Steven (unzeugmatic) wrote,

Jonathan Rauch Can Go To Hell

Jonathan Rauch, the author of a book about gay marriage ("Why It Is Good For Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America"), published an op-ed in Sunday's times. All of the essays on Sunday were related to AIDS, as this week marks the 25th anniversary of its first reporting. This particular editorial ("Families Forged by Illness") is rife with appalling ignorance and delusional prejudice and -- even worse -- faulty logic.

The premise of the article is that AIDS in the gay community showed gay people the "need for marriage" and showed "straight America" the nobility with which gays responded to the crisis. I agree that there have been changes for the better in this regard in the general cultural landscape in the last 25 years here, but I wildly disagree that you can point to AIDS as *the* reason for them (as he does). I can point you to hundreds upon hundreds of small things, unrelated to AIDS but all related to the actions of thousands of individuals, that I believe helped bring about these changes. I also saw, back 25 years ago, that the onset of AIDS exaggerated existing anti-gay prejudices, even when the nobility of the lesbian and gay community response was impossible to dismiss. I also saw some basic goodness in how others responded, but, like the surfacing of evil, it mostly seemed to me that this was goodness that had always been there but now found a visible manifestation. But it's not my disagreement with his conclusions that is so sickening to me -- certainly how AIDS did or did not affect the gay and straight communities is a rich topic -- but the sweeping nonsense he uses to support his conclusions.

He notes, quite rightly, that along with the epidemic of illness there was also "an epidemic of care giving". He writes:

Lovers, friends and AIDS "buddies" were spooning food, emptying bedpans, holding wracked bodies through the night. They were assuming the burdens of marriage at its hardest. They were also showing that no relative, government program or charity is as dependable or consoling as a dedicated partner.

Now wait a minute. After noting the friends and buddies who were part of the amazing support system that came visible at the time, why does he then ignore them completely in his conclusions? Dedicated partners, yes. AND the social networks surrounding them. Why drop them from the argument so summarily?

Well, he immediately shows his hand:

Though few said so (no one wanted to be callous, not with people dying), many also knew that the culture of promiscuity and alienation was a culture of death. In 1981, I was 21 and terrified of coming out. I feared diseases and discrimination, but even more I feared the cultural isolation and anomie of the gay ghetto. If being gay meant rejecting mainstream values, having disconnected sex and then dying, I wanted no part of it.

But Mr. Rauch, didn't you just say that there was an "epidemic of care giving" -- from lovers, friends, and other community members? Where did these friends and unrelated buddies come from -- where did that community come from? Such a community is the complete opposite of alienation and cultural isolation and anomie. YOU JUST NOTED THAT THIS DESCRIPTION WAS A COMPLETE AND TOTAL CULTURAL LIE as evidenced by the community response to AIDS and then you proceeded to repeat the lie despite the evidence of your own account. Look, I'm sorry you were so affected by the general cultural bigotry against who you were that you were terrified of coming out (and to this day you refuse to face how wrong you were), but try to put the blame where it belongs -- on the overculture that taught you those lies, not on the gay men who were out and defying those lies by living their opposite.

Because it was the gay men who were out, who faced down the assholes like you who were telling them that they lived in a culture of alienation and isolation and anomie despite complete evidence to the contrary in their own lives (and in the care giving they showed when called upon) who engendered the changes in cultural attitudes you point to. It's people who know gay people who start to accept them, and accept their rights to live as full members of society. Recognize those gay people for their bravery and their contribution and toss the crap about the culture of death.

I was there. Nothing could have been more alive.
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