Pickets Charge The last issue featured an article on Fred Phelps and his clan of professional haters and showed a typical protest in which they held up signs saying stuff like “God Hates Fags” and “God Hates the USA.” It was thus reassuring to come across the photo shown as an eloquent rejoinder. In contrast to the Phelps’ neatly printed posters, the one reading “fuck this guy” was obviously scrawled out on the spot, complete with an arrow indicating the guy’s direction in real time. And the picketer chose the perfect insult, complete with a double entendre that gets right to the point of the Phelps folks’ strange obsession.
Tea and Calumny The so-called “Tea Party” (or has it gone beyond the “so-called” stage?) has accomplished a number of things, such as exposing the fault lines within the Republican Party, not to be mistaken for your father’s club for button-down suburbanites. No, this new breed of shut-ins and early retirees is mad as hell, and they aren’t afraid to talk a little trash when describing their enemies. Take the following exchange between the recently deposed head of Montana’s Big Sky Tea Party Association, Tim Ravndal, and two political pals:
Tim Ravndal: Marriage is between a man and a woman period! By giving rights to those otherwise would be a violation of the constitution and my own rights
Keith Baker: How dare you exercise your First Amendment Rights?
Dennis Scranton: I think fruits are decorative. Hang up where they can be seen and appreciated. Call Wyoming for display instructions.
Ravndal: Oops I forgot this aint America no more! Where can I get that Wyoming printed instruction manual?
Scranton: Should be able to get info Gazette archives. Maybe even an illustration. Go back a bit over ten years.
The Wyoming “display” was recognized as a reference to Mat-thew Shepard and thus amounted to a jocular suggestion that “fruits” be tortured and killed. In fairness, Ravndal was forced to resign over the comments, but they echo the kind of slogans that routinely show up at Tea Party rallies. Party leaders can’t be responsible for the excesses of rank-and-file members, but now that the rank-and-file are running the asylum, they’re saying things openly that used to be said only in code.
Are Gays Off the Hook? First we learned that key Republican politicians and donors were “flocking” to fund-raising events for the Log Cabin Republicans and other conservative gay organizations that they’d always shunned. Then it was announced that Ann Coulter would headline at the first annual “Homocon” of GOProud, a gay group that’s to the right of the Log Cabinites. Plus, we finally had an election in which same-sex marriage wasn’t the burning issue of the day for conservative politicians. Pundits wondered whether the far Right had given up the fight against gay equality as a lost cause. That would be nice, but a more likely explanation is that they found a different set of enemies to go after this time around. This campaign season it was illegal aliens and Muslims who were targeted for abuse—only the most visible groups in a wave of xenophobia that was captured by the ubiquitous phrase, “Take Back America,” the implication being that it had been “stolen” by various minorities. This might be a normal response to economic hard times or a delayed reaction to the election of a black president; but it also shows is how quickly the demagogues’ narrative can shift in response to economic or political vicissitudes. So “we” may be off the hook for now—but for how long?
Support Surges Past 50% For the first time, a majority of Americans favor same-sex marriage, according to surveys that have been asking U.S. citizens roughly this question since 1988. The trend line has been moving slowly but steadily upward from around 10% to just over half at present, according to a compilation of surveys over the 22-year time span. The resulting graph shows clearly the smoothly rising slope, interrupted only by a couple of minor dips and surges along the way. Some wondered aloud whether there was a subliminal message in the line graph; we’ll let the diagram stand for itself.
Are We Having Sex Yet? What does it mean to “have sex”? The question arose during the Clinton years when we learned that you could say you “didn’t have sex with that woman”—and get away with it—if all you got was a “lewinsky.” Then we found out that people disagree on whether this particular act, among others, constitutes “sex,” so that, for example, it’s quite possible that where Clinton comes from a blow job doesn’t qualify, even if it does in Washington, DC. Now a study has revealed that gay men in Britain and the U.S. have quite different ideas about when sex has occurred. Thus, for instance, oral-genital contact amounts to having sex for 85% of Brits but only 71% of Americans, while sex-toy stimulation counts as sex for 77% of Brits but only 55% of Americans. In all categories, in fact, the British men tended to be more inclusive in their definition of sex than were the Americans. The researchers noted the policy implications for HIV education when using a phrase like “safer sex,” but didn’t try to explain the bi-national disparity. The fact that Arkansas is in the U.S.—along with vast regions where a lewinsky isn’t considered a sexual act—could have something to do with it. Leave it to the Americans to be the ones more likely to deny that sex has taken place.