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May 31, 2007
RICHARD J. ROSENDALL
When marriage panic fizzles
Brian Camenker and MassResistance are having such a bad week, I hate to pile on. But what the hell.
A stranger to Bay State politics, hearing only of Camenker’s outspoken opposition to Mitt Romney and the proposed anti-gay state constitutional amendment, would likely think he is pro-gay. But of course Camenker thinks Romney and the amendment are not anti-gay enough. That’s like Fred Phelps denouncing Jerry Falwell for being soft on queers. (Note to myself: support improved mental health services.)
I had been admiring a copy of the 1934 Paul Cadmus painting, “The Fleet's In!” as part of my personal celebration of Fleet Week when I was interrupted by an email announcing that Camenker’s MassResistance radio show had been canceled by WTTT Salem Radio. What is a fearless defender of the Judeo-Christian tradition and protector of children from homosexual recruitment to do? Then the news came that great old queer Charles Nelson Reilly had died, as if to say, “Screw you, Camenker! I’m DEAD and I’m still a bigger story than you!”
Watching Camenker’s plight and Reilly’s past antics reminds me of how lucky I was as a schoolchild, because by a trick of fate (I credited my guardian angel) I was never the goofiest kid in class. In like fashion, gay families look fairly conventional when contrasted with Camenker’s over-the-top ranting. It’s almost a pity his radio show was canceled – as the saying goes, when your opponent is busy shooting himself in the foot, stay out of his way.
Fortunately for the future of civilization as Camenker would like us to know it, he still has his MassResistance.org website and email account, which enabled him on Monday to post a letter titled, “Why we keep fighting – a Memorial Day message.”
Comparing his father’s fight as a soldier against the Axis powers in World War Two with his own fight in the culture war today, Camenker asks, “Did people in 1942 talk about respecting the Nazis ‘choice’ of political philosophy?” The gay/Nazi comparison is rather unconvincing coming from this Nuremberg Rally reject.
Here’s something folks want to hear at their backyard cookout: “This Memorial day ... the homosexual lobby dominates our State House, and is filing bills to push their agenda further than ever. They have homosexual clubs in high schools across the state. They use state money to bring kids downtown to mingle with adult cross-dressers and other hard-core activists. A federal judge ruled that schools can show picture books to elementary school children about homosexual romance....”
Camenker continues, “Our adversary’s movement ... is really a house of cards, held up by threats and intimidation and a dysfunctional ideology. If you are willing to fight – to tell the truth and not be afraid – it will fall.”
Threats and intimidation? Don’t you love how relentlessly those who advocate discrimination portray themselves as the aggrieved ones? But true to form, Camenker saves some of his harshest words for his fellow conservatives, who he charges are too polite.
As it happens, my own father fought in the same war as Mr. Camenker’s and spent over two years in German prisoner-of-war camps. More to the point, America’s military, then as now, included gay soldiers. One of them, Frank Kameny, joined the Army three days before his 18th birthday in 1943. As Frank says, “I fought in front-line combat for MY country the same as Mr. Camenker’s father, and I didn’t fight for back-of-the-bus status in any aspect of my life.”
What patriot would misuse a Memorial Day observance to dishonor some of those who served, based on sheer bias?
Happily, there were other messages over Memorial Day Weekend than the one from MassResistance. Watching the new MassEquality TV spot that shows 27-year-old jock Peter Hams glowing as he describes the 2004 Cambridge wedding of his lesbian parents, I thought of straight viewers realizing the truth about civil marriage equality that gay leftists have been pointing out for years: it is essentially conservative.
Perhaps Camenker can make common cause with anti-marriage queers who fetishize outsider status and feel threatened by the mainstream acceptance of gay families. But no, most radical queers are not really all that radical. They are a gentle, angry people, and they are singing, singing for their lives. Or perhaps they are afraid that hordes of assimilationist show queens will chase them singing “You Really Ought to Get Married.” But legal equality would bring no more enforcement of conformity than there is for straight people now.
Whether you veer leftward or rightward, the danger of extremism is that eventually people will stop listening. Unfortunately, sometimes a lot of damage has to occur before this reaction kicks in. Our country is facing such a moment thanks to our overreaching President and his politics of division, and this presents an opportunity to sell a countervailing mainstream vision of gay equality.
Despite Mr. Bush’s valiant persistence in digging his way out of the military and political hole he is in, fewer and fewer Americans are willing to send any more of our young men and women to early graves, no matter how many stirring anthems the pro-war diehards play. In similar fashion, sooner or later, most Americans will reject the bill of goods they have been sold by the anti-gay side in the culture war. We make it sooner by engaging the public seriously instead of retreating into a Camenker-style echo chamber.