If there was an Olympics for bigotry and chauvinism, Tennesseans might sweep gold, silver and bronze.
Among the favorites would be the man with the most recognizable name in country music, Hank Williams Jr., who recently told a crowd of cheering fans, “We have a Muslim president who hates farming, hates the military, hates the U.S., and we hate him!” In his most famous song, Bocephus bragged, “I got girls that can cook, I got girls that can clean, I got girls that can do anything in between.”
Not far behind is David Fowler, the president of the Family Action Council of Tennessee, who recently said that the solution to people becoming dependent on food stamps is to put up a sign: “Do not feed the animals.”
Retiring Southern Baptist chief ethicist Richard Land, always a strong contender, is certainly in the medal hunt after calling black religious leaders “race hustlers” and other provocative names on his Richard Land Live! radio show. Unfortunately, charges of plagiarism continue to weigh him down a bit.
A dark horse candidate might be Murfreesboro Baptists who erected 13 white crosses in a field across from the new Islamic Center, in what seems to be an attempt to intimidate Muslims.
But Tennesseans will face fierce competition in the battles of bigots and chauvinists for worldwide supremacy. Here are some of the other main contenders:
Rick Santorum, a perennial contender, remains a strong frontrunner with his suggestions that rape victims should consider their rapists’ fetuses as “gifts” from God and that American women who use contraceptives are followers of Satan.
Michelle Bachmann and her husband cannot be ignored, with their “pray away the gay” exorcism business and her comments about homosexuals being “part of Satan.”
Missouri Rep. Todd Akin left women’s brains aching when, in arguing against abortion under any circumstances, he said that it is “really rare” for rape to result in pregnancies because in “legitimate rape” the “female body has ways to shut that whole thing down.”
Akin’s choice of words suggests that there are “illegitimate” forms of rape, for which the victims are either fully or partially responsible. This would seem to put the onus on rape victims to somehow prove their rapes were “legitimate” before seeking abortions. Like so many Republican male chauvinists these days, Akin seems to have little or no concern for the rape victim’s rights or their physical health and mental well being.
Like Akin, GOP vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan co-sponsored the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” which in its original form included an exemption for “forcible rape.” The idea seems to be that rapes are not “legitimate” unless the victims are beaten to pulps and can provide the evidence. In any case, Akin and Ryan seem to be leading the dash to force girls and women to bear their rapists’ babies, and thus must be considered strong candidates for gold and silver.
Like his running mate, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney wants to get rid of Planned Parenthood. When asked if the repeal of Roe v. Wade would be a good day for America, Romney responded, “Absolutely.” When asked, “Would you have supported a constitutional amendment that would have established the definition of life at conception?” he again replied, “Absolutely.” While Romney is not as flamboyant a chauvinist as Akin and Ryan, what he lacks in fervor he makes up for in political muscle.
What does all this mean for women?
“Rep. Paul Ryan’s extreme anti-choice record shows just how serious a threat Mitt Romney’s presidency would be for women,” said Nancy Keenan, a women’s rights activist. “He has cast 59 votes on reproductive rights while in Congress and not one has been pro-choice. Rep. Ryan has also repeatedly voted to defund family-planning programs and supported the ‘Let Women Die Bill,’ which would allow hospitals to refuse to provide a woman emergency, lifesaving abortion care, even if she could die without it. The Romney-Ryan ticket is dangerous to women’s health.”
And so, while Tennesseans with sterling credentials remain strong contenders for podium positions, they face stiff competition from better-known bigots and chauvinists like Santorum, Bachmann, Romney and Ryan, and emerging stars like Akin.
Michael R. Burch is a Nashville-based editor and publisher of Holocaust poetry and other “things literary” at www.thehypertexts.com.