Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Hypocrisy Redux

The opinion pages of the Wall Street Journal, of all places, are urging progressive leaders to show compassion for Senator Craig. Really, this is what it said in part:

"...we'd like to step back and, without drawing any conclusions about Craig beyond what is on the public record, make a case more generally for liberal compassion toward closeted homosexual politicians who oppose gay rights.

The liberal view of homosexuality is based on two claims: an empirical one and a moral one. The empirical claim is that sexual orientation is inborn, a trait over which one has no control. The moral claim is that homosexuality is no better or worse than heterosexuality; that a gay relationship, like a traditional marriage, can be an expression of true love and a source of deep fulfillment. Out of these claims flows the conclusion that opposition to gay rights is akin to racism: an unwarranted prejudice against people for a trait over which they have no control.

For the sake of argument, suppose this liberal view is true. What does it imply about the closeted homosexual who takes antigay positions? To our mind, the implication is that he is a deeply tragic figure, an abject victim of society's prejudices, which he has internalized and turned against himself. "Outing" him seems an act of gratuitous cruelty, not to mention hypocrisy if one also claims to believe in the right to privacy.

According to the Statesman, the blogger who "outed" Craig did so in order to "nail a hypocritical Republican foe of gay rights." But there is nothing hypocritical about someone who is homosexual, believes homosexuality is wrong, and keeps his homosexuality under wraps. To the contrary, he is acting consistent with his beliefs. If he has furtive encounters in men's rooms, that is an act of weakness, not hypocrisy.

Now, I don't support "outing" people for their private, consensual sexual behavior, but the reason any of us outside of Idaho are talking about this is because Senator Craig was arrested for and pleaded guilty to lewd public behavior. And the hypocrisy is NOT the act in the bathroom or anything else he has done sexually, but the fact that he has consistently opposed rights for gay people. According to one news report I read he has a 100% rating from the Christian Coalition. Scott over at RHrealitycheck did a good job of addressing this.

But, I do feel compassion for Senator Craig and his family. Because in the world that I am working for he would be able to affirm his sexual orientation whatever it is, have meaningful intimate relationships, and engage in moral, ethical sexual behavior. The values he espoused about sexuality would be the values he lived.

I do not believe that I should judge private adult consensual behavior, but when it invades public spaces or when that person is a public figure actively working against the very behaviors that he engages in, then I think we have the right to weigh in. Yes, I expect that many of us are experiencing a sense of schadenfreude (gotta love that word, now someone needs to teach me how to pronounce it), but I also spoke out against Bill Clinton having sex with his twenty something intern.

As I have written here many times, the hallmarks of an ethical, moral sexual relationship are that it is consensual, nonexploitative, honest, mutually pleasurable, and protected -- and that ethic applies to straights and gays, married and single people, teenagers and the elderly. I fail to see how anonymous sex in a public bathroom could ever meet all of those criteria, regardless of the sex of the participants.

Compassion for how hurting this family and those close to it must be? Absolutely. But a pass for voting to exclude gay and lesbian from the same rights as heterosexuals because of his own self loathing? I don't think so.


Cheryl said...

Funny, but I can bear the hypocrisy of a lawmaker seeking out covert sexual encounters with members of the other sex yet openly supporting anti-gay legislation far better than I can countenance a man who seeks out sexual encounters with other men without the knowledge or consent of his primary sexual partner and life mate.

That was the case with Jim McGreevey and Ted Haggard's wife surely never saw that coming. As a "Jersey girl" to my core and a 50 year-old bisexual woman who worked for McGreevey's campaign through my union, I was completely flummoxed by the GLBT community's hailing him as a hero when he "came out" (read: "was pushed up against the brick wall of exposure"). I felt he was the most vile of traitors and the lying was the most grevious, indeed the only, "sin."

Bill Baar said...

He didn't have sex in the bathroom.

He had some foot tapping.

Like Foley, it's sex scandal without sex.

He still should resign for the sake of the GOP and the Senate mostly for looking the fool.

j said...

Who cares about his marriage or orientation really? Is that what will bother voters in his district?

I have no idea how the whole airport bathroom pickup scene works but I would think it quite odd, as a voter, to respect a candidate that sticks his foot under the dividing wall and tapped his foot against that of the man next door.

I mean, I say that as someone who really doesn't want anything to do with people in public restrooms. Those are strictly walk in, do your deed, and walk out affairs.

Your questions are relevant and I'd agree with your post even but seriously, speaking hypothetically if we all believed his speech on how he wasn't gay and was misunderstood, we'd still be faced with a senator who plays airport laboratory stall footsie.

For me at least, that is enough to write him off entirely.

Debra W. Haffner said...

Rabbi Arthur Waskow sent me the following this morning; I asked him for permission to share on the blog:

On religious grounds, I believe that the same ethical standards that apply to heterosexual men and women should apply to gay men and lesbians. (See for my "Torah word" of why.)

So from that point of view, the basic facts in the case of Senator Craig trouble me.

Why are plains-clothes cops posted in airport bathrooms to arrest men who "solicit sex"? Are there plain-clothes cops in the airport cocktail lounges arresting heterosexual couples if one of them taps the other's leg, with the other's consent?

Is the cop there to protect unwilling men from being annoyed? Or to protect an unwilling public from being put in the position of witnessing a full sexual encounter? Those purposes might well be OK – especially if plain-clothes cops are stationed in the cocktail lounges for the same purpose in regard to heterosexual annoyance -- but then he should be protecting real complainants, not becoming the complainant himself.

It seems that the Senator has taken antigay positions in his legislative program. For that, I would vote against him. If it turns out he is a hypocrite, being gay himself, that is a serious spiritual defect. If he in a sense uses his hypocrisy – his secrecy -- as a plank in his political platform, then it may be a political defect as well.

But I would keep in mind that if so, his hypocrisy is thrust upon him by the political climate in Idaho and most of America. What would voters' response have been had he said, "I'm gay, and I oppose gay marriage, etc."? Would it be the same as if a Senator said, "I'm very wealthy, and I oppose the recent tax cuts for the wealthy"? Or “I’m poor, and I oppose food stamps”?

So far, this is a case where I hope gay-rights activists and true liberals -- those who believe in liberty -- will take a deep breath before joyfully exploiting the bathroom balagan as an additional reason to oppose the Senator.

Isaac said...

In order to understand where the Wall Street Journal was coming from in this article, I think we have to take into account that the WSJ is not interested in real debate, but political talking points that will help their conservative cause. They are the intellectual vanguard of the conservative movement, plain and simple. When one of theirs is in danger, they cry foul. When its one of ours, they keep mum. Let's not take them at their word -- they don't deserve it.

fausto said...

Yes, I expect that many of us are experiencing a sense of schadenfreude (gotta love that word, now someone needs to teach me how to pronounce it),

shah' - den - froy' - deh.