Sunday, October 15, 2006

Thoughts on Foley

I'm not a Republican. In fact, politically, I'm to the left of most Democrats. And until recently, I had never heard of Mark Foley.

But, if Congressman Foley used his power and influence to seduce, harass, or even flirt with minors (teenage pages), then I would be the last person to defend him. Such an abuse of power is deplorable, and I said the same about the Monica Lewinsky/Bill Clinton affair a few years ago. For the most powerful man on earth to have an affair with a young intern is at least problematic. The relationship could hardly be equal by any power analysis.

Whereas I'm not an ethicist or a moral theologian, I can say with some conviction that it is wrong to abuse power, and when powerful people use their influence for personal or sexual gain at the expense of people who do not share their level of power, that is abusive. So, now I'm on record as opposing abuse.

However, let's be clear about this. Foley's "sin" (if we want to use such a loaded and archaic word) is not that he is gay. The problem is that he used his powerful position in reprehensible ways. His inappropriate text messages weren't directed at people of his age, social status, or political influence. They were directed at young men who were not quite legal adults. The problem isn't the genders involved; the problem is the abuse of power.

Foley has blamed his indiscretion on alcoholism and being abused as a young person himself. Those factors may have contributed to his behavior. But another thing that clearly contributed to the mess is our institutionalized homophobia. If we were to get beyond our fear and hatred of same-gender loving people, then those who are oriented to love and be attracted to people of the same gender wouldn't have to lie and hide and find clandestine ways to express their sexuality. If people could live their lives in the open with dignity and pride, then we could expect everyone to behave morally and responsibly and we could even dare to be a bit judgmental and self-righteous when they broke the rules.

But, as long as we allow churches, schools, families and government to target gay and lesbian people and treat them as second class citizens, we will continue to see these victims of homophobia behaving in ways that we all find upsetting. If our power systems had not abused Mark Foley the gay man, we might not have seen Mark Foley the politician using his power in ways that could harm those less powerful.

The moral issue here isn't homosexuality. The moral issue is homophobia. Homophobia is wrong. It hurts people. And, as we see over and over - people who have been hurt are likely to hurt others. Let's not let homophobia win this discourse. Mr. Foley was wrong to harass pages. And our society was wrong to make him feel that to do so was his best hope of expressing his sexuality.

1 comment:

kel said...

Yeah, this whole incident is so indicative of the homophobic state of our society. And let's not forget all the men who've acquired criminal records for soliciting sex from men over the age of 21 years in public restrooms, etc. And then they're forced to admit in psychological evaluations and therapy sessions that they're sex addicts when the real problem is having to hide their sexuality and not having healthy outlets of expression.