Opposition, Hatred, Racism… How Far Should Politics Go?
(June 28, 2012) November must almost be upon us because politics is getting nastier.
Earlier this month, in Missoula, Montana, the state Republican Party held their convention and while it had the usual President Obama and Democratic Party bashing, it got much uglier this time when an outhouse on wheels, designated as the “Obama Presidential Library” pulled up in front of the hall where the convention was being held. If that in itself was not ugly enough, painted bullet holes riddled the sides of the outhouse signaling that the owner of the outhouse has not learned that suggesting the shooting of presidents is highly inappropriate to say nothing of it being illegal.
This was not the unveiling of the outhouse as it has been making appearances throughout Montana recently. Not to be dismissed as simply a humorist of bad taste, the builder of this despicable exhibit placed inside the outhouse comments for which must represent the intellect of Tea Partiers and other right wing nuts that have hijacked the GOP and become its new base.
Inside, a fake birth certificate for Barack Hussein Obama made reference to the disproven controversy over the president’s birth. This conspiracy claims Obama is not an American citizen and, therefore, not the legitimate president of the United States. Numerous news agencies have discredited the claims, and Obama even released his long-form birth certificate to try to end the controversy. However, many “birthers” believe that document is also a fake. The outhouse promoted a conspiracy that is racist at its core — the only way an African American can be president is through a decades-long, sinister plan that involves faking birth documents. The fake birth certificate was stamped “Bullshit” and it was accompanied by crude graffiti that advised “For a Good Time call 800-Michelle (crossed out), Hillary, (crossed out) and Nancy Pelosi (circled in red).
Criticizing Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi is one thing. Portraying them as prostitutes is just sick and it boggles the mind that anyone who thinks that is an acceptable form of criticism, or who would laugh at such a visceral attack is someone that deserves any semblance of respect themselves, up to and including recognizing their right to free speech. As for the First Lady, all president’s wives support their husbands and except for the case of Hillary Clinton, who took a leadership role in formulating health care reform during the Clinton Administration, First Ladies tend to take on issues that totally lack controversy such as Laura Bush did regarding reading or attempting to raise awareness regarding obesity as Michelle Obama has done.
Yet our First Lady is taking a lot of criticism for her anti-obesity campaign. This should be above politics. Even worse is to suggest that calling an 800 number will get some sexy talk from the First Lady. There has never been a First Lady in history that deserves this kind of treatment. About the onlypositive thing here is that Obama’s daughters were not drawn into this sordid scene. I wouldn’t hold my breath however. These sickos are capable of anything.
I think Deschamps, the Chair of the Montana GOP and his peers should’ve done some critical thinking about the outhouse and the problematic and offensive messages it sent. First, there were the bullet holes targeting the president. We need to recognize that the threat of violence (or violent imagery) mixed with the public debate is not an indicator of a healthy democratic process.
Vigorous debate during election season is an American value. However, this clear implication of violence is not acceptable. Words, images, and metaphors matter and so by not condemning the outhouse, the Montana GOP threw a safe environment for our democratic process in that state in the toilet.
Political criticism and satire is fine and I am not above a little satirical fun at a politicians expense. However, this outhouse goes beyond decency. It is disrespectful to the position of the President and our First Lady. And the bullet holes, well, that person should get a call from the Secret Service and explain them.
Finally, the outhouse referenced Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi in the context of a “For a Good Time Call 800…” Over the past few years, the right wing in America has waged a broad-based political attack on the rights of women that is well documented, from opposing equality in health care to equal pay for equal work and everything in between. The outhouse provides an example of the right wing of the GOP’s derogatory and dismissive views regarding women and their contributions to society.
The outhouse may not have been an officially sanctioned exhibit at the Montana Republican Party’s convention last week, however it does represent the trifecta of right wing ideology by promoting racism, sexism and the threat of violence against political opponents.
Our country deserves better. By failing to remove the outhouse and vigorously condemn it, the Montana GOP legitimized ideology that flushes facts, gender equity, racial equality and a safe environment for the democratic process down the drain.
(June 17, 2012) The Missoulian – State GOP Chairman Will Deschamps of Missoula said he didn’t know who’d brought the outhouse, but dismissed it as “a sideshow.”
“It’s not something I’m going to agonize over,” he said. “Some of that stuff is not real good taste. We do have a president of the United States, and we have to honor that.”
(June 25, 2012) Billings Gazette – Dave Hurtt (who designed and built the ‘Obama Library’), said, “It was just meant to poke fun… It’s apparently been taken in a different light.”
Republican Party officials at county and state levels are now scrambling to distance themselves from Hurtt’s creation.
Montana Republican Party director Bowen Greenwood said he was offended that the media implied that the outhouse was somehow connected to the convention. Hurtt, however, told the Gazette that he was amused when folks claimed they didn’t know who owned the outhouse.
Hurtt also explained that the stick-on bullet holes he put on the “Obama Presidential Library” sign was just meant to make it look more authentic and was, in no way, a direct threat to the president.
And that old portrait of a black man taped to the inside of the outhouse wall with the word “Dad” taped just underneath isn’t meant to be racist. That came from his father-in-law’s old secondhand store.
“It’s just a picture,” he said. “There’s nothing racist about it. It doesn’t say Uncle Remus or anything like that,” said Hurtt.