Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Satire, and my scanted out ear

A full page ad trying to make the case for homophobia goes all out crazy. America Forever took out an ad in The Salt Lake Tribune, offering up this warning:

The Homosexual Declaration of War, read in the US House of Representatives on July 27 1987, read, "we will sodomize your children. All churches who condemn us will be closed. The family unit eliminated. Any man contaminated with heterosexual lust, wil be automatically barred from any position of influence."

(bold in original)

According to this page, where you can read Michael Swift's satirical manifesto, Gay Community News ran the original piece in February 1987. Other than the anti-gay organization's website, I haven't been able to find much evidence that this was read into the congressional record by William Dannemeyer of California (nor have I really looked). The story has been used as proof that this is a real agenda.

Point 1
Maybe the ad writer realized that Swift's threat was a satirical wail. Maybe not. The group's web page provides the opening remark
This essay is an outré, madness, a tragic, cruel fantasy, an eruption of inner rage, on how the oppressed desperately dream of being the oppressor.

But still we're left unsure of whether the choice to present it as a serious agenda is dishonest or ignorant. Either way it's paranoid.

Point 2
Gail Turpin, in a letter to the Tribune makes a point of explaining the intention of the declaration, and a commenter responds:

I'm among those who did research this hateful ad further, Gail. The website address in the ad, as you note, takes one only so far as the rightwing California congressman's 1987 submission of it into the Congressional Record, which leaves you wondering who "Michael Swift" was, and where the so-called "Declaration" had been originally published. Thank you for the edification!

Edification? Edification does of course allow the sense of moral and intellectual betterment. So why doesn't that sense fit here for me? As I'm used to thinking of it, edification refers to the improvement in character that comes from instruction and guidance. This could be from the view of instruction as moral guidance that leads to moral growth. It could also be from the view that general learning makes a person better.

It's a subtle difference. And to my ear the above use doesn't really capture either of them. This is about a specific fact. A bit of information relevant to the topic, but not really the type of information that adds anything to character or contributes to moral stature. That's one possible reason the use sounds odd to me. Granted, the issue being discussed has very obvious relevance to questions of citizenship and civility.

Another possibility is that I'm hearing is the intrusive effect of a possible blend. I would expect to hear a phrase like thanks for the clarification or …elucidation or …illumination or even …education. So maybe I'm just stuck on the thought that this could be a blend of education and clarification. That possibility might be keeping me from hearing and connecting to a perfectly fine use of edification.

So I'm not fully trusting my judgement on this one.


  1. A lot of people use edification like this: Thanks for the edification = thanks for the information/instruction.

    They're not quite the same for me, but then I always scent sarcasm when I see the word, so I have different issues.

  2. i think that's part of what i'm hearing. used sarcastically it offers an inflated view of the information -- as if a such a simple and unimportant fact could make one a better person.

    so the sincerity sounds infelicitous given the simplicity of the information given. not that the direction is unimportant-but it's so direct and factual that edification sounds like an overstatement.


Thanks for reaching out.

You can also contact me at wishydig[at]gmail[d0t]com.