March 22, 2006

A queer logic

phelps_3_06Andy brought to my attention a recent column by Joe Soucheray in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, "Try a little Gay Power on Phelps" regarding the protests Fred Phelps and his Topeka "church" have been staging at the funerals of soldiers who have died in Iraq.

Phelps' protest at a soldier's funeral in Minnesota in late February brought forth a law passed by the Minnesota Senate which bans such protests at military funerals. The lone dissenting vote was from Democrat Becky Lourey, whose own son was killed in Iraq last year.

His logic is convoluted, but basically comes down to this. God hates fags. America is 'tolerant' of homosexuals, and that angers God; therefore, soldiers who fight on behalf of America are in hell. It's fucked up to anyone not completely and utterly obsessed with gays.

So Soucheray puts forth an interesting theory: perhaps Phelps himself is gay? Perhaps all of his followers are?

Maybe they are having such trouble coming to grips with this that they have thrown up this smokescreen of protest to appease their hard-core followers who might take to the streets with torches if they learned the real truth about Fred.
It's a theory that isn't new.

Soucheray's solution to the problem of Phelps' protests isn't to ban what is considered by many (including Becky Lourey) to be free speech. Instead, Soucheray suggests:

That's why I believe the gay community in any town where there is to be a military funeral protested by the Phelps crowd — they apparently don't mind letting people know they plan to protest — needs to help. They need to show up and calmly surround the small band of Phelps protesters and say the kinds of soothing things that might help them arrive at an understanding of themselves. After all, it's homosexuality that is being protested.
Sounds like a wonderful social experiment, Joe. But as Andy points out, Fred Phelps has long been protesting at the funerals of gay men who have died, including Matthew Shepard. And the gay community has always been there providing a peaceful antidote.

Those attending the funerals of soldiers have protection--a motorcycle group (gang?) called the Patriot Guards have begun organizing local chapters and showing up at these protests, circling the protestors with their loud Harleys to drown out the chants. Of course the gay community hasn't been alone in countering their protests either, but its interesting that Phelps has been protesting for years and its only now, as he begins to target the funerals of soldiers, whose deaths stir feelings of patriotism and righteousness, that legislatures take action, that the mainstream media begins to take notice. I can't recall a state legislature acting to protect those mourning the death of a loved one who had succumbed to AIDS.

But Soucheray would remind us that in the end this is a gay issue. As odious and as wrong as the connection may be, Phelps is here because gays are visible and present, and it is their responsibility to take care of the mess they've fostered.

The larger point he's making. which Andy so vehemently disagrees with, is that anti-gay violence is really gay-on-gay violence. And to be honest, it's something I've considered myself. Or rather, I've considered the implications of such a notion. Joe Soucheray's theory is based on Garage Logic, which is the name of the nationally-syndicated talk show and refers to both a fictional town in which Joe is mayor and also brings to mind the cloistered rational of men bonding together surrounded by the tools of their masculinity, separated from the home and the women doing dishes and gossiping, a pure, rough place where simple truths are told by the only people who can tell them--men. (One could also talk about the logic of gay porn films set in machine shops and garages and cars)

My theory comes from a lineage of gay-on-gay violence, from Jack Kerouac to Andrew Cunannan to the murders of Gwen Araujo and Terry Graham to ex-gays caught in gay bars to the gay children of outspoken anti-gay politicians. There seems to be a tradition of people lashing out against others for what they hate within themselves (or their families), what makes them uncomfortable, what turns them on. It could be a powerful tool to harness, both by those who want to marginalize gays and those who want to show that 'the gay gene' is inside everyone, even those who seek its eradication.

wikipedia: fred phelps | ashamed of the president | miniature horse killed and mutilated in minnesota | asia argento on jt leroy | bigfoot video shot in northern minnesota | scott heim finishes his novel | "We will invite him again because the religion of Islam is one of tolerance."

Posted by jason at March 22, 2006 02:35 AM

Actually, you do have a point. And it seems that history bears it out. I just don't like it that Soucheray was the one to point it out.

But it's his fellow politicos that create the closet that produce these guys. Had someone closer us queers taken a look at the issue, I may have seen it a different way at first.

Posted by: Andy at March 22, 2006 12:14 AM

History is the key word. The anti-gay theme is a re-hash by the re-publicans. They are predictable. The question remains, are we smart enough to re-write the end of this copy of a copy of a 3rd rate sequel. Check out the link to see how one story in The Naked City, played out in Des Moines October 27, 1977. By the way, Michele is spelled with one L.

Posted by: John at March 24, 2006 12:30 PM

Sorry.... forgot the link

Posted by: John at March 24, 2006 12:32 PM
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