explanations from Republicans who need to get out more.

    What is true is that Democrats, right now, have more ability to insulate themselves from being confronted with the views of the other side. Geographically, they can isolate themselves into coastal cities, which is why I never met any Republicans except my grandparents until I went to business school. And informationally, provided that they don’t watch Fox news, don’t subscribe to the Wall Street Journal, and keep the radio tuned to NPR, they can keep from ever hearing if the other side has a good argument.

    She was writing specifically about the Howard Dean phenomenon, such as it was at that point; but her points are certainly still relevant.


    The ring

    Posted by Sean at 00:51, October 24th, 2006

    Sigh.

    I realize this site has turned into GoReadClassicalValues.com, but I happen to think that Bill Quick is absolutely wrong about the point Eric makes here. That Eric didn’t digress from his discussion to flesh out yet again why he doesn’t support the push for gay marriage does not mean that his statement has “no logical support whatsoever.”

    Eric clarifies what he meant:

    I agree with Bill that “percentages do not constitute logical refutation,” and I did not mean to imply that just because 70% of the public disfavors same sex marriage, that this means they are not bigoted. However, if opposition to same sex marriage is defined as bigotry, then it flows that they (and most of the leaders of both parties) are. I just don’t think that, considering all the circumstances, opposition to same sex marriage constitutes bigotry, and I’d say that even if only 20% of the country opposed it. I try to reserve the “bigot” label for people who want to do things like call me names, beat me up, put me in prison, or kill me.

    I’m not sure that bigot has to be reserved for people who express their beliefs through confrontation; intolerance can be expressed by quietly cutting people socially or declining to employ them or the like. But I’m also not sure that Bill Quick has been following the gay marriage argument as it’s developed over the last ten years.

    It used to be that you had Andrew Sullivan and, for a few occasional paragraphs, Bruce Bawer arguing in favor of marriage or civil unions of some kind in the not-too-distant future, and you had the case in Hawaii, and that was pretty much it. At that point, most arguments from the opposition were confined to “gays don’t actually fall in love and care for each other” and “most gay couplings are transient.” Those arguments were, I think, often based on bigotry: people who didn’t like gays much to begin with were all too willing to take Friday night in the Castro as representative of all gay life everywhere, pronounce us all sub-adult, and not dig any deeper before considering the issue closed.

    But things really have moved on in the intervening decade or so. Skeptics began discussing how a legal change in the definition of marriage could affect the choices of straight couples who planned to have children. The most sound thinkers among gay advocates (Dale Carpenter and Jonathan Rauch, notably) deliberated over the same issues and often made good counter-arguments; but at the same time, the pro-gay side was frequently stuck in a “we DO TOO love our partners!” mode that the debate had moved beyond. And “self-esteem,” that all but infallible indicator that malarkey is on the menu, was frequently invoked.

    I realize that I haven’t proved that, say, Maggie Gallagher and Stanley Kurtz aren’t bigoted against homosexuals. But even if we could prove they were, does that mean much in policy terms? We’re still left with the fact that they’ve taken the time to research and construct arguments for their positions, and that those arguments have to be answered on their own terms. I’d much rather see gays and those who sympathize with us keep at that than prolong the (already seemingly interminable) back-and-forth over who’s a bigot.


    I said, “In these shoes? / I doubt you’d survive”

    Posted by Sean at 05:20, October 21st, 2006

    An old friend sent me a link to this column from the St. Paul Pioneer Press. I agree with her that the angle it takes is interesting:

    In every movement to right a perceived social wrong, a fringe element with no apparent social upside (who hence emphasize their differences from the traditional) becomes the image of the enemy to supporters of the status quo. In this case, these are the leather- and tutu-clad lads who wind up in defense-of-marriage literature and DVDs. Only after a movement has gained some visibility, some credibility and some respectability do suit-and-tie supporters, people invested in society with something material to lose, risk identifying with it.

    Here’s where the paradox of rising expectations kicks in. Even as overt public discrimination against same-sex couples grows smaller, the inequities of law loom larger. The Williams Institute study suggests same-sex couples are more at ease declaring their relationships. They do so, however, with expectations of expanding their participation in society on equal terms with heterosexuals. Taking a risk, they are impatient with barriers to fulfillment of expectations of equality.

    Of course, that still begs the question of what “equality” looks like, and I don’t think that Westover’s seeming conclusion that it requires the legalization of gay marriage follows very well from his own argument. Nevertheless, one useful thing he does is to consider the push for SSM in the larger context of the American entitlement mentality and how interest groups jockey for government goodies. (Reading some opponents of gay marriage, you could get the impression that decent Americans were all self-effacingly going about their business when all of a sudden the fags and dykes burst in and introduced self-centeredness into public policy debates.) Anyway, it’s worth a read if you’re not heartily sick of the subject already.

    *******

    Speaking of tired subjects, music today is apparently tuneless, witless, and derivative. This is the opinion of Sting, which is pretty rich, considering the upscale adult-contemporary crap he’s shoveled at the public on most of his releases over the last ten years. Boring and pretentious–not exactly a winning combination.

    I guess I don’t buy a whole lot of new music by musicians I don’t already like, either, anymore. I was pleasantly surprised that Cassie‘s album lived up to the hype–though “Me & U” is getting the seriously-overplayed treatment here in Japan at the moment. The new Janet is okay, but the last week or two has been mostly a Full-Figured British Diva moment in my household: Alison, Kirsty, and some Gabrielle.


    She thinks she’s Brenda Starr

    Posted by Sean at 04:08, October 20th, 2006

    I hesitate to link yet another post of Eric’s, lest it appear that he has ties to The Scourge of International Homoism, Expats in Japan chapter; but as usual, he has one of the more sane takes on a topic that everyone’s nattering about at the moment:

    I think that most American voters (even the 70% who oppose gay marriage) take a dim view of persecuting homosexuals by invading their privacy. Homosexual witch hunts should have died with McCarthy, and the reasoning behind reviving them in the current political context is so convoluted that it would make sense only to a bigot.

    I’m not saying that the Republican Party is free of bigotry, because it isn’t. But if the activists keep this stuff up and ordinary voters find out about it (I’m not sure whether they have) pretty soon someone’s going to ask which party has more bigots.

    Ann Althouse makes sense, too:

    I think aggressive characters like our “lefty blogger” think that uncovering gay Republicans will disgust social conservatives and change their voting behavior. […] But, honestly, I think these creepy, gleeful efforts at outing will only make social conservatives more conservative, and they will continue to look to the Republican party to serve their needs.

    The truly bizarre contention one occasionally hears is that somehow this will all contribute to making it easier for gays to come out of the closet. The more gays outed, the more out gays there are, and the less isolated and fringe-y we seem…or something. The problem, besides the ethical infraction of invading people’s privacy, is that the tone is all wrong. The petty vindictiveness on display is of a kind that most people associate more with a junior high school girls’ locker room than with adults making serious arguments about social policy. It gives social conservatives more reason to think of gays as suffering from arrested development and poisons the atmosphere for gays thinking about whether now would be a good time to come out. Brill.


    Everybody out

    Posted by Sean at 05:27, October 10th, 2006

    Joe and I disagree over outing, but his approach is measured and thoughtful, and he’s capable of discussing the issue without going into hysterics of the those-bitches-deserve-to-FRYYYYYYYY! variety.

    This is how he’s put it most recently:

    Similarly, it’s time we all stop buying in to the “straight person assumption” and with it the whole notion of “outing” as a violation of privacy. Let’s recognize that the damage done by a life lived in the closet is harmful to all of us.

    Joe approvingly links to Louis Bayard, who wrote this in Salon.com:

    But I do believe that every man or woman who courts public office must be held to some public standard of honesty–of coherence.

    The decision to come out is personal. So is the decision to run for office. Why should the second choice be privileged over the first? Why should homosexuality be privileged over heterosexuality? Why should a same-sex partner (Foley has apparently had one for many years) be any less a subject of discussion than a wife or husband?

    Perhaps I’m just too cynical; or perhaps that second paragraph is really as bafflingly illogical as I think it is. Politicians tend to trot out their families while campaigning because they help their image and make them more electable; mouthy, socially inept wives and bratty children have been the bane of campaign managers for generations. Being openly gay is still a great way to make yourself unelectable in many districts. If both partners agree to keep their relationship secret (or at least not to make an issue of it) or an unattached gay candidate just doesn’t discuss his or her dating habits, I can’t see where the lack of “coherence” is.

    Besides, if we move from theory to practice, we need to decide who has the power to determine who deserves to be outed; and as is so often the case, those most eager to play Enforcer are those whom we can least trust to exercise prudence. It’s all very well to say that being a practicing homosexual while supporting anti-gay policies is hypocritical, but it simply isn’t true that all of us can agree on what’s “anti-gay.” I’ve been out for a decade, but I’m against hate crimes laws and gay marriage as it’s currently being campaigned for, and I just do not concede that that’s hypocritical.

    Do gays in powerful positions who live closeted lives hurt the rest of us–I mean, in some intrinsic sense by not contributing to the visibility of gays as ordinary citizens? You can make a case that they do. But there are lots of private decisions that hurt other people. Parents who don’t teach their children manners cause harm to the children themselves and, conceivably, to everyone who encounters them for the rest of their lives; even so, we don’t take kids away from their parents unless there’s serious and immediate harm being done. It’s a plain fact of life that we can’t always intervene in people’s lives to stop them from doing things we disapprove of. We can only shun them or try to persuade them to change their behavior.

    Added later: Eric has another post about the outing angle, to which Connie has added a comment. Surprise! I think they’re both worth reading. Eric:

    For those who didn’t grow up in a gay ghetto, sodomy laws existed until fairly recently in a number of states, and while they weren’t enforced, they reflect a tradition which was once mainstream. To deny this is to deny reality as well as history. Times were changing gradually, but the “old guard” still exists, and it fought hard to keep the sodomy laws in the minority of states which still had them. For the most part, this old guard has to content itself by spearheading opposition to same sex marriage.

    While that’s what leads gay activists to denounce opposition to same sex marriage as “bigotry,” the fact that 70% of the public (including the leadership of the Democratic Party) also think the country is not ready for same sex marriage seems to receive less attention.

    However, admitting opposition to same sex marriage, mainstream though it is, is these days an easier way to be called a bigot than voicing opposition to affirmative action.

    The result of all this is that homosexuality remains the sensitive topic it has always been. A new taboo has quickly arisen to replace an old taboo.

    Too many gays and supporters of gays take an approach to “debate” that involves deliberately raising homosexuality as an issue and then flipping out on people who actually say what they deeply believe and feel about it. One would think the hazards of such an approach would be obvious: people who feel baited tend to tune out and assume their interlocutors are incapable of winning an argument without stacking the deck. I sometimes wonder whether there are people who remain closeted simply because the effort to demonstrate that they don’t have the approve-of-me-or-else attitude that the public faces of gayness so often project is just too exhausting.

    Added still later: This via Michael:

    Middlebury College is this year for the first time giving students who identify themselves as gay in the admissions process an “attribute” — the same flagging of an application that members of ethnic minority groups, athletes, alumni children and others receive, according to Shawn Rae Passalacqua, assistant director of admissions at Middlebury. His announcement surprised many of those who attended the session, and who said that they had never heard of a college having such a policy. (Officials of the Point Foundation, a group that provides scholarships to gay students, especially those denied financial support from their families, said that they had never heard of such a policy.)

    Passalacqua said that gay students bring “a unique quality” to the college, which he said tries hard not “to be too homogeneous.” Of 6,200 applications last year, 5 students noted their gay identities in their application essays and another 50-plus applicants cited their membership in gay-straight alliances. Passalacaqua said that Middlebury admissions officers were also likely to look favorably and give an admissions tip to “straight allies” of gay students — not just out of support for that view, but because a college benefits from having people who are “bridge builders.”

    Yeah, because, you know, if there’s one place in America it’s difficult to find gay youths, it’s the hoity-toity universities and liberal arts colleges. As Michael says, “In my opinion, [a measure such as this] will do nothing more than lend credence to the cries of the far Right that we’re demanding special treatment.” He was too diplomatic to point out the disgusting condescension involved in talking about gay students as the spice that gets stirred in with the Normal People to keep the place from being too homogeneous. Or in giving points to straight students who play the “some of my best friends are gay!” card. (The scholarship, on the other hand, strikes me as a nice idea.)


    Reflection without introspection

    Posted by Sean at 21:53, September 18th, 2006

    Former New Jersey Governor James McGreevey’s memoir is excerpted in this week’s New York magazine.

    I was prepared to warm to the guy. However self-serving his initial reasons for coming out as he did may have been, McGreevey’s had nearly two years to do some hard thinking since then; and there’s nothing we Americans like more than a redemption story. Also, I’m not really worried about whether, in general, McGreevey will do good work for the causes that employ him from here on; it seems almost certain that he will.

    But a good portion of the gay press has been touting him as a potentially worthy and worthwhile public representative for our interests. My sense–and I’m just going by the New York excerpt here–is still that we can do better. This is how McGreevey describes the beginning of his affair with then-aide Golan Cipel (or alleged affair, since Cipel denies that anything beyond sexual harassment by McGreevey ever happened between them):

    It was wrong to do. I wasn’t an ordinary citizen anymore. There were state troopers parked outside. My wife was in the hospital. And he was my employee. But I took Golan by the hand and led him upstairs to my bed.

    My core group of supporters still felt [when the scandal was about to break because of Cipel’s threatened lawsuit] I should serve out my term, but not run for reelection. I wasn’t convinced that was penance enough for my transgressions. What I did was not just foolish, but unforgivable. Hiring a lover on state payroll, no matter the gender, was wrong. I needed to take my punishment—and to begin my healing out of the fishbowl of politics.

    Having sex with state troopers outside? Hot!

    Uh, I mean, the logic of that first paragraph eludes me. I can see the point about its being a betrayal of voters’ trust to court scandal just when you’ve ascended to the job they elected you to do. I’m not sure whether cheating on your unwitting wife is worse when she’s in the hospital, but her having just borne your child would certainly make it more difficult to leave you if she decided to do so. And no, one should not be propositioning employees, who may not feel in a position to refuse without repercussions.

    It remains difficult to shake the feeling that McGreevey sees his coming out as a way to spin potential political and legal lemons into lemonade–a convenient opportunity to start a less pained and stressed-out life but not a moral or ethical necessity. He has an interesting way of using the word integrated to refer to “not feeding different people different lies to get what you want from each of them,” but one is left wondering whether he thinks that approach is good and right or just eats up less space on his BlackBerry. And as for his “punishment,” well…the gay political machine may not get you into the White House, but it’s powerful enough in liberal circles in the Mid-Atlantic to be a good place for a soft landing from the governorship of New Jersey. Especially if the alternative is a costly sexual harassment suit.

    Homosexuality isn’t a club, and the guy is clearly as gay as the rest of us. We own him now. I’m just not sure why we’re exhorted to be proud of him.

    Added on 20 September: Joe has, if anything, more apserity to direct at McGreevey’s public grandstanding than I did. He begins by quoting an AP story:

    AP:

    Once publicly opposed to gay marriage, former New Jersey Governor James E. McGreevey now says he spoke out against the idea as a way to keep his homosexuality hidden.

    “I did not want to be identified as being gay, and it was the safe place to be,” McGreevey said Tuesday in an interview with The Associated Press. “I wanted to embrace the antagonist. I wanted to be against it. That’s the absurdity.”

    No, the absurdity is the fame, fortune and acceptance he’s getting for his despicable, craven, cowardly and profoundly immoral behavior.

    I disagree with Joe that McGreevey is a good example of justifiable outing. There’s no evidence that he expected to use his power to circumvent the law against gay marriage he supported. The man went so far as to marry two women, after all.

    I do find the use of the word absurd very interesting, implying as it does that McGreevey’s conduct was irrational. Poor thing, he wasn’t quite thinking clearly, et c. (Chris at Gay Orbit seems as aghast as Joe, but he also implicitly labels McGreevey’s actions “crazy.”) In fact, opposing gay marriage was an eminently sensible, reasonable, even inevitable move for someone who’d made the conscious decision to place his highest priority on fulfilling his lust for political power. McGreevey himself acknowledges as much later in the article, saying, “I was proud to be against gay marriage because that’s where I thought a majority of New Jerseyans were. That’s successful politics.” One wonders whether this joker has any deep convictions at all.


    Sin of omission

    Posted by Sean at 00:26, July 26th, 2006

    The responses to this post by Steve Miller at IGF are, I think, instructive. The point of contention is this:

    I guess they meant well. But publishing this ad in newspapers, showing that the usual gang of leftwing activists, liberal politicians and big-labor leaders (and some progressive religious folks) support marriage equality made me bristle. In my view, if big labor is for it, then it certainly can’t be good. I think many who aren’t on the liberal left have the same visceral reaction.

    The issue isn’t whether the big-guns unions do good things for their members; it’s how the positions their representatives take as political entities are perceived by voters as part of a pattern. At least, that’s what I thought the point was. But the would-be refutations provided in the comments consist largely of statements that unions are forces of saintliness within the workplace, that gays who have worked within them are heroic warriors for justice, and that any criticism of the reflexive left-ward tendencies of gay advocacy can be lumped in with the most hysterical anti-leftist ranting.

    It’s a shame that Miller doesn’t usually get into the fray in comments threads, because amid all the inter-queen class warfare, his point is being misinterpreted and therefore not dealt with.

    It’s true, as some have pointed out, that most of the signators to the ad have no perceptible political position–assorted elected officials and church leaders of unidentified affiliation. And the rest? Let’s see: We have labor leaders, Kim Gandy of NOW, Norman Lear, and Melissa Etheridge. One signator is also pricelessly identified as the founder of “The Spiritual Spa and Holistic Healing center.” (Wonder what goes into the facials there?)

    The problem isn’t that these people were included. It’s that only these people were included, giving the average reader the perfect excuse for deducing vaguely, before turning the page, that supporters of gay marriage comprise no one who isn’t along the urban/dilettante-celebrity/union/lobbyist liberal axis. We can argue over whether that perception is unfair, but Miller is right to point out that it’s stupid in PR terms to be feeding into it.


    Say what you want

    Posted by Sean at 07:55, July 19th, 2006

    This post by Virginia Postrel contains the second use of the locution “gays qua gays” I’ve encountered in forty-eight hours. (Virginia kindly didn’t deliver it with a flourish of the arm that nearly sloshed her vodka and cranberry on my shirt, however.)

    *******

    Here‘s Megan McArdle on how likely it is that Ayn Rand’s vision will come out the other side of the Hollywood machine clear and undistorted when Atlas Shrugged is made into a movie:

    More to the point, how on earth could Hollywood possibly make this movie? Some objectivist bigwig has apparently signed off on the screenplay, but colour me sceptical. I’d offer long odds that by the time Hollywood is done editing the thing, it will represent plucky individuals against . . . a government superficially indistinguishable from the Bush administration. In the summer blockbuster release, the state’s biggest crime will no doubt be stealing all the gay marriage from poor people and stuffing it into private accounts where they can’t get at it.

    Heh-heh.

    *******

    To tackle the subject of self-determination more seriously…I’m behind on my reading, but a few weeks ago I (finally) managed to cruise through Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s The Caged Virgin. Just in case you’re the last person wandering through this end of the political blogosphere who hasn’t heard, it’s great reading. Hirsi Ali’s tone is measured and sober, but her practical, can-do, humane approach is often very stirring:

    Western societies are not dominated by one single ideology, but have several ideologies that exist alongside one another. In a well-functioning democracy, the state constitution is considered more important than God’s holy book, whichever holy book that may be, and God matters only in your private life. Relationships between people and their interactions are governed by laws and rules, which are drawn up by people, not divine forces, and can be changed, adapted, or replaced by new ones. All people are the same in the face of the law, even those whose lifestyles differ from that of the majority. Women have equal opportunities under the law (although in reality this is not always so). Homosexuality is not a sin to be punished with death, nor is it considered a threat to the survival of mankind, but seen as a form of love, normal like that between heterosexuals. Moreover, love and sex are not restricted to marriage, but can be enjoyed between two people by mutual consent. Democracy provides the freedom to avoid or plan a pregnancy and ways to protect against sexually transmitted diseases.

    Now, obviously, not everyone in the West is on board with everything in that passage–when I first read it, I chuckled and said aloud, “Wow, sister–are you seriously Dutch or what!” But in its careful specification of ways and reasons that Western societies liberate the individual from traditional religious strictures, it’s far more meaningfully provocative than, say, Madge Desmond over there climbing a crucifix in yet another attempt recapture her youthful transgressiveness.

    I have no idea whether Hirsi Ali views gay advocacy as comparable to the feminist and civil rights movements–I don’t myself in many respects–but her advice to Muslim women who want to leave oppressive environments contains a lot of wisdom that I wish more gays would take to heart. She does an especially good job of pointing out the necessity of weighing your decisions carefully and then carrying them out resolutely. There will be those who disapprove of your choices, and you have to be willing to live with it. If instead of acting on impulse, you work out your principles beforehand and adhere to them, you may feel lonely sometimes but you’ll never feel adrift. And get your mind off your own problems by involving yourself in making other people happy. None of these is a new idea, but there are plenty of native-born Westerners who have shunted them aside, and it’s a shame.

    *******

    Rondi Adamson posts a link to her column on the latest developments in the Middle East. Reactions include this:

    From a guy in Trois-Rivieres: “I assume you are Jewish, sir?” You assume wrong, sir, on both counts! I’m an atheist/Protestant, and while you may not think me a lady, I’m no “sir.” And I have an appointment with my gynecologist this week to prove it!

    It always puzzles me that people will assume you’re Jewish if you support Israel (which is not the same as cheering everything it does–Michael J. Totten has some persuasive arguments that the current strikes are being handled badly). Not everyone, obviously, but a lot of people. I’ve even been asked, “Well, if you’re not Jewish, why should you be so interested in what happens to Israel, which strikes me as a singularly idiotic question.

    *******

    Inthestars, proprietor of the invaluable but infrequently updated Awful Plastic Surgery blog, wonders whether Nelly Furtado is actually the ingéher press packs say she is. I’m not so sure a browlift is a sign that she’s more than twenty-eight, though; celebrities (especially those being groomed for a comeback) seem to be getting every procedure at a younger and younger age these days.


    He’s a walker in the rain / He’s a dancer in the dark

    Posted by Sean at 05:23, May 24th, 2006

    Ross of Romeo Mike’s Gumption says this after an extensive explanation of why he doesn’t support same-sex marriage:

    It’s because of these kinds of people who shout the loudest for gay marriage that I’m so suspicious of it. They demand that they deserve “equal” respect, but look at them. Apparently for some, respect’s not earned, just demanded through vile, childish narcissism.

    He’s not speaking in the abstract: There’s a link to comments on the blog of a gay Catholic Australian blogger after he appeared on a television show to discuss his position against SSM. If you’re at all familiar with these types of, uh, discussions, you probably don’t need to click through to know what you’ll find there.

    Anyway, I know I’ve banged this gong plenty already, but I will never, ever get used to this stuff. When will people get it through their heads that you can’t coerce people into approving of you? You can, possibly, coerce them into postures of approval, temporarily, through political machinations. But the current climate indicates that–and can you blame them?–they’re not going to sit still for it for long.

    From my perspective as a resident of Japan, one of the saddest things about idiot gay-lefty rhetoric is the way its campus proponents manage to infect foreign students with it. Then they bring it back here and are thrown off balance when it doesn’t square with reality, often on more basic levels than that of the SSM debate. A close American friend recently described how a rather clingy Japanese employee, having been essentially disowned by his father after coming out, asked him for advice about how to fix things. My friend is a patient, gentlemanly guy and responded on the order of, “Well, I can tell you what I would do, but I’m from a different culture, and the way I see my choices is different.”

    I wish I were more patient and gentlemanly myself. When asked similar questions, I’ve generally responded along the lines of “Why didn’t you think about this before coming out to him?” Western-style individualism doesn’t, after all, guarantee that you’ll get everything you want; it just allows you to prioritize things for yourself–as opposed to having them prioritized for you by the clan, village, or state–and go after what’s at the top of your list without impediment. I can empathize with the belief that candidly coming out to your parents is preferable to a lifetime of question-dodging and waffling, but if you decide to do so without preparing mentally to deal with the worst-case scenario, you’re asking for trouble. I’m not defending parents who disown their children for being gay, only making what should be the common-sense point that you can’t control other people’s behavior, let alone their feelings. Having the backbone to follow through on your beliefs even if you’re despised for them is part of being a free citizen.

    And likewise with relationships themselves. Positions of the “if you don’t respect us as mature, centered adults, we’ll hold our breath until we turn blue” variety are incoherent. They’re also counter-productive. In external terms, whininess is a PR disaster. In internal terms, signalling to young gay people just getting their lives in order that it’s okay to blame all their problems on the failure of straight society to confer “dignity” on them stunts their growth. Adult resilience is attained by confronting obstacles and testing your own strength in the course of overcoming them. Until SSM advocates learn to focus on practical obstacles to keeping relationships together and learn to keep a lid on the self-pity, they’re not helping anyone except anti-gays on the far right.