Sunday, January 08, 2012
“If I ask you, 'which is more expensive, per ounce – the lemon or the orange?', the following are not appropriate answers:
“I think oranges are too expensive”
“I really, really like oranges!”
“I actually prefer limes in my drinks.”
“Do oranges grow anywhere except Florida?”
Students often laugh at this, but it is a very common college freshman approach on an essay test to write ‘something’ about the subject, even if it has absolutely nothing to do with answering the specific question that was asked. Sometimes it is because the student is evading the question, because they don't know the answer; other times, it is a serious inability to engage in critical thinking.
It is, apparently, not an error limited to college freshman: it appears to be standard operating procedure among Republican Presidential candidates…an error (or tactic) that is exacerbated by their frightening ignorance of basic constitutional law.
At a campaign stop last week, in Iowa, Rick Perry was asked to reconcile his support for limited government with a state anti-sodomy law that was on the books while he was Governor. The questioner mentioned Lawrence v. Texas, a 2003 case in which the U.S. Supreme Court voted 6-3 to strike down the law, in effect legalizing private consensual sexual activity of any flavor. Perry was governor at the time of the court decision.
Perry rambled the following answer:
“I don’t dislike government, I just want government to work” [not an answer]. “We have a federal government that is out of control from the standpoint of spending [not an answer]. And, you know, I wish I could tell you I know every Supreme Court case. I don’t. I’m not even going to try to go through every Supreme Court case. I’m not a lawyer.[ignorance of basic constitutional law decided while he was Governor of the state which was the subject of the decision]. But here’s what I do know. I know they’re spending too much money in Washington, D.C., and $15 trillion worth of debt is on that young man right there [not an answer]. We can sit here and play I-gotcha questions on ‘What about this Supreme Court case?’ [you should know this, Rick] or whatever, but you know and I know that the problem in this country is spending in Washington, D.C. It’s not some Supreme Court case.[Fail]
Later, when asked by reporters if he knew what the Lawrence v. Texas case was, Perry answered, “I don’t. I think I explained … that pretty good there, that I didn’t understand it. I’m not taking the bar exam.”
That was at least a direct, honest answer to the question. It also revealed startling ignorance.
Last night at St. Anselm’s College in New Hampshire, Mitt Romney pulled the same “I prefer limes in my drinks” non-answer.
The exchange began when ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos asked whether Romney believed that the US Constitution contains a Right to Privacy. The question was clearly seeking his opinion on the 1965 case, Griswold vs. Connecticut, in which the Supreme Court invalidated a Connecticut statute that prohibited birth control, even between married adults. This decision established a right to privacy (especially in family matters) in the Bill of Rights, and has been cited for almost 50 years by the Court in subsequent decisions ranging from reproductive rights to home education rights. Here is the exchange:
Romney: “George, this is an unusual topic that you’re raising [non-answer; buying time]. States have the right to ban contraception? [No, they don’t, due to Griswold vs. Connecticut]. I can’t imagine that states would want to ban contraception. If I were a governor or a legislator in a state, I would totally oppose any effort to ban contraception [non-answer]. So you’re asking -- given the fact that there’s no state that wants to do so -- you are asking could it constitutionally be done? We could ask our constitutionalist here” [pointing at Ron Paul, and buying more time].
Stephanopoulos: “I am asking you, do you believe states have that right or not?”
Romney : “George, I don’t know whether the state has the right to ban contraception. [Ignorance]. No state wants to. The idea of you putting forward things that states might want to do that no state wants to do is kind of a silly thing, I think [continued Non-answer. Attack the questioner rather than answer the question].
Stephanopoulos : “You went to Harvard Law School, you know very well …”
Romney: “Has the Supreme Court decided that the states do not have the right to ban contraception? [startling ignorance]”
Stephanopoulos: “Yes, they have. 1965. Griswold vs Connecticut.”
Romney then went on to a rambling non-answer about how Americans have the right to amend the Constitution, and that he favors amending it to ban same-sex marriage [an obvious, “ I-prefer-limes-in-my-drink response]. “But I know of no reason to talk about contraceptions…Contraception, it’s working just fine, just leave it alone" [non-answer].
Stephanopoulos: “Do you believe the Supreme Court should overturn it or not?”
Romney: “Do I believe the Supreme Court should overturn Roe v Wade?” “Yes, I do.” [Not even limes any more...he jumps to Kumquats now…]
Kudos to Ron Paul at this point: Stephanopoulos posed the question to Paul, who succinctly answered that the 4th Amendment of Constitution's Bill of Rights includes a right to privacy in the home, and the Commerce Clause, regulating commerce among the states, overrides a states effort to prohibit goods, including contraception.
It really doesn’t matter to me how Perry reconciles his small-government philosophy with his state’s former anti-sodomy statute. Nor does Romney’s stance on Griswold vs. Connecticut matter to me. There is no conceivable way I would vote for either of them. But their failure to grasp basic constitutional law, and their inability – or refusal – to offer direct answers to the questions asked calls into question their fitness to be the Chief Executive branch official of the United States Government.
Sunday, October 30, 2011
Masks have always intrigued me. Fascinated, terrified, and intrigued me.
As a child, clowns scared me. They still do. There is something evil and scary about clown make-up to me; it is a very obvious statement that what you “see” before you is not what is “really” underneath. Something is being prettified, or changed, or hidden; something awful is being presented as if it’s funny and joyful. I don’t like them.
I was drawn into the 1998 film, “The Man in the Iron Mask,” which itself was based on the Alexandre Dumas novel of an actual man imprisoned in the Bastille. In the movie, it is proposed that the prisoner was the twin brother of King Louis XIV - but he was kept hidden from view behind locked prison doors, his face encased in a locked iron mask so no one would recognize him as an heir to the throne. Had his true self been revealed, it would upset the established social and political order, and so the King insisted that no one be permitted to see him.
As a gay man living a closeted existence for several decades, I could identify with that.
Just as I can identify with the Phantom.
Of course, in the Phantom’s case, no one forces him to wear his mask. Rather, it is his fear of rejection, and the public's revulsion at his "differentness," his disfigured face, that causes him to hide. He voluntarily wears the mask to obscure his true identity, and lives in the shadows of the Opera House’s basement. There he can continue his life's musical work without fear of rejection. I can identify with the Phantom even more than with the Man in the Iron Mask.
I recall a heated discussion I had six years ago about the Phantom. I was admittedly sympathetic to him, understanding his perspective. The woman with whom I was speaking was outraged. “He is a monster! He’s a liar! He manipulates and uses people! How can you defend him?!” I suspected that she was seeing this from her very personal perspective, just as I was seeing from mine.
Which brings me to the main point of this blog post: the scrambling by Republican presidential candidates to shove masks back on our faces.
Here in New Hampshire, we go through the every-four-year sideshow of Presidential-wannabes traipsing through the state seeking a First-in-The-Nation Primary win. And as Primary day gets closer, each candidate tries to outflank the next in securing votes. This week, they tried to outdo each other on the issue of Marriage [In]Equality.
In August, Rick Perry had signed a pledge to support a Constitutional Amendment banning Marriage Equality nation-wide. This past Friday, at a dinner hosted by the extreme right-wing “Cornerstone Action,” Perry shored up his credentials, adding,
"As conservatives…We believe in the sanctity of traditional marriage, and I applaud those legislators in New Hampshire who are working to defend marriage as an institution between one man and one woman, realizing that children need to be raised in a loving home by a mother and a father."
Perry was referring to the current effort by the NH House to repeal the 2009 NH Marriage Equality bill.
Mitt Romney, despite pledging his personal support as an advocate of GLBT rights to the Log Cabin Republicans in 1994, turned around and signed the pledge calling for a federal amendment defining marriage as one-man and one-woman. Rick Santorum has stated that there is “no right to privacy in the U.S. Constitution” (50 years of Court decisions say otherwise), and called gay rights to the equivalent of another 9-11 terrorist attack in the Morning Call. This actually sounds like a remix of Michelle Bachmann’s letter in which she declared that legislators who oppose a federal Marriage Amendment to be like “soldiers who missed the Pearl Harbor warning signs.”
Speaking (or should I say ”pandering?”) to the Christian Broadcasting Network, Last week possible front-runner Herman Cain said,
“I think marriage should be protected at the federal level also…I used to believe that it could be just handled by the states but there’s a movement going on to basically take the teeth out of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act and that could cause an unraveling, so we do need some protection at the federal level because of that and so yes I would support legislation that would say that it’s between a man and a woman.”
Make no mistake: Theocratic political action groups such as the National Organization for Marriage and Cornerstone Action are scrambling to find ways to lock iron masks on gay men and women, lest the world see us for who we are: neighbors, teachers, firefighters, sons, daughters, architects, sports figures, secretaries, construction workers, accountants, warehousemen, drivers, and nurses.
If we can’t be seen, or acknoweldged, or recognized, they hope, we will be forgotten, as if locked in the Bastille.
As they attempt to re-introduce a climate of fear and loathing, they work on our psyche much as the crowds worked on the Phantom’s psyche: by convincing him that he was ugly, that he was different, that he would be attacked by ‘normal’ people...and just as he chose to live his life behind a mask so no one could see, so, still, do many gay and lesbian citizens.
After all, NH Rep. Ralph Boehm, the vice chairman of the House Education Committee, tried to gut the states new anti-bullying law, saying that
"Students need to be prepared for life...bullying is part of it.”
You see? We should hide...because otherwise we will be attacked. It's just "part of life."
But living behind a mask has repercussions worse than these theocrats understand.
In a 2008 poll of 260 openly gay men in New England, fully one half stated they used to me married to a woman…which, of course, ended in divorce.
They did not ‘change’ their orientation half-way through their lives. Rather, they tried to live behind a mask, where no one could see their ‘real face,’ or their ‘differences,’ and hope it would work.
And for those who claim to be on the side of “marriage,” they do themselves – and society – no favor by forcing men to live in ways they can’t.
Harvey Milk pleaded with us to drop the masks:
“…Gay brothers and sisters,... You must come out. Come out... to your parents... I know that it is hard and will hurt them but think about how they will hurt you in the voting booth! Come out to your relatives... come out to your friends... if indeed they are your friends. Come out to your neighbors... to your fellow workers... to the people who work where you eat and shop... come out only to the people you know, and who know you… But once and for all, break down the myths, destroy the lies and distortions. For your sake. For their sake. For the sake of the youngsters who are becoming scared by the votes from Dade to Eugene…”
No More Closets…No More Bastille Prison Doors…No More Iron Masks…No More Phantoms.
And no more two-faced, pandering, ignorant hateful Republicans as President, thank you.