'Gay Panic in the Ozarks' — a new novel from former GOP Congressman Ed Bethune | Arkansas Blog

'Gay Panic in the Ozarks' — a new novel from former GOP Congressman Ed Bethune

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A timely title to be sure. Former 2nd District Republican Rep. Ed Bethune tells me he has just published a novel, "Gay Panic in the Ozarks." No, it's not a quickie roman a clef about last Saturday in Eureka Springs.

From the on-line description at Amazon:

Wounds and prejudices stemming from the Civil War, the Great Depression and other conflicts run deep in the Ozark hill country. These frailties, like the scab of a putrid wound, will from time to time reopen and ooze pus. In the tumultuous year of 1968, a farmer stumbles onto the gruesome scene of a hate crime: the lynching of a young gay man whose mangled body has been left hanging from a tree. Clues abound, but the investigation withers and dies. Thirty-eight years later, Aubrey Hatfield and the citizens of Campbell County get a second chance to grapple with man’s greatest vice—the refusal to see wrong and do something about it. The life journey of protagonist Aubrey Hatfield contrasts the culture of the turbulent Sixties with today’s culture, and ponders how we should adapt to or resist the ever-changing notions of right and wrong. Thus, Gay Panic in the Ozarks is a disturbing story of the culture war that society is waging on itself. Brusque but humane, the novel examines love, hate, morality, honor, and duty—the things that inform and shape our destiny.

I asked Bethune by e-mail for a bit more of indication of where the novel goes in terms of taking sides on the issue of gay rights, plus his own thoughts on the subject, including marriage. He rose in the party in the Rockefeller era, a gentler time for the party. I was hoping that history meant he departed a bit from current Arkansas Republican Party orthodoxy —  the only thing good about gay people is the political benefit of advocating discrimination against them in employment and marriage.

He responded: "I'm betting you will like my novel." He pointed to a news release for a comment on placing the novel in modern context.

“The papers, blogs, and airwaves are full of hot arguments about gay marriage. The ‘culture war’ is obsessing America and the noise gets louder every day.

“My book is not about gay marriage, but it does consider the wide range of cultural changes that have occurred since the 1960s. It digs deep, going beyond superficial political issues to the root causes of prejudice, the ugly force that bedevils humankind.”

But, he added, on the personal question:

As for me personally, I believe marriage is meant to be for one man and one woman.

Bethune, who practiced law in Washington after his time in Congress, now lives in Little Rock with his wife, Lana.


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