Friday, August 06, 2004
Why I’m glad I’m not a Catholic anymore . . .
From the Vatican’s recent security-alert warning about “lethal” strains of feminism infecting our families:
Recent years have seen new approaches to women’s issues. A first tendency is to emphasize strongly conditions of subordination in order to give rise to antagonism: women, in order to be themselves, must make themselves the adversaries of men. Faced with the abuse of power, the answer for women is to seek power. This process leads to opposition between men and women, in which the identity and role of one are emphasized to the disadvantage of the other, leading to harmful confusion regarding the human person, which has its most immediate and lethal effects in the structure of the family.
A second tendency emerges in the wake of the first. In order to avoid the domination of one sex or the other, their differences tend to be denied, viewed as mere effects of historical and cultural conditioning. In this perspective, physical difference, termed sex, is minimized, while the purely cultural element, termed gender, is emphasized to the maximum and held to be primary. The obscuring of the difference or duality of the sexes has enormous consequences on a variety of levels. This theory of the human person, intended to promote prospects for equality of women through liberation from biological determinism, has in reality inspired ideologies which, for example, call into question the family, in its natural two-parent structure of mother and father, and make homosexuality and heterosexuality virtually equivalent, in a new model of polymorphous sexuality.
While the immediate roots of this second tendency are found in the context of reflection on women’s roles, its deeper motivation must be sought in the human attempt to be freed from one’s biological conditioning. According to this perspective, human nature in itself does not possess characteristics in an absolute manner: all persons can and ought to constitute themselves as they like, since they are free from every predetermination linked to their essential constitution.
This perspective has many consequences. Above all it strengthens the idea that the liberation of women entails criticism of Sacred Scripture, which would be seen as handing on a patriarchal conception of God nourished by an essentially male-dominated culture. Second, this tendency would consider as lacking in importance and relevance the fact that the Son of God assumed human nature in its male form.
OK, yes, it’s great that Cardinal Ratzinger has been reading Gayle Rubin’s “The Traffic in Women” and immersing himself in the classic (though now dated) Lacanian film-theory debates in m/f and Screen of 25 years ago, and I hope he makes it all the way to Eve Sedgwick’s Epistemology of the Closet and Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble, by which point he’ll have to rethink that entire sex/gender thing. But in the meantime, what if, just what if, we actually didn’t have to “liberate” ourselves from biology in order to have these here polymorphous sexualities? What if it’s not a “new model” at all? What if we’re just polymorphous? Scary, huh, kids?
As Sedgwick once put it:
Has there ever been a gay Socrates?
Has there ever been a gay Shakespeare?
Has there ever been a gay Proust?
Does the Pope wear a dress?
Wednesday, August 04, 2004
Party of death
Following the release of a new psychological study that indicates voters prefer George Bush over John Kerry only when they are asked to think about death, Director of Homeland Security Tom Ridge has raised the terror alert level to “black,” the White House revealed today.
The new level-- “higher and worser” than red, according to President Bush-- suggests that a terrorist attack is only minutes away and will involve either flesh-eating bacteria or gradual disembowelment. However, Ridge stressed in a press conference today that the threat was “nonspecific.” “All we know is that they’re coming for you and your infant child, perhaps as we speak,” Ridge said. “The information is highly reliable, and is absolutely not based on intelligence that is three or four years old, like our last warning. Therefore we are asking Americans to go about their business as usual, but to remain in a state of gut-wrenching fear at all times.”
The new terror alert reflects a dramatic shift in administration policy over the past week, as high-ranking cabinet officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, reported that the Bush campaign had jettisoned plans to present the GOP as the party of “hope” and “optimism” in the 2004 elections. Instead, officials say, Republicans now prefer to be seen as the party of death.
“Hope? Screw hope. Optimism? Optimism can go fuck itself. Check out this passage from the CNN story,” said one official:
“There are people all over who are claiming every time Bush is in trouble he generates fear by declaring an imminent threat,” said Sheldon Solomon of Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York, who worked on the study. “We are saying this is psychologically useful,” said Solomon. . . .
No matter what a person’s political conviction, thinking about death made them tend to favor Bush, Solomon said. Otherwise, they preferred Kerry.
“It doesn’t get much clearer than that, does it?” continued the official. “That report came out last Friday, and we raised the terror level on Monday. Now we’re simply taking it to the next level. Look-- voters now prefer Kerry on the economy, on education, on health care, on ‘cares about people like me,’ even on Iraq, for Chrissake. We’re tied in the South, and we’re even tied among veterans. What the hell do we have left? Well, I’ll tell you what. We have death. And death kicks ass.”
Despite the remarkable speed with which the terror level was raised following the release of the new study, White House sources say that there has been internal dissension in the Bush administration, with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld arguing that the Republicans should be the party of “swift and certain” death, and Vice President Dick Cheney insisting that the GOP should be associated instead with “protracted and agonizing” death.
“The fact that we’re talking about flesh-eating bacteria and gradual disembowelment,” said Lex Luthor, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, “suggests to me that Cheney has won this round.”
Political analysts note that the new strategy poses risks, however. “The Republicans haven’t run as the party of death in forty years,” noted Jimmy Olson of the Brookings Institution, “not since back when Barry Goldwater famously declared that ‘thermonuclear apocalypse in the defense of liberty is no vice.’ That didn’t work in ‘64, but I don’t know about now. Personally, I’m considering switching to Bush. He may be a disaster on the economy, on the environment, on energy policy, on civil liberties, and on the war, but he just might be the only man who can save me and my children from flesh-eating bacteria.”
In a related development, former Vermont governor and Presidential candidate Howard Dean was detained by federal officials and is being held indefinitely at St. Elizabeth’s Psychiatric Hospital for “observation.” “The terror level is black,” said one distinguished psychiatrist assigned to Dean’s case. “We can’t have a complete lunatic like Dean running around out there.”