It is enough: An open letter to the sick at heart
William Rivers Pitt
Stop me if youve heard this one before.
A holy man stands before his flock and says, Dads, the second you see your son dropping the limp wrist, you walk over there and crack that wrist. Man up. Give him a good punch. Ok? You are not going to act like that. You were made by God to be a male and you are going to be a male.
And then the pastor says, And when your daughter starts acting too butch, you rein her in. And you say, Oh, no, sweetheart. You can play sports. Play them to the glory of God. But sometimes you are going to act like a girl and walk like a girl and talk like a girl and smell like a girl, and that means you are going to be beautiful. You are going to be attractive. You are going to dress yourself up.
But heres the funny part: after that pastor gets called out for his psychotic, virulent, hateful rhetoric, he says, I was using hyperbole in an effort to communicate the importance of the gender distinctions that God created. In the context of the scripture, Mark, chapter 9, Jesus conjures up violent images as well, when he says, If your hand is causing you to sin, cut it off. Hes not speaking literally. Hes speaking figuratively, using hyperbole to convey the importance of the offense.
Get it? Beat your fag boys, your butch girls, beat them into line in the name of God...but if you get caught doing it (or espousing it), wave it off as hyperbole, quote holy Scripture to defend yourself, and compare yourself to Jesus...and be sure to make it a non-apology apology by using phrases like the importance of the offense, that is, it is the limp-wrist son and the butch daughter who are actually offensive, and not the exhortation delivered in church, mind you to beat them because of who they are.
That happened in America in April, and if youre fool enough to think the incident was a one-off, a fluke, an aberration, then all I can say to you, sir or maam, is good luck to you, good night, go back to sleep, and dont bother reading on from here.
That is a fair portion of modern Americana, right up there with Rockwell paintings, Saturday morning cartoons and the Statue of Liberty. I have lost count of the states in this union that are holding votes on who can get married, who can get birth control, who can get basic medical care and who can vote or not in this ongoing American experiment. It all boils down to some very simple questions: who is it legal to hate? Who can be banished from their basic American rights? Who is, and who is not?
They call it being conservative, which sounds nice and safe. Easy does it, right?
Except what these people are espousing and pursuing isnt conservative in the slightest, but instead is radical beyond the bounds of anything weve seen in this country to date, a defenestration of basic Constitutional rights. It is radical on a level shared by practitioners of a harsh seventh-century version of a particular religion you might have heard about once or twice...you know, the scary ones who condemn gay people, who think women are the fountain of all evil, and who think free expression and equality are the gateway to damnation and doom. You might have heard about people like this in the news, oh...somewhere over the last ten years. Ah, irony.
The so-called holy men of modern American conservatism are not just a problem for average sinners like you and me. Take, for example, Richard Grennell, who was hired by the Romney campaign as it entered the general election, to be that campaigns national security spokesman, and who was subsequently fired not even 200 hours later...not because Grennell was less than able to man his post as a former G.W. Bush official, he had enough DC street cred to get the job, if he was shameless enough to put it on his resume but because he was openly gay.
The hard-right denizens of the GOP base you know, the ones whose holy men believe in beating the gay out of their children, for openers rose up in their towering wrath to condemn Romney for such an odious, Godless choice.
Mitt, of course, did the courageous thing. He accepted Grennells resignation, by which I mean Grennell was sent packing bag and baggage faster than heterosexuality can jump tall, perfectly straight buildings. Because he was gay, and because Mitt didnt want to deal with the holy men frothing on his right flank, a campaign for the highest office in the land threw overboard their national security spokesman before he had time to learn how to use the phones.
As the news wont carve the facts of this deplorable mess out as cleanly as is required, here it is in the simplest of terms (and pardon the shouting voice; Im yelling through a lot of false echoes here):
1. The Republican Partys Candidate For President Hired And Then Fired Their NATIONAL SECURITY SPOKESPERSON In Less Time Than It Takes Me To Feed My Cat;
2. When A Campaign Taps A NATIONAL SECURITY SPOKESPERSON, It Almost Always (like 99.999998% of the time) Means That Person Is The Candidate's Choice for NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR Or Some Similarly Important High Post;
3. Ergo, Should Mr. Romney Win The Election In November, All The Far-Right Has To Do Is Whisper fag Or bitch Or socialist At Anyone They Dont Approve Of In Romneys Crew, And That Person Will Be Gone Baby Gone, No Matter Their Qualifications, Because THE CANDIDATE Doesnt Want To Ruffle Any Holy Feathers On His Way To The Grand Prize.
But thats not crazy, right? Hm.
You want to know the really funny joke?
OK, here it is: Once upon a time, there was a center-right political party that felt like it was losing its way after a guy named Clinton won the White House twenty years ago. So what they did was spend millions and millions of dollars in a radio, television and direct mail campaign aimed at convincing the same Americans who were suffering from their bad ideas that poor people, minorities, women and Democrats were the breathing essence of evil...
...and they concentrated this effort on the specific portion of the country that believes dinosaurs werent real because they arent in the Bible (and wow, are there a lot of them)...then, through one of the niftiest sleight-of-hand tricks in political history, they managed to get these people all fired up over abortion, gays and terrorists, and rode the thundering angst theyd created into power all across the land.
Make no mistake, the folks who really ran the party didnt believe any of the crap they were peddling. At all. They spread that garbage as far and wide as possible wreathing their sales pitch in tones of fear, horror and imminent doom because they knew the people they were peddling it to would vacuum up quarters from between their couch cushions and send that money along to party headquarters.
The same party people who championed the abolition of Roe v. Wade had, for example, no interest whatsoever in abolishing Roe v. Wade because, if that happened, theyd lose the fattest cash cow theyd ever enjoyed (see: eight years of Reagan, four years of G.H.W.Bush, and eight years of G.W. Bush...twenty years of Republican presidents...yet Roe lived on...and if you hate Roe and voted for these men, ask yourself why).
The ones in charge of this party werent religious if you told them dinosaurs didnt exist, theyd laugh in your face and while they won all sorts of state and local elections screeching about borders and brown people, the anti-others cash sent to party headquarters was spent trying to figure out how to get those minorities theyd spent so much time spurning and denigrating to vote for them...because winning was the thing. Not facts. Not justice. Winning, period.
But all of a sudden and heres the funny part the horse got out of the barn and went pounding across the countryside, absolutely beyond control. Twenty years of peddling hate and fear metastasized into a Tea Party base whose real muscle came from championing hate and fear...and the smart boys who started the whole thing two decades ago were left in front of an open barn door wondering how things got so bad so fast.
Suddenly, the worst elements of their dark creation Christian dominionism, anti-gay zealotry, anti-woman Biblical dudgeon, unabashed racism, cocked-rifle xenophobia, and an all-out assault on even the most meager concepts of government went from being the crap theyd once ignored as bad noise from their useful idiots to being the hood ornament on the careening juggernaut of a party they no longer had control of.
The rest, as they say, is history: their Tea Party opened the floodgates for the kind of publicly-spouted revisionist-history nonsense one might expect from a 19th century tent revival: lots of Jesus, please pass the hat, send home the women and children because the minstrel show is about to begin...and hey, sir, heres some snake oil...it'll cure what ails ya...cash only, please...
Welcome to 21st century American politics, Republican-style.
I am sick at heart sick down to the deepest roots of my soul of treating this as rational, as logical, as anything other than utter and complete derangement. We are in a full mess, friends and neighbors, and pretending gravity doesnt exist beyond the will of God isnt going to cut it in the voting booth from here on out. I have all the sympathy in the world for those who have been scammed, conned and taken advantage of, but I am all the way done with living in a country run by the professionally duped.
If your upbringing or pastor or background or whatever leads you to hate total strangers because of who they love, where they live, what they look like, how they worship or if they worship, if you have devoted yourself to an Us-or-Them mentality and refuse to abandon such poison, if you have no ears to hear, but instead choose to pursue a course of vitriol and division, here is a truth: we will break you across our knee like so much kindling. We are large, we contain multitudes, and yours is a course of dissolution and despair.
Cast aside your furious obedience. Freedom begins with a No.
It is enough.
William Rivers Pitt is a Truthout editor and columnist living in Boston and a bestselling author. His latest book is House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and Americas Ravaged Reputation. His op-ed was posted on Truthout, May 9, 2012, and reprinted in PeaceMeal, May/June 2012.
(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)