When I was a child, I was cute and precocious and smart. I scored very high on all my early tests, and my parents and teachers loved me.
When I was eight years old, I was cited by the police twice in two nights, first for shoplifting at the local Safeway and the next night for throwing a brick through the window of the Lutheran Church–while my parents were back in Iowa burying my grandmother (and this was just three weeks after I lit an empty licorice pack and tossed it into a dry patch of woods abutting an apartment building, calling out all of Hood River’s fire engines–they never nailed me for this one, but I was questioned heavily, and everyone involved always wondered).
It didn’t ruin my life, though. I may not have realized why, but I sensed early that being a young, straight, white male meant that I didn’t have a higher standard to live up to. I was a complete fuck-up, but I didn’t have any predetermined suspicion against me, so all was forgiven, and I was free to move on with my life. I could have become a pillar of the community, a Mayor or a Congressman or a Senator even, if I hadn’t chosen to squander my second and third and fourth chances on an adult life of alcohol and sloth and jobs that were either beneath me or that I held onto by my fingernails through a combination of obfuscation and glad-handing, hoping no one would figure out that I had little clue what I was doing.
The Great American Tradition had always meant being able to be a Caucasian screw-up and never having to say you’re sorry, and that tradition didn’t start to fracture until Joe McCarthy and, later, Watergate.
Of course, everything would have been different for me if I’d been black or gay. America has gone kicking and grumbling toward giving either constituency any power, influence, or respect at all. If I’d been either of the oft-affronted constituencies, I might have thought differently. And I would have had a lot more to answer to
I can’t speak to what it’s like to be a gay male in 2009. But I’m tired of hearing about how The Gays are going to destroy our society. I thought we were finally past this madness, until Proposition 8 passed in California on November 4, in what was otherwise an almost-unblemished referendum on positive human values. So it was an undeniable point of pride in Portland, Oregon, when this past May we elected the first openly gay mayor of a major American city. He was elected in the primary, in fact, by a margin that didn’t require competing in the general election.
So this should have been a great week for not just Portland at large, but Portland’s gay community specifically. Sort of like, well, I don’t know…maybe if we put a black man in the White House or something.
But if you Google “portland gay” this week, you’re going to get a very different set of results (though Steam Portland is offering three free months to new members who sign up before January 20th).
Our new mayor, Sam Adams–openly, proudly gay in a city that a city that doesn’t judge its citizens or leaders on the basis of their sexuality or their peccadilloes that have nothing to do with their capability to govern–fell into that eons-old middle-aged male trap of thinking with his penis, and as the pattern goes, finds himself in very hot water and his constituents on hold.
I hate to side with the scolds, especially after living through the Clinton Impeachment debacle. It was common knowledge for years that he was dipping his pen everywhere else but in Hillary’s ink, and no one cared as long as their 401(k)s were going through the roof, and our kids weren’t dying en masse overseas. When Ken Starr, after years and years of flailing and never connecting with anything but the wall, finally came up with a handful of blowjobs from a then-22 year-old intern that Clinton lied to cover up, nobody cared. He had a 69% approval rating when he was impeached by a Republican Congressional cabal that had been trying to nail him since before he took office, and the Americans would have none of it. The Republicans got clobbered in the ’98 midterms and lost their Speaker (and his successor) in the process.
The message was clear: As long as it doesn’t cost me money, it’s a man’s private business what happens between his penis and his wife/buxom mistress/Denny’s parking lot prostitute/cabana boy.
That said, I have a very different take on Portland’s (latest) sex scandal. Our local affair is all bad, though, and so very tawdry–and possibly illegal. We’re not just talking marriage vows violated or a chowder stain on a blue dress. And Sam Adams will be neither the first nor the last gay middle-aged man tantalized by the allure of an attractive young man, and normally I would be all for it if it would help him govern more effectively.
The problem is, first, that the object of the new Mayor’s lust was barely an 18-year-old man at the time, and was possibly 17 years old when they consummated. We’re a little funny that way when it comes to our kids. If you don’t believe that, you can call Roman Polanski and ask him–but call soon, because it’s almost 10:00 PM in France right now. His victim is in her 40s now, and he still can’t come back.
The Ick Factor is fairly high here, in large part because the Mayor’s actions hovered perilously close to classic sexual predator behavior. He brought the boy into his office when he was 17 years old, lavished him with gifts under the pretense of “mentoring” him, and drove 50 miles to attend the boy’s 18th birthday party–very shortly before the then City Councilman saw the statutory green light to consummate his sexual relationship with the newly-legal–and I’m not making this up–Beau Breedlove. His staff at the time was very nearly apoplectic at the perceived impropriety and urged the Councilman to get the kid a job at Abercrombie & Fitch and get him him far away from the office, even if he wasn’t slathering him in peanut oil and having him bring him Mai Tais.
The other problem is that the Mayor lied about the affair to get elected. Repeatedly. His primary opponent, Bob Ball, raised concerns about the relationship in 2007 and was dismissed for smearing his opponent for political gain.
To make matters worse, one of the reporters who was relentlessly pursuing the story was hired by Adams after his election to be his director of Sustainable Development–even though the 28-year-old had no experience in direction, sustainability, or development, and the $55,000 salary she would earn under Adams was far higher than what she was earning as a reporter for the Portland Mercury.
So once again, it’s not just the crime (if there even was one, but it’s very close, and in any case it doesn’t help the issue) but the cover-up. And if I were a gay man I would be livid this week. We have enough problem with knuckle-dragging morons in this country terrified that legitimizing Gayness will be the end of civilization as we know it, and that God-fearing straight men will have their wives and girlfriends taken away to lesbian training camps and the only sex they’ll ever know for the rest of their lives will involve biting down hard on a pillow or with their face pressed against a hard, cold bathroom tile floor. Here you have the first openly gay mayor of a major American city–and this is the baggage he brings. If this passes, I know you have the goods to govern this city effectively and even be a great mayor, but Jesus. Thanks for giving the morons cause to say “See, I told you so!” So very disappointing.
*Thanks to Neil Kerr