Saturday, March 17, 2007

Morality – General Peter Pace doesn't know the meaning of the word

I believe homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts. I do not believe the United States is well served by a policy that says it is OK to be immoral in any way.

-- Gen. PETER PACE, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Leonard Pitts Jr. had an article in the Miami Herald yesterday that is so good it really should be read in its entirety. As is usually the case, Mr. Pitts expertly peels away the layers of sanctimony and pious bullsh*t to expose the real issue: homophobia. Inspired by General Peter Pace’s comment above, he starts by dismantling the “morality argument”, the most common smokescreen used by homophobes to justify their “hatred of gays and lesbians”:

People like [General Pace] -- in other words, bigots -- often wrap up their objections in claims of fundamental right and wrong where sexual orientation is concerned: I have a moral objection to homosexuality, they will say, loftily.

I've always thought ''visceral'' would be a better and truer adjective. As in, a gut-level objection to people of the same sex engaging in physical or emotional intimacy.

I’ve often made this very same argument, that these people are probably more driven by a deeply rooted revulsion to the idea of gay sex than they are by any sense of morality. They just (ab)use the morality argument to hide their discomfort and in most cases their blatant homophobia.

And Mr. Pitts calls these people on their dishonesty, although I would argue it’s a much graver sin than dishonesty:

If those who feel that objection would admit to being driven by instinct and not principle, I could at least respect their honesty. Frankly, it's not uncommon for heterosexual people to flinch at the idea of homosexual intimacy. But the problem is, that admission would cost gay-haters the pretense of principle.

After all, to admit that a response is visceral is to admit you haven't thought it through. Ergo, frame it as a ''moral'' issue. As a practical matter, it comes out the same, but it sounds more high-minded.

And that’s it in a nutshell. “Gay sex disgusts me” just doesn’t have that “holier-than-thou” ring that “I believe homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts” has. By framing the argument as a matter of right and wrong these people effectively claim the moral high ground they need to squelch any intelligent debate on the matter and put a “case is closed” finality to the whole thing:

At this point, of course, someone is frantically pointing to an obscure Old Testament passage as his or her authority for the immorality of homosexuality. Thing is, the Old Testament also requires the death penalty for disrespectful children, forbids the eating of meat cooked rare, and obligates the man who rapes a virgin to buy her from her father and marry her. I've seen no groundswell of support for those commands.

Mr. Pitts wraps up with the “painful irony” of General Pace’s words:

That's why, four years into the Iraq debacle, there is painful irony in hearing the president's top military advisor give a lecture on morality. Team Bush misled the nation into war against the wrong enemy. It hospitalized wounded Americans in squalor and filth. It left the people we ''liberated'' without electricity, gasoline or medical services for months turning to years because of its failure to plan.

How moral is that? And how moral is it for the chairman of the joint chiefs to insult soldiers who are still in harm's way, soldiers who have been wounded, soldiers who have died, because they do not love as he would choose? The answer in two words: not very.

So the general will have to forgive me if I cannot take seriously his maundering on right and wrong. Where morality is concerned, his words serve only to make one thing clear: He doesn't know the meaning of the word.



Jarred said...

Another thing to consider is that the USMC the good general cited is only applied when the powers that be consider it convenient. After all, it also declares adultery and fornication to be immoral and unbefitting military personnel. And yet, anyone who thinks that all the single straight men in the barracks are living chaste lives is kidding themselves. I find it rather telling that the good general and those like him aren't doing more to crack down on straight immorality in the ranks.

Of course, I suppose if they gave all the fornicators the boot, there wouldn't be much of a military left, huh?

Catherine + said...

Thanks for posting this SM!