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Response to eppur_se_muova (Original post)

Tue Aug 18, 2020, 02:25 PM

2. A woman I knew a long time ago--

she's been dead these past 20 years or more--loved Tchaikovsky's music.

Then one day somebody said he was gay.

She immediately found that his music was vile and reprehensible. Refused to listen to it. When somebody else played something he wrote at her church, she pitched a fit and complained to the pastor and then, when the pastor refused to ban Tchaikovsky, started to badmouth the pastor.

One aspect of Tchaikovsky's life, I argued with her, did not invalidate everything else he did. His music wasn't obviously more "homosexual" than Cui's or Brahm's or Beethoven's. Listening to it didn't make her suddenly start wanting to sleep with the choir director's wife or cause her son to want to sleep with the choir director. It was as it always had been. Harmonically rich, sometimes flashy or deep, and often with nice melodies that one remembered but didn't always associate with Tchaikovsky.

But in her universe, everything was either perfectly good or perfectly evil. And since she put homosexuality in the "evil" camp, it meant that she had to deny that she'd ever actually liked his or perhaps it had some redeeming worth.


Similarly there's the gut-wrenching news story I read years ago. A very well done set of anatomical drawings were done in the '40s by a German. Some--not all--of the cadavers he used were Jewish, dead from the camps. A doctor had a tricky bit of surgery and needed some very accurate, very detailed drawings in order to save a patient's life. And was torn--use the tainted drawings as a guide to planning the surgery, or go in less prepared to do some very finicky reconstruction that might be botched. Finally the doctor--I think it was a "she"--appealed for cosmic permission from the ethics board for a dispensation to use the drawings. She got it. She was just slightly better than the homophobic woman I referenced, in that the doctor at least allowed for the racist German's drawings to actually be accurate. I consider this story to be gut-wrenching not because of the source of the drawing, but the very idea that a doctor might be willing to risk a patient's to protect her moral purity and avoid the "moral hazard" of using a drawing (anonymously) made using a heinous source, because the fact of using the drawings might, just might, encourage somebody else later to use a morally impure source to produce something that might save lives. She was afraid of moral taint.

Note that the drawings used were not rare or especially hard to come by. They were high quality, expensive, and issued in limited press runs, but they weren't just found in a handful of rare book collections around the world. They'd been published for decades after the war, until pressure over their source caused the publisher to cease producing copies.

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