Bush, Brownback and Benedict

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by Mel Seesholtz, Ph.D.

On December 20, 2006, George W. Bush announced he is considering expanding the Army and Marines and that he believes “we’re going to win” in Iraq. What could the little megalomaniac possibly mean by “win”? Does anyone with more than six functioning neurons believe him? Tony Auth’s cartoon said it well. Stubborn stupidity is, after all, one of Bush’s two specialties. The other is speaking out of both sides of his mouth.

How would Bush increase the size of the military? As the Associated Press noted, “The unpopular war in Iraq, where more than 2,950 American troops have already died, complicates the task of finding more recruits and retaining current troops.” That would seem to point in only one direction: the draft.

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Selective Service System is planning a comprehensive test of the military draft machinery, which hasn't been run since 1998…

Meanwhile, the secretary for Veterans Affairs said that “society would benefit” if the U.S. were to bring back the draft and that it shouldn't have any loopholes for anyone who is called to serve. Secretary Jim Nicholson later issued a statement saying he does not support reinstituting a draft. …

The Selective Service “readiness exercise” would test the system that randomly chooses draftees by birth date and the network of appeals boards that decide how to deal with conscientious objectors and others who want to delay reporting for duty, said Scott Campbell, Selective Service director for operations and chief information officer. …

The administration has for years forcefully opposed bringing back the draft, and the White House said Thursday that its position had not changed.

How much is this “comprehensive test of the military draft machinery” going to cost taxpayers? If, as it claims, the Bush administration does not intend to try to reinstate the draft, why mount this expensive “test”?

Bush gazed further into his opaque crystal ball in his December 20 press conference: “I am predicting that it’s going to take a while for the ideology of liberty to finally triumph over the ideology of hate.” Bush should certainly know about the “ideology of hate.” He deployed a strategy based on it in both his presidential campaigns. And those retrograde Republicans who wish to follow in his ignominious footsteps are still at it.

New York Times columnist Frank Rich made the case in a recent article:

This time around, ballot initiatives banning same-sex marriage drew markedly less support than in 2004; the draconian one endorsed by McCain in Arizona was voted down altogether. Two national politicians who had kowtowed egregiously to their party’s fringe, Rick Santorum and George Allen, were defeated, joining their ideological fellow travelers Tom DeLay and Ralph Reed in the political junkyard. To further confirm the inexorable march of social history, the only Christmas season miracle to lift the beleaguered Bush administration this year has been the announcement that Mary Cheney, the vice president's gay daughter, is pregnant. Her growing family is the living rejoinder to those in her father’s party who would relegate gay American couples and their children to second-class legal or human status.

Yet not even these political realities have entirely broken the knee-jerk habit of some 2008 Republican presidential hopefuls to woo homophobes.

Chief among those wooers is Republican Sen. Sam Brownback from Kansas, the state that redefined “science” to include metaphysical explanations for natural phenomena. The senator’s vehement antigay views are well known. He brags about them and plans to base his campaign on them:

Brownback would define candidacy by opposing gays

Sam Brownback said Thursday [December 21, 2006] that conservative values like opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage will distinguish him from others vying for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. ”I think there’s room in the field for someone with full-scale conservative values,” the Kansas senator told about 80 people at a conference room of a branch of the Spartanburg, S.C., Regional Healthcare System.

Brownback was in the news recently for holding up the confirmation of Michigan state judge Janet Neff to a federal district court because, in 2002, she attended a lesbian commitment ceremony in Massachusetts. A year or so later, that state’s Supreme Court declared same-sex couples could not be barred from the civil institution called “marriage.”

As the New York Times reported,

Judge Neff, a Michigan state court judge, attended the commitment ceremony of the daughter of a family who had lived next door to her for 26 years. She said that attending and delivering a homily was like joining in an important event in the life of one of her own daughters.

Mr. Brownback, one of the most conservative senators, considered it to be a disqualifier for the bench. Later, he made an equally objectionable offer: he would allow a vote on Judge Neff if she agreed to recuse herself from cases involving same-sex unions. The Senate does not get to tell federal judges what areas of law they may rule on.

Brownback eventually backed off and promised to allow a vote of Judge Neff’s appointment. The New York Times editorial made the critical assessment:

Senator Brownback now seems to be calculating that even in the Republican Party, the sort of extreme bigotry he has shown toward gay people would not be a selling point. At a time when Vice President Dick Cheney’s lesbian daughter is pregnant and President Bush has declared himself “happy for her,” Mr. Brownback’s hostility puts him far out on the political fringe.

Mr. Brownback says that although he will allow Judge Neff’s nomination to come to a vote, he is still likely to vote against her. If he does, he should be asked to explain his vote if he hits the presidential campaign trail. Whether someone has attended a same-sex commitment ceremony is not a worthy litmus test to impose on someone seeking an important office. Whether someone holds hateful views toward gay people certainly is. [link added]

“Hateful views toward gay people” – and unmitigated hypocrisy – are also the forte of Pope Benedict XVI, leader of the institution that concealed decades of pedophilia and child abuse by its priests. In his December 22, 2006 year-end speech to Rome’s clergy the pope urged they rally the faithful to oppose laws that would support gay and opposite-sex unmarried couples.

Meanwhile, some “Catholic leaders” in America were already taking matters into their own hands:

Police have filed an assault charge against the executive director of Boston-based Catholic Citizenship in the attack on a woman protesting the group’s antigay rally Saturday outside City Hall in Worcester, Mass. Sarah Loy, 27, a straight supporter of same-sex marriage, says she was pushed to the ground by Larry Cirignano at the rally.

Cirignano, 50, Catholic Citizenship’s leader, used the rally to call on the Massachusetts legislature to vote on a proposed state constitutional amendment to halt same-sex marriages there. Last month state lawmakers recessed for the year without acting on the antigay proposal.

Loy, who attended with her husband and a few gay allies, went to the rally and staged a counterprotest. She held a sign saying “No discrimination in the constitution.” When Cirignano saw Loy, she said, he stepped down from the podium and lunged at her, tackling her to the ground.

“You need to get out. You need to get out of here right now,” he threatened as he pushed her, her head slamming against the concrete sidewalk, according to the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. [link added]

Aside from his ongoing crusade on behalf of prejudice and disenfranchisement, Benedict’s December 22 remarks were prompted by the Italian government’s promise to enact legislation guaranteeing civil equality and equal rights for all unmarried couples, including same-sex ones, by the end of January 2007. The pope doesn’t like that:

“I cannot silence my worry about the laws on unmarried couples,” Benedict said. “Many of these couples have chosen that road because, for the time being, they don’t feel up to accepting the judicially ordered and binding cohabitation of marriage.”

“And so joining a man and a woman, and two people of the same sex becomes the same,” Benedict said. “With that, the ominous theories that deny any relevance to the human person’s masculinity and femininity are tacitly confirmed.”

In the first statement, Benedict acknowledged that marriage is a “judicially ordered” civil institution. Civil judiciaries all over the world have ruled that discrimination is illegal. The pope doesn’t like that either. He’s still furious with Canada and Spain for legalizing same-sex marriage. Every so often Benedict fires off a tirade against the governments of both countries. In response, they have repeatedly told the pope to butt out of their civil affairs.

As for Benedict’s other point, there are a significant number of same-sex couples worldwide ready, willing and able to enter into the “binding cohabitation of marriage.” Many of them are already rearing children or plan to do so. How sad the pope is intent on disenfranchising these couples and their children who would benefit socially and economically from their parents’ marriage being legally recognized.

Benedict’s second statement really made no sense at all. He claimed that recognizing same-sex civil unions would “deny any relevance to the human person’s masculinity and femininity.”

How would recognizing same-sex civil unions affect other people’s “masculinity and femininity”? Does the pope think recognizing same-sex civil unions would cause all heterosexual men and women to view their masculinity or femininity as irrelevant? Or is it more likely he’s just playing on old stereotypes and prejudices in order to divide and conquer?

In a truly stunning display of Machiavellian hypocrisy, two days later in his Christmas Eve speech the pope urged all people to strive to “overcome preconceived ideas and prejudices, tear down barriers and eliminate contrasts that divide – or worse – set individuals and peoples against each other, so as to build together a world of justice and peace.”

Benedict and his theopolitical “church” are in the forefront of advocating prejudice against gay people and erecting barriers to keep them, their committed unions and families marginalized. In relation to gay people and their struggle for civil rights, the Catholic Church has consistently sought to “set individuals and peoples against each other.” And the Church has never sought to work with gay men and women “to build together a world of justice and peace.”

So as Christians celebrate the Christmas season’s message of peace on earth and good will toward all, George “we’re going to win” Bush looks for new ways to send more young men and women into a bloody, no-win war, presidential wannabe Sam Brownback brags about his bigotry, and Pope Benedict offers anything but good will toward all by proposing new “reasons” to deny some people civil equality. Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

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