Men in White Satin


If the title evokes memories of an old rock standard, that’s okay, because that sums up my feelings lately–a little bit moody and a whole lot of the blues. Each day, it seems, another bit of light in my life flickers and begins to die. The name Miniver Cheevy is often on my lips and almost always on my mind.

The things I most loved about life are being carelessly tossed out the window of our technological Juggernaut, left scattered and broken, littering the shoulders of the information superhighway. Newspapers, letters, books and bookstores are being jettisoned in favor of ebooks, emags and etail. E as in evil.

With the devolution of the tactile comes the desolation of the mind, and the putrefaction of the soul. We live in a society in which more people can name the 5th runner up in last year’s American Idol than can name even one Supreme Court justice. Is it any wonder that our elected officials can loot the nation’s pension plan without anyone getting upset, or even noticing? This state of affairs proves that the thousands of teachers’ union members who invaded Madison, Wisconsin this spring were telling the truth when they proclaimed by deed if not by word that the only reasons they entered the education racket were to get a lucrative pension, and because they couldn’t be fired for incompetence.

As Steely Dan once complained, “The things that pass for knowledge, I don’t understand.”

The things that pass for values are a mystery as well. Our pop culture mavens go gaga over a transgressive diva, and parents pay good money so their eight-year-old daughters can learn how to dress, move and sing like that modern Medusa.

Every decade or so, people bestir themselves from their glutinous sloth to vote overwhelmingly in favor of men and women promising to rein in a burgeoning public sector. Then they believe the lies of those still clinging to power. They decide they don’t want any programs cut. “Don’t touch my Medicare,” they weasel. “But don’t raise my taxes, either.” Those assigned to root-and-branch reforms soon conclude their mandate was instead to get reelected, and that becomes their highest goal. They don the lace, and the gauze, and the push-up bras, and cozy up to customers around the bar, whispering to the voters, “Buy me a drink?”

As our nation steps back from its self-proclaimed role as the world’s grownup, ceding moral leadership to Europe, industrial and economic leadership to China, and regional hegemony to Iran, we wonder what we were fighting for, and whether it was worth the cost. What was the ideal which impelled us to the front, and who today is so naive as to speak of values?

We live in a culture in which Bill Maher is admired for spewing unrelenting hatred, but anyone who speaks of values is condemned as a hater. There are no ascendant values, there are only lifestyle choices. Endorsing excess, we are free to do anything, except to ask how much is enough? Questioning the helical trend leads to moral indignation on the part of the self-indulgent. This pursuit of flavor-of-the-month outrage leads to moral illiteracy. It leads to the point where the Lutheran Church can come out in favor of genocide–again–and escape condemnation because its position on gay marriage is affirming and uplifting.

Meanwhile, the State of New York has “legalized” gay marriage, as if it were against the law for two men or two women to get married before. This isn’t about justice, or human rights, or even fairness. It certainly isn’t the long-awaited answer to a crying need in the gay community. Entering into committed, long-term, monogamous relationships has never been a defining characteristic of homosexual culture. In fact, quite the opposite is true. (Next time you’re at a ball game and your kids are dancing to “YMCA,” take a moment to listen to the lyrics. Then you will understand the meaning of irony).

No, this wasn’t about justice, it was about approbation. Watching some of the exuberant response to the New York vote, I was struck by one celebrant boasting a seven-tiered wedding cake hat. Suddenly I realized this is not about making the world safe for serial monogamous same-sex relationships, this is about men dressing up in wedding gowns. This is about harsh, gruff, mean old Dad saying, “You look marvelous in that dress, son. I’m so proud of you.”