Monday, September 03, 2007

McGreevey prays for Larry Craig: the eye of our cultural storm


James McGreevey, who had resigned from the governorship of New Jersey after outing himself and admitting allowing inappropriate influence (on his duties as governor) from a male companion while still married, has a powerful op-ed in The Washington Post today, Monday Sept. 3, “A Prayer for Larry Craig,” on p A15 print.

McGreevey accounts for how he was almost arrested at a rest stop on the Garden State Parkway in New Jersey twenty-five years ago, and explains lucidly how the anti-gay propaganda drives many gay men to lead double lives. He calls being gay, “a natural gift of the Creator” and asks “what choice does a person have in being gay?” (He is now an Episcopal theological student.) This does get back to the question of immutability, and, as I have noted before, that seems like the “wrong question,” almost an admission of something “wrong.”

The right question to ask “straight America” is more like this. Why do you need to infringe upon the freedom of others (us) in order to feel good about yourselves, hold your marriages together and raise your families. From a strictly individualistic point of view, the problem is with the straights.

But, as we’ve noted, raising a family and remaining actively faithful is in practice a big challenge for many heterosexually married couples of average means. They need all the loyalty and indulgence and “social approbation” from the surrounding world they can get. They especially need the biological loyalty of everyone in their family, including their kids, even when the kids have become adults (and may want to stay in a permanent emotional adolescence, denying emotional allegiances automatically expected of them). Without that, and given all the cultural distractions of our global culture, it just isn’t “worth it.”

That seems like a “confession” from our point of view. But “they” see it as a collective experience. You live for family before you live for your own self-expression (a notion that is well-challenged by today’s notions of mental health; it you don’t want to fall for soap opera style jealousy, have an inner creative life of your own first). If you break out of the collective mindset, at least prove you can compete “like a man”, so their emotional “thinking” goes, often supported by religion.

It’s interesting to look at another op-ed, in the Aug. 31 Washington Blade, on p 26, by Julie R. Enszer, “Marriage just doesn’t work.” Forget about the equality concerns of gay marriage; forget about marriage; it isn’t good for individuals, it’s just a ruse for the collective good of society (how about raising children and, now, taking care of the elderly). She writes, “regardless of what church and state recognize, we all craft multiple relationships over a lifetime to fulfill multiple needs.”

All of this comes down to the age-old tension between the self-interest of the individual, in the context of the longer term survival and well-being of the group. Religious expression, quite frankly, often accepts a certain communal consciousness to protect the faithful and demands some surrender of one’s deepest interests to the needs of the group.

Welcome to the eye of the cultural hurricane.

Update:
On Sept 4, on ABC "Good Morning America" one of Larry Craig's sons maintained that he was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, and that the Minneapolis airport police were fishing in thin air.

Craig is apparently trying to get the guilty plea withdrawn.

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