Nic, Bupkis and Nichevo

About Nothing, by Nothing, with German-flavored cleavage occasionally thrown in for local color.

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Location: Indianapolis, Indiana

You can email me at NicBupkusNichevo at aol dot com. Aren't you excited?

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Another historian weighs in on "Lavender Lincoln"...

And this one is a bit more believable than some of the rants (on both sides) on the subject:

Unfortunately, that is merely a way of saying the Gay Lincoln Theory fails any historical test. "Useful history" is always a dubious kind of scholarship. But in its attempt to be useful for gays today, The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln reaches far beyond the merely dubious. The book is a hoax and a fraud: a historical hoax, because the inaccurate parts are all shaded toward a predetermined conclusion, and a literary fraud, because significant portions of the accurate parts are plagiarized--from me, as it happens.

Tripp and I intended to be coauthors of the book, laboring together on the project from 1995 to 2000--when our partnership, already fissured by dueling manuscripts, came to a bitter end. We quarreled constantly over evidence: I said the Gay Lincoln Theory was intriguing but impossible to prove; he said it was stone-cold fact.

More advocate than historian, Tripp massaged favorable indicators (Lincoln's early puberty), buried negative ones (Lincoln's flirtations with women), and papered over holes in his story with inventions (Lincoln's law partner and biographer William Herndon never noticed the homosexuality because he was an extreme heterosexual and thus afflicted with "heterosexual bias").


I think the most valid point that Philip Nobile raises is that without the 16th President being caught physically or documentarily (Is that even a word?) in flagrante delicto, all we can do is speculate. Time and again scholars have made the point that in an era where florid declarations of affection between members of the same gender were the norm and non-sexual, it can be impossible to determine if someone truly "loved" (as we know it today) someone of his or her own gender. How do we know what was simple fraternal affection, or a deeper - so to speak - hiding in plain sight?

I know Andrew Sullivan has convinced himself that Lincoln is a Kinseyian 4, essentially gay-identified bi (he could function with women but saved his true affections and physical desires for men). I can understand the need for the American homosexual community to claim such a leading American cultural icon as "one of their own"; but I just don't think we can say 100% yea or nay if it's true. As Nobile says, the evidence is "tantalizing", but insufficient to make an irrefutable case.

Definitely will have to keep an eye out for more reviews on both sides of the debate.

Budeme videt...

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