The Times, that supposedly straight-forward, borderline dour depository of facts and only facts, is apparently comfortable spreading revisionist rumor about President Abraham Lincoln's sexuality in its news pages. Sunday's Arts & Leisure section featured "The Culture Wars Shift to School Halls " by David Rooney, a profile of playwright Aaron Loeb, author of the surely deathless theatrical classic "Abraham Lincoln's Big, Gay Dance Party."
From fourth grade to high school, at school board meetings and in state assemblies, temperatures are rising over censorship, control, religion and education. The battle over who teaches what, and how, has become one of the fiercest arenas of the culture wars.
Perhaps a big, gay dance party is what it will take to help the intractable sides find common ground.
In "Abraham Lincoln's Big, Gay Dance Party," the playwright, Aaron Loeb, sparks a firestorm amid the cornfields of Menard County, Ill. The uproar happens after an elementary school teacher inserts a plea for gay rights into the mouths of 9-year-olds in the Christmas pageant.
Pundits from Larry Kramer to Larry Flynt have speculated that the 16th American president may have been gay or bisexual, a view fueled by Lincoln's close male friendships, particularly with the storeowner Joshua Speed.
While Rooney didn't find much controversial about establishing Lincoln as a gay icon (though the argument is highly speculative and dubious ) he argued that the Texas Board of Education "polarized public opinion" with its emphasis on "conservative values."
The Texas Board of Education recently polarized public opinion when it voted to emphasize conservative values in the teaching of history and social studies in state schools. In his corner of the world, Berkeley, Calif., where Mr. Loeb has a 4 ½-year-old in preschool, "the differences are between left, far-left and extremely far-left," but conflicts over the curriculum are no less heated.
"Schools have become the place to engage in cultural warfare," he said. And playwrights are finding drama (and comedy) on those battlefields.
After citing a few other current shows with similar culture-war themes, Rooney returned to Lincoln, and let Loeb talk of "compelling evidence" that Lincoln was gay or bisexual:
Mr. Loeb acknowledges that conclusive proof of Lincoln's alleged "streak of lavender," to quote a 1926 biography, may never be found. But the compelling evidence to suggest gay or bisexual tendencies makes for a stimulating trigger point, he said.
Just don't look for it in a history textbook in Texas any time soon.
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