Monday, January 30, 2012

All or Nothing

"Most people realize that AIDS came from the homosexual community -- it was one guy screwing a monkey, if I recall correctly, and then having sex with men. It was an airline pilot, if I recall."
Tennessee State Senator Stacey Campfield (R - Knoxville)
When a friend of mine pointed out an article about Senator Campfield being booted from a restaurant, he noted that, "The sheer volume of ignorance here dates back to the Reagan administration." I beg to differ. This is the sort of ignorance that many people wouldn't have 'fessed up to during the Wilson administration. But, in any event, it raises an interesting question: Is Senator Campfield REALLY ignorant? Or is he simply pandering to a constituency that simply wants to believe that anyone who transgresses their taboo against same-sex relationships would also have no problem with having sex with pretty much anything else that wasn't a human of the opposite gender?

It's a fairly common practice, and one that's always good for some Red Meat to the base. And if we believe that politicians aren't above saying all sorts of stupid, crazy or otherwise ill-considered things when pandering for votes, why should we be surprised when they reference the lowest form of bigotry out of a desire to appeal to the people who vote for them? After all, bigots can vote too, and like many people, they prefer to live in communities of the like minded. Sooner or later, someone is going to come along who, even if they don't believe a word of it themselves, is going to talk the talk to get into office. (If they can do it without feeling the need to scrub themselves clean for hours every night afterwards, that's too bad - but not unexpected.)

But it makes the problem larger than we like to think that it is. Because Senator Campfield's coded assertion that homosexuals will sleep with anything isn't the problem. The fact that he can go on the record with that without committing political suicide is. And not because the people in and around Knoxville, Tennessee have some obligation to be enlightened enough that sexual orientation doesn't matter. If they want to believe homosexuality is a sin, that's between them and the deity they profess to believe in. But it's still slander to call a thief a rapist. Their unwillingness to stop with what those they dislike have actually done, and to expect those that represent them will not stop there either, is where they cross the line.

P.S.: For a somewhat more plausible explanation of the AIDS pandemic, listen to RadioLab on the topic. I don't know that it's the correct explanation, but it's better than Campfield's.

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