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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Building Larry Craig's Closet

Craig mughsot

Sen. Larry Craig's mugshot

There are already accusations of a double standard in regards to Sen. Larry Craig's arrest for lewd behavior in an airport men's room. It's hard to keep my fairness gene in check and not refer to an "alleged behavior" or an "accused senator," but with his previous guilty plea, the facts are pretty much set. Craig claims that pleading guilty was a "mistake," but you don't get a do-over on this kind of thing. I'm not an attorney and I suppose he could appeal (if I'm wrong, I can count on someone correcting me), but it seems to me that going to court and being proven guilty would just be a final nail in the coffin. He'd be found guilty of lewd behavior by the law and of being gay by the public. Not that anyone has any doubt on either count.

The alleged double standard works this way -- if Republicans get busted in a sex scandal, they get pounded with criticism. If a Democrat does the same, they get a pass. It's hard to see how this is valid, since Bill Clinton was impeached for a blow job, but there you go.

The real double standard here comes from the right. John McCain, Norm Coleman, and Peter Hoekstra have all called for Craig to resign. McCain's reasoning seems the shakiest. "When you plead guilty to a crime," he explained, "You should resign." Any crime? Say, jaywalking? Craig pleaded guilty to what is apparently a nuisance crime -- he got a $500 fine and a year's probation for a misdemeanor. Legally speaking, Craig might as well have smoked in in that men's room.

Let's look at other things Republicans have done, shall we? The most recent was Louisiana Sen. David Vitter's connection to prostitution in DC and at home. Vitter held a press conference, declared that he'd "received forgiveness from God and my wife in confession and marriage counseling" and got right back to lecturing everyone on morals. Right Wing Washington barely made a peep about this. The left/right split in the Senate is so slim that they can't afford to lose the seat. It's got to be something really serious -- like being all ho-mo-sekshul -- before Republicans call for a GOP Senator's head (don't look for Alberto Gonzales's replacement to come out of the Senate, BTW).

Dick Cheney shot some poor fella in the freakin' face and they're cool with it. This is apparently a family value. Republicans love guns and hate gays; so if Dick had shot a gay guy in the face, they'd probably have cheered.

That's the real double standard here. Vitter could get laid on a float in the Mardi Gras parade with a Dominatrix and the petite filles from Madame Belle's Maison Derriere and nothing would happen. Dick Cheney could get hammered and blow the hell out of his entire neighborhood and no one would suggest he resign.

How genuine are these GOPers outrage over Craig? Probably not very. Surprisingly, there isn't a huge anti-prostitution voting block on the right. Porn, sure, but not prostitution. The anti-gun right is nonexistent. But that antigay right, they're huge. The current crop of GOP presidential candidates shows that. Not a single one has been crazy enough to even suggest that homosexuality is remotely OK. So, no matter how minor the crime, if it involves homosexuality, you might as well have committed murder. You're toast.

This double standard extends even to Larry Craig himself. It's the root of his hypocrisy. There's a "save me from myself" movement in the Republican party. People who feel the need for a rigid, inflexible, and archaic moral framework. If you're gay and don't want to be, you join in with those who want to wipe out gays. Your problem isn't your own gayness, your problem is other gay people. They're tempting you, they're dragging you down what you see as a moral sinkhole, and they must be controlled -- not you. You can bet that in his private moments, Craig curses that closeted culture of random men's room encounters, not himself. If that culture didn't exist, he wouldn't be in this mess. Never mind that people like Craig are instrumental in building that culture. In his mind, he probably thinks he was right all along and just didn't fight the homosexual menace hard enough.

And all those who are clamoring for Craig's resignation, but not Vitters, built that closeted culture as well -- gay or not. They would rather see homosexuality as the secret Hell that Sen. Larry Craig lived in; furtive encounters among strangers in secret. When it's out in the open, healthy and sane, then it's a problem.

But those who are moral, those who know what Jesus wants, they should just stop being gay. Get a wife, start a family, and -- no matter how phony -- live the Ozzie and Harriet life. If it's unfair to that wife and kids, so what? What's most important is that no one ever be gay. Because that's a choice and you can choose not to be. If you find yourself fantasizing about someone of your own gender, that's a personal failure and a sin -- even if it comes unbidden and out of the blue. It's still a choice.

Given this rigid and fake moral code, it's absolutely predictable that these secret encounters happen. And no one knows that better than Sen. Larry Craig. He lived with that inner struggle every day, he threw away more than one life in a passionless marriage, he tried to shove every gay in America back into that closet with him. He believed that this secret Hell was what every gay should live with. He thought that guilt and shame and lies were moral and that repression, denial, and the closet were the way to go.

There's a double standard, all right. And Larry Craig lives it. In right wing happyland, everyone pretends gays don't exist, then freak out when they discover they do. If you accept this worldview, it's even possible to hate yourself.

So you build that closet and you cram as many gays back in there as you possibly can. If that ruins lives of people in the closet -- as it has with Larry Craig -- that's their own damned fault.


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