Archive for April, 2005

Christians and Queers

Tuesday, April 12th, 2005

I recently finished the Penguin biography of Joseph Smith. It was interesting not only because of the bizarre Mormon saga, but also enlightening as to the incredible religious fervor that was extant at the time. It was extreme, and extremely popular, beyond anything imaginable today, murderous even. And yet democracy has survived, and the odds of our returning to such a collective consciousness are not even miniscule. They are zero.

I don’t hardly read Andrew Sullivan anymore. The power of the Christian right in America has been on the wane for years, and not only for years, but for hundreds of years. I’m not afraid of it, and those who wave it around as a bogeyman are just demagoging, as far as I’m concerned, even if it’s Andrew Sullivan.

As for the hetero-normal defensiveness, I have to confess I share it. I watched Before Night Falls again the other night. What a fantastic movie! How any liberal can defend Castro after seeing it, confounds me. But…, I can’t help feeling some sympathy with Castro’s desire to discourage the wild, hedonistic life-style of the Cuban homosexual community as portrayed in the movie. Of course he did more than discourage it, he brutally repressed it, and that is not only wrong, it is counter-productive, as Harcamone points out below. It seems to me that it must be allowed, but societally disapproved of. And that is exactly where we are at today in the U.S. And that’s fine with me. I feel the same way about pot-smoking.

everyone must compromise

Tuesday, April 12th, 2005

Posted by Harcamone

Up to now, I had considered liberal fears of theocratic intrusion into public policy overblown, even a tad hysterical.

Andrew Sullivan shares your concern, Nick. See some of the stuff on his current front page relating to this.

Of course I take Andrew, and you, seriously. And I would fight to the death against even a slightly theocratic America.

But I also try not to forget to bring the salt-shaker to brunch with Andrew because I think he is too invested in homosexual- and other leftfield “normativity.” Remember our friend Randy, how comfortable he was with thinking of himself as a non-normal person? Andrew isn’t there, and never will be. He desperately wants the quilt of normativity to have more panels woven into it.

So, at least with Andrew, I think there are two issues he tends to conflate.

a] legitmate fear of theocratic ideologies, especially when they seem to be moving from the far fringes uncomfortably towards us.

b] unreasonable fear of the defensiveness of hetero-normal, and vanilla-normal, society.

Somehow I continue to believe that we are well innoculated against the worst diseases of a]. I trust the American people, I can’t explain why.

As for b], I can understand the longing to move past hetero-normativity. In my own private cosmos, I have no problem with this evolution, in fact I think I’m part of it.. But there is also the Public Space, and it’s there that I think we need to back off from the idealistic desire to repair the world (or tikkun, to use the talmudic word so beloved of Jewish “progressives”).

All things call forth their opposites. This premise has not been disproven, so I think everyone needs to be a bit careful. Including, of course, the theocrats. Don’t get me wrong. They do need to be opposed.

But here is an unwelcome idea — it might turn out that everyone is going to have to compromise on some important things.

Life and Death

Sunday, April 3rd, 2005

I have been more than a little surprised at the intensity of the conservative response to the Terry Schiavo case, especially from a bunch of people I had always considered to be reasonable, like Mark Steyn, Jonah Goldberg, Peggy Noonan, etc. This absolutism about keeping protoplasm alive is akin to having one’s brain frozen and stored in a vault awaiting future scientific breakthroughs. The unanimity among conservatives seems to be almost complete. I don’t understand it. It seems perverse to me. Where does it come from? Is it an hysterical fear of death, or just fear of the slippery slope of euthanasia? As I get older, I appreciate more and more that we have evolved from the time when those who could no longer cut the mustard were sent out on the ice floes, but I have no desire to spend eternity in a petri dish hooked up to wires and tubes. I just don’t get it. I have long thought that Hemingway probably did the right thing. One certainly has to respect Hitler’s final decision. And I understand the Pope refused additional extreme medical intervention at the end. There is life, and there is death. Can’t have one without the other.


Sunday, April 3rd, 2005

Posted by Andy

Up to now, I had considered liberal fears of theocratic intrusion into public policy overblown, even a tad hysterical. But the Schiavo case gives me pause. Not only the lunatics like Randall Terry parading outside the hospice, but the support of more or less respectable conservative commentators like Peggy Noonan, Limbaugh and Buchanan, Bob Novak and Fred Barnes, not to mention Sean Hannity, who has been devoting his widely heard radio and Fox TV shows to rousing the rabble and implicitly suggesting possible criminal villainy on the part of Michael Schiavo. Even “liberals” like Ralph Nader and the crassly opportunistic Jesse Jackson. And of course George and Jeb.

The “culture of life” folks made much of “Terri’s wishes,” as though they were somehow relevant after 15 years. Whatever her views before she was incapacitated, if in fact she had any–and of course there are conflicting accounts–it is impossible to know how she would have felt about her own vegetative condition. And the great preponderance of neurological evidence, including a CAT scan–disputed only by those with axes to grind, and not credibly–indicates that the cerebral cortex, the seat of consciousness, was utterly gone. Despite the wishful thinking of her parents and their partisans she was incapable of thought about her own state or anything else, and the possibility of “rehabilitation” was a cruel mirage.

It is also difficult to reconcile the intense focus on “Terri’s wishes,” necessarily conjectural, with the views of her self-appointed advocates on related matters, most notably their adamant opposition to any decision by terminally ill people or their designated proxies to choose assisted suicide. Of course some people, including the Catholic hierarchy, consider it wrong to take any life (except perhaps in a “just war”). But the selective inconsistency does undercut their argument of individual choice in cases that suit their philosophical preferences. And it is passing strange that people who believe in a blissful hereafter would go to any length to postpone the inevitable reunion with Jesus, at whatever cost in earthly pain and suffering. Modern medicine, for all its miracles, is not God. And for those who believe in a Deity it would not be illogical to think that unnatural intervention, by means of man-made tubes and machines, even in hopeless cases, is not conforming to God’s will but thwarting it. It may seem callous to talk about costs in this context, but Medicare and Medicaid are under siege, much more than Social Security, and any legislated mandate to prohibit removal of life support without explicit written directions from a patient–as some legislators are proposing–would lead to a crisis dwarfing the altready dire situation.

As a conservative, I have long felt that judicial overreach is a real and serious problem. But in this case it was our elected legislators who overreached, and I can only applaud the principled, even courageous, refusal of the courts to bow to the egregious attempt by Congress and President Bush to intercede–apparently, by the way, in conflict with the popular will: The polls (and two referendums in Oregon) suggest that the general public is firmly opposed not only to such politicized intervention but to stringent limits on an individual’s right to choose death rather than a grotesque and often painful twilight, in thrall to the compassionate cruelties of medical technology abetted by religious fanaticism.