Anthony Esolen


The U.S. Supreme Royal Court decrees: 2+2=5

We must look at what is real.
Wed Jul 1, 2015 - 4:10 pm EST
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The Supreme Court Royal of the United States, employing its high priestly power to decide the most profound questions of human existence, has recently decreed that two and two are five, that a man has the physical capacity to perform the conjugal act with another man, and that anyone who believes otherwise is merely and offensively irrational.

Those "irrational" madmen and cads would include almost everyone who has ever walked the earth, liberals as well as conservatives. There is a simple explanation for that practical unanimity. It is not that men agree about everything. It is not that they are consistently good reasoners. It is not that they share the same religious faith. It is that the fact of the matter is right in front of their noses in all its gaudy bloom, and you have to think yourself into pretzels of unreality in order to miss it or deny it.  

“That don't go there,” said the farmer.

Here we have to return to reality. “The growth of a world in which men can live as men,” writes Frank Sheed in Society and Sanity, “has been the growth of reason's domination over the instincts – all the instincts, including the instinct of sex. There is no special privilege exempting sex alone from the control of reason. That it is more exciting than the others does not make it less in need of control but more.”  

Perhaps we can see the principle more clearly if we change the subject. Imagine a world of unfettered rapacity, in which the instinct to get and keep were not under the control of reason. Imagine a world of free-swinging bloodlust, in which the craving for glory and the exhilaration of war were not under the control of reason. Imagine a world of unchecked ambition. Imagine a world wherein the fear of death so dominates the minds of men, they will give up every freedom in order to keep off the dreaded day as long as possible. If you asked people who lived in these worlds to justify themselves, they would certainly come up with arguments, for men are glib and voluble, especially when they need to excuse what is wrong. They would have “reasons,” but not reason. In every case, they would be failing to take account of reality. For reason is the mind's adjustment of itself to what is real. It is not the mind's distortion of what is real in order to suit the passions. The thief can call himself transproprietary – he is still a thief. The invader can call himself translimitary – he is still an invader. A skunk by any other name / Will be malodorous all the same.

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So we must look at what is real. Now, one of the current excuses for a certain predilection for abusing the sexual powers is that it is a natural and incidental variation, like being left-handed.

Let's think about that for a moment. As it happens, I am a lefty. What does that mean?

In ordinary things, it means nothing. Nature has endowed human beings with a marked asymmetry when it comes to work with the hands. Most people are more agile with one hand than the other. They throw or write or handle delicate instruments with the same hand, usually the right hand, but in about a tenth of people it is the left. But the left-hander uses his left hand exactly as the right-hander uses his right hand. The left-hander is left-handed in the very same way that the right-hander is right-handed. He does not walk on his left hand, nor does the right-hander walk on his right hand. He does not see with his left hand, nor does the right-hander see with his right hand. He has no desire to mangle his left hand, nor does the right-hander want to mangle his right hand.  

There are perhaps a few interesting differences, noticeable across the populations of left-handers and right-handers. The lefties may be more ambidextrous, perhaps in part because they have to use tools that right-handers have crafted for themselves: screwdrivers, scissors, the pull-chains on lawn mowers, circular saws, and gear shifts. I myself use a knife with my right hand, and punt with my right leg. There are neurological reasons why lefties are more prone to asthma, deficiencies in the immune system, and speech impediments. Lefties are also much more likely to be geniuses. But the fact is that a left-hander's left hand is the same as a right-hander's right hand. They are hands, not legs, livers, spleens, ears, or intestines.

When a male says, “My desire to couple with another male is just like another man's desire to couple with a woman,” that cannot possibly be true. First there is the reality of his body. His genitals are designed for reproduction. It is not pleasure-fluid that he ejaculates, but the seed of new human life. It does not go in the rectum, the troublesome terminus of the body's sewage system. If you try to force it in there, you will cause the body quite a few problems, just as if you insist on driving your truck in reverse gear at high speed, you will end up with a ruined transmission. That is not how the truck is designed to be driven. It is not where the male organ is designed to go, and we can call to witness the wide range of diseases, some of them virtually nonexistent otherwise, to which the abusers of the organs in question are prone.

So the gay man is not using his body as the ordinary man uses his, nor as the ordinary woman uses hers. That is plain physiological fact. He is not analogous to a left-hander writing a letter, but to someone with a fetish for using his hand in a way for which hands are not designed; chewing on his hand, thrusting his fingers into his fundament, sticking his fingers down his throat, or banging his knuckles with a hammer. If he said to us, “But it gives me pleasure to do these things,” we would shrug and say that we expected as much, but that it did not alter the nature of the case. Hands are hands, not sandwiches or suppositories or anvils.

At this point he may say, “But we do all kinds of things that transcend the capacities of the body. We ride in cars, don't we? The human body was not made for such speed. What I am doing is like that.”

Again we return to reality. The human body is certainly made for locomotion. That is why we have legs. The inventive human mind has come up with ways to enhance the locomotion, to enhance the power of the legs. So we ride a horse or a cart or a train, or we fly in an airplane. These are tools that are in accord with reason and reality. They elevate the powers inherent in man. They do not pervert them. There are drugs that assist the heart in pumping the blood through the body. There are prostheses that partially replace the function of a lost limb. Writing makes it possible for us to “speak” to people far away from our voices in place and time.  

But it would not be an enhancement of the power of locomotion to bind up a girl's feet so that she could only walk slowly and with pain. It is not an extension of the power of speech to pierce the tongue with nails. It does not heal the body to amputate a healthy arm. We do not see more clearly when we bathe our eyes in hydrochloric acid.  

“I grant that the use of the body is drastically different from the norm,” he will say. “But my desire is just like the normal man's desire.” That is not true either.

More to follow.

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