Wednesday, January 31, 2007
I realized rather late in life that I admire my father very much. While not my genetic dad, he is the only father I have known.
We're totally different personalities. He lived thru the 30s, fought in a war, married one woman for life, and provided a safe and decent home for her and seven children. Worked hard, relentlessly, was utterly reliable. He taught me a host of practical things I have used all my life. Not often warm, but when I really needed him (when I came out, for example) he was right there. He didn't understand or approve, but I was his son and he loved me and that was the bottom line: We drank martinis, smoked cigars and cried. He was unwavering, no question, solid as a rock. His is perhaps an unexceptional life for men of his great generation, but as the song says, "a life you can hang your hat on". And now he bears the heavy burden of diminishing powers at the end of his life.
He has consistently shown courage, self-discipline, perseverance, responsibility, integrity. In my eyes, the man has major gravitas. I spent some of my life trying not to be like him and resenting him for what he wasn't.
I was wrong. With all his flaws, and he has them, he's a man, a good man, a real man. He's lived a life which, while ordinary in so many ways, I can only call magnificent.
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
This is, as Harry Potter would have it, the War Against That-Which-May-Not-Be-Named.
The enemy here is not Terror. It is a very specific enemy, who uses terrorism as its weapon of choice. The enemy is Muslim.
Should we call it, then, the War with Islam? My guess is that is what it will finally come to. This is just the first stage. It literally exploded in our midst on 9/11 but started earlier...we just didn't want to know it.
For the moment, though, we are on the receiving end of Jihad, the armed Muslim “struggle” to make Islam triumphant. It's how most of the Muslim world became Muslim.
So this is the War Against Jihad. It's specific, clear and simple. Jihad is primarily armed warfare on unbelievers. Only Muslims enact Jihad. Any Muslim who takes up arms against the West engages in Jihad. No clumsy anxiety-ridden neologisms like "Islamists" or "Islamofascists" or "Islamic extremists", etc.
Crusader Zionist Kaffir Pig that I am, let me publish here as my small part one of the cartoons which Muslims find so offensive. My response to Jihad is to enact the First Amendment and tell the Muslims to get used to it.
Text is Quran 9.29: "Fight those who do not believe in Allah, nor in the latter day, nor do they prohibit what Allah and His Apostle have prohibited, nor follow the religion of truth, out of those who have been given the Book, until they pay the tax in acknowledgment of superiority and they are in a state of subjection."
Sunday, January 28, 2007
I read an article recently which included an excoriation of someone’s viewpoint on non-Europeans in Europe as “xenophobic”. This ended the discussion, because clearly, no decent person would want to be “xenophobic”.
Or homophobic, or my personal favorite du jour, Islamophobic. The list goes on, sometimes with the alterate ending “-ist”, as in racist, sexist, classist, speciesist.
Take xenophobia, "unreasonable fear of foreigners". In Holland, Muslim immigration has created a national crisis. Ask Pim Fortuyn or Theo Van Gogh or Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The cultural coherence of an ancient northern European state is under severe stress due to high numbers of immigrants from a cultural family, North African Islam, which stands in direct opposition to the liberal tradition of that country. Yet, to point this out is to be, gasp, xenophobic. Because in actual usage, xenophobia means any negative response to (Third World) foreigners whatever.
Francis Fukuyama, he of “End of History” infamy, wrote the first sensible thing I’ve heard from him in years. Criticizing European and North American societies for ignoring the cultural struggle going on within them, he says, “many celebrate their own pluralism and multiculturalism, arguing in effect that their identity is to have no identity.” (Emphasis mine).
The ideological use of xenophobia and other cognate terms is clear: it shuts down thought and discussion, forbids perception and interpretation. The person who uses it achieves the moral high ground without argument, the person to whom it is applied must immediately drop everything and begin explaining, denying, defending. It is the equivalent to calling a medieval Christian a heretic. It need not have either ground or content, but it creates anxiety and forecloses discussion. That is the purpose of the discourse. I wonder, if Communism had not collapsed, would an anti-Communist position be labelled "Marxophobia" now and pathologized along with all the rest. (While I'm at it, I think that the progressive agenda really is an expansion of Marxism from economics to all of culture...Gramsci is more of a threat to the West than Karl...Trojan horses and all that).
(Postscript paragraph Apr07) With thanks to Elaib Harvey of the Brussels Journal, this quote from Orwell about 1984 Newspeak: "The B vocabulary consisted of words which had been deliberately constructed for political purposes: words, that is to say, which not only had in every case a political implication, but were intended to impose a desirable mental attitude upon the person using them." (Emphasis by my own damn self).
This much is clear: Only whites are racists. Only men are sexists. Only the well-off are classists. Etc. It is just a linguistic tool of the progressive agenda. If poor people start to move into a previously middle-class neighborhood, to dislike this is “classism”. If rich people start to move into a previously poor neighborhood, to dislike this is not “plutophobia” (unreasonable fear of wealth), but resistance to “gentrification”. The protected victim classes may not be criticized. The result of this discourse, if accepted, is that you are not allowed to see what is right in front of your face.
This is true of all these “phobias” and “-isms”. They are nothing but a progressive version of name-calling and the functional equivalent of lies. Russian emigre Alexander Boots, in his book "How the West Was Lost", refers to this as the replacement of democracy with glossocracy, rule by the people with rule by words. I would say instead, rule by slogans.
I am done with all these words, all of them, including "homophobia". If I were not a believer in large freedom of speech, I would ban them. I certainly intend, in my personal life, to avoid using them and to refuse to let others use them without challenge. I want to be able to try to see what's in front of me, to call things by their real names, to think,to talk, to decide.
Saturday, January 27, 2007
So, if male/male sex is wonderful, congruent and natural (NB: see part 1), what’s the problem?
First, this is primarily about male homosexuality. The problem that I see is in fact very much connected with the rest of the so-called LGBT “community”, --in fact the very existence of this Balkanoid acronym is a symptom--but let’s face it: gay men are the issue, the hotbutton, the fulcrum, the flashpoint. In terms of numbers, influence, visibility, vocality, anxiety, and sheer cultural crazymakingness, it is pretty well all about us.
Here goes. I’ll just state my conclusion and do the inductive stuff afterwords. This is the problem with male homosexuality:
It is not the erotic drive itself, but its social shape as determined by gay culture. Gayness in men has become bound up with a social and political agenda that seeks to remake America into a feminist-driven society without any real men at all.
Feminists and gays are allied in naming the real man, aka the “straight” or “conventional” or “traditional” male, as the oppressor. (While at the same time contemning the very idea of a "real" man.) In regard to gays, his crime is to exclude homosexual males from the circle of men. The feminist gay response here is to deconstruct, marginalize, pathologize and render laughable and antique the very idea of manhood. Just mention “the patriarchy” and, magically, having dismissed all of human thought and history before the last ten minutes, you don't have to think anymore.
In order that gay men should be included in a diverse and sensitive concept of what a man is, the concept of manhood needs to be emptied of anything like a standard or a requirement. Lewis Carroll’s LGBT Dodo Bird proclaims, “All have won and all shall have prizes!”. The deadly irony here is that gay men collude with man-hating feminists to erase the very object of our erotic desire, so that we can be included in the emptied circle where he once existed.
The problem is not homosexual desire itself or homosexual relationships themselves, but the use to which homosexuality is put as part of a larger social agenda. The great irony is that homosexuality, caught up in leftism and feminism, is part of an anti-male force.
So the problem is this: if anyone who wants to, can claim to be a man, then there are no men left at all.
Part III: the end of manhood
Friday, January 26, 2007
(I’m going to do this in installments.)
“What’s wrong with homosexuality?!!”. Aha! See! Now the self-loathing, the deep internalized homophobia of the rightwing faggot comes out. We knew it. Self-hating. It was just a matter of time…
When I was in theology grad school, a colleague was about to make an appreciative presentation of the determinist behaviorism of BF Skinner. He decided to assure our class and prof of his orthodoxy by reciting beforehand, in its entirety, the Apostles’ Creed. This post is my Apostles’ Creed.
I am familiar with the moral, religious, psychological, even some of the medical and scientific arguments about homosexuality, including the ideas of them what are agin’ it.
In the final personal analysis, none of the negative arguments have made a dent with me for one reason: they simply do not match my experience. Despite my severe level of over-education, this is an issue on which I grant highest privilege to personal experience. I am well aware that I am one human among billions and am as epistemologically and morally challenged as the rest. But my experience has been that male-with-male sex is wonderful, sometimes unspeakably wonderful. Not only wonderful, but so deeply congruent with who I am that there is nothing in this world that feels more natural to me.
I tend to get a little dissatisfied now and again and fantasize alternate lives for myself. For example, “food critic for the New York Times, with the metabolism of a greyhound”: indulging my most ancient vice, making a living at it, and without undesirable consequences at the waistline. I am thus capable of imagining the impossible. But I never imagine me straight. I tried once, and I can’t do it. I would be unrecognizable to myself. I would disappear.
I sometimes opine, with an air of playful exaggeration, that when I am in the midst of fine fine sexual engagement with another man, that it is then I know why God created the world. I am far more than half-serious. Sex is not just “sex” for me; there’s a mystery in it, mysterium tremendum et fascinosum. Sweet or raunchy, it’s sacred.
All intellectual bells and whistles aside, that’s the real beginning and end of the story for me. Is it always wonderful? Of course not. This is planet Earth. But when it's been flawed or flat or, in hindsight, a mistake, it's not the samegenderishness of the participants that made it so but our membership in the species homo not always so sapiens. To use the phrase of the execrable Gore Vidal, I am a fully initiated, enthusiastic and committed “homosexualist”.
If anyone wants to read self-loathing into this so far, be my guest. I’d be fascinated.
World without end. Amen.
The problem with homosexuality? See next posting.
Thursday, January 25, 2007
My favorite names:
Thomas, Michael, Jeff, Jack, David, Kevin.
Names are stories.
Thomas: first boy I fell in love with. Old and wonderful friend. Wonderful ex.
Michael: the Archangel. Magnetic bipolar artist.
Jeff: first lover, may he rest in peace. An Ex-ex, beautiful but difficult.
Jack: my Dad. My godsent magical nephew. Wonderful friend, may he rest in peace.
David: I mostly just like the sound. Although there's a man I work with whom I like a lot and find that I always say his name when I greet him.
Kevin: rather not say...
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
On the set of the TV series, “Grey’s Anatomy”, castmember Isaiah Washington referred to fellow castmember TR Knight (out of his hearing) as a “faggot”. The ensuing drama is depressingly diagnostic of so much that is wrong with us.
It turns out that TR is in fact a faggot and, post-slur, came out. Welcome, TR, to our club.
Newly-out faggot TR responded to this incident by going on the Ellen DeGeneres show and looking wounded. She sympathized, of course, and also wondered why, in this day and age, people should be so hateful. This is part A of the depressing part. (Did I miss the memo informing me that homo sapiens had evolved into a new species? Never mind.)
Then we have Washington denying he said it, and then people apologizing for him, and then him apologizing personally, and now –here’s part B of the depressing part—he is supposedly checking himself –at the urging of the network executives --into “a treatment facility” for “counseling” to discover why, why, why he would utter such “hateful” words, words for which "a mere apology is insufficient". (Thank God those Commie Red ReEducation Camps are closed.)
This is not the way real men would deal with this. It combines therapy with celebrity, publicity and mendacity. It is unseemly, undignified, whiny, ridden with victimism, pussified, unreal and pathetic. There is not a cojon in sight.
In a healthier society, where it was ok for men to be men, this is what might have happened instead:
Washington would have lost his temper and referred to TR as a faggot. When informed of this slight, TR would have stormed into WAshington’s dressing room and said, “What the f**k is going on, Washington? You called me a faggot? Well, guess what, jungleboy, I am a faggot and damn proud of it, you stupid motherf**cker!”
People would hear the commotion and shouting and come running. Washington and Knight would glare and yell a little more and then make a move and come to physical blows, complete with more orientational and racial epithets exchanged. There’s a large and expressive vocabulary there and we all know the words. (Even in "this day and age").
They would be pulled apart, seething, uttering threats, and they’d be dragged off to their respective corners and told by their friends to calm the f**k down.
Then the head of the program would see each of them and say that they could not have this kind of carrying on and that the two of them must apologize and shake hands. They’d both resist, of course, but a hint that their contracts would be terminated might, as Dr Johnson suggested, “wonderfully concentrate the mind”. Accompanied by supportive-and-disapproving colleagues, they’d apologize, thusly.
Washington: “Sorry, man. I got carried away. I shouldna said that.”
Knight: “I crossed the line, too. I was mad. Sorry.”
Knight: "Yeah, I get that a lot."
They shake hands. Everyone claps, and leaves.
Later on, the two guys pass in the hall, slow down and eye each other.
Knight: “So, you wanna go out for a drink sometime?”
Washington: “Well, ok, maybe…(small grin) as long as there’s no funny business.”
Knight: “Don’t worry, a**hole. You’re not my type.”
Washington: “So, I’m not good enough for you?”
Knight: “F**k you”.
Washington: “You wish”.
They go out for a drink later and become friends.
You can see how far from grace I have fallen.
Monday, January 22, 2007
Here he is, one of my favorite CW singers, 44-year old, 6’6” Trace Adkins.
The first song of his that I heard was, “Hot Mama”, a man singing to his middle-aged wife about how sexy he still finds her. He’s got a slew of new ones, including “Ladies Love Country Boys”. Not only ladies, Trace!
Friday, January 19, 2007
Thursday, January 18, 2007
There is a blog I have been reading for well over a year now, whose author is the subject of my reflections today. I should say, in the interests of full disclosure, that I have tears running down my face as I write this.
He is a young Marine (younger than 30) who was catastrophically wounded in Iraq, the sole survivor of his patrol. The others all died. His injuries encompass not only his trunk, limbs and face, but his brain. He is half deaf. He spent a year in the hospital and is now at home with his family, in a rural part of the country. They are an extraordinary group of people –each one deserves his or her own posting--, and luckily well off enough to provide him with space and access to various kinds of rehabilitation help.
He is also gay, something he had a very hard time dealing with and still finds problematic in some ways. In the hospital, he met another badly wounded Marine, and they fell in love. Today they both live together with his family. It is not easy; both of them have demons.
This man is a compulsive writer, a keeper of journals his whole life. He would not be winning the national spelling bee these days –as I said, his brain was involved in his wounding—but he is rawly articulate, as well as rudely funny. He is an ambush writer, who can string you along with a story or banter or a rant, and then without warning drop an image or word on you that stuns you to silence or tears or awe or a smile.
I have not mentioned the name of his blog and have been purposefully vaguer than he is, because he has an ambivalent attitude about it. His family resisted the idea, fearing for their and his privacy, even safety. This is one of the great ironies of this new mode of communication, open to anyone on the planet and yet still so intimate. What he writes is sometimes so private and revealing that I feel –despite his assurances to the contrary—that I have stepped into a room where I have no right to be. I contacted him a few months ago and have both made regular comments on his blog and have had email correspondence with him.
When I posted angrily about the San Francisco school board's shutting down of JROTC in November and pointed out the bitter irony that when the earthquake comes, those very same people will want the despised military to keep order for their worthless selves, he wrote, "We'd come anyway". How do you describe how you feel about someone like this, given the odd kind of relationship ---so distant and yet so immediate—that the internet makes possible? "We'd come anyway". Semper fi.
We have never met in person, or talked by phone, and likely never will. I don’t know his last name or the town where he lives or what he looks like (except that he’s tall and kinda skinny these days). Yet he has become a part of my heart.
I lived through the Vietnam years and would have fled the country had I been drafted. Although I was raised by a military father, I felt both anxiety and distaste for the military most of my life. So my reversed feelings now have the tincture of idealization which comes from a need to make atonement. My basic attitude toward soldiers, and I am really talking about American soldiers here, is almost embarrassingly reverent. To be honest, they define for me what manhood is. And this is especially true of the man I am writing about today.
What provoked this was a posting he wrote last night, elegantly and poetically entitled, “Fuck it”. There are themes there I have heard before, both in his posts and in his emails to me, but reading it was heart-breaking. He wants to die. That’s the long and the short of it. He wants to die.
I do not have the words to express how much I honor what he has done. I truly don’t. Nor to express how I mourn what he suffers. Maybe that’s why the tears are there instead.
Most of me initially looks for ways to make him feel better, to want to live, to recognize what life still holds for him. Given what wounded veterans have had to live through in the past, and what many still live through now, he is a strikingly fortunate man. But given what he has lost and, more than that, who he lost…I know that in his place, I would want to die as well. As much as it would grieve me…and it would, for a long time…a part of me wants him to have peace, finally, wants him not to suffer anymore.
I cannot say that to him. I do make a point of letting him know that I hear what he says, without pushing it aside or trying to talk him out of his feelings or cheer him up. But I can’t bring myself to say to him what I just wrote here.
He is not the man he was. That man, he says, died in Iraq. Once a proud Marine sergeant, now he does not know who he is: dependent, unreliable, unpredictable, hobbled, moody, sometimes out of control, a dead man walking. And above all he carries the guilt of having survived while his brothers died, a sense of unworthiness, failure, responsibility. That, I suspect, is the worst of all, the soldier's ultimate nightmare come true.
In a way, he is trapped in life by love. A brother died many years ago, and he writes that it was only to prevent his mother losing another child that he fought to stay alive. She sat by his bed every day for a year and even now has to navigate his rages and his terrors. His uncle –an amazing man whom I would love to take out for a drink—has opened and indeed remodeled his home in order to make a place for his nephew and his lover. His father, remarried and with a new family in another part of the country, provides support and visits often, at great cost, it seems. His dedicated "shrink", even his physical therapist. And there is this man, his fellow warrior, who reached out to him, who now shares his life, who falls asleep next to him each night. And maybe people like me, as well, a little. As much as he wants to flee his life, the care of all these people keeps him chained to it.
I have been an unwavering supporter of our invasion of the Middle East. My reasons for that are not mainstream and maybe I will explain them some other time. But I have never been cavalier about the cost. And especially now that it has all become so personalized in the life of this young man.
This is a world shot through with tragedy, with pain and loss that seems quite unredeemed. But this is what I want, and it may be impossible. I want the President and the Congress, I want whoever has power over decisions, to make choices and to take actions there that will save my friend from feeling that what happened to him was a tragic waste. I suspect that this campaign is the first of many more. We are in a long war, once again, with Islam, the ancient enemy of Christendom and the West. Quick and clear victories are unlikely. But, please, for the love of God, do not let his sacrifice be in vain.
It's selfish, but... I don't want him to die.
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
A repeat tonight of the now-classic episode “Smug Alert”, which features San Francisco as a major character. Makes me weep with laughter…an episode up there with the utterly surreal “Death Camp of Tolerance”, which I watched with my mouth literally agape with incredulity for almost the whole half hour of the show.
For reasons I cannot quite articulate, much less defend, I love “South Park”, --except the talking turd thing--but think that “The Simpsons” foreshadows the end of Western Civilization.Something about the difference between Cartman and Bart-man makes me a "South Park Conservative".
As a regular reader of the right-wing cyberpress and –prepare yourself—a sometime watcher of Fox News, I was quite aware of the discontent many conservatives felt with the Republicans in Washington over the last few years, but I did not discover this until today.
In October 2006, a group of seven conservative writers and columnists published, in the very liberal Washington Post, a set of reflections entitled “Time For Us To Go”, in which they argued that the Republicans deserved to lose the then-upcoming elections because of failure to live up to principles. A drubbing by the electorate would be a chance to wake up and return to something worthy voting for in the future.
I ask myself if I can imagine a group of Democrats ever doing the same.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Saw this film again, Trembling before G-d, --out of respect, religious Jews do not fully spell the divine name-- about the conflict between faith and sexuality among homosexual Orthodox Jews…tough to watch, because there seems to be no possible resolution. Even though parts of their tradition are highly alien, the personal tension is painfully familiar.
I remember years ago, during the worst of the AIDS period, after I had finally left (well, "fled" is a better word) the Church which had dominated and shaped my life for four decades, walking through Manhattan with my boyfriend. We went down Fifth Avenue and came upon an ACT-UP demonstration in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. We stopped to look, then moved on. About a half-block later, as we turned a corner, I heard this funny noise. I looked into my boyfriend’s face. Nothing. Then I realized... it was me. I was sobbing.
There, in that moment, the two warring parts of my soul had met: the tribe of queers who were fighting for our lives, on the steps of the great temple that my Irish Catholic ancestors had built. There was nothing to do, but weep. It was a long time before I stopped.
Sunday, January 14, 2007
Christianity is a significant alteration of Judaism in the direction of the feminine. Instead of the Law of the Lord, we have the Gospel of the Son, where affiliation –the quintessential feminine value—trumps rank, where love is the highest value.
It has seemed to some of our contemporaries a kind of betrayal that this revelation did not immediately issue in an egalitarian ethos, not to say an egalitarian society…as if somehow the testosterone of the recipients of this affiliative Gospel did not understand that it was a valuation of the feminine over the masculine.
In the last forty years, feminism has radically altered the face of the West, with consequences both welcome and detrimental. And much of Western religion, too. In North America, for instance, many communities of Catholic sisters have functionally ceased to be Catholic and have become Feminist. Wherever there might be a conflict between Catholicism and Feminism, Catholicism must cede.
And in the liberal Protestant churches, where feminism is most advanced, what do we see but the practical disappearance of traditional Christianity in favor of the feminist religion of inclusivity, sensitivity and diversity? Unitarianism in drag is the future for all of them and men, real men, anyway, will stay away in larger and larger droves.
Which leads me to think that, given the strong affiliative/feminine energy in Christianity, it can only exist within a strong patriarchal frame, including an all-male priesthood. The patriarchal order of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, which seems like a betrayal to the lately enlightened, may in fact be the condition of that tradition's continued existence and the necessary container of its affiliative energies.
As an intensification of the feminine within a fundamentally patriarchal myth, Christianity is a unique jewel in the human patrimony (sic!). Once that framework is dissolved, however, the whole enterprise disappears. Fast.
Which brings me to a recent discovery: what's really wrong with homosexuality.
Now anyone who knows me knows that I am a deeply unrepentant gay man. I may not like the opinions and antics of my tribe but I have not the least doubt about who I am, nor the slightest inclination to be any different, in this life or any other. But there is a problem with male homosexuality....and I'll post about it...another time.
Friday, January 12, 2007
You have two cows.
Your neighbor has none.
You feel guilty for being successful
and offer to share the milk from your cows
for her children
Barbara Streisand sings for you
You have two cows.
The government takes one
and gives it to your neighbor.
You form a cooperative to tell him
how to manage his cow.
You have two cows.
The government seizes both
and provides you with milk.
You wait in line for hours to get it.
It is expensive and sour.
CAPITALISM, AMERICAN STYLE
You have two cows.
You sell one, buy a bull,
and build a herd of cows.
CONSERVATIVEYou have two cows.
Your neighbor has none.
(Thanks to Sigmund,Carl&Alfred)
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
“Rank” is an IFC film about professional bullriders. It is a gripping look at a world of men, unreconstructed and unbeveled. It combines energy, passion, power, risk, suffering, struggle, perseverance, endurance, skill, brotherhood and…rank. There are winners here. And losers. Men, all.
Jungian analyst Anthony Stevens divides the masculine from the feminine on the basis of rank and affiliation, respectively. The heart of the male is rank. And yet my own corollary to Stevens is that rank is also how men create the deep and powerful affiliations of male worlds. Both forces are evident here.
A fine documentary, which lets the subjects speak by their actions.
I write this in contrarian praise of one of my least favorite words, “diversity”. In current coinage, it is just a code-word for making sure Caucasians are not left alone and unsupervised by ourselves in groups. And the world of bullriding is an overwhelmingly white world…as you would expect. It celebrates and continues the culture of the American West, a combination of testosterone, grit, tenderness, patriotism, family and religion. In the worlds where “diversity” is supposedly valued, this kind of culture is not. The post-modern and liberal “diversity” kowtowed to --yes, I know, that word is supposedly offensive to Asians!--by our enlightened PC schoolmarms means precisely the eradication of worlds like bullriding.
As a gay man and an intellectual, I might not be very welcome there. That is fine with me (though I still intend to go to the bullriding contest in Oakland in the summer!) Because, as someone who values real diversity, real difference, I am happy that this culture exists, even if it has not much room for me. It holds something precious and deeply admirable about America and about manhood, in a world where our high-minded betters consider both of these atavistic embarrassments. And I love them both.
Saturday, January 06, 2007
The tsking and clucking of liberals and other high-minded Westerners, such as the Vatican, about Saddam Hussein’s recent execution got me thinking about "human dignity".
It’s now the common coin of the elites; everyone’s in favor of it. And somehow, this notion of human dignity made it uncomfortable for a tyrannical mass-murderer to be hanged.
I thought about my human dignity, my dignity as a man…and maybe they are not the same. But essential to my sense of worth –and that’s what dignity means in Latin—is that I take responsibility for what I do. If I break it, I pay for it. If I spill it, I clean it up. And if there’s a penalty to be paid for my transgression, I pay it.
In the liberal notion of human dignity, however, what is at play is sentimentality and ego. No responsibility is to be taken if it includes anything that the actor finds unappealing.
I am reminded of one of the core values of a very liberal religious denomination: to “affirm the inherent worth and dignity of every human person”. (Of course, PETA would find that pretty barbaric). What it comes down to in practice is that every human person’s ego should be coddled, no matter what they do. Dignity becomes confused with egoic self-esteem. The only form of punishment that most liberals can tolerate is the time-out.
I don’t find this dignified at all. It is sentimental, that is, it refuses to recognize the moral ambiguity of its object. Saddam Hussein may indeed have been human…but his behavior does two things: it points out what horrors humans are capable of, desentimentalizing the notion of humanity, and it calls for him to live up to his human dignity by taking responsibility for his actions. Death by hanging is the least he could aspire to in order to atone for his crimes.
What I sense in the liberal high-minded critique of capital punishment, or corporal punishment, or indeed of any kind of retribution…except against Republicans, of course…is a deep anxiety. It is an anxiety about their own right to exist and to exist assertively. What they call a concern for human dignity is really a loss of faith in their own right to exert force against evildoers. And a refusal to take evil seriously...except, again, when it shows up in their own approved formats.
My favorite slogan here is the one that says that by executing criminals, we simply descend to their level. Indeed, we sink below them, by hypocritically covering up murder with the sanction of the state. I beg most strenouously to differ. A man who initiates…initiates…mayhem, rape, slaughter, etc against innocent humans is a criminal. A society that in response…in response…then provides him with robust and terminal retribution is a world of moral difference away. It would be almost impossible to sink to his level.
People who cannot see that strike me as lacking in the confidence of their right to be. And so they take refuge in moral narcissism.
And that describes most liberals.