Monday, November 5, 2012


Strafed by flies circling the only sunny spot on the restaurant terrace, ruminating on both bread and life, and glamoured by the play of light on the tabletop, I listened as I sipped my bourbon to the Celt and my old professor discuss the worth of voting in Georgia. And as I sipped, it occurred to me that theirs was but a continuation of a conversation I been overhearing across our acquaintance for weeks now.

A few weeks ago I sat at dinner with people who, mostly, could have been my children's age and, as if personally involved, were talking about celebrity derring-do. Now, I recognize this kind of conversation is nothing more than oiling the wheels of social interaction, but there are times – many, actually – when I cannot take part because I have little if any idea of whom this or that person is. Despite the merriment – and it was a merry evening – my mind wandered as I looked around me at the Chippendale chairs and the chandelier, prismatic and tinkling above our heads... thinking, as one does, how much I might resemble a tipsy eighteenth-century squire surrounded by kith and kin in his newly-bought dining room. I thought too of a style of furniture that in its heyday (a day not yet gone by in Atlanta) had, with regional inflections, spanned the Continent, Great Britain and its burgeoning empire. As I sat there, an occasion from nearly twenty years ago and, to me, very eighteenth-century in feel, came to mind: we'd been taken to lunch by a business acquaintance at his wife's grandparents house, and the grandfather during the meal went to his Chippendale sideboard, quietly took out a chamber pot, pissed into it, put it back in its place, and reseated himself at the head of the table. Bewildering, bothering or bewitching, I couldn't decide – but sure as hell I have remembered it.

I was brought back to table from my eighteenth-century reverie of squiredom, fox-hunting and common land enclosures, by a tale of a local decorator – a friend of the speaker – who'd shocked him and his partner by announcing that they should "vote with their wallets" rather than on social issues. My question, after listening for a little while longer, and perhaps a little too forcefully interjected, was why he and his partner would consider that person a friend if she was supporting a candidate who clearly would deny them the civil rights they considered to be theirs.

In the wee hours of Sunday morning, home again from the two parties we'd attended, we drank a nightcap with two men bewildered by the number of their friends who would, as they saw it, vote their rights away for the sake of a tax break and were trying to persuade them to follow suit. During that conversation I remembered a pamphlet* published some thirty years ago that queried why we seek for the good wishes of those whom we allow to oppress us. As I recollect it, it was a piece of polemic, uncompromising in nature, and it has influenced me ever since – despite the accommodations and compromises that sometimes, over the years, whether unthinkingly or not, I have made and continue to make.

One way or another, it will be a different world on Wednesday morning. But either way, there will still be much to be fought for.

* With Downcast Gays: Aspects of Homosexual Self-Oppression. Andrew Hodges and David Hutter


  1. Pissing in chamber pots and voting away one's rights, all in one post. It makes total sense to me.

    1. not the same thing as deporting the interior life, we shouldn't suppose .. :)

  2. From the perspective of one who has noted years of accomodations & compromises, I can say you are absolutely correct. Hoping years to come bring the end to self-oppression for our dear children & those yet born.

  3. One of my remote but limitlessly effete relatives used to argue that it didn't matter all that much who lived in The White House. We were all, he averred, Prisoners of History.

    Nevertheless, what I think is -- While public opinion about certain contentious topics may have reversed course over the past forty years, public opinion about gay rights has only moved in a direction you would approve. There are ups and downs, of course -- that's to be expected. But it's probably better to force local jurisdictions to work this out on their own than to have Congress or Nine Old Men settle it. That way, compared to Rowe v Wade, there won't be be all the revanchism we've seen over the past twenty years.

    P.S. I am still anxiously awaiting that definitive Rory Cameron retrospective. I finally got around to reading The Golden Summer. It's not all that great about his house or the gardens, but it's wonderful elsewhere, over and over.

  4. One can and should only vote with one's conscience. If I voted with my wallet, I should hate myself as a traitor to my conscience.

  5. I think our despair with revanchism is not, dear BL, to be weighed in the balance against any lifting of repression by any lawful means. Of course I admire your organic view, the genuinely conservative view, of change one can believe in. But for mercy's sake I must prefer the promptest sharing of a human right, not that I read any resistance to this in your remarks. The struggle is natural and its persistence is acceptable, dear BL, compared to the alternative, particularly in a federal union where the full protection of the law must not be even more arbitrarily abridged, by the interpolation of a nugatory border. The union is as precarious as the right; they are secured together. It is natural to desire your approach, in human assimilations of change, and in this respect I certainly do not question its wisdom. But one can be patient with the one without countenancing injustice and its agony, as you do not need to be told.

  6. PLease remind the Ancient, that despite his august opinion, Rights should never be put up for a vote. Otherwise, no one would have them.

  7. Dear "the ancient"....
    How funny, I got into small-ish (by my standards) trouble just a few days ago when, in reply to an acquaintance's posting on my Facebook page, I wrote that a longtime, elderly friend of mine (who grew up in the deep-center of Washington politics during the thirties and forties)has regularly told me, over the years, "Oh, my father used to tell doesn't MATTER who's president...."

    I was surprised at how fiercely I was attacked for merely quoting what, I've just gathered, isn't an entirely singular opinion.

    As for being gay and voting for Republicans? (and at the obvious risk of lowering the tone of this blog)??.....

    For a while there in my late twenties, I was mightily smitten by a more-or-less closeted Raleigh corporate lawyer who briefly introduced me to the world of "fancy" Raleigh restaurants and silly country-clubz (his Richmond-born&bred tail seemed to live for them) and whom I introduced to my circle of completely "out" friends in far-more liberal/Progressive Durham.

    I never really considered any possible contradictions/problems/impasses until the evening when he, pompous as ever, began casually and condescendingly explaining to a group of my friends (all of whom were gay doctors nd/or academics connected to Duke) why he was a Log Cabin Republican (this was a new group, back then) and would be voting for Senator Jesse Helms's re-election that next month.

    He was remarkably proud and full of himself, and he rather obviously had decided that my friends, by virtue of being "openly" gay, were somehow silly or under-informed. All I recall was one of my friends' (a 6'5" trauma surgeon at Duke and nobody's fool) peering down at him once The Boyfriend had finished spouting, and, with an expression of mock concern, asking "So....what's the deal?....are you suicidal or just an asshole?"

    that's still one of my favorite-ripostes-ever, although I should emphasize that it pretty much wrecked that 8-person dinner party and, for me at least, made the drive back home considerably more thoughtful than had previously been the case.

    Just for the record? The Boyfriend broke up with me two weeks later. The last time I googled him (I promise that I don't do this with any remarkable regularity), I was relieved to find that he hadn't gone on to marry some poor woman, but I was also grimly gratified to read that he'd moved on to work for governor Jeb Bush.

    Silly, silly, silly....isn't it/some folks?

    Level Best as Ever,

    david Terry

  8. DJS --

    When I went to vote this morning, I noticed that the ballot included a proposed amendment to the state constitution which would prevent the exercise of eminent domain for the sort of purposes approved by the SC in Kelo v. New London. (In other words, it's an affirmation of private property rights against the designs of the state.)

    Rights that can be bestowed without the consent of the governed can just as easily be taken away. History does not, ever, run in a straight line.

    Look at what happened in the South after the 1876 election, or to desegregation in Washington, D.C. after Wilson's inauguration. Similarly, the general public feeling about abortion seems to have changed quite a bit since Roe V Wade in 1974. The right of women to vote was accomplished by years of activism followed by a series of public votes. There are other similar examples.

    I understand the desire to suddenly live in an entirely different world. But we see pretty clear evidence -- with Roe v Wade being the simplest example -- that imposing a right from above (through reasoning that most good lawyers will private deplore, regardless of their views) creates a lot of ill-will and resistance. I think it's best to avoid that, if at all possible. But I entirely understand why others might disagree.



  9. Dear Ancient,

    I find it quite odd that, for all your words about the South, you ignore one of the most important legislative matters in my lifetime, that of Civil Rights for African-Americans. If left to voters in the 60's, it would not have happened. Ever. After all, there is something called the Tyranny of the Majority. Courts are made to protect minorities from them.

    We can talk about gay marriage while we are at it, but this is not a forum. However, I wish to point out that the issues are joined in that both minorities have been oppressed by the majority.

    And now I ask the pardon of Blue.


  10. I'm liking the day after Tuesday far better than I had dared hope when I contemplated it on the day before Tuesday. Up here in Maine we strongly repudiated the nasty message of the National Republican party---going for Obama by a wide margin, sending a moderate Independent to replace the estimable Republican Olympia Snowe in the senate, and last and far from least, passed Gay Marriage---in one of the classiest campaigns seen this year---by a decisive 7% margin, making history in the process. For more:

    I'm feeling more hopeful than I've felt in a long time.

    PS. The chamber pot story is just brilliant--

  11. Daniel --

    The courts and the Congress can deliver some things; they cannot deliver everything. What Maine did the other day -- with a 7% margin -- just seems to me to be the best possible way to achieve what you and I both want to see.

    Best, etc.

    P.S. Dilettante -- I did have a brief moment, reading that story, where I asked myself, Could I get away with this?

  12. Living in the middle of the country so red it's seldom polled, my husband and I proudly voted for Obama. Like many of you we watched with butterfly stomachs to see who was right Gallup or Nate Silver. Fearing dirty tricks in Ohio and Florida, I started crying when Ohio was called. At the end of the evening, Florida was irrelevant.

    I appreciate the coalition that Obama created. I do think it represents the New America. I detested the way the republicans attacked women and then projected their evil work as the work of democrats.

    I view gay marriage as a civil right and welcome the day it is the law of the land. As one republican pundit commented, the party needs to do a great deal of soul searching~do they really want to be on the side of too much love?

    For all of us who voted not with our wallets (so appreciated RD's comment), but with our hearts and our conscience, today is a good day. I am a cross between a cynic and a pollyanna, but I do think America's greatest hours come when we work together.

    Love the chamber pot story and the whole mise en scene you so lusciously set before our eyes. Hope you toasted the election with suitable drink. I know I did! And congratulations to Maine for showing how to change with grace.

  13. Blue, you have created a forum for civil discourse at its finest!,

    I'd seen the posting on Monday, and found the discussion fascinating.
    Ancient is plainly a decent and wise person, but he might have got out of his depth on the topic of gay rights. The story told by David Terry about the closeted Raleigh lawyer struck a chord with me. You cannot imagine how many types I have met over the years, who fall into that "self-loathing" category, vote Republican, marry the opposite sex for the sake of appearances, lead a precarious double life, etc etc and all because in their hearts they feel that gays are second class citizens. Well, they may actually have something there~hypocrites though they may be. No matter what Ancient says about "greater acceptance", I am, sad to say, not entirely convinced of it.

    Home Before Dark capped the discussion nicely, so I'll simply leave it
    at that.

  14. Dear "toby".....oh, I expect your instincts are quite good. I've known several men (whom I don't at all disrespect or intentionally disparage) who've simply made the decision to remain closeted because, were they to "come out"?.....
    ...well, then working at a prestigious boys' boarding skool (I left that business, for very specific and well-founded reasons, in my early-thirties)or being an "Important" lawyer-in-politics would suddenly become, at least according to them, fraught with possiblities for disaster.

    I'm lucky in that I was raised by a family (and this was during the 1960's in Mississippi, when the stakes ran high for everyone) that taught me to know that nothing (whether that be a job or an admirable marriage or some public "position") is really worth having if you have to conceal yourself and your beliefs in order to hold onto it. You simply make yourself into some stranger's hostage.

    I don't exactly "condemn" that lawyerly ex-boyfriend or any of his type (I've known more than a few of them). I'll admit, though, to wondering,on a regular basis, whether what they've paid (not that they've necessarily noticed the cost, themselves) is worth what they've gotten.

    Sad, really, when you think about the matter....which I usually make a point of not doing.

    ----david terry

  15. Daniel James Shigo, Laurent, Barbara, The Ancient, Reggie Darling, Carter Nicholoas, David Terry, The Down East Dilettante, Home Before Dark and Toby Worthington,

    Thank you all for responding as you have to my post. I have so much to say in response to each of you but I think a simple "thank you" must suffice.



  16. All this discussion is WAY OVER MY HEAD so I will just say how much I enjoyed the part about the chamberpot!

  17. Call me a cynic, but long ago I despaired that the vast majority of people do indeed vote with their wallets. But I enjoy being proved wrong, and the exceptions to the rule are those who give us better governments.

    1. Loved the chamber pot story and thought it perfectly fitting as the introduction to the ensuing conversation/bellyaching which seems to define those one issue wonders who vote agenda politics rather than the welfare of the nation. It is both pathetic and sad to see that for one issue only, a minority of the population is willing to destroy the country financially and militarily for the right to achieve some ridiculous social acceptance that the majority find laughable on its face.