On Keith Olbermann: Hey, It’s Nice That a Straight Guy Kinda Gets It, But Geez, He’s Still Not a Messiah

11Nov08

In which The Gay Recluse feels vaguely nauseous.

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So OMG did everyone hear that Keith Olbermann had a “special comment” last night (or was it two nights ago, whenevs) about Prop 8 and gay marriage? Chances are, if you spent five seconds on the internet today, you did!

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We were told not only to watch it thousands of times, but to send it along to all of our closest friends and relatives! If KO can get it, so can they!

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And in truth, it’s not a bad clip. Even though KO makes a wtf point at the beginning when he notes that his family and personal life are not tainted by the presence of any gays, he does make an earnest and at times moving if melodramatic and overwrought appeal to the idea that love between two people of any gender is something that should be allowed to burn, or at least not be actively extinguished.

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So our reservations here really have nothing to do with KO, even though we can’t help but ask why he couldn’t have made the point last week if he felt so strongly about it. But hey, better late than never — and trust us, this is going to be a national issue, so there will be plenty of opportunity for him to reiterate — and obv the world would be a better place if even five percent of the political shouting heads on teevee expressed themselves as eloquently as KO, and shared his socially liberal mindset. Maybe a few of them even have some gayz in their families!? Can’t wait to find out.

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What struck us as kind of sad, however, was the fervor with which the appeal was made by some of our gay friends in their pleas to watch and forward this around. There was an aura of redemption, as if to say: “You see, this aggressively straight network teevee man with a deep, sexy voice understands, so now we are truly worthy. Finally — validation!”

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This is a completely understandable impulse, given the extreme and oppressive levels of hatred we have all grown up with and still live under 24/7. Even if we’ve been “accepted” by our families and friends, it cannot be disputed that we are by and large considered disgusting freaks by what at most times feels like 100 percent of the population, as watching a few hours of network teevee (and the associated advertising) quickly proves. This is still a country — no, a civilization — where a gay kiss on the cheek is beyond the pale of most shows and advertising.

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On some level, we too wish to be loved and accepted. We want our loves (and our fucking) to be appreciated or at least understood, we want acknowledgment that our forms of these passions are no worse than anyone else’s.

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This is why KO’s message reverberated so strongly, we think. But if KO changed one person’s mind on this issue, we would like to hear from you, e.g., “I hated the gays and voted for Prop 8, but after hearing KO, I wish I could vote against it now.”)

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The love and acceptance we crave is beyond the ability of KO or anyone else to grant, and so we try not to attach too much importance or expectation to what he or anyone else says. This is why KO’s gesture is kind but ultimately irrelevant and superficial.

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We’re not talking about a political truth but a philosophical one, rooted in the notion that life is the heaviest of burdens, and our only task is to live it.

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8 Responses to “On Keith Olbermann: Hey, It’s Nice That a Straight Guy Kinda Gets It, But Geez, He’s Still Not a Messiah”

  1. 1 Atherton Bartelby

    I could not have articulated my own thoughts about this more splendidly. Aptly put, my friend.

  2. Thanks, AB!

  3. 3 Anonymous Straight Guy

    Hi, GR.

    I’m a product of the 60’s and 70’s. I believe I have less prejudice than I was raised with; I’m sure I have more residual bigotry in me than I want to acknowledge. But I am probably not too far off from the middle of “mainstream”, whatever that is.

    You said: “We want our loves (and our fucking) to be appreciated or at least understood, […]”

    If I take that statement literally (perhaps what you intended, perhaps not), I would have to say, you will probably only ever get 1 out of 2 from me on that count. I would say the same if you were straight. You see, when it comes to public displays of affection between two people in love, I don’t much care for overt, explicit sexuality. “Disgust” is too strong, but I’d have the same reaction (or at least, I think I would) whether the couple is hetero or gay.
    I prefer the sex behind closed doors, whatever form it takes.

    My point? Well, it’s just that if you want acceptance, please understand that explicit public displays of sexuality (oy, that’s poorly phrased) are going to alienate some of those people you are trying to win over. It’s kind of
    like swearing in front of your grandmother. Not a good idea. A former coworker of mine used to talk about S&M gear and her compatability with her lover, in explicit detail, at the lunch table. And she wondered why the middle-aged secretaries didn’t invite her to Tupperware parties. Go figure.

    If the above comes off as patronizing, please accept my apology. But some couples, gay and straight, are guilty of this, and it doesn’t help build understanding.

    Yes, KO’s message would have been more helpful a week sooner.

    But guess what? There’s lots of different kinds of closets.

    It’s hard to say how difficult it was for Olbermann to make a public stand. Hell, at almost 50, I’m not man enough to publicly sign my name to this post. I look around before I speak up. That’s because while I may have divested myself of many of my parents prejudices and fears, I am still encumbered with many of their weaknesses. Sometimes, when I hear anti-gay rhetoric, I speak up. Sometimes, I keep silent. That is my failing, not yours.

    GR, your point is a good one – I cannot offer you self-worth or validation.
    I don’t even want that responsibility.

    But like I said before, I’m middle of the road. Hell, maybe I’m even Joe the Plumber. (Like him, I’m neither a Joe nor a plumber.) I am certainly not the only liberal conservative (or conservative liberal) who gets it that love is love, whatever the genders involved. So while you have “the extreme and oppressive levels of hatred we have all grown up with and still live under 24/7” (and I acknowledge, I have no clue what it’s like), please know that there are still some of us closeted straights, waiting anxiously for the courage to come out and say to your face that we do not hate you. Sure, talk is cheap. Maybe this notion is of no use to you. But if it gives one of you – one of _us_ – hope, then I consider it something more than empty rhetoric.

    While I’m blathering on, I may as well toss out one more thought.

    I am a Christian. Wait! Don’t touch that dial!

    I acknowledge Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. And like many Christians, I brushed with the WWJD fad a few years back. It started with cheap jewelry, bearing the acronym “WWJD” – “What Would Jesus Do?”. The idea being, as you encounter situations in everyday life, you look at it and ask yourself the question.

    So, if a Christian encounters a gay wedding, what would Jesus do?

    Some Christians will tell you, in many of the ways you’ve heard all to many times before, that you’re going to burn in hell, and that’s what Jesus would do for you.

    But that’s wrong.

    I’m not a biblical scholar, but I’ve read enough scripture to know what Jesus would do in that situation.

    Most likely, He’d wheedle an invitation to the wedding, and, if asked, turn the water to wine. Because no matter what any man alive may tell you, He has already accepted you. And while I am not good about showing it, so have I. And that acceptance is unconditional. Christians are not all hateful people. Only some of us are. (And they’re going to burn in hell. Won’t _they_ be surprised?)

    Speaking of weddings – I have heard several legal opinions that Proposition 8 does nothing to invalidate existing same-sex marriages. There is some speculation that there will be a boom in weddings, to get under the wire before the ban takes effect. This concerns me, because marriage is not something to rush into. I hope that couples will consider carefully if they are truly ready for that commitment. And for those who are ready, may your marriage be long, happy, and richly blessed.

  4. Hey ASG — thanks for writing — it sounds like you’re thinking a lot (and seriously) about these issues, which I admire and commend! Ultimately, in terms of pretty much anything, all I’m asking for — and perhaps I speak for more than just myself here — when I say I want our loves (and fucking) to be appreciated, is to have the same standards applied to everyone, regardless of gender/orientation. Thus, if you’re against public displays of affection, I hope it applies to straights as well as gays, so that you are equally bothered every time you see a straight couple walking down the street holding hands (or every hug/kiss on teevee), as you would be by a gay couple doing the same. On marriage, if straight folks have the right to rush into it without a second thought — and perhaps regrettably, this happens all the time! — then gays should have the same right.

  5. 5 Anonymous Straight Guy

    Yes, I object equally to blatant public displays regardless of orientation. The only exception is where my daughters are concerned. Fortunately, they both share my opinion on this, and sneak around behind my back, instead.

    My caution on rushing into marriage also applies to straight marriages – and in this case, gay California couples have a huge external pressure to rush into it. Equality is worth the struggle, but equaling the national divorce rate is not.

    Sadly, gay marriages will be under scrutiny after the fact. There are people who will want those marriages to fail. And sick as it is, there are some who will gloat when they do. The culture is changing, more quickly than before, but many of these couples will face external pressures just as mixed race couples have. It’s not fair, and it’s not right, and it may take a couple generations of old farts dying off to get close to true equality.

    Until then, may every true love story find a happy ending, even if it’s not the ending intended by the authors…

    You know, I wonder whether we’ve missed the opportunity for a poignant remake of “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”?

  6. 6 c.

    Sometimes, it seems like many, many people don’t really understand the concept of “equal.” It seems simple, but is, perhaps, antithetical to human instinct. Hence, with the “gay question,” the relentless, superannuated, and off-target “debates” over “public displays,” religious principle, and historical tradition.

    Anonymous Straight Guy reveals an apparently authentic and heartfelt, internal struggle with our culture’s deep-set ambivalence about human equality, and it’s refreshing to see someone using their head and heart to actually consider the issue, rather than knee-jerk react to it.

    A dozen or more years ago, I would have been genuinely heartened to witness ASG’s efforts; to see such self-examination and quasi-support coming from “the other side.”

    But now, I have to admit: my stronger reaction is demoralized dismay at just how hard people have to think about whether or not I’m identically equal to them, and thus just as deserving. Setting aside the fact that most people are unwilling or unable to make ASG’s introspective effort, his thoughtful words still make the ideal of equality — that is equalness, without debate over a privileged majority’s discomfort — feel conditional, and therefore false.

    Almost always missing from the “discussion” of gay people holding hands “where others (straight people) can see,” or of “the place of homosexuality” in Biblical theology, are fundamental questions of humanity: is that person as human as I am? How much does a culture lose, and begin to ossify and regress, when an entire group of people it contains are socially demoted, diminished, or negated? Do I like living in a fractured culture of superior and inferior citizens? Which category am I in (and for how long)?

    People, including honest soul-searchers, as well as out-right bigots, will forever continue to “debate” all sorts of reasons – religious, moral, political, fear-based – as to whether diminishment and exclusion “makes sense” in the case of “certain groups.” Maybe, like ASG, they are able to expand their own horizons some. Maybe, like a majority of American voters, not. But whatever questions they think they’re asking, they are all debating one, single thing: do those people over there have the same worth as me? Or not?

  7. This is all very true, C. That’s part of the reason I have to laugh at the idea of how “newsworthy” it is that straight-guy KO all of a sudden was like “OMG, we should treat these people as equals,” as if it’s some kind of revolutionary concept. Obviously it’s better than the alternative, but there’s a part of me that wants to be like: “Really? No shit, Sherlock.”


  1. 1 Because it’s the right thing to do « Manhattan’s Peak

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