"My Mayor Pete Problem", Dale Peck, Pete Buttigieg, Political Correctness, The New Republic, Thought Police
The New Republic, somewhat whimsically, decided to accept an article/personal memoir taking a poke at South Bend Mayor/democrat presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg from an unassimilated, arch homosexual perspective. After all, it can be a lot fun to listen to some witty queen dishing on another poof.
But currently ascendant Puritan sanctimony on the Left will tolerate not even favored identity group in-humor. The way the privilege of membership works, it seems, is that there is always some victim more privileged and protected than you. The victim group member who pokes fun at a fellow victim is instantly promoted to the Heterosexual White Male Oppressor category and deplatformed.
And poor Dale Peck was well and truly deplatformed. (Some straight Republican living in New York should take Dale out to a strip club for a beer, out of Solidarity.)
As is usual for me, it took me a couple of days to follow up on this little tempest in the journalistic establishment teapot, and yesterday when I went looking for the original article –to my surprise– it was really nowhere to be found. Like Lord Dunsany’s Athazar, King of Runazar, the Buttigieg piece was condemned, not only to die, but cease ever to have been.
I looked with Google.I tried Duck Duck Go. Those didn’t work, so I went to 4chan, then to 8chan. All those White Supremacists and shitlords were busy linking porn. No reference there. Frustrated, I thought I’d look for a link in Facebook, and, what do you know? a friend from Yale with ties to the “Playing for the Other Team” Community had posted the whole thing.
I’m against this kind of PC, little-finger-lifted-as-you-sip-your-tea censorship and enforced propriety, so, despite the limitations on my own sympathy for the author’s perspective, I feel obliged to post the whole thing myself, just to keep it available and to spite the Forces of Proper Thinking and Correct Speech. So, here goes.
My Yale friend introduced it, thusly:
“In which famed hatchet-man Worth Davidâ€”I mean, Dale Peckâ€”weighs in to tell you why nouvelle fague Mary Pete Buttfuck isnâ€™t all that heâ€™s cocked up to be.
This was originally posted in The New Republic, but the fat Bengali or someone got an advanced case of weenieitis.
For sheer homocidal glee, this thing is right up there with Gore Vidalâ€™s Palimpsest. Mister Peck, we salute you!”
My Mayor Pete Problem
Sunday, July 14, 2019
One of the worst things I ever did happened in 1992. I was leaving the bar called The Bar (RIP) on Second Avenue and 4th Street to go to a party called Tattooed Love Child at another bar, Fez, located in the basement of Time Cafe (RIP x 2). TLC was held on Wednesdays (Thursdays?), and I often went to The Bar after work for a few hours so I wouldnâ€™t have to go all the way home first. So it was probably 10-ish, and I know it was late winter/early spring because I was carrying a copy of the completed manuscript of my first novel Martin and John, which Iâ€™d just turned in to my publisher that very day. Which makes me 24 and old enough to know better. Or who knows, maybe this was exactly the age to learn this kind of lesson.
What happened was: I was halfway down 4th Street when I heard someone yelling. I turned to see a large fellow running after me. At first I wondered if I was getting gay-bashed. But even though this guy didnâ€™t set off my gaydar he still didnâ€™t seem particularly menacing. When he got closer I clocked the pleated khakis (this was the era of the ACT UP cloneâ€”Doc Martens, Leviâ€™s tight or baggy, and activist T-shirtsâ€”which look I had embraced fully) and rust-colored Brillo hair. I love me a good ginger, but you gotta know how to style it, especially if it runs frizzy. And so anyway, this guy, whose name was Garfield but said I could call him Gar, told me heâ€™d been in The Bar but had been too shy to talk to me and decided to try his luck on the street. As politely as I could, I told him I wasnâ€™t interested. He asked me how I could know I wasnâ€™t interested when I didnâ€™t know him, which was an invitation for me to tell him that not only did he look like a potato, he dressed, talked, and ran like a potato. Alas, I chose not to indulge his masochistic invitation.
He asked where I was going and I told him. He asked if he could go with me and I told him he could go to Fez if he wanted but he shouldnâ€™t think he was going with me. He came. I quickly learned that heâ€™d mastered the art of speaking in questions, which put me in the awkward position of answering him or ignoring him, which made me feel rude even though Iâ€™d told him I wasnâ€™t interested. When he found out I was a writer he got excited and said I must love the New Yorker! I told him I hated the New Yorker. He asked how I could hate the New Yorker and I told him that besides the fact that the New Yorker published shitty fiction (plus Ã§a change, plus câ€™est la mÃªme chose), and the only gay fiction it published was assimilationist and boring, there was also the fact that an editor there (Dan Menaker, if weâ€™re naming names) had rejected a story of mine by suggesting in his correspondence with my agent (by which I mean that he wasnâ€™t embarrassed to write this down, let alone worried about repercussions) that psychological problems were preventing me from creating effective fiction. (By the way, fuck you, Dan.) None of which made any sense to Gar. The New Yorker was important so I must love it. I just didnâ€™t know I loved it yet. Or something like that. At some point in this exchange I remember saying something along the lines of Look, Iâ€™m just going to apologize now, because itâ€™s pretty clear that sooner or later Iâ€™m going to say something really offensive to you and your feelings are going to be hurt. I donâ€™t want to do that, but youâ€™re clearly not getting the fact that you and I donâ€™t look at the world the same way, and you keep thinking that if you hang around long enough weâ€™re going to find common ground, when all youâ€™re really doing is making our differences that much clearer. He laughed at this, one of those confused/nervous/defensive laughs, and if Iâ€™d been more mature I would have been more blunt and told him to get lost. But I too was a little deluded. I thought he had to get the hint eventually. But although I understood pretty much everything else about him, I failed to reckon fully with his lack of self-respect.
I told him I hated the New Yorker.
So: we got to Fez, where I ran into my friend Patrick (Cox, I think, but itâ€™s been a minute), who looked at me like, What are you doing with this weirdo? I wouldnâ€™t let Gar buy me a drink and I did my best to exclude him from my conversation with Patrick but he still wouldnâ€™t take a hint. He must have hung around for a good hour. My answers to his questions grew more and more peremptory. Bear in mind I wasnâ€™t disagreeing with him or dismissing his opinions just to get rid of him: we really had absolutely nothing in common. But we both read the New Yorker and we were both gay and we both wore clothes to cover our nakedness so clearly we were birds of a feather. Finally he said he had to leave. He asked for my number. I remember Patrick laughing in his face, but maybe thatâ€™s just because I wanted to laugh in his face. I was like, Are you serious? And he was like, We have so much in common, we should get to know each other better! When I was fifteen years old a pedophile used that line on me in the Chicago bus station, and if Iâ€™m being honest I had more in common with the pedo, who was about 50, black, and urban, while I was a white teenager from rural Kansas, than I did with dear old Gar. I told him I wasnâ€™t going to give him my phone number or accept his. He seemed genuinely shocked and hurt, which of course made me feel like shit, which of course made me mad, because why should I feel like shit when Iâ€™d spent all night trying to rebuff him? He asked what he would have to do to get me to go out with him. Without thinking, I said, Take a good look at yourself and your world, reject everything in it, and then get back to me. It was the kind of soul-killing line people are always delivering in movies but never comes off in real life, mostly because even the most oblivious, self-hating person usually has enough wherewithal to cut someone off before theyâ€™re fully read for filth. I believe I have indicated that Gar did not possess this level of self-awareness. His face went shapeless and blank as though the bones of his skull had melted. For one second I thought I saw a hint of anger, which mightâ€™ve been the first thing heâ€™d done all night that I could identify with. Then he scurried away.
Now, Iâ€™ve said shitty things to people before and since, but this oneâ€™s always stuck with me, partly because, though Iâ€™m a peevish fellow, itâ€™s rare that I speak with genuine cruelty, and when I do itâ€™s because Iâ€™ve chosen to. This just came out of me. But mostly I remember it because I knew Iâ€™d seriously wounded this guy, which, however annoying and clueless he was, was never my intention. I was and still am a very â€™90s kind of gay, which is to say that I believe in the brotherhood of homos and the strength of our community, that however different we are weâ€™re all bound together by the nature of our desire and the experience of living in a homophobic world. When one of your brothers fucks up, you school him. Sure, you might get a little Larry Kramer about it, but you donâ€™t go all Arya-and-the-Night-King on his ass.
Iâ€™m telling you this because itâ€™s what popped into my head when I tried to pin down my distaste for Pete Buttigieg. Mary Pete and I are just not the same kind of gay. (For those of you wondering about â€œMary Peteâ€: a couple of months ago I asked Facebook what the gay equivalent of Uncle Tom was, and this was the answer at which we collectively arrived.) But Mary Pete and I arenâ€™t different in the same way that Gar and I were different. Gar and I had nothing in common. Mary Pete and I have a lot in common, but at a certain point we came to a fork in the road and I took the one less traveled and he took the one that was freshly paved and bordered by flowers and white picket fences and every house had a hybrid in the driveway and some solar panels on the ceiling, but discrete ones, nothing garish, nothing that would interfere with the traditional look of the neighborhood or the resale value of your home.
By which I mean: Mary Pete is a neoliberal and a Jeffersonian meritocrat, which is to say heâ€™s just another unrepentant or at least unexamined beneficiary of white male privilege who believes (just as Jay Inslee believes heâ€™s done more for womenâ€™s reproductive rights than Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar) that he can make life better for all those people who are not like him, not because he knows anything about their lives but because heâ€™s smart and nice and well-meaning, and when smart nice well-meaning people run things everything works out for the best. Thatâ€™s just, you know, logical. Itâ€™s like, science. Like Kirsten Gillibrand, he believes in â€œhealthy capitalism,â€ which is a bit like saying you believe in â€œhealthy cancerâ€: Yeah, you can (usually) treat it, but wouldnâ€™t you rather be cured?
Pete and I are just not the same kind of gay.
Most of what I dislike about Mary Pete was expressed in this Current Affairs article, which does a good job of using his own words (mostly from, ugh, Shortest Way Home, his memoir pretending to manifesto) to damn him. Shortest Way Home conjures a young Harvard student who thinks the word â€œedgyâ€ is sufficient to describe both proto-Dumpster fascist Lyndon LaRouche and Noam Chomsky. His description of Harvard Square takes in those actors who belong to the school; the homeless people who live there are invisible to him, or, even worse, not worth mentioning. He seems perfectly content to dismiss left-wing student activists as â€œsocial justice warriorsâ€ despite the fact that this phrase is paradigmatic in right-wing discourse. He speaks fondly of his time at McKinsey, a company regularly described as one of the most evil corporations in the world. He joined the military long after 9/11 could sort-of-but-not-really be invoked to justify the U.S. propensity to go to other countries and kill lots of people. By 2007 it was no longer possible to pretend that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were anything other than failed, murderous exercises in empire-building and/or revenge, but despite the fact that these were the only places he was likely to serve he signed up anyway. And though he loves to talk about the notes he left his family in case he didnâ€™t come back, by all accounts his chances of seeing combat were as low as they could beâ€”but boy, he sure got a lot of cute pictures in uniform out of it!
Every move is simultaneously cynical and morally oblivious. Theyâ€™re the steps one takes not to learn about the world but to become a marketable political candidate (hmmm, whatâ€™s a good counter to the whole sleeps-with-men thing? I know: military service!) (side benefit: youâ€™re surrounded by hot guys!) and if as a Harvard-educated Rhodes Scholar you decide not to be a captain of industry, then clearly the White House is where you belong. I mean, sure, he wants to make the world a better place. But the operative word in that sentence, just as it was with Bill Clinton, is â€œhe,â€ not â€œworld,â€ and â€œbetter,â€ for Mary Pete, is just the neoliberal variation of â€œmake America great again,â€ which is to say that in Buttigiegâ€™s version of American history the progressive ideals in the First, Thirteenth, and Nineteenth Amendments, in the Civil Rights Act and Roe v. Wade and marriage equality, are the only authentically American ideas, whereas slavery and Jim Crow and border security and defense of marriage campaigns and heartbeat laws are nothing but aberrations, glitches in the code rather than yin to liberalismâ€™s yang, warp to its weft, a set of ivory chess pieces lined up across from a set of ebony chess pieces and equally powerful.
Like Obama, Buttigieg seems always to be saying that the United States is the only place where someone like him couldâ€™ve succeeded, and that he wants everyone to enjoy the same peculiarly American successes that heâ€™s had. But unlike Obama (whose naÃ¯vetÃ© was at least partly a pose), Buttigiegâ€™s biography belies the idea that his success was either hard won or particularly unlikely. Heâ€™s lived the life of a comfortably middle-class white male, but he acts as if itâ€™s his natural gifts (by which he means his intelligence and his ability to speak seven languages and play the piano, although theyâ€™re actually his whiteness and maleness and financial security) that have raised him above from the rabble. Itâ€™s right there in his â€œMedicare for all . . . who want itâ€ song and dance. To Mary Pete this is simple egalitarianism and freedom of choice. If you want Medicare, you should be able to have it. And if you want private insurance you should be able to have that. It seems never to occur to him to ask why one would want to pay three or four or ten times more for health care than you have to. Could it possibly be because private insurance will get you better results than Medicare? And could private health care possibly provide better service than Medicare not because of marketplace competition but because as long as thereâ€™s a profit motive in health care medical corporations will always seek to maximize profits, and thus favor those â€œcustomersâ€ who can pay the most? Embedded in this oblivion are both the liberal delusion that people are naturally good and the neoliberal sophistry that the market, like the tide, will raise everyone up with it.
Pete is just the neoliberal variation of â€œmake America great again.â€
Or take his response at the Democratic debate to the murder of Eric Logan by the South Bend police: â€œIâ€™m not allowed to take sides until the investigation comes back.â€ Here is a mayorâ€”a manâ€”whose first allegiance isnâ€™t to the victim or the victimâ€™s family or the other people at risk because of a racist police force, but, at the very best, to the system, and maybe to nothing more than his own political future as a centrist Democrat. â€œI accept responsibility,â€ he told us, in the same way that the white teenaged boy who gets caught stealing a car or drunk-raping a girl says â€œI accept responsibilityâ€ and fully expects to let off without punishment, because boys will be boys, after all, and isnâ€™t feeling bad punishment enough? Free education? Why, thatâ€™s unfair to the working class! Theyâ€™ll end up paying for the education of all those millions and millions of billionairesâ€™ children! What are we, czarist Russia?
You keep looking for a politics rooted in justice or history or, at the very least, empathy, but everywhere you find nothing besides a kind of idealistic pragmatism, if thatâ€™s a thing: a belief that if we only talk about nice things, only nice things will happen. If we only acknowledge our strengths, our faults will fade away. If we trust smart people to do smart things, nothing dumb will happen. Hey, JosÃ© loved it when Pete answered him in Spanish, right? Education has brought us closer together!
All this makes Mary Pete different from every other left-leaning neoliberal in exactly zero ways. Because letâ€™s face it. The only thing that distinguishes the mayor of South Bend from all those other well-educated reasonably intelligent white dudes who wanna be president is what he does with his dick (and possibly his ass, although I get a definite top-by-default vibe from him, which is to say that I bet he thinks about getting fucked but heâ€™s too uptight to do it). So letâ€™s dish the dish, homos. You know and I know that Mary Pete is a gay teenager. Heâ€™s a fifteen-year-old boy in a Chicago bus station wondering if itâ€™s a good idea to go home with a fifty-year-old man so that heâ€™ll finally understand what he is. Heâ€™s been out for, what, all of four years, and if I understand the narrative, he married the first guy he dated. And we all know what happens when gay people donâ€™t get a real adolescence because they spent theirs in the closet: they go through it after they come out. And because theyâ€™re adults with their own incomes and no parents to rein them in they do it on steroids (often literally). If Shortest Way Home (I mean really, can you think of a more treacly title?) makes one thing clear, Mary Pete was never a teenager. But you canâ€™t run away from that forever. Either it comes out or it eats you up inside. It can be fun, it can be messy, it can be tragic, it can be progenitive, transformative, ecstatic, or banal, but the last thing I want in the White House is a gay man staring down 40 who suddenly realizes he didnâ€™t get to have all the fun his straight peers did when they were teenagers. Iâ€™m not saying I donâ€™t want him to shave his chest or do Molly or try being the lucky Pierre (the timingâ€™s trickier than it looks, but it can be fun when you work it out). These are rites of passage for a lot of gay men, and it fuels many aspects of gay culture. But like I said, I donâ€™t want it in the White House. I want a man whose mind is on his job, not what could have beenâ€”or what he thinks he can still get away with.
So yeah. Unlike my experience with Gar, I actually want to tell Mary Pete to take a good hard look at his world, at his experiences and his view of the public good as somehow synonymous with his own success, and I want him to reject it. I want to do this not because I have any particular desire to hurt his feelings, but because I made a similar journey, or at least started out from a similar place, and I was lucky enough to realize (thank you, feminism; thank you, ACT UP) that the only place that path leads is a gay parody of heteronormative bourgeois domesticity: the â€œhistoricâ€ home, the â€œtastefulâ€ decor (no more than one nude photograph of a muscular torso per room; statuary only if theyâ€™re fair copies of Greek or Roman originals), the two- or four- or six-pack depending on how often you can get to the gym and how much you hate yourself, the theatre (always spelled with an -re) subscription, the opera subscription, the ballet subscription, the book club, the AKC-certified toy dog with at least one charming neurosis and/or dietary tic, the winter vacation to someplace â€œtropical,â€ the summer vacation to someplace â€œcultural,â€ the specialty kitchen appliancesâ€”you just have to get a sous vide machine, it changed our life! Sorry, boys, thatâ€™s not a life, itâ€™s something you buy from a catalog. Itâ€™s a stage set you build so you can convince everyone else (or maybe just yourself) that youâ€™re as normal as they are. Call me a hick from the sticks, but I donâ€™t want someone who fills out his life like he fills out an AP exam serving as the countryâ€™s moral compass. And no, I wouldnâ€™t kick him out of bed.
Good thing I hadn’t closed that friend’s Facebook page. When I hit refresh, sure enough! the forces of Righteous Leftism had already eradicated it there, as well.
This posting may be the Last of the Mohicans.