Wednesday, January 29, 2014

John Corvino, What's Wrong with Homosexuality?: "A Risky Lifestyle" (2)

Another excerpt from John Corvino's book What's Wrong with Homosexuality? (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2013)--as with yesterday's quotation about the use of Paul Cameron's anti-gay junk science by esteemed scholars, this one is from Corvino's chapter dealing with the notion that homosexuality should be beyond the pale because it yields a risky lifestyle:

If you avoid gays, it’s easy to invent a bizarre picture of them or to accept strange images of them as somehow representative. If you actually get to know some, it isn’t so easy (74).

Why do those two pithy sentences catch my eye? Because they say so much so briefly.

They say that one of the biggest reasons for our inability to join our energies with those of others in building a more humane world is that we don't take the trouble to understand those who are other than ourselves. We don't reach over our boundary lines. We don't sit down at table together and learn that, in the final analysis, we're all simply human together.

"Pete Seeger’s great work was not just singing the songs, but getting everybody else to sing them," John Wiener says in a tribute to Seeger today at The Nation. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite remembers Pete Seeger as a man who taught us not to be afraid of each other, as we march, sing, join hands across our many boundary lines, and speak truth to power together.

So there's all of that in John Corvino's reflection on the othering process that some opponents of the full inclusion of gay human beings in our societies use to accomplish their goal: speaking of gays as a diseased group who threaten to infect the healthy social mass is a way of eliciting visceral repulsion against a group we've decided to stereotype as the dangerous other. It's a way of putting those who are gay decisively beyond the pale, and justifying our cruelty as a hygienic response to an infectious agent.

The other thing that John Corvino's pithy response to the "risky lifestyle" argument evokes for me is the utter falseness of the claim that all this cruel othering, this putting beyond the pale and tagging as infectious, is about love. This is a claim that those who are gay hear over and over out of mouths whose every other word about their gay brothers and sisters is anything but mercy and justice, mouths that have no right at all to claim that their words and actions are about love for those who are gay.

Bishop Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, who made the news last fall with an exorcism stunt designed to demonize gay folks, has been back in the news again as the March for Life took place last week. His latest message for the gays? Love! It's all about love. I love you gay folks to pieces.

Please understand that I exorcised you last year because I love you. Like any good parent who loves her child, I'm compelled to tell you no and to punish you when you're misbehaving:

Like any good parent will tell you that sometimes you have to disappoint your child, sometimes you have to say "no" and sometimes you even have to punish them.

My fellow Catholic bishops and I are here to remind you that God made you disordered in a very special way, a way not shared by all the other human beings in the world who aren't made gay. 

But please don't forget, as I wield my tools of punishment and get out my holy water and the rest of the exorcism paraphernalia: it's all about love. I love you to death.

John Corvino's response puts the lie to the argument that one can love those one regards as less than oneself, human in a way different from oneself--those one has shoved from the table and refused to learn to know as human beings. Love--real love of the sort featured in the gospels as the goal of the Christian life--acts in a totally different way.

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