"My Brother, Larry Craig"

James Alison, a man of the Gospels in every sense and an English gay Catholic priest, is always worth listening to. This lecture, "Love Your Enemy: Within A Divided Self," is particularly sharp. Money quote:

For people like me, Senator Craig is, in a very obvious sense, an enemy: he has been a solid functionary of the system of hatred which has used people like me as a wedge issue to frighten people into acquiescence with other, and far more serious forms of evildoing. A system of hatred which is, thank heavens, far less strong in this country now than it is in the United States, and far less strong than it was in this country as recently as fifteen years ago. I say this, since there is an obvious sense in which I, as a child of my culture, am tempted to rejoice in the discomfiture of my enemy, to depict Senator Craig as the “not me” which gives me a tidy little identity. It was in this context that I was very moved to read a piece by one of the gay-bloggers in the US, fairly shortly after the Craig story broke, which helped remind me of the truth of the Gospel.

This blogger, whose name I cannot now remember, showed me something which enabled me to see sameness rather than difference.

He pointed out that Senator Craig was born in 1945, in rural Idaho. When he was ten years old, in 1955, there was a scandal in Boise, the Idaho State Capital, not too far from where young Larry lived. It was the big tabloid gay scandal of the 1950’s, coming just as America was in the grip of the McCarthy witch hunts, themselves helped along nicely by at least two self-hating gay men, “killer fruits” as Truman Capote wrily called them: Roy Cohn and J. Edgar Hoover. It was revealed that in Boise, of all unlikely places, there was a network of public officials and influential citizens employing the services of a group of rent boys. Well, you can imagine what sort of impact the news of all this, the sensation of it, the hatred it revealed, might have had on a ten year old boy. It might well have taught him that if he wanted to grow up being good, then the one thing, above all else, that he was not, was gay (or whatever approximation to that word existed in his milieu at that time). A boy like that might well have been taught by his culture, just as he came close to puberty, simultaneously who he was, and who he was not; and faced with any little boy’s desire to grow up to be good, he may have been locked into a form of denial and self-hatred which could then perpetuate itself for many years thereafter.

Now you will notice that I have used the subjunctive form, “may”, and “might”, throughout this description, because I don’t know Senator Craig personally, nor, I suspect, did the blogger who pointed out these background dates and events. But as I read the blog, I did remember a ten year old boy whom I knew in this country, fifteen or so years later, and so already in a much easier cultural climate, who found himself impossibly riven between the growing knowledge of who he was and the absolute cultural imperative that he not be that thing. Even in the much easier cultural climate of Britain in the early seventies that little boy came as close as dammit to opting for public “goodness” and success, denial and dishonesty, instead of the long route through the mystery of forgiveness and integration which was later offered to him by the Catholic Faith.

That little boy is of course myself, and what the blogger did for me was open up the possibility of my seeing Senator Craig not as an enemy, but as someone like me, riven by the same things I am riven, driven by the same things as those by which I am driven – “mon semblable, mon frère”.