Larry Craig's Actions Point To The Way Rural Men are Raised In America

09/18/2007 10:01 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Over the last several days, Gen. Petraeus' troop-level parsing and O.J.'s recorded F-bombs have chased Sen. Larry Craig off the front page.

While that's not necessarily a bad thing, I have been thinking about why Sen. Craig, 62, may be acting the way he is. That would be in total denial of actions that could imply homosexual tendencies and preferences he adamantly denies.

Now I don't care if Sen. Craig is gay or not. I don't know for sure, either. Frankly, that is his business.

But I do know something about how men now in their early sixties have been raised in rural and small-town America.

I think of a guy who I will call Floyd. A year younger than Larry Craig, he was raised in small-town Georgia.

For the last 40 years, Floyd has been living in denial- not about his sexual preference (straight), but about an inevitable blindness that was forecasted for him after an auto accident when he was 20. In the final, eight-year rollup to his now five-year sightlessness, Floyd always avoided the Internet. Large screen monitors were available. He always said no to these tools- not because he feared he would lose his sight, but because he considered the Internet "a fad."

Floyd, who has a Master's Degree, was like other rural men I have known. Deflecting any outward expression of fear or weakness.

When Floyd's wife was dying of lung cancer a little more than a decade ago, there were similar deflections. During her decline, he cast her difficulties as more orthopedic in nature. It wasn't a deception- more of a refusal to publicly admit he was feeling helpless and I daresay, scared shitless.

My point is that like so many other rural and smalltown males, Floyd was raised not to show any signs that could be taken as fear, as self-doubt, as sensitivity, as helplessness. Express any of these emotions, and you are less a man for it.

If these values are inculcated early enough, they become so one with the soul that fear, self-doubt and helplessness no longer have to be consciously denied. They become almost incomprehensible, and are buried so deep in the personality that they are no longer part of the behavioral palette available when true crises hit.

I'm guessing that what might have happened with Larry Craig was not all that dissimilar. Perhaps there was a youthful homosexual dalliance, but then a "be a man" rural or small town upbringing of the type I've just described Floyd as having experienced served Craig to bury any gayness within him so deep that he has always denied it.

Denied it, for to go public would be as incomprehensible as my friend Floyd- so close to Craig in age and type of upbringing- to publicly act in ways that are not what "a man" should do.

But in private moments, such as in the men's room? That may have been the only option Craig had where he could live with himself.


Larry Craig