The soul has greater need of the ideal than the real for it is by the real that we exist, it is by the ideal that we live

Monday, November 28, 2011

The things evil men do


J. Edgar Hoover, ‘Sex Deviates’ and My Godfather

Charles Francis
In 1956, the tabloid magazine Confidential published a lurid exposé on Arthur H. Vandenberg Jr., the writer's godfather.

JUST before Christmas in 1952, J. Edgar Hoover, the director of the F.B.I., let President Dwight D. Eisenhower know that the man Eisenhower had appointed as secretary to the president, his friend and chief of staff, my godfather, Arthur H. Vandenberg Jr., was a homosexual.
It was part of a pattern of persecution that would destroy thousands of lives and careers. Earlier that year, the American Psychiatric Association’s manual had classified homosexuality as a kind of madness, and Republican senators had charged that homosexuality in the Truman administration was a national security threat. Hoover — the subject of Clint Eastwood’s new film — was determined to stave off such threats.
A public Puritan with a compulsively bureaucratic and controlling personality, he built an intricate system of files on people of influence — personal and confidential, official and unofficial, and all full of dirt. The most damning were the voluminous “Sex Deviate” files on famous actors, syndicated columnists, senators, governors, business moguls and princes of the Roman Catholic Church, just to name a few. There was one on Adlai E. Stevenson, the Democratic nominee for president, because some college basketball players being investigated by the F.B.I. for game-fixing claimed that Stevenson, one of “the two best-known homosexuals in the state,” was nicknamed “Adeline.” There was even a file on Eisenhower himself, recording rumors of an affair with Kay Summersby, his driver in Britain during the war.
One was devoted to my godfather because, while he had years of experience in politics and foreign affairs and working for his father, Arthur H. Vandenberg Sr. — a Republican senator from Michigan with a mistress and a file of his own — he also drank, and he wasn’t discreet. Apparently, the file held reports of some incidents with two enlisted men at Camp Lee, Va., in 1942, before he served with and became friends with my father. Worse, at the time Eisenhower appointed him to the White House, he was sharing an apartment in Washington with another man. This was not uncommon. But the other man had been arrested on some morals charge. That was enough for Ike, whom Hoover later described, to an aide to Richard M. Nixon, as “astounded.”
Arthur wasn’t a fighter. He folded. He checked into a hospital, complaining of stomach problems, and resigned the appointment for “health reasons” three months after Eisenhower’s inauguration. He was a pale, fleshy, thin-haired man — sort of like Hoover, actually. And he was a bachelor. Like Hoover. He had never had a girlfriend, or seriously dated women. Like Hoover, Arthur seemed to spend all his free time with men. Hoover, after all, had lived with his mother until she died in 1938, and by then, he was practically inseparable from the natty, lean, quiet Clyde Tolson, whom he had hired in 1928 and promoted meteorically, making him associate director, the No. 2 position in the F.B.I., in 1947.
J. Edgar and Clyde had separate offices and separate houses, but they had lunch together, dinner together, rode to work in Hoover’s car together, attended private dinners and receptions in Washington together, went to the horse races together, and vacationed in the same hotel suites together. By Hoover’s standards, if they hadn’t been the director and associate director of the F.B.I., they would have been in its Sex Deviate files together, because there sure was a lot of talk about them. Hoover sent agents to squash the talk and threaten the talkers wherever it occurred.
But at least they had each other. Eastwood’s film imagines a violent kiss between them, but my guess, as someone who loves men, is that they were never lovers. They weren’t built for it. They were too prim, too rigid, too Victorian. The only way Hoover could be comfortable in such a public relationship, I think, was because he knew it wasn’t sexual in private, whether he desired it to be or not. Hoover was too aware of the power of a secret. How could he permit anyone — even Clyde — to have something on him?
As far as I know, Arthur Jr. never had a full relationship, either. What he had was an F.B.I. file. He left Washington, moved to Coconut Grove, Fla., bought a house, drove a convertible, made extensive foreign policy visits to the Middle and Far East and Asia, and became a popular lecturer on American foreign policy at the University of Miami.

And Eisenhower had stayed in touch, including Arthur at a White House stag dinner, having him in again to talk about his conversations with foreign leaders and suggesting to Secretary of State John Foster Dulles that they ought to find a place for him. Arthur seemed on the verge of resurrection. That ended in late 1956, when Confidential, a smut and scandal tabloid probably fed by the F.B.I., published a lurid exposé about him.
Arthur resigned from the university, and disconnected his phone. The couple of times my parents saw him in that period, he seemed unfocused, drinking too much, and restless to be out of their company. In 1964, when President Lyndon B. Johnson’s close friend and aide, Walter Jenkins, was arrested for performing oral sex in a men’s room, L.B.J. reminded reporters that the Republican, Eisenhower, had had a problem, too, and his name was Arthur Vandenberg.
It must have seemed as if it would never end. But then, on Jan. 18, 1968, Arthur died at the age of 60. My father was then editor of The Tampa Tribune, and friends at The Miami Herald told him that Arthur had killed himself. But there was no such public report, and when, years later, I asked an investigative reporter friend of mine in Miami to look for the coroner’s report or death certificate, he could find nothing.
I had a feeling growing up — and later, as I realized I was gay, and came to terms with it in my 40s — that something must have happened to my godfather. He had disappeared from my childhood. The only memory I have is of him driving away, in a convertible. I was just 8 when Hoover outed him. I didn’t know what had broken the relationship. It wasn’t until the early ’90s, when I asked if my parents thought he had been gay, that they told me of his death, and of one night, in a Spanish restaurant in Tampa, when they were shocked to see Arthur emerge from behind the curtain of a private dining nook with a tipsy young airman. In all those years, they had never spoken of it, even to each other.
Two weeks after Arthur resigned in 1953, Eisenhower issued Executive Order 10450, which mandated the firing of any federal employees guilty of “sexual perversion.” But apparently, he felt badly about Arthur. The Kameny Papers Project, an archival project named for Franklin E. Kameny, a major gay rights leader who died in October, has found a series of personal notes and letters from Ike and Mamie to Arthur, regretting that he wasn’t with them. “I feel very distressed about your health,” the president wrote in one. “I feel in some respects guilty.”
When Hoover died in May 1972, his personal secretary shredded a mass of his private files. In December 1973, the board of the American Psychiatric Association voted to rescind its 1952 decision to classify homosexuality as insanity.
They had been wrong, the directors of the association said. It had been a mistake.

she wins!...sort of

In the uproar over a Prairie Village teenager's tweet about Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback during a school trip, it is the governor who is apologizing.
“My staff over-reacted to this tweet, and for that, I apologize. Freedom of speech is among our most treasured freedoms,” said a statement from Brownback's office.

Emma Sullivan was in Topeka last week as part of a Kansas Youth in Government program when she posted an insult about Brownback on her Twitter page. Someone in the governor's office flagged the tweet and reported it to event organizers.Though she initially said her principal ordered her to apologize in writing, Sullivan said on Monday that it was more of a strong recommendation that she do so."They thought I should write the letter," she said.Sullivan said she would not apologize."They shouldn't have been Gov. Brownback's priority to see who is tweeting about him and make it a priority -- to find me and let the principal know what I was tweeting," Sullivan said. Brownback Apologizes In Teen Tweet Furor Sullivan, who is a senior at Shawnee Mission East High School, said she really wrote the comment as a joke and never actually said it."I don't think that I did anything wrong. I just voiced my opinion," Sullivan said.She said the joke was really intended for the other people along on the trip."It wasn't like I was trying to make everyone believe I did some heroic thing," she said. "It was just supposed to be (directed) at my friend Ryan."

KMBC's Marcus Moore reported that Sullivan had just over 60 followers on her Twitter account Monday. Now she has thousands."It's shocking to see how many people stood behind me for this," Sullivan said.Moore reported that the whole experience has left its mark."I think you should still watch what you say, especially if you're in my boat, you know? Looking for colleges or trying to get a job. I think if you have an opinion and you want to say it, that's more power to you," Sullivan said.Sullivan said she has been getting requests for her tweet to be put on T-shirts and bumper stickers. She's even been invited to speak at a rally about freedom of speech.The school district released the following statement late Monday morning:"District officials have reviewed recent events surrounding the reported tweet by Shawnee Mission East High School student Emma Sullivan. The district acknowledges a student's right to freedom of speech and expression is constitutionally protected."The district has not censored Miss Sullivan nor infringed upon her freedom of speech. She is not required to write a letter of apology to the governor. Whether and to whom any apologies are issued will be left to the individuals involved."The issue has resulted in many teachable moments concerning the use of social media. The district does not intend to take any further action on this matter."Sullivan said she hopes that is the case."I'm trusting them that nothing is going to happen. That they're going to take care of me and the situation," she said. "I'm just hoping all this works out at this point."

and so it goes.

Sam Brownback is a crybaby

Emma Sullivan is my idol!

Emma Sullivan doesn't tweet often. Most of her recent twitter posts refer to the new Twilight movie. But one tweet, posted Monday, got her called into the principal's office, with a request for a letter of apology to the Governor.
"He (the principal) started off with saying that he had to do a bunch of damage control. And that I needed to do damage control and that I needed to fix this," said Sullivan.
She made the tweet while on a field trip to the Kansas state capital. Governor Sam Brownback was addressing the group and she voiced her opinion on the social media site.
"I tweeted: Just made mean comments to gov Brownback and told him he sucked, in person," said Sullivan.
One issue she now has is how the district found out. The school was informed by an email sent by a Brownback staffer who forwarded her remark to a district official.
"I think it was a cowardly move for him to go after her," said Julie Sullivan, Emma's mother.
The district spokeswoman said she wasn't aware of any particulars but said, generally that "Students on school-sponsored field trips are representing the school. Students may express their personal beliefs, views, and opinions, as long as they do so appropriately and in accordance with school policies."
"I didn't say anything that I couldn't say at school. I'm pretty sure I didn't cuss," said Sullivan.
As for the language she did use, she and her mom said it's perfectly acceptable for the medium.
"This is the lingo for this generation. And it's not entertaining if she said, ‘well my political views differ' and went on to explain in a more intellectual form," said Julie.
Sullivan said she hasn't written the letter yet and hasn't decided whether she will.
KCTV5's Betsy Webster contacted Brownback's press people by cell phone and email and did not hear back, though it is worth noting that the office was closed Wednesday for the Thanksgiving holiday.

and then...
A Kansas teenager who wrote a disparaging tweet about Gov. Sam Brownback is rejecting her high school principal's demand that she apologize.
Emma Sullivan told The Associated Press on Sunday that she's not sorry and an apology letter wouldn't be sincere.
The Shawnee Mission East senior was in Topeka last week when she sent a tweet from the back of a crowd of students listening to Brownback. It read: "Just made mean comments at gov. brownback and told him he sucked, in person."
She actually made no such comment. But Brownback's office saw her post, and she was called into the principal's office. Her apology is due Monday.
Sullivan has received a wave of support, with many saying she shouldn't have been targeted. Her Twitter account now boasts 3,000 followers.

Out of the mouths of babes.

And the Principal of Shawnee Mission East should be ashamed of him or herself.

And so it goes.