I’ve grown terribly weary of my fellow liberals calling George Bush the anti-Christ or the devil. First, I believe that coming from a place of such fear only gives him more power. Second, it’s just not accurate. George Bush wishes he were as smart as the anti-Christ. He’d kill for the popularity that someone as cunning as Lucifer would be having in the polls right now. As far as I’m concerned, it is too generous a compliment to compare Bush to Satan or Beelzebub or some other form of the Beast that was supposed to come down and rule the world on yesterday’s rare date: 6-6-6. Being the Prince of Darkness would be an improvement. George W. Bush is more like the Prince of the Lowest Common Denominator.
I mean it when I say I’m tired of hyperbolic anti-Bush diatribes, and I’m well aware that’s what I’m doing. What’s got me spitting today is the farce that occurred on the Senate floor this week regarding the so-called Marriage Protection Amendment that would write discrimination into the U.S. Constitution. Bush and his team whipped their ultra-conservative base into a frenzy during the 2004 campaign with their twisted lies and distortions about gay marriage. After he “won” the election, Bush told the Washington Post that he would not push for the constitutional ban. But Monday, with his numbers in the toilet and Republicans terrified that they’re going to lose big in the mid-term elections this year, Bush jumped back onto this tired, wheezing horse. He now says the amendment is necessary because “activist judges” have struck down bans on same-sex marriage that have been passed by overwhelming margins. “These amendments and laws express a broad consensus in our country for protecting the institution of marriage,” Bush said, sounding even more insincere than usual. “The people have spoken.” No we haven’t, except to say that our President is a jackass.
An hour ago, the Senate voted down the ban, as expected, but Republicans are planning a vote in the House of Representatives to keep the spotlight on this issue. I only pray that this latest calculated maneuver backfires, and there are plenty of signs that it may. First of all, many people resent the time and money that is being completely wasted on this debate right now. Even loyal Republicans admit that the sole aim of the President in addressing this issue is to score political points, and that is risky business, especially at a time when the administration and our country are beset with enormous problems at home and abroad. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid rightly stated this week that “this is another one of the President's efforts to frighten, to distort, to distract and confuse America. It is this administration's way of avoiding the tough, real problems that American citizens are confronted with each and every day.”
The extreme right loves to attach a bunch of wild science fiction scenarios to this issue in an attempt to scare people into supporting their appalling and unpopular amendment. If gay people were allowed to marry it would basically mean the end of our civilization as we know it, according to these folks. And, as I mentioned in a recent post, they claim such unions will lead to all sorts of atrocities—men marrying goats, woman entering into holy matrimony with their housecats, little boys in wedded bliss with their grandmothers, your Uncle Fred marrying his favorite potato peeler, you name it. It’s all horseshit. Allowing loving same-sex couples to get the legal protections that marriage offers will NOT weaken the institution of marriage or provide less and less loving two-parent homes for children, as they claim. Um, excuse me, but wouldn’t such committed relationships between gay couples provide more stable homes for children?
Some of the most vociferous opponents of gay marriage see Bush’s renewed interest for what it is. “I'm going to go and hear what he says, but we already know it is a ruse,” said Joe Glover, president of the so-called Family Policy Network. “We're not buying it.” Even Laura Bush seems uncomfortable with her husband’s latest moves. She told Fox News that she didn’t think this issue should be used as a campaign tool.
One classic moment from yesterday’s debate was Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma pointing to an enlarged portrait of his family and saying the following:
“As you see here, and I think this is maybe the most important prop we’ll have during the entire debate, my wife and I have been married 47 years. We have 20 kids and grandkids. I’m really proud to say that in the recorded history of our family, we’ve never had a divorce or any kind of homosexual relationship.” Good for you, James, but it's no wonder cousin Jimmy and your Aunt Shirley are staying firmly in the closet with that kind of attitude.
It's hard to top that pearl. How about the Senator from Katrina-devastated Louisiana who stated today, “I don't believe there's any issue that's more important than this one.” Great. And Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a likely presidential candidate in 2008, vows to keep the fight going. He has to, because as he said today after the vote, “For thousands of years, marriage—the union between a man and a woman—has been recognized as an essential cornerstone of society.” That’s right, Bill, thousands of years. And that includes all of the laws on the books that made it perfectly legal for men to have numerous wives, divorce them if they didn’t give them a son, and beat them silly.
“Our policies should aim to strengthen families, not undermine them,” Bush said yesterday, implying, I guess, that families that include gay people are not “real” families. His rhetoric is outrageous, despite his pathetic attempts to appear open-minded (but not so open-minded he’ll alienate his all-important “base”). I have no doubt that years from now history teachers will be looking at this debate with their students in the same way that we examine the civil rights battles of the 1960s or the actions of the House Un-American Activities Committee. Future students will be stunned at the levels of intolerance and hysteria that surrounded this issue in the early part of the twenty-first century and listening to some of the statements made by our elected officials will have the same impact as the ravings of southern segregationalists have on students today.
Speaking of segregation, I saw that George Wallace Jr. will now face a July runoff after yesterday’s primary to see who will be the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor in Alabama. One of the charges being levied against the son of the former governor (actually he is the son of two former governors since his mother Lurleen served in that office as well) is that he’s too liberal. Who can forget George Wallace Sr.’s ugly rhetoric in the 1960s or when he famously stood in the doorway at the University of Alabama trying to prevent two black students from entering? The photos of that are burned into our collective consciousness as a symbol of American racism. I don’t for a second consider George W. Bush a racist. And yet today I have far more respect for George Wallace as a politician than I do George Bush. As heinous as they were, I believe Wallace’s views were heartfelt, and in the 1970s, he found the courage to apologize to civil rights leaders and label his previous actions as wrong. Sure, times had changed and there was political expediency involved, but I believe he actually was sorry for what he had done. Remember that in Wallace's last term as governor in the 1980s, more blacks were appointed to government positions than ever before. But how do we assess Bush’s actions about this proposed amendment when even his own friends admit that he doesn’t really care about the issue, he’s just using it for his own purposes. Does Bush think we are all blithering idiots?
I thought of the late Coretta Scott King yesterday who braved criticism, even by some members of her own family, to fight against this amendment when it reared its ugly head in 2004. She called gay marriage a civil rights issue and said that “constitutional amendments should be used to expand freedom, not restrict it.”
An editorial in yesterday’s Boston Globe responded to Bush’s dire warnings:
One problem: Gay marriage isn’t a real threat. In Massachusetts, married gay couples are not masterminding terrorist bombings. They are not refining weapons-grade uranium nor are they running up federal budget deficits. Married gay couples are not monitoring their fellow Americans' phone calls and e-mails. They haven't cut Medicaid. And they didn't put that doughnut hole in the middle of Medicare's new prescription drug program.
If there's anything to be said about two years of gay marriage in Massachusetts, it's congratulations to the couples and now back to our regularly scheduled conversations about “American Idol” and “The Sopranos.”
As for the claim that gay marriage is hurting straight marriage: Where's the evidence? Straight marriages have flaws, from fights to extramarital (and largely heterosexual) affairs. But these problems predate gay marriage by centuries.
Government should be concerned about children. But the big threat they face is poverty, not gay marriage. Any serious defense of children has to include better physical and mental health care, stronger schools, increasing family incomes, and less exposure to crime and violence. Banning gay marriage would not accomplish any of these things.
My daughter Leah graduated from elementary school yesterday. We attended a beautiful and very moving candle lighting ceremony for the fifth graders. It is amazing to see how much these students have changed since school began last September. It seems as if they started fifth grade as young children and are finishing it as young men and woman. Hormones are jumping all over the place and the kids, most of whom have been together for five years or more, are beginning to look at each other in new ways. Three girls in Leah’s class announced they had “boyfriends” this spring, whatever that means at this age. Middle School will definitely bring a whole new slate of challenges, both academically and socially. At some point in the future, a percentage of these kids will probably discover that they are gay. If Leah ends up having such feelings and decides, as an adult, to share her life with the woman she loves, it makes me crazy to think that these twisted individuals who are fighting so hard against gay marriage with their lies and distortions will have a serious impact on my daughter’s life and status in this country.
Yeah, yesterday was the Day of the Beast, all right, but we didn’t have to go the Underworld to find it. It’s right here in the air that we’re breathing.