Give Goldberg a Chance
Yesterday, Salon highlighted something “incredibly stupid” written by Jonah Goldberg in a “doozy of a syndicated column“. I’m no Goldberg scholar, so maybe it’s right that “pathetic” Goldbergian Conservatism is, “a philosophy defined entirely by opposition to whatever those stupid liberals want…” But I found the tone of the Salon post weirdly disproportionate to the actual column, which isn’t really a doozy of anything.
As for the “bohemian” or “avant garde” quality of homosexuality, I’d argue this was always more about how the larger society read gays than how gays or the gay Left “wanted” to be read.
I mean, it’s not as if Goldberg’s argument is wrong, or at least not dramatically wrong. He argues that the current goals of the gay rights movement are, essentially, bourgeois if not conservative: fighting for the country in the military, getting married, living in the suburbs, etc. Therefore, they don’t pose the radical threat to conservative values that some conservatives believe. Disagree if you wish, but it’s not exactly an unreasonable position.
Alex Pareene’s gripe is with Goldberg’s framing of these goals as a sort of betrayal of left-wing values, and maybe this passage is a tad silly:
“Two decades ago, the gay Left wanted to smash the bourgeois prisons of monogamy, capitalistic enterprise, and patriotic values and bask in the warm sun of bohemian “free love” and avant-garde values. In this, they were simply picking up the torch from the straight Left of the 1960s and 1970s, who had sought to throw off the sexual hang-ups of their parents’ generation along with their gray flannel suits.”
I remember that- two decades ago, the gay Left was trying to get everyone to use condoms and end the spread of HIV. As for the “bohemian” or “avant garde” quality of homosexuality, I’d argue this was always more about how the larger society read gays than how gays or the gay Left “wanted” to be read. Sorry, but there have always been tons of gay squares. Which is sort of the point. There have always been tons of squares in every subculture. The vast majority of us are pretty square. I would imagine that patriotism and a desire for domesticity are pretty widely and evenly distributed amongst most populations, and especially the American populace. And, yes, probably about the same on the Right and Left.
But, all of this amounts to small beer- Goldberg is selling his mild support for gay marriage to conservative readers, so he tells them that gay marraige is conservative and will drive those free-lovin’ hippies nuts. Big friggin’ deal. Is it a fair generalization of the “Left”? Not really. But no less unfair than calling the column “incredibly stupid” and (briefly) “the dumbest thing I’ve read on National Review today”.
(And, yes, I put this in ‘off the cuff’ because I’m well aware that my gripes about his gripes are even smaller beer than the gripes I’m griping about.)