Pete Buttigieg is not going to change much in the United States. Having a gay Christian soldier is not much of an improvement.
Human culture is endlessly fascinating. In 1972, Frederic Jameson published a book under the title, The Prison House of Language. Language and culture are not the same, but human language is the primary vehicle by which we transmit culture to one another and the concept transfers well.
Long before we can have any critical perspective on our culture, it has already colonized our minds at a very deep level. The process of acculturation begins at birth, as we begin to hear adults, mostly our parents, talk, and gradually learn our first language,which imports with it a huge fund of meanings and ideas that shape how we think and what we think and what we can think.
It is quite obvious that Christianity is a defining element of what we are pleased to call “western culture,” especially this apogee of “western culture” that we have built here in the United States. The hegemonic status of Christianity is deeply regrettable and the cause of many of our biggest problems, including the violence we visit on each other, men on women, “white” people on “black” people, straight people on queers, and humans on the natural environment and other animal species. All find at least permission, if not active encouragement, in Christianity that they do not find, at all or to the same extent, in other religions. None existed at all where we now live before Christians invaded “the Americas.”
Pete Buttigieg, Mayor Boy, has burst onto the scene as a vaguely plausible candidate for president who has a lot of people aflutter over him. He is a Democrat, of course. He is in his second term as mayor of South Bend, Indiana. He is openly gay. He is married to a man.
He is deeply conventional, profoundly conformist. He makes much out of having served in Afghanistan, in support of the idiotic, ill conceived invasion of an incompetent, Republican president. His military service is essential to his claim to be well qualified to serve as president, running as he is against a raft of sitting U.S. Senators. No one has ever made the jump from mayor to president of the United States in a single leap. Anything is possible, but some things are more likely than others. This is highly unlikely.
It is true, of course, that, to win the presidency of the United States, one has to be highly conformist. Except that one might want to credit Donald Trump with being radically stupid, we do not elect radicals as president of the United States. Republicans certainly do not. Some say the policies of the New Deal, which Franklin Roosevelt pursued during the Great Depression, were radical, but they were actually just reformist, and Roosevelt was the scion of a very old family with very old money who had lived in New York for generations. He was even related to a previous president, Teddy Roosevelt. Some also say that the major civil rights legislation that Democrat Lyndon Johnson pushed through Congress was radical, but it only helped ensure that African Americans enjoy the same rights that supposedly define us as a nation, so it’s hard to see how that was very radical.
But Mayor boy is barely a Democrat. As a loyal Christian soldier, the only thing that marks him as such is his sexual orientation. Were he not gay, he would be a fine Republican. He has overtly adopted a policy program that looks very mainstream Democratic, but he takes the only rational position, so he does not get a huge amount of credit for that. Anyone who wants really advanced policy should look to Elizabeth Warren.
And one thing that should give everyone pause right now about the fascination with Mayor Boy is that he is surging partly because of the deep seated sexism in our culture which inevitably carries over into coverage of presidential candidates.
We have an impressive array of women running for the Democratic nomination and choosing any of them would be much more of a departure than choosing yet another white boy.
Making matters worse, Mayor Boy is now bogged down in a pointless battle with Vice President Mike Pence, also from Indiana, over their respective understandings of Christian belief and its relationship to LGBT identities. Pence has an ugly history, like most good Christians, of encouraging discrimination against queers.
But, after Pence pretty much entirely lost a major battle over LGBT rights issues in 2015, challenging him on the issue is not really a big deal.
Worse, Mayor boy basically gives the game away by trying to blame his gay identity on his magic sky friend. He concedes the legitimacy of arguing over whether gay identity is a choice by claiming that “his creator” is responsible for his being gay.
This is the standard Christian cop out. Discussing LGBT identity in terms of “choices” is a bad idea from the beginning because the point is irrelevant. There is public opinion polling data showing that most people are more likely to support LGBT civil rights claims if they believe that queers do not choose to be queer, but that simply reflects how badly misconceived the whole debate is from the ground up. Even if any given queer does choose to be queer, why is that any of anyone else’s business? Queers do have to choose how open to be about their queerness, whether to act on their queer impulses, whom to tell, how, and what. Transgender persons have to make any number of potentially very difficult choices about how to present themselves to the public and whether to pursue reassignment surgery, with all that entails. Last I heard, it was a free country. Demanding rights by claiming to forego any choice in the matter is not an intelligent strategy.
Mayor Boy is not going to change the minds of any Christians on LGBT civil rights. Conservative Christians, of course, all suffer from the standard Christian delusion that they speak with the authority of their magic sky friend, so they are utterly immovable on any issue they have made up their minds about.
Certainly, some Christian institutions have moved toward favoring LGBT civil rights, but they have done so as the result of protest by social movement actors from outside, not any internal change to Christian dogma, which has changed little since the Protestant Reformation set up the current framework. Christians seem to delight in arguing with each other over arcane points of doctrine, but those debates matter little to anyone who is not a member of that particular club. They certainly do not, and should not, have any impact on discussions of rational policy choices.
So Mayor Boy is just more of the same old, warmed over gruel. His being gay is not particularly advanced or challenging, or even very interesting, given how he chooses to go about it.
We really do not need another Christian soldier, even a gay one.