Ross Douthat, "The Way We Love Now". June 28
I TRIED, really. I watched as much as I could of this bloggingheads [note: abridged New York Times version; I couldn't bring myself to link the whole thing] "debate" between a guy who thinks all abortions are murder, and one who thinks only some are, while the rest are just icky. Will they be able to reach a compromise? Only 62 minutes and 45 seconds will tell, apparently.
Which leaves me out; I think I might've made 10% of that, but, in my defense, I did go right past the time where William Saletan actually utters the word "icky" the way a triage nurse skips a broken femur to get to a sucking chest wound.
His "opponent", Steven Waldman of Beliefnet, is the posterboy for Early Onset Monochromatic Vision Syndrome by Proxy, or, in this case, by Talking To Yourself for Thirty Years. The discussion of paying women to carry pregnancies to term includes his caveat if the money was too good some might get pregnant just to cash in; but he seems to endorse the idea of payments "if society wants to reduce the number of abortions". Which, of course, raises the question of why we should expect "society" to do something that the most ardent opponents of abortion have proven themselves unwilling to do over the past four decades.
And Waldman's prescription for compromise for his fellow Presumptive Uteri Landlords? Give up contraception! Yeah. Thanks for meeting us halfway, Steven. (Sometime after the suggestion that people making the Catholic-approved argument that contraception=murder simply, quote, "get over it" we will ask, with straight faces on both sides of the split screen, whether "pro-choicers" can accept the moral complexity of the issue.)
The damned thing is actually titled "Two Men, No Uteruses", and while we'll leave alone the use of the less-preferred plural form, the idea that this sort of mock-flippancy absolves all concerned from any responsibility for participating in White Guys Talk About Reproductive Rights, Episode 824 Million, is on display here in its full radiance. We're not sure you can actually be more arrogant that to imagine your "new ideas" (translation: new chunks of dead hossmeat, freshly whipped) hold some sort of sway over Constitutional processes just because your President has hosted a seminar. But if it's possible, advertising your White Maleness as though doing so defangs the criticism that you're the last constituency with standing is what manages it. I simply refuse to understand how this sort of thing comes about. No one in his right mind could imagine this is a search for compromise on abortion rights; it's an exercise in whether some anti-choice guy'll buy Salentan's argument that he should "agree to" first trimester abortions (or some time frame; Saletan's tapdancing made it impossible to gauge exactly when the cutoff date was). Not only is the discussion free of women, choice supporters, or moral doubt, it's also free of any compunction for the rest of us to listen. This is one of those matters, like WWI, the Crusades, or Late Night with Jimmy Fallon where everyone even remotely involved deserves censure. If anyone out there makes it all the way to the end, let me know how they solved it, won't you?
What I was trying to do (I knew it was doomed to failure) was get the taste, smell, and overwhelming urge to write about it out of my head after I ran smack dab into Douthat last night. (I thought we'd solved this "Does he publish on Monday? Or Tuesday?" business in favor of the latter, so I was innocently checking the Times last night when "Douthat: The Way We Love Now. Have modern American couples let anxieties about children, mortgages and success destroy their passion and romance?" struck me full in the face. I have no recollection of clicking through, though I know I did, and I have no idea what th' fuck he said, except that he was riffing on a couple of throwaway magazine articles, that Jon and Kate or whatever their names are made several "celebrity" appearances, and that the whole issue of "Romance" suddenly exonerates Republican philanderers (as it does for Brooks, too), even for dedicated Clinton cock-sniffers who once insisted that looking at Playboy was the moral equivalent of adultery. (That marvel of what used to be called a "think piece", back when you could say that about the profession of journalism without breaking up for the first fourteen takes, should replace Gandhi or Chuck Berry or somebody on the CD the next time NASA cons us into sending off a billion-dollars worth of space junk boldly seeking life outside the Solar System and outside the confines of the life expectancy of the human species. Any malevolent, silicon-based amphibian lifeform out there would take one listen to Ross and decide there was nothing on Earth they could possibly use.) Along the way we get divorce rates (high for the sort of toothless idiot Ross has likely never seen, but which, until recently, he imagined as a fertile field for bi-annual vote harvesting; low for the sort of self-centered elitist Rat Race contestant Ross--and Brooks--always seem to haul in as villains, somehow), out-of-wedlock childbirth, and more celebrities behaving badly, plus a ever-present hint that everyone who took part in the Cultural Revolution in the Unfortunate Sixties almost immediately regretted it. And it ends, as best I can recollect from those moments before I banged my head on the floor, with the suggestion that we might want to try hybridizing lower-class nymphomaniacs with high-achieving, sexless lawyers, accountants, and Op-Ed columnists, just to smooth things out a little.
Oh, sorry, I didn't mean "Op-Ed columnists" there; Douthat has been, one hopes happily, married for almost two years now, and this, accompanied by his highly developed moral sense and a vast knowledge of human sexuality culled from Newsweek's exhaustive coverage of the Sexual Revolution throughout his lifetime, excuses turning prime Times real estate into an Advice for the Lovelorn column. What I meant, of course, was that we need to marry off security-seeking ice queens to public moralist Republican office holders. So that Ross won't have to do any more solo tapdancing. That sorta thing can lead to leotard catalogues.