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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Phony Progressives' Principled Anti-Gay Bigotry

Obama could stop the implementation of the catastrophically failed Don't Ask Don't Tell in five minutes' time, by the way, with an Executive Order, while Congress sets up the groundwork for the "proper" repeal of the policy everybody the least bit sane claims to support (without, you know, ever doing anything about it). And given the waning of support for the policy outside the beltway as well as in the public pronouncements of military brass and experts this move would cost him almost nothing at all in the way of cherished political capital. Those who are pretending that defending the letter of a gratuitously unjust law represents some highfalutin' moral principle need to stop kidding themselves because they certainly aren't kidding me. As if history has ever looked unkindly upon those who refused to implement an unjust law in an effort to fight bigotry. I daresay few straight people lecturing me smugly and philosophically on "questions of principle" today would be offering up these moralizing castles in the air if it was their own standing and rights that were being compromised like this, year after year after year after year by their allies and friends as much as their rabid reactionary foes. Complete and utter bullshit.


Anonymous said...

DADT? Prionciples? What kind of principles? DADT is a rotten Clinton-era compromise, it's as "principled" as Bernie Madoff!

Sometimes I'm ashamed at being straight. When my fellow straight dumb***es would learn that it's EXACTLY the same thing as "skeery unwashed illegals stealing OUR JOBS!" - sheer bigotry with no basis in reality whatsoever, used by certain interests to manipulate the gullible.

Life would be easier if we all were snails... Then again, that dart thing they use to get each other's attention is a bit extreme... :)

jimf said...

> Sometimes I'm ashamed at being straight.

Thanks for the supportive sentiment. (Yes, every
little bit helps.)

> When my fellow straight dumb***es would learn that it's. . .
> sheer bigotry with no basis in reality whatsoever. . .

Would that it were so simple.

From _Moral Minds: The Nature of Right and Wrong_
by Marc D. Hauser

p. 196:


If empathy is the emotion most likely to cause us to approach others,
disgust is the emotion most likely to cause us to flee. Unlike all
other emotions, disgust is associated with exquisitely vivid triggers,
perceptual devices for detection, and facial contortions. It is also
the most powerful emotion against sin, especially in the domains
of food and sex.

To capture the core intuition, imagine the following scenarios:

-- Eating your dead pet

-- Having intercourse with a younger sibling

-- Consuming someone else's vomit

-- Picking up a dog's feces in your bare hands

. . .

Darwin defined disgust as "something revolting, primarily in relation
to the sense of taste, as actually perceived or vividly imagined;
and secondarily to anything which causes a similar feeling, through the
sense of smell, touch, and even eyesight." Over a hundred years later,
the psychologist Paul Rozin refined Darwin's intuition, suggesting
that there are different kinds of disgust, with **core** disgust focused
on oral ingestion and contamination: "Revulsion at the prospect of
[oral] incorporation of an offensive object. The offensive objects
are contaminants; that is, if they even briefly contact an acceptable
food, they tend to render that food unacceptable." What makes
Rozin's view especially interesting is that many of the things that
elicit disgust are not only stomach-churning but morally repugnant.
Thus, once we leave core disgust, we enter into a conception of
the emotion that is symbolic, attaching itself to objects, people,
or behaviors that are immoral. People who consume certain things
or violate particular social norms are, in some sense, disgusting. . .

Though disgust and morality are clearly intertwined, what comes first
in this egg-and-chicken problem? Do moral vegetarians first experience
disgust when they see meat and then develop a moral stance toward
the piece of dead flesh sitting on their plate? Or do they first work
through the moral rationale against eating meat and then develop
a feeling of disgust as they imagine how much suffering goes on in
a slaughterhouse? Is disgust cause or consequence? Is disgust
first or second?

jimf said...

The anthropologist Daniel Fessler provides a simple way to begin
answering this question. Consider the observation that people
differ in how easily and intensely they are disgusted by different
objects and behaviors, but that if you are highly reactive to one
kind of object, you will also be highly reactive to others. If you
think that vomit is extremely disgusting, chances are you will also
think that feces, the sight of a person cutting a finger, and an
open facial wound are equally disgusting. If one thing readily
elicits an intense feeling of disgust, other things will as well. . .
Fessler found no relationship between sensitivity to disgust and
the reasons for either eating or abstaining from eating meat.
Moral vegetarians first take a stance on eating meat and then
develop a profound feeling of disgust toward meat and meat-eaters.
Disgust -- in this specific case, at least -- is second, a consequence
of taking a moral stance. . .

Disgust carries two. . . features that make it a particularly effective
social emotion: It enjoys a certain level of immunity from conscious
reflection, and it is contagious like yawning and laughter, infecting
what others think with blinding speed. To see how this works,
answer the following questions:

1. Would you drink apple juice from a brand-new hospital bedpan?

2. Would you eat chocolate fudge that looks like dog feces?

3. If you opened a box of chocolates and found that someone had
taken a small bite out of each one, would you eat any?

4. If your mom served you a plate of your favorite food decorated
on the side with sterilized dead cockroaches, would you eat the

Most people answer "no" to these questions. If they answer "yes,"
they do so after a noticeable pause. These answers are a bit odd, on
reflection. There is nothing unsanitary about apple juice in a
brand-new, sterilized bedpan. And the shape of chocolate fudge
plays no role in its palatability. But our sensory systems don't
know this: Bedpans are for urination, and things that **look** like
feces typically **are.** Our minds have been fine-tuned to detect
features in the environment that are causally and consistently
connected with disease. Once detected, a signal is sent to the
systems in the brain that generate disgust, and once generated, the
action system is commandeered, driving an evasive response. The
cascade of processes is so rapid, automatic, and powerful that our
conscious, cool-headed, rational minds are incapable of overriding
it. Like visual illusions, when our sensory systems detect something
disgusting, we avoid it even if we consciously know that this is
irrational and absurd. Disgust engages an automated sequence of
actions that leads to tactical evasion.

jimf said...

A second component of disgust is its capacity to spread like a virus,
contaminating all that comes in its path. How would you feel about
wearing Hitler's sweater? Most of Rozin's undergraduate
subjects at the University of Pennsylvania rated this
as a highly disgusting thing to do. People who respond in this way
think that Hitler was a morally repugnant character and that wearing
his sweater might transmit some of his most horrific qualities.

Disgust wins the award as the single most irresponsible emotion, a feeling
that has led to extreme in-group--out-group divisions followed by
inhumane treatment. Disgust's trick is simple: Declare those you don't
like to be vermin or parasites, and it is easy to think of them
as disgusting, deserving of exclusion, dismissal, and annihilation.
All horrific cases of human abuse entail this kind of transformation,
from Auschwitz to Abu Ghraib.

Although core disgust has its origins in food rejection, its contextual
relevance has mutated to other problems, and, in particular, sexual
behavior. Up until the early 1970s, homosexuality was described as
abnormal behavior in the clinician's bible, the _Diagnostic and Statistical
Manual of Mental Disorders_ (DSM)-III. Carried along with this
classification was the belief, held by many cultures, that homosexuals
were disgusting. Hearing about pedophilia and incest evokes much the
same stomach-churning emotions, accompanied by moral indignation.
Incest is of particular interest, given the universal taboos against
it. . .


jimf said...

I had a personal experience a year ago with a co-worker, 19 years younger
than me, with whom, as a result of a tragedy in his life, I had
developed a closer-than-collegial relationship. I had, even before
we became friendly outside of work, come out to him in order to
give him the opportunity to back away from being seen as too friendly
(going to lunch, being seen talking, and so on) in the workplace with a
known (I presume, by now, though I've discussed it with few people
at work) homosexual.

He claimed not to be bothered by this, and indeed, did not behave
as though he were bothered by it (though it transpired later
on that his wife had warned him about getting too close to
a gay man).

Nevertheless, within a year after becoming friends outside of work,
I had managed (as I suspected would happen sooner or later) to
cross thresholds and push buttons that made the continuation of
the relationship impossible for both of us. These thresholds are
a nonissue in close (but non-sexual) relationships with gay
friends; in a relationship between a gay and a straight man, it's not
so much the absolute location of a threshold as the implied **direction**
of crossing it that causes trouble.

In our final conversation, my erstwhile friend came clean to me
that the "mere idea" of another man having feelings for him was
"viscerally repellent" to him. My reply was that if I found out
that a woman had such feelings for me, while I would be sorry
to have to tell her that I couldn't return them (and indeed,
that we would have to end the friendship as a result),
**disgust** would not be part of my reaction. I suggested that
the disgust was homophobia, pure and simple. He said that,
whatever I wanted to call it, that's just how he felt.
Of course there's no reply to that.

We have not spoken since then, and I am not sorry to have held
up a mirror to his disgust -- he had been too eager, in my opinion,
to pat himself on the back for having become "mature enough"
to be friends with a gay man. He said some other, sillier things
immediately afterward -- that he would have, in light of my
behavior toward him, to rethink his political views on issues
like DADT and gay marriage, and that he was worried that he might
no longer be able to be friends with another (and much longer-term)
gay friend of his. Tant pis.

jimf said...

I have two principles when it comes to straight folks (straight
men, in particular, who are much more likely to have problems
with the idea of a homosexual man than they are with the idea
of a lesbian):

1. It's very easy to ignore other people's pain when the
source of that pain is something that is never going to affect
you personally. That's obviously also true in a vast number of
areas outside of minority sexual orientations (though the assumption
"never going to affect you personally" is a dangerous one
to lean on in most other areas of life, and even in the
case of sexual orientation, even if you're 100% sure of your own,
you can still be taken by surprise by unexpected revelations
from a spouse, sibling, or child.).

Gay men themselves, who have been **forced** by
circumstances to get over their own homophobia
(to the extent that they ever do) have been through a
baptism of fire. Read any coming out story in print, or
watch any coming out story on YouTube. Those guys went
through **hell** (and some, indeed, didn't survive it).

Some gay men are self-aware enough (even at the tender age of, say,
16) to know that they'd be (self-described) "homophobic
assholes" if they hadn't had their own feet held to the

2. When it comes to sex, it seems to be the default reaction
(at least among folks who are prone to the "disgust"
sensitivity described above) that, if something doesn't
turn you on personally, it's likely to be a source of
disgust. Neutrality doesn't seem to be an option for
a lot of folks. This makes variety in the area of
of sexual preference a fraught topic.

You can't exactly **blame** people for this. They (or
their genes) are just "trying" to make it into the
next generation.

If what you're doing (or would be likely to want to do with
me) is a threat to **my** reproductive sucess, then --

So, what's the answer? Well, rational argument doesn't go
very far here, alas (though it's not **entirely** useless).

Desensitization is the key, I think. Exposure of kids, in a
sympathetic way, to the existence of alternative preferences,
will shift public opinion further in the direction of
tolerance in the long run (though the "yuck" factor will
probably **never** go away completely, and the fat kid who
can't climb the rope will probably continue to be called a
"fag" by the other boys in gym class decades hence).
If there's going to be a "gay agenda", this oughta be it.
Naturally, the idea of such exposure makes the social conservatives
go ballistic, but there doesn't seem to be much they
can do about it. In contrast to 50 years ago, the _New
York Times_ now considers news about homosexual issues "fit
to print". Mainstream bookstores have "Gay & Lesbian" sections
(however small). Mainstream movies and TV shows can have gay

This is a far cry from the situation in 1948,
when Gore Vidal's _The City and the Pillar_ could provoke the
comment by _New York Times_ book critic Orville Prescott
that he would "never again read, much less review" a book
by Vidal, resulting in a de facto blacklisting of that
author in all mainstream newspapers and magazines in the U.S.
for the next two decades (encompassing seven novels).
No publication has that kind of power anymore (think of that
the next time you hear a newspaperman lamenting the fact
that the Web is putting an end to the printed newspaper).

The desensitization process has accelerated **vastly**
since the advent of the Web fifteen years ago. Private people
can take it upon themselves to tell their stories and
educate their peers, world-wide. The YouTube videos of folks
like Clark Johnsen and the other "MorMenLikeMe" channel
contributors must give the current "prophet" and his minions
absolute fits in private. But I guess you can only be
excommunicated once, even in Mormonism.

Anonymous said...

Give me a break!

I'm a gay man. Although I share your dissapointment over the Obama administration's handling of LGBT issues, I don't share your outrage.

I'm both a libertine who advocates abolishing marriage and replacing with flexible civil unions (regarless of the gender of or the number of people involved) and a pacifist/conscientious objector who advocates the radical demilitarization of the Unites States. Therefore, I can't for the life of understand why gays are fighting so hard to participate in an obsolete patriarchal institution or serve in an imperialist war machine.

Don't get me wrong. I understand it's an issue of civil rights and liberties for gays and deinstutionalizing homophobia but I prefer focusing on wiser battles that don't make me regret fighting them afterwards...

Dale Carrico said...

I'm way ahead of you -- As I wrote already on May 24:

"It bears repeating, I suppose, that Eric and I (partnered for going on eight years now) disapprove of much of the human trafficking that has been historically denominated as "marriage," we disapprove of the false and facile ideology of possessive exclusivity and romantic "completion" that mobilizes so much marriage discourse, we disapprove of any politics that in fighting to secure marriage equality also functions to denigrate different ways of organizing loving and responsible and fulfilling relationships other than marriage, and we are not personally tempted in the least to become married ourselves. But you shouldn't for a single second think we are unaware that in refusing to grant us the right to refuse marriage a moralizing minority has commandeered the apparatus of the State in an effort at the ritual humiliation and dehumanization and denial of citizenship to fellow-citizens and peers and that this we will fight to the very end. And it is palpable here at the turning of the tide of anti-queer bigotry across the US that in the end we will indeed win the right to marry… whereupon we will cheerfully refuse to participate in the whole unappealing marital mess altogether."

I don't agree with you that refusing lgbtq citizens wanted marriage rights available to other citizens contributes anything at all in actual reality to dismantling marriage as an institution (as queer refusals of equitable actually-available marriages might), but it obviously and palpably contributes to the ongoing stigmatization and mistreatment of lgbtq folks. Acquiescing to unequal treatment doesn't actually translate to resistance, you know, although I will grant you it is a fairly effort-free way to pretend to radicalism.

Eric said...

Demilitarizing the United States? That's nothing. I advocate the demilitarization of all humanity, the dismantling of all authoritarian religions and the erasure of all so-called 'nations' so that we may all live in one peaceful world!

That gives me at least 150 more 'radical cool dude' points than you.

RadicalCoolDude said...

Hehe. Dale, I see your partner Eric shares your witty sarcasm. ;)

To show my appreciation, I've decided to finally evolve from anonymity to pseudonymity by calling myself "RadicalCoolDude". :)

jimf said...

> [I]n 1948,. . . Gore Vidal's _The City and the Pillar_. . .
> provoke[d] the comment by _New York Times_ book critic
> Orville Prescott that he would "never again read, much less review"
> a book by Vidal. . .

Gore Vidal from 1961 (in _Esquire_) on Orville Prescott
**and** Ayn Rand. ;->

"My own objection to Orville Prescott is not so much his style
(J. Donald Adams’ words are winged by comparison) nor his ignorance
of the more sophisticated critical strategies (he tells you the plot,
anyway), but his identification with what he thinks to be his audience:
the middle-aged, middle-class, moderately affluent American woman who
lives in Darien, New Canaan, Scarsdale, a region bounded on the
south by the Theatre Guild, on the north by Womrath, on the west by
Barry Goldwater and on the east by . . . oh, well, you name it.
Prescott knows these ladies are interested in sex; he also knows
that they stand firmly united in condemning all sexual activity not
associated with marriage. Grimly, they attend each Tennessee Williams
play so that they can complain furiously in the lobby that **this**
time Williams has gone too far! that this time they are thoroughly
**revolted** by that **diseased** mind! and never again will they
expose themselves to such **filth**! And of course the next play
Williams writes they will all be back on deck, ready to be appalled

Now it is true that The Girls (as Helen Hokinson nicely called them)
**sound** like this. It’s expected of them. They don’t want any trouble
from one another and they have such an obvious vested interest in
the Family that any work which seems to accept or, worse, celebrate
non-Family sex presents them with a clear conflict of interest which
they must resolve, at the very least, by certain ritual noises of dissent.
But Prescott has missed the point to The Girls. Though they must flap
when the Family as an idea seems endangered, they do read more books
than anyone else; they try to educate themselves politically and
aesthetically; they are remarkably open-minded to new ideas and,
all in all, more tolerant of life than a great many of the husbands
whose days are spent trying to make it up the ladder, lips pressed
lovingly to the heel of the shoe on the next rung above. The Girls
are O.K., but they have their hypocrisies and prejudices, and these
Prescott tends to confirm.

jimf said...

Lately, after a decade’s abstinence, I have been reading Prescott
again and in a changing world it is good to know that the Good Grey Goose
of the _Times_ is unchanged. He still gives marks to novels not for style
nor insight nor wisdom nor art, but for “morality.” Are these nice people?
Is this a nice author? Adultery, premarital intercourse, aberration,
are wicked things nice people don’t do and if an author does not firmly
put them down and opt for marriage and fidelity the offending work
must go. Prescott’s favorite pejorative adjective is “dull.” _Lolita_,
he declared with more than usual horror, was “dull, dull, dull!” Now
_Lolita_ was many things (there is even a case to be made against it morally,
and on its own terms), but it was never dull. It was also literature,
a category peculiarly mystifying to Prescott. . .

Even dizzier (and the occasion for these corrective remarks) was Prescott’s
review of William Brammer’s political novel, _The Gay Place_. After first
admiring Brammer’s skill in recreating the political scene, Prescott starts
that old familiar hissing noise. He expresses wonder that young politicians
commit adultery, have premarital intercourse, get drunk and otherwise behave
even as people did back when Albert the Good mounted Victoria glumly to
birth the Age of Gilt. Then Prescott exclaims: “Men who never dream of being
faithful to their wives, who enthusiastically seduce the wives and mistresses
of their friends, are faithful to standards of political conduct.” He pretends
to be stunned by this paradox, and that brings us to the main issue: To the
average American the word “morality” means sex, period. If you don’t cheat
on your wife, you’re moral. It is part of our national genius to have no tradition
of public morality. We are pleased to dismiss politics as entirely corrupt,
if not financially, intellectually. Cheating the government of its taxes, and one
another in business, is not only natural but necessary to survival. Now I would
suggest that a man’s relation to society is a matter of greater moral urgency
than his sexual dealings which, after all, are a private and relative matter.
When a writer convincingly shows us, as Brammer does, young politicians devoted
to right action, I am profoundly moved and morally edified. Prescott misses the
moral point, preferring to dig for sex.

jimf said...

Now, before I’m investigated for having taken the un-American
stand that sex is a minor department of morality, let me try
to show what I think is morally important. Ayn Rand is a rhetorician
who writes novels I have never been able to read. She has just
published a book, for the _New Intellectual_, subtitled _The Philosophy
of Ayn Rand_; it is a collection of pensées and arias from her
novels and it must be read to be believed. Herewith, a few excerpts from
the Rand collection.

• “It was the morality of altruism that undercut America and is now
destroying her.”

• “Capitalism and altruism are incompatible; they are philosophical
opposites; they cannot co-exist in the same man or in the same society.
Today, the conflict has reached its ultimate climax; the choice is
clear-cut: either a new morality of rational self-interest, with its
consequence of freedom . . . or the primordial morality of altruism
with its consequences of slavery, etc.”

• Then from one of her arias for _heldentenor_: “I am done with the
monster of ‘we,’ the word of serfdom, of plunder, of misery, falsehood
and shame. And now I see the face of god, and I raise this god over
the earth, this god whom men have sought since men came into being,
this god who will grant them joy and peace and pride. This god,
this one word: ‘I.’”

• “The first right on earth is the right of the ego. Man’s first duty
is to himself.”

• “To love money is to know and love the fact that money is the creation
of the best power within you, and your passkey to trade your effort
for the effort of the best among men.”

• “The creed of sacrifice is a morality for the immoral….”

This odd little woman is attempting to give a moral sanction to greed and
self interest, and to pull it off she must at times indulge in purest
Orwellian newspeak of the “freedom is slavery” sort. What interests me
most about her is not the absurdity of her “philosophy,” but the size of
her audience (in my campaign for the House she was the one writer people
knew and talked about). She has a great attraction for simple people who
are puzzled by organized society, who object to paying taxes, who
dislike the “welfare” state, who feel guilt at the thought of the
suffering of others but who would like to harden their hearts. For them,
she has an enticing prescription: altruism is the root of all evil,
self-interest is the only good, and if you’re dumb or incompetent
that’s your lookout.

jimf said...

She is fighting two battles: the first, against the idea of the State
being anything more than a police force and a judiciary to restrain people
from stealing each other’s money openly. She is in legitimate company here.
There is a reactionary position which has many valid attractions, among them
lean, sinewy, regular-guy Barry Goldwater. But it is Miss Rand’s second
battle that is the moral one. She has declared war not only on Marx but
on Christ. Now, although my own enthusiasm for the various systems evolved
in the names of those two figures is limited, I doubt if even the most
anti-Christian free-thinker would want to deny the ethical value of Christ
in the Gospels. To reject that Christ is to embark on dangerous waters
indeed. For to justify and extol human greed and egotism is to my mind
not only immoral, but evil. For one thing, it is gratuitous to advise
any human being to look out for himself. You can be sure that he will.
It is far more difficult to persuade him to help his neighbor to build a
dam or to defend a town or to give food he has accumulated to the
victims of a famine. But since we must live together, dependent upon
one another for many things and services, altruism is necessary to
survival. To get people to do needed things is the perennial hard task
of government, not to mention of religion and philosophy. That it is
right to help someone less fortunate is an idea which ahs figured
in most systems of conduct since the beginning of the race. We often
fail. That predatory demon “I” is difficult to contain but until now
we have all agreed that to help others is a right action. Now the
dictionary definition of “moral” is: “concerned with the distinction
between right and wrong” as in “moral law, the requirements to which
right action must conform.” Though Miss Rand’s grasp of logic is
uncertain, she does realize that to make even a modicum of sense she
must change all the terms. Both Marx and Christ agree that in this
life a right action is consideration for the welfare of others.
In the one case, through a state which was to wither away, in the
other through the private exercise of the moral sense. Miss Rand now
tells us that what we have thought was right is really wrong.
The lesson should have read: One for one and none for all.

Ayn Rand’s “philosophy” is nearly perfect in its immorality, which makes
the size of her audience all the more ominous and symptomatic as we enter
a curious new phase in our society. Moral values are in flux. The
muddy depths are being stirred by new monsters and witches from the deep.
Trolls walk the American night. Caesars are stirring in the Forum.
There are storm warnings ahead. But to counter trolls and Caesars,
we have such men as Lewis Mumford whose new book, _The City in History_,
inspires. He traces the growth of communities from Neolithic to
present times. He is wise. He is moral: that is, he favors right action
and he believes it possible for us to make things better for us
(not “me”!). He belongs to the currently unfashionable line of makers
who believe that if something is wrong it can be made right, whether
a faulty water main or a faulty idea. May he flourish!

Anonymous said...

Still in the tank for Obama, Dale?

Dale Carrico said...


jimf said...

> > > Obama could stop the implementation of the catastrophically
> > > failed Don't Ask Don't Tell in five minutes' time. . .
> >
> > Still in the tank for Obama, Dale?
> Yes.

It's not like there's any real choice.

As for Don't Ask Don't Tell, come back in seven years (assuming
Obama **gets** a second term) when he has nothing left to lose,
and see what happens.

Maybe "Don't Ask Don't Tell" will have morphed into
"Don't Butch Don't Femme".

What does the Mattel Magic 8-Ball (TM) say?

"Better not tell you now"

Giulio Prisco said...

I understand Dale's entirely justified outrage. Either citizens are equal in front of the law, or they are not.

Obama: if I were a US citizen I would have voted for him (of course), with a lot of confidence in an administration much better than the previous one, but without really hoping to see radical change. Election to high office always comes with a political price to pay (or else). Perhaps in the second term.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for late reply... I'm a bit busy myself...
Would that it were so simple.

It isn't simple. But people aren't billiard balls, or mere bunches of "egoistical genes" or whathaveyou. We undoubtedly can be rational and exercise our willpower, at least to an extent. And if we want to call ourselves "left," "progressive," "civil rights defenders" and so on we'd rather exercise those a little, or else all our theories and slogans are worthless, just as they proved to be in that tale of yours. I was in that guy's place once(*), I didn't handle it all that well, but... Well, I didn't turn 180 degrees on the relevant political issues either. Never ocurred to me to do so.

Those guys went
through **hell** (and some, indeed, didn't survive it).

Some gay men are self-aware enough (even at the tender age of, say,
16) to know that they'd be (self-described) "homophobic
assholes" if they hadn't had their own feet held to the

Which I'm afraid is the core of the problem. For one's left leanings to have any substance, there has to be some sort of hell you went through, be it racial, sexual or economical or military. But our culture doesn't revard those who are in hell, - quite on the contrary, it immediately brands such people as "weak." Some people who went to the hell and back might be exempt, but in current climate they are overshadowed by draft-dodging chickenhawks, thrice-divorced borthel patrons who are talking "traditional values", "financial geniuses" who never have been leading a legitimate and useful enterprise, and other people who appear to be successful without paying anything for their success. That their popularity and credibility is failing after all is a good sign, but that only happened because people discovered that you have to pay those bills for your apparent success anyway. Whether or not that understanding could become transformational, and teach us all to value substance over style, compassion over bigotry, and thinking instead of acting on reflexes, is to be seen. But I very much hope it would.

(*) Ok, situation was probably more complicated. he wasn't much of a friend, he was in the closet, lots of beer, actual offer of sex, neighbor who was a mean bully and would probably learn of the whole incident, thanks to nonexistent soundfproofing... I had to say very empathic "no," but in a way that won't imply that I'm going to betray his secret or otherwise disrespect him. I failed, and never have seen him again since that night to apologize. I'm still not sure what should I have done.