The Other McCain

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

‘The Immature, Demagogic Phase’

Posted on | May 11, 2018 | Comments Off on ‘The Immature, Demagogic Phase’


Who is J.J. McCullough? Never heard of him before yesterday, when someone called my attention to his latest National Review column:

I doubt that many Americans would disagree that the country’s conversation about gay rights is far more mature and considered than it was two decades ago. . . .
Today, there exists broad understanding that homosexual people are unavoidable and common, present in all corners and demographics of American life. Through education, and especially exposure, homosexuality is no longer regarded as bizarre, threatening, or mysterious. . . .
Looking at the state of America’s transgender debate, I often wonder if things are destined to unfold in a similar way.
At present, it feels we’re still in the immature, demagogic phase. In some quarters, it remains fashionable to act theatrically repulsed by transgender people, emphasize their weirdness, and make populist appeals to the preposterousness of women asking to be called “him” or surgeons amputating penises and so forth. Yet this seems more cathartic than anything, in the same way that showy judgment of gays did a generation earlier. As with homosexuality in the 1980s and ’90s, the loud revulsion of critics conceals a fading interest in actually attempting to “solve” transgenderism, as even those most offended by it seem to quietly regard purported cures as quackish and authoritarian. . . .

When he posted this column to Twitter, Mr. McCullough predicted it was “bound to be contentious,” and he was right. His column inspired rejoinders from both Michael Brendan Dougherty and David French at National Review, and I don’t think either of them can be accused of immature demagoguery in this matter. What’s wrong with Mr. McCullough’s argument, for the most part, is that he is young — about 25 years younger than me — and is therefore ignorant of how we got here.

Let anyone answer this question: Where were you when the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas decision was announced? At the time, I was 43 and working as an assistant national editor at The Washington Times, and was aware that activists in Massachusetts had prepared in advance to make this decision the basis of legalizing same-sex marriage. Because of the “full faith and credit” clause of the Constitution, the act of Massachusetts immediately provoked the question of whether the same-sex marriages recognized in that state would be considered valid in other states. In his dissent in the Lawrence case, Justice Scalia indicated he had foreseen such developments, and he also noted how little concern for stare decisis the Court majority showed in overturning the 1986 Bowers v. Hardwick decision. Well, as it happens, 1986 was the year I began my journalism career in a small town in Cobb County, Georgia. Michael Bowers was Attorney General of Georgia, and this 1986 decision upheld our state’s law against sodomy. Take my word for it when I say that sodomy was not a rare practice in Georgia at the time, and that few of its practitioners even realized they were engaged in a crime. Nevertheless, while this statute was rarely enforced, its existence in Georgia law served valid social purposes, and was of ancient origin, dating back through centuries of Anglo-American common law. The Lawrence decision was therefore of greater importance than most people realized at the time, but I was not most people, and had been warned in advance (thank you, Cheryl Wetzstein) that the Court was opening Pandora’s Box, from which a nightmare of chaos would predictably emerge.

Where was J.J. McCullough in 2003? He would have been about 18 at the time, and almost certainly has no understanding of How We Got Here. So I felt it might be a good idea to send him a courteous email:

Dear Mr. McCullough:
Has the possibility occurred to you that what you call “the loud revulsion of critics” toward the gay-rights movement in the 1980s and ’90s was correct? Your problem, sir, is that you are very young and did not live through the era which you are describing.
I graduated high school the same year (1977) that Anita Bryant made headlines for her opposition to the gay-rights measure then recently enacted in Miami. I was not then (and never was, during my youth) a “young conservative,” and did not really care about politics, still less about the issues that concerned what came to be called the Religious Right.
“Who cares?” That was my basic reaction to much of the sturm und drang of the incipient Culture War at the time, when I was a dangerously reckless young man with hair down to his shoulders, immersed in the “sex, drugs and rock-and-roll” way of life. Looking back on my wild youth, it has often occurred to my how miraculous it is that I survived it all. It certainly did not cross my mind at the time — for I was a particularly heedless hedonist — that there was anything political about my pursuit of pleasure. Circa 1984, when I voted for Walter Mondale for president, nobody could have predicted how powerful the LGBT lobby would eventually become. The Cold War was still the major focus of American politics, and the Democrat Party had not yet gone all-in on Cultural Marxism; Mondale was an old-fashioned AFL-CIO Democrat, and if anyone in 1984 accused him of advocating the abolition of laws against sodomy, I must have missed that.
In the 1986 Bowers v. Hardwick decision, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Georgia’s sodomy law, which of course was so seldom enforced that the illegality of sodomy was important mainly because it permitted police occasionally to crack down on gay “cruising” in public parks, charging people with solicitation of sodomy, a crime unto itself. This was not evident to me at the time, as I had no reason to pay attention to such matters, nor did most other people. We had no Internet, no blogs, no social media, and because young people couldn’t just log on and constantly blab their opinions for an international audience, it was easy to ignore politics, except at election time. And it was not until the mid-1990s, by which time I was a married father of three and working as assistant to the editorial page editor of the Rome (Ga.) News-Tribune, that I began reconsidering my indifference to the issues of the Culture War.
Fatherhood tends to change a man’s perspective on such things. Would I want my own children to be exposed to the dangerous hedonism that I’d pursued in my youth? No, sir, I would not. Some of my former dope buddies ended up in prison, including one who was sentenced to Georgia’s Death Row, and a few of my high school classmates died of AIDS. If there was “loud revulsion” toward the gay-rights movement in the 1990s, the deadly plague of AIDS was a major factor in that. You could benefit from reading Destructive Generation by Peter Collier and David Horowitz, particularly Chapter 9, “AIDS: The Origins of a Political Epidemic.” One might be sympathetic toward homosexuals, yet still recognize that the ideological idolatry of “equality” and “sexual liberation” on the Left has had catastrophic consequences.
What I have noticed, and frequently written about in recent years, is the fanatical intolerance of the LGBT movement, an attitude I’ve described as the Compulsory Approval Doctrine. It is now considered “hate” for anyone to criticize any policy advocated by LGBT activists, let alone to express disapproval of homosexuality, per se. This intolerant attitude necessarily infringes the religious liberty of Bible-believing Christians, who can cite chapter and verse on the subject of sin.
It would behoove young conservatives who blab their opinions on the Internet to study the actual history of the phenomena about which they so confidently opine. Have you, Mr. McCullough, carefully read the late Justice Scalia’s dissenting opinions in Lawrence v. Texas (2003), U.S. v. Windsor (2013) and Obergefell v. Hodges (2015)? Justice Scalia stated with great clarity the principles of a conservative opposition to gay rights, as a general matter and, if you are a conservative, you ought to consider how those principles might apply specifically to the transgender issue on which you advocate “compromise.”
Young people naturally want to be popular among their peers, to be one of the “cool kids,” to follow the fashionable trend. This is understandable — if only you could have seen me at 19! — but it is the sacred duty of adults to steer young people away from danger, to warn them against following the path that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13-14). Do conservatives “act theatrically repulsed by transgender people [and] emphasize their weirdness”? Do you suppose, sir, it is merely an “act”? Insofar as the conservatives you describe are adults, it is likely that they are also parents, and do you think sensible parents are not authentically horrified by the thought of their children being sucked into the vortex of the Transgender Cult? You should spend some time (as I have) talking to parents whose teenagers succumbed to “Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria.” This phenomenon wasn’t originally identified by right-wingers or fundamentalist Christians, but rather by radical feminists (many of them militant lesbians) who have become profoundly concerned about the way Internet activism has helped foment what they describe as a “social contagion” of transgenderism among young people.
Do you think that the “weirdness” in the transgender community is something conservatives have imagined? Are you familiar with “Zinnia Jones” (a/k/a Zachary Antolak, a/k/a “Lauren McNamara,” a/k/a “Satana Kennedy”)? Or have you investigated “Char Vortryss” (a/k/a Clinton James Crawford, a/k/a “Char the Butcher)? Perhaps you should do some more research before you go blabbing your opinion about this; I could refer you to my friend Cynthia Yockey, a conservative lesbian who is writing a book on the subject. We seem once again to be living through the kind of era Buffalo Springfield sang about in 1967: “There’s something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear.” A few years ago, almost no one could have imagined Donald Trump becoming president, nor could it have been predicted that social conservatives would find common cause with radical feminists in opposing transgender activists. Yet here we are, in this moment of unexpected weirdness, and I should hope a young person like yourself, who aspires to be considered an intellectual, would be more thoughtful about the causes and potential consequences of this uncanny convergence.
Robert Stacy McCain

Do I think this will change Mr. McCullough’s mind? No, young fools are not apt to admit error or to acknowledge the value of experience when their elders seek to correct the untutored errors of youth. However, I felt it important to suggest to him the nature of his error, so that if he ever repents his folly, he might have some idea of why he was wrong.



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