Dan Savage, author of the nationally syndicated column Savage Love and editor of The Stranger (Seattle's weekly newspaper), signs his new book Skipping Towards Gomorrah: The Seven Deadly Sins and the Pursuit of Happiness in America (Plume) at the Bookstall, 811 Elm St., Winnetka, Sat., Oct. 4, 11 a.m.-noon.
'Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness' is our given right as Americans. This is the ability to do what we want, when we want as long as no one gets hurt in the end. This is what governs us in the U.S. Constitution. Which in turn gives us the right to pursue whatever avenue that would entail. There is a small sidebar on this for some Americans. They feel it is their given right to attack the less virtuous avenue of happiness along with those who walk down them. While they (the virtuous) shove their version of right and wrong down our throats like aspirin, every hour on the hour.
Indeed, good-doers like Dr. Laura Schlessinger, Bill O'Reilly and William J. Bennett seem to be on their moral high-horses about one sin or another. Us (the sinners) are offered up on the chopping block due to drinking, drugs and debauchery. But that is our choice, right? Were our forefather's wrong when they decided we should be the one's who choose what road we go down? Isn't it our choice to waste our liberty and life as we see fit? If it honestly makes us happy, can it really be that bad?
Robert Bork, conservative author of Slouching Towards Gomorrah, questions if our founding fathers really knew what they were doing when they gave us this choice. Perhaps Thomas Jefferson merely smoked too much of his own crops back when he added this section. Maybe this was an on-going joke between the forefathers. I mean, they couldn't have entrusted future generations with something this big, right?
'Many of my fellow Americans are deeply annoyed at the self-appointed virtuecrats and preening moralists who clog our airwaves and best-seller lists,' points out Dan Savage, well-known sex columnist and author. 'I, for one, am sick of being told that I live in an immoral wasteland.'
So instead of just bitching about things, Savage went out into the 'immoral wasteland' and lived to tell the tale. Skipping Towards Gomorrah is a vividly funny view from the other side of the sin wagon. He traveled across the United States in search of the seven deadly sins: greed, lust, gluttony, sloth, anger, envy, and pride.
From greedy gamblers to adulterers and back again, Savage took a moment to reflect on what he lived, not only about America but about himself.
SR: What was the most sinful of the cities you visited?
DS: New York City—it's the only city where you can go online to order a hooker and they show up at your door in 30 minutes or less. I ate like a pig, rented whores and took lots of drugs.
SR: What out of the seven deadliest is your biggest vice? Why?
DS: Gluttony and Lust. The lust part is very distracting. When I see a cute guy go down the street all I can think is 'God I'd like to fuck him.' And I love food—very good and very cheap. I have the biggest sweet tooth. But, I don't combine my vices. I'd like to have my cake and eat a cock too!
SR: Describe your definition of 'pursuit of happiness.'
DS: I'm such a workaholic. My definition of happiness is a juicy local political story. Then being able to run home to my boyfriend and our child, get stoned and relax all before bed. People who know me only from the column expect to come into my home and see a hanging trapeze and a couple of dead goats in the closets. I lead a pretty boring life.
SR: What is a virtuecrat?
DS: They are the self-appointed public police for the morality of Americans. [From the book: 'Virtuecrats would have us believe that the mere knowledge that sinners are out there having fun keeps them up nights; indeed, knowing that someone, somewhere, might be pursuing happiness in ways they disapprove of is a profound psychological torment to them.']
SR: Do you ever feel that you push things too far in your column?
DS: The letters I run are entertaining. It's all very tongue in cheek. I'm not here to judge and I don't self–edit myself. I've lost a few papers here and there due to content (mainly in the South). But at least twice a day I have to e-mail back a reader who clearly needs therapy due to a very traumatic event in their life. And I reinforce what they already know, that they need the kind of help I can't give them.
SR: What can we expect from Savage Love in the next year?
DS: Savage Love turns 12 soon; the teen years are upon us. Look for sudden growth spurts, acne, and hair growing in odd places.
'Our virtues are most frequently but vices disguised,' La Rochefoucauld informed us in his work Maxims (1665). And to date it's still a valid point.
What if the virtuecrats' unrelenting judgement against sin is a symptom of their own struggle to find virtue within themselves?
Some of my closest friends are sinners; they pay their taxes, tip over 15%, and say their respective prayers at night. They live their own version of the American Dream, whatever that may be. They don't push their vices or convictions on others. They don't hurt anyone in their pursuit of happiness. But yet they are labeled 'the less virtuous' and condemned daily for it.
Why should anyone care what we do in our own backyard? Dan Savage gives us an up close and personal look at what happiness is for most Americans, sinners and saints. For all of us on the outer–edge of society: the homos, dykes, whores, gamblers, and gluttons alike. The Constitution governs us all. One nation and all. It's not an exclusive club for select members only. We should respect our forefathers' wishes in our pursuit of happiness, whatever that may be.
'All Americans should be free to define happiness for themselves, and some of us find happiness in pursuits that Dr. Laura wants to see banned,' is how Dan Savage sees it. And I agree with him.
If Gomorrah is were all the sinners are headed, where do I get my passport?