Sunday, September 02, 2007

Reflections on the Larry Craig Incident

I have to say that I find myself feeling sorry for Sen. Larry Craig. I must admit that I even feel badly about how he has been railroaded at one level.

For instance, I think it is absurd that what he did was cause enough not only for his being arrested, but also for his feeling the need to cop a guilty plea for a crime. What he did might have been seedy and unseemly, but I think it should never have been a cause for being arrested.

Where I do think Larry Craig bears some blame is not in what appears to be his Clinton-esque denial of being gay and engaging in a seedy gay pick-up routine in a public bathroom, but rather in that his public anti-gay rhetoric has reinforced a social stigmatization of gay lifestyles and encounters that has made it possible to criminalize behavior that should have never been criminalized to begin with.

A man or woman would never be arrested for non-verbal public flirtations intended to test the waters of a possible sexual encounter with a member of the opposite sex. Furthermore, I don't think it likely that even if a man or woman were arrested under similar circumstances for such a non-verbal heterosexual flirtation or proposition, this man or woman would be so publicly ashamed that he or she would plead guilty to a crime just to try to make the whole embarrassing situation go away.

This is what I think: Larry Craig has very profound internal conflicts about his sexual identity such that he believes he has to live a schizophrenic lifestyle and to do so in a state of denial about it. But Larry Craig did not commit a crime in that airport bathroom. He should never have been arrested in the first place. He should never have felt the need to plead guilty to any charge of criminal wrongdoing for what transpired. And he should certainly not have been run out of office for this.

It's a shame and a travesty that what he did actually might have been an arrestable offense in America. It shouldn't be. It's a shame that he felt so badly about having been exposed as engaging in gay flirtations that he pled guilty to a crime. He shouldn't feel so guilty and badly about his sexual preferences and how he conveyed his desire for sexual intimacy to another grown adult in such an inoccuous way. It's a shame that instead of a polite "not interested" from the object of his flirtations, which would have probably ended the encounter, he got a trip to the police precinct and a criminal booking.

Yet, it is also part of the tragic story of Larry Craig that his publicly condemnatory attitude towards gay sexual orientation and his support of an anti-gay social policy agenda made such things possible. It is tragic that Larry Craig played a part in making up the bed that he ended up having to sleep in himself, a bed that shouldn't have ever been made up to begin with.

It is hard for me to go to bat completely for Larry Craig precisely because of his vocal opposition to and vilification of the gay lifestyle in terms of his legislative and social policy agenda; but had he been more understanding of the marginalization of gays or even just simply silent about the topic out of respect for the human dignity of gays, I can say unhesitatingly that I would be defending him without reservation.

Even still, I don't think he deserves the treatment he is receiving. It's excessive and unwarranted. His career and his reputation are ruined simply because he engaged in gay flirtation, something that should have never been deemed criminal in the first place.

1 comment:

Don_cos said...

Nice, well balanced post. No more comment needed.