25 March 2010

On The Right: Wishing You Weren't There

One of the courses I teach is Writing for Business. The majority (though not all) of the students in the course are business or accounting majors. That has led me to do something I never would have imagined doing: I now read Business Week and The Economist and peruse various business-related website. Plus, the depression that no politician or banker wants to admit we're in has motivated me to elevate the level of my understanding of economics from non-existent to rudimentary. So I've been reading what I can of various economists and experts in related matters.

As a result, I get almost-daily e-mails from an organization called the Sovereign Society. Now, I haven't nearly enough money to follow any of the strategies they advocate. But their stuff is still interesting to read, for they have been studying and analyzing the situation in ways that nobody in the mainstream media--or in the old-boys' networks of government and finance--more than likely ever will.

One of those writers and advisers for Sovereign is a gent named Bob Bauman. I noticed something in his photos--a sort of body language, if you will, that is visible even in his head shots--that said "gay." (I also saw it in Jim McGreevey before he was "outed.") So I looked him up, and sho' 'nuff...my suspicions were confirmed, big-time.

About thirty years ago, he was one of the rising stars of the nascent modern conservative movement. He represented the Eastern Shore of Maryland in Congress. He played more than a bit role in helping Ronald Reagan win the presidency. But just a few weeks before the election, Bauman was caught soliciting a sixteen-year-old male prostitute. So, while other Republicans swept into office on Reagan's coat-tails, Bauman lost his re-election bid. He tried to withdraw from the race, but his party's leaders wouldn't let him.

In short order, he lost--in addition to his congressessinal seat-- his family, his historic home and most of his wealth. Onetime friend and allies like Richard Viguerie villified him; so did people on the left, including most LGBT activists.

He would become an advocate for gay rights--reluctantly, he said. And he claimed that if he had his "druthers," he wouldn't be gay. But, he realized, he had no choice in the matter.

If I had been paying attention to the story at the time it unfolded, I don't know how I would've felt about him or his actions. It's no surprise that, for a long time neither the conservatives who were once his fellow-travellers nor gay activists trusted him. Nor did anybody in between. Honestly, I couldn't blame any of them: I probably wouldn't have trusted him, either.

But, I must say, becoming a gay-rights advocate counts for something. And, I respect--greatly--that he would not "out" anyone.

Even more important, though, I can empathise with him, at least to some degree. Now, I am not sure that I would choose to be anything but what I am, at least in regards to my gender and sexuality. For a long time, I wished I could live as a heterosexual man, and I took a sort of behaviorist approach: If I acted like a straight guy, I'd be one. Or so I told myself. And nearly every gay man or lesbian who married someone of the opposite sex--as Bauman did--is engaging in the same sort of denial as I was. Now I feel at least some sympathy for anyone who feels the need to do similar things--especially for people like Bauman, who are about my parents' age. There simply was practically no other way for someone of that time to negotiate his or her sexuality.

Some might argue that his conservatism was a way of "butching up." Perhaps it was. So, for some gay men and trans women, was playing sports or doing any number of other "masculine" activities. But I think that it's not the whole story. Rather, I believe that Bauman's political conservativism was an attempt to integrate himself with mainstream Americans who want the house in the suburbs and the things that go along with it.

Plus, it's still difficult for me to believe that governments can actually make life more tolerable--by keeping people from expressing prejudices--when said governments have been the very agents, at times, of the violence and oppression we experience. Also, if you're anything like me, you simply have difficulty trusting anyone with authority.

That is one reason why I'm not sold on the new health care law and, in some way, I don't want to be. Likewise, I don't really like supporting gay marriage legislation because I really believe that the government shouldn't be in the marriage business at all. However, if the government is going to decide who is married and who isn't, I want gay marriage to be a guaranteed right if only so that gays will be that much closer to equaity with everyone else. It's probably the best we can do under the system we have. But I still don't think it's a great idea.

Oh...If only I were naturally inclined to be a liberal or progressive. Well, at least I'm not in denial about the woman I am: I've embraced it. After that, how hard can anything else be? Right, Bob Bauman?

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