• Home
  • About
  • Guest Post

    Eeeeeven told the golden daaaaaffodilllll

    Posted by Sean at 23:06, April 16th, 2008

    Eric doesn’t like being labeled, and not for the usual tiresome I’m-too-free-spirited-to-be-defined reasons:

    While I can say what I think about most things, experience shows that adopting any label invites conformity to it. (Especially criticism from those who claim it.)

    Once you say what you are, some a**hole will come along and say that you’re not, because he is.

    Similarly, once you say what you aren’t, some a**hole will come along and say that you are, because he isn’t.

    It’s convenient that (small-l) “libertarian” suits me fine, because it tends not to set people off. I like “classical liberal,” but (today’s left) liberals often seem to think you’re trying to dress up as one of them while being a closet fascist. (“Yeah, you’re a liberal in the sense that, like, Mill would have meant it,” someone sneered at me once.) And while my positions on many issues align with what we now consider “conservatism,” I’m not fundamentally a conservative. (Well, I am when some gross guy is hitting on me. Then I identify myself as a “conservative” in a clear, forceful tone and mention that I’m a registered Republican. You movement conservatives don’t mind the fib, do you? It’s to the end of preventing casual homosexual intercourse, after all. And I really am a registered Republican.)

    The only problem with calling yourself a libertarian–besides, as Eric alludes to, being invited by supposed fellow travelers to engage in poker-faced debates over the most inane hypothetical situations imaginable–is that a lot of people don’t understand that it doesn’t mean “libertine” or “anarchist.” I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to explain that no, I don’t think all governing bodies should be dissolved so we can frolic naked in meadows all day and subsist on game and wild berries. In general, though, even those who conclude I’m just a closet right-winger seem to give me a fair hearing without rancor.


    My buddy grabbed my arm the other night and asked whether I’d seen Julie Burchill’s inevitable column about the new Madonna album yet. He summarized it as “If I spent four hours a day at the gym, I’d look better than that bitch!” Not too far wide of the mark:

    Madonna is everywhere, reigning over the just and the unjust, friend and foe alike; loving her or hating her is as futile as loving or hating the rain, wind or snow – it’ll happen anyway.

    If Madonna didn’t devote her life to harassing us, what would she do with herself all day? Remember, this is a woman with so much time on her hands that she can spend four hours a day working out. I know I’m fat, but I have to say that if I spent four hours a day working out, I’d want to look a damn sight hotter than Madonna does; those vile veiny hands, that sad stringy neck – yuck!

    Madonna has the sort of body that tends toward the plump/luscious side; you can see it in her early videos. Endomorphs like that who diet and exercise themselves into having no body fat often end up with skin that has a weird stretched look.

    The rest of the column is the exact same thing Burchill writes whenever a Madonna record comes out, and it’s as funny (and bawdy) as usual.


    Surprise! Hillary Clinton once said something nasty behind closed doors about white, working-class Southerners (via Ann Althouse):

    In January 1995, as the Clintons were licking their wounds from the 1994 congressional elections, a debate emerged at a retreat at Camp David. Should the administration make overtures to working class white southerners who had all but forsaken the Democratic Party? The then-first lady took a less than inclusive approach.

    “Screw ’em,” she told her husband. “You don’t owe them a thing, Bill. They’re doing nothing for you; you don’t have to do anything for them.”

    And since some things never change, Clinton’s spokesman responds with contempt when asked about the authenticity of the quotation:

    A spokesperson for Clinton said the quote was taken out of context and did not reflect her true political philosophy. “This quote differs from the recollection of others who were in the room at the time this comment was allegedly made,” said Jay Carson. “To be clear, that’s not how she felt then and it’s not how she feels now, and the proof is in how she has lived her life, the work she has done and the policies she has pushed and pursued over the last 35 years.”

    Asked to produce a witness who would say that Clinton had been misquoted, Carson wrote: “So, you’ve got two guys we’ve barely heard of remembering a verbatim quote from 13 years ago?… Sounds totally and completely reliable.”

    Remember the Clinton administration, when we were subjected to that kind of smear-and-spin routine almost daily when something or other threatened to blow up in the happy couple’s faces? We could be mere months from going back to it!

    Eric also noticed this story. (He didn’t say much about it, but, then, he had to go to New Jersey, so he had plenty of pain to contend with already.)


    I don’t think this post has enough parentheses.

    Pack it and move it

    Posted by Sean at 08:21, April 13th, 2008

    Does anyone out there know where my evening shirt is?

    Well, what good are you?

    I thought I always kept it inside the dinner jacket on the same hanger, but unless it’s invisible, it’s not there. I hope I didn’t leave it in Atsushi’s closet when I moved out.


    How is it possible for one man to have so many vases? If there were ever any doubt that I’m gay, it’s been dispelled by the four boxes of decorative housewares I’ve just packed. Mind you, they don’t include anything you could eat off or store something in.


    It’s time for me to break a pair of sunglasses. Or maybe lose them. I can feel it. The weather keeps going from sunny to cloudy, so you need them sometimes and then not others. They end up in a pocket or dangling by one slender arm from my bag. I seem to have a thing for dropping them in cabs or putting them down on tables and putting something heavy on them. I school myself resolutely to keep them in their little crush-proof cases, but it never works.


    I’m not entirely sure why, but I have The Descent in the DVD player, and I’m finding it oddly comforting to have it playing while I’m packing. Given the increasing claustrophic-cave-like-ness of my apartment, you’d think it would make me afraid of confronting a throat-biting humanoid in the bathroom or something, but I actually find it rather cozy. And I used to be of those people who were completely unable to handle horror movies. (When I was growing up, all the talk of demons waiting to getcha we got in church affected my over-active imagination a good deal.)

    BTW, if you like suspense and have a strong stomach, The Descent is a great little movie. It’s bloody and seriously scary at times, but you don’t leave it feeling cynically worked over. It’s thoughtful and raises interesting questions without being pretentious, and the cave scenes are very persuasive even though they were all shot on a soundstage. I love hypertrophied old Hollywood glamour-orgy productions as much as the next gay man, but there’s a lot to be said for a movie made by people who relied on ingenuity, skill, and conviction rather than piles of money.

    Abandoned luncheonette

    Posted by Sean at 02:34, April 12th, 2008

    [Added later: Or maybe I should have gone with “Your Imagination” as a title. “Love, Need, and Want You”? Maybe “When Will I See You Again”? “If You Don’t Know Me by Now”? “Hate on Me”?]

    I have a lot of affection for my home state of Pennsylvania. I grew up outside Allentown; my parents had the same house from the time they got married until I’d finished college. Then they moved four miles down the road, where they still are. My father was a plant worker for Bethlehem Steel while I was growing up, so there were a fair share of layoffs and lean years during the ’80s.

    Even though Barack Obama has been trounced already for his remarks about Pennsylvania, let me just add a bit. (Note to Tom Maguire about that headline, though: John Mellencamp is from Indiana. Keep your troglodyte-populated states straight! Then, too, I should be grateful he didn’t quote “Allentown” by Illybay Oeljay, which I have something of a hangup about.) This is where the audio is, apparently, and the key paragraphs are these:

    You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not.

    And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

    I’m not sure it’s possible to do justice to how retarded that is–and I say that as an overeducated, corporate, atheist, homosexual urbanite who’s spent the last dozen years in Tokyo and is now happily returning to New York.

    The anti-trade part I do agree with. I’ve had (mild) arguments with my father over protectionism for the steel industry, which simply gives the shaft to American workers and their families further down the supply chain.

    The rest is ridiculous.

    As far as guns go, my father wasn’t big on hunting, but my uncles and cousins went regularly, and I don’t think they were taking out their job-related frustrations on the deer. Sport hunting is just one of those practices that the working class has in common with the aristocracy, and there are plenty of counties in the northern part of PA that are ideal for it.

    Furthermore, most rural areas are by definition somewhat less densely populated than Hyde Park, Chicago. My mother has two handguns and takes shooting lessons because my father works nights quite a bit. If someone broke into the house, she’d have to fend for herself until the township police arrived. That’s been a fact of life since long before manufacturing jobs started leaving.

    I also think it highly likely that commonwealth history has something to do with attitudes toward guns. In Pennsylvania, at least in eastern Pennsylvania, you spend your childhood taking field trips to Valley Forge and Gettysburg. In the borough where I grew up, there’s a preserved cabin, now nearly three hundred years old, called the Shelter House, where visiting schoolkids are lectured by their elders about the fragile existence of the first settlers as they carved out new lives in unknown territory. The idea that life can be harsh and that you may have to defend yourself violently is not alien to anyone who stays awake through state history classes.

    By the way, you noticed that my hometown is called Emmaus, right? My parents now live in Old Zionsville. The second-largest city in the Lehigh Valley is Bethlehem. There’s a Bethel in Berks County. Down toward Lancaster there’s a town called Smyrna. There’s also this little hamlet in Pennsylvania called Philadelphia–have you heard of it?–the name of which is Greek for “city of brotherly love” and is a place mentioned in the Book of Revelation.

    That’s, you know, in the Bible. Seekers of religious freedom were numerous among Pennsylvania settlers. William Penn was a Quaker whose beliefs had riled his father and the king. In Pennsylvania Dutch country, we’re famous for having Amish communities. Lots of old Moravian and Lutheran churches, too. A combination of religious fervor and tolerance is movingly woven into Pennsylvania history from day one, and people in small towns have been going to church regularly since long before the decline of the rust belt economy. The insinuation that people just kind of started turning to religion to give them a sense of shallow comfort when the layoffs started is deeply offensive. I rejected the theology I’d been brought up with years ago as an accurate explanation for the origins of the universe, but it’s just plain low to take cheap shots against the faithful.

    Things like “antipathy toward people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment” are so vague it’s hard to know what to make of them, but I will say that people tend to associate with those who are like them in New York and San Fracisco as much as they do in Reading. And the small towns have been diversifying, slowly but surely. It takes time for people to get used to one another, and everyone has prejudices that have to be discarded in the face of experience. That’s hardly some sort of distinguishing characteristic of Pennsylvania.

    Eric doesn’t have anything up about this yet, but when he does, it’s sure to be fabulous. In the interim, on a related topic, he’s posted about Mayor Michael Nutter in Philadelphia, who’s had the effrontery to compare himself to the Founding Fathers in signing gun control laws:

    “Almost 232 years ago, a group of concerned Americans took matters in their own hands and did what they needed to do by declaring that the time had come for a change,” Nutter said as he signed the bills in front of a table of confiscated weapons outside the police evidence room in City Hall.

    Jeff at Alphecca has also posted.

    Added on 19 April: Eric has posted.


    Posted by Sean at 03:26, April 7th, 2008

    I would have bought the lime green, Janis, for the wood sprite effect when out gardening. Then, too, if you garden in earnest (and why would you not?), the mud and earth are likely to dull the color in short order.

    I wore a lime-green T-shirt to lunch with Atsushi yesterday. We went to a putatively Moroccan restaurant, which turned out to be a French bistro-ish place (including the ham that came with the asparagus salad) in just about every respect except the figurines of camels and the baskets everywhere. Anyway, the color comes into the story because we both got pea soup–chilled fresh pea soup that looked like bright-green vichyssoise. When it arrived, Atsushi looked from my plate to my shirt to the (green) cushions and said, “You’ve certainly dressed for the place.” Then the waitress came to do something with the cutlery and started giggling. “Same color,” she said in English, looking at my place setting and me.

    Unlike Janis, I can’t wear most V-necks. I’m not worried about bra straps, obviously; it’s just that when you have as much chest hair as I do, a deep V looks sleazy (in gay terms) or just plain wrong.


    Posted by Sean at 09:07, April 4th, 2008

    James Kirchik is hardly a lockstep liberal, but in this post, I think he does actually make a typical liberal mistake in typical liberal fashion. His conclusion is this:

    A top concern for voters in November will be a candidate’s ability to raise American prestige. Rest assured that McCain will do just that.

    Given its origins, the word prestige sounds like a perfect fit for McCain to me. That aside, I think Kirchik is wrong about most voters. Most Americans don’t care what people think in New York and San Francisco, for Pete’s sake, let alone in Paris and Berlin.

    Or that’s not entirely true. As one commenter puts it (nonmilagno posting Apr 2, 2008 – 4:30 pm), “It’s not necessary that Europeans like us. However, it is important that they realise we have common interests.” What worries Americans is not our lack of “prestige” but that we can’t always rely on other Western countries to go to the mat for Western values. I think that if a presidential candidate convincingly demonstrated that he or she could get governments of other democracies to see why the WOT affects them, too, voters would care. But proportion of American voters who are hoping they’ll be able to hold their heads higher among their European and Latin American friends at brunch on Sundays is small and very geographically restricted.

    Kirchik’s argument about whether people care about rebuilding our reputation abroad is wrong on its own terms, but so is his assessment of how our reputation got where it is:

    The truth is that much of contemporary anti-Americanism is a manifestation of disgust with George W. Bush as an individual and will immediately dissipate as soon as a new president — Democrat or Republican — enters the Oval Office in 2009. Yet also keep in mind that a similar degree of anti-American sentiment is inherent and may take a generation to disappear. Yet also keep in mind that a similar degree of anti-American sentiment is inherent and may take a generation to disappear. French anti-Americanism, for instance, springs from economic inferiority and a lost empire, was flaunted as far back as 50 years ago when Charles de Gaulle was president and George W. Bush was but a little boy. Much of South America’s anti-Americanism stems from 19th century American imperialism, something that no American president will be able to change.

    What the next president can do to reverse the popularity deficit is distinguish himself from the current administration’s most unpopular policies. On this score, McCain already has much to his credit. He has long stood out for his proactive stance on global warming, his opposition to coercive interrogation practices of terrorism suspects, and his support for closing the prison on Guantanamo Bay, all things which anger people and governments overseas.

    Given the hedging in that first paragraph, it’s hard to pin down how much anti-Americanism Kirchik expects to disappear magically on Inauguration Day. What proportion is attributable to anti-Bush sentiment? I’d say less than he thinks. Europeans and Asians loved the Clintons–they were lawyers with prestigious educations who talked a lot of big-government theory, which made them easy to identify with for a lot of elites there. And yet there was still plenty of bitching about America. Too prosperous, too confident militarily, too confident culturally, too friendly with Israel. They might like to see us hobble our economy with some drastic policies to combat global warming and stuff, but I don’t think the basic attitude is likely to change soon, no matter who’s president.

    So I don’t think Kirchik’s argument in favor of McCain washes. Virginia Postrel has an intriguing and more convincing analysis of Barack Obama’s glamour in The Atlantic:

    Obama’s glamour gives him a powerful political advantage. But it also poses special problems for the candidate and, if he succeeds, for the country.

    To rely on illusions is to risk disillusionment. If Obama the dream candidate becomes Obama the real president, he’ll be forced to pick sides, make compromises, and turn “hope” and “change” into policies some people like and some people don’t. Or, like the movie star governor of California, he might choose instead to preserve his glamour by letting others set the agenda. Either way, his face won’t make America’s worries disappear, and his cool, polite manner won’t eliminate political disagreements. Some of his supporters will feel disappointed, even betrayed. The result could be a backlash, heightened partisan conflict, and a failed presidency. George W. Bush ran as a uniter, and Jimmy Carter promised national renewal.

    Anne Applebaum wrote a column on a somewhat related issue last year. The headline was “What Presidents Don’t Know,” and her point was that some learning on the job is inevitable. Wonkish expertise and a ten-point plan for everything are less important than a realistic sense of what the candidate is getting into:

    In fact, there may be some sorts of experience that are actually detrimental to a potential president. I worry, for example, about Hillary Clinton’s much-vaunted travels as first lady: She came, she made carefully prepared speeches, she received polite applause. It won’t be like that if she’s president, and I hope she doesn’t think it will be.

    Other kinds of foreign connections could prove useful. Even aside from his specific beliefs, John McCain happens to be particularly good at speaking to (and arguing with) foreign audiences: The director of a German foundation recently complained to me that the U.S. presidential campaign was spoiling his transatlantic conferences because it meant McCain couldn’t attend anymore. Meanwhile, Obama, with his African relatives and Indonesian childhood, would start his presidency riding an enormous wave of international goodwill. His differences from our current president — he’s young, black, with a more complicated background — would win him a lot of points in a lot of places, whether or not he knows the name of the Pakistani president (and whether or not he would bomb that country, as he recently seemed to imply he would).

    I remember vividly when Ann Althouse linked Applebaum’s column. A lot of her commenters seemed to take the above passage as an out-and-out endorsement of Obama–which gave me pause, because I hadn’t. Applebaum seemed to me to be observing two things: that any new president will have expectations and a default way of reacting to new information, and that how other world leaders respond will be an important part of that new information. She appeared to be suggesting that Obama might be able to leverage his initial warm reception; Virginia says that his glamour won’t be enough to save him if he gets into trouble but that he may have a realistic sense of its limits.


    Posted by Sean at 06:04, April 4th, 2008

    That one was probably bigger somewhere, but it was big enough here. We should know in a few minutes.

    Raise the pressure

    Posted by Sean at 09:05, April 2nd, 2008

    On Saturday, I flew into Tokyo as a resident of Japan for the last time. Sometime in the next few weeks, I’ll step out onto my balcony and see this view once more, wish Roppongi Hills and Tokyo Midtown their best, and leave the apartment to the cleaners. Then I’m moving back to New York.


    If you’re a Westerner living in Asia, you have, at any time, at least a half-dozen friends who are trying to decide whether they want to leave or stay. It’s just a topic that comes up a lot. Therefore, I was able to draw on a lot of advice, not all of it solicited. Most of the people whose opinions I valued echoed my Belgian architect friend (whose advice I did solicit, since he has a lot more experience with these things than I have): If you have experience working in Asia, you can always find a way to come back; but the longer you’re away from home, the harder it is to find a way to return.

    So I’m moving back. Taking a bit of a rest, staying with my old roommate in Murray Hill for a while, then getting a new job.

    “Aren’t you afraid it’ll be hard to adjust?” I’ve been asked (and asked and asked). Yeah, sure. I’ve been in Japan my whole adult life. (I don’t consider college and grad school adulthood–not when you’re being funded by Mom and Dad or the Japan Foundation.) But people move to new places all the time. And New York is somewhere I’ve lived before anyway.

    And yet…it’s been a long time since I’ve lived in the States. When I last lived in America, Buffy the Vampire Slayer was still nothing more than a rather bad movie with Kristy Swanson. When the television show debuted and friends started raving about it, we saw it in Japan the way you saw American shows back then: friends sent videotapes.

    I bought a few new CDs on their day of release a week or two after arriving in Japan: Bilingual by the Pet Shop Boys and Nine Objects of Desire by Suzanne Vega.

    I don’t remember which movies I first saw in the theater after coming to Tokyo. I do remember watching Alien Resurrection here when it was released. Japanese audiences are very quiet, so when the Winona Ryder character reappeared after being shot, my spontaneous cry of, “YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE DEAD AND OUT OF THE PICTURE, YOU ANNOYING B…” could be heard echoing through the theater until my then-boyfriend clapped a hand over my mouth.

    That’s how long I’ve been away. Yes, I see my friends back home at least once a year, and I’m in constant e-mail contact. And there are loads of things that make keeping in touch easier. Everyone has e-mail. (That wasn’t true even in 1996.) You can download just about anything. (When was the last time I had to leave the house without 6000 songs stored on a device the size of a deck of cards? I don’t even remember.) You can torture people with your vacation photos without even having them printed; just create and online album and e-mail the URL to friend and foe alike. But it isn’t the same as being there.

    I’m not focusing on changes in pop culture stuff because I’m unaware that there are more important things in life. It just, when you live far from home and contact friends to find out what’s going on there, they assume you’re watching the news. If someone brings up what Obama just said at a rally the other night, it’s because they want to discuss it, not because they think they’re informing you about something happening at home that you couldn’t have heard about.

    It’s the new movies and music and restaurants and things they tell you about to help you feel caught up. (Books, too, but despite being someone who reads all the time, I generally have a hard time getting into contemporary fiction, so my friends have learned to stop recommending new novels to me.) Even if you find soap-opera-ish dramas tiresome, knowing that a lot of the people you know are watching Ally McBeal or (now) Grey’s Anatomy and gabbing about it at brunch on weekends becomes meaningful. You’re not participating in one another’s daily lives, but you can at least feel secure in the knowledge that you’re not becoming strangers.

    So. Three weeks to settle things here. Then however long it takes to get settled back in at home. I’m looking forward to the culture shock in a way. It would be a bummer if America and New York and I weren’t different after twelve years. And now that Japan seems to be cool again, maybe I can parlay my experience here into a hip, cosmopolitan demeanor that gets the men flocking to me.

    Or maybe I’ll just seem out of it.

    We’ll find out soon enough.


    Posted by Sean at 05:26, April 2nd, 2008

    The Yomiuri is trumpeting (Japanese/English) a poll it conducted in cooperation with the BBC, the results of which were as follows:

    Japan got the most positive ratings overall along with Germany, while the percentage of respondents giving Japan negative ratings was the second-lowest after Germany (18 percent).

    The survey was conducted across 34 countries from October to January, asking opinions about the influence of 13 countries and the European Union in the world in the the areas of politics, economy and security. The Yomiuri Shimbun participated as a local research partner in the survey, commissioned by the BBC.

    Fifty-two percent of respondents said the EU has a mostly positive influence, followed by Britain and France, each with 50 percent.

    The country with the most negative ratings was Iran at 54 percent, followed by Israel (52 percent) and Pakistan (50 percent).

    The BBC site has the results of the poll with bar graphs and–who’d have predicted this?–the headline ” World views US ‘more positively.'”


    On the BBC page, be sure to open the PDF file that gives a breakdown of the results and more information about the survey instrument. I was interested in how the questions were phrased; apparently, people really were just asked, “Please tell me if you think each of the following countries are having a mainly positive or mainly negative influence in the world….” You also get gems such as these:

    When asked for their views of their own country’s influence in the world, Japanese citizens are the most modest of those polled, with only 36 percent saying Japan is having a mainly positive influence. Americans come next with only 56 percent saying the US is having a positive influence. Conversely, fully 91 percent of Chinese citizens and 78 percent of Russian citizens say their country is having a positive influence.

    I’m guessing that stories about poisonous Chinese exports are deemphasized by Xinhua and other Chinese media outlets, so those surveyed who don’t go abroad a lot may not be aware of just how colorful China’s influence has sometimes been since its economy started booming.

    Since I’m American and therefore mindlessly fixated on my own homeland, I also made a beeline for the page about respondents’ views of the States. Note the stats for Canada.


    Posted by Sean at 02:40, April 1st, 2008

    Stephen Miller at IGF posts about an Advocate column responding to the murder at school of a cross-dressing fifteen-year-old who lived in a facility for troubled youth.

    Of course, it’s partially Bush’s fault. No, really. Here’s part of Neal Broverman’s Advocate piece:

    “Part of the role of a school is to teach young people how to function in a democracy,” says Kevin Jennings, a former teacher and the founder and executive director of the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, a national organization working to ensure safe schools for LGBT students. “In a democracy we protect the minority from the tyranny of the majority. Where are they going to get that lesson? They’ve got to learn it in school.” [Note unassailable logic of preceding sentences–SRK]

    But they don’t. At least not in the way they did before the No Child Left Behind Act was enacted by Congress in 2002 at the Bush administration’s urging.

    “There’s been a real retrenchment of antibullying and diversity programs since No Child Left Behind,” says Jennings. “What that’s done is establish standardized testing as the only measure of good schools. In the late ’90s there was a lot of momentum around multiculturalism and diversity. That was really reversed by this imposition of standardized testing. A lot of educators are frustrated because they understand the importance of addressing some of these larger [social] efforts, but when they try to they’re told, ‘You’ve just got to get the math scores up.'”

    Is standardized testing the only measure of school performance that’s currently given weight? I’m no education expert, but my understanding is that schools are still rated according to their safety standards; it’s hard to believe that a pattern of violent bullying that goes unpunished wouldn’t be factored in there–assuming the reporting administrators are being honest. Keeping schools from finding ways to cook the numbers to make themselves look better has been a major issue since the program was first implemented. Still, that doesn’t mean the shift from trying to teach kids huggy multiculturalism to trying to teach them math is in and of itself a bad one.

    There was a violence prevention program in place at the school that attempted to teach kids how to manage their emotions and empathize with others. Would a gay-straight alliance or more explicit attention to tolerance of gay kids have helped? Possibly.

    Broverman delivers the usual coarse generalities about “violence as a solution to conflict” (bad, very bad), but he raises the common-sense point that maybe King’s elders should have taught him a bit more caution when it came to wearing heels and eye makeup and adopting a flippant, teasing persona in a school full of teenagers. Miller reports that a cadre of social welfare busybodies naturally flipped out:

    Braverman [sic–his name is Broverman according to the by-line] raised serious issues that are certainly worth discussing. But his piece provoked strong criticism from certain activist quarters, as in this Open Letter to The Advocate from “lawyers, advocates, and child welfare professionals” who declare “hiding fuels hatred” and that “We cannot keep children safe by hiding them. Succumbing to fear creates an environment in which hatred thrives. Invisibility is just another, more insidious, killer.” [A dumbfounding thing to say in connection with a child whose flamboyance just got him shot–SRK]

    That sounds a awful lot like the kind of sloganeering that is meant to stifle open discussion rather than foster it. Gay adults know that, if they choose, they can walk hand in hand down a street of a non-gay neighborhood–and they know that in a great many neighborhoods they will risk getting beaten (or worse) for it. That’s a choice adults can make.

    I think Miller shows impressive restraint. What kind of moron do you have to be to go around telling children that they can just go around expressing themselves however they like and expect the world to love them for it? Or even to expect those who do love them for it to be able to bail them out every time they land themselves in trouble? I daresay that most people go through junior high school hiding what they are to some extent; that’s how you get along. Teenagers learn through trial and error, as their personalities are gelling, how much they’re willing to hold back in order to avoid making waves and how much they’re not. This is not just a gay issue.

    In a free society, the authorities aren’t policing everywhere you go and everything you do. You can go about your business as a law-abiding citizen without being watched all the time, but the trade-off is that you can get yourself into dangerous situations when no one is in a position to help you. It only takes minutes to get beaten up, and less than that to get stabbed or shot. (In this particular case, one of the issues is how McInerney managed to get a gun onto school property undetected; but then, if he was that much bigger and stronger than King, he could probably have broken his neck or banged his head hard enough to kill him without a weapon.) Eliminating the real dangers gays face is not going to be achieved by griping that they shouldn’t exist and teaching young people to pretend they don’t.

    Added on 2 April: I originally characterized the junior high school in the story as being for troubled youth because, for some reason, I read the article that way. Thanks to Joanne Jacobs for pointing out that it appears actually to have been a regular old junior high school with some kind of anger management program. I’ve excised the two misleading sentences above, and while I hate to be told I’ve made a stupid mistake, I’m actually kind of glad to learn that particular information about the school. I was originally utterly baffled that counselors would tell a fifteen-year-old that a school for troubled kids was a good place for him to start cross-dressing. I still think they were irresponsible, but I guess I’m a bit less baffled now.


    Posted by Sean at 21:41, March 27th, 2008

    Speaking of fags making civic-minded gestures of dubitable effectiveness, one of the higher-ups in the Stonewall Democrats chapter at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, has decided that the logo for a new burger joint in town is offensive (via Advice Goddess). You’ve probably narrowed the reason down to just a handful of possibilities. Read the quotation below to see whether you guessed the correct PC transgression!

    LSA senior Kolby Roberts, a member of the Stonewall Democrats who has led the effort, said he finds the logo’s message inappropriate and offensive.

    “I have a problem that you take a women riding a hamburger and you put it next to the word ‘quickie,'” he said. “It just seems like it’s not putting a good message out there for the objectification of women.”

    Please. No gay man on Earth is in any position to be complaining about others’ sexually objectifying anyone. Sorry. Just, no. You can complain that it’s inappropriate in a given context, but that would require more precise thinking. It would also require thinking about manners and the evolution of beneficial social mores and stuff, and you might end up saying something judgmental.

    Anyway, the reason this story caught my eye, besides Amy Alkon’s funny commentary, was the lameness of the complainers’ reasoning:

    Roberts said he believed the image was distasteful, regardless of the person.

    “Basically, what it has is a provocatively dressed woman straddling a hamburger, and she’s very busty and its kind of really horrible,” he said.

    “Kind of really horrible”? Good thing you’re an engineering major, darlin’, ’cause you’re not doing our famed gay skill at delivering pithy witticisms any justice.

    How things have degraded. Back in my college days, when dinosaurs and Massive Attack roamed free, the affronted leaders of feminist and gay student groups would at least have had some pseudo-philosophical hoodoo to make their pique sound deeply meaningful. Where’s the mention of the “male gaze”? Where’s the invocation of the “hostile intellectual environment”? And it’s Michigan–shouldn’t we be bringing Catharine MacKinnon into the act? What are they teaching kids these days?

    Added on 29 March: Eric is in Ann Arbor at the moment and has checked the place out.