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Friday, June 27, 2003

 

American Passing



It is with great sadness that I note the irony of the passing of Strom Thurmond, 100-year-old fifty-term senator from South Carolina, on the same day as the Supreme Court sent the Texas sodomy laws to their judicial death. Thurmond, you see, was a great champion of the rights of homosexuals to engage in whatever sexual practices their hearts desired in the privacy of their own homes, as long as those homosexuals were not black.

In Thurmond's estimation, dark-skinned buggerers and oral aficionados (of any sexual orientation as he had no problems with breeders) could indulge their erotic inclinations, so long as these carnal unions took place in the hold of a mighty ship headed for Africa's western coast or the island nation of Haiti, where he reckoned they'd be better off with their own kind.

Thurmond's political beliefs came to have a profound, unexpected impact on his family life. His third son, Strom Quattro Thurmond, was born both homosexual and black. Thurmond quickly came to terms with his toddler's apparent sexual preferences. Despite Thurmond's eventual, politically galvanizing about-face on the issue of segregation, Quattro's skin color created a dilemma tearing at the fabric of his fatherly love. He often put the child in a rowboat on a pond on the grounds of his Raleigh plantation with instructions for the boy to "row his savage ass back to Nigeria." But at the end of each day at the pond, Thurmond would lift an exhausted Quattro from the rowboat and escort him to his bedroom in the servant's quarters at the far end of the estate. He'd tuck the boy in, wondering why God couldn't give him a light-skinned gay child. But his faith saw him through. He never did send Quattro back to Africa.

And Quattro never stopped loving his complicated father; he and his companion Quincy (a white man -- boys never do stop trying to please their daddies) were at Thurmond's bedside as he expired. Quattro and Quincy carried out Strom's last request, sending a box of Cohibas to Bob Hope's estate with a note stating simply, "You win."



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This is the internet home of Mark Lisanti, a Los Angeles writer sometimes known as Bunsen. He is the founding editor of Defamer, a weblog about Hollywood, where he now serves in the nebulous capacity of "editor-at-large."
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