Santorum: Conservatism Without Make-Up
April 25, 2003
By Terry Sawyer
Ever since Pat Buchanan spoke at the 1992 convention, I figured
that Republicans would have learned to keep their true intentions
underground. America stared in the face of right-wing fundamentalism
and we collectively peed our pants. "These people are positively
unhinged," we gasped and even your averagely-religious American
shrugged their shoulders and realized that for some people
God is the PCP overdose of the masses.
For the most part, Republicans have been able to brush these
unwanted but necessary cultural hobgoblins under the staircase
shining light and tossing scraps through the keyholes only
when they needed these bumps in the night to drag themselves
to the polls. The past few years' worth of gains for conservatives
have been due primarily to the public relations colonic that
has rehabilitated their image as greedy, heartless, God psychos.
Opposing any and all attempts to redress inequality suddenly
became defending against "reverse racism". Hating gays was
recast as "pro-family". Someone wringing out their underwear
sweat in the desert so that you could have a drink of water
became, for the second time around, "trickle down economics".
By hijacking the ideals of liberalism, conservatives were
able to mantra themselves to respectability. Just remember
"fair and balanced", "fair and balanced".
Perhaps it's the giddiness of success that has brought us
the public slip-ups of prominent, high-ranking conservatives.
Comfortably fatted on their newfound power, conservatives
have decided to let us all in on the sham of their linguistic
spackling of the truth. First, Trent Lott put his foot in
his mouth at Strom Thurmond's 350th birthday party by waxing
nostalgic for a United States where darky would still be down
and straight white men could unwad their money while the rest
of us licked their loafers. It was an unfortunately timed
comment for a party that tries to desperately to spotlight
its modest inroads into the African American community, though
the Republican racial palette still looks like a single bag
of chocolate chips air-dropped onto Antarctica.
Of course it wasn't the first time that Lott had pined away
for the Middle Ages, but it was the first time that Republicans
were publicly forced to atone for his honesty and hastily
back away from a man that was once one of their most powerful
Senate leaders. I'm sure if Republicans only knew that there
were racists in the party they would surely ask them to leave
(and come back on election day).
Now Senator Rick Santorum has created a minor dust-up by
comparing consensual gay sex with incest and advocating for
its criminalization. He said: "If the Supreme Court says that
you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then
you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy,
you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery.
You have the right to anything. All of those things are antithetical
to a healthy, stable, traditional family. And that's sort
of where we are in today's world, unfortunately. It all comes
from, I would argue, this right to privacy that doesn't exist,
in my opinion, in the United States constitution."
If arguments were sports cars, this would be a three-legged
It's worth noting that these sodomy statutes operating as
the lynchpins holding back barbarity have at various times
covered everything from anal sex (with anyone), pre-marital
sex, adultery, oral sex, or sex without the intent to procreate.
The fact that it has been whittled down to male homosexuality
brings little moral pause to fundamentalist Christians since
they've successfully eliminated from legal scrutiny the sinful
acts they themselves are most likely to commit. Imagine preventing
a Baptist blowjob in the name of God and you'd find yourself
on the liberal end of a shotgun barrel. Picture enforcing
an adultery law and you'd need to market blow-up parishioners
to fill up all the empty pew space.
Has the introduction of sex without procreative intent really
let slip chaos? If conservatives believe this to be the case,
then it seems more than slightly hypocritical that their sexual
crusades focus among one of a panoply of sexual sins that
clearly violate the Holy Book. This morality is so haphazardly
enforced that it is still legal to fuck a dog in Texas but
not a fully functional, consenting adult of the same sex.
What could be more totalitarian than a society in which your
sexual preferences could be reported to police who would then
be legally justified in breaking down your door and cuffing
you in the in the middle of your favorite Marvin Gaye song?
This is just another vile example of scapegoating in the
name of purity or more correctly, throwing rocks from a glass
house without opening the windows first. This is exactly how
rabid imams enforce Sharia, as a reflection of their prejudices,
as insulation from their own marked flaws, and as target practice
on those they hate and have power over. So far the states
that have rescinded sodomy laws have yet to experience sudden
outbreaks of cannibalism and child prostitution. The slippery
slope of sexual deviance is apparently dry as a bone.
Moreover, bigamy and polygamy are really piss-poor arguments
that apply more to gay marriage, and not to gay sex (though
it's a lousy argument either way). Bigamy and polygamy involve
acts that contravene legal definitions of marriage contracts.
A more accurate analogy would have been if he said that legalizing
gay sex would lead to group sex (which I think might already
be happening without Santorum's permission). It doesn't take
an intellectual surgeon to parse marrying three people from
just plain having sex with them in the privacy of your home.
As for his final point that he couldn't find the word "privacy"
in the Constitution I don't have the space to blast the idea
that if you can't find something word-for-word in the Constitution
(like the right to wear contact lenses) than you simply can't
expect the government not to take it away. Many people much
smarter than I have made quick work of the idea that we must
live our lives by divining the intentions of dead, inconsistent
men who could not even imagine the world we live in now. Just
as the penumbra of religious freedom has broadened to include
Catholics, Muslims, Jews and Atheists, so too has the definition
of which areas of our lives we believe should be bulwarked
against government intrusion. It's hardly a stretch to imagine
that the meaning of unreasonable search has seamlessly evolved
to include the government monitoring and scrutinizing one's
progress through the Kama Sutra's illustrations.
Interestingly, Santorum's argument is a blatant attempt
to falsely play the victim in this scenario, an Academy Award-winning
common occurrence amongst conservatives. The only way that
consensual gay sex could possibly harm the institutions of
their "family values" would be if the removal of sodomy laws
suddenly stirred the latent wants of repressed Republicans
everywhere. If every Republican is simply a Supreme Court
decision away from buggery, then I can imagine how frightening
it must be to see that legal cheesecloth removed.
However, I suspect that this argument is just a self-indulgent
lie. The idea that you are oppressed if you are not allowed
to oppress others with your sectarian religious beliefs could
easily be applied within Christian groups to attack those
who have disagreements on the day of the Sabbath, rites of
baptism, and beliefs about the use of condoms.
Why is it that people like Santorum are never seen as dangerous
to our fundamental beliefs or corrosi ve to the very fabric
of our culture? Though Christian fundamentalists have hijacked
the War on Terrorism as a war to finally destroy the world
(they've been trying so hard for so long, you see), it is
more accurately a war against a very similar cultural vision,
a war against people who also believe that society should
be structured on the basis of their vision of God's desires.
Unfortunately the controversy is unlikely to be as big as
the Lott debacle. Conservatives have lost the open war against
blacks, but they have steadfastly dug their heels in for other
bigotries that they guard like pacifiers.
I don't want Senator Santorum to step down. I want him to
keep it up. I want every Republican to say what they mean.
I want John Ashcroft to tell us that we should be killing
Arabs to bring back Jesus. I want George Bush to just say
that he thinks gay people should be locked in boxes or that
poor people can go fuck themselves for all he cares. And after
we have the whole truth, I want all us to send these sheep-frocked
wolves back into the disempowered wilds. I want a landslide
election and I want to be telling my kids about conservatism
every Halloween, as a cautionary tale of what happens when
the mind of God fits snugly in a peanut shell.