June 2005

The Ministry of Silly Ideas

By Katharhynn Heidelberg

“Gimme an S! Gimme an I, two Ls and a Y!” What d’ya get? Current legislation trends!

Yes, in the wake of a collapsing world economy, the looming end of oil as we know it and the most suspect “accomplished” mission in history, American legislators are proving they’ve still got a tight grip on the utterly insane.

Alabama Rep. Gerald Allen, a Republican, sponsored a bill that originally would have prohibited the state’s school, college and public libraries from carrying anything that either was written by a gay author or had a gay character. Originally, he’d even taken aim at Shakespeare, but rewrote the bill in the face of criticism to allow the classics, even though, as CBS amusingly said, “he still can’t define what a classic is.”

Allen’s bill died when too few legislators showed up for voting. Naturally, Allen didn’t see the bill as censorship — he was, in his holy, superior way, just trying to “protect the hearts, souls and minds of our children.” By keeping them blank, ya know? Because a protected mind is an unprepared mind. An unprepared mind is a gullible mind, and...

OK. The representative didn’t say that last bit. My bad.

What he really said was: “Welcome to Alabama, where the homosexual agenda lurks behind the library stacks, waiting to pounce on innocent children! The Right’s ‘moral values’ are not enough to protect them from such nefarious influence!”

My double bad. He didn’t say that, either. But he might as well have. Although Allen’s push was absurdly unconstitutional, critics are yet wrong on one point. The problem isn’t that he tried to force-feed his beliefs to everyone else; it’s that his beliefs are politically expedient. Now is a climate that allows for blatant “homohysteria,” and he knows it. Allen doesn’t want to protect children so much as he wants to pander to a base he believes to be both homophobic and, insultingly, as suggestible as children. Were that not the case, he would have kept his mouth shut, no matter how much he may believe homosexuality is wrong. He has my gratitude, though. If not for him, I’d have had no idea Gore Vidal was gay, and would surely have been swayed by the hidden agenda in the author’s “Lincoln.” (Lincoln himself, according to the latest crackpot theory, was also gay. Aha!)

So, to return the favor, I suggest Allen try to get the libraries on board with a color-coded Gay Alert System. Books and plays by straight authors, but featuring gay characters or subjects = light pink. Those by gay authors, but featuring straight characters = fuschia. Gay books by gay authors get a Sponge Bob Square Pants sticker.

Not that Democrats have any right to feel smug. While the ’Pubs have Allen, the Dems have Al Edwards, and Al is tired of seeing highschool cheerleaders shake dem things. In May, amid a pom-pon riot of stunned opponents, Edwards convinced the Texas House to pass a measure banning “overtly sexual” cheerleading routines. There certainly are hypersexual “cheer” performances that have brought a blush to my jaded cheeks, and that present women as eye candy rather than as people — a complaint that, while an old saw, is still valid.

Is this what Edwards is attempting to address? How, exactly, does one ban “overtly sexually suggestive cheerleading”? (And, how, wink, wink, did Edwards come to fixate on it?) Well, the Texas Legislature handed off that baton to local school districts, which must now define what is just peppy. It seems Edwards is more interested in looking holy than in doing any of the grunt work. Maybe he’ll at least spring for a couple thousand burqas — clothing guaranteed to put the brakes on all those sexy moves.

Appearance is more important to Edwards than reality — he’s already cloaked his motive in the rhetoric of a holy war, humbly recognizing there’d be opposition: “Satan is not just going to let you walk over and get something,” he said in the American Statesman.

I started cheering when I read his words. To wit: “We’ve got spirits, yes we do! We’ve got spirits, how ’bout you?” (At least we did until New Mexico’s governor pushed through a name change on Highway Triple Six). Alas, Mr. Edwards, the devil’s already won this round. He used you to divide Texas with your shameful political pandering, while the world travels ever more his way in the proverbial old handbasket. Go, team!

No, Edwards isn’t really trying to help women with his bill. If this were about ending the objectification of women, he’d take on the concept of cheering, not merely the presentation. Cheering, though it requires athleticism and coordination, and generally is taken up as a means of good, clean fun (including by boys), is, conceptually, about sex and sexual roles. It is a sideline sport, whose original and underlying purpose echoes Nietzsche: “Woman exists for the pleasure of the warrior. Anything else is silliness.”

Cheering, at its core is about a woman shakin’ it for da’ man; it’s about her looking pretty (translate: “thin, small and non-threatening”); it’s about her staying in her place — the sidelines of life, rooting for men to win competitions from which, prior to Title IX, she was excluded. The only prize offered her is vicarious victory, and, perhaps, validation from being chosen as the alpha male’s mate.

Edwards isn’t about to touch that. His bill is just another sop to America’s so-called “moral values.” It is puritanical paternalism and a legal hypocrisy that tells young women it’s desirable to please men, so long as they don’t look too pleasing; so long as they let moral pundits have their cake and eat it. Be sex objects, women of Texas, but don’t be “overt.” Don’t give poor, guiltridden Al any in-your-face reminders about the role he’s subconsciously assigned all women.

The push to sanitize our culture is arguably the result of the pendulum swinging back from perceived hedonistic excess. Unfortunately, Allen and Edwards’ pendulums have swung too far the other way, and for all the wrong reasons. Their legislative posturings aren’t about protection, or even about control, but about something worse and far too commonplace: the exploitation of voters’ presumed values for personal political gain.

Maybe somebody oughtta make a law against that.

Katharhynn Heidelberg writes from Montrose.