America’s politically correct intelligentsia is, day by day, posing a deepening threat to the rest of us. It is growing into a “soft totalitarianism.” You may be familiar with the phrase and the notion. It may be the sum of many of your fears as well. Orwell warned us that this “soft totalitarianism” or cultural imperialism would inevitably extend into the realm of language. We are already far down that road in our boardrooms and classrooms, but there are always new lingual barriers going up to divide us or test our allegiance to a “woke” understanding of the world.
In this regard, I was struck by the exchange between Hawaiian Democrat Senator Mazie Horono and Judge Amy Coney Barrett during the latter’s confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court. “Not once, but twice,” Horono scolded Judge Barrett, “you used the term ‘sexual preference.'”
Having no transcript in front of me, I recall the rest of the exchange consisting of an official upbraiding of Barrett and instructions on how such a phrase is outdated and offensive to the LGBTQ community. Judge Barrett, perhaps a tiny bit flummoxed by the objection, nonetheless dutifully apologized and insisted she meant no harm.
Let me give you the politically correct lowdown on this:
The phrase “sexual preference” in place of “sexual orientation” suggests that same sex attraction is not immutable from birth. That’s a no-no. The intelligentsia currently overseeing our culture and all that is strictly in and strictly out has settled the matter. It must include some behavior scientists or geneticists. At least I hope so. I’d hate to think this injunction against the word “preference” in this context comes from a bunch of English or Philosophy professors.
At any rate, they have stamped the word IMMUTABLE on this package.
But allow me, a non-scientist and ordinary bloke, to venture into deeply controversial waters where the intimidation factor is currently equal to the presence of a circling school of bull sharks. It seems to me, based only on lifelong experience and fellowship with many fellow mortals — many of whom identify as gay — that immutability is still very much an open question outside certain closed culturally totalitarian circles. It seems rather soon to affirm scientifically what the political and cultural cogoscenti has ordained to be the truth, i.e., that homosexuality, or homosexual “inclinations” or same-sex “attractions” or “orientations” are, in fact, immutable from birth. I hope no one who thus identifies will cease to be my friend if I speculate or divagate on this tender subject. My research consists of listening and reading on the matter, and it continues. But I don’t like being dragooned into acquiescence or silence.
Make no mistake about it. If you choose to explore the subject or suggest a contrary view, as I am here, the weight of an enormous media/academic/ scientific/Hollywood juggernaut is poised to come down on your head, after which you’ll be put on the train to society’s gulag for the culturally insensitive.
Judge Barrett plainly heard the threat in Senator Mazie’s schoolmarm’s voice. (I have read — but have no idea if it’s true — that the senator herself was unaware that the phrase was unacceptable until she received angry emails from gay constituents, handing her, in the process, yet another charge to lodge publicly against President Trump’s high court nominee. It seemed yet another way to suggest that Judge Barrett might harbor retrograde attitudes toward a favored and powerful special interest of the Democrats– and one whose issues, such as the right to marry, have come before the court, and may come there again.
I have an associate and friend who commented on the Horono/ Barrett exchange recently. His name is David Carlin, a retired professor of philosophy and sociology at Rhode Island Community College. (He is very active on Facebook where this observation appeared in bold print, leading me to assume he won’t mind my sharing it.) He wrote: “Even if we don’t choose our sexual orientations (a doubtful proposition), we choose whether to act in accordance with our orientations and whether to publicly define ‘who we are’ in terms of that orientation and those actions.”
Makes sense to me. But I fear the consequence of saying so. ( And no, I have not missed the irony of my affirming, albeit tentatively, the opinion of a Philosophy and Sociology professor on this subject where I’d prefer to be hearing from scientists –and psychiatrists. But, on the other hand, I think this critical battle in the culture wars may be entirely philosophical, even spiritual, in nature.)
As for why Professor Carlin finds doubtful the widely embraced assertion that sexual orientation is not a “choice”, you’d have to ask him. My own sense is that we are born with a multitude of inclinations, attractions, vulnerabilities or, if you will, orientations — perhaps all of them immutable. That orientation etc. can be good or bad for us and for society depending on society’s and our own view of the matter. We might find it very hard not to act on those inclinations. For my part, upon reflection, I think “preference” would be too weak a word to characterize the struggles of many self-identifying gays. The struggle ends for many, of course ( or seems to end) when they simply say, hey, this is me, take it or leave it. And the current culture even affords them civil rights protections for their choice, which is essentially a choice to elevate their sexuality to the heart of their identity.
There was a time when those with a same-sex attraction (orientation, etc.) were cruelly treated, stereotyped and marginalized in society. Those days are gone — I challenge anyone to tell me otherwise. The bottom rail is definitely on top now — at least in the United States of America.
There are strong religious prohibitions — Christian, Islamic, Orthodox Judaic — against homosexual practice as opposed to inclination, etc.. Gay rights lobbyists and activists have long rejected and reviled those who attempt to make the distinction between having an orientation and acting on it. They will say, as Professor Carlin notes, that their orientation is “who we are” — hence, immutable. Not a “lifestyle” but their “reality” and we must embrace and make civic room for their choices just as we embrace the choices of those who are heterosexual or bisexual or transsexual. And now we are well into the multifarious issues growing out of gender reassignment. And with them come a whole new lexicon of lingual dos and don’t.
There has been a cultural tsunami in this whole area. (Talk about stating the obvious.) But a mordant side note: I have seen four video clips — four! — of insistently gay-friendly Joe Biden, on four separate occasions, averring his friendship for people of different “sexual preferences”.
I guess he didn’t get the softly totalitarian, politically correct memo. Just wait until Mazie Horono gets wind of this.