GRAVES REGISTRY: Cactusgate
It is written: Thou shall not serve or take photographs of anyone who is an abomination before Me. You will, instead, cast them out hungry, humiliated, and bereft of wedding albums and stuff like that. Only then will you be assured of a place among the truly blessed upon the earth that will set you on a shortcut to Paradise. And don't let any heathen tell you that this is just bigotry cloaked in sanctimony.
What it was, as it turns out, was a really bad business idea all fancied up in plumes of righteousness. And if there is anything that will trump the Republican Party's slavish devotion to what they euphemistically term "traditional values," like apple pie and toting guns, it's a threat to the revenue that less traditional behavior generates. A little straying off the straight and narrow (an apt phrase if there ever was one) has to be tolerated, especially when it's good for business.
Pope Francis recently signaled a change in the attitude towards same-sex partners by the Catholic Church, an institution that has been mired in tradition for centuries. Francis asked, "Who am I to judge?" The Pope, of course, is the spiritual leader of tens of millions of people around the globe.
Republican politicians in Arizona didn't feel bound by such humble constraints. They decided to try a new approach to stigmatizing people whose lives failed to meet their exacting moral standards, invoking the name of Christ, no less, to hide behind. Supporters claimed that the bill, SB 1062, was intended to protect the delicate religious sensibilities of conservative so-called Christians to refuse any service to anyone whose sexual orientation mightily offended them. The bill was so morally repugnant that even Fox News expressed some doubt about its advisability.
Arizona is part of that remarkable chain of epically retrogressive states that also includes Florida, South Carolina, and Texas. They exist as monuments to the status quo, to the established order, to stagnation, and, above all, to the timeless wisdom of pontificating white guys. It isn't difficult to apply the same language and logic that was used to sanitize SB 1062 to the laws that kept African Americans in misery and bondage for nearly a century in the land of the free.
The bill cast the sincerity of the GOP's resolve to open its arms to welcome members of minority groups into some doubt, at least for those gullible enough to ever believe it in the first place. I mean a spoonful of sugar isn't going to amount to much if person can't even get seated at the table. It was a move worthy of Putin in the land that spouted John McCain.
The evoking of Christ's name to sweeten the stench emanating from its windows did not deceive Americans living beyond the prehistoric walls of the statehouse in Phoenix. The outcry was deafening. One of the bill's supporters, Rep. Steve Pierce, in a news segment that vividly illustrated how vacuous ignorance is rampant in so many state legislatures, in effect told an interviewer that a bunch of the guys was just, you know, sitting around the statehouse and nobody said not to vote for it even though they kind of sort of thought it might not be good for the state. So they voted for it. It is absolutely chilling that people this abysmally dim have a marked influence over other peoples' lives.
More ominously for GOP legislators, however, big business interests in the state were unanimous in condemnation of the bill. The NFL threatened to take the Super Bowl somewhere else. American Airlines, the Marriott hotel chain, Major League Baseball, Delta Airlines, Petsmart, and Apple all urged Gov. Jan Brewer to veto it, which she did on Feb. 26.
If there is any lingering doubt as to whether Brewer did the right thing -- even if it was for all the wrong reasons -- Rep. Michele Bachmann expressed regret over the governor's veto. For anyone who truly believes in Christ's seminal admonition to "Do unto others," Bachmann's disapproval is roughly the equivalent of a "Well done" from Mother Teresa.
Bigots never recognize the trait in themselves and they probably wouldn't acknowledge it if they did. Discrimination and bigotry always have to be wrapped up in a more palatable package. The enslavement of an entire race of people was pitched as a state's rights issue.
There is a component of ultra zealous Christians that compels them to hate something. People who choose to live their lives differently from the norm have to be demonized as affronts to God. They have managed somehow to equate hatred with goodness, completely distorting the fundamental precept that formed the backbone of all of Christ's teachings. Who can look at the antics of a sideshow like the Westboro Baptist Church and not imagine Him weeping at the spectacle?
What Republicans in the Arizona legislature tried to do was to lend a legal status to promoting hatred. When John McCain commended Brewer's veto of SB 1062 because of its adverse effect on the state's economy, he never even mentioned the bill's despicable moral implications. People like Sen. McCain just don't get it and, thankfully, sooner or later the world just moves on without them.
Alden Graves is a Banner columnist.
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