Uma tática com-não, uma característica essencial do conservadorismo é que ele tenta apresentar suas posições como a extensão de posições que são seguidas pela humanidade desde que os Australopitecos usavam fraldas, portanto "naturais." Deixando de lado o fato de que "natural" não é lá muito desejável (eu, pelo menos, não tenho nenhuma grande vontade de pegar o maxilar de um burro e sair atrás de bichos pra matar), a tática é surpreendentemente eficaz - a ninguém lhes ocorre que a história existe, ou então a vontade de que o ser humano seja de essência una é muito forte mesmo na sociedade contemporânea. Pois bem, das grandes bandeiras reaças de hoje,
- O Estado interventor forte era ponto pacífico através do espectro político durante a "idade de ouro" do capitalismo global.
- O aborto, ao longo da história da Igreja, teve várias regras diferentes, da mais liberal, de São Tomás de Aquino, que o permitia até o 6º mês, até a mais restrita, do papa Benedito XIV, que o considerava assassinato (apesar da retórica, esta NÃO é a posição dos conservadores atuais).
- A menor participação popular no processo democrático de eras passadas era, no auge da primeira fase do liberalismo burguês, combinada com uma limitação muito maior do poder de polícia dos Estados. Em muitos países, era expressamente permitida a livre circulação de estrangeiros sem a necessidade de passaporte.
- A noção de raça, longe de ser uma "reação natural a quem é diferente," foi construída ao longo dos últimos cinco séculos. Essa é usada de maneira particularmente imbecil no Brasil, onde a referência são os EUA, e as pessoas não se dão conta de que, à sua volta, as coisas acontecem de modo diferente do que diz a referência.
- E até o Casamento Gay não é novidade :
In 1913, Turkish workmen restoring the Mosque of the Arabs in Istanbul uncovered the floor of a Dominican church. Among the gravestones was a particularly striking one in grey-white marble with pink and blue veins. Two helmets with slits for eyes faced each other, like a pair of beaky dolphins about, clangingly, to kiss: ‘Tomb Slab of an English Couple’, the label in Istanbul’s Archaeological Museum says.
The couple were illustrious knights of the royal chamber of Richard II, Sir William Neville and Sir John Clanvowe, ‘the Castor and Pollux of the Lollard movement’, as the medieval historian Bruce McFarlane called them. Neville died just four days after Clanvowe, the inscription records, in October 1391. The Westminster Chronicle fills in the details. Following the death of Clanvowe, ‘for whom his love was no less than for himself’, Neville starved himself to death. Beneath the helmets their shields lean on each other, indicating the position of the bodies beneath. Their coats-of-arms are identical, half-Neville, half-Clanvowe, a blend called ‘impalement’, used to show the arms of a married couple, with Neville’s saltire on the husband’s half, Clanvowe’s bearing on that of the wife. Well, not quite. There are two impaled shields rather than the usual one, indicating a mutual exchange of arms, a double dubbing, so to speak.
In 1626 John Gostlin, Master of Gonville and Caius College in Cambridge, dictated his will. He was to be buried alongside a former master of the college, Thomas Legge, who had died twenty years earlier. Gostlin had commissioned a memorial to his friend which you can see on the south wall of the college chapel. Legge kneels in prayer. Beneath him hands clutch at a blazing heart. ‘Love joined them while they lived. May the earth join them in their burial. Gostlin’s heart belongs still, Legge, to you.’ The college annalist noted that Gostlin had lived with Legge coniunctissime, ‘in most conjoined fashion’.
With its unprovocative title, its brass-rubbings and its frequent dippings into the nitty-gritty of Christian rites, Alan Bray’s last book, The Friend, might not seem terribly exciting at first glance. And yet it is written in part as a defence of John Boswell’s Marriage of Likeness: Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe, which came out a decade ago, and in part as sequel to his own Homosexuality in Renaissance England, which came out a decade before that. Both were considered exciting events at the time.
Boswell’s book, which I reviewed in the LRB (18 February 1996), centred on the liturgy of ‘brother-making’ or adelphopoiesis (‘bilateral – same-sex – sibling-making’) described in handbooks of Eastern Orthodox rites, which Boswell compared to heterosexual marriage ceremonies. It was headline-grabbing and old-fashioned looking, making much of primary documents ‘discovered’ in the archives, in proper Rankean manner. Reviewers, myself included, generally gave it a fairly hard time, and its central claim – that these same-sex unions sanctioned by the Church were analogous to heterosexual marriage rituals – had few takers among churchmen, historians or students of sexuality. Bray’s much shorter book had focused on the claim that ‘the sodomite’ was such a grotesque figure in Renaissance discourse that many men were quite surprised to discover it was a term that might apply to them for the kind of bum-fun they got up to with their bedmates on chilly winter nights. Full of subtlety and much admired, it has attained the status of a modern classic.
There is irony, therefore, in the late, cool Alan Bray riding, not without risk to his own reputation, to defend the late, uncool John Boswell. Or perhaps we had better view it as a gift, an expenditure of the symbolic capital Bray had accrued to breathe new life into a project considered dead in the water, a lavishing of his subtlety on a topic which had seemed in desperate need of some.
Which is a way of saying that I have changed my mind about Boswell’s thesis, and that it is Bray’s subtlety that converted me. Boswell, it’s beginning to seem, was on the right track; his overly gay interpretation of same-sex unions is less misleading than the loveless ‘anti-gay’ alternatives offered by his critics. For a very long period, formal amatory unions, conjugal, elective and indissoluble, between two members of the same sex were made in Europe, publicly recognised and consecrated in churches through Christian ritual.