The Dead, The Living And The Dots

If you’re of the view that homosexuality is a sin, then you’re in the wrong place. If a person is sexually attracted to someone of the same gender, what difference does that make to you, unless you’re such a true believer in zombie novels* that you can’t get over it, or you harbor latent concerns about your own desires.

Great Britain has decided to pardon the dead.

Britain’s decision to posthumously pardon the tens of thousands of gay men convicted of seeking or having sex is just and long overdue.

Overdue is an understatement. They’re dead. Lot of good it does now.

For British men who were stigmatized, imprisoned and beaten for their sexual orientation, clearing their records posthumously is a critical recognition of historical wrongs.

This reflects the current obsession with “historical wrongs,” as there is no other explanation for how anyone could apply the word “critical” to something that is mere symbolism. And, as long as we’re considering words, it’s notable that the word “stigmatized” is primary, whereas “imprisoned and beaten” comes after. After all, isn’t stigma worse than prison or beating?

But the New York Times, despite its homage to fashion sense, offers some actual meat on the bone.

But it is unjust that 15,000 men who were convicted before those laws were repealed and who are still alive will have to go through an onerous process of applying for a pardon.

Wait, what? There are actual living people who were convicted under laws that criminalized homosexual conduct? Wouldn’t that come before the symbolic gesture of pardoning the dead? At what point did we forget that things that affect actual living people matter more than feel-good gestures? At what point did we manufacture the absurd suggestion that feeling badly mattered more than the pain of a beating or a life wasted in prison?

Dot connecting isn’t something most people care about or find easy to do. The fundamental premises of right and wrong are close enough to thought to dissuade many from thinking any harder as to what really matters, what is serious and what is symbolic.  And when the shifty devils at the Times try to slip in the language of feelz so artfully that we fail to notice, it alters our ability to distinguish what is critical from what is not.

Real people, living people, come before the dead. There is nothing wrong with symbolism, if you’ve got nothing better to do with your time and it does no harm to reality in the process. Here, however, the applause for Britain’s gracious pardoning of the dead drowns out the fact that there are still living, breathing men who are paying for being gay.

Britain took its sweet time getting around to decriminalizing homosexuality. America was no better.

The Turing law is also a reminder that in liberal Western societies, too, the struggle for gay rights continues. It was only in 2003 that the United States Supreme Court struck a fatal blow to sodomy laws, in the landmark Lawrence v. Texas decision, and only last year that the court struck down state bans on same-sex marriage.

And lest you fail to make the connection, criminalizing homosexuality, now rightfully decried as a horrible thing, isn’t much different than what we’re so busily doing to other thought criminals who offend our sensibilities.  Consider that the crime of sodomy between consenting adults in private touched no one but the people involved. Who gave a damn what they did? It was no one’s business but theirs.

And yet here we are, in the new wave of neo-victorian busybodies, pretending to be in horrible pain based on other people’s thoughts that offend our sensibilities. And here we are again, demanding that their ideas be criminalized because they offend people’s sensibilities.

The Times, however, can’t stop its impetuous need to take the detriment wrongfully put on people and convert it into a call for new privilege:

Many more barriers still need to be cleared.

If so, what barriers? Passive aggressive writing doesn’t help much, even less so than pardoning the dead.

Not every gay man in Britain thinks this is a grand idea.

Some gay rights campaigners, like George Montague, the 93-year-old author of “The Oldest Gay in the Village” who was convicted in 1974 of gross indecency, object to the idea of a pardon, saying it implies that a crime was committed. He told the BBC he would prefer an apology.

The government should apologize to him and all the other men (lesbianism was not criminalized) who were made to bear the stigma of the unjust laws.

Apologize. Pardon. The whole scheme of criminalizing homosexuality because nice people found it too icky to stomach was a ridiculous idea, even if it was widely accepted as a social norm of the time. After we’ve taken the hard burdens off of the people still living, still suffering actual consequences of these criminal laws, we can move on to the “critical” apologies and pardons for the dead.

But we haven’t learned anything from past experience criminalizing things that offended our sensibilities. While we’re pardoning those who suffered for past mistakes, we’re cranking up the machine to make the same mistakes over again for the next group we’ve decided needs hating. Too bad the nice folks at the New York Times can’t see the role it plays in causing the problem by its inability to connect the dots.

*This is not to ridicule anyone’s religious beliefs, but to ridicule anyone who believes they are entitled to impose their beliefs on others who have their own beliefs. Believe whatever you want, but no one gets to demand that others adhere to their religion.

11 thoughts on “The Dead, The Living And The Dots

  1. KP

    Its all very queer.. the only people the pardon will make feel better are the politicians and bureaucrats who are involved in wasting their time with it.

    As for pardoning the dead while the living are still jailed.. Hey, this is Govt, what else would you expect?

    Another great post that makes my blood boil over breakfast.

    1. the other rob

      It’s not that anybody is still in gaol for as a result of those laws, which were repealed a long time ago. Rather, it’s that there are living men who have criminal convictions on their records, with all the attendant consequences.

      1. SHG Post author

        I suspect you’re right, but it’s not entirely clear that no one is still imprisoned or otherwise under constraint. What is clear is that the living have to seek a pardon that’s conferred automatically on the dead.

        1. the other rob

          Indeed. There’s a piece on the BBC site that goes into more detail. It appears that there is no “Turing law”. Rather the “Turing Bill” (actually the “Sexual Offences (Pardons) Bill”) was a private members bill (one put forward by an individual MP, without government backing) which would have pardoned the living. It failed because the government filibustered it.

          Apparently the government opposed the bill, on the grounds that “it could lead to some people being cleared of offences that are still crimes.” Yet the Beeb reports that the bill made any and all pardons conditional upon the offense not still being illegal, for any reason.

          It appears that the posthumous pardons haven’t happened yet, either. Rather, the government has announced an a proposed amendment to current law (which it’s spin doctors are calling “Turing’s Law”) which would pardon the dead while requiring the living to go through the process. But that hasn’t even hit Parliament yet.

          Sadly, as is often the case, something that we thought outrageous turns out, upon examination, to be more so.

          Separately, here’s a link to the BBC piece, for your ease of deletion:

          1. SHG Post author

            Gee whiz. You mean the Times got it completely wrong, and even the posthumous pardons aren’t a done deal, before they started cheering? I’m shocked. I left your link in because it’s got better info than the ones I was using, in case anyone wants to dive any deeper into this.

  2. John Barleycorn

    I know people that can sew you together a small “a” flag that fits the ambience of the neighborhood.

    Dinner party chit chat will be enhanced and ever more evolving.

    Nothing like a late fall BBQ! I always hold one.

    I woukd book the event fence company now though if I were you.

    I shit you not, subtle but for those already in the Alpine, and enough to  make curious wisdom inquire gently inside the gate.

    (For an extra 200 bucks I will get you a Yankee gutter  work around if you are too busy to dig the hole for the pole)


    Don’t forget movie rentals this week:

    And for the K Street lazy lifting Black Mirror’s is getting interesting.

    Bounty time needs hydralic love esteemed one, uptown is up and running.

    What ya’ got?!

    The New York Times?

  3. ba2

    It is likely many of the convictions for homosexual behavior were for actions that were in the gray area of what would be considered criminal today i.e. some allegations of force, underage victim, in a public place, etc.. For officials pardoning the dead is easier because such decisions won’t come back and bite you.

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