Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sunday Reading

We’re Here, We’re Queer, We’re Over It — Is Gay Culture really on its way out, or has it just assimilated?

Gay men in particular, who used to frighten the horses with flamboyant displays of sexual outlawry, gender treason and fabulousness, have supposedly dropped their insignia of tribal belonging and joined the mainstream. Gay men, it seems, have become indistinguishable from normal folk. Now, that’s progress for you!

Back in the Bad Old Days, or so the story goes, there was such a thing as an edgy, subversive gay male culture. But it was an artifact of homophobia. Older gay men may still thrill to torch songs, show tunes, classic Hollywood melodramas and Lalique; they may still spend hours arranging the furniture just so.

But all that foofy stuff looks irrelevant to modern gay men, who don’t see themselves as belonging to a separate culture, let alone such a queeny one. For today’s gay men, life is composed of PTA meetings, church socials and Nascar races.

The problem with such a claim — besides its denial of the Lady Gaga phenomenon — is that we’ve heard it for so many decades now that it can’t possibly be true. At least since the 1970s, gay men have been drawing invidious generational comparisons between gay boys in their teens and 20s — modern, liberated, enlightened, untouched by gay culture, “utterly indistinguishable from straight boys” and “completely calm about being gay” (as Andrew Holleran put it in his 1978 novel, “Dancer From the Dance”) — and older gay men, fanatically attached to an outdated gay culture and convinced that it is the only gay culture there is.

(Of course, those sorry gay men in their 30s and 40s, who allegedly cling to an outmoded, passé version of gay culture, must be the very same people who, only a few years earlier, were those pioneering gay teenagers, taking their first innocent steps in a brave new world without homophobia, ignorant of gay culture and indifferent to it.)

But let’s set aside whether the rumors of the death of gay culture are really true or greatly exaggerated. Why is it so important, particularly at this moment, that gay culture be pronounced, if not dead, then on its way out? Does the possibility of a distinct gay culture express the notion, now scandalous, that gay men might be different from other people? Does it challenge the myths of gay assimilation and gay ordinariness?

Yes, all of the above. Gay men who play by the rules of straight society and conventional masculinity, and who don’t aspire to belong to any other way of life, are more acceptable, to themselves and to others. The last obstacle to complete social integration is no longer gay sex or gay identity, but gay culture.

And yet gay culture is not just a superficial affectation. It is an expression of difference through style — a way of carving out space for an alternate way of life. And that means carving out space in opposition to straight society.

Leonard Pitts, Jr. on the fight to save real journalism.

In 2005 when their city drowned, the staff of the New Orleans Times-Picayune stayed in it longer than common sense and simple prudence would dictate. People who had lost homes, loved ones, and their city itself concentrated on gathering the news and putting it out. They finally left huddled in newspaper delivery trucks, water up to the headlights, decamping to Baton Rouge, 75 miles away, where they went right back to reporting the news.

Last month, that paper announced it was cutting staff and suspending daily publication, moving to a three-days-a-week schedule. We draw ever closer to the once-unthinkable day when some major American city has no newspaper whatsoever.

All of which lends a certain pungency to something Sarah Palin said recently at a conference of conservative activists in Las Vegas. “Every citizen can be a reporter, can take on the powers that be,” she said. According to Politico, she was quoting Matt Drudge. Ordinarily, you would dismiss it as just another silly thing Sarah Palin said. There is no shortage of those.

But these are hardly ordinary times for journalism. So forgive me if I am disinclined to let it go.

As it happens, I spent nearly a week on the Gulf in Katrina’s wake. One night, I had the distinct honor of sleeping in an RV in the parking lot of the Sun Herald in Gulfport, part of an army of journalists who had descended on the beleaguered city to help its reporters get this story told. The locals wore donated clothes and subsisted on snack food. They worked from a broken building in a broken city where the rotten egg smell of natural gas lingered in the air and houses had been reduced to debris fields, to produce their paper. Shattered, cut off from the rest of the world, people in the Biloxi-Gulfport region received those jerry-rigged newspapers, those bulletins from the outside world, the way a starving man receives food.

It made me very proud of what we do for a living.

What To Do — Brian Beutler of TPM looks at contingency plans if the Supreme Court knocks down the healthcare law.

Democrats and supporters of President Obama’s health care law are preparing a variety of contingency plans — messaging and legislative strategy — in the event that the Supreme Court strikes part or all of the Affordable Care Act.

But like Republicans — who are torn over how to respond in the event that the Court doesn’t fully uphold the law — supporters of the law haven’t settled on a single approach. And with a ruling expected next week, it now appears likely that Democrats and health care reformers will lack a unified message or an all-hands-on-deck strategy if the individual mandate falls.

The prevailing view among policy experts and industry insiders is that if the mandate falls, the rest of the health care law becomes unsustainable. A phenomenon known as adverse selection will dominate the insurance market when younger, healthier people opt not to purchase insurance, premiums will spike, and the market will enter a death spiral. If the court strikes the mandate, they say, Congress or the states will have less than two years to figure out how to replace it, or the insurance industry’s in for some big problems.

That’s why authors of the law take a dim view of its future when they speculate that the Court might rule against them. They worry that the best and most popular provisions of the ACA will be jeopardized unless the whole thing is upheld.

“[T]o borrow a Supreme Court metaphor, you have to eat your vegetables. You have to have the mandate in order for this to work from a financial standpoint,” explained House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. “The biggest difference in the lives of the American people – well, let me say one of, in terms of this legislation, is that you cannot be deprived of coverage if you have a preexisting medical condition. This is huge. This is huge. And insurance companies even say that they really can’t do that unless the premiums skyrocket. So, if the American people like the idea that they and their children for a lifetime cannot be deprived of health care, health insurance because of a preexisting medical condition, then that will require some other action in order for that to happen…. So, let’s hope and pray that the Court will love the Constitution more than it loved broccoli and that we will have a decision that is based on the merits and the Constitution of the United States.”

Doonesbury — That was easy.