What does “hetero-normative” mean?

I must admit, sports fans, that phrase beats my pair of jacks. I must be one of the only ones, though — after all, the Yale Daily News used it in a recent lead editorial (“Spring Fling needs neither queen nor king,” 2/24), so it must be in common use among Yale students. Nor is that the only thing about recent News issues that befuddles me. I’m also at a loss about gay marriage, the evils of George W. Bush, and a dozen other apparent orthodoxies around here. I’m confused, fuddled, flummoxed, vexed. I’m just not libero-normative, I guess.

The logicians of antiquity — damn their white male hegemonic phallocentric souls — cautioned against petitio principii, “begging the question.” It meant taking as given something that required proof by argument. On the questions of liberal orthodoxy, the begging on the pages of the News could put kids in a candy store to shame. Allow me to enumerate:

“Gay marriage.” There’s a solid argument for gay marriage. What confuses me, though, is not the argument itself, but rather things like the photo on the front page of the News on Feb. 24. In that picture, two women are shown holding signs reading “domestic partnership is a basic human right” and “hate is not a family value.” I’d sure like to know the exact legal, moral, and philosophical process by which “domestic partnership” — an arbitrary codicil to marriage law that only became an issue in the last 10 years of humanity’s five-millennia-long intellectual history — became a “basic human right.” Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Locke, and Hume are some of the guys who have had interesting things to say about human rights, and I don’t recall a chapter on cohabitee health insurance benefits in Summa Theologica or the Nicomachean Ethics. But maybe I disremember. Or maybe the placard-waving philosophers in the photo are smarter than all those dead white patriarchal et ceteras put together. Either way, question-beggars like these have some explaining to do. Please spell out, in simple words that even knuckle-dragging Neanderthals like me can understand, the argument for domestic partnership as a “basic human right.” When you’re done with that, you can start explaining the leap from “objection, mainly on consequentialist grounds, to gay marriage” (which is my position) to “hate.” I’m all ears.

“George W. Bush.” When he’s not an idiot, he’s evil. That’s the impression I get from reading the News. Maybe he’s both; I don’t know the man personally (but on the off-chance he’s reading this and inclined to offer a soon-to-be-ex Yalie a job in his next administration, let me go on record as saying I think he has the wisdom of Solomon, the good looks of Paul Newman in his prime, the integrity of St. Francis and the smoking-hot dance moves of the late-’70s John Travolta). Now, where was I? Oh yeah — stupid and evil. I swear, most News editorialists must have those programmed as macros. We went to war with Iraq because … Bush is evil. Republicans are cutting taxes because … Bush is stupid. A tornado hit a trailer park in East Dogpatch, Mississippi, because … well, you get the idea. As column-writing shortcuts go, “stupid” and “evil” are the Axis of Easy. They’re the one-stop shopping solution for every issue, despite the fact that as arguments they have the subtlety, nuance, and airtight logical rigor of a whoopee cushion. The point (lest you’ve forgotten) is that folks around here treat Iraq, the War on Terror, tax cuts, etc., as closed questions; “Bush is stupid and/or evil” is sufficient to cut off debate should anyone have the guts to even raise them as issues. These are debatable issues, gang; I’d love to argue with an open-minded liberal — assuming there are any — about any one of them (see, that was a question-begging cheap shot. Someone really should get on my case about that).

“Taxes are Good.” That seems to be the underlying assumption of lots of News editorials which advocate all kinds of federal meddling in society. When you remember that every dollar spent on some crackpot social program (be it one of the million flavors of welfare or President Bush’s beloved abstinence education) comes out of some hardworking American’s pocket, though, you begin to see that this too is a highly debatable proposition.

All I’m saying is … think about it. Thanks for reading.

Brian Donovan is a graduate student in the History Department.