Watching Larry Craig

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I forced myself. It was excruciating. Beyond embarrassing. Extraordinarily painful - especially for his wife. Why on earth they decided to subject themselves to prolonging this agony is a question worth asking. And the answer, I think, is: they have to. At this point in their lives, to allow the possibility that Craig is indeed homosexual, that he has sustained, lived, internalized a fundamental lie for his entire life, and involved his wife and children in that lie, would be to destroy themselves. I am not going to exonerate the man from hypocrisy because it is impossible. But I do think his problem is far deeper.

He grew up in a different time, and a different place, where even the possibility of being gay was inconceivable. I don't think he even thinks of himself as gay, or has any idea what being gay might actually mean. I think he thinks of his sexual orientation as a "lifestyle" (to use that hideous term Lauer kept referring to) that can be overcome the way one overcomes smoking or poor eating or sexual compulsion. And he constructed an identity in opposition to this "lifestyle" early, out of pain and defensiveness and terrible fear. He is now wedded to this life he created - more than to his wife, which is why she was kept in the dark for two months after the arrest, as he went through the terror of feeling caught finally in his own contradiction. He cannot break free of it at this point without psychic collapse. And so, even though it becomes absurd to everyone around them, the Craigs keep going. They have no choice, apart from total breakdown.

If you want an argument for why the cause for gay visibility, dignity and equality is necessary and indeed noble, just watch that interview again.

Craig was seeking in that toilet stall a connection, a shard of intimacy, that the world would not give him, or that he could not give himself. No one should have to live without that intimacy and dignity - no one. Living a life like that - a deeply lonely, compromised, painful interior existence - is a very sophisticated form of hell. No human can keep it up for ever. No human should have to keep it up for ever.

He is a hypocrite; and he made his choices. I am not going to dispute that. His voting record helped sustain the misery for others that he lived with himself. He is for ever responsible for that.

But he is also a victim. And to see such a victim's pain exposed brutally in a public restroom pains me. He needs help. So do millions of others. It is just a tragedy that the party that Craig belongs to is committed to prolonging the pain and the denial of so many people - in order to appease the casual fears of the insecure, and to use those fears to sustain political power. In that sense, Craig has long been a hapless tool of those who have made him so miserable and so alone for so long. One day, if we keep working, that misery will recede for some. If it recedes for one person, it will be worth it.

(Photo: Win McNamee/Getty.)

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