Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Gay and Alive

What did you think when you read the title of this post. I'll wager it had nothing to do with happiness.

My oldest son came into the room a few minutes ago having just watched an episode of "Get Smart."

"That is a good example of how things have changed," he said. "(Smart) just said, 'What happened, you used to be so alive and gay'... If someone had said that now days people would say, 'what is she lesbian or something?' "

The word has been co-opted by a movement. As has the whole idea of male friendship.
It reminded me of an article that I read some time ago at Touchstone on language and the death of male friendship:

Sam Gamgee has been fool enough to follow his beloved master Frodo into Mordor, the realm of death. To rescue Frodo from the orcs who have taken him captive and who will slay him as soon as he ceases to be of use in finding the Ring, Sam has fought the monstrous spider Shelob, has eluded the pursuit of the orcs, and has dispatched a few of them to their merited deaths.

Finally he finds Frodo in the upper room of a small filthy cell, naked, half-conscious, lying in a heap in a corner. “Frodo! Mr. Frodo, my dear!” he cries. “It’s Sam, I’ve come!” With a bluff tenderness he clasps him to his breast, assuring him that it is really he, Sam, in the flesh.

Still groggy, Frodo can hardly believe it, but he clutches at his friend. It seems to him all the tissue of a dream—that an orc with a whip has turned into Sam—and it is all mixed up with the sound of singing that he thought he heard and tried to answer. “That was me singing,” says Sam, shaking his head and saying that he had all but given up hope of ever finding his friend again. He cradles Frodo’s head, as one would comfort a troubled child.

At that a snigger rises from the audience in the theater. “What, are they gay?”...

...Language is not language if it is not communal; it is a neat trick of political abracadabra to argue for an individual’s right to change the very medium of our thought and our social intercourse. If clothing is optional on a beach, then that is a nude beach. It cannot be a nude beach for some and an ordinary beach for others; to wear clothes at that beach at the very least means something that it had not meant before. If you may paint your house phosphorescent orange and violet, and you persuade a couple of your neighbors to do likewise, you no longer have what anybody would call a historic neighborhood.

If all of Kate’s friends leap into bed with whatever male gives them a hearty dinner at Burger King and a round of miniature golf, and Kate chooses instead to kiss her date once on the cheek and leave him on the porch, she will suggest to everybody that she is a prude. She may be, or may not be; she may be more firmly in the grip of lust than they are, for all we know, and may just detest the boy. But her actions have connotations they did not use to have.
Imagine a world wherein the taboo has been broken and incest is loudly and defiantly celebrated. Your wife’s unmarried brother puts his hand on your daughter’s shoulder. That gesture, once innocent, must now mean something, or at least suggest something. If the uncle were wise and considerate, he would not make it in the first place. You see a father hugging his teenage daughter as she leaves the car to go to school. The possibility flits before your mind. The language has changed, and the individual can do nothing about it.

By now the reader must see the point. I might say that of all human actions there is nothing more powerfully public than what two consenting adults do with their bodies behind (we hope) closed doors. Open homosexuality, loudly and defiantly celebrated, changes the language for everyone. If a man throws his arm around another man’s waist, it is now a sign—whether he is on the political right or the left, whether he believes in biblical proscriptions of homosexuality or not.

If a man cradles the head of his weeping friend, the shadow of suspicion must cross your mind. If a teenage boy is found skinny-dipping with another boy—not five of them, but two—it is the first thing you will think, and you will think it despite the obvious fact that until swim trunks were invented this was exactly how two men or boys would go for a swim.

Because language is communal, the individual can choose to make a sign or not. He cannot determine what the sign is to mean, not to others, not to the one he signals, and not even to himself. ...

...On three great bonds of love do all cultures depend: the love between man and woman in marriage; the love between a mother and her child; and the camaraderie among men, a bond that used to be strong enough to move mountains. The first two have suffered greatly; the third has almost ceased to exist....(more)

It's a good article. Close, intimate male friendship is no longer possible to the degree it once was. And every man has suffered for it. Frankly, so have women.


kkollwitz said...

I read the same article last year or so, and in fact, I explain things to my teenage kids in light of it.

Ryk said...

Men who base their friendships and behaviors on what other people think are only harming themselves. Sure it is somewhat true that stupid people will think Gay when they see a couple friends hugging, but so what?

Do you base your self image on what other people think? Is this a good idea especially when it is usually stupid people making the assumptions? Is conformity that important?

I have no fear of hugging my male friends if that is appropriate. I have one friend who is a total hugger by nature and I don't shy away from his embraces. He isn't gay he is just physical it is who he is.

I have friends who I have no shame in telling them I love them. I have an especially good friend who is the mortician that tended to my grandmother. I had no shame in crying with him and he had no shame in comforting me.

None of us are gay, we just have the kind of self respect that doesn't care if people think we are.

So yes there are weak men who are slaves to the opinions of others. They allow their fear and cowardice to deprive them of intense male friendships. This is sad for them, but they do it to themselves. It is hardly a gay mans fault that some straight guy is so insecure in his manhood that he won't hug his friends.

eutychus said...

Ryk- thanks for your comments. They make similar points to ones made in the referenced article in the post. But you also seem to be missing the key points of the article, leading me to believe that you have made several assumptions and jumped to many conclusions. having a look at some of your comments refrencing this posting over at "FIH" confirms my suspicions.

So I'll just repost my comments here, though I suspect you were only passing by and will not be a regular reader here.

No, I have not cut myself off from close male friends either straight or homosexual. Perhaps a closer reading (or any reading) of the article referenced in the original post would shed some light on the position taken.

Ryk said:(referencing a male roommate) "It was not unusual for people to assume we were gay."

And this comes close to the point of the article. There was a time in this country when it WOULD have been unusual for people to assume you were gay because you had a male roommate. More to the point is the fact that today, young adolescent males are indeed robbed of close male friendship because of this change in public opinion and that does damage to me and society as a whole.