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"America's Gay Fixation"

Dialog International quotes the author Susan Jacoby from the Washington Post:
Why do you think Americans care so much about an issue that ignites so little controversy in Europe? Why are we alone in the developed world in our intense distress about the fact that a minority of people are erotically attracted to members of their own their own sex rather than to the opposite sex?

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Pat Patterson on :

I'm sure the relatives of Pim Fortuyn would appreciate the distinction between how homosexual politicians are treated in Europe vs. the US.

Anonymous on :

Are you saying Fortuyn was murdered because he was gay? I guess one could also conclude that JFK was murdered because he was cheating on his wife.

VinceTN on :

Fortuyn was murdered by a Leftist for being patriotic and daring to tackle the street-level bigotry of specific individuals of an unassimilated immigrant community. On the day-to-day level, being gay is not a big issue. My family and my partner's family (tennessee & arkansas) are well aware of us and who we are. It is the same at my work. All politicians are basic whores who must divide and conquer their own people to gain power or stay in power most times. That's just how it works here, unfortunately. At the personal level, few Americans have any public problems with gays. Broader themes can be manipulated to darken the macro outlook of society and that's where the issues get presented (and covered).

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

I know that you know it, but still I believe it should be pointed out that Fortuyn was murdered by some animal rights activist. Not by a Muslim. "At the personal level, few Americans have any public problems with gays." I know. That's why it is so surprising that it is a big issue in politics. Why is the issue of gay marriage such a big thing? Every presidential candidate is asked about it. Why? Aren't there more important political issues?

Don S on :

Joerg, It's a big issue in politics for three reasons, but most Europeans never seem to get beyond reason #1. 1) There are some knuckle-draggers who hate all gays and will never be reconciled to the idea that the US has become and will continue to be more accepting of gays. 2) Marriage is a major foundation of US society - something whihc seems less and less true in parts of Europe. One does not tinker frivolously with the foundations of one's society. No, one thinks long and hard about it before going ahead. 3) When reform does come it should not be implemented by judges but rather by the people's representatives. Marriage law has been the purview of the states so therefore it should be the state legislatures that act. The ruling by the Massachusettes Supreme Court was a power grab pure and simple by legal 'activists' whom in recent American history have not covered themselves in glory. Rather than force reform on the people top-down what works in the US is for reform to bubble up. Convince the people that you are no threat and that this is a good idea - do not impose this on them. I have a cousin who is living in a long-term relationship with another man. I've come to know and like his partner and believe they are good people. Observing the way they live their lives has done more to convince me than all the ravings of all the activists and all the court decisions by all the legal radicals ever will.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

Don, isn't [url=http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0200806.html]this statistic[/url] contradicting your 2.) point?

Pat Patterson on :

Joerg-That 49% figure, though admittedly too high, is really misleading. That represents how many divorces were granted in a year vs. the number of marriages that were recognized in that year, not the total. No one seriously believes that half of the new marriages in the US end in divorce the first year. But starting at zero there could be 100,000 marriages and 50,000 divorces in the first year(for the sake of argument not even counting previous marriages). But the next year there will again be 100,000 marriages and 50,000 divorces but there will also be 50,000 still married couples from the year before, 50,000 plus 50,000 would equal 100,000 marriages. The third year the same thing, now 100,000 marriages from the years before, an additional 50,000 from that year plus 50,000 divorces that represent half of all new marriages. After ten years there will be 500,000 still married couples but only 50,000 divorces per year compared to the 100,000 marriages performed in the tenth year. The total percentage of divorces declines each year because you must consider those couple still married.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

Thanks for the explanation, Pat. The statistic shows that the divorce rate is a bit higher in the US than in Germany. The numbers contradict Don's statement: "2) Marriage is a major foundation of US society - something whihc seems less and less true in parts of Europe." More contractions sort of from from USA Today from 2005: [quote]The U.S. divorce rate is 17.7 per 1,000 married women, down from 22.6 in 1980. The marriage rate is also on a steady decline: a 50% drop since 1970 from 76.5 per 1,000 unmarried women to 39.9, says the report, whose calculations are based on an internationally used measurement.[/quote] So is marriage really still a major foundation of US society? US Today continues: [quote]Although many European countries have higher cohabitation rates, divorce rates in those countries are lower, and more children grow up with both biological parents, even though the parents may not be married, Popenoe says. The USA has the lowest percentage among Western nations of children who grow up with both biological parents, 63%, the report says. "The United States has the weakest families in the Western world because we have the highest divorce rate and the highest rate of solo parenting," Popenoe says. [/quote] [url]http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2005-07-18-cohabit-divorce_x.htm[/url] My conclusion from this is that less Europeans get married than Americans, but married and unmarried European couples do not split up as often as American couples do. Thus Don's criticism misses the point.

Don S on :

"My conclusion from this is that less Europeans get married than Americans, but married and unmarried European couples do not split up as often as American couples do." How do you come to that conclusion, Joerg, particularly about "unmarried European couples"? Got any statistics about the unmarried? My impression is that Americans are distinctly more likely to get married than Europeans are, and a fair proportion of those marriages will be unwise ones. In Europe such a couple would never have been married and thus won't show up in divorce statistics, but that is the only difference. What I've heard for many years is that actually it's not ture that half of American married people end up divorced, but rather that a certain proportion of the population marries and divorces serially. Call it the Zsa-Zsa Gabor phenomena. Zsa-Zsa is an acress who has been married 9 times and had 7 divorces and one annulment. Although Zsa-Zsa was actually born in Budapest so perhaps she should count as European? ;) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zsa_Zsa_Gabor#Personal_life The point is that a typical American couple counts as 0 or perhaps 1 divorce, but Zsa-Zsa and her like inflate the statistics for all. I would be interested in seeing statistics on the proportion of married (or ex-married) americans who have gone through a divorce. I believe that numbher would be quite a bit lower than 50%....

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

@ Don [i]How do you come to that conclusion, Joerg, particularly about "unmarried European couples"?[/i] From the USA Today article mentioned and quoted in the above comment.

Don S on :

What USA Today article, Joerg. I see a link to a discussion on a Washington Post blog but nothing from USA Today. And certainly no hard statistics on the matter.

Don S on :

Oops, I see it now, Joerg. I was looking in the beginning not in the comments.

Don S on :

Joerg, I would argue the opposite. The fact that marriages in the US have apparently become weaker can be taken as a sign that marriage needs to be strengthened - not weakened. Another point is marriage isn't primarily about the adults - it is there to protect the children. Gay marriage will be all about the adults in most cases, and might well strengthen the attitude that it's the welfare of the spouses which count - and not the children, an attitude which is already far to popular. Another thing which is generally overlooked when comparing the US with Sweden are the vast geograpical disparities between the two countries. I have a cousin who went through an amicable divorce about 12 years ago. He lived in the same small town in Norther Wisconsin and was a daily part of his son's lives. Then his ex-wife moved 3000 miles away and took the children. Daddy was no longer part of their lives. Consider a similar story in Sweden. That would be a move to (say) Italy, surely an extremely rare occurance for a single mother. Sweden itself has three major population centres, Stockholm, Gotenberg, and Malmo (I think). Mostl likely they all live in Stockholm, and most likely the divorced father will have the option of living close to his children.

David on :

What about Loving vs. Virginia, which overturned all race-based restrictions on marriage in the US? Should that have been left up to the states? What about Brown vs. Board of Education? Should states have been allowed to segregate black and white children in schools? Sometimes the courts have to intervene to protect the constitution. BTW, most citizens of Massachusetts now agree that same-sex marriage should be legal. It has been good for the state, and Massachusetts has one of the lowest divorce rates in the nation.

VinceTN on :

A point worth thinking about. It was a judge that struck down the sodomy law in Texas that a spiteful neighbor used against another by getting two gay men in legal trouble for living together. The Texas legislature made no independent effort to change the law and prosecutors were only too willing to take the case and Rush was quite pissed at this activist judge for striking it. Professional conservatives bitch about being called bigots in knee-jerk fashion but there is a bit of baggage there. No small amount of willingness to look away when the victim isn't someone they value. This unfortunately gives the Marxists the moral high ground when the debates start and conservatives seldom regain it.

Anonymous on :

Pat dont mean to contradict you, but check the bit of Caesar's triumph in Rome in the beginning few books and the songs his legionaires sing. I dont have the text with me or Pegasus, but it should be in the index of your annotated edition. Slaves did have rights. you are of course technically correct, but I was not employing the term legally, as in judicial enforceable actionable rights, but as a catch-all for their inferior social status and secondary or tertiary legal status. Under the Weimar laws, Jews could technically inherit property so long as an Aryan was not thereby derprived of an arguable patrimony. Were there cases of proper devisement between Jews during the 30s; sure, there must have been. Would anyone really term Jewish inheritance rights as law, dependent as it was on favourable judicial intervention and the laziness of Aryans who were to lazy to fabricate a supervening claim? I think not. Mistreating your slaves in ancient Rome as in the ante-bellum South was cause for social derision, but that was it; it hinted at greater pyschic and spiritual problems and as such was cause for concern. Trimalchio might be held up for scorn but do any of the characters mention a slave's legal rights? Does Juvenal even when he gets a bee in bonnet about luxuria et alia? Not that I remember. As for Harris, I was wrong. Must have been an essay I read in conjunction with his book that melded the two in memory.

Don S on :

It should be noted that many scholars od Ancient Rome regard the rumors of Caesar's homosexuality to have been a political slur, akin to the rumors that Sulla had killed several women to get the money to enable him to enter the Senate. Caesar was a cotroversial figure in Rome, fully capable of reducing some of his opponents to fits of foaming at the mouth. All kinds of accusations were flung at him - including the accusation of being homosexual. Caesar's career reminds one of Bush's - if only in the weight of scorn thrown - and the degree that some of their critics seem to have become unhinged in the fury of their hate.... The historical evidence does not seem to support the charge in Caesar's case. If anything Caesar was the opposite, a regular Don Juan who slept with many women in Rome's upper crust. He was notorious for that, so much so that one doubts he had time to fit many men into his schedule.

Pat Patterson on :

"Annotated...Pegasus!" Ah, horrible flashbacks to sitting up all night wondering why my Loeb translations are elegant and lucid and mine make the poor author sound like he has dyslexia. thanks for the directions and will try to find the passage. I did find a site that has more than adequate translations, not with the original text, of most of the most popular works in Greek and Latin. [url]http://classics.mit.edu/Caesar/gallic.html[/url] I can't help wondering if the policeman in the bathroom had a quota to fill? Alabama, Tennessee and Wisconsin? Jeez, rednecks, hillbillies and cheese eaters. Wait I hear Conquest being played in the background. We are..SC!

Don S on :

Take your mouth off Wisconsin, Pat! Minneapolis is part of the redneck state of Minnesota, not my totally enlightened and superb home state of Wisconsin!

Don S on :

"I can't help wondering if the policeman in the bathroom had a quota to fill?" Like speeding tickets? Probably - It's the benighted state of Minnesota after all, not enlightened Wisconsin. ;) God, what a job that must be. Sitting in a stall all day waiting for someone to sit the wrong way and put their suitcase at the front of the stall. Better not sit 'wide' in Minnesota. ;) I think I'll wait till I get on the plane this time - I don't fancy a couple years in the slammer because a vice cop is seeing things.....

Sonja Bonin on :

"Marriage is a major foundation of US society - something whihc seems less and less true in parts of Europe." Actually, Don, I think this is one of the arguments most anti-gay or anti-gay-marriage(politicians as well as "regular" citizens) or even plain conservative folks in either country use to give their uneasyness about gay life a label which doesn't make themselves feel prejudiced. I've always felt that this argument itself is rather obviously bigotted, if you think about it for just a second: Its propnent claims something along the following lines: I don't care what other people do in bed, but marriage is something special. We have to protect, because it's a major foundation of society (Wat does this mean, anyway?. Therefore, persons who are not like me and the majority of "normal" people shouldn't be allowed to marry. ifmarriage is something good, something that's good for society, even the "foundation" of society, why are you trying so hard to keep people who are eager to get married to their partners from doing just that? There's only one reason why this argument would make sense: if you consider gay people less worthy of playing a part in society than straight people.

Pat Patterson on :

Unfortunately in the ultra liberal state of Massachusetts an intiative, heavily supported by both Republicans and Democrats, banning gay marriage was only defeated by a parliamentary trick to keep it off the ballot. Democrats were over 60% of the voters in the 2006 election and like those "..plain conservative folks..." seemed via the petition perfectly happy to end gay marriage in that state. And if this is such a burning civil rights issue among gays then why is there now only 1/3 as many same-sex marriages(6,121 in 2004 vs 1,427 in 2006) performed in Massachusetts as when legalized in 2004? It would seem logical that the lack of an uproar, no tar and feathering or burning at the stake, would show that the practice might be more feasible then originally thought Maybe there really isn't a burning desire to walk the aisle as some might want to believe. There is probably some truth to the idea that Sen. Craig was being pilloried for the suspicion of being gay. But the sheer stupidty of his behavior seems more likely to have been the cause of his rejection by the Republican establishment and also the thousands of contacts made by Idahoans that changed over night after the tape became available.

Don S on :

Sonia, whenever I read an 'argument' like the one you just tried to make I am at a loss as to how to politely reply. Either: a) you are calling me a bigoted homophobe or b) you seem to believe that I am stupid enough to be manipulated into uncritcally accepting you're POV by an accusation of me being like a bigoted homophobe. Or c) ? If it's a or b it's not terribly complimentary to myself, of course. But it's actually worse for you because by making an argument like this you strongly imply that you do not possess the toleration, creativity, or intelligence to come up with a stronger argument than this. Itf this is so you have my sincere pity.... Don

David on :

The German-American sex researcher Dagmar Herzog touched on homophobia in American politics in [url=http://www.taz.de/index.php?id=archivseite&dig=2006/11/01/a0168]this article[/url]. Repressed sexuality manifests itself in violence (esp. violence against women) and self-destructive behavior, such as we've seen with Mark Foley, Rev. Ted Haggard and now Sen.Larry Craig. There may be some truth in VinceTN's statement that "All politicians are basic whores", but it is right wing in America that uses bigotry against gays and lesbians to troll for votes.

VinceTN on :

The Right knocks me for being gay. The Left knocks me for being southern, white and male. The religious are bothered by my atheism while other gays are threatened by my support for capitalism and the war against Islamic/Socialist fascism. Some people can't believe I voted for Clinton twice and that I voted for Bush twice. I can count on just about any politician abusing me for something in order to pander to their bitter interest groups. Attempting to make me feel evil for being white or male is no better than trashing me for being gay. Calling me a racist for distrusting groups like CAIR is no more intellectual and inclusive than saying I'm a fool for not fearing Mexican immigrants. America is moving along at its own pace. Think back even 10 years ago on how much has changed for gays. Things will work themselves out. We already live pretty much in peace and our "rights" balance sheet is catching up to everyone else's. I would be very suprised to find any revolutionary difference in how gays in Europe live and how we live in America day to day. Its an unfortunate fact that the right and left often view us in the same way - freaks that threaten traditional America. For that the right "hates" us and for that the left "loves" us.

Anonymous on :

VinceTN: I hate you for being a Volunteer (Roll Tide). That out of the way, I would say that yes, the acceptance of homosexual relationships de jure is going along smoothly and the prospect of State-wide creation of same-sex partnerships or marriages is fairly rosy. I do however believe that the homosexual movement, if it is fair to call something so diverse a reduction, would have been better served by abandoning the civil rights agit prop template the democrats use (Code Pink, Barney Frank, graphic sexual positions chalked on the sidewalk et al) and just let time take its course. Most of the State Constitutional provisions which prohibit homosexual marriage would never have happened if certain sections of the homosexual movement had not been so keen on judicial intervention, instead of waiting for the legislatures to act. True, it might have taken a decade or so but I firmly believe that outside of the benighted deep south in five years' time, civil partnership would be available for most applicants. Too much of the movement's laudable aims are interwoven with fringe politics, such as sexual education for 10 year olds or gender neutral interpretations of sexuality (gender as a choice). It wasnt Karl Rove, it was the people remembering Roe v. Wade and how the Sup Ct forced them to accept something they were not ready to. If you are from Tenn you know that is not the way to convince certain people...

VinceTN on :

Ha! My entire family comes from north Alabama and my Dad is a devoted Crimson Tide fan. I have to agree to much of that. The biggest problem I have with gay organizations is that they are dominated by Democrats and gay issues seem to be the last thing on their list with support of palestian terrorists, Hillary Clinton, releasing all prisoners from Gitmo,etc taking most of their time and focus. The screw up was in trying to bully the American people with court dictates for marriage. There is not one good argument straights can make against gay marriage when the state of straight marriage is such a superficial joke for many today but the real objectives to actually improve the position of gay people has always been fighting discrimination at the working level. That has to be done by 1. standing up for yourself, 2. promoting a dialog, 3. demonstrating why respect and acceptance of fellow Americans is in everyone's interest. Gays need political committees because we do have some serious if inneffective enemies (mostly among the right). The problem with gays who are not Leftists is that we are too busy living our lives to truly organize and counter the gay anarchists and marxists who dominate our public face.

Don S on :

"The screw up was in trying to bully the American people with court dictates for marriage." Damn straight, Vince. I did not and do not give a curse about gay marriage for or against - but I do have a huge problem with a bare majority of the supreme court of a single state imposing de-facto law on the subject onto the entire country. I saw judicial activism go way out of control during my youth and will stomp that evil in the head wherever I see it. I have a close relative who is gay, and if he wants to marry his partner I'll attend the wedding because blood is thicker than water. BTW, both you and Anon are wrongheaded about football. On Wisconsin!

Anonymous on :

another earnest, pooh yankee thinks they can play football.

bob on :

Politics is a form of ritualized violence with its campaigns and winner-take-all elections. I would not really subsume regular homosexual sex into what politicans do, or heterosexual sex for that matter. Was Clinton getting a blowjob next to the Oval Office about temporary relief? No mostly not. It was about exerting his dominion over an employee and getting satisfaction ten feet away from the red phone. When Sen. Craig was in the bathroom was his come-hither line "Hey sonny let's go at it?" No. It was 'I'm a Senator. Play with my rascal.' Think back to Caesar's Gallic commentaries when his troops would mockingly deride him for playing the woman (patentia muliebris)...Caesar might be a catcher, but he's still tops in Roman, boys. Where does the word subjugate come from? A defeated army had to crouch over to walk under a Roman yoke to mark their submission by metaphorically leaving open their backside to penetrative intercourse. Violence has always been the uneasy relation of sexual desire and when it pops up in American political life we care because it says a lot about a man or woman.

Pat Patterson on :

Interesting take on the ritual humiliation of captured enemy soldiers. Though the modern Roman historians, Michael Grant, Adrian Goldsworthy and William Harris argued that this subjugation had more to do with changing the legal status of the soldiers from man to slave. But the charges of homosexuality applying to Caesar rest mainly on the charges of his contemporary enemies, Cicero and Catullus. After Casear's death Suetonius claimed that the soldiers sang about Caesar but there are no contemporary accounts and later as one of the triumvirs Caesar denied the charge under oath. Later when Suetonius had repeated the charge that Octavian had been rewarded in Caesar's will for giving sexual favors. Once Octavian (Augustus) became First Man of Rome, Suetonius never repeated that charge again until older editions of his works were discovered in the Middle Ages and translated again. But in truth the Romans generally referred to homosexuals as Greeks as no true Roman(vir) would debase himself. And it remained a deadly political slur if not responded to and denied immediately. Sen. Craig may have been able to finesse the reports, the usual photo op with wife and children, but the sheer ineptness of his reponse almost made the original charges superfluous.

Anonymous on :

The Caesar reference is not from Suetonius but the man himself in his De Galiicis Bellis. Interesting take on the ritual humiliation of captured enemy soldiers. Though the modern Roman historians, Michael Grant, Adrian Goldsworthy and William Harris argued that this subjugation had more to do with changing the legal status of the soldiers from man to slave. That is the point exactly. You can have sex with a slave and not suffer indignity. They have no rights and in all eras of Roman history fair game for som luvin. Plato has some long sections on the nature of love and its furtherance with Slaves. William Harris been a long time since I heard that name. His war in republic Roman from 213 BC until 72 BC was a great reader oh back in the day. If my memory serves, didnt he go off the deep-end in the 70s with all that Vietnam is Rome's Spain et al. Best forward eva for a Classicists: Roman history, as Polybius correctedly noted, was governed by violent struggle (Bia)...

Pat Patterson on :

O/T-I doubt that the reference to The Gallic Wars is accurate as one of the chapters dealt with Caesar and his defense of virtus(manliness). The earliest published account still is Suetonius, Julius 49, which includes the chant and other references to homosexuality that Suetonius acknowledges came from Cicero. Slaves did indeed have rights, though few and far between, but the main brake in these kind of relationships was the ridicule that would come to the perpetrator and his family if such knowledge came out. Originally captured soldiers were brought to Rome and were led through either the Salerian or Appian gates into the city. By passing under the arch that broke the sacred circle of Romulus the soldiers were now under the legal and moral authority of the Republic. The use of the yoke came as the distances involved made marching more than a token number of captives for the triumph in the city impractical. But the Romans loved symbolism, declaring war on the Parthians by delivering the notice to a Parthian slave in Rome, so an ad hoc ceremony consisting of the spear yoke sufficed. Also since the pilum, spear, of the Late Republic was barely 6 ft. long then it would not be surprising when two were tied together in the shape of an inverted "V" that the captured soliders did indeed have to duck under them to proceed. Not everything in Rome operated to the abstracts of the Greek Plato, the Early Empire Roman Lucretius or the American scholar Joseph Campbell.

Pat Patterson on :

I'm a little confused in the reference to William Harris, "...go off the deep-end in the 70['s]..." as his most famous work, War and Imperialism in Republican Rome 327-70 BC, wasn't published until 1979. And he is currently a tenured faculty member at Columbia with many other books to his name and one semi-polite squabble with Ernst Badian in the Journal of Roman Studies.

ADMIN on :

Please note that by default the comments in this blog are threaded rather than linear, i.e. some of the latest responses to comments are not at the bottom, but in the middle of the thread right behind the comment they respond to. At the top of the comments section you have the option to change the view from threaded to linear (=chronological), which enables you to see the latest comments at the end of the thread.

Don S on :

I'm going to have to watch myself this year on my Xmas trip to the US, because I pass through the same airport where Senator Craig came to grief. Having read the account by Mark Steyn of what Sergeant Greenknees (his actual name is Dave Karsnia) of what the Minneapolis Police department regards as evidence of 'criminal intent' (aka a homosexual come on), I'm tempted to behave as Professor Derek Jackson of Oxford advised: "Never go to a public lavatory in London," warned Professor Jackson. "I always pee in the street. You may be fined a few pounds for committing a nuisance, but in a public lavatory you risk two years in prison because a policeman in plain clothes says you smiled at him." The wisdom of that seems irefutable - in Mineapolis at least...

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

"of what the Minneapolis Police department regards as evidence of 'criminal intent' (aka a homosexual come on)" Isn't that whole investigation and media coverage a sign of "America's gay fixation" ??? Isn't this whole debate about Craig making America look weak or at least ridiculous? (This is a reference to my comment at the Western Music in Tehran post)

Don S on :

Joerg, I regard that 'crime' as a crock and the media coverage as a crock on steroids, drummed up with the sole pupose of discrediting the Republican Party. While the Drocratic Party does seem to lack a coherent vision of how to run the country's affairs it simply is not true that they have no strategy for how to gain and hold power. They have done and will do it one vice bust at a time.....

David on :

That is completely ridiculous. There weren't Democrats screaming for Craig's removal. On the contrary, Chris Dodd urged that he stay and fight the charges. No, it was the Republican leadership that closed ranks to expell Craig for his "gayness" in record time, even as they embraced serial adulterers like Rudy Giuliani and Newt Gingrich. The message from Republicans is clear - cheating on your wife is fine and dandy, just be sure to do it with a chick!

Anonymous on :

Do Bush (responsible for Iraq) or Craig (responsible for tapping his feet in the wrong rhythm) have more support among Republican senators and voters?

Sonja on :

I think "America's gay fixation" is part of America's sex fixation in general.

Don S on :

Americans are clearly more obsessed with sex than Germans are - just look at the relative birthrates! ;)

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