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It's George Wallace All Over Again

George Wallace
Spoiler Alert: segregation lost

In 1954, the Supreme Court decided in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas case that segregation was an unconstitutional violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Nine years later, horrified by the ramifications of this decision, Democratic Alabama Governor George Wallace stood in the schoolhouse door of Foster Auditorium at the University of Alabama to prevent the entrance of two black students who had been reluctantly admitted to the school after a federal district judge intervened on their behalf. Wallace's last stand for segregation has gone down in the history books as an embarrassing moment when the forces of bigotry, stubborn traditionalism, and racism did their level best to stand athwart the progress of freedom and justice for all.

Yesterday, Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee performed his own schoolhouse door protest on behalf of Kim Davis, a Rowan County, Kentucky clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples following this year's landmark Obergefell v. Hodges decision, in which anti-gay-marriage laws were deemed unconstitutional violations of the Fourteenth Amendment. A gathered crowd of Davis supporters cheered him on, and as I watched the drama unfold on my HD television screen, I realized that history is repeating itself, that the spirit of George Wallace is alive and well.

I get that the religious right--the socially ultra-conservative wing of the Republican party--doesn't approve of same-sex marriage, but I can find no argument against the Obergefell decision or in defense of Kim Davis that isn't rooted in the same bigotry and stubborn traditionalism that defined George Wallace's last stand. You are perfectly free in this country to disapprove of gay marriage on religious grounds. You are even free to open a business that refuses to serve married gay couples, even though that makes you an asshat, because hey, free market. However, if you work for the state, your religious beliefs do not override your sworn duty to uphold the law. If you feel it does, that's fine, but know that you can and should be put in jail for acting that way. This is what happened to Kim Davis, and I have no sympathy for her.

Mike Huckabee and Kim Davis
Spoiler Alert: same-sex marriage is still legal

But the groundswell of support within the Republican Party for Kim Davis is astounding. It's not just Huckabee, either, who every objective observer can see is a televangelist play-acting as a politician. Ted Cruz, stubborn ideologue and darling of the Tea Party movement, also tried to get in on the sweet Kim Davis action. There is nothing fundamentalist Christians react more strongly to than perceived persecution, and Kim Davis perfectly encapsulates their skewed belief that America has somehow become unsafe for Christians to practice their religion openly.

This is a secular country founded on principles of religious freedom. You can be Christian. You can be Muslim. You can believe in the flying spaghetti monster or little aliens that have invaded your blood and given you bad emotions. Whatever. You will not be put in jail for your beliefs, only your actions, should they conflict with the law. Being a free country isn't the same thing as being a Christian country, and make no mistakes, the United States of America has never been a Christian nation. It is not illegal to be a Christian, nor is it illegal to be a homophobic dickhead who wants to rally against gay marriage but can't seem to find the time to protest divorce being legal (even though it is denounced over a dozen times in the Bible whereas same-sex marriage is mentioned... let me see here... exactly zero times). However, as a public servant, you don't get to pick and choose which laws and which court decisions to follow and which to ignore. If it were kosher for every government official to do that, we'd have utter chaos and the law would be largely meaningless.

But hey, you can still support Kim Davis, if you want. Just know that she deserves whatever punishment she gets for refusing to follow the court's decisions. For example, I supported Edward Snowden, but I refuse to call him a hero until he decides to face the consequences of his brave but clearly illegal actions. You can say Kim Davis is a hero, if that's what you believe, but you would be wrong to say she's been treated unfairly or persecuted for her beliefs. That is not what has happened here. All that has happened was a stubborn ideologue stood in the way of a wrecking ball and was predictably beaten down for it.

Jesus comic
The sermon on the mount isn't exactly ambiguous on this matter

I don't hold any more ill-will than I do sympathy toward Kim Davis, because I am largely indifferent to her supposed plight. What I find disturbing is the throngs of support she's getting, especially among the ranks of a Republican Party that, until recently, seemed to be heading in a more libertarian direction. Indeed, the Republican Party is doing its level best to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, and stuff like Huckabee's rally for homophobia is symptomatic of an enormous problem.

In 2010 and again in 2014, Republicans rode a wave of grassroots support for limited government, fiscal responsibility, opposition to the A.C.A., and more economic freedom that ultimately granted them the greatest majority in Congress they've had in a century. What have they done with this? Nothing but capitulation. We were promised a party that would fight to repeal and replace Obamacare, slash the budget, undo presidential overreach, and more. Instead, we got a party that willingly calls a treaty not a treaty so the president can push it through against the wishes of the majority. We got a party that would rather reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank than start cutting funding. We got a party that refuses to entertain the possibility of a shutdown to put pressure on an administration that chooses to ignore it.

Rightfully angry about this development that has essentially rendered the 2014 election meaningless, the grassroots turned to a man they don't fully understand: Donald Trump. They love him because he's angry, uncivil, and uncompromising. However, this is hardly a winning political strategy, and those are not attributes anyone should want in their leader. The problems with Trump are legion--he thinks he can stand up to Putin, but gets all whiny when Megyn Kelly asks him a hard question; he freely admits that he believes most people don't deserve respect; he is pretty much a raving, racist psychopath; he paid to have Hillary Clinton at his wedding; he's been a Republican for about five minutes and has changed his mind on every major political topic more times than I can count; he thinks he can bring fiscal responsibility to the country, even though he's declared bankruptcy multiple times; he has proven throughout his life that he can't handle commitment, as evidenced by his multiple divorces and mercurial career paths; he is beyond divisive; etc.--but again, the real problem isn't with Trump. It's with those who support him, despite clear signs that he'd be the worst president this country has ever seen. I'd rather see Bernie Sanders in the Oval Office, for Christ's sake, and that man is an avowed socialist!

Kim Davis supporters
These people vote

Which brings me back to Kim Davis, who is illustrative of the same disorder within the party. Social conservatives are angry at the Supreme Court, and so they have turned again to someone they don't fully understand. Kim Davis is hardly a winning role model to latch onto, and opposition to same-sex marriage is not a respectable hill to choose to die on. Judging by the poll numbers, though, this is where the party is marking its line in the sand, a line that says it's okay to defy the law as long as you're fighting against the Fourteenth Amendment rights of those damned queers your God despises so much (and it's okay to be an uncompromising asshole, as long as you call yourself a Republican these days).

Let me make one thing abundantly clear here. When I was in Sunday school, they taught me that it was Christian to love and to turn the other cheek. They taught me it is not man's place to punish people for sins against God, that it is better to tolerate and to forgive. From my understanding of what Christianity is all about, I don't see Kim Davis acting anything like a Christian. Maybe I'm wrong, and maybe the Bible says we should be marching across the world waving the flag of Christ, demanding that everybody follow a biblical theology, and punishing those who disagree. I know there are places in the Middle East where a lot of people feel similarly about their religion, and that's not the kind of place in which I'm interested in living.

-e. magill 9/9/2015

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