Montana Standard/April 20, 1940
The hesitant discussion of sexual depravity in the Roosevelt-Truman bureaucracy, brought to public notice by the dismissal of 91 perverts in the State Department alone, has elicited interesting comments and some references which seem to cast light. Mr. Truman, of course, inherited the corruption. It took root and flourished under Roosevelt.
Morris L. Ernst, a pushful New Deal satellite, will do as one witness to set forth and explain the attitude of the New Deal culture toward the queers. Mr. Ernst has been a busy man in many affairs. He was counsel in the legal complication involving the lamasery on Riverside drive where Henry Wallace made speculative advances toward Oriental deities and his guru, Nicholas Roerich. He was counsel for the Newspaper Guild in the period of its hottest Communist infestation. He was a member of President Truman’s civil rights committee, which promoted the proposition that government should compel employers to hire persons obnoxious to them.
Mr. Ernst nevertheless found time to devote his mind studiously to sex and commit his findings, many of them elusive, to paper. His books include “To the Pure,” “The Sex Life of the Unmarried Adult” and, latest on this preoccupation, “American Sexual Behavior and the Kinsey Report.” In this little work, Ernst remarks angrily that only recently a committee on human reproduction was set up to seek answers “to some of the unknown questions as to how babies are born.” Very soon however, he is expertly discussing sexual practices which, far from propagating people, actually frustrate propagation. The western peoples, he says, have sought to impose their “pattern” or sexual morality, which he calls “customs,” on the rest of the world.
“As if,” he adds, “only one set of sexual customs was either desirable or natural,” from which I earnestly infer that he regards as “desirable” and “natural” some “customs” which are by religion, morals and law abhorrent to western peoples. If he so regards those “customs” then, as an authoritative New Dealer, he has at least established a base. In that case, we know what the New Deal morality really is. In that case, we can understand why abnormality flourished in the State Department, to say nothing of other departments, and why those Americans who are aghast at the revelations are in turn reviled as ignorant hypocrites.
“The Kinsey report shatters some of that complacency,” Mr. Ernst writes. So we were complacent and the word “complacency,” as used here, seems to despise us for a provincial bigotry. In Greece, he says, homosexuality was “an accepted outlet” and, “so far as we can tell, neither the strength of the Greek race nor the standards of its culture suffered.” Except that the race vanished, Mr. Ernst might have something there, but I find more interesting the author’s attitude toward the “outlet.”
“Our habits,” he says, “both of thinking and acting, have been so conditioned by the blind acceptance of standards fitted to another age that we do not know what a practical attitude toward sex behavior should be. What is normal? What is moral? What is pure? How much of the legal code dealing with sex is sensible? What is healthy?” He rejects judges, doctors and clergy as authorities on normality, morality, purity and good sense in law. In particular, he holds in contempt “celibates” who “have been the most dogmatic expounders of the normal and moral.”
Who then, however, would Mr. Ernst prefer — prostitutes, homosexuals and other perverts as arbiters of sexual behavior? Them and Mr. Ernst? The proportion of his writing on sex to the whole of his opera would thrust him into prominence. He is an authority. A New Deal moralist.
Although this book was published in 1948, long before the disclosure of the condition in the State Department, Mr. Ernst, by the merest accident, no doubt, seems to anticipate that explosion and to enter a plea long in advance. Speaking of the historic scandal in Kaiser Wilhelm’s court, he says there is difficulty in deciding whether public outcry is based primarily on the outrage “said to have been done to public opinion” or on a desire for political advantage.
Taking leave of Mr. Ernst, I now refer to a letter from a noted American reporter who has spent many years in Europe, especially Germany. He was a friend of Maximilian Harden, the journalist who exposed the perverts in the Kaiser’s court. Harden’s motive was “political” but in a patriotic sense. “Politics” is the science of government and Harden realized that this condition among the men who manipulated the Kaiser was dangerous to Germany. Had the perverts vanished when they were warned, Harden would have made no scandal.
My correspondent in Germany writes: “You say 91 homosexuals have been dismissed from the State Department in the last three years. What a terrible state of morals in our government. Is it confined only to the State Department? Not likely. Homosexualism is worse than Communism. It changes the mentality, blurs morality and the outlook, not only on sex but upon life, ideals, principles and scruples. It is a cancer. That is why I am so troubled that it has made such inroads in our State Department. Blackmail through threats of exposure is a powerful weapon often used to make a victim do a thing he does not want to do.”
But, see, this is the outmoded superstition or a Victorian bigot. If we consult Mr. Ernst, “such customs” do not “blur morality” and the outlook on sex, life, ideals, principles and scruples. On the contrary, it is the western “pattern” of sexual morality which blurs morality and the outlook. Abandon that “pattern” and the blur is cured and a beautiful, spiritual, intellectual and sexual existence comes into clear focus.
But Mr. Ernst himself seems confused and other-handed, for he follows these remarks with this one: “It Is not suggested that on the basis of these facts we change our standards, our ideals or even our laws.”