Nouveau Thoughts: July 2008: Archives

July 20, 2008

The "Order" Of Things: Let Them Kill...Yes - Let Them Marry...No genre: Gaylingual & Just Jihad & Nouveau Thoughts & Uncivil Unions

OutOfOrder.jpg

I'm always amazed at public opinion...especially when it provides some insights into human nature in 21st century America. Over the years, I've always marveled at the prudish obsession with all things prurient.

I could be wrong, but I suspect a majority of Americans would rather allow their children to watch depictions of violence on television and at the movies than anything remotely sexual. In some ways, I understand how this happens, but in my moments of lucidity, I wonder why we never take the time to understand or alter this seemingly incoherent ideation.

To find evidence of this phenomenon, one need look no further than the polling relevant to same-sex marriage and the military's policy of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Despite the occasional outlier, it's fairly safe to state that more Americans oppose same-sex marriage than favor it. At the same time, numerous polls in recent years suggests that a significant majority of Americans are in favor of allowing gays to serve in the military. I find those two incongruent positions fascinating.

First, a look at the latest polling on both issues.

From The Washington Post On DADT:

Public attitudes about gays in the military have shifted dramatically since President Bill Clinton unveiled what became his administration's "don't ask, don't tell" policy 15 years ago today.

Seventy-five percent of Americans in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll said gay people who are open about their sexual orientation should be allowed to serve in the U.S. military, up from 62 percent in early 2001 and 44 percent in 1993.

Today, Americans have become more supportive of allowing openly gay men and women to serve in the armed forces. Support from Republicans has doubled over the past 15 years, from 32 to 64 percent. More than eight in 10 Democrats and more than three-quarters of independents now support the idea, as did nearly two-thirds of self-described conservatives.

From CBS News On Same-Sex Marriage:

(CBS) Most Americans continue to think there should be some legal recognition of gay and lesbian couples, and 30 percent say same-sex couples should be allowed to marry - the highest number since CBS News began asking this question in 2004.

Twenty-eight percent think same-sex couples should be permitted to form civil unions, but more than a third - 36 percent - say there should be no legal recognition of a gay couple's relationship.

Americans' views on this issue have changed since 2004, although opinion has not changed substantially in the last two years. In November of 2004 (soon after the presidential election) just 21 percent of Americans supported the idea of same-sex couples being allowed to marry.

Majorities of both men and women support some form of legal recognition for gay and lesbian couples, but more women (36 percent) than men (24 percent) back the idea of same-sex marriage.

With regard to DADT, it seems fairly clear that the country is ready to embrace gays serving in the military. Virtually every constituent group agrees. As such, it would be difficult to contend that the favorable response is due to the vague or uncertain nature of the survey question.

With regard to gay marriage, the results are more nebulous. Don't get me wrong, there's little doubt that the trends are encouraging. In fact, one could make the argument that a narrow majority of Americans actually favor some recognition of same-sex relationships. Defining the specifics of that recognition would likely provide less encouraging results.

I'm intrigued by the disparity. On the one hand, it seems that patriotism and a desire to defend one's nation elicits thoughts of equality on the part of the electorate. In other words, if gays are willing to kill and die for their country, by God, we shouldn't deny them that opportunity. [Wave flags now] On the other hand, who a gay person chooses to love and how that love is recorded by society apparently elicits thoughts of moral rectitude on the part of the electorate. [Cover eyes now]

In other words, views about homosexuality seem to mirror the general pattern of allowing our children to be exposed to violence (masculinity...or behavior associated with men?) while shying away from exposure to, or discussion about, sexuality (intimacy...or behavior associated with women?). Is that an anecdotal observation and a broad brush approach to the subject? Perhaps. Does it offer a plausible explanation for the divergent data? In part, I think so.

Let's take it a step further. When one thinks about the treatment of those in the LGBT community, three things emerge. One, lesbianism (often associated with being a tomboy), while still objectionable to many, is also a source of male fascination, and as such, serves to insulate lesbians from intense societal derision. Secondly, gay men (often associated with being effeminate) draw the intense ire of a number of heterosexual men which is much more likely to lead to acts of derision and/or violence being perpetrated on homosexual men. Lastly, transgender males, seeking to identify as women (adopting virtually all aspects of feminine behavior), are potentially at the greatest risk for vitriol and violence.

I contend that if one were to ask all voters to quantify each groups social acceptability, each groups acceptability to serve in the military, and the acceptance of the love relationships each group forms, the discomfort would mirror the rankings I've noted above.

Let's return to the apparent discomfort with all things sexual and the seeming tolerance for depictions of violence. If one looks at the dance of sexuality, generally speaking, the male is in pursuit which can easily be construed as an aggressive act. Since men generally accept this role...and they also have daughters...a disconnect emerges which may well lead to the seeming silence with regards to all things sexual.

In simple terms, men, aware of each other's inclinations, are uncomfortable admitting and acknowledging that their daughters will be pursued sexually and anything that reminds them of this creates dissonance that is rarely resolved. The carnal nature of sex as conquest (masculine) can prevent them from viewing sexuality favorably as intimacy (feminine).

This may also explain the difference in men's and women's reported acceptance of gays in the military. Men, by virtue of their own views of sex, are apt to view the homosexual male similar to themselves...meaning they assume a gay man is in pursuit of a sexual encounter. At the same time, women are apt to be more comfortable with gay men as a result of their inclination to share expressions of intimacy.

I'll offer one additional observation. Sex, by its nature, involves unspoken understandings about penetration and being penetrated...tops and bottoms if you will. That again brings us back to the above ordering. Lesbianism, from a conventional view of gender roles, is often thought to be about penetration...meaning there is a perception that someone adopts the position as the top (the masculine aggressor). With gay men, the perception is that someone adopts the position as the bottom (the feminine placater). Lastly, with regard to the transgender male, the assumption is that the individual seeks to adopt the feminine role...although in this instance, with a heterosexual male.

Simply stated, the subconscious predisposition to favor masculinity over femininity (imposed over centuries by the prevalence of misogyny as opposed to any innately ordered hierarchy) therefore leads to ranking the three accordingly.

All of the above, in my opinion, helps explain why voters are more inclined to support gays in the military than to endorse same-sex marriage. The former is consistent with established societal norms that favor masculinity which makes it more palatable. Conversely, the latter serves to threaten the established order and unseat the stereotypical male identity from its lofty perch.

When it's all said and done, I contend humanity hasn't navigated that far from its awareness that the king of the jungle's demands are usually met (he writes the rules) and he is therefore afforded a wide berth...simply based upon an unspoken understanding that he has the ability to impose his will (penetrate) upon those who can't do the same.

Whether all of this suggests that love does or doesn't exist as we define it is open to debate. In the meantime, the message to the LGBT community is rather convoluted...and fully impeachable. In a world too easily inclined to violence, it's a shame to be rewarding gays for propagating aggression as the acceptable status quo while stifling their potential to act as loving agents for constructive change. It's time for the sleeping giant to assemble its parts and uproot the tree to which it has too long been tethered. It's time for a new order.

Tagged as: DADT, Discrimination, Don't Ask Don't Tell, Gay Marriage, LGBT, Military, Misogyny, Polling, Relationships, Same-Sex Marriage, Sexuality, Society, Violence, War

Daniel DiRito | July 20, 2008 | 2:27 PM | link | Comments (5)
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July 17, 2008

Dan Dennett: On The Prevalence & Power Of Ideas (Memes) genre: Nouveau Thoughts & Six Degrees of Speculation

In the following video, Dan Dennett discusses the power of ideas (memes) to hijack evolutionary rules and therefore the individual. When this happens, depending upon the idea, society and the individual can become the virtual victim of a parasite that promotes actions that are actually contrary to our genetic fitness. While the concept seems complex on its surface, Dennett does an excellent job of communicating the premise that ideas (memes) can be toxic and detrimental.

Dennett offers some examples to demonstrate this phenomenon. He actually uses the term infectious repetititis to describe the process by which ideas can become dangerous (viral if you will). Knowing as much, he moves forward to suggest that the antidote to toxic memes is a commitment to knowledge and rational thought designed to explore the factual merits of an idea...absent a preconceived bias (morally neutral). Hence, it becomes the responsibility of society to propagate good ideas and extinguish (refute) those that aren't.

I find the topic fascinating. Dennett, an adept communicator, is actually little more than a student of human nature who is committed to the expanded application of the scientific method. In other words, passion has its place...but it ought to be tested prior to its widespread distribution.

I've included a second video which I believe offers additional insight into the replication of ideas and the impact they can have on societies. The video basically traces the influences of the various religions, over time, and how their spread impacted the individual and the society. In the ebb and flow of these religions, people were persecuted and killed, customs were extinguished, and dissent by the individual was frequently prohibited. I think this second video does an excellent job of exemplifying and amplifying Dennett's observations and the concerns he brings forward.

Dan Dennett On The Power Of Ideas (Memes)

The Spread Of Religion

Tagged as: Dan Dennett, Evolution, Genetics, Human Nature, Intransigence, Islam, Memes, Religion, Science, Scientific Method

Daniel DiRito | July 17, 2008 | 9:10 AM | link | Comments (0)
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July 10, 2008

FISA: Four, Three, Two, One...Is What Counts Gone? genre: Nouveau Thoughts & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

When in the course of human events is truth self-evident? Or is truth a declaration independent of our capacity to recognize it? Is there a point at which the collective truth of yesterday is no longer sufficient to hold together that which seemed to be a more perfect union? Are such questions, cut from the fabric of our foundation, the tools needed to retrieve Major Tom from his solitary perch in space...or are the answers to such questions the reason he's convinced he can never return? Are we on the precipice of reentry or have we begun the final countdown?

How is it that the intersection of the Declaration of Independence and Major Tom, a Peter Schilling song from the 80's can capture my impressions regarding the state of affairs in American politics? Well, it's rather simple. The former has always represented the ideals which grounded this nation and functioned to form the fundamental bonds which made us citizens in a society steeped in shared purpose. The latter describes the isolation and alienation we've allowed to jettison us, one from the other, into independent orbits, absent the willingness to reconnect...floating weightless, drifting, falling.

Understanding the journey may be the only means of finding our way home. Strange as it may sound, the path we're currently traveling begins with death, a virtual reversal of the expected cycles. Such as it is, perhaps this is what makes our actions to preserve life as we once knew it so stifling and contrary to the spirit from which it took flight. Hence the unencumbered life we once lived seems to have died and fallen to ground on 9/11...and the death we now fear has become the constrictive cornerstone of the lives we now live...with our withered wings clipped and tethered to ground.

The weight of 9/11 may well be that which will forever separate us from the freedoms we once knew. Many believe that the passage of the FISA bill will undoubtedly serve that purpose...and they view it as a virtual death knell to the intentions enumerated in the Declaration of Independence and the remainder of our founding documents.

Like Major Tom, many find themselves disconnected and adrift...mindful of the inspiration that spawned a great nation...mournful that FISA, in its attempt to preserve life, may actually kill the inspiration that made this way of life worth living. Therefore, the anxiety exhibited is clearly a response to the intangible shadow FISA will cast...obscuring the vision of this and future generations...modifying the meaning and the measurement of our unbridled freedoms...substituting the avoidance of death for the long standing construct of preserving our freedoms...even when doing so may have come at the expense of lives lost.

Truth be told, only a few of us will ever find ourselves visible victims of FISA's probes and pursuits. For some, the mere knowledge of its existence is enough to consider the prospect of bidding farewell...metaphorically...to the essence of our collective identity. For others, the cost is negligible and they view the assurances of safety and security that accompany FISA to be a reasonable means to preserve life...physically.

Both points of view contain truths that are self-evident. Both are premised upon the recognition of value. Unfortunately, at this juncture in our journey, the measurements of value have become the points of departure...and our shared truths have become seemingly insufficient to hold us together. Those in favor of FISA believe their truth is essential to the preservation of a more perfect union. Those opposed to FISA view anything that tramples foundational principles to have precluded the possibility of a perfect union.

In the end, it becomes a question of the degree to which one sees life as an ethereal endeavor (FISA opponents) or whether one sees its essence as nothing more than the acts necessary to extend its duration (FISA proponents). In this comparison, irony emerges.

The former, idealists though they may be, are apt to be those who deny the existence of an afterlife. The latter, pragmatists in many ways, are more likely to envision an afterlife as an important adjunct to their identity. The former, quick to discount the notion of the rapture or the end of days, view FISA as the initiation of the journey towards the destruction of their homeland. The latter, Biblically instructed to be ever mindful of the signs of the coming end, view FISA as the means to preserve the homeland while they wait to gain entry into the ultimate kingdom.

So who is Major Tom? It's hard to say. Where is he going? I believe he's going home. Where is that home? It's rather difficult to determine. What is the nature and substance of home? Such is the quintessential dilemma we face.

Will we remain grounded in the principles of the Declaration of Independence or will we secede the controls to the likes of Orwell's Ministry of Truth? Is the countdown on...or is what counts gone? There's no reply.

Peter Schilling - Major Tom

Tagged as: 9/11, Death, Declaration of Independence, Dying, End of Days, FISA, Freedom, Major Tom, Peter Schilling, Politics, Rapture, Religion

Daniel DiRito | July 10, 2008 | 1:43 PM | link | Comments (0)
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