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Commentary :: Gender

Viagra Nation - The Village People Meet Cotton Mather

04 Feb 2004
"This administration embodies the curious, and uniquely American, melding of Puritanism with prurience, of voyeurism with squeamishness about all our naughty parts. Cover those breasts at the Justice Department, get all those fallen women married off, straighten out the kinks in everyone's libidos, and we'll be safe from the wrath of God and the fall of our civilization."

Things have gotten really creepy up in Foggy Bottom over the past three years. Sock-stuffed flight suits. Canned bird hunts. Plastic turkeys. Cowboy hats, cowboy boots, cowboy lingo, from guys a century and a world away from the working men who spent months in the rain and heat and merciless winds on cattle drives. "Bring 'em on!" from man exempted from service in Vietnam by his Daddy's influence and his own desertion.

Peggy Noonan gushes about Cheney's gravitas and Bush's plainspoken dualism. Jay Nordlinger exults that the "daddy party," the party of discipline, tough love, and military solutions to every problem, is in charge. Midge Dechter loves the smell of testosterone in the morning, and joins the fan club with an adoring profile of "macho man" Donald Rumsfeld. Oh, yeah, the grown-ups are in charge now, and they're definitely not your Mama.

Did anyone expect the party of buttoned-down businessmen and main-street conservatives to thrust themselves into the new millennium as the Village People on steroids?

Even creepier is the interest these people take in the sexuality of everyone else in the country. Marriage, between one woman and one man, must be promoted and protected. Its foes are the reproductive rights of women, homosexual unions, and single mothers. The Republicans' theory is that, if everyone with children were properly settled in a monogamous, heterosexual union, all that money going to health care for children, food stamps, and other forms of public assistance could either stay in the pockets of the beleaguered wealthiest one percent, or pay for cooler, deadlier, costlier war toys.

Of course, it's not all about money. It's also about the religious right, whose dyslexic take on the words of Jesus seems to be, "Let the little children suffer."

Last summer I sat seething through a sermon delivered in ominous tones by a minister who fears God's wrath upon this country. His diatribe was prompted by the Episcopal Church's ordination of an openly gay bishop. Of course, he cited Sodom and Gomorrah, whose only rival as a metaphor for disaster is the Titanic. God is not happy about our deviance in sexual matters, he told us. God is not going to put up with all this nasty, depraved behavior in the bedroom. Until we cut it out, our country is damned and doomed to destruction. Just like Sodom and Gomorrah. Just like the Roman Empire, whose decline, I heard when I was growing up, was caused by its decadence and sexual depravity.

It seems that Bush, Frist, Ashcroft, and Cheney, not to mention the Texas Toxic Avenger, Tom DeLay, agree with him.

So forget Osama bin Laden. Forget the grave of energy dependency Cheney and his petro-pirhanas are digging deeper for us in their avaricious drive to suck every last bit of oil out of the planet. Forget the health care crisis, the threadbare budget on which our schools are expected to spin graduation robes of silver and gold, and the escalating death toll in the Middle East.

Bush and his macho band of super heroes intend to put our money where their minds are - on our sex lives. The republic is gravely threatened because our citizens are often divorced, with children; gay, with partners; and single, with lovers. But have no fear. The Daddy Party is ready to defeat this deadly epidemic of untidy behavior with weapons of "compassionate conservatism" and, of course, lots of money.

This administration embodies the curious, and uniquely American, melding of Puritanism with prurience, of voyeurism with squeamishness about all our naughty parts. Cover those breasts at the Justice Department, get all those fallen women married off, straighten out the kinks in everyone's libidos, and we'll be safe from the wrath of God and the fall of our civilization.

Or not.

Perhaps the sins for which the Romans and those two notorious desert cities were "punished" had little or nothing to do with their deviant dalliances. In the case of Sodom and Gomorrah, recent archaeological excavations are underway in two sites that may very well be the ruins of those cities. Evidence of sudden and catastrophic destruction has been found, as well as artifacts indicating sophisticated and prosperous cultures. Nothing, however, to suggest that life in those communities was one big nasty orgy.

The story of Lot and his daughters' hellish accommodations and the disaster visited upon their hosts, like many other biblical stories, is paralleled in the lore of several other cultures. True to many such tales told in ancient times, it is a cautionary tale by which people distanced themselves from the possibility that they, too, might be taken out by some sudden, inexplicable holocaust. How to avoid a fiery fate inflicted by an angry deity? What did those wretched creatures do to bring down such horrendous wrath, and what can be done to insulate their cities from that same punishment?

The transgression was clearly not sexual deviance. It was a far more common, less titillating offense. The people suddenly zapped with fire and brimstone had been inhospitable. They had preyed on the vulnerable, denied food and shelter to the needy, and generally exhibited cold and heartless behavior. An angry God, then, decided to warm up their frigid hearts with a little fire from the sky.

In the case of the Roman Empire, the twisted excesses we associate with Caligula and Nero may inspire our morbid interest, but were hardly the reason for the Empire's decline. Rome, like many other empires, simply extended its reach far beyond the support of its resources. Predatory, merciless, and warlike, the Romans finally found themselves beset, besieged, and subsumed by the peoples they had conquered, or sought to conquer. If they had a domestic problem, it was that they satisfied their lust for expansion at the expense of the welfare and health of their own people.

So it was, also, with the British Empire. During the Victorian era, the sun never rose on the slums of London. Infant mortality, poverty, disease, and the merciless oppression of women in the name of virtue and "family values" fed male fantasies of dominance while children starved. Eventually, the empire shrank to its present dimensions, eroded by the unmet needs of its own citizens and the desperate desire for sovereignty among its colonies.

Empires may make for good blockbuster movies and romantic novels, but they always collapse of their own overreaching hubris. That is why many of the more reasonable statesmen this country has known were dead set against such activities. However, human beings have a tedious tradition of constantly dreaming up new rationales for ancient follies, and the founders of the Project for the New American Century think they have finally found the formula for successful global conquest.

A global Pax Americana is the decades old dream Cheney, Wolfowitz, Perle, Feith, Rumsfeld, and others whose power is far greater than that of those elected by the people. Cheney has served in Congress, leaving behind a remarkably consistent record of voting against every bill containing the words "children" or "education." As Vice President, he has popped out of his bunker from time to time, like the groundhog to let us know that we can look forward to several more decades of war. Or more.

Every terrorist, or anyone the President wants to call a terrorist, must be hunted down, run to ground, rounded up, and checked for lice before we can even begin to think about domestic concerns. Until then, protests for peace, whining about jobs, and worries about the deficit will be met with reminders that "we are at war." September 11, 2001 will be invoked again and again, and terror alerts will rise and fall each time a scandal or investigation threatens the White House, or whenever Bush's polls look iffy.

Meanwhile, our leaders continue to posture and strut to the tune of "Macho Man," and to sacrifice women's and children's welfare and our civil liberties on the altar of the religious right's draconian altar of "family values."

But even if every terrorist is eliminated, every unwed mother married, and every homosexual straightened out by Jesus, we will still be doomed. Not because of an angry God, and not because of our untidy personal lives.

Bush and his cabal will continue to feed our children into the machinery of war, treat working people as disposable chattel, and enslave future generations in the manacles of poverty debt. They will continue to enrage the people of every country on the planet with their rapacious, murderous campaigns for "democracy." This could be a truly deadly practice, given that Iraq is one of the few countries we know for sure has no nuclear weapons.

Christian fundamentalists looking for Armageddon may just get the global holocaust they seem to be so excited about. The Bush administration, along with them and the architects of PNAC, are certainly working hard to make it a self-fulfilling prophecy.


© Copyright 2003 by

Beth Henry lives near the Texas Gulf Coast with her husband and two children. She is an Axis of Logic Founding Member and Contributing Editor.  She has worked as a technical writer and security analyst for NASA contractors. She does not hate neo-conservatives; she just feels better when they’re not in charge.   You can contact Beth at


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