Saturday, 29 May 2010

Big Gay Al Says...

At long last, it looks like DADT might finally be going the way of the dinosaur, the dodo and the death of homosexuals by public stoning.

Of course, just as it was with the Civil Rights Movement, there is absolutely nothing like the threat of social progress to inspire the other side to quite simply go out of their fucking minds with hatred and bile. I once spoke to a man who grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, who had watched one of Dr King's marches. He told me that he thought the worst part of it all was what occurred in the minds of him and his fellow whites; the degree of unreasoning, senseless, burning hatred they were forced to bring out of themselves in order to escape having to recognise that the people marching past them were entirely in the right. I guess it's a pretty simple psychological cantrip, actually. You can't let things change, you know that things as they stand are spectacularly unfair for a given group of people, so the only thing your brain can do is conclude those people don't deserve fairness in the first place. Aside from the desire to screw the prettiest person within range, there's probably no more fundamental aspects of human nature than to conclude you deserve more than what is fair. It's no wonder we all hate each other.

DADT is not the same creature as segregation, of course. Or at least, I don't think it is; I'm pretty sure a straight white guy doesn't really get to make that call. My spectacularly uniformed guess, though, is that this is something less of a Big Hairy Deal for gay people than desegregated restaurants, buses and schools were for black people. On the other hand, the potentially comparative unimportance of the issue makes it all the harder to understand what the right is going so crazy over. I can find it in my heart to feel some small, cold sympathy for those people who simply went mad with terror fifty years ago. I don't have to agree with their position, or their desires, to understand that some of them were simply too scared to do the right thing. Another one of our defining racial characteristics. Changing the rules of society on a fundamental level, flushing its system of the poison of Jim Crow and Bull Connor, was unquestionably right, but it was also hard. According to the story, Johnson's first words after signing the Civil Rights Act was an aside to an aide: "We have lost the South for a generation." Which, y'know, was true (and optimistic), but as is so often the case with these things, I suspect the true cost was born out of sight. Not wrong. Never wrong. But hard, sometimes. We do ourselves no favours by pretending otherwise.

With DADT, though, I just don't see the there there. I literally cannot see how it can be a crisis to allow openly gay people to serve. I don't get how these people can believe that US servicemen and women are the best trained, most highly disciplined soldiers in the world, but if they met one of them hoe-moe-secksuwls they'd freak right the fuck out. Whether it's that extra level of "How can this possibly be a problem", or the lunatic right's constant insistence that an alternate wiring of one's sexual preferences is the mark of the Beast and that we're exactly one Sex and the City convention away from the destruction of the mortal realm, the entirely modest proposal to let the Pentagon choose to repeal DADT rather than Congress has led to an explosion of idiocy and bigotry from American conservatives that is amazing even by their standards. A lot of it isn't even enraging anymore, at least not to me - and again, I get that this isn't something I should feel comfortable making rulings on - it's just too ridiculous for me to get particularly annoyed.

I mean, how can you react with anything more than a resigned sigh when Rep. Gohmert insists that repealing DADT will compel service people to state their sexuality (you know, the same way Rosa Parks led to black people being compelled to ride at the front of buses) even whilst under fire? How can you muster up anything beyond dumbfounded bafflement when the Family Research Council argues that DADT is the only thing holding back a wave of unsolicited head being performed upon sleeping soldiers? Which no-one will dare report for fear of being labelled a bigot (and note the argument being sneaked in here; unfounded accusations of bigotry are more concerning than bigotry itself, and thus the only thing to do is to prevent such accusations being possible by enshrining the bigotry in law)?

Besides, you've got to go the extra mile these days if you want to win the "Most Offensive Statement Made To Justify One's Own Bigotry" belt. 'Cos you ain't gonna top the ludicrous claim made by Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association (and why does it never occur to these people that homosexuals tend to be a part of a family too?) that Hitler hired gays as his enforcers because they were way more OK about murdering innocent people; not unless you work for it. I'm talking hours standing motionless on rowboat bows. Running up mountains carrying sacks of rocks. Bare-fist punching stone slabs emblazoned with pictures of Elton John's civil ceremony. Because that guy? He's got game.

It's almost a work of art, in some ways. It's like he got bored of being just aggravatingly bigoted, headed into the kind of cloud-cuckoo bigotry it's impossible to take seriously, and come out the other side, frothing from the mouth and randomly firing off insulting analogies at the clouds and wildlife. I'm not even sure it should bother me at all; it's just too surreal. It's like a watchmaker getting pissed about The Persistence of Memory. I mean, I have no idea if there were any gay Nazis or not, but I'm pretty damn sure that the problem with them wouldn't have been the first hald of the description. If I get stranded on a desert island and my only two options for physical intimacy are a gay man and a female Nazi, then I guess the graffiti in my secondary school toilets will at last be vindicated. It's just the complete opposite of logic across the board, but as a case study for how much one can hate and how little one can reason in order to stop people being fairly treated, it's a winner. So congratulations, Mr Fischer, for demonstrating that no matter how ludicrous and hyperbolic your position is, you can still stuff it full of enough hatred that you can't be laughed off. It's a useful piece of information to have; now kindly fuck the fuck off.

Like I said, it's truly extraordinary what the human mind can convince itself of when the alternative is accepting the damage their positions cause. It's also more than a little frightening. The good news is that it might not matter this time. "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice", and so forth. I'm far more optimistic about this working out than I was about health care (in fact, by the time you read this it might already be game over). All the same, it can kind of unsettling watching this stuff in real time.

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