Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Latini and Natural Law

Well! I've noticed a lot of people have much to say about this guy! What does it say about us that issues of (homo)sexuality are so much more interesting than traitors and thieves?
I feel like it's unfair to judge Dante based on modern knowledge and values. Of course he thought homosexuality is a sin, he's a freaking 12th century thinker! He doesn't know all the things we know! He's not discriminating against a culture or lifestyle: in Dante's time a gay guy was a guy who preferred having sex with other men over women. Nothing more or less. I think that most guys like sex, no matter what form it comes in. Sodomy is not uncommon. Read the Kinsey reports; a lot of guys have sexual encounters with other men, and it doesn't make them homosexuals.
Today there is a whole culture of homosexuality, involving a sense of identity with a larger community. Gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgendered persons, etc. aren't a homogenous group; they are a collective of people who have been discriminated against for violating customary practices regarding a) sexuality, b) gender identification, and/or c) sexual behavior. All of these diverse people are grouped together because it's a lot easier for them to fight against discrimination. Strength in numbers, right?
This wasn't so in Dante's day. He isn't hating on people by putting Latini in hell. I think that maybe he's trying to sell his book. If everyone in your culture says such-and-such is true, and then you write a book that's already going to offend a lot of people, wouldn't you try to at least follow the rules? For instance, today it would be really hard to publish a book that said gays deserve to go to hell, because almost nobody agrees with that. As a culture, we have decided (the intellectual sector of our culture- the part that is actually involved with publishing) that homosexuality is a biological thing. Some people still disagree (fundamentalists) but they tend to be looked down upon for their backwards ideas.
Putting Latini in hell is Dante's way of showing that he's not playing favorites. He liked Latini! He just happened to be less "enlightened" than we are in these matters, and he couldn't very well leave a sin out just because his buddies were part of it. I don't understand why that's so hard to grasp. If I, as a Christian, wanted to make a faithful portrayal of hell, I couldn't escape certain things. For instance, some of my very close family members are adulterers. Not that I want to see them in hell (thank God they've repented!) but in order to have integrity as an allegorist I couldn't let them off scot-free just because I love them. Everyone is a sinner, to the Christian mind. It's whether you choose your temporary pleasure over God that lands you in hell (remember, hell is a choice, even if being gay isn't!) I'm NOT agreeing with Dante's way of dealing with homosexuals, but I think all this debate over Latini proves the point of my first blog: we as a society have no respect for tradition. All we want to talk about is how Dante is a jerk, instead of acknowledging his lasting influence. When I've written something better than the Commedia, I'll slam Dante. Until then, I'll try to see what's good about his poem.

No comments: