Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Those compassionate outsiders 

Abraham Lincoln was gay, or so argues psychology professor Clarence Tripp in his book "The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln", to be released in the US in January.

Some would say that Abe was too ugly to be gay. Personally, I couldn't care less whether he slept with his neighbors and bodyguards; his greatness as president is totally independent of and unrelated to what he did, or didn't do in bed. Also, I am getting a bit sick and tired of this sort of thing:
"Tripp, an influential gay writer who died two weeks after completing his manuscript, claims Lincoln reached puberty at nine and became a sexual 'outsider', which supposedly influenced his decision to fight for the emancipation of slaves."
Yes, it can happen, even on the large scale - after all, American Jews - feeling themselves victims of prejudice and "outsiders" of sorts - were at the forefront of the fight for civil rights for African-Americans; but reducing every political stance to a personal psychodrama just doesn't cut it with me. People can actually feel compassion and empathy for others - feel their pain - and act on it, without being themselves scarred by post injustices.

Wilberforce and his contemporaries who fought to end of slave trade were not gay, and nor was Reagan with his quest to give freedom to people of Eastern Europe. Neither were they abused as children, or bullied at school or otherwise persecuted. As amazing as it might seem to psychology professors, we as human beings can take certain positions because we have an innate moral sense and the abstract conception of right and wrong.

But this equation "outsider=fighter for justice" works too well politically and rhetorically for the left to be let go. After all, today's left is a rainbow coalition of victims, a coalition of groups (or at least the activists from these groups) who feel themselves marginalized and discriminated against by the "mainstream". It's only natural that the left should maintain the monopoly on compassion.

Alas, the real world is far more complicated. The Jews have survived the unimaginable horror of the Holocaust, which according to the left's psycho-history should make them the ultimate compassionate outsiders of today. But instead, according to the left, the Jews are just thugs oppressing and persecuting Palestinians. I have lived under a totalitarian government, which makes me keen to see other people around the world liberated - but to the left I'm just a warmonger. Figure that one out.


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