Sunday, December 12, 2010

Frank Rich on Washington Homophobia

Counterlight told us about the Smithsonian censoring the art of David Wojnarowicz when culture warrior Bill Donohue went after it, a month after the exhibition of which it was a part, opened. Frank Rich picks up the story todayas an example of Washington homophobia and cowardice.
The incident is chilling because it suggests that even in a time of huge progress in gay civil rights, homophobia remains among the last permissible bigotries in America....

..Donohue was just using his “religious” objections as a perfunctory cover for the homophobia actually driving his complaint. The truth popped out of the closet as Donohue expanded his indictment to “pornographic images of gay men.” His Republican Congressional allies got into the act. Eric Cantor called for the entire exhibit to be shut down and threatened to maim the Smithsonian’s taxpayer funding come January. (The exhibit was entirely funded by private donors, but such facts don’t matter in culture wars.) ...

It took only hours after Donohue’s initial battle cry for the video to be yanked. “The decision wasn’t caving in,” the museum’s director, Martin E. Sullivan, told reporters. Of course it was. The Smithsonian, in its own official statement, rationalized its censorship by saying that Wojnarowicz’s video “generated a strong response from the public.” That’s nonsense. There wasn’t a strong response from the public — there was no response....

The Post’s Gopnik has been heroically relentless in calling out the Smithsonian and the National Portrait Gallery for their capitulation. But few in Washington’s power circles have joined him, including the Smithsonian’s Board of Regents — a gilded assembly of bipartisan cowardice that ranges from Senator Thad Cochran, Republican of Mississippi, to Senator Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont. ...

It still seems an unwritten rule in establishment Washington that homophobia is at most a misdemeanor. By this code, the Smithsonian’s surrender is no big deal; let the art world do its little protests. This attitude explains why the ever more absurd excuses concocted by John McCain for almost single-handedly thwarting the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” are rarely called out for what they are — “bigotry disguised as prudence,” in the apt phrase of Slate’s military affairs columnist, Fred Kaplan. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council has been granted serious and sometimes unchallenged credence as a moral arbiter not just by Rupert Murdoch’s outlets but by CNN, MSNBC and The Post’s “On Faith” Web site even as he cites junk science to declare that “homosexuality poses a risk to children” and that being gay leads to being a child molester.
Kudos to Frank Rich for being a vocal straight ally and calling out the craven politicians on this. John Aravosis at AmericaBlog refers to the Democrats as suffering political homophobia. As we see the battle over DADT, and DOMA, and marriage equality, the truth of the statement that being anti-gay is the last acceptable bias is apparent.

Remember, a year after Loving v. Virginia was decided over 70% of Americans disapproved of marriage equality--even though inter-racial marriage was legal. Today, polls suggest that fewer than 50% of Americans disapprove of gays and lesbians marrying--and it's still illegal in most states.

Those opposed increasingly represent a minority position based on fear and ignorance. Why do we give them the attention, when if they said the same lies about any other minority, they would be laughed off the stage?

2 comments:

Grandmère Mimi said...

Kudos to Frank Rich for being a vocal straight ally and calling out the craven politicians on this.

Rich is indeed a steady and faithful voice in naming homophobia for what it is: bigotry.

it's margaret said...

Another facet to consider when arguing about museum exhibits.... it's not just the exhibit, but WHERE it is exhibited. There are certain exhibits that will probably never fly on the Mall in DC --but would do just fine in LA or San Francisco.

I was in graduate school for museum studies during the Rodney King riots. Our teachers asked what objects we would use to create an exhibit on the riots. After my classmates said the regular things-- all the documents, billy clubs, guns, video cameras, gas masks etc., I said I would use none of that stuff --I would merely burn the museum down as the bastion of the oppressors owning the story yet again...

...sigh... The Smithsonian, with private funding or not, is the bastion of the oppressors.... even though it strives to be the people's museum.... it is too close to the source of power to act/exhibit freely.