Andrew Sullivan — again?

In a way I feel sorry for Andrew Sullivan. He appears to be a deeply conflicted man, hopelessly trapped in his own unresolvable conflicts. Everyone knows how he tried to reconcile his own Catholicism, an element that is key to understanding how his mind operates, with the Church’s outspoken stance against the second key to understanding Sullivan, homosexuality.

This became an acute crisis for Sullivan last year during the pedophiliac priests scandal, when the church took a strong stand against homosexuality, naming it, in fact, as the chief culprit, as opposed to the aberrant behaviour of a relatively small sliver of priests. (Not sure if I am expressing this clearly. IOW, Sullivan argued passionately that the behaviour of most gay priests was fine, and it was unconscionable for the Church to say that “gay priests” — as in all gay priests — were to blame for the crimes of a small group of sick pedophiles.)

I’m not sure how he finally reconciled this. I am sure, however, that it’s something he will agonize over, probably for the rest of his life. Here he had gone to Catholic school, made Catholicism a centerpiece of his very existence, and then this church he so loved basically gave him the finger. Looking for a quick fix for an incredibly messy situation, the Church found an easy scapegoat and that was that, a tidy solution.

Which brings us to today, many months later, and guess what? Sullivan has to deal with a variation of the same conflict all over again. In a short but obviously impassioned post today, he writes:

BUSH VERSUS GAYS: After the debacle of calling Rick Santorum an “inclusive man” while Santorum supports the imprisonment of gay men in relationships, we now have attorney-general John Ashcroft banning a six-year-old tradition of a gay pride day at the Justice Department. No, this isn’t the biggest deal imaginable. It’s just a clear and petty attempt to inform gay civil servants that they are second class citizens and second class employees…Certainly the administration has now done a lot to give a direct one-word message to its gay supporters: suckers.

Here we go again. Sullivan is trapped by his quixotic vision of oil and water mixing, and I remain bewildered that a man of his towering intellect could have allowed himself to fall into this trap in the first place. Just as with the Catholic Church, Sullivan has exulted in a near-suffocating love affair with The Bush Administration, at times showering it with such effusive praise as to border on parody. And then he is hurt, surprised, when Bush & Co. live up to what most realistic people know is one of its top priorities: placating the religious right, which is exactly why Ashcroft is attorney general. What Ashcroft is doing is in complete harmony with what he stands for and should come as no surprise to anyone.

What boggles my mind is that Sullivan is expressing outrage against what he should have known was inevitable. This administration is going to nominate judges and cater to groups whose values run so counter to Sullivan’s, they actually would have him discriminated against, if not outlawed altogether. And he never seems to understand that no matter how much he adores this administration, it is by its very nature Sullivan’s enemy.

To be fair to Sullivan, he has expressed strong criticism of Bush recently, most notably for the “fuzzy math” of the tax cuts. But he still seems to be trying to reconcile the irreconcilable; like a man trying to get out of a strait jacket, the more he squirms and kicks and fights, the tighter the strait jacket becomes. When will he face the plain bold-faced fact that this president, his idol, has sold him out? Sullivan did a lot for Bush, and now he’s learning what many of us knew all the time, that he is expendable, Bush doesn’t need him and holds no loyalty to him. Just like his beloved Catholic Church.

Sad, because no matter how he infuriates me, I know that Sullivan is a good man with a lot of love inside of him. How tragic that he has been directing it all these years at the very forces that would kick him out the door in a heartbeat.

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