Boys Will Be Boys

Can’t say I’m all that pleased with the new New Republic. When the current subscription runs out, that will bring to an end thirty years of worthwhile magazine reading.

Here’s part of what’s wrong. The new New Republic is so gay-friendly that its editors don’t seem to notice certain inconsistencies.

For instance, in the July/August issue, Naomi Fry reviewed Entourage the movie and gave a thumbs down to the sort of male culture that animates the film (and the show):

It was an era of vulgar, cheerfully exaggerated gender roles, in which the perennially thong-flashing Britney Spears and her backup dancer Kevin Federline’s ill-fated nuptials (celebrated in September 2004, just two months after Entourage’s debut) featured bridesmaids and groomsmen wearing Juicy Couture tracksuits whose backs were emblazoned, respectively, with “maids” and “pimps.” Spears’s mental breakdown was a still-unimaginable three years off, the financial market’s collapse four. Yes, there were a couple of wars, but they were far away. Life was good. . . .

As the years passed, however, Entourage became harder to stomach, and its inclusiveness less convincing. This was partly the fault of context. Post 2008, life turned more difficult for a lot of people, and the happy-go-lucky, Teflon quality of the show’s protagonists, with their effortlessly achieved Maseratis and mansions, began to grate. The “bros before hos” ethos fell out of general vogue, as did the notion that a group of horny white men fucking their way through Hollywood could count as an arrangement in which we’d all end up the victors, no matter our gender, race, or sexual orientation.

This is a lesson that some of the most successful recent navigators of popular culture, too, have grasped. Nowadays, our male celebrities can still have a bro squad in tow, but the carousing has to come with a twist, which is why Drake, for example—the half black, half Jewish rap superstar from Toronto, whose famously hangdog quality complicates an otherwise swaggery persona—is a genius worthy of his moment. Entourage, however, continued virtually unchanged. Years into its run, we could find the boys still metaphorically strutting around The Grove mall in Los Angeles, a somewhat worse-for-wear Horatio Alger with a Yankees cap, Ed Hardy shirt, and Seven for All Mankind jeans. By its 2011 finale, however, everyone seemed to understand that it was time to pack it up and move on.

I’m not sure if this was the reason I never sat through more than four episodes, but Fry’s point is worth making. Hetero boys being boys can be downright vulgar.

But the same issue has an article about gay culture in Louisville and its author, Michael Lindenberger, nostalgically makes the point that even after the legalization of same-sex marriage, readers of the magazine should not let go what was good about gay life in the 1960s and 1970s. Here’s a description of one night out on the town:

Walking south on Fourth Street, toward the Ohio River and Main Street, they spotted a sign up ahead, a block south on Chestnut: THE DOWNTOWNER. COCKTAILS. “We saw this pack of people going straight into the door and we just squeezed right on through,” Stinson said. “There was this small cabaret room in the back, just packed in with people. This beautiful blond-headed lady on a small stage was playing the piano and singing. People were just having the greatest time.” A booth opened up, and the boys crammed into it, three on a side. “So here comes this waitress,” Stinson said. “My cousin George right away was giving me the nudge: ‘Get up, and let her sit down.’”

“‘Wellll,’ she says,” Stinson said, laying on an exaggerated Southern drawl. “‘Is it you boys first time here?’”

“‘Yeah, yeah, yeah.’”

“‘Let’s just get this playing field straight. You think I am a boy or a girl?’” The waitress pulled up her sweater, exposing a chest covered in hair.

The boys had unwittingly wandered into what was for many years the only gay bar in Louisville. The Downtowner opened in 1953, after the Beaux Arts, a bar in the hotel of the Henry Clay Hotel at Third and Chestnut, which opened in the 1940s, became what’s widely considered the city’s first gay establishment. But the Beaux Arts and a similar place within the nearby Seelbach Hotel called the Beau Brummel, had been a place where men could meet discreetly and in relative safety. The Downtowner, with its waitstaff in drag and performers onstage, was something else altogether. Louisville also had gay pickup spots, including Cherokee Park in the east end, the oval in front of the Louisville Free Public Library, and Central Park, a half-dozen or so blocks to the south on Fourth Street. “It was either the bars or [the park],” David Williams, one of the editors of the gay newspaper The Letter, told me. “We had little groups—or families. I was the matriarch of one of the families. We’d go to the park and play volleyball and go home and have a potluck dinner. We took care of each other.”

Here boys are being boys but this time the entourage is acceptable even though as testosterone-driven as the characters in Entourage. Why? Because homosexual sex is better than heterosexual sex? Because gay men are more restrained in satisfying their sexual desires than straight men? Because gays hang out with prettier women than straight men? Because gays are less clannish than heteros?

Turns out, the gay culture of the 1960s is more worthy of preservation than the hetero feng shui of 2000s Hollywood because participants in the former were victims of injustice and those part of the latter were simply an aspect of the majority society. This is in fact the great crisis for any minority group who achieves some correction to a former imbalance. If your identity is based on being the minority, then once you enter the mainstream and become part of the majority you lose your identity.

So which is it, do gays want to be normal (Andrew Sullivan’s word) or queer? And in sexy America where promiscuity is normal, can gays really retain a separate identify from straight men?

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38 thoughts on “Boys Will Be Boys

  1. The only precedent for this sort of thing is pagan Rome, isn’t it? Not that they used the term marriage, but the decline.

    Would virtuous republican Rome (insofar as we can separate reality from a literary ideal) have persecuted Christians? It’s not like all pagan societies did so– Anglo-Saxon England seemed easily amenable.

    To what extent was the imperial persecution related to an immoral society? Were they struggling to maintain in the pagan religion (as it had evolved) the only bulwark of social order left once common morality had faded?

    And we here in the US will be left with what as our bulwark? What might resurgent Christianity be dealing with in a century that the State supports, that provides some measure of superficial or partial order, and yet Christians cannot?

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  2. Kevin in Newark
    Posted August 12, 2015 at 10:55 pm | Permalink
    The only precedent for this sort of thing is pagan Rome, isn’t it? Not that they used the term marriage, but the decline.

    Would virtuous republican Rome (insofar as we can separate reality from a literary ideal) have persecuted Christians? It’s not like all pagan societies did so– Anglo-Saxon England seemed easily amenable.

    To what extent was the imperial persecution related to an immoral society? Were they struggling to maintain in the pagan religion (as it had evolved) the only bulwark of social order left once common morality had faded?

    And we here in the US will be left with what as our bulwark? What might resurgent Christianity be dealing with in a century that the State supports, that provides some measure of superficial or partial order, and yet Christians cannot?

    Shhhh. Don’t do history in front of Dr. Hart.

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  3. Since when does every contribution to a magazine have to fit into some neat epistemological box? You’re starting to sound like the world-and-life types.

    That being said, I found that the two articles do represent something of a congruent theme. I’ll address the pieces in reverse order.

    The Lindenberger piece laments the day when identifying as gay was synonymous with participating in a seedy world that centered around cruising for gay sex. That world has passed away. It’s not that the former type of gay has disappeared. But they’ve been outnumbered in recent years by the throng of otherwise normal-seeming guys coming out of the closet. In fact, most gay people today take offense at reducing gays to sexual desires. In fact, a recent study by Lisa Diamond found that many of those who now identify as gay appear to be more sexually attracted to the opposite sex than to the same sex. So, in a sense, identifying as gay is really no longer about sex for many gay people. Rather, many simply identify as gay as part of the process of rejecting restrictive sexualized gender scripts, and experimenting with scripts that feel more comfortable to them. Many of these gays eventually settle down with someone of the opposite sex, although their relationship may not exactly conform to the sexualized gender scripts that Madison Avenue or the Bishop of Bloomington demand.

    Enter Federline. In many ways, he is simply playing out the idealized script for heteronormative masculinity. Federline embodies what our culture has come to define as “natural” sexuality. After all, while the Bishop wouldn’t condone Federline’s conduct, his theology assumes that proclivities toward that conduct are “natural” to all real men. So, what happens to all the guys who don’t experience this “natural” desire to pursue the ideal Federline represents? Well, in recent years, many of them have been coming out as gay. In coming out, they have no desire to participate in the lifestyle whose passing Lindenberger mourns. Rather, they just want to opt out of a script where they’re viewed as defective because they lack the “natural” masculine desires of Federline and his ilk.

    So, in a way, our cultural fixation on restrictive sexualized gender scripts has pushed many into the LGBTQ community who otherwise would never have joined the Rainbow Express. Of course, these folks want nothing to do with guys like Lindenberger. They usurped his cause, domesticated it, and kicked him to the curb.

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  4. Bobby, epistemology? That’s like the way SCOTUS finds penumbras in the Constitution.

    Wasn’t the post’s point simply that celebrating boy sex among gays might lead you to form a positive estimate of boy sex among straights. Since gays are fighting for equal rights, when does equality mean taking away the rights of others?

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  5. Wait, so, if I don’t actually or even merely desire to sexually self-actualize like Federline(pimps and hos), I’m gay?! Give me a break.

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  6. For decades the New Republic, for the back half of each issue, provided the best essays and book/movie reviews that America had to offer for the above-middle brow and higher.

    Oh well…

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  7. Maybe everyone just needs to get a hobby. Collect stuff, play some sport, read, whatever. And why have we give the status of profundity to all these marginal people behaving badly?

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  8. Muddy, a huge part of intelligent leisure time pursuits is created and performed by “people with a different view than is seen as normal”

    There’s an implicit acceptance and ignoring of this unless the matter at hand is explicitly that way.

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  9. I’m not sure what you mean by “a huge part of intelligent leisure time pursuits.” I’m just Karl Pilkington in Flyover Country today.

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  10. Hmm…. how about my great grandma in the car chiding me for listening to “that queer” David Bowie when we are on the way to see Swan Lake…

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  11. There are times when I’ve been hostage in a waiting room, picked up a magazine and quite enjoyed its style yet when I put it down I was left thinking about the shame of so much talent being given over to such marginalia. But, then, if it’s a topic in the corridors of power I guess it’s not marginal any more. Has Tim Keller been published in The New Yorker?

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  12. @sean

    Not necessarily. I’m just saying that that’s the case for many who come out as gay in their 20s. It’s not the only reaction, or even a necessary reaction.

    Even so, the problem for evangelicals lies in the fact that their theology implicitly assumes that Federline represents some kind of “natural” ideal of male sexuality that only needs to be corralled within the confines of marriage. As the good Bishop pronounced late last year, “Sex is a calling from God and is foundational to Christian discipleship, so the man who says he’s a celibate effeminate is a rebel against God.”

    This horny-to-be-holy theology is central to the biblical manhood and womanhood movement and to many current-day efforts to restrict church leadership only to those who can share in Federline’s naturalism. I recognize that there may be other reasons why churches may restrict leadership to men. Even so, the most common reason lies in the rather erroneous belief that there’s some kind of godly quality to male heterosexual desire that makes the experience of such desire the primary test of one’s spirituality (oh…as long as those desires are fed only within the context of marriage).

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  13. I guess we’ll always have the quirky New Yorker, which redoes itself every 3 or so years, and the LRB and TLS for a little more chewy reading.

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  14. Kent, as long as John McPhee still contributes at least sporadically, I will maintain my 40 year plus subscription to the New Yorker. They have had quite a run with non-fiction writers– A.J. Liebling, Joseph Mitchell (though how much of Mitchell’s work was non-fiction has come under question) and now McPhee.. All good things must end.

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  15. ADD (no pun intended): I’ve had a New Yorker subscription since i was 8 or so.

    I know where it’s coming from and they are a bit more balanced than the NYROB on politics and social matters.

    And a lot of excellent feature articles on frauds have been in the mag over the last 5 years, great for my line of work in investigating or working for the tenacious D.

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  16. Dan, New Yorker is where I will likely land. Atlantic is okay but it’s frenzied in its layout and contents. Might have to try Times Literary Supplement but it’s friggin’ $115 even for the digital.

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  17. Atlantic has turned into a quicker flip through with nothing to read since my gift subscription to Christianity Today expired.

    I think 18 of the past 19 features in the Atlantic have been about the doom coming that we all deserve (and the horse you rode into town on as well.)

    Can’t you wing a deal through your profession on the TLS, DGH??

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  18. Muddy:given over to such marginalia.

    Ben Carson (America the Beautiful) identifies the peculiar similarities of fallen nations ( Ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, Great Britain, France, Spain) – inordinate emphasis on sports and entertainment, fixation of lifestyles of rich and famous, political corruption, loss of moral compass

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  19. Kent-

    Hmm…. how about my great grandma in the car chiding me for listening to “that queer” David Bowie when we are on the way to see Swan Lake…

    All the difference in the world:

    Did Tchaikovsky give titillating interviews? Permit rumors about an immoral sex life to spread? Release songs like All the Young Dudes and allow his work to become rallying symbols for homosexuality? ~ What did his album covers look like? ~

    Personal sin is not the sin of scandal.

    Bowie gave an interview several years back in which he stated the only religions he could ever see himself believing in were Buddhism and Catholicism. He’d tried Buddhism, but said it didn’t work for him. … Then nothing said about Catholicism.

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  20. DGH, I miss the long pieces they used to feature regularly. Virtually all of McPhee’s books used to be serialized. Can’t imagine any magazine today devoting the space, over a 20 year or more period, to his geology articles that eventually encompassed several books, most notably Annals of the Former World. Economics, I suppose.

    It may not be what you are looking for, but The Economist has survived my thinning of the herd for several years, primarily for the longer special sections it frequently runs.

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  21. The article gives props to Drake?! It might as well propose Nicki Minaj as a role model for womanhood. All credibility shot. Liberals… Less self-aware than conservatives, if that’s possible. And I thought Toby Keith needed to shut up!

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  22. P.S. The bullseye in ‘Entourage’ is not bro culture, but modern marriage. The vignettes with Ari Gold and his wife are pretty hysterical.

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  23. The new New Republic is so gay-friendly that its editors don’t seem to notice certain inconsistencies.

    Huh? If the parts don’t fit, anybody’s brain ought to tell them that if you keep trying, that‘s a good way to break a toy or a puzzle. And these guys are not kids. Nor are the Supremes.

    Here boys are being boys but this time the entourage is acceptable even though as testosterone-driven as the characters in Entourage. Why?

    Well duh. According to the article, it’s because gays hang out with prettier men pretending to be pretty women than straight men.
    Which is “normal” according to Andrew?
    Are we in an alternate universe or what? (No. Obergefel says it’s all good. Besides the beatings will continue till your marriage morale improves. Bake the cake or else, you fascist, you.)

    Fag hags? No, we really really don’t want to go there. MrsW will become further unglued/is already offended by members of a certain church/will go nuclear

    So which is it, do gays want to be normal (Andrew Sullivan’s word) or queer? And in sexy America where promiscuity is normal, can gays really retain a separate identify from straight men?

    Come on, there’s firing people up and there’s burning the place down.
    (Does OL got its fire insurance paid up?)
    Never mind what the all american sodomite on steroids says, as opposed to what he really thinks, it’s all about idolatry.
    Of the state. AKA fascism to put it one way.
    Leviathan rules, contra the sexual and racial minorities that think they are not minorities, but majorities; that they are really running the show instead of useful tools to break down the majority.
    For Leviathan.

    Big Brother loves not only a population cowed by lies, but a people exhausted by and diverted into pursuing an unending sexual/drug/alcohol/entertainment induced bliss. Which is what happens when you divert human sexuality into something besides the family and raising children. The short term pleasurable outlook prospers. Bread and circuses, become paramount and alternative sources of authority and identity to the state such as the family disappear.

    But what’s not to like for those who believe in never letting a crisis go to waste?
    Nothing. Nothing at all for our New Republicans.

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  24. DG-

    Technical difficulties.

    I tried posted something for Bob on the ‘When Did Christian America” thread last night (around 2am this morning actually), following submit the page refreshed, but the comment hadn’t published wasn’t present in the recent comment list.

    I refreshed a few times before trying to re-post it, and received the ‘duplicate comment detected’ error.

    Not sure what you can do about it, but do see any issues on the admin side?

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  25. Not sure whether anyone else raised this, but:

    In Sweden a ‘gay pride’ parade was to run through two neighborhoods which are 75% Muslim.

    The reaction from ‘the Left’ was fierce – how can the organizers behave in such a ‘racist’ manner?

    The Facebook page is absolutely filled with angry comments from leftists, attacking the “xenophobic right-wing nationalists” for organizing a gay pride parade through Muslim areas.

    Since Islam holds that gays should be executed, something like this is obviously an attack on Muslims and should therefore be outlawed. At least, that’s what Swedish leftists – and, indeed, Swedish gays – are saying.

    http://www.thegatewaypundit.com/2015/07/gay-pride-parade-planned-through-muslim-area-of-stockholm-sweden/

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  26. Kevin, you are even remotely aware of the life lived by the composer that gave us Swan Lake???

    Dude, I’m sorry but I just assume you have this basic cultural knowledge already lodged in there by pursuing even basic things like Swan Lake…

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  27. Kent –

    Kevin, you are even remotely aware of the life lived by the composer that gave us Swan Lake???

    Dude, I’m sorry but I just assume you have this basic cultural knowledge already lodged in there by pursuing even basic things like Swan Lake…

    Lots of conclusion-jumping around here. I think my comment demonstrates an informed opinion, but perhaps we have a disagreement as to Tchaikovsky’s behaviour. To pick one source :

    In any case, Tchaikovsky, conservative by nature, chose not to neglect social convention. His love life remained complicated. A combination of upbringing, timidity and deep commitment to relatives precluded his living openly with a male lover.

    A similar blend of personal inclination and period decorum kept him from having sexual relations with those in his social circle. He regularly sought out anonymous encounters, many of which he reported to Modest; at times, these brought feelings of remorse.

    He also attempted to be discreet and adjust his tastes to the conventions of Russian society

    — Wikipedia

    This knowledge underlay my comment to you. So what “basic cultural knowledge” are you referring to?

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  28. Kevin, what a total copout of a life story of that master composer…

    Did a little deeper. Try to grasp what I’m getting at by the hypocrisy of declaiming the work of one man, based on his lifestyle, when one you like gets a get-out-of-jail free card for the same thing…

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  29. Bob S –

    Leviathan rules, contra the sexual and racial minorities that think they are not minorities, but majorities; that they are really running the show instead of useful tools to break down the majority.
    For Leviathan.

    Big Brother loves not only a population cowed by lies, but a people exhausted by and diverted into pursuing an unending sexual/drug/alcohol/entertainment induced bliss. Which is what happens when you divert human sexuality into something besides the family and raising children.

    In all sincerity, I think this is brilliant.

    Basically what E. Michael Jones is getting at in Libido Dominandi: Sexual Liberation as Political Control

    He discusses it in an interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8XkrZPZI2uU

    Unlike the standard version of sexual revolution, Libido Dominandi shows how sexual liberation was from its inception a form of control. The logic is clear enough: Those who wished to liberate man from the moral order needed to impose social controls as soon as they succeeded because liberated libido led inevitably to anarchy.

    Over the course of two hundred years, those techniques became more and more refined, eventuating in a world where people were controlled, not by military force, but by the skillful management of their passions. It was Aldous Huxley who wrote in his preface to the 1946 edition of Brave New World that “as political and economic freedom diminishes, sexual freedom tends compensatingly to increase.”

    This book is about the converse of that statement. It explains how the rhetoric of sexual freedom was used to engineer a system of covert political and social control. Over the course of the two-hundred-year span covered by this book, the development of technologies of communication, reproduction, and psychic control – including psychotherapy, behaviorism, advertising, sensitivity training, pornography, and, when push came to shove, plain old blackmail – allowed the Enlightenment and its heirs to turn Augustine’s insight on its head and create masters out of men’s vices.

    He calls homosexuals the current vanguard of the ongoing cultural revolution (preceded by feminism and the civil rights movement), the purpose of which is to maintain our current economic and political system for the benefit of the usual cast of characters.

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  30. Kent –

    Kevin, what a total copout of a life story of that master composer… Did a little deeper. Try to grasp what I’m getting at by the hypocrisy of declaiming the work of one man, based on his lifestyle, when one you like gets a get-out-of-jail free card for the same thing…

    I didn’t realize you wanted a life story – not sure that would fit well in a combox.

    Bowie’s life and (a very small portion of) his work were morally problematic and scandalous. He did cut the drugs and androgyny and calm down, which is very much praiseworthy.

    Tchaikovsky’s life and work, as far as I can tell, lacked the element of scandal. I believe his brother is more responsible than he himself for our knowledge of his unfortunate behaviour.

    I think the distinction comes out when we ask – has the behaviour of both, or just one of the two been imitated by large numbers of impressionable young people, who may well have not ever reformed their sexual practices – who may have died from heroin, or at least been impacted enough that they never found a proper place in society – who may have rejected Christianity never to return?

    And which one wrote music which every year brings together tens of thousands of families, youth orchestras, dancers, choreographers, set designers, etc. worldwide, giving human talents an expression in beauty which otherwise would not exist?

    Which one wrote liturgical music, and a Hymn to the Trinity?

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  31. On the gravestone of its hero—Ronald Reagan—is an epithet that suggests how far modern conservatism has traveled from its original basis in theological humility and acknowledgment of original sin—“I know in my heart that man is good.”

    Nationalism was understood to be a necessary step in liberating individuals from local cultures that put limits upon the full expression of a more universal self-understanding, as well as the goals of personal autonomy and upward mobility.

    Thinkers such as Herbert Croly and John Dewey, writing for the appropriately titled New Republic, called for a new religiously-tinted devotion to the nation as the source of individual liberation and national greatness. President McKinleyset the country on an imperialistic course approved by Progressives

    http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/counterfeiting-conservatism/

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  32. Mark Mcculley
    Posted August 15, 2015 at 12:59 am | Permalink
    On the gravestone of its hero—Ronald Reagan—is an epithet that suggests how far modern conservatism has traveled from its original basis in theological humility and acknowledgment of original sin—“I know in my heart that man is good.”

    That’s so interesting, Mark, because I’ve thought of this little band of Calvinists here every time I’ve walked past his grave, and how revolted they’d be at his epitaph [not “epithet”].

    But he was a wiser man than all but a few give him credit for, an estimable balance of breadth and depth in his studies and thinkery. On theology–not an area of interest or expertise–I’ve found him only mentioning Jesus Christ once, and that was probably a slip. Americans like their politicians religious, but not specific.

    I think what he means by “man is good” is that man can see the good, and can do the good once he knows what it is. No different than Paul’s “law written on the human heart” in Romans.

    Let’s not forget Reagan’s far better known epigram

    “Trust, but verify.”

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  33. DGH, seen this?

    “I would describe myself as a bisexual homoromantic,” says Alice, 23, from Sussex. For the uninitiated, I asked her to explain. “It means I like sex with men and women, but I only fall in love with women. I wouldn’t say something wishy-washy like, ‘It’s all about the person,’ because more often it’s just that I sometimes like a….”

    http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/aug/18/bisexual-british-adults-define-gay-straight-heterosexual

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