Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Explaining the anti-gay views of Rick Santorum and his ilk (and the confusion over "right to privacy")

ThinkProgress has a recent story on Rick Santorum’s painful retreat on his long standing opposition to gay marriage, here.   Remember that in the summer of 2004, he tried to hijack the Senate’s attention for a federal constitutional amendment banning recognition of gay marriage.

Wikipedia has an entry on Santorum’s views on homosexuality (link).  Santorum sometimes has said he has nothing against homosexual orientation but considers homosexual acts to be wrong (a common variation of Vatican teachings).  But he has also disagreed with “Lawrence v. Texas” (2003) and said that he believes that the “right to privacy” in the UN constitution (as imputed from other more explicitly stated rights, as in the Bill of Rights and the 14th Amendment) does not cover all adult private adult consensual acts. 

That’s interesting to me personally, because the sixth chapter of my first (“Do Ask, Do Tell I” book) is titled “A Right to Privacy Amendment”, which I proposed as “Amendment 28” in twelve parts.  Until the ear of social media as we know them today, I had been used to the idea of a “quasi-double-life” and the somewhat “separate but (un)equal” lives with people in traditionally married couples (usually with kids). I had my own world.  But all the debate on the military gay ban, the whole history of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to its repeal, and the rapid evolution of same-sex marriage, and emphasis on equality (rather than “just privacy”) in most western countries and now many states in the US has changed all this. (HIV had created an enormous privacy threat in the 1980s.)

But Santorum was talking in circles (as does the Church).  What he objects to (as do Russia, Nigeria, Uganda, and the like) is not so much homosexual acts as “gay culture”, and the challenge it poses not just to political authority but to supposedly stabilizing (and gender-based) social structures. (Really, that was the case with the US military, too.)  It’s important to recognize that Santorum and some of the more credible of his ilk do have a “theory” of sustainability.  Santorum has said that homosexuality is “antithetical” to the traditional family and its ability to provide nurturance (and “life value”) to dependent or less competitive individuals (so that the government doesn’t have to).  Evangelical Protestant conservatives (Mero, Carlson, Scott Lively) say pretty much the same thing (the matter of a celibate – abstinent -- priesthood is tricky.)  They do envision a certain “socializing” process that they think everyone should negotiate – most of all those of us who are “different” so we can’t “cheat” the system or make others uncomfortable.  I can see how this can become appealing when I have to contemplate how external threats (whether natural or because of “enemies”) could force me into interdependence with other people and personal interactions that I would not normally have “chosen” or “consented to”.  The socialization starts with proficiency in gender-appropriate chores, and moves to learning to feel some reward in providing for the real needs of other people, first on a short term basis.  But the emotional reward won’t hold for most people without a lifelong relationship of one’s own – traditional marriage with children, and the ability to “maintain passion” (I could be more explicit) as the partners age and face physical challenges that would diminish their attractiveness or draw from the viewpoint of original fantasy.   That “sustainable passion” is a critical component of the entire “system”, and it can be easily undermined.  Part of the subversion simply comes from some heterosexual men having to deal with the belief that they can be sex objects, too, or that others can judge their own fitness on somewhat arbitrary, fantasy-related criteria.  I recall how therapists would say (back in the 60s) that I wanted to “step on their toes”, and they wouldn’t recognize that others had stepped on mine first.  But I can see how my “fantasy material” and “inner life” could be interpreted in a troubling way by others, and raise questions about my own psychological integrity.  One of the most important aspects of my own “situation” is that I do remain aloof and resistance to showing affection (or giving it any significance) to those with whom I can find certain kinds of “fault”.

An important part of "Santorianism" is that those "in command" must be absolutely faithful sexually in order to avoid corruption; otherwise they become self-serving, lose credibility and everything falls apart (and it usually does, at least in the Catholic Church).  But this view also helps explain why "immutability" has become such an important argument.  If homosexuality is a given fact of human nature, then the "tender little baby" part of heterosexual stability just has to deal with it.  But if it can be "chosen", then gay people might be seen as being deliberately and knowingly destructive (the "stepping on toes" argument) of the emotional commitments of others.  Surprisingly (or perhaps not) the gay establishment seems to go along with this view.  I don't.

It seems that this idea says that patriarchal and fertile family heads will "nurture" someone like me but I am supposed to recognize my dependence on them and remain quiet and subservient, so they can get it up when the going gets tough.  No, that's not a very acceptable idea.

Furthermore, it's not so much a matter that my private behavior or speech about the behavior harms others.  It's more that if society and the legal system looks at it as OK, then the course of heterosexual marriage seems less remarkable and less interesting to "them".  Therefore, it will tend to break down, as will other social ties that take care of people.  That is how "they" seem to see it. It's an irony that the virtue of other men, insofar as I can perceive it visually, is actually important to me personally, and that corresponds to what we usually see as wanting "religious morality" to be applied to everyone. 
Once certain political or religious leaders make homosexuality an issue, it grabs attention, as a proxy for deeper problems, about balancing individualism with the need to share the long-term needs and future of the group, in a somewhat concentric fashion (starting with some sort of family unit).  Anti-gay social conservatives see actual physical intercourse in marriage, at least symbolically capable of procreation (with all its responsibilities and need to spread risk0-sharing), as essential to the socialization of everyone.   

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