10/06/2006

GOP Bigotry That Backfired - washingtonpost.com

The Republican Party has gone to such lengths to demonize homosexuality that it must pain the leadership to reveal that such a thing as a gay Republican congressman could even exist. The party has stigmatized gay people as "them," not "us" -- as a class of people whose "lifestyle" is unsavory and whose committed relationships must never be recognized, lest the republic instantly crumble to dust.

There had been warning signs about Foley's enthusiastic interest in young male pages for years, and the inaction of House leaders is just about impossible to explain -- either they ignored the situation, which would be an act of stunning cynicism, or they genuinely didn't know about it, which would suggest woeful incompetence. Not an attractive choice of stories to tell for a party that preaches so much about moral standards and personal responsibility.

Still, I don't think hypocrisy alone is enough to explain why the Foley mess is such a big deal. I think it goes deeper.

One of the central tenets of anti-homosexual doctrine is the notion of "recruitment" -- that adult gay people lure young people into homosexuality as a way of increasing their numbers...

This is complete bunk, of course (but) ... There are people, though, who are not consciously bigoted against gay people but who find homosexuality difficult to comprehend. For some people who have no base of knowledge about gayness -- and, often, whose pastors routinely denounce homosexuality from the pulpit as a sin -- the basic idea of recruitment, without all the paranoid conspiracy trappings, seems to explain the inexplicable.

In any event, the recruitment myth helps explain why social conservatives, who make up perhaps the most loyal and energetic segment of the Republican Party's base, are so up in arms. And that outrage, in turn, helps explain why the party has been so frantic all week, so uncharacteristically slow to come up with a game plan for responding to the scandal. Social conservatives were already grumbling that the Republicans talk a good game but never get around to addressing their core issues. Now comes this.

In pre-feminist times, people thought of young girls as particularly delicate and vulnerable. We worried about their being compromised or corrupted by older men. It's fascinating that much of today's America seems to be more viscerally worried about young boys.


GOP Bigotry That Backfired - washingtonpost.com

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