A year ago writer Peggy Noonan opened her column with a story of having met a young man at a wedding who introduced himself, asked her a question, but before she could answer he went on to say, “I’m gay, by the way.” Noonan wrote:
“I nodded as if this were my business, but thought: I wonder why a total stranger thinks I want to know what he wishes to do with his genitals? What an odd way to say hello.
“We live in a time in which people routinely violate their own privacy.”
Noonan doubted whether the man would have been as open about his annual salary, as that would have been too personal. In the old America, she wrote, people knew certain things were better kept private,
“But in the new and infinitely stranger America there are a lot of people who need to be told, ‘Buddy, that’s none of my business.’”
One of the reasons I’m optimistic about the future of the discussion of morality in this country is that despite decades of work attempting to get every American to discuss their sex life in public, most people still prefer not to. I believe human nature suggests that won’t change any time soon.
A few simple concepts have been pushed to society’s back burner as the heat has been turned up in favor of an extremist social agenda. The honest proponents of this agenda admit that it’s “not a civil rights movement” or “sexual liberation movement” but rather is “a moral revolution.”
My optimism rests in part on the belief that most people prefer to occupy the ground where real tolerance, privacy, and decency exist. While the extremists don’t want to go there, the rest of us have the power to relegate them to the space befitting the tiny radical minority that they are.
As applied, the dictionary definition of “tolerance” means, “I don’t care how you like to have sex.” We also know what tolerance doesn’t mean: “I embrace and endorse how you like to have sex.” It is that simple.
Privacy is another basic notion that some prefer to ignore. Most well-adjusted Americans not only don’t care – they don’t want to know how you like to have sex – whether you’re homosexual or heterosexual or whatever.
Despite noisy pop culture, decency is another idea that most people still understand. As humans we all have inner drives and bodily functions, yet most of us realize instinctively that they all don’t cry out for public disclosure. Very young children are excused if they occasionally blurt out the inappropriate revelation. Adults, however, know that much of what it means to be human doesn’t require its own sitcom.
Tammy Bruce wrote in her book “The Death of Right and Wrong“:
“Now, as a gay woman, I’ve always taken offense at the idea that I should be ‘proud’ of my sexuality. I’m proud to be an American, I’m proud to be contributing something to society, but my sexuality, like yours, is a private matter not meant for so-called pride or public display.”
Life involves drawing lines. It can be said that on one side of the line are the things that are fitting for a parade, and on the other side are things that are not. In Chicago every year there is something called the “homosexual pride” parade. That parade is one of the best examples of something that crosses the line of tolerance, privacy, and decency all at the same time.
©2006 John Francis Biver