If it were only Senator Larry Craig, one could dismiss his sorry case as an aberration. A conservative senator, vehemently against gay rights, is discovered to be something of a sexual deviant* and a sad, conflicted soul that certainly must despise himself.
* Note that I use the term "deviant" not in reference to Senator Craig's alleged homosexuality. Rather, "deviant" refers to his seeming propensity to seek anonymous sex in public restrooms.
But, Senator Craig is only the latest in a long list of so-called "conservative" figures to have been exposed as living a life completely at odds with their public positions. A short list:
- Senator Larry Craig - a dyed-in-the-wool staunch anti-gay conservative solicits sex from anonymous men in public restrooms.
- Representative Mark Foley - founder and co-chairman of the Congressional Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus revealed to have sent seductive text messages to congressional pages.
- Senator David Vitter - promoter of "traditional family values," and admonisher of President Bill Clinton for unbecoming behavior, admitted to having solicited sex from prostitutes that were part of a Washington DC escort service.
- Reverend Ted Haggard - a condemner of "homosexual activity" from his pulpit at the head of the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, later exposed as having solicited gay sex and drugs from a Denver-area prostitute.
- Commentator Rush Limbaugh - advocated stiff penalties and zero tolerance for drug users before being revealed as having an addiction to OxyContin, which he purchased illegally.
I'm sure the answer varies according to the subject in question. For example, it is hard to imagine a brute like Rush Limbaugh being capable of any kind of introspection. And Senator Vitter is probably just a cynical pol, willing to say whatever will help him achieve his agenda.
But someone like Senator Craig, I imagine, must be tortured by self-loathing. Having been conditioned to be repulsed and disgusted by his own behavior, yet unable to escape his proclivities, he overcompensated. By day, he was Dr. Jekyll, earning the admiration of people from whom he was secretly alienated. But at night, Mr. Hyde emerged, and he became that which he reviled. A hellish existence.
As sad as it is, I believe that Senator Craig is only an extreme case. I think many conservatives share in this self-loathing to varying degrees. They are compelled to behave according to the morals imposed on them by their church or their society even when it goes against their urges.
To be sure, this is not necessarily bad. We wouldn't want every psychopath with an urge to kill to be unconstrained by morals. (But then again, psychopaths seem not to worry too much about social mores). The problem is where, in the scope of human behavior, that line is drawn. The conservative mindset takes a dim view of some things that do not bother more progressive people: homosexuality, drug use, pre-marital sex, or even extra-marital sex. And, yet, conservatives are no less likely to participate in any of these activities than are progressives. (In fact, some studies have shown that homophobic behavior may indicate an overcompensation for homosexual proclivities. And ask any pornography vendor about the demographics of his customer base.)
It is this self-loathing, I believe, that evokes most of the vitriol that conservatives are known to spout. Imagine some poor, repressed conservative man who has struggled against his own impulses in order to obey the moral code imposed on him by his church/social class/circle of friends. He despises himself for his longing to "sin." When he sees someone else who does not adhere to the moral code he has fought to obey, he feels outrage, especially if the person he sees appears to be happy. He cannot understand why the other person is not punished or reviled or made miserable. (If the poor bastard, only knew! We progressives are just as unhappy as are they!)
I've experienced this kind of resentment myself. Just living my life in the manner that I believe to be right, I have encountered people who resent me, who resent the fact that I am, at times, quite happy, that I am unaffected by their judgement. My reaction toward such people is usually contempt. But that's my own weakness.
If I were true to my own moral code, I would pity these people, would be compassionate towards them. At times, I manage it. Other times, I react with scorn. Sigh. Maybe next lifetime.