Monday, October 09, 2006


Traditional Values

The holier-than-thou-crowd likes to suggest that their homophobia is really a traditional value. The laws against gays are natural laws, they suggest, going all the way back into the dim recesses of human history. It's not so much that they're anti-gay, as that they're defending traditional values -- the wisdom of the ages against the onslaught of sissified post-modernists who want to throw out our hard-won understanding of human nature for some brave new world that will lead us who knows where.

It's in that light, that RSR offers the following anecdote from H.L. Menken's Newspaper Days. Mencken, of course, is probably best remembered for his reporting on the Scopes "Monkey Trial" but he was once America's best known reporter -- the Bob Woodward of his day.

Here he is in "Drill for a Rookie:"
At a somewhat later time, after I had forsaken police reporting, the moral inadequacy of the ancient Maryland statutes was revealed again. This time the culprit was a Methodist clergyman who operated one of the vice crusades that then afflicted all the big cities of the East. The cops, of course, were violently against him, for they could see nothing wrong about honest women making honest livings according to their talents. When the pastor charged that they pooh-poohed him because they were taking bribes from the girls they determined to get him, and to that end sneaked a spy into the Y.M.C. A. One night soon afterward the pastor visited the place with a Christian young man, and the spy, concealed in a cupboard, caught the two in levantine deviltries. The former was collared at once, and the State's attorney sent for. Unhappily, he had to advise the poor cops that the acts they laid to their prisoner were not forbidden by Maryland law, which was singularly tolerant in sexual matters. The maximum penalty it then provided for adultery, however brutal and deliberate, was $10 fine, with no alternative imprisonment, and there was no punishment at all for fornication, or for any of its non-Euclidian variations. The cops were thus stumped, but they quickly resolved their dilemma by concealing it from the scared pastor, and giving him two hours to get out of town. He departed leaving a wife and five children behind him, and has never been heard from since. The Legislature being in session, the cops then went to Annapolis and begged it to sharpen the laws. It responded by forbidding, under heavy penalties, a list of offenses so long and so bizarre that some of them are not even recorded in Krafft-Ebing.

Krafft-Ebing being the Austro-German psychiatrist who in 1886 wrote Psychopathia Sexualis, at the time a well-known study of "sexual perversity." He coined the term sadism.

As Mencken's anecdote illustrates, the one thing you can be sure of when some chest-thumper assures you he's for traditional values is that the novel social experiment he wants written into our laws or constitution will be neither traditional or of value.


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