Monday, March 10, 2008

If You Will Be My Friend, Then I Might Give It To You: Chronicles Of The Backlash, Episode The Fourth

I found this entertaining clip at Who Is IOZ?, who got it from Crooks & Liars, who got it from Pam’s House Blend, who got it from something called the Victory Fund – their Web address is in the clip, if you care. (That trail of transmission reminds me of Tom Lehrer’s song “I Got It From Agnes.”) Apparently the speaker, Oklahoma State Representative Sally Kern, thought she was speaking to “only” fifty people, as if she were a primitive Christian preaching in the catacombs, but she was being recorded.

Now, on the one hand, I certainly agree that this woman should be squashed, politically speaking, like a bug. Since her remarks were publicized, she has confirmed that they represent her beliefs, and she stands by them. (Which, I must say, is refreshing, considering the way most politicians, and most Americans for that matter, backtrack immediately when they get caught saying something outrageous: My remarks have been misinterpreted and taken out of context by malicious people trying to make trouble! I certainly never meant to offend anyone by what I said, and I never said it, but it’s true anyhow, okay?) The same article informs us that “Karen Parsons is a local activist. She said the majority of Oklahoman's [sic] don't care about sexual orientation.” Well, here’s a great opportunity to prove that; but since Kern has apparently been saying similar things publicly for a long time, and is still in the State House, she may be more typical than Karen Parsons likes to believe. (We have a similar clown in the Indiana Legislature, Woody “He Listens. He Cares. He Takes ActionBurton.)

But on the other hand, there are responses like this one by one Jim Burroway: “Have you ever wonder [sic] what anti-gay extremists say to each other behind closed doors?” Well, no, not really, thanks very much. I already had a pretty good idea of what they say to each other behind closed doors, and the recording of Kern confirms it. What I wonder, often, is which planet people like Jim Burroway live on, so that beliefs like Kern’s are some kind of news to them.

Of course, they aren’t really news to him, or to anyone else. He’s just being officially shocked! shocked! to learn that people can believe and say such things. And I can’t help thinking that such fake indignation is not a good idea, just because fake anything is not a good idea. You can’t really attack others for dishonesty when you adopt a public stance of dishonesty yourself – oh hell, I know you can, it’s the American Way, but that’s the problem, isn’t it? These folks with their prim little signs in the video, and Jim Burroway, and all the other Captain Renaults who are pretending to be surprised that we live among bigots, are really just the mirror image of Sally Kern, who is shocked! shocked! to find that, in 2008, there are queers who have been elected to city councils and other government offices in the United States. (Darlin’, we don’t need to “infiltrate” – we run openly as homosexuals, and can still be elected, even in the Heartland, which is why Karen Parsons may be right.) They got their high dudgeon from Sally, and she got it from… And you ought to hear the things that those nice, respectable Homo-Americans say when they think no one’s listening.

In 1994 the lesbian writer E. J. Graff wrote tolerantly about leathermen in Pride parades for The Progressive: “But the sexual display seen at Lesbian and Gay Pride can be found in any American community, albeit less conveniently collected in one parade.” But by time her book What Is Marriage For? was published by Beacon in 1999, her view had hardened, and she complained more than once that “anyone can see on TV some scantily leather-clad man gyrating drunkenly” (page 65 that time) on a parade float, giving decent gay people a bad image.

In 2002 gay evangelicals Jeff Miner and John Tyler Connoley produced their own book, The Children Are Free: Reexamining the Biblical Evidence on Same-Sex Relationships under the imprint of the Jesus Metropolitan Community Church in Indianapolis. These boys, being hard-core Christians, stressed to their readers how different they and their congregation were from “idolaters, people who hated God, and pursued their own desire for new and greater sexual thrills” (p. 16). Here they were reacting to a Biblical passage in a typically fundamentalist way: Paul’s condemnation must refer to some actual wicked people instead of caricaturing outsiders, but modern gay Christians are nothing like that. Again,

We’re not talking about the common stereotype of a radical fairy, riding half-naked on the back of a float in some Gay Pride parade, looking for his next sexual conquest. We’re talking about ordinary human beings wanting into loving relationships with the blessing of God – for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, ‘til death do them part [68].

This is real Christian love; by their own account, it should have been the despised and rejected half-naked radical fairy that Jesus came to save, not the respectable Pharisees who wrote this book. To see the humanity of the unrespectable is apparently beyond Miner and Connoley.

I think it goes some way to illustrate why so many gay people react as they do to people like Sally Kern: she’s talking about someone else, not them! But they are exactly the people she and her ilk are talking about. The decent gay people apparently have no idea how to deal with such bigots. It’s important to remember that the gay movement which made it possible for them to come out in the first place was the work of eccentrics, loners, weirdos, half-naked radical fairies, and diesel dykes, oh my! Later the “decent” folk tried to wrest away control of the wheel, on the assumption that they knew better how to drive the movement; they’ve shown abundantly that they don’t -- unless running around in panicky circles is the way to run a movement.