"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Herbert The Whore Monger Runs For Public Office - The Senate Hearings

Herbert Patterson recently ran for the 7th Congressional District of Illinois on a platform of responsibility, duty, and justice.  The 7th for many decades had been a sinkhole of corruption – three federal convictions, four indictments, and a consistent pattern of misrule that surprised even the most inured voters of the State.  Illinois had never had a particularly good reputation as far as righteous rule is concerned.  Rod Blagojevich, George Ryan, Dan Rostenkowski, Dan Walker, and Otto Kerner – four governors and a Congressional Representative – were just the most well-known politicians to be convicted of racketeering, bank fraud, and corruption – and Patterson’s district seemed to be the embryonic center of political misdeeds. 

There was something about the district – perhaps voter weariness, complaisance, and indifference- that provided the primeval broth where lowlife spawned; or perhaps politicians both because of this enabling environment and the patronage of older politicians who, after years of raiding the till, had enough money to retire to Florida.  In any case the 7th had been a safe seat for those who had paid their dues in the tough wards of Chicago, took orders willingly from their bosses, did the needful and the nasty, and were awarded with political office.  They of course never started at the top, but had to work their way up the ladder – aldermen, court clerk, sheriff, minor assistant prosecutors – but with patience and dues, they eventually acceded to real power.  True and faithful to the tradition of the 7th, they trained their minions, selected carefully from the many who wanted public office, and never held on to power long after it was time to pass the torch.

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Herbert Patterson was from a respected family – not well-born or high-toned, but honest working folk whose ancestors had been among the first settlers of the territory who with dedication, hard work, and great optimism made their way and then some.  Patterson’s grandfather had been in the dry goods business, and his father built the small emporium into a  chain of stores throughout southern Illinois.  Patterson, although with great respect for his father and his forbears, felt that his fortunes lay elsewhere; and thanks to his many talents caught the eye of a wealthy Yale alumnus who sponsored the young boy and secured for him a full scholarship.

Herbert thrived at Yale, excited by the vigorous intellectual environment and by the sophisticated, cosmopolitan, but surprisingly libertine ethos of the era.  He was not so much seduced by wine, women, and song but found his true path.  He was an Epicurean of the first order, never knew it growing up in his small town, and only realized it when he joined one of Yale’s many in-crowds.  The Ivy League at the time was still the place of the Gentleman’s C, no one admitted was ever asked to leave, and as long as one kept up appearances and made a reasonable academic effort, the world was open, there, and inviting.

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So although Patterson’s four years in New Haven were not lost – despite Yale’s laissez-faire attitude to the elite members of the university it had always retained its high academic reputation, and Herbert could not help but be exposed to fine minds – most of his time was spent in off-campus ‘parties’.  His wealthier classmates spared no expense to provide the best New York call girls, the finest whisky, and jazz trios from New York.  As these parties grew, Venue 420 as it came to be known, fancied itself as the white Cotton Club – hip, sophisticated, sexy, and off-limits to all but Yale’s best and finest.

It was then that Patterson got a taste of call girls. For a sexual naïf,  a boy with no experience to speak of, the willingness and sexual frankness of the women were exactly what he had always dreamed of.  Of course he knew that they would never replace the right girl, marriage, and children; but for the time being, they were the perfect outlet for his sexual immaturity and an introduction to a sex life that only could be imagined.  His years at Yale, as he fondly remembered them, were the Kama Sutra, Khajuraho, Japanese eroticism, and Casanova combined.  Who cared if his women were paid agents? Or if they had slept with hundreds of men including his classmates?  With the call girls anything went and anything was possible; and Patterson explored the outer reaches of sex and sexuality.  The Bright College Years were indeed the best of his life.

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After he left Yale and returned to his small Illinois community, he found that surprisingly he did not miss Venue 420.  Of course he thought about it, but since he knew that that very special, unique place was unlikely to be recreated anywhere else – some things live in a particular irreplaceable time and place and Venue 420 was one of those.  Ironically Yale had done its job in educating one of America’s future leaders, not in the expected, traditional way, but in a way which was more enlightening that Hume, Russell, and Kant could ever have guaranteed.  Herbert graduated with a maturity and sexual insight that had only been intimated by Freud and D.H.Lawrence.  Tantrism and the Tao were not even considered at Yale.

Thirty years after graduation, Herbert had few thoughts of his college days.  As seminal and influential as they were, he understood that they were only one component of the far more complex and evolved character that he now was.  Law school, public service, corporate success, and community recognition were more immediate and more relevant milestones along the way.  At the age of fifty-five, a group of influential reformers suggested that he run for office in the Illinois 7th.  At first, Patterson was nonplussed.  He had spent his entire professional career building a reputation for rectitude, honesty, and transparency; and now he was being asked to represent perhaps the most corrupt political jurisdiction in the country.

“Hold on, Herb”, said William Sloane, the leader of the reform movement, “Nothing of the sort”.  What Sloane had in mind was a new broom, a long overdue purging of the corrupt entitlement that had infected voters far from the electoral boundaries of the District. Even if he didn’t win, Sloane, said, he would energize the new millennial voters who were increasing in numbers and electoral influence.  Even a loss on a ticket of proven, well-documented honesty and service would not only provide some measure of optimism if not hope among these young voters, it would set him up nicely for a run in a more congenial district.

He agreed, but was quite naïve about the political process.  The old ward heelers of the 7th who had cut their teeth on the dirtiest politics in the land in Chicago decades ago were not about to cut this newcomer any slack.  They would not only challenge him on his rather thin record of public service, they would stop at nothing to discredit him.  As soon as Patterson announced his candidacy, the bosses of the District went to work, hiring the best political consultants in Washington, those who had been party to the demise of politicians high and low on the most personal grounds.  Long before today’s MeToo movement which has raised allegation to an art form, American righteousness and political gullibility were enough in Herbert’s day to give them plenty of cover for the most indefensible of accusations. 

It is important at this moment – for the reader knows what’s coming – to reiterate the nearly flawless character of Herbert Patterson.  He had become in the years since Yale, a successful lawyer who had defended and prosecuted honestly and fairly.  Although he understood that the law permitted any defense in the interest of a client and any evidence, circumstantial or otherwise, to prosecute a criminal; he always acted far from the legal perimeter.  Justice had to be served along with the exoneration or prosecution of the court.   Thanks to this absolute professionalism, it was not long before he was appointed to a judgeship where the ruled from the bench with as much respect for justice as he did for the proceedings before him.

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As his reputation grew, he had been encouraged to sponsor a number of community programs which he did willingly.  He took Jefferson’s adage to heart – the pursuit of happiness should only occur within a community context; the will of the individual and the well-being of the community must both be served – and agreed.

In short, this was a man of fine intellectual abilities, sound jurisprudence, and professional responsibility.  He was a good man, and it was a tribute to his intellectual honesty and moral principles that he even considered William Sloane’s proposition.

It didn’t take long for the Washington consultants to learn of Patterson’s Yale experience.  This was a piece of cake, a smoking gun which had been dropped in their laps; not the long, drawn-out, careful process of nurturing and rewards that it takes today to encourage anyone with grievances against a political nominee to come forward with decades-old allegations of sexual abuse.  No, the Yale experience would be rope, guillotine, and firing squad all rolled up into one.

The TV ads were filled with barely permissible images of cheap hookers on street corners, seedy brothels, and busty women.  This was the man standing for election of the 7th! 

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It made no difference of course that transactional sex, although illegal in most places, was as common as birthday parties and had been a staple of human society since its first settlements.  It made no difference that for Patterson, this period of sexual exploration was far more than an episode of gratification; and it made no difference whatsoever when compared with the man’s impeccable, honorable, and estimable life as an adult.  The campaign was as dirty, disreputable, and sickening as any in recent history.

Why, observers asked, would the politicians of the 7th take on a man sure to lose?  The answer was obvious.  Given the venal, unconscionable reputation of the 7th, this was an opportunity to take the seldom-taken high ground; to show that the District was a place of high morals and principle.
Needless to say that Herbert lost the election, a foregone conclusion.  More than anything it showed how corrupt the political process is.  The ruination of a good, principled, highly professional man means nothing.  The dirtiest ward politics of Chicago in the 20s and 30s are nothing compared to the high stakes affairs of today.

To his credit, Herbert Patterson took his defeat honorably.  What better way to display honor than in a campaign against a dishonorable opponent?  He demurred when asked to run again.  Despite his fortitude and good will, the campaign for the 7h was brutalizing and discouraging. 

Ah, Yale, he often thought.  What wonderful years.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Burnt Offerings–Marches, Demonstrations, And Protests

The Kumbh Mela is a religious pilgrimage which occurs at one of  India’s four holiest sites - Al­la­habad, Harid­war, Uj­jain and Nashik - every 12 years.  The most important is that held in Allahabad, and over 70 million pilgrims made the journey in 2006. 

It is the power of faith that can part a river, move mountains, and endure the hardships that come bundled up for being an integral part of Kumbh Mela, a congregation of millions, gathered together to be freed from the vicious earthly cycle of life and death and move towards a heavenly realm, which knows no suffering or pain. It's the mythological history of India and the sacred religious texts that bind us to an eternal hope. "An eternal life free of sins" is the promise that comes attached with the Kumbh Mela.

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The hajj to Mecca is made by over 2 million pilgrims every year. For Muslims the Hajj has a spiritual merit that provides the worshipper with an opportunity of self-renewal; and which serves as a reminder of the Day of Judgment when all will stand before God.

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The pilgrimage site of Santiago de Compostela, Spain, dates from the 9th and 10th centuries – the same approximate time period of the Crusades.  Since that time millions of pilgrims have walked the ‘Camino’ for spiritual indulgence, penance, and grace.

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El Camino de Santiago was an expression of the belief that the apostle Saint James was buried in the land of Galicia, in the northwest of Spain after years of preaching the Gospels in the Iberian Peninsula. After his return to Jerusalem he was beheaded by King Herod Agrippa in the year 44 AD, thus becoming one of the first Christian martyrs. Following the saint’s death, it was said that St. James’ disciples put his body in a stone boat that, lead by angels, sailed across the Mediterranean Sea, went through the Pillars of Hercules in the Strait of Gibraltar to finally arrive at the coast of Galicia, where a massive rock closed around his relics. These were later removed to Compostela.

Even for the marginally-faithful the pilgrimage of Santiago de Compostela is as much of a ritual as a way of seeing Spain. Accounts of personal spiritual meditation are not uncommon among marchers.  Clearly the march is still a pilgrimage.

The Zapotecs lived in a world of natural, immanent power.  Spiritual forces were in the lightning and thunder, the violent storms, predatory animals, and in the rising and setting of the moon and sun.  They were brooding in the massive mountains or in the night sky.  They were everywhere, frighteningly real.  There was no distinction between human life, nature, and the gods.  This religion was not a tame animism. In the Oaxaca valley under a brillian sun and surrounded by mountains, there was no escaping the temperamental and eruptive forces of Nature and the gods. 

Human sacrifice, attended by thousands who had come from the farthest reaches of tribal territories and Zapotec society who had come to worship at the sacrificial mount, surrounded by what they believed were the living gods of mountains, sun, wind, and the apotheosis of paganism.

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While all pilgrimages and sacrificial worship are meant for the spiritual transformation of the individual, they are also very communal events.  The pilgrim’s faith is made even more pronounced, felt even more deeply and passionately when he is surrounded by thousands of others who share the same belief and especially the same ecstatic devotion.  The energy and shared passion of the crowd increase a sense of individual faith, purpose, and devotion.

The Crusades were both a military expedition and spiritual pilgrimage.  Marching to the Holy Land to free it from the Muslim invader was both a Christian and national duty.  Those marching together were bound by an absolute belief in Jesus Christ and the righteousness of Christianity and their obedience to the Pope.  At the same time they would see Jerusalem, dreamed of by many but visited by very few.  They would be walking the same paths of Jesus, visiting Golgotha, Bethlehem, and the Judean desert.  They would do it together, a congregation of true believers, a troupe of conquerors and worshippers.

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Collective worship is common.  Most Americans attend church or temple regularly.  Each has collective ceremonies – the singing of hymns, the procession to the altar to receive holy communion, or the collective recitation of prayers; but these ceremonies are nothing compared to those of Mecca or Allahabad.  Except for certain charismatic Pentecostal ceremonies, they are devoid of passion.  They are reflective, meditative, and respectful services which strengthen the solidarity of the faithful, maintain a link with God, and carry out religious obligations; but they are quiet, and while they may be satisfying because of their spiritual proximity, they are contained, inner services.

Given the history of spiritual pilgrimages, ecstatic worship, and mass, passionate expressions of belief, it is no wonder that in the secularization of religion today, in the tame, politically and socially conscious services, and in the focus on the non-spiritual, indirect expressions of faith – compassion, tolerance, love, and brotherhood – it is no wonder that mass protests, demonstrations, and marches are not only common but increasing in number and passion.  The National Mall is the venue for mass demonstrations against climate change, the abuse of women, the continued marginalization and prejudicial treatment of African Americans, the predatory practices of Wall Street, the irreverence of Donald Trump; or for the environment, women’s rights, the inclusion of gays, lesbians, and transgenders; or international peace. 

The demonstrations are often peaceful but never quiet – nor are they meant to be.  They are opportunities to be loud, intemperate, and intolerant – to express passionately-held beliefs without considering the other side.  There can be no other side when it comes to the final liberation of the black man, the complete and absolute expression of all sexualities, the downfall of predatory capitalism and the establishment of a more moral and just economic system.   If demonstrations become hysterical, so be it.  “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue”, said Barry Goldwater, a slogan which referred to conservative patriotism and military strength, but could be just as easily applied to demonstrations demanding immediate if not revolutionary reform.

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However unlike the marches of the Sixties where demonstrations had a specific, well-defined objective – e.g. a Civil Rights Act or the end of the Vietnam War – today’s marches are only celebratory.  ‘End racism!’ when everyone is against it is too general a commitment and too vague a purpose.  ‘Black Lives Matter’ is a cry for recognition but without targeting anything more general than ‘white privilege’.  ‘Gun control’ is more specific in its demand for more restrictions on firearms, but more an integral part of a social reform movement - one that is more tolerant, less violent, and more communal.

As with the great religious pilgrimages to Mecca, Allahabad, and Jerusalem, marchers on Washington gather as much for a feeling of solidarity – a legitimization of political commitment annealed and enhanced by the collective and passionate expression of others.  In fact, the reason for the marches may well be less for stated purpose than the expression of that purpose.  It makes no difference whether or not the demonstrations will have any demonstrable impact.  In fact demonstrators often admit that their purpose is simply ‘to raise awareness’.

The purpose may be to raise awareness in others, but more importantly – in the spirit of pilgrimages and sacrificial ceremonies throughout history – to share that awareness, that ‘wokeness’ with others and increase and enhance a sentiment of belonging and personal purpose. 

It is also not surprising to see so many secular pilgrimages today.  Prosperity and a booming economy has given Americans more leisure time than they ever dreamed of in the early days of the Republic.  At the same, a complex social and economic system the Founding Fathers could never have envisioned, has increased the need for loud expressions of identity -  without which minority groups, now subdivided again and again, would be lost. 

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Last but not least, such a complex, divided, secularized society has made personal worth problematic.  Without religion to console, without the firm belief in a unique spiritual identity (a divine soul), and without an automatic subscription to universal values and the institutions which incorporated them (home, family, church, school, community, and law), it is not surprising that so many Americans seek belonging in mass political movements regardless of their likely effect.

There are only two conclusions to make and both are obvious.  First, everyone needs a sense of personal value and worth; and if that value no longer comes institutionally packaged, it is still necessary, but just harder to confirm.  Second, crowd allegiance and mutually expressed faith, belief, and commitment, seems to be the best, easiest, and most readily available to help the confirmation.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Love The One You’re With–Nothing Doing In Our Neo-Puritanical Age

And there's a rose in a fisted glove
And the eagle flies with the dove
And if you can't be with the one you love honey
Love the one your with (Stephen Stills)

The Sixties were significant for many reasons – a renewed, public, and militant commitment to civil rights, opposition to an unjust if not immoral war, and a rejection of an old, faded, antiquarian morality.   More than anything else, however, the Sixties revolutionized sexual attitudes and behavior.  No longer was one obliged to conform to Victorian mores, Fifties sanctimony, and outdated and irrelevant attitudes towards the nature and purpose of intimacy. Love the one you’re with was the anthem of the Sixties.  Love was relegated to treacly Hallmark cards, daytime television and the Midwest.

At its most post-modern, love does not exist at all.  It is  no more than a social construct reflecting time, era, and culture.  The sonnets of Petrarch for the first time expressing romantic love were a product of the emerging middle class, one which had risen above the peasantry and while not quite upper class or aristocratic had the economic and social mobility to worry less about survival and able to think less of hammers, nails, and anvils.  Love was a new thing, an invented idea, a plaything of the rich and privileged.

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Romantic love has stayed alive for centuries, a commodity of the wealthy and the newly rich and an aspirational ideal of those beneath.  In America the concept of romantic love has been institutionalized in Hollywood, soap operas, comic  books, and popular lore. Everyone wants to fall in love and to be happy forever after.

At the same time romantic love has been progressively marginalized.  Love is found through the social media, contracted civilly, and continued thanks to feminism, sexual mutuality and new-found respect. But is it love? Can any socially-mediated commodity possibly be the stuff of romance, marital fidelity,  or painful, passionate infidelity?

The question of love is more complicated in our age of feminism and gender identity.  Do women really need men, their pursuit, and testosterone-driven sexual immaturity? Has the traditional male-female dyad any relevance whatsoever?  If sexuality is indeed fluid, then relationships between any points on the sexual spectrum are valid and promising.  Love? Reduced at best to a functional state of equilibrium.  The idea of romantic love is not only outdated but treacly, and anti-progressive.  What has love ever accomplished except for the enslavement of women to men’s fantasies; an idealistic notion of woman-as-saint, itself self-serving and deformed when considered with its parallel – woman as whore.  The whole idea of love is antiquated and counter-revolutionary.

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Feminism notwithstanding, thousands of weddings are held each year – not simple ceremonies pledging honor, respect, and fidelity, but oversized celebrations of the idea of love.  The bridal bowers, marriage canopies, romantic ice sculptures, turned out bridesmaids, and four-course dinners and dancing are still common and par for the course.  Petrarch has not been left behind.  Young women in their bridal white with train and flowers feel themselves princesses, adored and put on pedestals by their knights. Marriage is ordained, and love is adhesive.

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Once these brides join their husbands at home, notions of  chivalry and pedestals disappear. Contractual obligations must be met, clauses and codicils of the pre-nuptial agreement discussed and rules and regulations written and agreed upon. As much as the marriage ceremony might reflect female beauty and grace; and suggest complaisance and duty, post-ceremony reality is quite different.  Love may be there, but only if certain conditions are met.

Modern, woke and aware men take these terms and conditions literally.  Suppositions of male authority are long past and gone.  Although parity is presumed, women’s rights have supplanted men’s.  Their bodies are their own, to give birth if and when they choose and to give to other men as cause or desire dictates.

Non-woke, savvy men want nothing to do with such obvious posturing.  They understand, as men have for millennia, that women want them absolutely – their bodies, their confidence, and their authority.  As long as ‘the Daddy syndrome’ persists, women will still defer to men.  If there is nothing genetically programmed to assure this, then nurture is a far more potent signifier than ever thought.

So marriage continues, although a far more challenged institution than ever before.  How can it possibly survive in such a fluid, non-specific, and continually questioned environment?  And should it?

In former times marriage was absolute and essential.  The heritage of kings and courtiers depended on right alliances and proper offspring.  Peasants relied upon marriage certificates and wifely fidelity to assure that they were not working back-breaking hours for bastards.  Marriage fulfills God’s injunction to be fertile and multiply within an acceptable social framework.  In the Catholic Church it is a sacrament, a blessed institution anointed by God himself and reflective of his relationship to his only begotten son.

Marriage has been the foundation of human society for millennia.  However consecrated or observed, the union of a man and a woman was sanctified by church, state, and society.  It was the guarantor of property and civil rights, the model for respectful social behavior, the corral for a wild, independent herd, and social security for the aged and infirm.  It was a breeding ground which produced children to continue the human race but also provided recognition and legitimacy.   Everyone knew who Hermione Porter was (Ah, those Porters), where she came from, and what genetic claims she had to respect and inclusion.

None of this has any importance today except perhaps in Rittenhouse Square, Nob or Beacon Hill.  Despite attempts to modernize and socialize it, remains a holdover from a far earlier age.  It is still a socially mandated correctional institution.  Men and women are far better citizens if they are married than if they are not. 

The Sixties were revolutionary because they challenged this notion.  ‘Love the one you’re with’ was an ode to sexual, social, and emotional liberation.  Despite the political progressivism that characterized the movement, conservative individualism was at its very center.  Community was only a holding pen for newly-liberated individuals.  Communes were collectivities of like-minded people with no hold over them.  They provided the supportive context within which individualism was to thrive.

Within such communities, fidelity was an unheard of concept.  The institution of marriage was as oppressive as any other bourgeois claims to sanctity.  Love was a presupposed construct of a former, unenlightened era.  It meant nothing but servitude.

Of course hippydom disappeared, and even the most partisan advocates of the Sixties zeitgeist calmed down, returned to Iowa and Montana, got married, had children, and lived to a maturing old age.  It was too revolutionary.  Socialism, communalism, even idealism were quite tenable; but sexual anonymity and a rejection of the sanctity of sexual union were more than any generation could handle.

So what now of love and ‘love the one you’re with’? Have we reached an equilibrium where the two can co-exist?  Hardly.  The worst of all possible worlds has evolved .  Neither has stable, traditional male-female marriage remained intact – i.e. that within which both male and female sexual imperatives are expressed and counter-balanced, one against the other – nor has it been transformed into a no-trespassing zone where anything goes within an acknowledged important social framework; nor finally has it disappeared, replaced by a libertine ‘love the one you’re with’ ethos.

Husbands and wives routinely end conversations with ‘I love you’; but the sentiment means little.  Better to acknowledge and admit that they do not love each other but have been co-opted into an arrangement where love has been the authorization.  ‘We satisfy the terms and agreements of our marriage contract’ would be a far more honest statement.

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Men have not changed one iota since the 70s feminist revolution.  They, except for those who for reasons of doctrinal purity or sexual timidity, have chased women, reluctantly agreed to marriage (marriage has always been a woman’s thing) and continued their tomcatting and serial infidelities ad infinitum.

Women, either persuaded by feminist scenarios of authority within institutions (breaking the glass ceiling, dominating men a la Hedda Gabler and Shakespearean heroines), or because of genetically programmed commitments to motherhood and a protective, intact family, have been reluctant to ‘love the one you’re with’ as much as men.  Women have always been defenders of hearth and home.

So, incidents of infidelity among wives has increased significantly, although rates have never even approximated those of men; and men’s rates cheating has remained the same.  Men have always been unfaithful; and if there was ever a case of nature besting nurture, men’s perennial sexual waywardness proves it.  Yet at the same time there is a persistent Puritanical guilt.  Excuses must be made.  Where did the Sixties go?

There seems to be an irreversible urge to be married.  With the legalization of gay marriage, a surprising number of gay men have shown up at the altar despite decades of exaggeratedly promiscuous sex.  They have wanted to join the marital club, leave their lives of happy libertinage, and enter in to pre-nups, legalize marital contracts and, one supposes, empty the trash and clean the bathrooms. Love? Doubtful as a reason for marital union.

There are a few unreconstructed, unapologetic members of the Sixties generation who still love women as women, who have no desire to conclude more permanent relationships; and who, if in a marriage, refuse to accept monogamy.  They are either outliers or revolutionaries.  Hard to tell; but it is a delight to see men who make no bones about their male sexuality, the fundamental differences between men and women, and the absolute pleasure of sexual adventure.