Another "family values" Republican politician - Larry Craig of Idaho - is being forced to resign over alleged homosexual behavior. In the Senate, Craig was an outspoken opponent of granting equal civil rights to gays and lesbians in America, so there is a certain Karma to the situation. Sometimes I think most of the gay-bashing, right-wing politicians in the US are self-loathing, closeted homosexuals. Craig's vilification by his fellow Republicans contrasts sharply with their treatment of his fellow Repulican Senator David Vitter of Lousiana, who admitted to paying (female) prostitutes for sex. Vitter can continue his political career after he asked for forgiveness and pledged to "give his life to Jesus."
Why the double standard on homosexual vs. heterosexual adultery? Why the hysteria in the US over same-sex attraction when in Europe it is pretty much accepted as normal? Germany has several high-profile gay politicians, such as Klaus Wowereit, the popular mayor of Berlin, Guido Westerwelle, the leader of the Liberal Party (FDP), and Karin Wolf, the conservative culture minister in Hessen. Most Germans simply shrugged "so what?" when these politicians disclosed their sexual orientations.
The author Susan Jacoby is leading an online discussion forum in the Washington Post. Jacoby asks:
"Why do you think Americans care so much about an “issue” that ignites so little controversy in Europe? Why are we alone in the developed world in our intense distress about the fact that a minority of people are erotically attracted to members of their own their own sex rather than to the opposite sex? "
Jacoby is the author of an excellent book on the history of secularism in America - Freethinkers - and so sees this anti-gay hysteria in the US as the pernicious influence of fundamentalist Christianity:
"Is the power of fundamentalist religion, again unique in the developed world, the only explanation for the American fixation on gays as a threat to traditional values? Perhaps this also has something to do with traditional images of American masculinity—the Marlboro Man, the rugged cowboy who would never have dreamed of engaging in the kind of activities described in the movie “Brokeback Mountain.” "
No doubt religion plays a role. But even in popular secular American culture there is an underlying fear of sexuality, even as popular culture paradoxically embraces sex and violence as its mainstay. Meanwhile the Republican Party will try to regain traction among American conservative voters by continuing its anti-gay crusade.