and a Crucifixion
Struggling to make sense of a
welter of emotions about art and politics, I’ve tried to see the
truth that lies spread out before me, not always an easy task. In
the words of Oscar Wilde, "The pure and simple truth is never
pure and rarely simple."
Some observations by BENT contributor
Donald Lawrence were helpful. Here is what he wrote:
We have become so accustomed
to hypocrisy from our Powers-That-Be that the vilest, most blatant
scoundrels publicly proclaim moral judgments without challenge.
Where to start?
Schwartzeneggar, perhaps? Or maybe the churches. The Catholic
Church enjoys the limelight at the moment, for having protected
pedophiles while saving face by using its earthly power to justify
the unjust and persecute the vulnerable.
When discussing the conservative
view of marriage, let’s not forget poster-boy New Gingrich serving
his wife and the mother of his children with divorce papers while
she was hospitalized with cancer.
But my vote will have to go
to the Bush Dynasty, whose generations of family values and one-man/one-woman
marital sanctity have yielded a truly rotten crop.
Thank you, Don, for clarifying
the political side, but where does art come in? My confused state
of mind had to do with that oddest of confluences, same-sex marriage
and Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ,” for during the last
week it sometimes seemed impossible to read about much else. As
prime exhibits in this country’s ongoing culture wars the two seemed
to share little in common, but I’ve discovered that appearances
James Carroll, who in “Constantine’s
Sword” examines the history of Christian hatred of Jews, had this
to say about the Movie of the Moment in The Boston Globe: “Gibson’s
violence fantasies, as ingenious as they are perverse, are, at bottom,
a fantasy of infinite male toughness.”
Infinite male toughness. Sound
familiar? Dubya posturing in a flight suit on that oh-so-photogenic
destroyer. Arnold predicting (but sounding more like he was welcoming)
riots and death in the streets of San Francisco, while comparing
the issuing of marriage licenses to assault weapons and illegal
drugsall this in response to a threat as violent as, well,
as violent as a mass wedding celebration.
What’s missing here? Ah, yes,
that old-time religion (not trundled out much at the moment) called
compassionate conservatism, a fake political platform crafted to
make us feel good about every injustice a corrupt government can
visit on the least of us. Instead, the Prez and the Gov, with all
the fervor of a pair of rabid curs, pursue policies that ought
to incite riots, but seem, instead, to pass over the heads of a
stupefied body politic, dumbstruck, perhaps, by such blatant manipulation.
In California, what else can one
make of a governor, who, in refusing to support necessary taxation,
threatens to put at risk the most vulnerable of his fellow citizen.
Take one case in point: the California Medical Association predicts
that proposed additional reductions in Medical reimbursements will
make it impossible for most doctors to accept Medical patients.
The result will be already beleaguered hospital emergency rooms
swamped by the state’s poorest patients, a group that includes far
too many people with disabilities. These PWDs have been impoverished
by the absence or failure of state and federal programs that ought
to define a just society but that make us, instead, the laughing
stock of the Western democracies.
The governor tells us that consequences
like these are “regrettable.” You go, Arnold. Strut your infinite
male toughness, an attribute that makes me even more concerned about
a constitutional amendment that could put you in the White House
than I am about the amendment endorsed by its current unduly elected
A just government, one based on
compassion for its least privileged members, is heir to the true
meaning of Christ’s death and resurrectionwhether you prefer
to see that narrative through a literal or metaphoric lenswhich
is forgiveness, salvation and grace.
To quote James Carroll once more,
“The subject of this film, despite it title, is not the Passion
of the Christ, but the sick love of physical abuse, engaged in for
What strange bedfellows, this
President, this Governor, this movie maker. How best might we counter
their violence and abuse without resorting to violence and abuse
ourselves? Getting married by the thousands seems as good a method
as any. At least for the moment.
© 2004 BENT
Bob Guter has been
a bilateral amputee since the age of six as the result of multiple
birth defects. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Stagebill,
and other publications. With John R. Killacky he edited "Queer
Crips: Disabled Gay Men and their Stories (Haworth Press, 2003).
He lives in San Francisco where he publishes and edits BENT.