Outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has announced that women will be allowed to serve actively and openly as combat troops in America’s ongoing wars. It’s always nice to see women get the same rights as men to go out and kill innocent Muslim people.
Sympathy for Newt and Open Marriage
You know the narrative. Right-wing family-values Republican gets caught doing secular-liberal totally-not-family-values stuff, usually involving sex:
Cruising for manlove in an airport men’s room.
Knocking up the maid.
Sending dirty emails to young male pages.
Hiring male hookers and smoking meth.
Asking wife #2 for an open marriage.
This kind of thing happens all the time. And it’s always red meat for leftie media commentators.
Liberal pundits love to call fallen Republicans hypocrites. They point out that liberal politicians are often more heterosexual and monogamous than many so-called conservatives—and remain married to the same spouse for life.
Now it’s Newt Gingrich’s turn.
In her divorce filing Ms. Gingrich the Second claims that Mr. Gingrich asked her for an open marriage so he could stay with her while carrying on with Callista, who became Ms. Gingrich the Third after Ms. Gingrich the Second refused said request. (You may need to re-read the previous sentence.)
Cue the holier-than-thou liberals.
CNN reporter John King opened a presidential debate with an assault on Newt’s alleged yearning for sexual freedom. A New York Times editorial called this “a perfectly reasonable question.”
Across the vertical seam in the op-ed graveyard Gail Collins could barely contain herself. “Beyond the hypocrisy of this sort of behavior from a guy who wants to protect the sanctity of holy matrimony from gay couples, there also seems to be a streak of almost crazed self-absorption that runs through the Newt saga,” Collins gloated. “Who would ditch a spouse of 18 years in a phone call? Shortly after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis? And, of course, he broke up with his first wife while she was battling cancer.”
That Newt Gingrich is pompous, nasty and one of the most hideous members of that physically repugnant tribe known as politicians can be stipulated by all but those blinded by hatred of Mormons and Kenyan-born socialists. Still, I think we on the Left are missing an opportunity for a teachable moment.
Progressives are fighting for human emancipation. The right to engage in sex with any consensual adult in any form is integral to this struggle to liberate ourselves from patriarchy, sexism, racism, homophobia and capitalism. How, then, can we justify mocking anyone—even a hypocritical Christian conservative—for expressing their sexuality?
When Senator Larry Craig was arrested, essentially for the crime of being a closeted gay or bisexual male, in that Minneapolis-St. Paul airport restroom, he needed our support, not our ridicule.
Imagine if supporters of gay rights from across the spectrum had refused to get sucked into stupid D-vs-R theatrics. Remember, the cops weren’t trying to catch a right-wing gay-bashing closeted senator. Craig was ensnared by one of countless sting operations conducted by police departments across the United States designed to harass all gays and lesbians. We should oppose such tactics forcefully and consistently. Defending Craig’s right to hit on other guys would have served the cause better than scoring cheap partisan points.
As for Newt’s alleged—divorce allegations ought to be swallowed with a massive dollop of sodium chloride—request for an open marriage, well, so what if he did?
When 40 to 50 percent of marriages end in divorce it’s clear that state-enforced monogamy for life isn’t working for everyone. Researchers estimate that up to six percent of American couples are in open marriages. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s their decision. It’s their choice. Asked privately, most liberals would agree.
Millions of Americans prefer alternative arrangements for their sex lives—open marriages, swinging, etc. Yet they are forced to sneak around. They’re not hiding from their lovers, but from their friends and neighbors and colleagues lest they be shamed and shunned. Unlike conventionally married couples (who cheat on one another in significant numbers), people in open relationships know exactly what their partners are up to.
Moreover, there are a lot of open relationships that no one thinks about. Does anyone doubt, for example, that the Clintons had a “don’t ask don’t tell” policy that essentially amounted to a license to cheat?
You shouldn’t have to hide or lie when you’re doing nothing wrong. Yet so-called “liberals” join their rightist counterparts in snickering about Craig’s “wide stance” and Gingrich’s request for an open marriage. The effect is to denigrate gays, lesbians and other sexually marginalized and oppressed people.
Nona Willis Aronowitz calls Gingrich “the poster child for the messy, miserable life people can have if they’re stuffed into rules they weren’t built to follow. He’s the poster child for how our sexist and repressive culture can hurt relationships. Gingrich was raised in, and now advocates for, a world that sets up incredibly narrow parameters for sex and love, and shames people who don’t adhere to those standards.”
We should tell right-wingers like Newt Gingrich: you’re one of us. You always were. The fact that you can’t live by your own supposed rules proves it.
Quit living a lie, Newt. More importantly, quit asking everyone else to live the stupid lie that defines your stupid out-of-date politics.
Hey Republicans! Are you a maid-knocking-up, men’s-room-trolling, sexting, bondage-loving, gay-bi-trans-whatever?
The Right’s not that into you. Join us.
COPYRIGHT 2012 TED RALL
Time to Take Religion Out of the Calendar
We are a secular nation. We enjoy the constitutional right to exercise any religion—or none whatsoever. So why is Christmas a federal holiday?
The U.S. has no national religion. Yet Christians get special consideration. Aside from Christmas, they also get the quasi-Christian holiday of Thanksgiving. Financial markets are closed on both of those, plus Good Friday.
Devotees of other faiths must ask their employers for time off. Jews aren’t supposed to work on Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, the first and second days of Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret, Simchat Torah, Shavu’ot, or the first, second, seventh and eighth days of Passover. They have to take up to 13 days off from work each year, more than most employers offer.
The message to Jews and other non-Christians is plain: you are second-class citizens. Separation of church and state is a fraud. You wanna practice your faith? Do it on your own time.
You might think that the government’s official embrace of Christmas is a cultural relic of America’s puritan past. But you’d be mistaken. For nearly 100 years, Christmas was not on the calendar of federal holidays. On December 25, 1789, the first Christmas under the new U.S. constitution, Congress was in session. Ulysses Grant made it a federal holiday in 1870.
At first (and second and third) glance, the Christmas federal holiday seems like a clear violation of the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution. In 1999, however, a federal district court judge in Ohio rejected a lawsuit challenging the special status of Christmas. The court ruled that “the establishment of Christmas Day as a legal public holiday does…not have the effect of endorsing religion in general or Christianity in particular.”
Legal reasoning gave way to the simplest calculus: we do stuff because we can.
Right-wing commentators such as Bill O’Reilly have accused liberals of waging a “war on Christmas.” Actually, there’s a war of Christmas: Christians use the holiday as a bludgeon against the rest of us. (Sort of how the “war on terrorism” is really a “war of terror.”) Christmas’ designation as a federal holiday is the most brazen and thus most offensive manifestation of Christian hegemony in America.
The Christian Right’s “war on Christmas” meme would be laughable if it didn’t work; they’re the majority, they’re in charge, but somehow they’re victims. The smallest concession to common decency and sensitivity—e.g. not displaying nativity scenes on government property—is portrayed as an attack on innocent Christians. Not subtle. But clever: the dominant majority gets to claim victimhood. Anything short than total domination isn’t good enough.
This has nothing to do with suppressing Christianity. I am touched, not offended, when a person of faith says that he or she is praying for me, or wishes me a “Merry Christmas.” Individual and/or private displays of religiosity are fine.
Official expressions of a specific religion, however, are disgusting and inherently repressive. Public-school teachers should not wish their students a Merry Christmas. Presidents should not end speeches by saying “God Bless America.” Our currency should not read “In God We Trust.” Courts should not use Bibles to swear in witnesses. Government officials and employees who wear their Christianity on their sleeves reinforce the majority and subjugate the minority. Notice, it’s always Christians. When’s the last time a TSA screener wished you a blessed Ramadan?
A country should live up to its stated principles. Everyone who wants to honor Christmas, whether in its religious or its consumerist contexts, is free to do so. Go to midnight mass. Festoon your roof with plastic Santas. But the government shouldn’t make it easier on Christians to celebrate one of their religious holidays than it does members of other faiths.
There are only two fair courses of action:
First, remove Christmas from the list of federal holidays. But replace it with something secular! Preferably in March or April. There’s a long gap there.
Alternatively, add holidays for other religions. Of course, this could get complicated. How many holidays for each religion? Some faiths are more festive than others. How far down the list of major American religions do we go? The Zoroastrian holiday of Navruz? Shall we make room for new religions like Scientology?
After every sect gets its day in court there might not be a single day left in the year to work.
I say: the more days off, the merrier. Er, better.
(Ted Rall is the author of “The Anti-American Manifesto.” His website is tedrall.com.)
COPYRIGHT 2010 TED RALL