Oh, Republican Congress. Why does it often seem that you would be much happier quitting the business on the floor of the House and simply driving around in Professor Brown’s DeLorean from “Back to the Future?” Is it because you find it such hard work to reverse social progress and come up with terms such as “protecting religious freedom” so that you can grab the hands of time and spin them wildly back 50 years in a counter-clockwise direction?
Last week Santa Monica’s Congressman Ted W. Lieu forcefully called out the Republicans on their guff and their bluff. Check out the last sentence in this July 5 press release from Lieu’s office as reported in The Mirror: “I am disappointed to learn that the Republican majority has decided to move forward with a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on H.R. 2802. This bill would codify discrimination against LGBT individuals and prevent them from receiving the federal benefits to which they are entitled. What the bill’s supporters wish to sell as protecting religious freedom is in reality a license to discriminate.”
From a summary of HR 2802: “Prohibits the federal government from taking discriminatory action against a person on the basis that such person believes or acts in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction that (1) marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or (2) sexual relations are properly reserved to such relations.” And then, because you can freely take the garbage out the back door of the house but you still have to be covert when you bring garbage back into the house, the bill argues that providing federal benefits for LGBT couples would discriminate against those who believe in (1) and (2). Camouflage, with the bonus odor of bigotry.
And that, in the middle of the summer, brings us to snowmobiles. Please, hang in there with me for a moment.
I grew up in Wisconsin and as a kid was I was excited when the Wisconsin-based outboard motor company Evinrude developed a kind of snow motorcycle; a fun machine that utilized boat engines allowing people in snowy winter parts of the world to travel over snow at speeds matching a car while riding the thing upright as you do a motorcycle. Snowmobiles… man, those looked cool.
And they were great… for rescuing injured skiers and getting to the sight of a plane crash when other vehicles could not. But ultimately, just riding a snowmobile and burning gasoline and crushing down pine tree seedlings and scaring the hell out of wildlife so that you could feel that conquest of man over nature… that just felt silly. Then there were the annual death tolls from often intoxicated drivers who would venture out on frozen lakes too weak to support the weight of the machine… or garrote themselves by flying through a snow drift concealing a wire fence.
Our family never owned a snowmobile, but we had cousins that did and after a few short rides I just didn’t have the mojo for it.
Now imagine that not harming nature and not bringing noisy machines into the woods was an important value in the religion my family and many others were committed to, perhaps because (like many early religions) we thought trees were sacred. Snowmobiles would “discriminate” against those beliefs and we might be able to get Congress to draft a bill that protected our religious freedom and compelled thousands of avid snowmobilers to sell their machines for scrap.
You don’t buy that, and you don’t buy the present-day “religious liberty” argument that you know is meant to send those clock hands whirling backwards. So why are we still seeing this obfuscation of bigotry? Why does Congressman Lieu need to remind Congress that “It is fundamentally misguided to suggest that religious liberty is under attack because LGBT Americans want to exercise their right to love whom they chose?”
Previously, these sorts of bills were labeled “dog whistles” because they communicated in coded language to those who would love to travel back to the 40s and 50s in a DeLorean that the Republicans deserved their support. Well, sorry, but… game over. The ugliest possible manifestation of dog whistles is now a dog in the race for the White House and our constituency of time travelers is about to get “thumped” as political genius George W. Bush once described an election whooping.
Does that mean that by Christmas of this year there will have been a purge? Not in the sense that banal illogic pretending to be a defense of liberty will have completely evaporated. There will still be arguments asserting that the answer to gun violence is, somehow, more guns. There will likely be more Benghazi-type hearings of one sort or another. But like a better tweaked sound system, I’m sensing that the distortion level is about to go down.