Monday, June 11, 2012

Mark Potok wonders if we're nuts

"The mind of a bigot is like the pupil of the eye. The more light you shine on it, the more it will contract." — Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

MARK POTOK, Senior Fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, wrote a guest opinion piece that ran in the Des Moines Register on May 28. The funny thing is that I actually knew it would be appearing before it did. 

Fancy that, me having inside information. You must know that Mark, Founder Morris Dees, Richard Cohen, Mary Bauer, Lecia Brooks and Maureen Costello are my idea of rock stars.

I knew about the upcoming piece because I recently forwarded my March 14 blog post about the SPLC to Mark, and we exchanged a couple of emails a few days before his article was set to appear.

Maybe the better thing to do would have been to pre-publicize his editorial through my blog so that more people might have been keeping an eye out for it, but I was afraid of jinxing it. I'm not superstitious actually, but I have a friend or two working at the Register, and I worried that if it were announced prepublication, some Register editor might feel that the piece had been 'leaked'. I didn't want to mess anything up for the good folks at SPLC.

But now that Mark's letter has been out and about, I'm offering it up for you to read. PS: Here's a link to the SPLC website. There's so much good stuff on it!

Dear Iowa,

I used to think you were a pretty straight-ahead place, what with all that flat land and healthy vegetables and honest living. I mean, Iowans rejected slavery 20 years before the Civil War and they approved interracial marriage a century before the U.S. Supreme Court. Homosexuality was decriminalized almost 30 years before the 2003 Lawrence vs. Texas decision did so nationwide. Today, control of the state’s Legislature is split between Democrats and Republicans and, a few characters aside, it is not known for political extremism. Like the corn it produces in such copious amounts, Iowa generally seemed a healthy and sensible place.

That idea of the state ended for me last week when I read the proposed platform released by the platform committee of the Republican Party of Iowa.

Are you people totally insane?

The platform is absolutely thick with ideas from the extreme right, lunatic conspiracy theories, and barely concealed hatred for President Obama and anything that smacks of multiculturalism. It sneers at science, is down on poor people, and despises, really despises, the United Nations.

Here’s a sampling of the deep-thinking goals of the Iowa GOP:

• Require candidates for president to prove that they are “natural born citizens,” beginning with the 2012 election. After all, non-citizens serving as president have been a longstanding problem in American politics.

• Reject the “claims” of global warming, which are “based on fraudulent, inaccurate information” and pushed by people using “extremist scare tactics.” The Iowa GOP “recognizes” that policies and laws designed to combat global warming are really “a plan to take our freedoms and liberties away.”

• Oppose “the diabolical collusion of the United Nations” in promoting its Agenda 21, a non-binding global sustainability plan signed by President George H.W. Bush and the leaders of 177 other nations in 1992. Like the Republican National Committee, the Iowa GOP apparently believes Agenda 21 is part of an effort to impose global political control on the U.S.

• Allow Iowa to “nullify” any federal laws it doesn’t like. Nullification was a failed legal argument made by opponents of the civil rights movement.

• Eliminate the Federal Reserve Act and implement a “sound commodity-backed currency” with a gold or silver standard.

• Fight the North American Union, “which would do away with our borders and sovereignty, and … [battle] the Amero, which would do away with our currency.” Although there actually are no secret plans to merge Mexico, the United States and Canada into a single entity — and replace our dollars with “Ameros” — that hasn’t stopped the conspiracy theorists.

• In the same vein, “oppose so-called ‘World Government.’ ”

• Entirely eliminate the departments of Agriculture, Education, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, Energy, Interior, Labor and Commerce, along with the Transportation Safety Administration, the Food and Drug Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Endowment for the Arts, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

• Likewise, abolish the Internal Revenue Service and repeal the 16th Amendment, which legalized the federal income tax.

• Require judges to instruct jurors that in addition to judging cases, they may pass on the law at issue. Commonly known as “jury nullification,” this is a highly controversial notion that is embraced by the radical right.

• Oppose federal anti-bullying legislation because, after all, “students have the right and responsibility to stand up for themselves.”

• Pass a “stand your ground” law, like the one that many believe led to the death of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla. By a large margin, most prosecutors and police oppose such laws, which make prosecuting many killings difficult.

• Allow parents to refuse to have their children immunized.

• Reject the teaching of multiculturalism.

• Only teach evolution as a theory, along with creationism.

• Repeal compulsory school attendance laws.

• Outlaw pornography.

• Impose “more severe consequences” for convicted juvenile offenders.

• Eliminate the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which oversees job safety.

• Repeal smoking bans because, as the platform statement asserts, “We believe this to be an issue of liberty.” Air quality in all businesses should be left up to owners’ “freedom to choose.”

• Repeal all hate crime laws.

• Oppose the imposition of Shariah, or Islamic religious law, in the United States, along with any other foreign or “United Nations Law.”

• Build a fence along the entire U.S. border with Mexico.

• Eliminate no-fault divorce laws and require “good cause” to get a divorce.

• End minimum wage laws.

• Oppose abortion and reject the Supreme Court’s decision authorizing it. Encourage adoption and aid to unwed mothers — but only if every dollar of support comes from the private sector.

• End subsidies to agriculture.

There’s more, but I’m getting tuckered out, what with sorting through this grab-bag of ridiculous conspiracy theories and just plain mean-spiritedness — an ideology that the Iowa platform committee says is all about the party’s main goal, which is “nothing more or less than a world set free.”

Set free, that is, from any connection to reality, critical thinking, or common sense.


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