Aaron Schock’s Seat is Up for Grabs

The congressman as cover boy. | MEN'S HEALTH

The congressman as cover boy. | MEN'S HEALTH

Hey, Gays: Leave Aaron Schock Alone,” James Kirchick’s article on the Daily Beast about how mean we’re being to the disgraced Republican now ex-congressmember from Illinois, makes me want to puke: “According to his gay antagonists, Schock deserves to be outed because of his anti-gay voting record. That consists of opposition to gay marriage, the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and the institution of harsher criminal penalties for hate crimes. Disagreement with the latter proposal should hardly be considered a requirement by the gay community for qualification as an ally, considering that many gay intellectuals, policymakers, and writers (this one included) oppose hate-crimes legislation on freedom of conscience grounds. There’s no evidence that Schock personally discriminated against gay people…”

Where does one begin to rip apart this drivel? First: who are these “many gay intellectuals, policymakers, and writers” (besides Kirchick, that is) who oppose hate crimes legislation on the grounds of “freedom of conscience?” For that matter, what does the word conscience mean when it describes the minds of people who single out (among others) African-Americans for brutal murder solely because of the color of their skin? Conscience slips into nonsense when applied to the three white men in Texas who dragged James Byrd, Jr. behind their pick-up track for three miles along an asphalt road in 1998, Byrd remaining conscious as his skin — which evidently by pure coincidence happened to be black — was shredded and scraped off his body and dying only when the truck hit a rut and his head was torn off. Or the two straight men who, the same year, tied Matthew Shepherd, a 21-year-old gay college student, to a fence out in the middle of the Wyoming nowhere and tortured him and left him to die for no other reason than his sexual orientation.

The concept of “freedom of conscience” is currently being trotted out to defend bigots who refuse to accept public accommodations laws on religious grounds and think they have the right to deny service to people they perceive to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender because, they say, their religion demands that they shun us.

Using the word conscience to oppose laws against hate speech is problematic but at least it’s arguable; Americans are free to hate whomever we please and we’re equally free to say so. I, for example, hate James Kirchick. And the First Amendment guarantees us the right to express hateful thoughts, though no publisher is under any obligation to publish them, no television station to air them, no college to teach them. But to oppose hate crimes laws by citing freedom of “conscience” is a grotesque perversion of the word. If prison holds any deterrent function at all, imposing stiffer sentences for crimes based on hatred of whole classes of people is sensible social policy.

It’s ridiculous to have to point this out, but when Schock personally voted to continue discrimination against gay people in the military in 2011 he was personally discriminating against gay people in the military. And his opposition to gay people’s right to civil marriage is personal discrimination as well. Kirchick’s is a reactionary fantasy world in which the words personal and discrimination, like conscience, have no meaning. Sure, voting to continue Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is not the same as some crackpot fag-basher knifing one of us in a gay bar parking lot. But members of Congress have the power to institutionalize or outlaw discrimination, and when Schock personally cast his vote against the repeal of DADT, he voted to keep it institutionalized.

Kirchick continues: “Gay men want Schock to be gay because, well, they want him. More importantly, they also want him to be gay because it would fit into a convenient narrative about gay conservatives: that they are all morally compromised, self-hating, untrustworthy sellouts. What really angers the gay mob is that Schock is conservative. By trivializing a serious story of corruption with unfounded allegations of homosexuality, they demonstrate their inability to judge the real issues because they’re transfixed on minor ones.”

Let me be clear: I do not “want” Aaron Schock. I have no sexual desire for right-wing assholes or the men who sport them. Call me crazy, but the instant I find out that a guy is a turd I lose interest.

In defending Schock, Kirchick indicts himself: like Schock, Kirchick is a morally compromised, untrustworthy sellout. Opposing hate crimes laws citing freedom of conscience proves the first, and his essay’s appearance on the Daily Beast demonstrates the third. How does a member of a minority group make a name for himself? Simple: by advocating against his own community’s interests. Kirchick is the gay man’s answer to loony Ben Carson. What attention would either of them get if they took a sane position on, say, anything?

As for being self-hating, Kirchick’s scorn for the gay community – or as he calls us, “the gay mob” — isn’t evidence of self-hatred. No, it’s the rest of us he holds in contempt.

When Kirchick gets around to indicting a gay man by name, he goes wildly overboard: Michelangelo Signorile is “the Torquemada of this campaign.” Really, James? Okay, let’s compare the two:

Torquemada: led the Spanish Inquisition

Signorile: advocates outing hypocrites

Torquemada: responsible for the exile of 200,000 Spanish Jews

Signorile: responsible for outing Liz Smith

Torquemada: ordered 2,000 Jews to be burned at the stake

Signorile: has a new book out – “It’s Not Over,” the title perhaps referring to the abnormal length of time it’s taking Liz Smith to be reduced to a pile of ash after Signorile lit that fire under her ass in the late 1980s.

Kirchick then launches into inadvertent comedy: “an explanation for Schock’s seemingly gay appearance is that the Illinois Republican is like many straight, metrosexual, socially unaware young men from the Midwest who don’t always understand the social signals they’re broadcasting with their fashionable clothes and finicky grooming habits.”

That’s it! Schock is only acting like every other Midwestern straight guy who’s oblivious to the social signals flashed by their passion for mani-pedis and faux ormolu mirrors! Hey Maxim: How about an article (by me) about the hoards of straight men rushing to buy faux ormolu mirrors at the Peoria Home Depot after stopping by the nail salon for a touch up? If someone named Kirchick tries to peddle the same idea, remember: I pitched it first.

As for Kirchick’s assertion that “it’s more responsible, journalistically, than simply asserting that someone is gay,” I have a question for him: Precisely who has asserted, in print or online, that Aaron Schock is gay? I challenge him to name one writer — other than Itay Hod, who made the claim (sort of) on Facebook in 2014 — who has done it. Every article I looked at online — and I looked at many — made a specific point of avoiding the assertion. With the exception of Hod’s Facebook post, I found no writer or publication stating for a fact that Aaron Schock is gay. It reminds me of Tallulah Bankhead’s immortal response when somebody asked her if Montgomery Clift was gay: “How should I know, darling? He never sucked my cock.”

Finally, it’s time to put to rest — or better, kill — the infinitely repeated trope that Schock decorated his office in the style of “Downton Abbey.” This is a vicious insult — to “Downton Abbey.” Kirchick employs it, of course, but so does everyone else. It’s wrong, damn it, as any fool can see.

“Downton Abbey”’s elaborate upstairs sets as well as its exteriors are filmed at Highclere Castle in Berkshire. The rooms feature an eclectic mix of styles, from the early Victorian through the Edwardian, with Gothic elements, too, as well as 19th century Continental ones. Aubusson tapestries from the 17th and 18th centuries hang on the walls along with a number of portraits by Sir Joshua Reynolds, the most prominent English portraitist of the 1700s. “Downton Abbey”’s style is, in a word, authentic.

Aaron Schock’s office, in contrast, is what my people call halucious — Yiddish for beyond hideously ugly. The pomegranate paint is tasteless and garish, as are the cheesy (yes, you got it) faux ormolu mirrors and foofy sconces. Schock’s office’s interior design bears as much resemblance to “Downton Abbey” as the Lady Bunny’s wardrobe does to Chanel, and it captures exactly the same design sensibility (Bunny, keep your good cheer as you take that one for the team). So let’s put that phenomenally stupid trope in the ground and bury it, along with Aaron Schock’s political career. He and his atrocious taste, along with the nutty opinions of James Kirchick, are a shande for the gayim.

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