Sunday, September 23, 2007

“I would like to begin with a fact. A simple, yet shocking fact. It is this: A floodtide of filth is engulfing our country in the form of newsstand obscenity. It is threatening to pervert an entire generation of our American children. And we know that once a person is perverted, it is practically impossible for that person to adjust to normal attitudes in regards to sex.”

This video (part two here), while a little bit later than the period that Barry D. Adam talks about in his chapter, “The Homophiles Start Over,” and a little bit late to be really considered directly connected to McCarthyism, displays the same kind of logic that allowed McCarthy, HUAC and conservatives of the time connect Communism to deviation from heteronormativity. It’s also a pretty good laugh.

McCarthy and his ideological kin did not see Communism as an economic ideology posited against Capitalism, but rather, as a system of values posited against what they would call “The American Way of Life”—a broad term that represented the status quo. To them, America was a machine, and the functioning of this machine depended on the strength of ‘traditional values.’ Non-normative sexuality or gender expression connoted a weakness of mind, and a lack of loyalty to this “American Way of Life”—this loyalty was also questioned, as Adam notes, if one did not comply with the racial order through such things as exhibiting “too great sociability with black people…” (61). George Putnam puts it best, when he states, in regards to pornography, “…this moral decay weakens our resistance to the onslaught of the communist masters of deceit.” It is this logic, combined with the image of the gay male or lesbian as predator and pedophile that established homosexuality as nothing short of a threat to national security.

I think that this logic is actually distinct from the Nazi rhetoric that saw childbirth as a form of national production (of Aryans), and thus saw gay men and “antisocial women” as betrayers of the reproductive duty of citizens. Rather, it saw each child (implicitly male, white child) as a potential businessman, politician or other type of ‘great American’ who the gay male threatened to “convert.” As Putnam states to the backdrop of a model in a ‘physique magazine’, “…look here at the young face and bright smile which could be the hope of the world, but in the other half of the picture is revealed the seduction of the innocent.”

This type of thinking typified American attitudes towards Communism during the Cold War. It is a good thing we don’t think this way any more. If we do, then perhaps the terrorists have already won.

1 comment:

Aureliano DeSoto said...

LOL @ the terrorists have won. I also wonder, following your post, about the deeper roots of this feeling, and the almost complete association of Americana with the family and God, both as historical myth as well as contemporary impression. Is this somehow related to the effects of Puritan/Calvinist Protestantism on the development of capitalist culture in the United States?

This "embarrassment of riches" has always needed some sort of paradigmatic outlet, and I wonder if, in the USA, such an outlet is provided through the family and propriety, to balance out the growth of greed culture that is decidedly un-Christian. How this would then become associated with both rabid capitalism and white supremacy in completing the trinity of "The American Way of Life" is chilling, but also telling.