Everyone remembers the Village People, the “concept disco” group from the late seventies – the costumes, the catchy tunes and suggestive lyrics. There was the police officer, the American Indian chief, the construction worker, the member of the military, the leather-clad biker and the cowboy. They made gay fun. There was their trademark “Macho Man” from 1978 – ah, the virtues of working out and jogging – “Every man ought to be a macho macho man / to live a life of freedom, machos make a stand.” It wasn’t hard to get the joke. And there was the classic club medley of “San Francisco (You’ve got me) / In Hollywood (Everybody is a star)” followed by “In the Navy” and their biggest hit “YMCA.” At one time after the fifth inning of each baseball game at Yankee Stadium, the grounds crew took an on-field break from grooming the infield to dance as “YMCA” is played and everyone cheered, but that may have ended.
In any event, the Village People were subversive in an odd way, putting the older folks on notice – the young folks don’t give a damn about this homosexual paranoia, mocking the cult of “manliness” for its obvious silliness. And you could dance to it all. Folks should loosen up.
“Macho Man” became a bit of a gay anthem, and is played as such in a number of films – “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” and “In & Out” and the “Nutty Professor” remake. In one episode of The Simpsons, Homer sang the song as “Nacho Man” – but that’s an exception. In the movie “Austin Powers in Goldmember” the clever Goldmember sarcastically compliments Dr. Evil by saying “You look like a Macho Man” and then whispers “Village People.” It’s devastating.
Everyone knows those who want to be seen as Macho Men have a bit of a problem – sexual insecurity laced with a fear of that the feminine characteristics all well-rounded men have will somehow leap out, overwhelm their personality and subject them to scorn and shame. You assert your fierce determination, you proudly display it and say you’ll take no crap from anyone, and clear the brush and tell fart jokes and smirk. Then someone whispers “Village People” in your ear. You feel the chill of fear. So the words “Village People” are probably banned at the White House. You don’t want to be sitting around the Oval Office discussing the merits of bombing Iran back to the Stone Age or eliminating North Korea, turn to one of your foreign policy experts for advice on whether the “make them pay” plan is a good idea, and have the guy ease back in his chair, smile at the ceiling and whisper “Village People.” You are not prancing about in costume on a stage being all gay – this is serious. But then the whisper would be just as serious – a kind of shorthand.
A good deal of political commentary over the last four or five years could, of course, be summarized as those dismayed by the way the administration has chosen to deal with conflict in the world – admit no error, make threats, remind all of your unbending will, reject anything like diplomacy and ridicule those who suggest alternative ideas, and then wage war – just whispering “Village People” to anyone who will listen. Disco has its uses.
Thursday, August 30, Keith Olbermann on his show Countdown wasn’t doing disco, with “Macho Man” playing thumping it the background, but he might as well have done that. You can watch it here – a chat with retied General Wesley Clark about that devastating GAO report on Iraq – the one leaked to the Washington Post by government officials afraid that all the previous “negative” reports, this one would be watered down by the Bush administration. It was a preemptive strike, if you will. Olbermann and Clark did touch on the president’s impending fifty billion dollar request for “continued operations in Iraq” but much of the discussion centered on the late news that the Pentagon wants to do a re-write – to make parts of the GAO report to fit their view of conditions on the ground in Iraq. After all, the GOA did suggested someone was lying –
“Overall,” the report concludes, “key legislation has not been passed, violence remains high, and it is unclear whether the Iraqi government will spend $10 billion in reconstruction funds,” as promised. While it makes no policy recommendations, the draft suggests that future administration assessments “would be more useful” if they backed up their judgments with more details and “provided data on broader measures of violence from all relevant U.S. agencies.””
Olbermann and Clark were whispering “Village People” in their own way.
Of course, when someone is doing that Macho Man crap, you just have to call them on it –
In a sign that top commanders are divided over what course to pursue in Iraq, the Pentagon said Wednesday that it won’t make a single, unified recommendation to President Bush during next month’s strategy assessment, but instead will allow top commanders to make individual presentations.
“Consensus is not the goal of the process,” Geoff Morrell, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters. “If there are differences, the president will hear them.”
Military analysts called the move unusual for an institution that ordinarily does not air its differences in public, especially while its troops are deployed in combat.
“The professional military guys are going to the non-professional military guys and saying ‘Resolve this,’” said Jeffrey White, a military analyst for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “That’s what it sounds like.”
White said it suggests that the military commanders want to be able to distance themselves from Iraq strategy by making it clear that whatever course is followed is the president’s decision, not what commanders agreed on.
What seems to be going on here is clear. They’re telling the macho “bring ‘em on” guy that he cannot hide behind his generals with that “the generals told me to do this” bull. If you want to do something hyper-violent and aggressive, and continue it for years to show the world we don’t take crap from anyone, then grow some balls and say so – just don’t use us as your excuse when it turns to shit. Is there any other possible interpretation? They suspect they really are dealing with one of the Village People.
Maybe they’re all Village People, as with the latest one in the news –
The officer who arrested Sen. Larry Craig in a police undercover operation at an airport men’s room accused the senator of lying to him during an interrogation afterward, according to an audiotape of the arrest.
On the tape, released Thursday by the Minneapolis Airport Police, the Idaho Republican in turn accuses the officer of soliciting him for sex.
… The two men disagreed about virtually everything that had occurred minutes earlier, including whether there was a piece of paper on the floor of the stall and the meaning of the senator’s hand gestures. At no time did Craig admit doing anything wrong, although weeks later he pleaded guilty to a reduced misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct.
“You’re not being truthful with me,” Karsnia told Craig during the interrogation. “I’m kind of disappointed in you, senator.”
Karsnia later told Craig he was “sitting here lying to a police officer,” adding: “I expect this from the guy we get out of the ‘hood. I mean people vote for you. Unbelievable.”
You can listen to the whole tape here. Imagine it with a disco beat.
And the whole Republican Party seems to be crying out – We are NOT the Village People! Republican National Committee officials had considered calling for his resignation early Thursday, Republicans “with knowledge of the deliberations said – but they had not done that as the day ended. Senator Ensign of Nevada, who chairs the Republican senatorial campaign committee, suggested Craig should resign – “I wouldn’t put myself hopefully in that kind of position, but if I was in a position like that, that’s what I would do. He’s going to have to answer that for himself.” Senators Coleman and Collins each turned over to charity the two or three grand in campaign donations they had received from Craig’s political action committee. Coleman and a bunch of other Republicans, John McCain, have called for Craig to resign his seat in the Senate, and Craig already had agreed to a request by Republican leaders to give up his ranking status on the Veterans Affairs Committee and Appropriations subcommittees. They want this guy to go away. He has to go away, before radio stations across America put “Macho Man” in rotation, people put two and two together, and the Party loses every open office.
The same day there was distressing news that even the heart of the heartland is loosening up and wondering what the whole problem was in the first place – “A county judge struck down Iowa’s decade-old gay marriage ban as unconstitutional Thursday and ordered local officials to process marriage licenses for six gay couples.” Now how do the Republicans respond with their usual outrage without everyone whispering “Village People” and humming the “Macho Man” tune?
And some people might remember the history of gay Republicans, as Joe Conason reviews that here –
As one embarrassing episode follows another, with almost predictable regularity, perhaps it is time for Republicans and conservatives to ask themselves an obvious question: What makes the Republican Party – and the conservative movement more generally – so attractive to closeted homosexual men?
Somewhere in the textbooks of psychosexual pathology there may be a straightforward answer, so to speak. Does the party draw closeted men because they can hide behind Republican homophobia? Or does the party promote homophobia as a political ruse while closeted men run the show? Whatever the answer, the result is routine humiliation and personal destruction. Even worse, the party’s culture of concealment encourages right-wing gay-bashing, such as Tucker Carlson’s grotesque boast that he and another adolescent thug beat up a gay man who “bothered” him in a bathroom years ago.
Telling such manly tales may relieve the insecurities of Republicans who must contemplate the ever-mounting archive of homosexual history in their party’s ample closet.
Who would that be? Well there was the late Roy Cohn, Joe McCarthy’s “infamous henchman” and an intimate friend of the Reagan’s, and more than a few others –
Perhaps, like Cohn, today’s closeted Republicans believe that they aren’t really gay at all, except for a few minutes in bed (or in the men’s room).
No matter how Cohn deluded himself about his sexuality, however, he was among the founders of modern conservatism, along with late fundraiser and activist Marvin Liebman, who finally came out and denounced the homophobia of the right several years before his death. Both of them lived to witness the conservative resurgence of the Reagan era, led by the likes of Terry Dolan, who operated the National Conservative Political Action Committee from deep within his lifelong closet, attacking “the growing homosexual movement” until not long before he died of AIDS, and Arthur Finkelstein, the renowned Republican political consultant who worked for the NCPAC and dozens of Republican senators, often emphasizing their opposition to gay rights and in particular to gay marriage – at least until three years ago, when Finkelstein married his male partner in their home state of Massachusetts.
It is too easy to refer to show tunes, but how long has this been going on?
There is a current crop –
On the first day of the party’s New York convention in 2004, the closet doors were flung open again when Rep. Ed Schrock, a Republican from Pat Robertson’s home district in Virginia, was forced to drop his bid for reelection. The outing Web site BlogActive.com exposed the secret homosexual life of the 63-year-old retired career Navy officer, Vietnam veteran and member of the House Armed Services Committee.
Hiding in the next Republican closet to be aired out was Jim West, then mayor of Spokane, Wash., an important politician in the Northwest with a strong reputation for opposing gay rights and advocating the removal of gay teachers from schools and daycare centers. In 2005, the Spokane Spokesman-Review revealed that West had been leading a double life, trolling for male sexual partners on the Internet and allegedly abusing two teenage boys who came under his care as a Boy Scout leader. These gamy stories led to West’s ouster as mayor by the end of the year. (He died of cancer several months later.)
Then in 2006 came the stunning Mark Foley scandal, which featured the curious “Don’t ask, don’t tell” behavior of the Republican congressional leadership when confronted with evidence that the Florida representative was pursuing teenage male pages. The Republicans seemed to hope that they could conceal Foley’s creepy behavior toward the boys in their care until after the midterm elections. Thanks to Lane Hudson, the gay rights activist who disclosed Foley’s misconduct to the media, that scheme backfired badly. The reverberations amplified perceptions of the Republican Congress as decadent and self-serving, leading to the midterm debacle that returned control of Capitol Hill to the Democrats.
Then there was God’s man -
The November 2006 election results had scarcely been confirmed when a former male prostitute named Mike Jones convincingly accused right-wing evangelical preacher Ted Haggard of joining him in narcotics-fueled sex romps. Following the familiar cycle of denial and confession, Haggard stepped down as the head of his Colorado Springs, Colo., church and as president of the National Association of Evangelicals, a position he had not hesitated to use on behalf of Republican candidates, notably including George W. Bush. Until his downfall, Haggard had participated in a weekly telephone conference with Bush and other evangelical leaders. The White House and his former comrades on the religious right sought to downplay Haggard’s influence after his confession to “sexual immorality.”
And there was this a few weeks ago –
During the first week of August, Glenn Murphy, a Republican county chairman from Indiana, mysteriously stepped down as president of the Young Republican National Federation. In a letter to the nation’s Young Republican leaders, he claimed that he was obliged to resign because of a pending major business opportunity. That explanation seemed unlikely in light of news concerning an investigation of Murphy for sexually molesting another man after a party. That young gentleman, a guest in a house where Murphy was staying, awoke the next morning to find the chairman’s mouth on his genitalia.
It’s a long sad list of the repressed striking out against what they’ve learned to fear in themselves, and causing no end of trouble. It seems to be a political party, and conservative movement, of people very angry and very confused. That’s not a good combination. Disco might have helped.