Homosexual liberation—a key test for conservatives
A friend was wondering why a middle-class or rather upper-class person like Manhattan’s perennial District Attorney, Robert Morgenthau, who 50 years ago probably disapproved of homosexuality, now approves of it.
The issue of homosexual liberation is a microcosm of the problem of liberalism and traditionalism. Something has forever been considered a sin and a taboo, or at least abnormal and frowned upon, or at least not accepted publicly. Then a new movement arises in society saying it’s not a sin and is ok, both in private and in public. People’s first reaction to this is going to be a kind of helpless bewilderment. Since it was always just taken for granted that homosexual conduct was wrong or unnatural, they have no practice in explaining why it’s wrong and unnatural, or why it’s bad for society. And if a person never does the work of figuring this out for himself, he will end up going along with the liberal revolution. Even many “conservatives” today have nothing to say against homosexual liberation. That is why the key work of being a real conservative or a traditionalist is getting at the truth of what is right and wrong, and why it is right or wrong . And that requires a thought process that is not just logical, but involves diving within ourselves.
To put it another way, the older condemnation of homosexuality was an unprincipled exception to liberalism (here is a brief explanation of this concept). Liberal Christians and Jews in mid-century America had a sharply negative toward homosexuality, mainly out of an instinctive reaction, supported by received, unreflective social attitudes, that it was disgusting or repugnant or wrong. But in many cases they didn’t have any articulated moral, religious, or social basis for this view. So when homosexual liberation came along and explicitly said that homosexuality was ok and that disapproval of it was mere prejudice, they didn’t have any grounds for opposing it, and they inevitably changed from disapproving of homosexuality to approving of it or at least not disapproving of it. Their earlier disapproval was an unprincipled exception to liberalism, a non-liberal attitude that was not backed up by a non-liberal principle. Because it was not backed up by a principle, once liberalism explicitly said that homosexual desire and conduct was ok, people had no argument against it. And once homosexual desire and conduct was ok, then the public expression of homosexuality was also ok, and to oppose even its public expression became an act of bigotry.
Homosexuality is an archetypal liberal issue, because it has to do with sexual desire. If a person has desires for the same sex, that’s something he feels in the intimate, authentic center of his being, so who are “we” to say that it’s wrong? Liberalism says that any consensual behavior between adults is ok. To be a traditionalist to understand why this is not true, and be able to explain why.