I’m in the unusual position of needing to withdraw two tweets, with apologies and a bewildered shaking of my own head.
Reading my new issue of The American Conservative online, I gleefully stuck it to adherents of reparative therapy (or so I thought) and the GOP neocons:
today’s debates don’t primarily revolve around notions of human nature. Those who oppose same-sex marriage, for instance, are nearly all self-described conservatives—among them Thomas Sowell. Yet one would be hard-pressed to imagine a more radical unconstrained vision than the hope that an individual’s homosexuality can be reversed.
Only those who call themselves paleoconservatives or foreign-policy realists can be honestly considered adherents to the constrained view of human nature in international affairs. In recent years both liberals and movement conservatives have shown themselves fond of nation-building and using force to change foreign societies. It would be difficult to imagine a policy matching the unconstrained vision more perfectly than the invasion and occupation of Iraq, with its intention of swiftly implanting liberal-democratic values in a region that has scarcely known them.
In the cool light of morning, those proofs of liberal “unconstrained vision” appeared at best equivocal, and frankly tending to point more toward a conservative “constrained vision” than its opposite. It is, perhaps, a naïvely constrained vision, but it seems constrained to me anyway.
On the matter of homosexuality, first, I fell hook, line and sinker for the fallacy that to oppose same-sex marriage one must believe that homosexuality can be “reversed.” Maybe a lot of opponents believe that, but forced to choose between “it can be reversed” and “it can’t be reversed,” I would choose the latter. Yet I oppose same-sex marriage because whatever the erotic relationship between two members of the same sex may be – good, bad or neutral – it is not, in my opinion, “marriage.” I could say much, much more, but it’s a weariness to plow old ground yet again.
Second, the belief that homsexuality can be reversed could well arise from a decidedly conservative view of the fixity of human nature. In other words, there is a human nature from which same-sex attraction is a deviation, and – here I speculate how the logic might go – if one removes the forces bending a person with same-sex attraction away from true and universal human nature, he or she will quickly spring back to the norm.
Similarly, a naïve neocon nation building might arise from a decidedly conservative view of the fixity of human nature. Here, the theory is that Arab Muslims, for instance, are just like us, but have been forced to live in oppressive regimes. Remove the regime, and the culture, an aggregate of persons sharing a human nature with us, will naturally revert to democracy.
That may not be very bright, and it may sell short the “nurture” part of the “nature/nurture” combination, but it’s sure not unequivocally an “unconstrained vision.” And it avoids the whiff of racism that one might think emanates from the view that Group X is (savage and) incapable of democracy.
I remain skeptical about change of sexual orientation by the right therapy, and I remain convinced that our endless wars are unconservative folly, but not, with author Jordan Michael Smith, because I think contrary views reflect bad anthropology.
Having repented of those tweets, I’ve now deleted them.
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