Sunday, December 12, 2010

Patricia Hampl on How Liberal Societies Deal with Difference and Otherness

And then there's this (again, from one of my journals of the past): Patricia Hampl, A Romantic Education (NY: W.W. Norton, 1981):

That, after all, is the core of racism: these others, because they are discernibly unlike us, must not live.  Or, in relatively tolerant times, need not live.  Or most typically, in liberal societies, need not live as we do (p. 33).

Hampl grew up Catholic in St. Paul, I seem to recall, in a household with an Irish-American mother and a Czech-American father.   This insightful analysis of racism applies, of course, to homophobia, as well, since both social impulses spring from the need to construe other human beings who are built different than we are from birth, as threateningly other.  

And it's the observation about liberal societies that I want to zero in on: how is it that so many Catholics of the ostensibly liberal center seem content with the notion that those who are gay need not live as we do.  We who are the norm.  We who occupy the center.  

We for whom the rules are made, and who expect to bend them as we will--for ourselves.  While using those very same rules to keep the refractory gay others in their place, living differently than how we ourselves live, with our full range of power and privilege.

Something about the way even "good" Catholics of the center are dealing with their gay brothers and sisters these days seems just not right.

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