The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Shame in a Shameless Culture

Posted on | October 1, 2010 | 109 Comments

The tragedy of Tyler Clementi’s suicide has drawn much commentary. We are not surprised that Pam Spaulding seizes the opportunity to lecture us about “homophobia” — the scare-quotes necessitated, as I always note, by the pseudo-diagnostic nature of the term.

Stipulate that such a phenomenon as “homophobia” exists, that there are people who have an irrational and exaggerated fear of homosexuals, to such an extent that we might describe them as suffering from a mental illness. Absent a case-by-case examination of individuals, an analysis of the behaviors and attitudes that constitute “homophobia,” and evidence that this phenomenon causes harm to society, the term is merely an epithet, with no meaningful definition.

As an epithet, “homophobia” has become an all-purpose politicized slur wielded against anyone who disagrees with the Official Gay Rights Agenda. It has little meaning outside that context. If you don’t think public schools should be subjecting first-graders to discussions of masturbation, for example, you are liable to accusations of “homophobia” — the imputation that your beliefs are irrational, constitution evidence of a mental disorder.

Fuck you.

I just had to get that out of my system. That Pam Spaulding and others have been permitted to arrogate to themselves the pseudo-therapeutic license to diagnose people they’ve never met as suffering from “homophobia” — a loaded term the media never bothers to disassemble — is one of the many elephants in this particular room.

Conservatives ought to be embarrassed by how they have allowed the premises of such discussions — as logic and rhetoric — to go unexamined over the past three decades. The organized forces of sexual radicalism have striven with tremendous zeal to restrict these issues to an up-or-down referendum on “tolerance,” and to define these issues in terms of “rights,” all the while becoming increasingly intolerant of dissent and insensitive to the rights of those who disagree.

Why have conservatives failed to move the discussion away from the same weary arguments about slippery slopes and Heather Has Two Mommies? Why have conservatives failed to examine the ideological premises of sexual radicalism? For indeed, it is radicalism of which we speak.

The radical premise is that existing society is so unjust that it deserves to be destroyed, and replaced with a new society organized along those principles acceptable to the radicals.

Something quite like that has taken place in the United States since 1960. Everything that Americans believed about sexual behavior — the sanctity of marriage, the importance of such virtues as chastity and modesty, the necessity of suppressing such vices as pornography and prostitution — has been relentlessly assaulted by organized radicalism.

That America in 1960 was a “homophobic” place, we freely admit. It was also “phobic” toward divorce, adultery, bastardy, pornography and numerous other sexual behaviors that Americans did not believe worthy of inclusion as inalienable rights under the heading of “the pursuit of happiness.” You may criticize the America of 1960 as an intolerant and backward culture, but it was that America — derogated by radicals as hopelessly puritanical — which crushed Nazi totalitarianism and held at bay the totalitarian aggression of the Soviet Union.

Looking back over the distance of 50 years, and considering the direction that has brought us to the present day, are we expected to agree without hestitation that this is Progress? And is everyone who doubts that we can survive another 50 years of such Progress a reactionary bigot?

If you have the courage to withstand the epithet of “homophobe” or the suggestion that you are part of an anti-sex American Taliban, an examination of the premises of sexual radicalism can be quite fruitful. And speaking of fruits . . .

OK, that was a joke. Can we no longer be permitted to joke about sex? You can turn on Comedy Central and see hour after hour of stand-up comedians joking about sex. Why are conservatives not trying a little humor to leaven their arguments on this subject? Let’s face it: Heritage Foundation seminars might get more viewers on C-SPAN if some senior policy analyst would occasionally use the phrase “butt-fucking.”

But I digress.

Having ceded the culture to radicalism, conservatives are no longer capable of speaking in terms that the dominant culture can appeciate. (See? There was a point to that digression.) And conservatives do seem guilty of intolerance toward those voices who question sexual radicalism from the perspective of direct personal experience. Consider my blogger friend Sooper Trev who admits to having struggles with same-sex attraction:

Tyler Clementi obviously had some level of sexual attraction for men. In a sick way, his acting on it cost him his life. Dharun Ravi may have done exactly what someone would have to do to get Clementi to destroy himself, but Clementi was still the one who did it. Because I see my old self (and some of my yet-current self) in him, I believe that Tyler’s fundamental error here was in not accepting his own human dignity. . . .
Tyler sacrificed some of his dignity to give in to his curiosity at least a couple times. Yet when the bright light of public scrutiny shone down on what he had considered his own secret world, all Tyler could see was what he was ashamed of. All he could see was how broken he was. Maybe all he could see was that he might as well be a two-dimensional carnival character to people like Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei and their friends. I think maybe the worst Tyler saw in himself was all of a sudden just too close to how hundreds or thousands of others saw him. In the end, even on an iconic bridge, on a beautiful night with a spectacular view of Manhattan, the Palisades, and the shimmery water below, all Tyler Clementi could see was certain doom.
Like I said, I was there once. Actually a few times. In my case, when I broke down and told my straight college roommate that I was attracted to men, specifically him, and that I couldn’t take my infatuation with him anymore…he held me. It was something he’d never done before nor wanted to. He assured me of his steadfast friendship. He bought me lunch, listened to me, and prayed with me too. Our relationship was sometimes strained after that, though we were doing pretty well five years later when I served as best man at his wedding. But what I noticed most was that when my heart found genuine friendship with this guy, my sexual imagination didn’t fixate on him very much anymore.
In fact, I’ve been blessed to find that real friendships with other men give me in reality what my libido is looking for in fantasy. . .

Read the whole thing. Now, what would Pam Spaulding say to Sooper Trev? Sexual radical that she is, I believe she would insist that his sexual feelings toward other men are his “true” self, and that the Sooper Trev who struggles against those feeling is merely an accomplice of “homophobia.”

What Trev should do, according to radicals like Spaulding, is to celebrate his same-sex attractions without shame, just as Hollywood D-listers who sell their sex videos celebrate their own sexuality.

As might be expected, I disagree. For it seems to me that the radical insistence on sexual shamelessness is part of what led Dharun Ravi to think it would be cool to capture his roommate’s tryst on video. Every time Maury Povitch broadcasts one of his baby-daddy DNA tests, every time Britney flashes her crotch for the paparazzi, every time we learn that some famous person has been shtupping cocktail waitresses, it is the of shamelessness of our culture that shocks us.

Sooper Trev had the same sexual feelings that motivated Tyler Clementi’s tryst. Yet Sooper Trev believed in human dignity — his own, and his roommate’s.

America is steadily losing that old-fashioned sense of human dignity. And we ought to be ashamed.


109 Responses to “Shame in a Shameless Culture”

  1. I Get It
    October 3rd, 2010 @ 2:44 pm

    @garden brinjal, civil rights is really a fairly simple legal issue, with social acceptance being deeper and multilayered. I never thought I’d live to see the U.S. have a black president, nor did it occur to me that people of the same sex would someday be able to get married, at least in some jurisdictions.

    There has been considerable progress in the U.S., but we do tend to move in a “two steps forward, one step back” manner. The attitudes you’ve seen from this blog and most of the commenters represent the “one step back” faction. Over time, they lose most of these fights, because the history of the United States is one of expanding freedom.

  2. garden brinjal
    October 3rd, 2010 @ 2:57 pm

    Over time, they lose most of these fights,[…]

    Ironically, it can be scary when that realization dawns upon those who slowly but surely lose fights. A small minority can become increasingly desperate with the likes of Sarah Palin cheering them on.

    […]because the history of the United States is one of expanding freedom.

    Damn right!

  3. I Get It
    October 3rd, 2010 @ 4:07 pm

    @garden binjal, I don’t think it’s useful or accurate to drag Sarah Palin into this. That’s one of the problems when these issues become pitched ideological battles. Each side drags in all their favorite demons, and before long you’re in a big food fight that does no one any good at all.

    Your blaming anything on Sarah Palin is really no better than conservatives heaping every problem under the sun on the hated liberals. It’s tiresome and unproductive.