Dan Savage has the most appropriate surname imaginable. As a writer, he is not interested in using wit, charm and data to refute the socio-political opinions of those who do not share his views -- he savages them with vulgarity and name-calling while indulging in tiresome displays of emetic self-aggrandizement. Needless to say, he is not Dan Subtle.
Over the years, Savage has built an audience that embraces his brand of rudeness and stridency. And while he certainly deserved praise for his ’It Gets Better" Project to help bullied youth move beyond the cruelties of growing up, it is impossible to bestow commendation on his less-than-mature antics. Typical of that latter failing is this new collection of essays, which is so heavy with mean-spirited emotions that it seems as if Savage is unable to tell the difference between being provocative and being puerile.
Throughout this book, Savage gives the impression that he has never met a Republican politician, Christian leader or Catholic clergyman that is not beneath contempt. While he has every right to challenge what he perceives to be homophobic actions by those in his viewfinder, is it asking too much for Savage to refute his foes without coming across like a fourth-rate Paul Lynde imitator?
When Savage tells one-time presidential candidate Herman Cain to "suck my dick" and declares that Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council is "full of shit" and that former Pope Benedict is a "fussy old queen," he completely fails to bring any sense of dignity to the cause of LGBT rights. And when he serves up a brief play called "Jesus and the Big Asshole," he doesn’t seem to care that not every Christian is a homophobe, and that many decent Christians who are supportive of his politics do not find the notion of a scatological Jesus to be the slightest bit amusing.
Savage is so deep in his crass wallowing that he fails to recognize how a political victory was completely wrecked in the so-called Dinner Table Debate he held at his home with Brian Brown of the National Organization of Marriage -- Brown showed up at Savage’s home and was a perfectly respectable and (dare we say it?) charming guest, but he was eventually ejected when Savage’s husband Terry lost his temper at Brown and yelled, "Get the fuck out of my house!" Savage affirms his husband’s foul language and bad behavior as a victory, as if tinny insults deserve gold medals.
Savage would love to imagine himself to be a warrior for LGBT rights. Instead, he embodies one of the most egregious of the gay stereotypes -- the big mouth from the bathhouse, who cheapens the environment with crude statements badly wrapped in the guise of campy humor.
But does Savage have anything positive to say? Well, he speaks very fondly of how President Obama "announced his support" for marriage equality in 2012 -- ignoring that Obama only reluctantly changed his mind four years later when Vice President Biden careened wildly off script to voice his support of the concept. Obama actually stated that his support was strictly personal and that the ultimate decision belonged to the states, an important point that Savage forgets to mention. Savage also spends a chapter cheering about Obamacare -- and, hey, why not? After all, if you like your insurance plan you can keep...oh, uh, never mind.
Oh, yes, Rick Santorum is cited in the book -- well, did you really expect Savage to keep that obsession in storage?
"American Savage: Insights, Slights, and Fights on Faith, Sex, Love, and Politics" by Dan Savage
Plume, 320 pages