Towards A Good Samaritan World

Monday, October 25, 2004


I went to the Blogjam DC last night, as posted on Andrew Sullivan's blog. Turned out to be a gay blogjam rather than the political blogjam I was expecting. There were some brilliant writers, some sad, some funny, all of them offering more insight into what it's like to be gay than I've ever experienced. One guy bought me a drink, when I still thought it was a political blogjam and had no idea I was being hit on. A few reflections.

For straight people, there's a default life laid out: get an education, find a job, get married, have some kids and raise a family. By that time you're 50, with another two or three decades to kill, worn out and ready for some peace, fat, complacent. You run out the clock.

For gay people, there's no default life. The existential problem is more urgent. Marriage and kids are not an available option. Alienation and misunderstanding haunts relationships with family. Gays are more at risk of loneliness than most people. There's a sense in which they're not needed, not needed by their wives and children, and in the open or hidden opinions of a lot of people, not needed by society. To compensate, their communities have an intimacy which I could sense right away. And because they have to confront the existential problem (why I am here? what should I do? what's the meaning of life?) more urgently, and without traditional familial roles to guide them, they become a bit more interesting than the rest of us, on average.

The intimacy of their community is partly sexual. Gays are to the sexual economy as Americans are to the world economy: they consume far more than others do, and suffer health problems as a result. Many of the stories told were about AIDS. A lot of the people there had AIDS. Maybe that was why people seemed to be more face to face with the existential problem. I've lived in a country in Africa where much of the population suffered from AIDS. The tragedy proceeded silently. I never knowingly saw an AIDS victim. I saw ads for coffins along the road with disturbing frequency. Teachers had died and left swollen classrooms with hundreds of kids. The population was frighteningly young, with a median age of 15, which I noticed right away when a minibus from the City Centre to the Old Town was full of little people who seemed to be mostly under 20. These were the signs. But no one there ever talked to me about having it. Last night's Blogjam gave me some retrospective insights about my time in Africa. About how AIDS affects a life, and a community.

Some people think that homosexuality is a cause of cultural decline. It seemed to me last night (is this a confirmation of the claim?) that the romantic had bled out of heterosexual culture into the gay community. I lived in Russia for a while (a more homophobic culture) and sensed that it was a much more romantic culture than ours. More passionate. More in love with beauty. I love Russia for that. I almost wonder if, as homosexuality becomes more acceptable, straight guys get scared of showing affection for each other, and the strong masculine friendships that are an important element of chivalric culture are weakened. In which case homosexuality is an indirect cause of cultural decline, though it's the straights' fault. This is just speculation, of course.

As a Christian, I believe that homosexuals are sinners... just like the rest of us. That realization diminishes the urgency of the question, is homosexuality a sin. I don't feel called upon to answer it. But I think Jesus, were he to come today, would choose the gays (among others) over upstanding bourgeois Protestants, as he once chose tax collectors and a woman taken in adultery over the Pharisees, and would cure the AIDS victims, and comfort the lonely.

One more event: I met Andrew Sullivan. Face to face. Yeah. His British accent took me by surprise, even though I'd read all about his British public schools and supporting Thatcher and surprising American professors for being a European who loved Reagan and all that. All this time, I'd had a voice in my head when I read his blog, my imaginary Andrew Sullivan brain voice. I read his blog today. The brain voice is still there.


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