Tuesday, October 16, 2007

His Own Private Idaho: Senator Larry and the Pecking Order of Queerness vs. Straightness

“You’re living in your own Private Idaho …
Underground like a Wild Potato …
It leads you straight,
Right through the gate.” — Private Idaho, the B-52’s

It was painful to watch the Matt Lauer interview with Sen. Larry Craig on ABC’s Tuesday Night interview. Why they would allow a show to watch a man struggle mightily with his guilt on national TV escapes me. Perhaps the GOP couldn’t stop him – or maybe they decided this would help clear one of their many black marks over the recent years for the upcoming election season. Either way, it was like watching Dick Cheney wax about all the WMD’s and nuclear weapons that are still stashed by Saddam somewhere there in Iraq from somewhere around the time Hussein contracted all the hijackers to fly into the World Trade Towers. Yeah ....

When scrambling to defend ourselves we can cover most things we wish to hide, but there are almost always little telling clues that betray the ones trying to obfuscate truth. Both Craigs were well disciplined in their answers and facial reactions. Watching his wife’s expression during the answering process while speaking to Lauer, and then watching her expression while sharply looking over her husband’s answer was a bit of a giveaway. You could palpably feel the a) Love, b) Desperation, c) Anger!

Mrs. Craig’s trying hard to do the dutiful “stand-by-your-man” routine that now Sen. Hillary Clinton did as first lady to then Pres. Bill Clinton during the Lewinsky scandal. It’s ironic that it was Craig's husband doing the less-than-charitable piling on during that affair with his now infamous “It’s a bad boy, Bill Clinton … in fact, a nasty bad boy” comment.

Of course, Bill Clinton’s multiple sexual impropriety claims were always coming from the behest of rather partisan individuals, either directly or via bankrolling. With Sen. Larry, he was outed by none other than Roll Call, a not-so-liberal publication that acts as a non-partisan newspaper for Capitol Hill – not the New York Times, or the L. A. Times, or even the Idaho Statesman. Rats! That takes the punch out of the liberal media witch hunt claims!

“Don't let the chlorine in your eyes
blind you to the awful surprise
that's waitin' for you.” — Private Idaho, the B-52’s

It was oddly amusing to note how the good senator from Potato-land now sees the condemnable actions of cops who “profile” and how easily innocents can get swept up into this (ahem) dragnet. Perhaps good news for all the longhairs, the blacks or Latinos who’ve been pulled over and searched for drugs or unlicensed weapons – a good conservative senator sees their injustice of how they’ve been railroaded as was he! You can also bet good Sen. Larry will seek a cessation of the profiling of guys ‘cruising the men’s rooms or other gay hot spots’ for possible sex simply because they’re fitting a profile. Criminy, all those men in the bathhouses weren’t sexually insatiable and immoral – they’re just poor men looking for a place to take a bath! Isn’t bathing a natural and hygienically admirable thing? Cleanliness is next to godliness, so they say.

One damnable part of the entire public interview was when Sen. Larry decided that after his guilty plea, he demanded a do-over “to the extent that all Americans” would want to defend themselves. When does the rest of America get a do-over upon their guilt pleas? Maybe those “profiled” hippies, ethnic minorities, hookers and gay men can use his precedent to reclaim their clean records – or not. Or maybe we can all just get together and agree that rich folk, especially politically-connected and most especially if they’re conservative, connected, rich folk, have a standard of law that’s very special and one we can all envy (but in all likelihood, never enjoy ourselves).

Hey! Why have one standard when you can afford two? One for everyone else, and a special one just for you! Capital idea!

The second, and most damnable part was Craig’s explanation that he should’ve fought the charges and that (as Matt Lauer supposedly was to understand) Sen. Larry Craig is “a fighter.” As Lauer himself pointed out from earlier in the interview per Sen. Larry’s own words, he initially pleaded guilty, went to work, told neither his attorney, nor his staff or colleagues, nor even his own wife and family in hopes that he could avoid this hitting the media. Does that sound like “a fighter”? If he was such a “fighter”, why even admit guilt in the first place, rather than the typical Republican approach (a la Tom DeLay, George W. Bush, Richard Nixon, et. al.) of denying it to his final breath. So what if your hand is photographed in the cookie jar? Denial to the point of deceit is good in conservative values – admitting guilt is defeat and shows poor resolve (no matter how true it may be.) You never lose until you admit it.

“Get out of the state! Get out of the state you’re in!
Walkin' through the gate that leads you down,
down to a pool fraught with danger:
It’s a pool full of strangers.” — Private Idaho, the B-52’s

What came through loudly and clearly was the order of things. There’s an obvious pecking order of being queer. There are shades of queerness to straightness along a continuum, with the higher-echelons always looking down upon and disparaging those beneath. Just as the transgender community found the last few weeks how gay and lesbian community (at least the straight-acting portion) still consider trannies trash. They look down on dykes, fems, leather boys and bears too, so we shouldn't feel alone.

But even the Disco gay set is held at arms’ length by the more denial-oriented gays a la Andrew Sullivan, Matt Drudge, the khaki pseudo-straight gays and lesbians and closeted politicos a la Rep. David Dreier or former Rep. Mark Foley, for whom “outness” is anathema. Indeed, in conservative circles, outing is a career-ender.

Then you have the straight folks who at times sidle up to the straighter of the G&L folks, but damn near stampede themselves to death when someone in their party is scandalized by being labeled “gay.” Then you have the hyper-straights who look disparagingly upon the straights who occasionally sort of “understand” gay colleagues, and create a buffer between their sanctimony-by-example lives and those of their “welcoming, tolerant” set. In hyper-straight America, God is always unforgiving. That welcoming-and-understanding garbage was spewed by some hippie kid of His, the liberal! Who’s gonna listen to that kid when they can follow Paul instead?

Everyone tries to be top-of-the-heap in order to look down on the others. It makes them feel big. Is this what it’s all about: success is the ability to look down upon all the others (or as many as possible)?

Sometimes just being you is liberating beyond belief. It makes me sad for Sen. Larry that he’s cut himself off from ever knowing this feeling (at least with any credibility left intact). It reminds me of the sexuality rumors that flew for so long about a local weatherman in Houston, Frank Billingsley. Even the gay community (desperately seeking heroes or validation) was pushing him out of the closet – one that Billingsley fought. Eventually, he settled down and let it gradually seep out. Meanwhile his weather forecasting and reporting style was also reaping him kudos, even among those who once salaciously awaited his public outing with a hangman’s baited breath.

In the end, Frank became simply a good weatherman, everyone was pleased with his job, and folks basically moved on to other topics beside his personal life. The sexuality controversy faded into a complete non-issue. It became that way for many gays and lesbians over the past decade or so – once discovered or outed, as long as they weren’t in religiopolitical or conservative environs, their talent, their output, their surpassing the obstacles became what they were known about. We’re in the very seminal stages of that in the Transgender Community as well.

Ultimately, all these folks needed was a chance to prove themselves. Sadly, for many like Sen. Larry – conservative, but also gay – they will never have that opportunity to prove themselves in this lifetime without being self-loathing and denouncing their own lifestyle. Even as we speak, the GOP folks have circled their wagons, and Sen. Larry is not on the inside of that circle. He’ll be left out to the wolves.

Who knows what Sen. Larry could’ve done if he’d just been allowed to be himself, free from prejudice and judgment. But then again, we live in America. What were we expecting: humanitarian compassion?

“This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.” — from the play ‘Hamlet’ by William Shakespeare

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