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September 29, 1995 - Image 22

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The Michigan Daily, 1995-09-29

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8B - The Michigan Daily - Weo4 e4. - Thursday, October 5, 1995

Author argues homosexuals are 'Virtually Normal'

By Matthew Benz
Daily Arts Writer
The cover to "Virtually Normal:
An Argument About Homosexuality,"
is tan and blue with a disciplined touch
of cool, inviting touch of orange. The
prose that lies within in it, fashioned
by Andrew Sullivan, editor of the
"New Republic," is calm and intelli-
gent. He chooses his words wisely,
and the thoughts that they express
appear to be the collective product of
precision thinking. (English by birth,
Sullivan studied modern history and
modern languages at Oxford and later
received a doctorate in political sci-
ence from Harvard.)
In keeping with this apparent level-
headedness, Mr. Sullivan sets forth in
the Prologue the purpose of his tome.
"This is not a book about how a per-
son deals with his or her sexuality. It
is a book about how we as a society
deal with that small minority of us
which is homosexual." It is "an at-
tempt to think through the argument
on all sides as carefully and honestly
as possible; to take the unalterable
experience of all of us, heterosexual
or homosexual, and try to make some
social and political sense of it."
A professed member of this minor-
ity, Sullivan approaches homosexu-
ality from what he perceives to be
four distinct perspectives: prohibition-
ist, liberationist, conservative and lib-
eral. He follows this with a socio-
political proposal ofhis own, andcon-
cludes "Virtually Normal" with an
attempt to answer the question, "What
are homosexuals for?"
By Sullivan's reckoning, prohibi-
tion is the most widely supported of
the fourarguments againsthomosexu-
ality. He writes, "The prohibitionists
- at least those determined to be
consistent - wish to cure or punish
people who practice homosexual acts,
and to deter all the others who might
be tempted to stray into the homo-
sexual milieu." As far as they are

concerned, homosexuality is a
choice. "Just as any person can be
guided to tell the truth or to be finan-
cially prudent, so any human being
can be directed to heterosexual con-
duct."
The central premise of the
liberationist movement is that ho-
mosexuality is a "definition of a par-
ticular way of being as defined by a
particular culture." As such, it is
something that can be manipulated
I nnVirtually Normal:
Argument Ablout
Homosexuality
By Andrw Sullivan
Alfred A. Knopf, hardcover
1995
so as to serve best the societal good.
Such a view opposes Sullivan's no-
tion -the same one he uses to refute
both arguments -that homosexual-
ity is rooted in a person's deepest
sexual and emotional desires.
Thus, the question of it being an
individual's choice is essentially
ruled out: Homosexuality is too much
an integral component of one's iden-
tity. The hole that Sullivan punches
in the argument of conservatives -
who believe politics to be "an arena
in which it is necessary to affirm
certain cultural, social, and moral
values over others" - is that they
deny homosexuals, whom they con-
sider to possess a character harmful
to society, the very supports and in-
stitutions that might help to guide
them to more virtuous ways of life.
Finally, Sullivan addresses liberals
who, he says, "seek to flatten society
in order to improve it": Regardless of
individual differences, liberals move
to group people according to "their
commionv'ctimhoodandmarginality."

Yet the great variance of the emotions
involved makes their approach
"uniquely ill-suited"to homosexuality.
In every chapter - save, perhaps,
for the one dealing with liberationism
- Sullivan defines clearly the argu-
ment he wishes to address and offers
a cogent one in response. His ap-
proach is, in general, logical and me-
thodical. In the final two chapters,
however, he seems to lose his focus
and a certain amount of argumenta-
tive force in the process of tackling
broader, more sweeping issues. He
allows subjective emotionality to en-
ter into his hitherto disciplined rea-
soning. In the book's final pages, par-
ticularly, Sullivan writes ofabattered
dignity possessed by homosexuals in
the face of, and in response to, their
societal non-acceptance. He conveys
this personal fortitude in eloquent and
thoughtful terms, but the relationship
between this contemplative emotion-
ality and the rationality of the preced-
ing arguments is not entirely clear.
It would seem to be unfair. though.

to place the entire blame for this trans-
formation on the author. Rather, it
may point to a larger truth regarding
the nature of any argument that must
be fashioned to achieve Sullivan's
desired aim of achieving the accep-
tance and integration of homosexuals
into larger society. (To this end,'the
securing of civil marriage for homo-
sexuals is, as Sullivan sees it, '"the
only reform that truly matters").
Perhaps there is a thread of emotion
intrinsic to the fabric of debate sur-
rounding homosexuality's proper re-
lationship to society that cannot be
avoided. For homosexuals to find a
lasting place of peace in society, per-
haps one cannot allow discusioi to
take place only in terms of the "poli-
tics of homosexuality." The debate,
by its very nature, may be more all-
encompassing and irrational. And so,
in the end, the value of "Virtually
Normal"may lie less in Mr. Sulli'vao's
resolution of any particular issue than
in the thoughtfulness and eloquence
he brings to the debate.

Festival to showcase Indian culture, heritage
Celebration is month-long, diversity is timeless

By Elan A. Stavros
Daily Arts Writer
When people think about the coun-
try of India, they may conjure up
inaccurate images of its people and
culture. Friends of India, a Univer-
sity Indian student group, is spon-
soring a month-long Festival of In-
dia to showcase the country's ethnic
variety.
"Frankly, there are a lot of stereo-
types people have. It's a great cul-
ture and has a lot to offer," pre-med
senior Harprit Bedi said. Bedi is the
president of the Indian-American
Student Association, anundergradu-
ate group which has nearly 400 mem-
bers. Bedi said it's probably the larg-
est Indian group in the nation and
one of the largest student groups on
campus.
The first annual festival, expected
to attract visitors from all over south-
east Michigan, began Oct. 2 with an
inaugural ceremony featuring Ann
Arbor Mayor Ingrid Sheldon and Uni-
versity Vice President of Student Af-
fairs Dr. Maureen Hartford. The fes-
tival runs through Nov. 4 and in-
cludes about 20events, such as semi-
nars, concerts, films, lectures and
bazaars. Most events are free.
"The sole intention is to showcase
different Indiancultures,heritage and
lifestyles to their fellow Indians as
well as non-Indian counterparts,"
Satish Menon said, member of In-
dian Development Services in Ann

Arbor. "We hope once it's in motion
the students will be interested in do-
ing it next year."
The Friends of India consists of
several University Indian organiza-
tions: the Indian Student Associa-
tion (made up of about 120 graduate
students who were born in India), the
Hindu Student Association and the
Sikh Study Circle. Bedi said that at
least 800 University students are In-
dian.
"We (the Indian student groups)
realized that we weren't having much
impact separately so we decided we'd
have more if we came together for
this idea,"civil engineering grad stu-
dent and Friends of India coordina-
tor Karthik Obla said.
One highlight, he said, will be the
Indian Bazaar Oct. 8 on the Diag,
displaying artifacts from various
states of India, selling food, cloth-
ing, jewelry.
World-renowned violinist Dr. L.
Subramaniam will perform Oct. 15
at Rackham/Hill Auditorium.
Subramaniam has played with the
Philharmonic Orchestra and per-
formed in various films, including
"Little Buddha."
"There are alot of great musicians
in and out ofthe Indian community,"
Bedi said
He referred to the Mystery of India
Cultural Show on Nov. 4 in Hill Audi-
torium as "the grand finale" of the
festival. In its seventh year, the show

will present three and a half hours of different,"Obla said. The month-ing
song, dance, skits and fashion, all pro- festival is a modern celebration of
duced by some 300 students. "It's been India's timeless diversity.
a popular program in the past, selling "India will be presented as a Multi-
out at the Michigan Theater in four faceted cultural experience giving
hours last year," said Bedi. non-Indians a flavor of the diverSty
"There is extreme diversity in In- within India," Menon explained 'a
dia, a country of 25 states, each very country with roots back 2000 years."

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Traditional Indian dance being perfonned at 1994's Festival of India. The month
long festival is an anual event which showcases Indian culture and diversity.
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