Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Schadenfreude & Sympathy

As the Larry Craig debacle continues to play out, I am struck by several emotions.

First, schadenfreude. I have to admit there is part of me that loves seeing this man who has spent a career fighting against equality for gay people being unceremoniously outed by his own actions. This man has a zero rating from every gay rights group, and has been a long time friend of the radical right. He's not only a self-hating gay man, he's on the wrong side of environmental and civil rights issues, as well. He seems to have lived his entire life in the 1950s, where forests were meant for clearcutting and queers are for bashing. He has approached his sexuality in a very 1950s, Roy Cohn sort of way: closet yourself deeply and seize as much power as possible in order to protect yourself and persecute others as a way of reinforcing your own degraded self-worth. The closet is a poisonous place. The air in there is foul and thin, leading many to employ highly-questionable survival techniques.

Which leads me to my second emotion, sympathy. I feel very badly for Larry Craig that he has had to live a secret life in order to achieve his personal goals. He knew when he first felt the pangs of same-sex attraction that they would be inconsistent with a public life -- at least in the early 70s, when he first ran for office. Things have changed over the years, but once Craig got on the married with kids political train, getting off would be very difficult, and most likely career-ending. This is not to excuse his reprehensible behavior in fighting against equal civil rights for gay people, but at least I can understand his desire to hide. Being gay in this country isn't easy. As the religious right and conservatives like Mitt Romney dump Craig overboard faster than you can say "let he who is without sin cast the first stone," the gay community ought to step up and tell Craig, "You are welcome with us -- come and enjoy the rest of your life. Cast off that old shell and remake yourself into a better, more honest, happier person."

The third emotion I'm feeling is anger at the justice system. Exactly what did Craig do wrong? He was cruising for a hook-up. He wasn't engaging in sex. He wasn't even pursuing someone who was rebuffing his advances. Read the police report and you'll see that the arresting officer encouraged Craig in his actions, first by not saying "excuse me" when Craig was peering into the stall where the cop was sitting, and second by tapping back when Craig tapped his foot while in the adjacent stall.

The only crime here is Craig continued dissembling and denying his true nature.

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