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South Park and sympathy for social conservatives

I rather disagree with some of Rick Santorum’s likely public policy conclusions, but I will defend him to a significant extent. Let’s go back to some of the senator’s recent remarks that Brian Flemming was quoting in response to an earlier post:

“If you say, there is no deviant as long as it’s private, as long as it’s consensual, then don’t be surprised what you get. You’re going to get a lot of things that you’re sending signals that as long as you do it privately and consensually, we don’t really care what you do. And that leads to a culture that is not one that is nurturing and necessarily healthy. I would make the argument in areas where you have that as an accepted lifestyle, don’t be surprised that you get more of it.”

This statement is absolutely reasonable. If you create a social climate in which all choices are treated equally, you would expect to find many more people than before choosing irresponsible, self-indulgent behavior. This also jibes with an observation of facts on the ground. Hey, being a whore getting a couple of abortions a year is just another equally valid life choice to being a responsible wife and mother. Expect to see more of it.

Being a promiscuous homosexual hanging out in bath houses is arguably NOT morally equivalent to being a faithful husband and father. Some choices are much better for the individual and for society.

I don’t particularly fault someone simply for being gay. For starters, there is a world of difference between the gay gentleman of Sting’s “Englishman in New York” and some jackass “Act Up” fag. As Chef said in “The Death Camp of Tolerance” speaking of South Park’s “sick queer” teacher who had just shoved a gerbil up his teaching assistant’s ass in front of the students, “There’s a big difference between being gay and being Mr. Garrison.”

I would also just as much, probably more, fault irresponsible heterosexual behavior. Some guys think that humping everything, and then leaving it for the moms and the social workers to sort out is the cool thing to do. They’re jackasses. This does more social harm than anything perpetrated by homosexuals, but we’re not going to be outlawing non-marital sex anytime soon.

Likewise, I recognize that a lot of private consensual choices to smoke crack rocks or drink lots of booze are bad choices.

Nonetheless, I think those are choices for the individuals to make for themselves. Rick Santorum has legitimate concerns, but I don’t wish to grant him or any politician the right to decide which exactly of my private behaviors are socially destructive. None of their business. Even granting that he has good intentions, I do not trust his ability to distinguish between truly socially deleterious behaviors versus things that he just personally doesn’t like. Nor do I wish to grant him the powers that would be needed to enforce these distinctions.

Still, he has a perfectly legitimate point of concern. It may not be the best thing for society to define deviancy down, equating all choices as equal. It concerns me, too.

I don’t have a full answer for the perfectly reasonable concerns of social conservatives such as Mr. Santorum. There really isn’t one. We’re dealing with the fallibility of human nature.

My best response comes from South Park, and the aforementioned “Death Camp of Tolerance” episode (perhaps their best ever). They made a big point of distinguishing between “tolerance” vs “acceptance.” In their typically practical analysis, they understand that tolerance means that we have to “put up with” lots of behavior that we find inappropriate. That does not mean that we have to accept all things equally, or pretend to believe in cheap egalitarian moral equivalence.

It may not be as simple as instituting a police state, but we just have to rely mostly on non-coercive social persuasion to gently point our brethren in the right direction. Trying to set a good example and positively talking your own family and friends into constructive choices have to be the main ways things are done in a free society.

Secondarily, the stick of ostracism is a fair fallback position in egregious cases. You may have a right to destroy yourself with booze, but I have the equal right to dissociate from you. Stay away from me with your nonsense. I’m not having any of it. At some point, you’re going to be on your own. You can just go off in the gutter and die. They’re only going to be improving the gene pool by getting out of it.

About Gadfly

  • Brian Flemming


    You wrote.

      You may have a right to destroy yourself with booze, but I have the equal right to dissociate from you. Stay away from me with your nonsense. I’m not having any of it. At some point, you’re going to be on your own. You can just go off in the gutter and die. They’re only going to be improving the gene pool by getting out of it.

    Ah, if only the people around George W. Bush when he was 40 years old and destroying his life with booze were like you. Then maybe he would have gone into a gutter and died instead of becoming president (although it would have been too late to improve the gene pool, as he had already spawned). Unfortunately, he was surrounded by people who cared about him (and saw an attractively vulnerable soul to win for Christ), and they helped him recover from his addiction.

    Heartlessness is never around when you really need it.

  • Al Barger

    Again Brian with the constant and totally unwarranted hatefulness towards the president. Jebus.

    Again, the willingness to let someone lie down in the bed they have made seems to vex you.

    Now, from what I wrote above, obviously abandoning someone to their chosen fate is presented as a last resort, not a desirable first response. It is better to drop a loser from your life than to have them take you down too.

    Liberals looking for something to be hateful about make a big deal of Dubya’s drinking, but I don’t see where it was ever anything severe. The biggest public thing was ONE very marginal DUI. Please. If that’s the worst thing he did, we’ve got the cleanest living president ever.

    It’s not that I’m heartless, it’s just that my resources are limited. Society in general and I in particular have only so many resources of money and time to go around. I would prefer to send MY money to help orphans in Rwanda rather than subisidize drug rehab for some fool Gore voter from Florida. Ha!

    Class, your assignment: download and listen to Billy Joe Shaver explain about “People and Their Problems.”

  • Jim Walter

    I’ve got to hand it to you. You make it seem as though South Park is the voice of “Tolerant” Gen X’ers. South Park? A true read into the hearts and minds of a Generation? Jeez.
    I’m kind of surprised that you didn’t refer to Bush’s “non-election” but perhaps you may find it in one of the Mr. Hankie episodes.

  • Al Barger

    No, I don’t think Parker and Stone would even want to be described as voices of a generation. They have a strongly libertarian individualism in their outlook, and wouldn’t want to be grabbing the mantle of representing some or other group.

    Other than that, yeah, they are a couple of the top comic geniuses of a generation, with lots of great political satire in particular.

  • Brian Flemming


    I don’t really wish death upon GWB, even hypothetically. I was only mocking your proud heartlessness.

    And if you think there is no evidence that GWB has a history of serious substance abuse problems in his “youth” (his description of that time until he was 40 years old), it’s only because you don’t want to see it.

    Bush’s substance abuse problems don’t mean he’s not capable of being a good President. But his alcoholism, at the least, is certainly a fact. And it is far more relevant to evaluating his character and figuring out why he is the way he is than, say, his sex life.

    You wrote:

      I would prefer to send MY money to help orphans in Rwanda rather than subisidize drug rehab for some fool Gore voter from Florida. Ha!

    Jeb Bush’s daughter voted for Gore?

    I agree, btw, that Parker and Stone are comic geniuses. It stuns me, though, that a person who writes about killing Iraqis as “rat killing” and speaks offhandedly about cleaning up the gene pool finds them even tolerable.

  • Al Barger

    Why Brian, the boys of South Park and me are very much on the same wavelength. If anything, I am a little suspicious that I will overvalue their art because I agree so much with their political views.

    Are you somehow under the mistaken impression that they are good Hollywood socialist liberals? They are the absolute bane of such people, the toughest rebukers of cheap liberal PC crap going. Just that they cuss and tell some dirty jokes doesn’t mean that they’re liberals.

    Note also that they made a good patriotic tribute with the Loony Tunes inspired episode “Osama Bin Laden Has Farty Pants” that ends with the boys literally waving flags and saying “Go team.” And no it clearly was not intended sarcastically.

    I’m not accusing you of wishing death on Dubya. I think you need him here to kick around. It’s a bit like when Sideshow Bob couldn’t bring himself to kill Bart Simpson when he finally got the chance.

    As to Dubya’s substance abuse, I haven’t seen much to suggest that his behavior was all that bad. I will grant that this may be simply because I haven’t looked closely. However, that’s not because I’m avoiding seeing it. It’s that I simply don’t much care. I judge him based on his actions as president, not on some investigative report about how much he was drinking 10 or 20 years ago.

    Re: “rat killing” You know that I was careful in distinguishing between Iraqi “rats” versus civilians, and the difficulty of how to whack the rats without hitting innocent people. I clearly was not referring to just killing Iraqis, but specifically the regime in power. Thus, please note that it was killing Baathists that I described as “rat killing” and not Iraqis generally.

    Finally, good one on the Jeb’s daughter thing.

  • Brian Flemming

    “Blame Canada!”

    “Blame France!