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The example I have in mind is the attitude, prevalent in the English-speaking world from the middle of the nineteenth century to the middle of the twentieth, that sex was the root of all evil.The Victorian horror of sexual desire has been mocked so mercilessly in recent decades, and not without reason, that a lot of people these days have apparently forgotten just how seriously it was taken at the time.I hope that none of my readers are under the illusion that Clinton’s partisans were primarily motivated by love, except in the sense of Clinton’s love for power and the Democrats’ love for the privileges and payouts they could expect from four more years of control of the White House; and of course Trump and the Republicans were head over heels in love with the same things.The fact that Clinton’s marketing flacks and focus groups thought that the slogan just quoted would have an impact on the election, though, shows just how pervasive the assumption I’m discussing has become in our culture.Now of course most people these days, when confronted with the sort of things I’ve just written, are likely to respond, “Wait, are you saying that hate is good?”—as though the only alternatives available are condemning something as absolutely bad or praising it as absolutely good.
If you have any doubts concerning this, dear reader, observe the way that the same people who were sporting LOVE TRUMPS HATE bumper stickers a year ago talk about Donald Trump and his supporters today.
It was also something that all of them experienced.
That’s where the comparison begins to bite, because insisting that sexual desire was beastly, horrid, filthy, etc.
didn’t make it go away, or deprive it of its substantial role in motivating human behavior.
It just meant that people got hypocritical about it. Some insisted that in certain sharply defined contexts—for example, within the bounds of legal marriage—it wasn’t the same, no, of course not, how could you suggest such a horrid thing?
In this case as in that one, something that’s supposed to make things better doesn’t seem to be doing the trick—in fact, quite the opposite—and it’s time that we talked about that.