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The Seven Deadly Sins and the Pursuit of Happiness in America

by Dan Savage

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-525-94675-6
Publisher: Dutton

As he strides proudly through Gomorrah—be that New York City or Dubuque—The Stranger editor Savage (The Kid, 1999) sings the praises of American freedom and American sinners, and sends a little “bitch slap” across the righteous cheeks of Messrs. Bork, Bennett, and Buchanan.

The self-appointed virtuecrats—add Falwell and Schlessinger to the list—take pride (woops, there’s a sin) in giving orders to us sinners. They’d like to amend the Constitution and pass laws against the sins we hold dear. Savage would like them to know, however, that one paleo-conservative’s sin may be another man’s pleasure, and the pursuit of happiness is one of the rights we hold self-evident. Is the US a moral sewer and cultural wasteland? How are the Deadly Sins across the land? Savage takes each of the mortal seven and reports on one aspect of each. Greed finds him in Dubuque, doing a little gambling, losing a modest boodle, and feeling an aliveness that comes with participatory risk. Lust finds him with swingers, but mostly brooding on the consequences of monogamy, like the right and wrong ways to commit adultery. Being gay, he takes unconditional gay pride to task (“it doesn’t matter that a person is gay, it matters how a person is gay”), while sloth—and occasional pot smoking—is given a plus for its place in an overworked world. Gluttony, envy, and anger (the last allowing him to say intelligent things about handguns) seem largely an opportunity to spin some funny stories, and there are plenty of them, often at the author’s own expense. Common sense is Savage’s strong suit, and he makes more of it than a preening moralist ever could. Despite the night in NYC when he tries to commit all seven sins, moderation is his gambit: “Moderation in all things, that’s my motto, and I believe it applies to moderation itself.”

“There are millions of ethical, fully moral sinners in America,” says he. Thank heavens.