Michele’s Husband is…What?

A country beset by problems sometimes looks to a savior of some kind to pull it out of its mire and into the future. Thus we hear calls for “strong leadership” and “decisive action.” Other times, it simply melts down and starts doing things that defy even the most flexible logic.

Michele Bachmann, of whom I am no fan, is polling well. I do not take this as a good sign, given that much of her appeal appears to come from the social conservative base. These are the folks who need more hobbies so they will have less time to meddle in others’ private business.

Lately, however, the rumors flying about the Internet have accelerated. What rumors, you ask? Why, the ones that her husband, who calls gayness (gaiety?) “barbaric” is himself gay. Authority for this comes from none other than Cher, whose “gaydar” went off upon hearing him speak.

Now it’s confession time. I don’t have much of a gaydar. I roomed with someone in college for two years–a terrific guy. Years later, someone mentioned that he had written a letter to a major newspaper on the topic of homosexuality, which they hailed as a brave act. Then it hit me. Nick was gay! Ain’t that nothin’. It had not dawned on me that Nick was any different from any other roommate I might have had, and I would not have cared if it had dawned on me. Nick’s body, Nick’s business.

In fact, I am blessed with obliviousness when it comes to most every irrelevant human difference. One time I was on a bus with a friend in New Orleans when she remarked that she did not realize there were so many Jewish people in NO. I looked around the bus and wondered what she was looking at. All I saw were other people. I am not making this up.

Likewise for a fellow with whom I worked on the wheat harvest many years ago. Ernie had a chip on his shoulder about being Mexican. I can understand that, given the fact that many of the people with worked with and for were bigots. In one of our late night philosophical discussions, Ernie challenged me to share my impressions upon first meeting him. As I went through a couple of observations, he became frustrated and blurted, “No, I mean about being Mexican!” I told him I hadn’t particularly noticed. Ernie’s circuits shorted about that time. Apparently he had never met anybody who actually didn’t care about his heritage.

All this is not to hold myself up as something special. Frankly, it is nothing I ever worked on or the result of purging any persistent prejudices. It simply has never occurred to me to care about such things. And that is the problem. We have come to care about things in our political races that should be benign and irrelevant. It is time to stop.

The liberal blogosphere will light up over the next few weeks with all manner of speculation about whether Marcus is gay and whether he will ever out himself and blah, blah, blah. It’s cheap, it’s tawdry, and it’s despicable. Marcus’s views on sexuality are not relevant in this race. Michele Bachmann’s are, since gay marriage is a political issue. But even then, the issue is not her or her husband’s private inclinations; it is her views on the relationship between government and the private inclinations of others.

From birthers to gay-bashers, we are a country in sorry shape. We face a financial meltdown the likes of which no living person has witnessed. We send brave men and women all over the planet to die for reasons no one can satisfactorily explain. We lose more and more of our freedom daily in the name of safety from terrorists. We find death lurking inside every plastic bottle and disease in every cell phone. Unsettled by the real issues, we find easier ones about which to be indignant. She’s gay! He wasn’t born here! We are pathetic.

Is this the best we can do? Is this what has become of America? Frightened people are fodder for tyrants. Will we wait for the steel grip of a fascist to pull us out from hiding under the kitchen table? Will we fall in line, glassy-eyed, behind The One who sympathizes with our fear of the Other and promises us protection if we will only “give up a few of our selfish rights?” Will we, eyes on the personal, let crumble the public?

I have never been so disgusted with both sides of the political spectrum as I am now. If you waste even one second trashing gays or portraying others as gay in order to smear a political opponent, you are part of the problem. If you attack the person instead of the issue, you are part of the problem. If you find it heartwarming to watch the rich guy get pied before he is tried, you are part of the problem. Grow up and tackle some real issues. That’s what adults do.

About Terry Noel

I am an Associate Professor of Management and Quantitative Methods at Illinois State University. My specialty is entrepreneurship.
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