Below is the latest The Pain -- When Will It End?
Some of the references in this cartoon may be esoteric to some readers. This is because I decided to focus on actual liberals, rather than Hollywood spokesmodels for liberalism such as Al Franken, Janeane Garofolo, and… whatshisname, the fat guy who made Roger and Me, you know who I mean, with the hat.
Noam Chomsky is an MIT professor of linguistics and liberalism’s leading public intellectual, which is why he is never, ever permitted on commercial television. He is the author of one hundred eighty-six thousand books, including, most recently, 9-11, Hegemony or Survival, and Failed States. Thanks to my colleague Emily Flake for serving as my liaison and interpreter in the incomprehensible and frightening world of current pop culture.
Richard Dawkins is an evolutionary biologist, author of The Selfish Gene, The Blind Watchmaker, and The God Delusion. He is an outspoken atheist and opponent of religion, our contemporary Bertrand Russell.
Howard Zinn’s revisionist history of America, A People’s History of the United States, is required (if rather strident and depressing) reading. It would’ve made more sense, hypocrisy-wise, if Zinn had been a Civil War reënactor--preferably an African-American Confederate soldier, which current defenders of the cause of slavery always go out of their way to point out did exist--but I figured Zinn was unrecognizable enough without putting him in blackface, plus the War of 1812 seemed more ludicrously obscure, and they wore those hilarious hats with the pom-pom on top. "Remember the Raisin!" really was a battle cry in the War of 1812, recalling a battle near the River Raisin in Michigan in which the British abandoned their American prisoners to be massacred by the American Indians, which was considered an unheard-of breach of civilized conduct.
Bill Clinton was President of the United States between 1992 and Year One of the Era of Darkness. He was famed for his damning ejaculate.
So yes, it took me this long to come up with a cartoon about the recent spate of Republican outings that didn’t seem obvious. Every time another Social Conservative is exposed as a hypocrite and a fraud, which lately seems to be semiweekly, I pose the same question: must every last social conservative in America be publicly revealed as a closet homosexual, compulsive gambler, alcoholic or drug addict before the whole rotten, posturing, sanctimonious movement is finally discredited? My regular readers must be tired of hearing it by now. I asked this when the televangelists of the Eighties all turned out to be trailer-park whoremongers; when William Bennett was revealed to have blown millions of dollars in Vegas casinos; when Bill O’Reilly was accused of making crude, bullying come-ons to one of his female employees; when Rush Limbaugh went to rehab for painkillers, and again when he was arrested at an airport bound for the Dominican Republic with a suitcase full of Viagra. I posed it again most recently when Mark Foley was caught writing dirty e-mails to sixteen-year-olds and Ted Haggard confessed to buying crank from his regular male prostitute.
The answer to this question is: evidently. Each time, the same tedious, predictable drama of Condemnation and Expulsion has to be acted out, the body politic purged of yet another impurity. The latest player in this tired scenario, Ted Haggard, moved within only a few days from Act I, Flat Denial, through Act II, Partial Admission—feeble Clintonian evasions even more embarrassing than the whole sordid truth would have been--to Act III, Unconditional Confession. In a few years he may be able to jump back on the evangelical gravy train by being Born Again Again, a redeemed sinner ministering to those who share the same problems. In the meantime, the rest of his pious mob shake their heads, pick up their stones, and resume throwing.
I for one do not join in the universal condemnation of these men and their timid little crimes. Mark Foley seemed creepy and pathetic, but hardly the inhuman monster his former colleagues fell all over each other to recoil from abominate. My first reaction to the Haggard scandal was that Michael Jones, Haggard’s hired escort, had exercised execrable professional ethics (and bad business sense) by ratting out one of his clients to the national media. The public destruction of these men delights me not because they were degenerates, but because they were hypocrites.
Social conservatives are inevitably undone not by their perversion, but by their repression. Foley, a bachelor in his fifties still afraid his parents might realize he is gay, made furtive, drunken, clumsy advances toward the most inappropriate possible targets. If he had been a little braver--or a Democrat--he could’ve comfortably cruised the bars of DuPont Circle looking for young men who’d be impressed by his power and status. Which would still be sleazy, but would at least, as they say in Washington, be going through accepted channels. And poor Haggard’s mistake was to hire the only hustler in Denver with a social conscience.
These men are not exceptions or betrayals to the cause of social conservatism; they epitomize it. It is not by bizarre, ironic coincidence that Foley chaired the Missing and Exploited Children’s Caucus, or that Haggard was one of the leaders of the crusade to ban gay marriage. It’s called "projection." What social conservatives loathe most passionately in others are the weaknesses they’re trying desperately to repress in themselves. A 1996 University of Georgia study indicated a clear correlation between homophobia and repressed homoerotic arousal. Suzy Spencer, an author who’s conducting a survey on sex in America, has found that a lot of good old boys who like to think of themselves as 100% straight are secretly meeting at truck stops to suck each other’s cocks. A road trip through the Red States shows that billboards admonishing that "REAL MEN DON’T USE PORN" and spittle-flecked radio sermons in support of "righteous hate" are most densely concentrated in exactly the same areas as advertisements for porn emporia and massage parlors. Hysterical, militant virtue seems to flourish in direct proportion to the preponderance of temptation and the weakness of the local will. It’s not the godless degenerates of the coastal cities that evangelicals are really screaming at in reproach; it’s themselves.
How many more stern, immaculate preachers of Moral Values have to be exposed as chickenhawks and crankheads before it becomes axiomatic that anyone who’s obsessed with the looming menace of the Homosexual Agenda is a closeted homosexual, that anyone publicly preoccupied with sexual predators and the safety of our children is a child molester, just as we can fairly assume that anyone driving a Hummer* is also anxiously answering spam for penis enlargement? Why, after all, would someone imagine that homosexuality represented a threat to the institution of marriage unless he knew it posed an immediate and personal threat to his own?
Conservatism claims to hold a realistic, unsentimental view of human nature, advocating a form of government that accommodates people as they really are, as opposed to those idealistic liberals who think that well-intentioned social engineering can legislate them into a better shape. And yet conservatives only ever seem to apply this political philosophy to aspects of human nature like selfishness, greed, and callousness toward the suffering of our fellows–what is called "the free market"—and not morally abhorrent aberrations like sexuality. Why can’t conservatives accept the implications of their own ideology? Human beings are weak-willed and lecherous. We want what is bad for us. We adore our vices. No human institution in five thousand years has been able to eradicate them. Which is really the more implausible utopian scheme—socialized medicine or teen abstinence? Reducing greenhouse emissions or Just Saying No to Drugs?
Everyone has secrets. I know I do, and I suspect that you, reader, do too. (And yours aren’t half as sordid as those of the person next to you.) Speaking in the unaccustomed role of public moralist, let me propose a national revival of that fine old conservative virtue, Minding Your Own Business.
* For reasons complicated to explain, I recently found myself riding around Manhattan in the back of a stretch Humvee full of people I did not know. (Photographic documentation available at http://brightyear.typepad.com/bright_year/2006/11/dave_alvrezs_40.html ) Like many other things that look obnoxious and pathetic when other people do them—riding jetskis, making out on the subway—this turns out to be extremely fun when you are doing it. For a while, anyway. Soon enough all the oil will run out and all those Hummers will make good bunkers and barricades.