Pelosi is dumb; Abbot is not

Before I get to the main point of today’s installment, I just have to embed this little tidbit at the outset. Currently, it’s the screaming headline on the Drudge Report, so it’s not like this is the first place you’re going to see it, but this needs to be shared as far and wide as possible.

A 500 million monthly job loss in a country of 300 million people is pretty staggering, since it means that every American loses his or her job at least once a month, and 200 million of them are losing it twice. But since I haven’t lost my job this month, that means at least one person may have lost their job thrice. Pelosi still has her job, too, as do a lot of people I know, which leads me to believe that maybe 200 million jobs are safe, and maybe a hundred million or so are fired, on average, five or so times a month. Having been fired myself – albeit not this month – that’s gotta really, really suck.

Anyway, to my point: I want to welcome Abbot of Arbroath and thank him for his thoughtful and insightful comments to this blog. It’s always more fun to discuss things when I can find intelligent people who disagree, and I hope Abbot feels welcome to continue to do just that. It also makes it cooler when I have people from outside the US taking an interest in what I’m saying. This is no provincial digital backwater, no, sir. We’re an international blog.

You can read Abbot’s comment in full without interruption in yesterday’s comments. I’ll be reposting them in this post, too, but I’m going to break it up with my own replies to create the illusion of a real-time exchange, but it is only an illusion. If you want to read Abbot unfiltered, you’d best go back to the original source.

Abbot begins:

apologise for my generalisations which I do, however, feel entitled to given the register of the blog 😉

Nothing to apologize for. There’s always danger in generalizations, but it’s very hard to discuss big ideas without them.

Your understanding of homosexuality – seems to be based on men having sex! The sexualisation of “same sex attracted” people is reductionist and belittling. Their entire lives have been reduced to a physical act. There is no appreciation of homo-social, homo-emotional, homo-intellectual, homo-erotic, homo-ethical – it’s all been reduced to sex. This is the responsibility of undereducated people on both the left and right as American society seems to need to polarise, emotionalise, and simplify just about everything – and sex is a great lowest common denominator and has the moralistic superiority element.

Believe it or not, I agree with a lot of this, except I would put it in a contrasting context. That is to say, defining people as “gay” or “straight” ignores the fact that sexuality is a lot more fluid than these labels would indicate. One reason that some “gay” men get married is they find themselves attracted, at one point in their life, to another woman, and then they become disappointed when, after marriage, the attraction to other men doesn’t disappear. Too many “straight” men fall prey to this, too – they think if they marry their one true love, other women will no longer be attractive, and that doesn’t happen, either.

I have a hard time understanding the significance of “homo-social” or “homo-emotional” relationships, or how they are exclusive to gay men. In other words, I have had, and continue to have, very close emotional relationships with other men that are in no way sexual. Are you saying a close relationship between people of the same gender is the exclusive province of homosexuals? Because if that’s the case, your labels are far more confining than mine are.

Men don’t leave their wives for just for sex – heck many men stay married and have it on the side including Republicans with either sex! Gay married men make a choice to be themselves. Sometimes that means staying with the family which might include antidepressants, counselling, non-sexual marriage and sometimes they make a choice to split. Neither choice is made in haste or in a flippant manner and neither choice deserves any ridicule. In fact, its none of our business unless you are a personal friend.

I certainly wasn’t trying to imply that any of these decisions are made flippantly, or that they deserve ridicule. Nor did I think that Republicans have a monopoly on sexual restraint or heterosexuality.

On the 17th June 2008, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences US Journal, you can find the results of brain scanning of homosexual and heterosexual men and women. Have a read! The brain of gay men and straight women are far more aligned (and balanced) than that of straight men and lesbians. This is significant to use the word scientifically. Interestingly, lesbian brains are unequal in hemisphere size and response patterns which are closer to the heterosexual male.

I can’t really comment on this, as I’m not sure what it means, or what a “balanced” brain is. If you’re trying to argue that homosexuality has biological origins, I have no counter-argument. I don’t think we’re anywhere near understanding what those origins are, but I do think the idea that people actively choose, out of the blue, which gender they are attracted to is kind of silly.

“Tabloid” thought reduces homosexuals to a mere sex acts. In the meantime, when you listen to music, try and fix your economic problems, read your bible, use your computer to read this blog, thank God for your nuclear defences – just remember Handel, Di Vinci, King James, Turing, Keynes

Also deomcracy as we understand it based upon our classsics – generated by homos! Also guardians of christianity during 2 millenia to allow a “restoration” – that would be those darn homos again! I am glad they were not all suffering from compulsive behaviour disorder but actually used their different minds to be someone.

Again, we’re in agreement here. I don’t think, for a moment, that homosexuality negates any of the great and good things that people do. My point, for the past three days, has not been that gay people are scum or that they should only be defined by their sex acts. It’s that the nuclear family matters, and that it shouldn’t be redefined to accommodate the changes sexual mores of the day.

To sum up: Nancy Pelosi is an imbecile. Thank you.

Sex: The Sequel

Great comments on yesterday’s post, some of which merit further discussion. I’ll begin with an e-mail I received that should start the ball rolling here:

You seem to make the assumption (as do most people……. especially “expert analysts” in the mainstream media), that the nuclear family has been disintegrating in recent years…… and largely due to a “liberal / progressive / sexually permissive / overly tolerant” approach that has consumed the nation over the last several decades. Alas: if only we could cling to those good old values conservatives and religious folk hold so dear!!

REALITY CHECK:
Not only is the national divorce rate on a steady and continuing decline in the last thirty years, but the highest divorce rates are in the SOUTH and the lowest divorce rates are in the NORTHEAST. (Massachusetts has consistently had the lowest divorce rate of any state.)

Although many socioeconomic factors influence the divorce rate in any given state (or region), it is invariably true that the states and regions that wear their religion and patriotism on their sleeve have the highest rate of families breaking up.

I must add that I was completely surprised that the states usually identified strongly with the LDS Church (Utah, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, Wyoming) don’t fare much better than the Southern states (where the Evangelicals are in large majorities) when the percentages are compared to the national average. Jews do even worse. Mainline Protestant faiths do best among organized religions. But ……… brace yourself……. agnostics and atheists have the lowest divorce rates BY FAR….

I’d be curious to read (either by email or on your blog) why you think the reality is so different from the popular perception.

This email was accompanied by an impressive group of stats which confirm the writer’s assertions. Candidly, I don’t have an answer as to why religious marriages break up more often than nonreligious ones. To hazard a guess, I would assume that religious people get married as a result of cultural pressures more often than non-religious ones do, which means the non-religious have their eyes wide open going in. And while atheists who marry may have a high success rate, it would also be interesting to see what percentage of atheists bother getting married at all.

But that’s another discussion altogether. My point wasn’t so much that too many marriages are ending in divorce; my point was that fewer people consider marriage a necessary institution in the first place.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan, back in 1963, lamented the fact that the out-of-wedlock birthrate among blacks was at a staggering 23.6%, compared to only 3.07% for whites. Yet today, 25% of white infants are born out of wedlock, compared to a staggering 70% of all black infants. The correlation between illegitimacy and poverty is well-documented and irrefutable. We now have a generation of African-Americans with no connection to a father or a traditional family, because nobody seems to recognize that getting married is a good first step before having sex and making babies.

Abbot of Arbroath, our friend from across the pond, chimed in with the following:

Stallion, you have some questionable underlying assumptions.

First, one basic is that secular society has given itself to “reckless abandon”. “Chastity is a destructive notion” is not something most educated and liberal people would consider. You have put words in other people lips and as such I call you on it! Ok you need to be able to generalise to write a blog but come on!

How do I know he’s from across the pond? One: he spells “generalize” in a flagrantly British manner. And, two, he says so later on in his comment. (Although let the record show I was clued in with the British spelling.)

But to address his point (which is, ironically, itself a generalization,) I can only offer my own anecdotal experience, which came from plenty of liberal and educated people telling me that if I wasn’t having sex in my twenties, something was seriously wrong with me. (But at least I had porn and everything, right? What? No porn, either? What is WRONG with you, Stallion?) None of them offered this sort of opinion in an academic setting, nor do I have stats to back it up, but I don’t think I’m wrong in recognizing it as reflective of the prevailing cultural winds.

I think he missed my point about the state coming between a “child and its sexually repressive parent,” as, in his comment, he proceeds to talk about sexual abuse. Make no mistake: I agree wholeheartedly that the state ought to step in – and aggressively so – when a child is sexually abused. That’s because today, the definition of sexual abuse does not include a parent who works to prevent their child from having sex. It’s tomorrow’s definition that I’m worried about.

He hits closest to home, however, when he talks about gay men who get married.

Many gay men have been married. They bear a burden alone which you cannot understand and neither can their community leaders or even their wife. I know a few who have killed themselves rather than give into “temptation”. I bet their children and their wife would have rather they addressed the issue honestly – however painful it may be than to see them driven to such deep despair that they take their life. You oversimplify this issue to your discredit.

Perhaps. I certainly plead guilty to not understanding the burden borne by those who are sexually attracted to the same gender. This has been a frequent topic of discussion on this blog, and I doubt I’ll break any new ground with this little essay. Abbot’s anecdotes are heartbreaking, although I can share some of my own, too. I know several married couples, not all of them Mormons, where the husbands have made no secret of their homosexual feelings, and both husband and wife have still been able to work together to build a stable, happy home for each other and their children. Earlier, Abbot chides me for equating sexual fulfillment with uncontrolled behavior, and now I’m in trouble for expecting a man attracted to another man to control that behavior to sustain a marriage. I can’t win for losing.

Then we get back into the gay marriage issue:

If marriage is such a wonderful control mechanism that delivers so much to you personally and to society, then you are a selfish b*stard to want to keep it to yourself.

That’s just it. I don’t want to keep it to myself. I don’t want to prevent ANYONE from getting married. (Unless it’s one of my daughters and they’re marrying a jerk, but that’s a separate discussion, too.)

I’ve talked about this extensively, too, but I’ll summarize. Abbot, you’re not asking for the right to marry. You already have that right. You’re asking me to recognize, as marriage, a partnership between two people which is not a marriage, thereby requiring me to overlook the reality that children need a mom and a dad.

I’m reminded of a classic moment from Monty Python’s The Life of Brian, a film many of my LDS friends will find offensive, but which makes the point better than I could.

I provide video below, along with the accompanying script excerpt, taken from this source:

FRANCIS: Yeah. I think Judith’s point of view is very valid, Reg, provided
the Movement never forgets that it is the inalienable right of every man–
STAN: Or woman.
FRANCIS: Or woman… to rid himself–
STAN: Or herself.
FRANCIS: Or herself.
REG: Agreed.
FRANCIS: Thank you, brother.
STAN: Or sister.
FRANCIS: Or sister. Where was I?
REG: I think you’d finished.
FRANCIS: Oh. Right.
REG: Furthermore, it is the birthright of every man–
STAN: Or woman.
REG: Why don’t you shut up about women, Stan. You’re putting us off.
STAN: Women have a perfect right to play a part in our movement, Reg.
FRANCIS: Why are you always on about women, Stan?
STAN: I want to be one.
REG: What?
STAN: I want to be a woman. From now on, I want you all to call me
‘Loretta’.
REG: What?!
LORETTA: It’s my right as a man.
JUDITH: Well, why do you want to be Loretta, Stan?
LORETTA: I want to have babies.
REG: You want to have babies?!
LORETTA: It’s every man’s right to have babies if he wants them.
REG: But… you can’t have babies.
LORETTA: Don’t you oppress me.
REG: I’m not oppressing you, Stan. You haven’t got a womb! Where’s the
fetus going to gestate?! You going to keep it in a box?!
LORETTA: [crying]
JUDITH: Here! I– I’ve got an idea. Suppose you agree that he can’t
actually have babies, not having a womb, which is nobody’s fault, not
even the Romans’, but that he can have the right to have babies.
FRANCIS: Good idea, Judith. We shall fight the oppressors for your right
to have babies, brother. Sister. Sorry.
REG: What’s the point?
FRANCIS: What?
REG: What’s the point of fighting for his right to have babies when he can’t
have babies?!
FRANCIS: It is symbolic of our struggle against oppression.
REG: Symbolic of his struggle against reality.

I don’t know that Monty Python would appreciate this clip being put into service of a raging conservative argument, but just as Loretta can’t have babies, a gay couple can’t be the same thing as a mommy and a daddy. That’s a harsh reality for many, and it’s no fun to bring it up, because everyone wants to be inclusive and kind, and nobody likes to be reminded of realities that get in the way of their appetites, which leads me back to my original point, which is that I like McDonalds breakfasts.

Thank you.

Sex

This should be fun.

It’s remarkable to me how, in my own lifetime, sexual mores have changed so drastically. Go back about fifteen years or so before I was born, and you’ll find a society that was so prudish that I Love Lucy and The Dick Van Dyke Show asked us to believe that married couples slept in separate beds. The word “pregnant” was verboten on television, too – “expecting” was acceptable, but it was pushing the line. Compare that to what’s acceptable today, and you’ll realize just how drastically things have changed. The change isn’t all bad; I’m not really interested in pretending that sex doesn’t happen, but I think a world that errs on the side of caution rather than reckless abandon is probably better than the world we have now.

C.S. Lewis once described the sexual appetite as “morbidly inflamed,” and to illustrate this, he described a burlesque house where women weren’t pulling down their stockings. Instead, people would come out with plates of food and offer you teasing glimpses of chocolate chip cookies or a side of ham. It’s a ludicrous image, but it demonstrates how we’ve elevated the sexual instinct to a place in our personal and public lives that is equally ludicrous.

Growing up as a practicing Latter-day Saint, nothing set me apart further from the mainstream than my supposed “sexual repression.” Particularly as I got older, more and more people were aghast that I was antiquated enough to think that sex should wait until marriage. And, indeed, many of them assumed that I was simply hypocritical and not telling the full story. A good number of them doubted that abstinence was even possible. Unlike any other appetite, we’re now led to assume that the sexual appetite is unique, in that it is the only bodily appetite over which we fundamentally have no control.

This is the primary reason why the gap between the LDS Church and the world at large continues to grow, and as the chasm widens, it’s going to get harder and harder to straddle it. Chastity was once a quaint notion in the world’s eyes; nowadays it’s considered a destructive one. It may well reach the point where the state will intervene to protect children without ample freedom to express themselves sexually, stepping between a child and his sexually repressive parents or church. If that sounds ludicrous to you, then try to imagine what the concept of gay marriage sounded like when Lucy and Ricky were on the air.

We’re going down a very, very dangerous road.

There are those who will read this and scoff at my supposed Puritanism and wonder why on earth I should care. Someone else’s sexual behavior, we’re told, is only of interest to busybodies and zealots, and we ought not regulate in any way what happens in the bedroom. I agree with that to a point, in that I don’t think governmental regulation on this score is necessary or helpful. But in the days of separate beds on television, it wasn’t the government dictating sexual restraint. It was the prevailing societal standards of the day, the same forces that now are making great strides at marginalizing as a “hater” anyone opposed to labeling a gay couple as married. Defining the role of sex in society is not the role of government; it’s the role of the people who make up the government. And it’s a role at which we’re miserably failing. Because sexual behavior matters, and it impacts far more than just the people in the bedroom.

Those who consider sex to be uncontrollable end up breaking up marriages, destroying families, and creating generations of children with no sense of continuity or community. We’re going down a road where the nuclear family becomes an archaic construction, where “mommy and daddy” are a cute idea in theory, where the world is about nothing but a series of multiple partners and nothing lasts, nothing counts, nothing matters. There’s a lot more sex in that world, so that’s something to look forward to. (Believe it or not, I like sex, actually. Big fan.) But think of everything that’s lost along the way. Is that really a world you’re looking forward to seeing?

Control of sexual appetites isn’t about prudishness or shame any more than a healthy diet is about hatred of food. If I ate everything I wanted to eat regardless of the consequences, I’d have three meals of McDonald’s breakfasts. I’d never exercise; I’d eat donuts twelve times a day, and I’d drink a lot of Strawberry Quik. I don’t think the government should step in and tell me not to do that, but I doubt anyone around me would applaud my lack of restraint. And, sadly, those McDonalds b*stards stop serving breakfast after 10:30.

Similarly, if I pursued my sexual appetites to their natural conclusions, my wife would be gone, my children would hate me, and I’d have no deep, fundamental connection to anything. But many would see that as just the price I paid for being “who I really am.”

No, I’m not sure that’s entirely true. There’s still enough shame left in the world that people who abandon their families and children are considered turds. But not necessarily so if they abandon their families because they’re gay. After all, how can you expect a man who’s attracted to other men to stay married to a woman? It’s who they are! Why should they deny that? Why do you hate them?

Suddenly, a bizarre double standard becomes evident. A married man attracted to other women is expected to keep his pants zipped. A married man attracted to other men, however, can’t help themselves, and they shouldn’t be expected to “live a lie.” I wonder if they’d be encouraged to eat a Sausage McMuffin with egg three times a day, too.

I remember a conversation I heard between radio talk show host Dennis Prager and a gay man who had just left his wife and children because he didn’t want to live a lie, and he was furious about what “society had done” to him. Prager and he then had the following exchange.

“Do you hate your wife, then, for marrying you?” Prager asked.

“No, of course not. I loved my wife. I still love her.”

“You’re just not sexually attracted to her.”

“Right.”

“How about your children, then? Do you hate them?”

The man was indignant. “Of course not! I love my children. I’d die for them.”

“But you wouldn’t have any of them if you hadn’t married your wife.”

“I don’t get it,” the man said. “What are you saying?”

“I’m saying,” Prager replied, “that society didn’t do all that bad by you, did they?”

And then there was silence on the radio for a very long time.

People who would define us by our appetites, as if our appetites are as immutable as the color of our hair or skin, make a fundamental mistake, and it redounds negatively to society at large. Whether you’re attracted to men, women, horses, or anything else is beside the fundamental point, which is that the nuclear family is the source of life’s primary joys, and to enjoy the kind of happiness that only comes from a deep connection to your ancestors and your descendants, you have to exercise sexual discipline.

A society that refuses to recognize that is one that is in the kind of very deep trouble in which we currently find ourselves.