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Savage Love


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Just what sexual pleasure could a gay man possibly derive from another gay man inserting a fist into his rectum? So long as this act is performed by gay men, straight people will never approve of gay relationships. What is wrong with you people? --Normal Straight Male

I usually write Savage Love on Wednesday afternoons, about a week before it appears. But my heart wasn't in it when I sat down to write today, Wednesday, September 12. Sometimes what I do for a living feels pretty silly, and believe me I've never felt quite as silly about writing an advice column as I do today. The very last thing on my mind right now is sex, and honestly I didn't expect to find any new E-mail when I turned on my computer. Surely, I thought, none of my readers were thinking about their sex lives at a time like this. It didn't even occur to me that someone could be sitting at home today obsessing about other people's sex lives.

You sent your E-mail, NSM, at 10:40 AM on September 11, 2001--less than 35 minutes after the south tower of the World Trade Center collapsed and 10 minutes after the north tower collapsed. Thousands of people in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania had died or were dying horrifying deaths, and all you could think about were gay men who like to fist? What the hell is wrong with you?

Thank you for being frank about what shitheads AIDS educators can be. I'm an HIV-negative gay guy who ran an AIDS outreach program for five years in the 1990s. The discourse went like this: "Listen to gay men's problems, keep them informed, but remember, no value judgments." Community college marketing majors could do a better job of getting people to change their behavior. --Former Sap

Oh, right, AIDS educators. Last week I promised to devote one last column to Seth Watkins, the HIV-positive AIDS educator in San Francisco who blabbed to the New York Times about having unsafe sex with strangers. But somehow Seth Watkins's sex life just doesn't seem all that interesting anymore.

Really, all I can think about right now is, well, Godspell, of all things. Stephen Schwartz's 1971 musical retelling of the Gospel according to Saint Matthew was made into a film in 1973, starring Victor Garber as a hippie Christ being followed around Manhattan by 24 flower children/disciples. According to the video box, Jesus and company "form a roving acting troupe that enacts the Parables through the streets and landmarks of New York," where they perform "show-stopping dance numbers."

One of those showstopping dance numbers is performed on the top of the World Trade Center. Jesus does a little soft-shoe on the roof and sings "All for the Best," a song about suffering: "When you feel sad, or under a curse / Your life is bad, your prospects are worse / Your wife is sighing, crying / And your olive tree is dying...Your mood and your robe / Are both a deep blue / You'd bet that Job / Had nothin' on you / Don't forget that when you get to / Heaven you'll be blessed / Yes, it's all for the best."

For some reason I haven't been able to get that goddamn song out of my head since I turned on the Today show just in time to see the World Trade Center collapse.

Your last couple of columns were definitely "yawners." Most of us don't care about naughty HIV-prevention educators. What we do care about is juicy questions from sexually confused deviants and various weirdos. --Bored in Boston

I'm guessing that since you managed to be bored in Boston on the evening of Tuesday, September 11, BIB, you didn't know anyone who was flying to LA that day. Lucky you. Now back to Godspell:

The song that's stuck in my head is no comfort to me. In fact, it makes me furious. The idea of Jesus Christ dancing on top of the World Trade Center and telling us that no matter how bad our lives are (however much our wives cry, however Job-like our suffering), really, it's all for the best makes--well, it makes me wanna go kick in a stained-glass window. What happened last week was not "all for the best," and the people I saw falling from the upper floors of the World Trade Center are not now in heaven being blessed. They're just fucking dead.

"There's a real need to turn to prayer," said one of Jesus's employees on Wednesday night. Monsignor Thomas Hartman told Tom Brokaw that "there's a real need to turn to God."

Who could be against prayer at a time like this? Or God? Well, I am. Does anyone doubt for a moment that the people on those four doomed planes were praying? Or that the people hanging out of the windows at the World Trade Center were praying? After the first tower collapsed, how many people watching events unfold on their television sets started praying for the second tower not to fall? Jesus, I even slipped up and said a prayer. And what good did all that prayer do?

"If we believe absurdities," Voltaire said, "we will commit atrocities." On September 11, suicidal Islamic radicals, their heads stuffed with absurdities, committed the most appalling atrocities. And what do we do in response? We trot out some absurdities of our own: Pray to God. God listens. God cares. Does He really? If so, I'd really like to see Him get off His ass and prove it every once in a while.

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It's nice to know that whatever happens, there's some asshole in a cubicle somewhere making sure the spam keeps coming.

Listening to Monsignor Hartman promote his own brand of absurdities, "All for the Best" playing on the tape loop in my head, I remembered something from Mark Twain's unfinished essay "Letters From the Earth." After spending some time walking up and down on earth, Lucifer writes home to the other archangels:

"[Man] prays to God and thinks He listens. Isn't it a quaint idea? Fills his prayers with crude and bald and florid flatteries of Him, and thinks He sits and purrs over these extravagancies and enjoys them. He prays for help, he prays for favor, and protection, every day; and does it with a hopefulness and confidence, too, although no prayer of his has ever been answered."

Mr. Twain was on to something, I think. Even if God exists--and all evidence would seem to indicate otherwise--our crude and florid flatteries don't seem to have much of an impact on Him. They never do. So to hell with prayer. Let's get revenge. Let's catch every last bastard who had anything to do with the attacks on September 11, throw 'em in prison, and get busy rebuilding the World Trade Center. Once the towers are up, let's drag the bastards to the top by their balls, set their asses on fire, and toss them over the side. That would be all for the best, don't you think?

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