Posted April 5, 2007
Over the weekend, Vermont lost a rare and eloquent voice in local media with the death of Judy Gorman. She penned many colorful stories for a variety of publications such as the Brattleboro Reformer, The Commons (a Windham County newspaper), and the Vermont Guardian. A commentary she wrote for the Guardian in 2004 Gorman, ever so witty, cut through the crap and made you laugh. Here is a portion of that column:
Of all the pressing concerns riveting the electorate over this protracted presidential campaign season — who has the best hair, how much blood must be shed to qualify for a Purple Heart, and whether Dick Cheney literally speaks out of the side of his mouth — one question stands out: Why do so many people consistently vote against their own best interest?
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see why the wealthiest in the U.S. support the Republican Party, since a vote for Bush-Cheney ’04 is a vote for themselves. But why would one single working man or woman cast a vote for George W. Bush? It’s a conundrum.
One possibility is the likeability factor, which once upon a time was called character, and is now reduced to the absurdity of whether or not you would drink a beer with the candidate. Well, get over it. The only time those guys would drink a beer with you is on St. Patrick’s Day in Boston — in an election year.
How about that common man touch? Could it be that deep in our hearts we long for a guy who chokes on a pretzel during NFL halftime, has trouble getting on the “internets,” and refuses to ask for directions when he’s lost his way? Surely we require more from a potential president than ineptitude, intransigence, and the snack food habits of the average Joe. There’s got to be something else going on here.
That something else is wedge issues — the very antithesis of George W. Bush’s self-identification as “a uniter, not a divider.” The Bush strategy cynically exploits insularity, ignorance, and paranoia for political gain.
The president uses the most personal of convictions as tools to set neighbor against neighbor, parent against child, gays against straights, those who were born once against those who do it all over again, whites against people of color, the left and right coasts against the heartland, and U.S. citizens against everyone else in the world. Fear of “the other” is tearing this country apart.
Previous wedge issues include the Pledge of Allegiance, public display of the Ten Commandments, flag burning, and gun control (or lack thereof). This year, however, polarization derives from the most apolitical of activities — sex and its consequences, both intentional and inadvertent. Not so very long ago, a popular governor of New York was considered unfit for the presidency because he was divorced, and then subsequently re-married, to the hyper-ebullient Happy Rockefeller. Interracial marriage was illegal in many states, as was cohabitation between unmarried men and women.
Now, of course, the hot topic is gay marriage, the 21st-century touchstone for neo-Puritan rage. Sex is OK, but only within the bonds of matrimony, only between opposite genders, and only for the purpose of producing new life. Or, in TV commercials for “erectile dysfunction.”
According to Bush, utilizing sophisticated advances in reproductive technology is perfectly fine, but only if the unused blastocysts are left in frozen equilibrium for the foreseeable future. Or, thrown in a dumpster. The use of embryonic stem cells to improve the lives of men and women suffering from incurable diseases is anathema to the religious right, which gives rise to an unconscionable distinction between protecting the life of the unborn and ignoring the lives of the already born.
Using religious tenets as weapons in the political wars is exactly what the framers of the Constitution sought to avoid when they made a clear separation between the interests of the Church and the interests of the State. It is the cornerstone of the Bill of Rights: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
The wedge issues so cunningly employed by the Republican right for its own ends are, in fact, not delegated to the federal government, but reserved to the people, as stated in the 10th Amendment. Such matters are neither liberal nor conservative, nor, in fact, the domain of any political party whatsoever. They are nobody’s business but your own.
Keep it that way.
Our hearts and prayers are with the Gorman family and her many friends. Hers was a unique voice in today’s pre-packaged punditry, and will be sorely missed by many.