Daily Archives: December 19, 2010

Tom

Shirley, the facts are not in dispute.

“WASHINGTON – In a historic vote for gay rights, the Senate agreed on Saturday to do away with the military’s 17-year ban on openly gay troops and sent President Barack Obama legislation to overturn the Clinton-era policy known as “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
Obama was expected to sign the bill into law next week, although changes to military policy probably wouldn’t take effect for at least several months. Under the bill, the president and his top military advisers must first certify that lifting the ban won’t hurt troops’ ability to fight. After that, the military would undergo a 60-day wait period.”

So they can rewrite the script for those drill instructors. After all you can’t keep calling them “FAGGOTS!!!!” when actual gays are present legally.

“Repeal would mean that, for the first time in American history, gays would be openly accepted by the armed forces and could acknowledge their sexual orientation without fear of being kicked out.”

It would mean the charade of universal heterosexual pretense is over. And the next time anybody asks for a “reach-around” with an “I’m not gay,” such protest becomes more meaningless than ever.

“More than 13,500 service members have been dismissed under the 1993 law.
“It is time to close this chapter in our history,” Obama said in a statement. “It is time to recognize that sacrifice, valor and integrity are no more defined by sexual orientation than they are by race or gender, religion or creed.” “

Indeed.

And whodathunk it all got started when Michelangelo outed this dude.

Pete

“The Senate voted 65-31 to pass the bill, with eight Republicans siding with 55 Democrats and two independents in favor of repeal. The House had passed an identical version of the bill, 250-175, earlier this week.
Supporters hailed the Senate vote as a major step forward for gay rights. Many activists hope that integrating openly gay troops within the military will lead to greater acceptance in the civilian world, as it did for blacks after President Harry Truman’s 1948 executive order on equal treatment regardless of race in the military.
“The military remains the great equalizer,” said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass. “Just like we did after President Truman desegregated the military, we’ll someday look back and wonder what took Washington so long to fix it.”
Sen. John McCain, Obama’s GOP rival in 2008, led the opposition. Speaking on the Senate floor minutes before a crucial test vote, the Arizona Republican acknowledged he couldn’t stop the bill. He blamed elite liberals with no military experience for pushing their social agenda on troops during wartime.
“They will do what is asked of them,” McCain said of service members. “But don’t think there won’t be a great cost.” “

Can I get an “Oh Prunella!” ?

“How the military will implement a change in policy, and how long that will take remains unclear. Senior Pentagon officials have said the new policy could be rolled out incrementally, service by service or unit by unit.
In a statement issued immediately after the vote, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he will begin the certification process immediately. But any change in policy won’t come until after careful consultation with military service chiefs and combatant commanders, he said.
“Successful implementation will depend upon strong leadership, a clear message and proactive education throughout the force,” he said.”

Plus quiche for lunch and “Remedial Sondheim” classes.

“Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he welcomes the change.
“No longer will able men and women who want to serve and sacrifice for their country have to sacrifice their integrity to do so,” he said. “We will be a better military as a result.”
Sen. Carl Levin, a chief proponent of repeal, said he has received a commitment from the administration that it won’t drag its heels.
“We hope it will be sooner, rather than later,” he said.
The fate of “don’t ask, don’t tell” had been far from certain earlier this year when Obama called for its repeal in his State of the Union address. Despite strong backing from liberals in Congress, Republicans and conservative Democrats remained skeptical that lifting the ban could be done quickly without hurting combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In February, provided the momentum Obama needed by telling a packed Senate hearing room that he felt the law was unjust. As chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mullen became the first senior active-duty officer in the military to suggest that gays could serve openly without affecting military effectiveness.
“No matter how I look at the issue,” Mullen said, “I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens.”
With Mullen’s backing, Gates ordered a yearlong study on the impact, including a survey of troops and their families.
The study, released Nov. 30, found that two-thirds of service members didn’t think changing the law would have much of an effect. But of those who did predict negative consequences, most were assigned to combat arms units. The statistic became ammunition for opponents of repeal, including the service chiefs of the Army and Marine Corps.
“I don’t want to lose any Marines to the distraction,” Gen. James Amos, head of the Marine Corps, told reporters. “I don’t want to have any Marines that I’m visiting at Bethesda (Naval Medical Center) with no legs be the result of any type of distraction.” “

Oh you’ve made that exceptionally clear sir.

Amos

Hubba-Hubba!

“Mullen and Gates counter that the fear of disruption is overblown and could be addressed through training. They note the Pentagon’s finding that 92 percent of troops who believe they have served with a gay person saw no effect on their units’ morale or effectiveness.
But even with backing from Gates and Mullen, the bill appeared all but dead this month when Senate Republicans united against it on procedural grounds. In last-minute wrangling, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was able to revive the bill during the rare Saturday session with just days to go before the lame-duck session was to end.
The Republicans who voted for repeal said the Pentagon study on gays and assurances from senior military leaders played a crucial role.
“The repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ will be implemented in a common sense way,” said Ohio Republican Sen. George Voinovich. “Our military leaders have assured Congress that our troops will engage in training and address relevant issues before instituting this policy change.”
Advocacy groups were jubilant following the Senate’s initial test vote that passed 63-33 and set up final passage. The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network called the issue the “defining civil rights initiative of this decade.” Supporters of repeal filled the visitor seats overlooking the Senate floor, ready to protest had the bill failed.
“This has been a long-fought battle, but this failed and discriminatory law will now be history,” said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign.”

Ah but we’ll always have cocktail parties, won’t we Joe?

And speaking of cocktails, Rachel sez.

She’s quite right. This well may win him part of the “base” back.

The part that writes checks.

On the other hand, I don’t want to rain on everyone’s parade, but —

DADT

So, as they used to say in the late 40’s, “Where do we go from here?”

“In an era when gay Americans have seen stunning progress and many setbacks in the quest for equality under the law, many believe 2010 will go down in history as a watershed that will lead inexorably to more legal rights.”

Quite true. However —

” A bright spot for social conservatives has been the failure of Congress to pass the Employee Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit civilian, nonreligious employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
“Having failed to do that in this Congress, its chances in the new Congress will be even less,” Sprigg said.
But gay rights advocates are encouraged.
“This is the first year in which we saw not one, but two polls showing the majority of Americans nationwide support the freedom to marry,” Wolfson said. Fifteen years ago, little more than a quarter of Americans supported same-sex marriage.
Much of the shift reflects generational differences.
“Anyone born after 1980 has a large number of positive cultural references out there,” said R. Clarke Cooper, 38, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans and an Iraq combat veteran.
For him, the generational divide was exemplified in a meeting with an older, conservative House member: “He sat down, shut his door and said, ‘When did you become a gay, Clarke?’ I laughed and said, ‘Well, Congressman, I have always been that way.’ He said, ‘You don’t look it.’”
Chad Griffin, president of the board of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, said he would celebrate the demise of “don’t ask, don’t tell” — for five minutes.
“Gay and lesbian people are the last class of people in America that are actively discriminated against, overtly and directly in our state and federal laws, and a tremendous amount of progress was made in 2010 in knocking down that overt discrimination,” Griffin said. “Having said that, there is a long ways to go.” “

True. And with that in mind it’s advisble to take a gander at the very Heart of Darkness, the Roman Catholic version of CommentaryFirst Things , in which one finds “In Defense of Disgust” by one Joe Carter.

From the title alone I’m sure you can guess what’s on Carter’s mind.

“Whereas core-disgusts guard against contamination of the body, socio-moral disgusts guard against contamination of the soul. Where one protects the health of the human body, the other protects human dignity. Prior to the germ theory of disease, scientific knowledge was inadequate to explain why certain forms of “contamination” should disgust us. This pre-rational wisdom, though, allowed us to survive as a species until our knowledge caught up with our intuitions.”

Fairly low-key as these things go. It’s in the comments where the gloves are taken off.

“Christopher Benson says:
In my opinion, Mr. Carter’s treatment of disgust does not adequately distinguish between what philosopher Martha Nussbaum calls DISGUST AT PRIMARY OBJECTS (“feces, blood, semen, urine, nasal discharges, menstrual discharges, corpses, decaying meat, and animal/insects that are oozy, slimy, or smelly”), which she says is “usually a useful heuristic, steering us away from the dangerous when there is no time for detailed inquiry,” and PROJECTIVE DISGUST that is “shaped by social norms, as societies teach their members to identify alleged contaminants in their midst,” which she says rarely withstands rational scrutiny.

“Projective disgust (involving projection of disgust properties onto a group or individual) takes many forms,” she claims, “but it always involves linking the allegedly disgusting group or person somehow with the primary objects of disgust.” Jews were regarded as slimy and ugly by German anti-Semites, African-Americans as smelly by whites, and homosexuals as diseased and deadly by heterosexuals. In all cases, “projective disgust involves a double fantasy: a fantasy of the dirtiness of the other and a fantasy of one’s own purity. Both sides of the projection involve false belief, and both conduce to a politics of hierarchy.” In conclusion, projective disgust should never be described as “the wisdom of repugnance” (Leon Kass), but named for what it is: learned prejudice, if not hatred.”

Joe Carter says:
@Christopher Benson ***In my opinion, Mr. Carter’s treatment of disgust does not adequately distinguish between what philosopher Martha Nussbaum***

The reason I don’t make such a distinction is because it is a mainly a strawman that was created by Nussbaum. No serious person who argues for the wisdom of repugnance is saying that we should stigmatize entire groups of people.

Yet she tries to poison the well by associating the emotion of disgust with bigots and Nazis. That sort of thing (should be) beneath such an esteemed public intellectual. Besides, Klansmen and German anti-Semites also used reason to form their prejudice. Should we follow her argumentum ad consequentiam and discard reason too since it can lead to bad consequences?

(I’ve never been impressed by Nussbaum’s writings on disgust. She commits a slew of logical fallacies in an attempt to justify the liberal position that she considers self-evident.)

Nussbaum also seems to embrace a form of disembodied dualism. She doesn’t seem to grasp the concept that the disgust with homosexual sex is directed at primary objects (e.g., feces, blood, semen). As much as she’d like to pretend that gay sex is some Platonic action that occurs in a sterile clean-room between disembodied souls, it is an action done by real humans with real bodies.

That does not mean, however, that the disgust at the behavior is turned into a projective disgust at the people involved. Being disgusted by behavior does not mean that the people involved are themselves intrinsically disgusting. I can be disgusted by the behavior of my daughter without devaluing her or considering her unworthy of human dignity.”

We know the drill dear: “Hate the Sin, Love the Sinner.”

Never very convincing — as some of your readers are quick to note.

“Tristian says:
You seem to determined to be unfair to Nussbaum.

Her point with Nazis and the like is to show, with a real world example, how easy it is to hijack this emotion and put it in the service of pernicious practices directed at groups. She is not accusing people like Kass of trying to stigmatize groups of people. She’s pointing out that such stigmatization often exploits a cultivated disgust. Further, she argues–and this is surely true–it is easy enough to slide from disgust at behavior to disgust for the group identified with the behavior, however well intentioned we are.

Disgust at homosexual sex is not directed at “feces, blood, semen”; it’s directed at homosexual sex. Many people find images of two men doing more than kissing disgusting; conversely, heterosexual anal sex is a popular genre of pornography. It’s that two men are doing it that gets to people. As Nussbaum notes in what is actually a very frank discussion of these matters, lesbian sex often does not provoke disgust in same people find male/male sex disgusting.

Christopher Benson says:
@Joe Carter: ***[Nussbaum] doesn’t seem to grasp the concept that the disgust with homosexual sex is directed at primary objects (e.g., feces, blood, semen). As much as she’d like to pretend that gay sex is some Platonic action that occurs in a sterile clean-room between disembodied souls, it is an action done by real humans with real bodies.***

Which Martha Nussbaum are you reading? The passage below from DISGUST TO HUMANITY is contrary to your statement above:

What inspires disgust is typically the male thought of the male homosexual, imagined as anally penetrable. The idea of semen and feces mixing together inside the body of a male is one of the most disgusting ideas imaginable – to males, for whom the idea of nonpenetrability is a sacred boundary against stickiness, ooze, and death. (The idea of contamination-by-penetration is probably one central idea, but the more general idea is that of the male body as defiled by the contamination of bodily fluids: and proximity to a contaminated body is itself contaminating.) The presence of a homosexual male in the neighborhood inspires the thought that one might lose one’s own clean safeness, one might become the receptacle for those animal products. Thus disgust is ultimately disgust at one’s own imagined penetrability and ooziness, and this is why the male homosexual is both regarded with disgust and viewed with fear as a predator who might make everyone else disgusting. The very look of such a male is itself contaminating – as we see in the extraordinary debates about showers in the military. The gaze of a homosexual male is seen as contaminating because it says, “You can be penetrated.” And this means that you can be made of feces and semen and blood, not clean plastic flesh. Thus it is not surprising that (to males) the thought of homosexual sex is even more disgusting than the thought of reproductive sex, despite the strong connection of the latter with mortality and the cycle of the generations. For in heterosexual sex the male imagines that not he but a lesser being (the woman, seen as animal) receives the pollution of bodily fluids; in imagining homosexual sex he is forced to imagine that he himself might be so polluted. This inspires the stronger need for boundary drawing (qtd. FROM DISGUST TO HUMANITY).

Joe Carter says:
@Christopher Benson *** Calling projective disgust a straw man doesn’t make it so. There are historical examples of projective disgust, as in the cases of Jews and African-Americans.***

Of course there are examples she could find of digust being used for nefarious purposes. The same, though, is true for reason. No one has yet answered, though, why we shouldn’t also throw out reason since it can be used to justify prejudices and atrocities.

***Serious question: How can you be sure that the wisdom of repugnance doesn’t slip into the normative irrationality of projective disgust, which is always connected to stigma and hierarchy?***

You can’t. But that is true for every form of knowledge. I don’t understand why disgust is treated differently than other forms of knowing.

***In FROM DISGUST TO HUMANITY, Nussbaum shows how some figures in the Religious Right have used projective disgust against homosexuals to advance their political agenda.***
I don’t have a copy handy. Do you remember who she references? Are they key figures in the Religious Right or marginal people no one has every heard of?

***The deployment of disgust in the public square only reinforces James Davison Hunter’s observation that some Christians have become “functional Nietzscheans,” willing to use whatever means necessary to exercise their will to power.***

I don’t see how that follows. Its seems bizarre that pointing out disgusting behavior is considered ” functionally Nietzschean.” Since the Bible finds certain things disgusting should we never refer to the Bible as a source?

***Orthodox Christians have at their disposal superior arguments in the debate on same-sex marriage, and ought to be using those instead of disgust.***

I don’t understand why it is necessary to make it an either-or proposition. We can use the superior arguments at our disposal *and* use legitimate concerns that are rooted in disgust.

In fact, one of the reasons why homosexual sex has become so tolerated by the younger generation is because we’ve “disembodied” it from the actual behavior. Back in the 1970s, gay sex was talked about less but understood more. People knew what was involved and were rightly disgusted by it. Sure, some people used it to stigmatize homosexuals. But many Christians understood that there was simply no way that you could love your neighbor and condone their engaging in such behavior.”

Ah yes, the 70’s! That Demon Decade!

“Sadly, the behavior hasn’t changed all that much but we’ve hidden the aspects of it that triggered revulsion (or adopted them in heterosexual culture). I’m sure that many people (especially younger folks) think that they are being compassionate and tolerant by trying to gloss over the seamier side of homosexuality. But the result has been tragic for both the gay community and the culture at large.”

It’s Neil and David’s fault!

@Tristian ***You seem to determined to be unfair to Nussbaum. Her point with Nazis and the like is to show, with a real world example, how easy it is to hijack this emotion and put it in the service of pernicious practices directed at groups.***

I don’t think it is unfair to Nussbaum to point out her obvious inconsistencies. For example, she thinks anger has a place but not disgust. But disgust is rarely a terminal emotion. It tends to trigger other emotions, ranging from empathy to anger. The problem with the Nazis is not only that they were “disgusted” by the Jews, but that they turned it into anger that led to the Holocaust. Nussbaum glosses over that fact because it undercuts her agenda.

***She is not accusing people like Kass of trying to stigmatize groups of people. ***

Who does she think is the most prominent person making the argument for the wisdom of repugnance if not Kass? Are her arguments not applicable to him also? She knows she can’t take him on head-on so she attempts to poison the well by using the tired old The Nazis Did It Too!

*** Further, she argues–and this is surely true–it is easy enough to slide from disgust at behavior to disgust for the group identified with the behavior, however well intentioned we are. ***

Absolutely. But just because something can lead to bad consequences does not mean that we must therefore stop doing it. I can get killed driving my car. Should we therefore ban driving?
***Disgust at homosexual sex is not directed at “feces, blood, semen”; it’s directed at homosexual sex.***

What do you think homosexual sex *involves*? I know that’s its popular nowadays to “clean it up” and portray homosexual sex as *just like* heterosexual sex. It is not.

Now admittedly some younger people might not understand what goes on. But I suspect those of us old enough to remember tales of what occurs in bathhouses and
highway rest stops (e.g., the tearoom trade) will have a different view.

***Many people find images of two men doing more than kissing disgusting; conversely, heterosexual anal sex is a popular genre of pornography.***

Let me push back on that last part. While the act you describe is being engaged by heterosexuals, I would hesitate to call it a heterosexual act. I’m not sure how to put it delicately enough on a family site like FT so I’ll just say that men who are into that sort of think likely have unresolved homosexual tendencies.

Also, that genre did not become popular until *after* the normalization of homosexuality. Since many homosexul behaviors are about power, domination, and objectification rather than about sex, it isn’t surprising that many so-called heterosexual males would adopt it.

***As Nussbaum notes in what is actually a very frank discussion of these matters, lesbian sex often does not provoke disgust in same people find male/male sex disgusting. ***

Exactly, which undercuts Nussbaum’s argument. Gay sex often involved blood, feces, and semen. Lesbian sex does not. If it were solely about a “projective disgust” of homosexual people, rather than practices, then we should expect to find lesbianism just as repugnant.
12.16.2010 | 12:33pm
Joe says:
Personally, I am not attracted to the gory details of male homosexuality. However …

Hetero sex involves 1) semen. (Which many women do not seem to mind too much). And even 2) blood; menstrual. And 3) changing your subsequent babies’ diapers, involves feces.
So it probably it would not be JUST these substances, that are the real cause of revulsion. Indeed, some might say, they all but cancel out as a constant, when reviewing hetero vs. male homosexual sex.

So what’s left? The cultural/ideological element.

Joe Carter says:
@Joe ***Hetero sex involves 1) semen. (Which many women do not seem to mind too much). And even 2) blood; menstrual. And 3) changing your subsequent babies’ diapers, involves feces.***

Claiming that part of heterosexual sex includes changing dirty diapers is a considerable stretch. And I suspect that most people avoid intercourse during menstruation.

The obvious distinction, of course, is that homosexual sex often includes all three elements at the same time. That is why most people find it repugnant.”

And that’s not to mention the Show Tunes!

Tristian says:
Joe, you are saying things about Nussbaum that are simply untrue. She does confront Kass directly and in detail, and her argument is nothing like what you suggest. She points out, quite rightly, that disgust has been used to stigmatize groups unjustly. This is not to suggest Kass is doing this, but rather to put him in a dilemma. Assuming it was wrong to cultivate disgust towards “Jews, or mixed race couples, or the novels of James Joyce or D. H. Lawrence” (her examples) the question is on what grounds to we say so. The problem is that the very fact that we have an answer (such disgust was irrational and morally unwarranted) points to a) the moral and epistemic unreliability of disgust and b) the fact that we have a readily available and superior standard.

As to why we shouldn’t reject rational inquiry because it’s not infallible either, well the answer is obvious. First we can’t, and secondly we don’t need to as reason is its own corrective. Neither is true of disgust.

Lastly, I seriously doubt that men and women need to learn about anal sex from gays (c.f. Lawrence). In any case, gay men do more than have anal sex; as mentioned, they kiss, something that is enough to elicit disgust in many people. That lesbian sex is less stigmatized (as long as the women in question conform to standard conceptions of female beauty) shows only that male homosexuality is the most problematic for most people. We tend to be much less comfortable with any physical affection between men.”

Take it away Louis and Gregoire!