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Where to from Here?

My husband and I recognize that we owe a great debt to the LGBT generations of the past, but with social acceptance and the freedom to marry, the subculture that Fenton Johnson cherishes has become obsolete and anachronistic [“The Future of Queer,” Essay, January]. To us, it seems distasteful. We are not queer. We are not fringe. We refuse to carry the torch for other marginalized groups.

We reject the notion that LGBT people should be a special class, in need of housing and labor protections. This goes beyond equality and pushes us away from social normalization. We are not “assimilators,” as we have always been assimilated. We have never felt that we are on the fringes of society, never needed to find shelter among our own, and never felt that we’re defined by our sexual preference.

Queerness is not inherent to homosexuality but a result of the unavoidable marginal status LGBT people have endured. It is time for “queer” to go into the history books — the sooner, the better.

Alon Bergman
Rochester, N.Y.

Fenton Johnson has articulated what I have long tried and failed to: my discomfort with the gay marriage movement and my intuition that it is not the best step forward for human rights, perhaps not a positive step at all. If straight people can marry, then gay people should also have that right, but the phrase “state-sanctioned marriage” sends chills down my spine. State sanction of relationships is a violation of the freedom to associate with and love whomever one chooses, or to form families that are based on friendship and love regardless of official definitions. For instance, because we do not have legal paperwork, the state continues not to recognize my family of close friends as a real family.

Gay marriage may feel liberating for many, but the freedom to enter into restrictive institutions is not the liberation we truly need.

Mark A. Hetts
San Francisco

Fenton Johnson seems to suggest that marginalization is integral to queerness. Even as a teenager I recognize that this claim is contentious, but even so, if the price of living an authentic life is the dilution of a certain gay culture, so be it. Why a queer person or ally would be unhappy to see queer people gain further protection, acceptance, and “state-sanctioned” recognition is something I do not understand.

James Barringer

The cover line that editors affixed to Fenton Johnson’s essay — “How Gay Marriage Damaged Gay Culture” — was and is way off the mark. Johnson’s astounding manifesto is about so much more than marriage. He is extraordinarily attuned to the economic, technological, and environmental pressures on our lives and on our planet. Far from being dismissive, his vision for LGBT people is far more expansive than the changing of labels such as “queerness” in this blithering age.

John Crandell
Sacramento, Calif.


House of Cards

Despite Andrew Cockburn’s assurances in “Swap Meet” [Letter from Washington, January], the claim that proprietary trading caused the financial crisis is highly disputable. The government’s study of the crisis, conducted by the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, found no evidence that proprietary trading caused the crash. Paul Volcker himself admitted that his rule, which put restrictions on this type of trading, would not have prevented the crash alone. (The Volcker Rule also exempted US government securities from the restrictions, which suggests that the Treasury sees some value in proprietary trading.)

Cockburn is right, however, that banks should not exploit their implicit government backing to make risky investments. But if Congress really wants to deal with this problem, it would do better to reform the government guarantees that shift banks’ risks to the taxpayer rather than increasing regulation. Relying on thousands of pages of rules to manage the financial system will remain a fruitless exercise as long as the government continues to subsidize banks’ risky bets.

Daniel Press
Policy Analyst, Competitive Enterprise Institute

Volcker gave lawmakers a chance to fix the culture that too often results in lemon socialism: when traders and executives get lucky, they receive excessive compensation; when they do not, the losses are shifted to the taxpayer.

The Obama Administration made some progress in this area, but many people, including those on Capitol Hill and in the Treasury, have already forgotten about the dangers inherent in the complex activities of opaque financial firms, whose total risk exposures are measured in trillions of dollars.

Simon Johnson
Sloan School of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Pushing Boundaries

Joshua Jelly-Schapiro’s Annotation [“Walk the Line,” January] implies that the current US-Mexico border follows the original line drawn for the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. He makes no mention of the Gadsden Purchase of 1853, through which the land south of the Gila River was acquired, establishing the current border and splitting the traditional lands of the Tohono O’odham between Mexico and the United States.

The impact of this purchase was enormous, and its repercussions are still felt today. It facilitated the construction of a second transcontinental railroad, easing westward migration and creating a boon for Southern business interests, and divided a small community that’s now teeming with ICE and US Border Patrol agents.

Zoe Edgecomb
Charlottesville, Va.

Jelly-Schapiro’s history of the US-Mexico border reminds us that there is already a wall along seven hundred miles of our land boundary with Mexico. (The rest of the border is river-based.) This first wall did not succeed in sealing our southern border, and there is no reason to believe that a second wall will be any more effective.

Michael Dear
Professor Emeritus, College of Environmental Design
University of California, Berkeley

Editor’s Note
The New Books column will return to its regular schedule in the April issue.

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March 2018

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