Imitation of the Human

Culture, Justice

Gordon Brown offered an apology to Alan Turing in 2009. If there’s a certain temporosemantic incoherence in the notion of apologizing to a dead man, then it at least accords with the broad moral norms of repentance and absolution. There’s nothing to be done about the injustice now, but England feels very badly about it. Inadequate, yes, but there’s an appealing modesty to the gesture; it isn’t glib, and it doesn’t gall. There could never be a truly adequate act of contrition, and insufficiency should generally be hemmed in by a wide zone of humility. Apology identifies the correct object of culpability. The government that offered it did wrong. It can’t really do right, but there’s a degree of straightforward sincerity to it all.

Well, shit, the only thing that might have redeemed the Queen’s Christmastime pardon of Turing would have been if she’d addressed it, “From one queen to another.” Obviously there’s an ancient form to these documents, but if there is gross indecency here, it’s in the idea that the figurehead Queen of England, in the form of a hopped-up ecclesiastical potentate, could have the sheer temerity to extend her “Grace and Mercy” in the service of absolving a man who never did anything wrong to begin with. Politeness is always lost on the aristocracy, despite its self-sealed belief to the contrary, but the language and timing here is absurdly rude.

As either a Jew or a non-believer—take your pick—I find the idea of an actual divine representative, a heavenly elect here on earth, to be pretty hilariously idolatrous, though I am willing to give your various Popes and Patriarchs a degree of laisser prier tolerance, but is there a more preposterous representative of Grace on this earth than the Queen of England, a less likely vessel, a more absurd pretender to the seat? Turing doesn’t require your pardon, Lizzy; rather you, his. Some sort of majestic retroactive vacation of the indecency law in its entirety would have been less tone deaf, less insulting, and less presumptuous.

I suppose it’s asking too much to suggest this goofy Wettinian drag show comport itself to the standards of decency expected of its audience, but I, for one, as a gay man, am awfully tired of the self-congratulatory attitude of lousy beneficence as these monarchs and judges and legislators haul themselves toward the glory of delivering their approbation. The proper attitude of the British state to its victims, of whom Turing was just one of the more prominent, is shame. Would it kill ya to show a little?


Culture, Poetry

Patroclus, how could you? I’ll never forgive you
for dying. Don’t you remember how we tricked together,
up and down the Aegean? In every port
a dim and inexpensive bar where boys
bought drinks for any sailor dropping in
to warm his sandaled feet by the fire. They were
so beautiful Paris would have left Helen standing there
on that bare Spartan beach and sailed back off
to find them instead. Now you’re dead. Agamemnon
and our Greek soldiers are hurling their smooth bodies
against the Trojans’ spears for that woman. One
woman! The love between men and women is madness.
How can I go on fighting when you’ve left me to sleep
alone in this tent? Did they mean nothing to you,
the kisses I showered on your unblemished thighs?

You let war carry you down into that shaded kingdom
where the dead go on living without us and without me
now that the boatman’s accepted your rusty coin,
ferried you to the other side of the Lethe. Tomorrow
or very soon thereafter, if you press your ear
to the vaults of Hades’ underworldly colony,
you’ll hear my footsteps stop in the bright world
above. Probably the love between men and boys
is madness too. Forgive me, I’m going to turn
my mother’s mistake to the archers. I am no hero.

The wine-dark sea can flood and swallow up
every boy from Crete to the Dardanelles.
The rosy-fingered dawn can park itself
in Apollo’s garage. Tell Hades I’m not Theseus;
I won’t break his chains. If I can find you
in his dayless, nightless kingdom, I swear to stay
dead, to love death and let it keep me.

The Right to Bear Arms

Culture, War and Politics

What I find particularly offensive, though, is listening to some dude with “evolving” views on fags like me wave Stonewall at America in the middle of the series of glorious non sequiturs that constituted his address in order to affirm that the rising tide of American moral imagination lifts all boats, even the fucking gay ones. Fuck that shit, Mr. Prez. America is a nation of tantrum-throwing moral infants that’s been dragged bawling out of the crib of its own moral and ethical object impermanence, and even now it’s kicking and screaming on the floor of the department store, yelling that some black guy got into a California law school ahead of a deserving white.

Oh good, the President has reluctantly and at length come around to the idea that the gays oughta be married, and his own evolution on the matter is cast as a microcosm of the mythopoeic  inevitability of the expanding rights and franchise of America. Aw, we just needed to get to know you gays, uh, guys I mean. And then we figured out that you’re okay! For which, I think, we are supposed to be grateful. No, actually, not just grateful. Actually, edified. Like, our cameo in the inaugural feature is supposed to be valedictory, after all those years waiting tables, we finally got the callback. Put on your dance belt Mary Jane, and stretch those quads.