December 15, 2004

Protect Alabama. Bury Alice Walker.

There are several reasons I’m not a Republican, but the biggest one, the top of the list, is the fact that the Religious Right is a faction in good standing.

Although I’m an atheist/agnostic, I really don’t care that the Religious Right is religious. Nor do I care that the Religious Right is right (so to speak). What I just can’t abide is the reactionary authoritarian impulse that lurks at the heart of it.

From a Guardian story last week:
What should we do with US classics like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof or The Color Purple? “Dig a hole,” Gerald Allen recommends, “and dump them in it.”
Who is Gerald Allen? Some nut on the fringe that doesn’t deserve my attention? Don’t I wish.
Earlier this week, Allen got a call from Washington. He will be meeting with President Bush on Monday. I asked him if this was his first invitation to the White House. “Oh no,” he laughs. “It's my fifth meeting with Mr Bush.”

Bush is interested in Allen's opinions because Allen is an elected Republican representative in the Alabama state legislature. He is Bush's base. Last week, Bush's base introduced a bill that would ban the use of state funds to purchase any books or other materials that “promote homosexuality”. Allen does not want taxpayers' money to support “positive depictions of homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle”. That's why Tennessee Williams and Alice Walker have got to go.

I’ve tried to understand the opposition to gay marriage. I’ve listened to the arguments, at least the sane ones. And I’m convinced that opposition to gay marriage is not evidence of bigotry. For one thing, there are just too many people who oppose gay marriage but do support civil unions. Bigotry can’t explain the difference between my opinion and theirs – at least not in all (or even most?) cases.

But burying Alice Walker in a hole in the ground goes way beyond mere bigotry and slouches toward something far worse.

“Traditional family values are under attack,” Allen informs me. They've been under attack “for the last 40 years”. The enemy, this time, is not al-Qaida. The axis of evil is “Hollywood, the music industry”. We have an obligation to “save society from moral destruction”. We have to prevent liberal libarians and trendy teachers from “re-engineering society's fabric in the minds of our children”. We have to “protect Alabamians”.
I don’t know if Mr. Allen actually referred to Hollywood and the music industry as part of an “Axis of Evil” or if the writer inserted it for effect. This is the Guardian we’re talking about here, so I wouldn’t be surprised either way. But there’s more.
Would Allen's bill cut off state funding for Shakespeare? “Well,” he begins, after a pause, “the current draft of the bill does not address how that is going to be handled. I expect details like that to be worked out at the committee stage. Literature like Shakespeare and Hammet [sic] could be left alone.” Could be. Not “would be”. In any case, he says, “you could tone it down”
I hardly even know what to say. This guy (who unsurprisingly can’t pronounce Hamlet correctly) isn’t even able to defend William Shakespeare. We rubes “could” end up being allowed to check out the bard's books if the committee feels like it. Then again, maybe not! Shakespeare might end up being declared a “liberal” or a “fag” who somehow threatens “the children.”

When conservatives rail against “nanny state” liberalism they get my attention. Just once I’d like to see prominent conservatives other than Andrew Sullivan call out the right-wing nanny-state jerks in their own party. Any takers? Or are only liberals and centrists going to keep an eye on this crowd?

Posted by Michael J. Totten at December 15, 2004 9:02 PM
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