Confusions of the Age

I get confused by the news quite often. Here are five anomalies that make no real sense.

1)   Football as Ethical Sermonizing. Most watch football as a release from anxieties, work, and even the race/class/gender obsessions of our age, and see players in non-racial terms. And I think viewers put up with the growing hypocrisies, pretensions, and repugnancies of the NFL—star players involved in drugs, assaults, shootings, (even the creepy  base cruelty to animals), the dubious origins of some of the owners' vast fortunes, hack sportswriters masquerading as Platonic thinkers, high-priced, crass spoiled multimillionaires occasionally offering cheap sound bites as if they were civil rights leaders of the Gandhi or King caliber—because of the courage of hundreds of gladiators to engage each Sunday in an incredibly dangerous, nearly pre-civilized struggle in the arena.

But with the Limbaugh matter, the entire Potemkin edifice is exposed. The race mongers Jackson (‘hymie-town”) and Sharpton (“white folks was in caves…”), the latter whose incendiary antics defamed a DA and led to rioting and death, talking of decorum is like, well, NFL players talking about proper role-model behavior. And are proper politics now, in this brave new world of government control of an increasing number of businesses, criteria for private enterprise? Is Ted Turner never allowed to buy another sports team, given his outrageous political statements about Iran, Israel, Bush, global warming, etc? Perhaps we need a federal “acquisition board” with “nonpartisan” humanists and former federal officials like a Jimmy Carter, Al Gore, or Van Jones to adjudicate the moral character of potential buyers?

2.To Russia With Love. Do you laugh or cry about our policy with Russia? When we serially cried out “reset” button, blamed Bush for the new Cold War with Russia, and promised to “listen”, we knew the US was walking blindfolded up the steps of Putin’s guillotine. So we humiliated the Czechs and the Poles (who have suffered far worse from the Russians) in exchange for the mythical “help” with sanctions on Iran. Today, Putin’s brief verdict of “premature” on sanctions said it all. If we can reconstruct the Obama/Hillary disaster, it goes something like this: Putin always liked the win/win/win/win idea of a nuclear Iran (the missiles point at the U.S., good profits for Russian companies, tensions in the Gulf always a help with high oil prices, everyone begs Russia to “leash” their new feral nuclear bulldog). So he entraps the idiotic Americans by vague promises of Iranian sanctions in exchange for reestablishing Russian fear and obedience in the former Soviet sphere—while revealing how America’s economic dive and strategic hesitation are proof of a more endemic decline. When Hillary talks of how delighted she is that Russia is “so supportive”, are we to cry for the beloved country? It is as if Putin not only knew he would win on this one, but get the added bonus of showing the world how obsequious, naïve, and impotent the new U.S. was in the bargain.

3. Not to be Spoken. What is this recent confusion about sodomy in the news, which transcends even the context of rape and coercion? I don’t quite understand how “sodomy” in the current press is presented as a sort of force multiplier to all sorts of sins. For example, the grotesque Polanski matter is not just presented as a repugnant rape of a child, but emphasized ad nauseam as even more repulsive and horrendous due to the additional wage of sodomy. Almost anytime the press wishes to emphasize the particular cruelty or the unpleasant carnality of a sexual crime, they include, if applicable, the word sodomy, with the understanding that such an act is sensationalized and fraught with depravity. And, again, it is not always just the matter of coercion, but rather what the Greeks called “para phusin” (contrary to nature, as in the notion of confusing sexuality with the excretory system [see Aristophanes on this]). Popular culture has all sorts of expressions that correlate the act with a certain physical unpleasantness, from prison jokes to the generic "We got screwed" by this or that. But yet at the same time, the act seems to be an absolutely taboo subject in even the most generic referencing to the male homosexual movement. I know the issue of civil rights is a separate one (and one I support as equality of all before the law), but if popular culture has all but suggested that heterosexuals who engage in such an act are depraved when carried out consensually, and especially worthy of odium beyond that accorded to the rapist, when as an act of coercion, why is the subject simply taboo in matters of public discussion of male homosexuality? When it was touched upon in the days of worries over co-factors for the increased vulnerability to the HIV virus, a firestorm followed that such discussions were indirect expressions of homophobia. (As a father of three, who in the 1990s went through the California public school,explicit sex education classes, I can attest that my children were taught that unprotected sex in general, not especially particular types of unprotected sex, were equivalent to a near death sentence.) So what is the politically-correct stance to take the next time a talking head on the news grimaces and then in sober tones goes on to relate that case A involving coercion or incident B without coercion or revelation C involved sodomy--are we to be outraged at his deprecation of a particular act more associated with a particular group and to think this is selective moralizing if not homophobia, or to be outraged that suspect A or person B crossed the lines of behavior and is even more morally repellant for such an act that went beyond rape, or as now simply to think in paradoxical fashion,  'wow, that is a really awful act / wow  I am not supposed to think that is a really awful act"?