The right versus reality

Posted: Jun 01, 2003 12:00 AM

I recently wrote a column in which I voiced my conclusion that gays have largely won the culture war and that conservatives should come to grips with that fact by making some painful compromises, including some form of civil unions in order to draw a protective line around traditional marriage.

While I received a great deal of positive feedback from rank-and-file conservatives, including self-described religious conservatives and gay Republicans, several "leaders" of the social conservatives were more critical. Take this example:

"At best, he is one of the traitorous Vichy French, sympathetic to the conquering invader. At worst, he is Tokyo Rose, an enemy feigning friendship and sympathy to better undermine the morale of our troops. … Mr. Goldberg wants us all to say yes to sodomy, much as the French said yes to Nazism and for the same unprincipled reason the desire to be on the winning side."

This study in careful writing and rigid thinking appeared in a letter to the editor in The Washington Times. The author is Scott Lively, president of something called the Pro-Family Law Center and co-author of the book, "The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party."

Robert Knight, director of the Culture and Family Institute, also suggests that I'm a coward of the Gaulic variety. Referring to my efforts to popularize a phrase from "The Simpsons" for the French -"cheese-eating surrender monkeys" -Knight writes on the Concerned Women for America Web site, "I don't know about the cheese part, but Mr. Goldberg seems himself to have warmed to the role of `surrender monkey.'"

And, if that weren't enough, one of Knight's minions felt the need to join the fray. Peter LaBarbera, editor of the "Culture and Family Report," began his column with, "Neville Chamberlain, meet Jonah Goldberg." And then it got silly.

Now, were I to go with my gut, I would play whack-a-mole at the carnival stall of absurd arguments, hysterical finger-pointing and downright childishness found in many of the statements made by these and other colleagues to my right. But I am in a forgiving mood because these guys have had a bad couple weeks and I suspect they're taking it out on me.

After all, just days after my column appeared, the Supreme Court came out with a sweeping, grandiose decision that not only tore down sodomy laws, but claimed to protect the "the liberty of the person both in its spatial and more transcendent dimensions," in the words of Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the majority decision. Kennedy also said, "At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life."

Rarely has a Supreme Court decision read more like it was written by the light of a lava lamp in a dorm room.

Rather than simply overturn sodomy laws on narrow equal-protection grounds -as O'Connor did in her separate opinion- or rule that sodomy laws are dumb and wrong but nevertheless constitutional -as Thomas eloquently stated -the court's majority decided to repeal the very notion that legislatures can use common morality as a guidance for law.

"This effectively decrees the end of all morals legislation," Scalia declared. "Today's opinion ... has largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda." Worse, according to Scalia, the decision largely paves the way for gay marriage.

But now that I think about it, both Scalia's dissent and Kennedy's ruling demonstrate that folks like Knight and Lively and others who talk about gays as if they are Nazis and pedophiles who want to "recruit" children into homosexuality (and presumably tastefully catered Oscar parties) and "convert" homosexuals, haven't just been having a bad couple weeks. They've been having a bad couple decades.

I don't for a moment contend that all cultural trends on homosexuality -or sexuality in general -have been positive. I don't like it when straight people claim that they can define their "own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life." Why on earth would I celebrate when gays do it?

But certain activists on the far right have dug themselves into a hole on the issue of homosexuality, and their answer seems to be "dig faster." If there were a scintilla of evidence that their furious burrowing were a successful strategy, I might take more of their criticisms to heart, though I just don't have the heart for dehumanizing and demonizing homosexuals.

Indeed, the truth is that the average American is probably more scared of Lively than of the average homosexual. And I would much rather deal with and improve upon the reality that Justices Scalia and Thomas recognize than dig to the never-never land where Nazis and gays are indistinguishable and, presumably, all the collaborators have been shot.