On Drinking Bleach

It’s just a given – values voters, as they are called, vote Republican, even if voting Republican in not in their economic interest at all. That’s what that Thomas Frank book, What’s the Matter with Kansas, was all about. The book’s subtitle is instructive – “How Conservatives Won the Heart of America.”

 

They didn’t win the minds – just the hearts. From the New Yorker:

 

Kansas, once home to farmers who marched against “money power,” is now solidly Republican. In Frank’s scathing and high-spirited polemic, this fact is not just “the mystery of Kansas” but “the mystery of America.” Dismissing much of the received punditry about the red-blue divide, Frank argues that the problem is the “systematic erasure of the economic” from discussions of class and its replacement with a notion of “authenticity,” whereby “there is no bad economic turn a conservative cannot do unto his buddy in the working class, as long as cultural solidarity has been cemented over a beer.”

 

All you have to do is lead a backlash. The folks in the thirty mile zone around this particular computer keyboard here in Hollywood – yes, you know the wildly popular website TMZ (Thirty Mile Zone) that’s now on your television – produces all that filth on Kansas television screens and on the movies screens at the malls in Topeka. And the folks in New York are no better of course. The economy may be disintegrating and you may lose your home – and you probably already lost your job – but there are bigger issues. The Republicans, long ago, decided to work on a sense of social and moral grievance. It keeps people from thinking about the small stuff – losing everything and living in the streets.

 

That sense of grievance is there, and it has its targets. Hollywood may present gays as pleasant and lovable – Ellen DeGeneres seems nice enough – but they are, after all, an abomination in God’s eyes (if you read the Bible very, very carefully). Jesus would slit their throats without a second thought – but since he hasn’t returned, yet, someone should. The thought of them marrying each other and settling down and acting all normal, just going about their business, seems so wrong. And they’re on your television!

 

And then there’s those women in trouble, or carrying an early fetus that will result in a brain dead child that may live four minutes at best, think they can make the painful decision to seek an abortion, when everyone knows that’s not their call at all. Who do they think they are? You’d stop them if you could, and you feel some sympathy for those who gun down the doctors they find. You want the law changed.

 

And along with your pre-teen daughter dressing like Paris Hilton and listening to nasty rap music, there’s the whole issue of sex education. At least there has been eight years of Republican rule – cutting off funds for sex education programs that mention the biology and mechanics of sex and funding only those abstinence-only classes. You don’t want your kid hearing about the biology and mechanics – you just want them not do it, as they say. And you’re proud your government will now fund no AIDS or population program anywhere in the world that even mentions condoms – those dark people should control themselves. You do, after all.

 

All this keeps people busy, and upset. And Republicans have played this well – always turning things to matters of social conservatism and away from matters of unregulated Darwinian economic conservatism, where those not clever or born in the right place at the right time lose everything, as they should. But it’s not a ruse, playing the rubes and all that. It’s seeing what many people care about, and addressing what they care about. That all these grievances deflect the other issues, the economic matters, is perhaps no more than lucky. And the Democrats decided not to ride this particular train, save for a few, like Tipper Gore being angry with Frank Zappa long ago. The Democrats say they believe in tolerance, generally. All the Republicans had to do was ask one simple question. Aren’t there some things that shouldn’t be tolerated? They won. They continue to win.

 

But there is a danger. One has to tolerate Republicans. It’s only logical. That just keeps getting harder. Those who feed the grievances cannot become targets of those same grievances.

 

There is a comprehensive list – Republican Sex Scandals. Somebody had to keep track, after all. And for your convenience it’s in alphabetical order, with links to the source material. The items on the list don’t help matters.

 

Many are well known, and some not so well known:

 

Bob Barr, Republican Congressman from Georgia. Sponsored the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act, saying “The flames of hedonism, the flames of narcissism, the flames of self-centered morality are licking at the very foundation of our society, the family unit.” Was married three times. Paid for his second wife’s abortion (she also suspected he was cheating on her). Failed to pay child support to the children of his first two wives and while married to his third and present wife was photographed licking whipped cream off of strippers at his inaugural party.

 

Parker J. Bena, Republican activist and Bush Elector, pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography (including children as young as three years old) on his home computer and was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison and fined $18,000.

 

Dan Crane, Republican Congressman, married, father of six. Received a 100% “Morality Rating” from Christian Voice. Had sex with a minor working as a congressional page.

 

Neal Horsley has called for the arrest of all homosexuals. Admitted on the Fox News Radio’s The Alan Colmes Show, that he’s had sex with mules. Put photographs on his Web site of naked men engaging in homosexual acts and a nude woman engaging in bestiality amid shots of grotesquely maimed fetuses. Drug dealer convicted of possession of hashish with intent to sell. He calls for “the establishment of a new government, one that can obey God’s plan for government.”

 

George Roche III, carried on a nineteen year affair with his son’s wife, while serving as president of Hillsdale College, which “emphasizes the importance of the common moral truths that bind all Americans, while recognizing the importance of religion for the maintenance of a free society.”

 

Tom Shortridge. Republican campaign consultant, was sentenced to three years probation for taking nude photographs of a fifteen-year old girl.

 

The list goes on and on, with all the reference material, but you get the idea – those with these cultural grievances are a disturbed lot. All this business about sex has unhinged them. Something very unhealthy is happening. That has been said many a time before, and the complete list, in the end, is rather boring, actually. For something shorter and punchier, with video clips, try this – the Top Five Republican Gay Sex Scandals.

 

Of course the temptation for those of us on the left side of things is to be filled with glee and offer all sorts of snide and sarcastic comments – now commonly elided as snark – about all this, about how the rubes are being taken in (we’d never be), and laugh a lot at these fools. Dismissive and condescending scorn is not just for pro-war Republicans – we can match that, easily. That’s fine if you want everyone to be angry, so angry they will never change their focus for even a moment. But there are people who feel threatened, and they feel these are real threats. It might be good to understand that. Not to get all Obama or anything – but scorn leads nowhere. Let Hillary Clinton ride that horse, perhaps to the White House. She may have judged things just right – she just found a bloc with a slightly different clump of grudges, with far different grievances. That may be how politics really works.

 

Be that as it may, one might just look at consequences. See this from the site Feministing:

 

A survey in Florida showed that some teens believe drinking a cap of bleach will prevent HIV and that a shot of Mountain Dew will stop pregnancy. Lawmakers in the state say the myths are a direct result of Florida’s abstinence-only sex education.

 

So now there’s a movement to get back to using tax dollars to fund classes in the biology and mechanics of it all. Drinking bleach is actually bad for you.

 

We’ll see where that goes, but over at Hullabaloo, Digby notes this is just another Bush family legacy:

 

Whatever they do, I hope they don’t tell them about condoms. Much better to have them drinking bleach to cleanse their dirty little minds. Maybe they could even kill themselves in the process, which would be God’s will. Especially the Jezebels.

 

She’s angry of course, and rightly so. It seems like madness to let this continue. But such a comment changes no minds in Florida. Still she’s right about this administration, as one can see in the NPR item here:
 

The Justice Department’s inspector general is investigating whether a career attorney in the department was dismissed from her job because of rumors that she is a lesbian. The case grew out of a larger inquiry into the firings of U.S. attorneys and politicization at Justice under former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

 

… Hagen received the highest possible ratings for her work as liaison between the Justice Department and the U.S. attorneys’ committee on Native American issues. Her final job evaluation lists five categories for supervisors to rank her performance. For each category, a neat X fills the box marked, “Outstanding.” And at the bottom of the page, under “overall rating level,” she also got the top mark: Outstanding.

 

The form is dated February 1, 2007. Several months before that evaluation, Hagen was told her contract would not be renewed.

 

Hagen would not comment for this story, but her job evaluation is consistent with what many others have said about her. A dozen former colleagues, inside and outside of the Justice Department, were interviewed for this story. They worked above, below and side by side with Hagen.

 

Each one raved about her work.

 

But she was let go, even if they said it wasn’t about sex in a way God said was wrong:

 

The official line on Hagen’s dismissal was that contracts like hers are a privilege. Rotating new people through the job each year gives more people a chance to serve.

 

But what happened next seems to undermine that explanation. Internal Justice Department documents obtained by NPR show that soon after Hagen was let go, two people in her office had their contracts renewed for another year.

 

And Hagen’s post remained vacant months after she left.

 

So that explanation doesn’t fly. You have to look at who made the decision in this matter, Monica Goodling, one of the hundreds of high-level appointees at the Justice Department with a law degree from that new evangelical Christian establishment, the late Jerry Farwell’s Liberty Law School:

 

Justice Department e-mails obtained by NPR show that Gonzales’s senior counsel Monica Goodling had a particular interest in Hagen’s duties. A few months before Hagen was let go, according to one e-mail, Goodling removed part of Hagen’s job portfolio – the part dealing with child exploitation and abuse.

 

Goodling, who left the Justice Department last year, declined through her lawyer to comment on the matter.

 

At the height of the scandal over the fired U.S. attorneys, Goodling admitted to making personnel decisions about career Justice Department lawyers based on improper partisan considerations.

 

“I crossed the line of the civil service rules,” Goodling told Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) at a congressional hearing in May 2007.

 

Goodling’s conversation with Scott focused on whether Republican Party loyalty factored into her hiring decisions. But by all accounts, Hagen was a GOP loyalist.

 

So there you have it: The Justice Department’s inspector general is looking into whether Hagen was dismissed after a rumor reached Goodling that Hagen is a lesbian. As one Republican source put it, “To some people, that’s even worse than being a Democrat.”

It all comes together – sex and politics and feeling threatened. You do lose good people that way.

 

Good people? See the Washington Blade on one particular American soldier recently killed in Iraq:

 

Maj. Alan Rogers, 40, a gay intelligence officer who served on a military transition team that trained Iraqi soldiers, died Jan. 27 in Baghdad from wounds caused by an improvised explosive device that detonated near him while he was conducting a patrol on his Humvee. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery on March 14.

 

For sacrificing his life in the line of duty, the Army posthumously awarded Rogers a Purple Heart and a second Bronze Star.

 

That second Bronze Star aside, no one would mention that he was gay, perhaps per military don’t-ask don’t-tell policy:

 

The Washington Post, National Public Radio and the Gainesville Sun, the local newspaper in his hometown of Hampton, Fla., made no mention of his sexual orientation or his involvement with a group that works to overturn “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

 

Lynn Medford, Metro editor for the Post, said the newspaper debated whether or not to disclose Rogers’ sexual orientation and ultimately decided not to include such information as a matter of ethics.

 

Rogers to some degree “kept his orientation private” and outing him after his death would “take a decision out of his hands,” she said. Rogers had no partner and no immediate family to consult with to determine what his wishes would be, Medford noted.

 

Andrew Sullivan:

 

The only reason Rogers was even semi-closeted to his peers was to protect his career in the military. As treasurer of an organization to end the military ban and with countless sources testifying to his sexual orientation, the decision of the Post and NPR to enforce the closet even after his death cannot be explained except by a view that somehow being gay is shameful or private. I can see why outing someone who is alive and closeted is unethical; inning someone who is dead and was out is a function of utterly misplaced sensitivity, rooted in well-intentioned but incontrovertible homophobia.

 

We already persecute these gay heroes when risking their lives for their country. For the MSM to maintain the shame, stigma and persecution after their death is unacceptable.

 

Sullivan later quotes what the Post had to say on the matter:

 

The Post story would have made any soldier proud. It quoted his commanding officer: “As God would have it … he shielded two men who probably would have been killed if Alan had not been there.” Rogers was “an exceptional, brilliant person – just well-spoken and instantly could relate to anyone.”

 

But the Post does have regrets:

 

The Post was right to be cautious, but there was enough evidence – particularly of Rogers’s feelings about “don’t ask, don’t tell” – to warrant quoting his friends and adding that dimension to the story of his life. The story would have been richer for it.

 

Yeah, as Sullivan adds that it would have been true, rather than a lie.

 

But then the Blade notes that the Pentagon tried to conceal Rodgers’ orientation and political participation:

 

A Wikipedia article about Maj. Alan Rogers, a gay soldier who was killed in January in Iraq, was apparently edited by someone in the Pentagon, who removed any mention that Rogers was gay.

 

The user on Monday redacted details about Rogers that appeared on the online encyclopedia site. Information that was deleted included Rogers’ sexual orientation; the soldier’s participation in American Veterans for Equal Rights, a group that works to change military policy toward gays; and the fact that Rogers’ death helped bring the U.S. military’s casualty toll in Iraq to 4,000.

 

Rob Pilaud, a patent agent and a friend of Rogers who attended the soldier’s funeral, restored the information to the Wikipedia article the next day. Pilaud was among Rogers’ friends who created the Wikipedia entry.

 

This madness may never end – the Republicans hope it doesn’t, of course – but it may be time to talk about who feels threatened by what, on both sides, and work out something better. Rogers was a good man, and kids really shouldn’t be drinking bleach. 

 

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About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
This entry was posted in Cultural Notes, Evangelicals, Kansas, Moral and Ethical Matters, Press Notes, Religion and Politics, Republicans, Republicans and Sex, Sex and Politics, Social Conservatives, The Power of Narrative, The Problem with Democrats, Values Voters. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to On Drinking Bleach

  1. etbnc says:

    Who feels threatened by what?

    It’s a depressingly simple mechanism, isn’t it?

    More than maybe; I’d say it’s definitely time to talk about the mechanism of fear in some way that can move us beyond it.

    Who feels threatened by what?

    Thanks for being willing to talk about it.

  2. Rick (from Atlanta) says:

    I don’t think I agree with Andrew Sullivan on this one.

    First of all, the reason it’s hard to imagine some news item that begins with, “Maj. Joe Schmoe, 40, a heterosexual intelligence officer…” may partly be because saying someone is straight rather than gay is like saying a dog bit a man, rather than the other way around. But it also may be because the sexual orientation of the subject has nothing to do with the story.

    Unless, of course, it does — which it would if the news item somehow advanced the story of his involvement in that organization trying to overturn the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. If so, that would be different. But in fact, it sounds like the stories in the Post and NPR were just obits, having nothing to do with that controversy.

    (Then again, I have to admit that his public involvement in that group seems to be a case of his bringing himself out of the closet, and that would seem to negate any ethical question of whether some news organization is “outing” him by mentioning his sexual orientation. But in fact, that’s not the real point here.)

    And yes, I can see acknowledging his being gay puts the military itself in an awkward position, given that they are not supposed to even know that about him, but that does not justify the Pentagon’s editing it out of his Wikipedia entry. They would be best advised to just leave it alone.

    In any event, I think calling this a case of “utterly misplaced sensitivity, rooted in well-intentioned but incontrovertible homophobia,” as Sullivan does, is more than a tiny bit paranoid and over the top.

    Rick

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