Democratic Underground  

Rick 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 burro.

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.

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