Thursday, May 21, 2009

Primus inter pares: a strategic blunder

While reading Stuart Whatley's blog post Moral Majority or Immoral Minority?, I was struck by one sentence:

If conservatives wish to elevate their fight against same-sex marriage to primus inter pares without a smarting backlash, they will have to somehow justify this exclusive denial of rights as something other than hidebound bigotry.

Primus inter pares (first among equals) is the status that conservatives currently allot to heterosexuality. Not five years ago, homosexuality was hedonistic. Fifteen years ago, it was perverted. Twenty-five years ago, it was a mental illness.

Conservatives have been playing catch-up with the American public, admitting only enough normality to homosexuality to remain credible on the issue. Unfortunately for them, as in a tug-of-war contest, once you start sliding, the ground gives way from under you. Justice Scalia himself noted in his dissent to Lawrence v. Texas that there is no other basis besides the right of the majority to impose its moral standards for discriminating against homosexuals (or for that matter, bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality, and obscenity). As usual, Scalia gives into to shocking exaggeration for effect, but he is largely correct. The only essential difference (barring direct revelation from a Higher Power) between bigotry and public morality is whether the majority (and the Court) feel good about themselves in thinking it.

The public is no longer feeling comfortable with large-scale discrimination against gays. The inevitable side-effect is that there is no other intellectually coherent stopping point. Either gays are defective, immoral, or normal. After ceding the judgment of "defective" in 1975 and "immoral" in 2003, there is only "normal" left.

The latest arguments against same-sex marriage are variously fatuous (it harms opposite-sex marriage), bizarre (it leads to sex with animals), or highly speculative (it harms children). The only plausible arguments, that being gay is a "bad thing" and should not be rewarded, or that marriage is about children and not spouses, are now soundly political losers, rejected by a substantial majority of Americans. Those left adrift in the political center who believe simultaneously that being gay is just fine but that marriage is preferentially for straight people with children are standing on logically thin ice. Their thinking is not at an equilibrium state, and the internal contradiction will inevitably impel them either forward or back, for there is no rational middle ground.

We are not now at a crossroads. That dilemma is past. Those old people stuck in that past have learned too late that righteous indignation, once bereft of righteousness, becomes mere bigotry. Pace Dylan Thomas, even as they grieve it on its way, and do not go gentle into that good night, their time to rule is passing.

And for me, that is none too soon.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Obama, remember us?

The road to the White House is paved with broken promises.

Obama promised as a candidate to end Don't Ask Don't Tell. He is the Commander-in-Chief. He has a Congress begging to do his bidding. He promised as a candidate to end discrimination against gays in the military.

He has done nothing.

At the White House Correspondents' Dinner, he jokingly compared himself to God, saying that He had accomplished his first 100 days in only 72. And on the 73rd day, He rested.

If you have time to rest, Mr. Obama, you have time to remember your campaign promise and stop allowing the throwing away of valuable military talent (and people's careers) by resistant generals who will drag this out until you are out of office. Congress is willing to follow, but loath to lead, on this issue. You have only to expend a microfraction of the immense political capital that you have.

I know that gays are not going to win politicians any elections (though fortunately we are no longer losing them any!). That is precisely why honoring a commitment to fairness in taking active steps to end discrimination against us is such a clear sign of integrity. It is time to do the right thing.

Because political capital is a terrible thing to waste.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Black Dyke got it just right

The black dyke got it wrong. No one told her the rules.

Thus allegedly (and laconically) did Christopher Hitchens call out Wanda Sykes over her undiplomatic and sarcastic “humorous” jabs at all things Republican at the White House Correspondents' Dinner a few days ago.

He is half right. Ms. Sykes is indeed black and (by her own admission) a dyke. It is highly likely that someone did tell her the rules, she just didn't play along.

Nor does Mr. Hitchens. I suspect I am the one missing Hitchens' own satire. Perhaps it was this repulsive idea — that adulatory, sycophantic, even fawning media elite who go to sleep nightly with Beltway-ese language tapes and rise the next day to insinuate themselves farther up Obama's backstory still find it necessary to vaunt (and flaunt) their insider status with a yearly orgy of self-important stroking disguised as stand-up comedy with the very people whom they are paid to investigate — this idea which impelled the usually expansive wordsmith to encode his nausea in two short satirical sentences.

A judge cavorting with a prosecutor would be disbarred. Why do journalists get a pass? Obama calls it torture, yet the New York Times cannot?

The real zinger was when Obama got real at the end of his roast. Crudely speaking (if Obama could speak crudely, which I doubt): “Your industry pimped itself out and lost the trust of the people, who then took matters into their own hands. Now you're crying to me. Sorry, can't help you.”

A credulous press is a threat to our democracy. Bloggers like me know this. Most journalists do to. And then there are the White House Correspondents who prefer their gossip served up first hand in the East Room, where propaganda offends less than rearranging the seating chart. Their paymasters in turn have learned from Limbaugh that in large part the American people are intellectually lazy and chronically incurious and want their prejudgments confirmed by self-selected “news” sources.

So what? If you can't pay for the ink and paper, stop printing (and go online). If you can't pay the correspondent to propagate (as in, propaganda) the words of others, facilitate the countless volunteers who actually want to research a policy (and and not the one making it). Who cares if Obama is for healthcare reform, the question is whether I am for healthcare reform (and if so, which kind?) Any journalism worthy of the name should at least help me decide that I need to decide such things.

This noble quest is now in the hands of bloggers, many histrionic, most partisan, all opinionated. Still, readers are only one Google search away from every side of any issue. Bloggers compete in a truly free market for your attention, and “even though we cannot affirm that the products of mimesis are invested in the panoply of existence” (i.e. even if we're just bullshitting you), a quick survey of opinions (and their sources) quickly sieves fact from fiction.

Did the Black Dyke get it wrong? She wasn't the one voting against my same-sex marriage. She did not worry that in embarrassing Sean Hannity (or herself) she might (heaven forbid) also be embarrassing Barack Obama...unlike the access-craving sheeple in the audience.

If the label "Black Dyke" seems incomplete, perhaps it is because you were secretly thinking "Uppity Black Dyke" and wondered why Hitchens censored himself (and Wanda Sykes). Clearly Sykes has no problem with this designation, for it is the calling of truthseekers. Uppity is exactly what journalists should be, upending the cherished decorum of smugness pervading the Inner Circle who have forgotten that at the heart of Correspondent is the verb "respond". Uppity White Fag is what I aspire to be when one day I get the chance to speak to such a large and influential audience as Wanda Sykes did. Meanwhile, I will settle for Lonely Voice Crying out in the Wilderness.

Love is patient, love is kind. But the truth is jarring and rude. It imposes on friends and turns on its own.

I suppose the Fox News table could have walked out on Sykes' ungracious contumely. But then they would have missed the after-dinner schmoozing, and that would have been such a waste of privilege.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

LDS proxy baptism is none of my business

Poor tormented soul.

Obama's mother was abducted recently. Last seen on Cloud 9, her soul was brazenly stolen by proxy baptists, posthumously baptized into the LDS Church, and is feared lost in a post-mortal LDS eschatology. Although archangels are out looking for her, God Himself seems powerless to stop this odious practice. Obama is considering sending in the clowns.

Truly, the world has gone mad.

If President Obama's religion is even remotely true, then it is asinine to believe that a member of the LDS Church (or any other mortal besides Stanley Ann Dunham herself) has any say over her final resting place. In fact, asinine is too kind (and yet too mean to donkeys). It is heresy to believe this, and any self-respecting (non-Mormon) Christian should be ashamed to have let such paganism into his or her belief system.

It is no surprise to read that the Vatican has called LDS baptisms for the dead a “detrimental practice” and directed each Catholic diocesan bishop “not to cooperate with the erroneous practices of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” (according to the Salt Lake Tribune). After all, they should know about "erroneous practices", given their history.

If we all claim to know the Truth, why the outrage when what they others quietly (even secretly) undertake a ritual we believe will be completely ineffective and harmless?

Slander, pure and simple. However disguised, it is an unjustified free kick at a political opponent. What's not to like? Plenty. Gays are culturally more "odd" than Mormons, and those attempting to "shame" us with our "odd" beliefs are waiting in line to see if the mud sticks to Mormons before pour hot tar onto gays. Those avidly watching Big Love today will be laughing at Butt Love tomorrow.

It is not hard to find legitimate points of disagreement with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which has not earned my good will in playing such a central role in opposing my same-sex marriage (a purely civil matter) through lobbying (inappropriate for a tax-free institution).

But if we want the LDS church not to meddle in our civil marriage laws, who are we to tell them what secret (and, we believe, vain) ritual they might undergo in the privacy of their own temple? We need to take our own advice and butt out.

By all means, take my future soul away with proxy baptism, and leave me my same-sex marriage here on Earth. Now that's a bargain I can live with.