There was much to like about last night’s State of the Union Address, and it wasn’t all watching Joe Biden periodically try to make John Boehner lose his prim-mouthed composure in the background. There was the supremely metaphoric spectacle of congressmen in mixed seating trying to get their neighbors to participate in standing ovations. There was Shepard Smith’s on-air meltdown after Chris Wallace corrected him re the date of Bobby Jindal’s commentary (it was two years ago, not last year, and Wallace was not cool about it.) There was Paul Ryan’s response, which was like watching a retarded person recite a poem, and there was Michele Bachmann’s response, which was like watching the wind blow across a Coke bottle. For my money, though, the best part of SOTU was the President’s impassioned defense of the decision to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. He segued cleanly from the war in Afghanistan to the universal support for our troops to their ethnic and religious diversity. “And yes, we know that some of them are gay,” he continued. “Starting this year, no American will be forbidden from serving the country they love because of who they love.” It was a rad turn of phrase, but listening to it I was briefly distracted. That moment’s recognition of dissonance in a harmonious use of language is the subject of today’s possibly-never-recurring feature, in which we analyze the twinge that comes with an error in deliberate speech. I call it The Prick of Grammar, and it starts at 54:54 of the video after the jump.
Back when we naively regarded the TSA’s invasive pat-downs as news that was actually happening to us, plenty of people advanced plenty of arguments against: they violated our civil rights, they were more show than security, a computer would see our wieners, et cetera. But only one person had the guts to say what we were all thinking: Loudoun County supervisor Eugene Delgaudio. By “we all,” I mean “we who are deeply conflicted, latent homosexuals,” and by “what,” I mean that the TSA pat-downs are part of the ever-creeping “homosexual agenda.” Seriously. Props to Fletch Dogg for the link. Delgaudio’s next-level crazy quote is after the jump.
Perhaps you’ve heard, but yesterday a district court judge issued an injunction that stops the enforcement of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, thus A) ending decades of homophobic discrimination in the US military and B) reminding everyone that Congress isn’t the only damn branch of government. Tony Perkins is pissed. The Family Research Council President and lifelong crusader against gay rights, who is definitely not a homosexual, said in a public statement that “once again, an activist federal judge is using the military to advance a liberal social agenda.” First of all, I hope this doesn’t interfere with Mr. Perkins’s research. Second—”once again,” Tony? Let’s look at previous instances of judges using the military to advance a social agenda.
Lately, watching the Democratic senatorial caucus has been like watching your toddler take his first few tentative steps forward, only to see the cat, shriek in terror and sit down until someone tells him what to do. Yesterday, the Senate voted 56 to 43 to begin debate on the Pentagon spending bill that would have ended Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. If you’ve been unfamiliar with the last two years of Senate proceedings, 56 to 43 is a loss. Because of the threat of filibuster, Democrats need 60 votes to win anything, whereas the Republicans need 41. Never mind that the filibuster hasn’t actually been used since the Democrats won the Presidency and both houses of Congress. Republican senators might do it, and that’s why Democrats scrambled and compromised to get 60 votes to pass health care, 60 votes to pass financial reform, 60 votes to pass anything more significant than a renewal of Flag Day. So, having won the vote to move forward with a plan to repeal DADT supported by the President, the Secretary of Defense and the chairman of the Join Chiefs of Staff, Democrats in the Senate conceded defeat.
In a turn of events covered quietly by everyone but Fox News, Congress moved closer to repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell last week, and seems finally ready to allow openly gay Americans to serve in the military. I haven’t been to Chelsea lately, but I assume the streets are empty and everyone is in Kabul. While the rest of the country seems poised between ambivalence and total apathy, church people and soldiers—two groups that reveal a surprising overlap—continue to rail against repeal.* Not least of them is Tony Perkins, former Marine and President of the Family Research Council, who argues on CNN’s Belief Blog that “ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell would undermine religious liberty.” If that sounds like a weird inversion to you, buckle up. Perkins’s argument is a horse desperately pushing a cart, relying on a series of tropes that would be baffling were they not so familiar. It’s a microcosm for the larger, logically bankrupt argument against allowing gay men and women a place in modern society, and it’s sufficiently typical—and infuriating—to merit a close reading.