More strange bedfellows

Pat Buchanan joins Bryan Fischer (and Rush Limbaugh, among others) in praising Putin’s gay-baiting.

There’s always been a strong authoritarian element on the American Right. Some conservatives hated Communism for its tyranny, but there were others who hated only the planned economy: after all, they were fine with Chiang Kai-shek and Pinochet and Galtieri and d’Aubuisson and Savimbi and the Greek colonels and the Shah, and of course with racial tyranny in South Africa and Rhodesia.

So now that Putin is running a tyranny with billionaires instead of a tyranny with apparatchiki, he’s apparently eligible for right-wing admiration.

Footnote Politics has always made strange bedfellows, but this particular bed is starting to get a little crowded, with Putin and Limbaugh and Fischer and Buchanan. I wonder who … never mind!

Strange bedfellows

What’s a hyper-patriot Christian Dominionist doing praising KGB Col. Putin?

Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association – who heads an organization that owns 200 radio stations, and whose anti-gay, anti-Muslim, anti-Hindu, and anti-labor views make him an acceptable guest at “conservative” gatherings – has words of praise for Russian tyrant (and former KGB colonel) Vladimir Putin’s move to suppress public debate over same-sex relationships.

It’s true: they hate us for our freedom.

Just askin’

When’s the last time a boy got expelled from Scouting for having premarital sex?

I see Rick Perry and the rest of the theocrats are upset that some gay teenagers will get to participate in the Boy Scouts.  (The LDS seems to be going with the flow.)

Being out-gay (but not, apparently, closeted) is inconsistent with the principles that Scout is “clean” and “morally straight.” Though the official Scouting website makes no mention of sexual behavior under the heading of being “clean.” (No mention of “trustworthy” [defined as including being “honest”], “brave,” or “loyal.” And of course the gay-baiters themselves seem to fall short on “kind” and “courteous.”)

Here’s my favorite passage from the anti-gay Scouting website:

Parents should have the exclusive right to raise issues about sex and sexuality with their children in their own time and in their own way, in the privacy of their homes; not brought up by other older boys around a campfire.

Because of course boys at Scout camp never discuss girls.

So, to the question: When is the last time a Scout was expelled for having premarital sex?

Under the Gaydar Advocacy

Sometimes when advocates want to change society, they conclude that they need to “get in people’s faces” about the issue, call in the TV cameras, march in the streets and thereby force a national conversation to occur.

At other times, advocates quietly accrue small victories out of limelight until the facts on the ground have changed before any significant opposition has been roused.

In a fascinating article at Washington Monthly, Alison Gash points out that same sex marriage advocates took the former route, whereas same sex parenting advocates took the latter. Gash compares the process and outcomes of both initiatives, concluding that

History books suggest that our society has made its greatest leaps on the shoulders of high profile campaigns. But change can also be the result of quiet battles that play out in courtrooms, boardrooms and bedrooms all across the country. And it is often these hidden battles that most effectively propel our society forward.

Can’t make this stuff up

McCaskill quotes “faith, hope, and love” in support of gay marriage. Good news. Bad faith. Bad Greek.

Claire McCaskill endorses gay marriage. That’s an important sign. McCaskill knows Missouri, and if this is a winning position in Missouri it’s “game over.”

The partisan Democrat in me hopes the Supremes figure out a way to duck, and force the battle to be fought out, state-by-state, in referenda that will split the Republican coalition and alienate even right-leaning independents. If we were looking for a way to generate Presidential-level turnout in an off year, a bunch of referenda on gay marriage would be a good start. (However, that partisan Democrat isn’t all of me; on balance, I hope they do the right thing.)

But what you can’t make up is that McCaskill quotes First Corinthians 13:13 (“And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love”) to justify her position. Yes, I know that the same passage gets used in lots of wedding ceremonies, ever since the Bible translators started translating ἀγάπη agape as “love” rather than the KJV “charity.” But that doesn’t make it any less silly.

I don’t say “love” is a bad translation; there isn’t a short English word that means what agape means, which as I understand it is a generalized goodwill. “Lovingkindness” seems more or less right, but as poetry it just doesn’t fit with “faith” and “hope.” But what it doesn’t mean is romantic love; the closest thing to that concept in Greek would be ἔρως “eros” (= desire).

If Saul of Tarsus was still thinking in Hebrew even as he was writing in Greek, perhaps the word he had in mind was “ahavah,” אהבה , which has the same ambiguity as “love” in English, being used both of religious devotion (“and you will love HaShem your god with all your heart) and of sexual desire (“Isaac loved Rebecca”). But since the word he actually wrote has no sexual connotation – and since Saul/Paul wasn’t actually much in favor of marriage, regardless of the gender identities of those being married – the quotation is far from apposite, both here and in the wedding ceremony.

Of course what’s really silly is the pretense that the Senior Senator from Missouri has been reading the Bible rather than the polls. St. Paul, after all, was just as strong on the virtue of “love” ten years ago. Yes, it makes sense to try to soften the blow for the churchgoers who will be dismayed by McCaskill’s new stance by acknowledging the authority of the Christian tradition. But the combination of bad Greek and bad faith is just a little bit hard to swallow.

Portman and gay marriage

If Rob Portman’s son had come out ten years ago, Portman wouldn’t have changed his mind on marriage.

So Rob Portman’s son comes out as gay, and Portman changes his mind on gay marriage. Lots of fun snark around this, of course: “Eventually one of these Republican congressmen is going to find out his daughter is a woman, and then we’re all set.” (Something to this, it turns out.) “Let’s hope Portman’s kid has trouble finding affordable healthcare.”

Yes, as a moral stance reconsidering your principles only when they hurt you personally isn’t especially impressive. Jonathan Chait asks, “But why should any of us come away from his conversion trusting that Portman is thinking on any issue about what’s good for all of us, rather than what’s good for himself and the people he knows?” And no one answers. Since no Republican officeholder expects to become poor, let alone black or undocumented, they will continue in good conscience to back policies are horrible for poor, black, and undocumented people, unless they think it will cost them votes. (The Onion to the contrary notwithstanding, none of their kids will die for lack of health coverage. Note that Portman doesn’t seem to have changed his mind about job discrimination against gays.)

Still, I’ll take what I can get. Maybe his son’s coming-out genuinely drove Portman to re-examine his conscience, or maybe it provided an easy way for Portman to make a move necessary if he wants to win enough Millennial votes to capture the White House, while cushioning the blow to social conservatives.

One thing you can bet the ranch on: it wouldn’t have happened ten years ago, and it won’t be necessary ten years from now. In the meantime, celebrate!

Footnote I’m glad to see Newt Gingrich holding fast to his position that marriage is between one man and one woman … after another.

God bless Julian Bond!

The civil rights hero makes a video for marriage equality in Maryland.

The civil rights hero, now Chairman Emeritus of the NAACP, has made a pro-marriage-equality video for the Maryland vote on Tuesday, where the African-American vote is likely to be crucial and some of the preachers are crusading against equality – using the same sort of nonsensical Biblical exegesis used by white preachers in the South to prove that Jim Crow was the Will of God – but where President Obama’s shift seems to have changed opinions within the black community.

That’s one in the eye for the right-wing concern trolls who tried to use Prop. 8 in California to stir up hatred between gays and blacks to help the cause of the racist/plutocrat alliance. “If we do not hang together, assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

Another Court of Appeals strikes down DOMA

When the DOMA case gets to the Supreme Court, will the Solicitor General be there on behalf of the United States of America, to defend bigotry? We get to decide November 6. Now tell me again why it doesn’t matter who wins?

The Second Circuit joints the First, and finds that discrimination by sexual orientation calls for heightened scrutiny. Good.

But of course this is going up to the Supreme Court. When it gets there, will the Solicitor General, on behalf of the United States of America, defend it? The voters get to make that decision November 6.

If on occasion I get just a mite testy with the people who insist that it doesn’t matter who wins, or that the choice that day is between evils, this is one of many reasons why. Yes, if I were a nicer person I’d be more polite about it, but not everyone has Harold’s saintly disposition.

Update Commenter Ken Rhodes writes:

I’m puzzled by the mention of the Solicitor General, defense of the DOMA, and the upcoming election, all together in that short paragraph. How are they related? Who defended the DOMA, on behalf of the government, in the two referenced Court of Appeals cases? Isn’t it the job of an attorney to represent his client, irrespective of his personal distaste?

More than a year ago, President Obama and Attorney General Holder decided that the law could not conscionably be defended (legal argument here).

Fox News and various Republican politicians accused Obama of tyranny and called for his impeachment.

But in fact his actions were not only clearly lawful but had plenty of precedent.

With DoJ off the case, the Republicans in Congress decided to spend $1.5 million of the moneey we keep being reminded we “borrow from China” to hire private counsel to defend the sacred right of bigots to enact their prejudices into law. They ought to be made to pay a political price for that decision.

Does Self-Involvement Promote Tolerance on the Cheap?

I had a friend who as a young man was a macho, hard-drinking World War II hero. The surprise of his life came when he learned that his son was gay. The scene was every bit as awful as you would imagine, with hateful, scarring words uttered on both sides. But by the time I met him in his old age, my friend was a proud PFLAG member. At his funeral, his son offered a moving remembrance of the father he loved and the relationship they had managed to repair over many years of hard work.

The struggle my friend had with his son was painful and long-lasting, yet it was rooted fundamentally in their love for each other. They cared about each other enough to fight, and to persist through emotional agony and confusion until they re-forged their family bond. In some sense, to be deeply critical of another person’s private life is possible only if you are deeply interested in that person’s private life to begin with.

I would like to think that the aggregation of experiences such as my friend had with his son is a major reason why heterosexual Americans have grown collectively more tolerant of gay people. I am sure it accounts for some of it, but I worry that there is a less noble explanation for some of the new open-mindedness. Let me give an example of the sort of interaction that troubles me:

An undergraduate declares “I don’t get hung up on whether the guy living next door to me is gay”.

“Why not?” I ask.

“Because his sex life isn’t my business. I just don’t care.”, he responds, with a note of pride.

“Would you care if your gay neighbor were unemployed, or had cancer, or were depressed and lonely and needed a friend?”.

After a pause: “No. That’s his business too.”

At my worst moments, I wonder if we are producing tolerance on the cheap as a byproduct of our increasing, technology-fueled self-involvement. Certainly, narcissistically-driven tolerance is better than activated bigotry: If you don’t care about your gay neighbor at all, you don’t care enough to spray paint hateful messages on his house or take a knife to his car’s tires. But I don’t think the tolerance that emerges from not giving a damn about other people generates the growth and understanding that can emerge when people struggle to know and to love each other over what at first seems an insuperable divide of difference.

Barack Obama as Huey Long and other matters

Arguing economic populism (and other stuff) on bloggingheads with Glenn Loury

I didn’t hit my marks as well as I would have liked in this bloggingheads with Glenn Loury. At one point I was reduced to sputtering. We still had an interesting broad-ranging argument around whether Democrats threaten the republic by launching Huey-Long-style populist attacks on Mitt Romney over Bain Capital, whether Dan Savage threatens civility by being too mean to religious social conservatives, whether Mitt Romney comports himself as the upperclass twit of the year.