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Friday, July 16, 2004

Cultural warriors and homosexual conspiracies

Thomas Frank articulates quite clearly what many of us have been fumbling to say--the Republicans deliberately took up a losing cause to shore up their image as solitary, determined warriors protecting helpless middle America from a liberal elite that wishes to push perversion on children.  Or something like that. 
It certainly explains why we had supposedly intelligent politicians reaching heights of paranoia on the Senate floor, suggesting that homosexuals were trying to tear your house down and that liberal judges called each other on the weekend to decide which state would fall next to the dreaded homosexual conspiracy to take over America and make you marry a box turtle.  The more insane the pronouncements, the bigger the disaster the FMA would be, and the more that fundamentalists would see gay marriage at the Christian version of the Alamo, where they would go down but go down fighting.  I can see how to some the very public thumping makes their causes seem all the more honorable.  The Christian right has to put forth a massive effort to make their cause seem important, that they are saving marriage and families themselves from certain doom, if only to conceal the fact that what they're really doing is trying to enshrine ugly bigotry into our Constitution.
Of course, the Republicans employed their ever-growing talent at Doublespeak to bolster their case.  Protecting marriage by denying it to people, protecting families by hurting the families of homosexuals, protecting children by leaving the children of homosexuals unprotected--it was a breath-taking display of saying precisely the opposite of what they meant and actually getting people to believe it.  Frank nails it when he fingers the Republicans for jumping all over this as the new opportunity for a culture war, since it has all the elements, from bigotry to hysteria to its status as a losing cause.
Most of the battles in the culture war are about something larger than just the immediate issue.  The battle over evolution is a way for people to express anxiety about science and anger that their religious beliefs are becoming outdated.  The battle over abortion is a way for men who are angry about women's push for equality to retaliate, a socially acceptable way to express misogyny.  Crime and welfare and drugs are issues that are notorious for prettying up racism and these issues give white people a way to express anger about losing their perceived racial privileges.  Gay marriage, like abortion, is about sex and gender.  It's about those straight men who cannot stand even the thought that they won't be special, important, top of the heap, and are throwing a temper tantrum, much like the ones the Shrub throws when someone challenges him, kicking and screaming that if everyone gets to be in the club, then they are dissolving the club.  Apparently, their moms didn't teach them to share. 
I wonder how long the Republicans can ride this train, though.  They are always under threat that we as a nation might grow up and realize, for instance, that there is plenty enough marriage to spread around.  Plenty of all-important culture war battles managed to burn themselves out, like resistance to birth control, or to segregation, or to women's education.  The last in particular is a good example of a rapid turnaround.  Less than 40 years ago, people were in a tizzy over the idea that universities might have as many women as men.  Now, if a school has less women than men, it's a strike against its reputation.  I can see gay marriage going that way, where in relatively few years gay marriage will be embraced and we will wonder how we ever did without it.  Maybe.
 
Via Pandagon. 



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