Bill Bennett seems determined to illustrate the old saw that generals are always fighting the last war. As the infantry struggles to arrest the invasion of special privileges for sodomites, now comes the order from the rear to give up the current battle and engage a “new” enemy; divorce. Speaking to the Christian Coalition in October, Mr. Bennett advised his audience to cease hectoring homosexuals and offered this rationale: “If you look in terms of the damage done to children in America you cannot compare what the homosexual movement, the gay rights movement, has done with what divorce has done to this society.”
Ignore for a moment Mr. Bennett’s curious reasoning. The truth is that the vast majority of Americans have no interest in corralling homosexuals and enforcing sodomy laws. What the pro-homosexual lobby has dishonestly dubbed “homophobia” is, in fact, a rejection of the homosexual aristocracy determined to put Heather Has Two Mommies and Daddy’s Roommate in the public schools, enforce hiring quotas for homosexuals, and further garnish American wages in pursuit of a cure for a virus whose petri dish is bad behavior. If a reluctance to put a potential pedophile in front of a pack of young Boy Scouts constitutes “homophobia,” what shall we call a reluctance to put a blind man in the cockpit of a jumbo jet?
And will quitting this fight reverse the national retreat from marriage? Well, as another old saw goes: Mr. Bennett is a day late and a dollar short. The divorce war is over, and America lost. Almost half of new marriages end in divorce; 20 percent of divorces involve marriages of over 15 years; 60 percent of marriages made today are likely to end in divorce. Yet the real proof that the war ended long ago is the terms on which Mr. Bennett wishes today to join the fight. For those of us who consider divorce a metaphysical impossibility, discussing the harmful effects of divorce on children is almost irrelevant, and even dangerous. Indeed, piling statistical data, even on the side of truth, implies that the issue merits debate. Imagine an argument against driving a hunting knife through one’s heart because a Center for Disease Control study found a “statistically significant link between the insertion of a large knife through the human heart and a variety of adverse bodily reactions.”
It is difficult to swallow Mr. Bennett’s implication that we can handle only one evil at a time: quit fighting homosexuals because now we have to fight divorce. Many Americans, I suspect, can think about more than one thing at once, and, for a man who pushes his classical education before him in a wheelbarrow, he should be able to handle two concepts at the same time. Actually, sodomy and divorce are really one concept: hatred of Christian marriage.
Accepting, however, “Bennett’s rule of political and cultural discourse” (one topic per person per day), he may have made the comment to the wrong crowd. The Christian Coalition embraces this notion of indissoluble marriage, so even if the rest of us need to devote our full attention to keeping our marriages together, they, at least, are free to keep fighting homosexual activists.
Sodomy, it seems, is only part of a growing list of vices Mr. Bennett recommends we ignore. His advice to Republicans concerning abortion? “The legal issues are settled for now. This is a longterm cultural struggle. So talk about other things.” While it sounds as if Mr. Bennett ought to reread (read?) his chapter on perseverance (“Stick to your task, though the pace seems slow / You may succeed with one more blow”), we might assume that his comment on abortion was intended to court—or at least not alienate—the pro-choice vote. But whose vote is he trying to court with his promotion of homosexual rights? Ten percent of America? Perhaps in all his research on divorce, Mr. Bennett missed the study from the University of Chicago that puts the figure substantially lower. (And why is abortion a lost cause but not divorce?)
If abandoning the defensive war against homosexual rights was a ploy to win votes, Mr. Bennett ought to reflect that he is running the risk of offending far greater numbers by criticizing divorces. Divorce is harming more children than homosexuality. It is also true that, in the race for public acceptance, divorce had something of a head start on sodomy. But homosexuality seems to be catching up, particularly at the parties of New York conservatives where, as “gaycon” Bruce Bawer observes, the atmosphere is that of a gay bar.
We might wonder how much else is explained by Mr. Bawer’s observation: David Brock’s obsessive tabloid pieces on Anita Hill and Bill Clinton’s womanizing; Republican welfare-reform packages that drive mothers into the workforce and offer no tax relief for families; the continued popularity of the New Republic in conservative “households”; and—most disturbing of all—the perverse idea that the federal government has the right to protect “minorities” from community discrimination. Should Mr. Bennett wish to distance himself from this crowd, he might reissue his book and include a chapter on chastity.