Right and Left … or Charity and Venom

Via James Taranto at OpinionJournal

That said, 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.

Defenders of “outing” politicians argue that the cruelty is not gratuitous–that politicians are in a position of power, which they are using to harm gay citizens, and therefore their private lives are fair game. But if the politician in question is a mere legislator, his power consists only of the ability to cast one vote among hundreds. The actual amount of harm that he is able to inflict is minimal.

Anyway, most lawmakers who oppose gay-rights measures are not homosexual. To single out those who are for special vituperation is itself a form of antigay prejudice. Liberals pride themselves on their compassion, but often are unwilling to extend it to those with whose politics they disagree.

Via hilzoy, called by blog neighbor one of the “best progressive bloggers”

I have a certain sympathy for closeted gay men and lesbians. I think that being so deeply ashamed of a part of yourself that’s so fundamental, and that you can do nothing to change, must be close to unbearable; and the knowledge that coming clean would involve not only admitting that you’re gay, but also that you have lied for years to people you care about, and who trust you, would only make it that much worse. But my sympathy vanishes when it comes to people who support amending the Constitution to ban gay marriage, as Craig did. There are limits to what you get to do to protect your own secrets, and being willing to permanently destroy gay men and lesbians’ chances to marry the people they love, and with whom they have found happiness, is way, way outside them.

Covering or badging? “My sympathy vanishes” => “anti-gay prejudice” masked as the opposite. Or at the very least a failure of charity.

More of the same, from the left via friend and blog-neighbor Jewish Atheist:

Ted Haggard, disgraced hypocritical self-hating homophobe, who will receive $138,000 this year from the settlement with his church, [emphasis mine]

who, like the Shadow, apparently knows what lurks in the heart of Mr Haggard (and as Mr Taranto notes, misses the point ala “hypocrisy”).

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10 comments

  1. Jewish Atheist… who, like the Shadow, apparently knows what lurks in the heart of Mr Haggard

    The term “self-hating” is confusing and I shouldn’t have used it. To me, the phrase “self-hating Jew” is an idiom for “a Jew who hates Jews.” Perhaps people who are unfamiliar with the former phrase misunderstand my use of the latter.

    But there is nothing hypocritical about someone who is homosexual, believes homosexuality is wrong, and keeps his homosexuality under wraps.

    Talk about splitting hairs. But let’s be as charitable as possible. Let’s assume that the man in question believes homosexuality is wrong and fights his gay orientation with all his might but succumbs a few times to gay, adulterous sex, with either strangers in mens’ rooms or with a prostitute. You’re right that it wouldn’t be, technically, hypocritical, for him to oppose civil unions.

    You still have a lying and adulterous gay or bisexual man who uses his power to curtail the rights of gay people who are struggling within the legal system to be permitted to have the kinds of marriages the Republican closet cases most likely only pretend to have with their opposite-sex spouses.

  2. Anyway, most lawmakers who oppose gay-rights measures are not homosexual. To single out those who are for special vituperation is itself a form of antigay prejudice.

    No, it’s not.

    To single these people out is simply to identify those anti-gay politicians who most certainly ought to have known better, because the evidence for the liberal claim about homosexuality has been with them every day of their adult lives.

    These people are more morally guilty than the heterosexual opponents of gay rights, because closeted gays have more evidence indicating what they were doing was wrong.

    Or think about this, Mark: Are you seriously saying that a man who seeks out anonymous sex in public restrooms is morally better than a man (like myself) who settles down with his partner and conducts his intimate life in private?

  3. Mark says:

    Jason,
    Are you trying to say you support outing such politicians to educate them?

    You, I think, know I don’t support a marriage amendment. I think such things should be settled at the local level. And no, I don’t think anyone who practices anonymous sex (of any sort, same sex or not, public or private) is morally better than are person who settles down with a partner (of any sort).

    But I also agree that outing politicians is an uncharitable act, or as Mr Taranto suggests anti-gay. I understand that politics is a “game played for keeps” and that there can be reasons that people do hard, hateful things to others. I just think that an admission that the act of outing is uncharitable and cruel, and honestly anti-gay is also true.

    Badging/covering is a personal choice, and one which when forced upon oneself externally is an evil done.

  4. […] I took note of some remarks by James Taranto to highlight charity vs venom in responses of right to left. Blog […]

  5. […] the choice by the media choice to “out”  is the real anti-gay message (see here and here) and the phone booth analogy fails. The GOP wants to hold its leadership to a high […]

  6. You know, I’ve been thinking about this and I think we’ve been missing the point here.

    This is the flaw in Taranto’s piece:

    If he has furtive encounters in men’s rooms, that is an act of weakness, not hypocrisy.

    How is this an “act of weakness?” He’s a grown man who voluntarily solicited anonymous gay sex in a public restroom. If we’re going to call that an act of weakness, than we can call any misdeed an act of weakness. In fact, unless you’re going to concoct some sort of mental illness theory, hypocrisy is exactly what it is. He’s a man who publicly decries a certain kind of behavior while in public chooses to do same.

    As an analogy, suppose a high-powered officer at the DEA had a little cocaine problem. He believed that it’s wrong and he tried not to do it, but every now and then, he gives in. In his public life, he has advocated for stricter penalties for cocaine users and fought against decriminalization. Would you call him a hypocrite? I certainly would.

  7. Mark says:

    JA,
    Are you really saying a person cannot attempt to hold oneself to a higher standard than one reaches? That if I believe a thing is wrong, but still succumb to temptation occasionally (of my own free will mind you), one is a hypocrite.

  8. Are you really saying a person cannot attempt to hold oneself to a higher standard than one reaches?

    The hypocrisy comes in when one holds others to a higher standard than he reaches.

  9. Mark says:

    JA,
    That’s a sticky point, for certainly it’s OK to exhort others to hold to the same ideals to which you aspire and don’t reach.

  10. 1) In what way was Craig aspiring to those ideals?

    2) There’s a difference between exhorting and voting for laws that make things difficult for gay people.