Dec 24 2020

Random Readings from 2020 no. 3: Gore Vidal

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It is always easy to disagree with Gore Vidal–but in his prime, he was difficult to spar with. First, from 1961:

Any citizen can be usefully engaged. He can also be useful in social and moral legislation, where there is much work to be done. As for civil liberties, anyone who is not vigilant may one day find himself living, if not in a police state, at least in a police city.

(“Police Brutality,” Esquire, August 1961 in Vidal’s United States: Essays 19521992, (New York: Random House, 1993) p. 555.)

Then from 1981:

Our therapists, journalists, and clergy are seldom very learned. They seem not to realize that most military societies on the rise tend to encourage same-sex activities for reasons that should be obvious to anyone who has not grown up ass-backward, as most Americans have. In the centuries of Rome’s great military and political success, there was no differentiation between same-sexers and other-sexers; there was also a lot of crossing back and forth of the sort that those Americans who do enjoy inhabiting category-gay or category-straight find hard to deal with. Of the first twelve Roman emperors, only one was exclusively heterosexual. Since these twelve men were pretty tough cookies, rigorously trained as warriors, perhaps our sexual categories and stereotypes are—can it really be?––false. It was not until the sixth century of the empire that same-sex sex was proscribed by church and state. By then, of course, the barbarians were within the gates and the glory had fled.

Today, American evangelical Christians are busy trying to impose on the population at large their superstitions about sex and the sexes and the creation of the world. Given enough turbulence in the land, these natural fascists can be counted on to assist some sort of authoritarian—but never, never totalitarian—political movement. Divines from Santa Clara to Falls Church are particularly fearful of what they describe as the gay liberation movement’s attempt to gain “special rights and privileges” when all that the same-sexers want is to be included, which they are not by law and custom, within the framework of the Fourteenth Amendment. The divine in Santa Clara believes that same-sexers should be killed. The divine in Falls Church believes that they should be denied equal rights under the law. Meanwhile, the redneck divines have been joined by a group of New York Jewish publicists who belong to what they proudly call “the new class” (né arrivistes), and these lively hucksters have now managed to raise fag-baiting to a level undreamed of in Falls Church—or even in Moscow.

(“Pink Triangle and Yellow Star,” The Nation, November 14, 1981 in Vidal’s United States: Essays 19521992, pp. 596–97.)