Barbara's Letter


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I just became aware of a very beautiful letter by Barbara Branden written in defense of Chris Sciabarra on May 21, 2004 entitled "In Praise of Chris Sciabarra." The link I provided is at Joshua Zader's site, Mundita Journal and was posted there by Joshua (with an introductory comment by him). I have provided the text below.

Michael

In Praise of Chris Sciabarra

May 21, 2004 · Category: Objectivism

Below is a message I received from Barbara Branden. I agree with her that Chris’s work — not only in his books and monographs, but also in the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies — has been hugely valuable. I applaud his efforts and I am saddened whenever I see him being criticized unjustly.

Dear Friends,

I regret having to tell you about some very ugly and irrational incidents that are occurring in Objectivist and libertarian circles.

You all know Chris Sciabarra, either personally or through his work. You know that he is a fine and gifted man, dedicated to reason and liberty. You may know that he has recently had published a monograph entitled “Ayn Rand, Homosexuality, and Human Liberation” — in which Chris challenges Ayn Rand’s conventional attitude toward homosexuality and reclaims her legacy for a human liberation that is open to all men and women, of whatever sexual orientation. It is a very important work, aimed both at heterosexuals who have unthinkingly adopted Ayn Rand’s attitude and at homosexuals who have suffered because of that attitude. Chris has done a service both the Objectivist and libertarian movements through the publication of this monograph.

It is not the only service he has done. Through his tireless efforts and through his books — such as the landmark: AYN RAND: THE RUSSIAN RADICAL — he has been responsible for causing the academic world at last to take seriously the philosophy of Ayn Rand and the battle for human liberation she fought for. There were, of course, other trailblazers in the fight for academia, such as Den Uyl, Rasmussen, Machan, and others, but it was Chris Sciabarra who opened up the scholarly market.

What you probably do not know is what has happened to Chris as one result of his invaluable work, especially as a result of his monograph on homosexuality. On the one hand, of course, he has been thanked and lauded by many, as he should be. But on the other hand, he has been vilified and condemned as a crank, as unscholarly, and as a traitor to Objectivism by Ayn Rand Institute writers — who are nevertheless quite content to ride on his coattails in the academic market. And he has regularly received the vilest of attacks and hate mail ever since his own sexual orientation became known.

The extent of the hate has escalated enormously since the publication of his monograph. In mail to him personally, in discussion forums, and on web sites, he has been called the vilest of names — often by people too cowardly to give their names, who themselves richly deserve the epithets of “disgusting” and “evil” that they hurl at Chris. And his work is viciously attacked as if his sexual orientation invalidates his writing.

We are all in Chris Sciabarra’s debt. We now have an opportunity to partially repay that debt. I am asking each one of you — through your web sites, through your writings, through your talks to Objectivist and libertarian groups, through your participation in discussion groups, through your blogs, through conversations with friends — to take a stand for Chris, to denounce the haters, and to make it clear that those who attack him on such irrational grounds deserve to be called neither Objectivists nor libertarians. The evil that Chris is being subjected to can continue only if we are silent.

Chris does not know that I am writing this letter, and I don’t know if he will approve of it. But in the name of justice and decency, it had to be written.

Sincerely,

Barbara Branden

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What a beautiful letter.

I often wonder how much further the Objectivist movement would have progressed if those who spend/have spent their time vilifying other Objectivists, instead invested that energy into persuading non-Objectivists of the philosophy's merits, and doing so without partaking in character-assassinations of these people as well?

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Exactly. And if they spent more time trying to create things instead of attack them.

Show me what you can do and build, not what you don't like that someone else did.

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  • 1 month later...

To the best of my knowledge: Ayn Rand once said that homosexuality was "disgusting." That would be a statement of opinion; not a fact, let alone a mandate. But it does not surprise me to hear that "true believers" are up in arms about that issue.

Why that issue in general, is a question I wonder. I don't just mean about Objectivism or about Chris Sciabarra. Why do people in the culture in general make such an issue of that?

"Because," said the first caller, "it's a sin. It says so in the Bible. And don't tell me that there are other sins that are worse. All sins are wrong in the eyes of God."

That touches my point. If "all sins are wrong," then why make such a fuss over that sin? Adultery is also a sin, according to the Bible. Why do people crusade against homosexuality, and not adultery?

"That's not true," said the second caller. "Nobody condones the sin of adultery."

Perhaps not. My point is, why do people not DENOUNCE adultery with COMPARABLE VEHEMENCE to the way they denounce homosexuality? If we accept your premise, that the Bible is a-priori true, and if we agree with the first caller, that all sins are equally wrong…

I think this is a big issue; and that it involves something more than hypocricy, though that also plays a rôle here. I have some thoughts on why it is that people are more bothered by that particular "sin" than by other sins which (according to their beliefs and philosophy) are equally wrong. But that would be another post.

In the meantime, is Chris Sciabarra's writing on the subject available? I would like to read it. He may very well be thinking in the same direction.

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