Sunday, January 1, 2012

The "This Is So Gay" Agenda for 2012

I chose my post on Florence Howe's memoir A Life in Motion for listing in Batocchio's roundup, but there were several other posts I considered before I decided on that one. Before I write about them, though, I realized that in an agenda I should be laying out what lies ahead, so let me mention a couple of projects I'm hoping to get to this year after long procrastination. In no particular order:

I want to write a critique of Richard Bauckham's Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony (Eerdmans, 2006). I've seen this book mentioned several times as a decisive refutation of the prevailing scholarly belief that eyewitnesses -- Jesus' original disciples and their contemporaries -- played no role in the writing of the New Testament gospels. Because Bauckham is a serious, competent scholar, I knew his arguments would have to be taken seriously, so I read his book. I don't think he made his case, but I also realized that his claims were much more modest than the people who cited him seemed to think. He doesn't think that all four canonical gospels were written by eyewitnesses, for example. At most he seems to be arguing that some of the material in the gospels came from eyewitnesses, and most of his more skeptical colleagues would admit that much. But as one of them wrote several decades ago, the hard part is telling which material in the gospels is authentic eyewitness testimony and which isn't. Since the conservative scholars and laymen who embraced Jesus and the Eyewitnesses made it sound as though Bauckham had proven much more, and that modern critical scholarship would now come tumbling down like the walls of Jericho, I wanted to explain why this wasn't so. It'll probably take more than one post to say what I want to say about it, so I've been putting it off. This year I'll try to get to it.

Another subject I've had in mind for a long time -- since before I began writing this blog, in fact -- is that of love and affection between people of the same sex, especially but not only between men, and its relation to eroticism and romance between people of the same sex. I've written about this before, more than once, but I still have a lot to say about it, so saying it is another resolution for the coming year.

The third project I've been putting off is also one I've touched on before: the matter of "gender" and "race," specifically where East Asia is concerned. A recent article at Salon about the Filipino Manny Pacquaio alerted me that the issue wasn't dead, it just had passed from my radar for a while. A related hot issue I wanted to write about was sexual relations between East Asian men and Caucasian men; around a decade ago there was a big flurry of writing about the Rice Queen, much of it racist and/or homophobic, and I wrote quite a lot about without finishing it. It appears that the Rice Queen is no longer the hot topic he was a few years ago, but the issues involved haven't died away entirely, so I might as well post that material here. I also have an article on homoeroticism in Korean cinema that I'm quite proud of. I should do something with before it goes completely out of date; maybe, as I have with some other pieces, I'll just post it here. But first I should try to find another home for it.

Finally, I've been meaning to write for several months about G. B. Edwards' strange novel The Book of Ebenezer Le Page. As you'll see if I finally do the job, it's an appropriate subject.

And now I'll return to the posts from 2011 that I feel best about in roughly chronological order. Aside from my post on Florence Howe (which Howe herself liked, and wrote me to praise), I'd single out "Conspiracies For You and Me," about conspiracy theories of course, which I tried to put into historical context.

I've written several times about what you might call the Grammar Wars, sparked by a Salon essay lamenting Our Youth's inability to handle English grammar, spelling, and punctuation. The first was "Our Miss Brooks", followed by "Taught to the Tune of a Hickory Stick," and soon after by "Comma Comma Comma Comma Come On ..." At around the same time a friend of mine joined the chorus of loud lament for the Oxford Comma; I preferred not to.

In July I stumbled on an article from Family Circle in which a mom griped because Kids These Days aren't learning to suffer the consequences for not finishing projects. It's an evergreen complaint, of course, which could have been (and has been) written at any time in the past 150 years, but I was appalled by the writer's meanspiritedness, so I explained at length why her attitude of punitiveness-for-its-own-sake was wrongheaded.

Also in July I wrote a post on American Manhood, baffled by what still look to me like inexplicably retrograde and simply wrong-headed sentiments on the subject by a fellow blogger.

I wrote two long posts after reading Manning Marable's controversial biography of Malcolm X. The first was on the relation of political violence to Malcolm's career, and the second was on the question of separatism. I think they both turned out very well.

I have several semi-finalists from October. It was a good time for writing about the American Spring, and I wrote about attacks on Occupy Wall Street from the Right. As with that Family Circle article on kids, I noticed that many of the critics of OWS were obsessed with swatting at the Hippies In Their Minds rather than anything the movement was actually doing. As Campaign 2012 continued to heat up, I wrote about the growing panic in the Obama machine, trying to keep on-message while the country made it clear that another message was needed.

Also in October, some science fans, maybe even scientists, issued a challenge to believe in extra-terrestrial life, or else be called a big stupid. I wrote another post on the Religion of Science. Then I got into an argument about the atheist fantasy writer Terry Pratchett and his views on relikgion, which led me to write "What Do You Do With a Drunken Atheist?"

At about the same time I reread Marge Piercy's great leftist, feminist, proto-cyberpunk novel from the 1970s, Woman on the Edge of Time, and spent some time explaining why I think it's as radical and relevant as ever.

During the year I had a lot to say about GLBTQ issues, as always. I quibbled with Dan Savage's advice to a closeted college freshman, and more seriously with the obsession he shares with so many of our people -- inexplicably, to me -- that Being Gay Is Not a Choice. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't, but I think it's a distraction, and really is just one more way we have let bigots set the terms of engagement. Though I wrote less than in past years about same-sex marriage, I did some griping about the propaganda term "marriage equality," and the serious questions it's meant to obscure.

And that sums it up for me now, though I could probably have gone on a bit more; and I will, I'm sure, in the next twelve months. Happy New Year, and fasten your seatbelts, ladies and gentlemen: 2012 promises to be a bumpy ride.