02 April 2013

David Brooks Homophobia--And Racism And Classism

Sure, let gays get married.  Let them suffer like the rest of us.

I don't know who said it first.  But, even as a trans woman who was married (albeit briefly) as a man, I always thought it was funny.

That's more than can be said for the editorial David Brooks wrote in today's New York Times.  

Once upon a time, one could actually raise one's IQ a few points from a steady diet of the Times.  Even its most partisan editorials were usually well-reasoned and were relatively well-written.  Sometimes they envinced righteous indignation, especially if they were written by Sydney Schanberg.  Others were provocative; sometimes they were ironic or even funny, in good ways.

Then Schanberg got fired for criticizing real estate developers who were among the newspaper's biggest advertisers, and other columnists like William Safire and Russell Baker died or simply moved on.

Now we have the likes of Brooks who, it seems, is seen as a pundit because, well, he has a column in the Times and he's on all of those Sunday morning political shows.  The thing is, he writes like Dave Barry with a lobotomy and his reasoning skills make Rush Limbaugh seem like Rene Descartes.  

What I really can't stand about him, though, is his smug condescension. He's one of those people who's always going to do you the favor of telling you what's best for you because you, being you, can't possibly know.  At least he is consistent:  He has the same attitude toward anyone who's not white, heterosexual, male and a Baby Boomer still living in the 1950's.

Of course, a man like that, by definition, cannot have a sense of irony.  The problem is, he writes as if he has it, or is capable of acquiring it.  To wit:

But last week saw a setback for the forces of maximum freedom.  A representative of millions of gays and lesbians went to the Supreme Court and asked the court to help put limits on their freedom of choice.  They asked for marriage.

Now, in one way, I would agree with him:  If I were to get married again, I would be placing restrictions on myself.  I would agree to commit my life to that person and, at times, reign in certain desires for the sake of the relationship and the happiness of the person to whom I would be married. Perhaps I would have to do a few things I don't particularly care to do, and spend time with a few people I really would prefer not to know.  But I would make such choices for a larger freedom: that to pursue my own happiness.

But in a society in which no one is considered a full-fledged citizen unless he or she has the right to marry the person of his or her choice, having the right--the freedom of choice--of marriage is one of the greatest freedoms of all.  Just ask any person of my parents' age or older who wanted to marry someone of a different race or religion.  Or, for that matter, ask any African-American who was living in Virginia in 1967 or earlier.  Restrictions on marriage are inevitably aimed at people whom a society considers to be less than full citizens, which of course means people who are not of the "majority" race, culture, sexual inclination or gender expression--and who are, socially and economically, below the middle class.

Plus, the idea that gays and lesbians "asked the court to help put limits on their freedom of choice" is preposterous, not only because those who do not have freedoms don't normally ask for fewer of them, but because they were not asking for their right not to marry.  What makes that statement even more absurd--and outright insulting--is the implication that without "those limits on their freedom of choice", crystal meth-addled gays would hop from bed to bed without making any kind of serious commitments.  (His argument, if it might be called that, quickly deteriorates into a rant about black fathers who abandon their families and unemployed people who buy wide-screen TVs on credit, never mind that guys at places like Shearson-Lehman ran up balances sheets that were in the red for more than all of the wealth that ever existed in the history of the human race.)  Granted, there are LGBT people who are irresponsible and dysfunctional, but there are also plenty of straight people who are no different.   Plus, when you look at the divorce rates for straight people, do you really think gays and lesbians will do any worse?

More to the point, though, people who want to marry people of their own gender would, if allowed to do so, gain all sorts of other freedoms.  They could live openly as couples.  They could adopt kids (or have surrogates conceive or give birth to them).  They could do all of the things heterosexual couples do:  Take advantage of tax benefits, get mortgages and buy homes in both of their names, pass on their estates to each other or the kids they adopt and visit each other, unrestricted, in a hospital or nursing home.  They would be free to care for each other in the same ways heterosexuals commit themselves to caring for each other.  Heck, they can even decide which one is the "male" or "female" in the couple, or to break free of such roles altogether.

That drives people like David Brooks crazy.  And he sounds even crazier when he tries to seem logical.    The operative word, of course, is "tries":  He is no more capable of the reasoning he thinks he can mimic than he is of having babies.  What that means, of course, is that when can't pass off his resentment over other people sharing his privilege as some sort of noblesse oblige.  That might actually be his saving grace.

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