Thursday, August 12, 2004

Anti-Semitism and Homophobia

Jason Kuznicki of Positive Liberty has written a thought-provoking post on the parallels between anti-Semitism and homophobia. These thoughts were apparently triggered by Martha Nussbaum's essay on disgust, with which I don't entirely agree, but Jason's comments are, in my view, very reasonable. He focuses, in particular, on the relationship between nineteenth-century attempts to convert Jews and contemporary "conversion therapy" for gays:

In these phenomena, we can see the disastrous results when disgust-as-morality turns inward, upon the self, for many of the most outspoken advocates of both movements have been converts.. . .

The modern drive to "repair" homosexuality is of course different in some ways from its nineteenth-century counterpart, but it shares three main traits with our ancestors' desire, as they termed it, to "regenerate" the Jews:

--Hypothetically, the main argument of these movements may well be true: If Jews or gays successfully converted, they might well be happier. At least some of them.

--Objectively, it is a fantasy. Change in one's sexual orientation does happen from time to time, but engineering it is still a utopian dream. Change in one's religion is probably almost as hard to achieve through human design. People hold religions based on faith, and faith is inscrutable. Conversion does happen on occasion, but planning for it is absurd.

--Morally, they both reek of condescension.

Read the whole thing.

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