The Kim Davis Circus Continues, And Earns My New Award
This afternoon, as I write this, Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis has just been released from jail for defying a court order to let her office release marriage licenses in her county, since the court has since observed that the office deputies have resumed the release of pent-up applications.
From what I observed on television, it was quite a circus event outside the courthouse – some DJ was blasting rousing music akin to “Eye of the Tiger”. Amongst many flags being waved I saw a huge “Christian” flag – the one people pledge allegiance to at church (at least Vacation Bible School); others simply wielded crosses mounted on long pikes. A fire-breathing pastor with a distinctively Southern “preacher’s voice” roused the crowd from a stage that had been set up, with appeals to never surrender, as he introduced the names of politicians who were running for office that had arrived there. Amongst them were Senator Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee, the latter particularly adept at getting his picture while cradling Ms. Davis, and insisting on addressing the crowd and while noting that he was running for the Presidency for eight years, he would also be willing to spend eight years in jail as a martyr as well. Naturally, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins (who had hired 25-year-old Josh Duggar not long ago to be their Executive Director of their lobbying group as the best available choice to defend “healthy” marriages and opposing same-sex varieties, noting that “He’s going to fit in well, I think”) also took advantage of the event to get a “kick at the can” on stage in defense his group’s consistent record of defending “traditional marriage”, like the Duggar’s and Davis’. Her attorney, Matt Staver of Liberty University’s “Liberty Counsel” was there as well; I am sure that their involvement will help raise many millions of dollars in operating funds solicited via newsletters when they recount their critical role in exploiting (er, “helping”) Ms. Davis as a guinea pig (er, “pioneer”) test case for the law and religious freedom. Ms. Davis’ husband, that is her fourth husband who was also her second husband who also adopted her children she carried during her first marriage from an affair with her third husband to be more precise, went on stage with her to help defend the sanctity of marriage. He was sporting overalls and a straw hat to help dispel any stereotypical notions of Kentuckians being “hillbillies”. It all smacked of another “Scopes Trial” religious-circus atmosphere of ninety years ago. I imagine many non-religious “fence-sitting” observers finally decided to join our Christian “side” after watching this display.
Time will tell whether she takes further action to use her office to stop further issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples or anyone else, but I am sure she will have a future on the church circuit, and will make much money for the Christian “culture war” groups which will use her name recognition in fund-raising mailings to scare older Christians into pledging money otherwise wasted on benevolence and missions. Having thought a little bit more about the elements of her experience, I recognized her close resemblance to a far more famous incident whereby a state government official bravely, publicly and conspicuously “stood their ground” (literally as well as figuratively) in defiance of federal judges who were forcing state officials to comply with state laws concerning the civil rights of others, in disregard of their own deeply held social and spiritual convictions. In honor of preserving his spirit, I hereby nominate Kim Davis for the first ever:
George Wallace “Standing In The Doorway” Brave Defense of Principle and Conviction Award!
For some of you younger tikes, George Wallace was a brave and ambitious Circuit Judge in Alabama. He revealed his shadows of future greatness and destiny in his early days by bravely defying a court order in the late 1950’s to turn over the Barbour County voting records to federal courts and the Civil Rights Commission, which had reasons to believe that the black population and poor were being impeded in their voter registration and voting. When he narrowly lost the 1958 Democratic Party nomination for Governor of Alabama (to a man with the essential endorsement of the Klan), he decided to adopt hardline racist positions, including the threat posed by blacks to the white Southern way of life, to have a chance at election. It worked as he secured the Democratic nomination in 1962, with no Republican daring to run against him as he won the general election for Governor with 96 percent of the vote, which would have included the overwhelming majority of Alabama’s ubiquitous Christians. In his famous Inaugural Address in January 1963 on the spot where Jefferson Davis was elected President of the Confederacy, Wallace promised that at the “heart of the great Anglo-Saxon heartland” he “drew a line”, declaring “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever”.
His first term in office led to his most famous public act – the iconic “Stand In The Schoolhouse Door”. The federal court Case Brown v. The Board of Education had granted the rights of those of any race to go to any institution of education, forbidding the segregation of schools like the University of Alabama, in 1954. For the next nine years school officials and the police found all sorts of clever means to dismiss black applicants from being accepted, but in 1963 three black students applied for which they could conjure no plausible means of exclusion. In early June federal courts issued an order forbidding Governor Wallace from preventing their lawful entry. A week later, as the three arrived to go to school and accompanied by Federal marshals, they encountered a Gov. Wallace who stood defiantly in their way in front of the door of the University, bravely upholding his convictions and those of the large crowd, until forced to step aside by the marshals and the National Guard deputized by President Kennedy. In September he went on to attempt to block the entry of black children into elementary schools.
This brave stand for social and spiritual principles over the rights granted by any federal court springboarded him into national prominence. He learned to motivate voters with new techniques such as for his re-election where he showed a little white girl surrounded by a group of black boys, with the ad saying, “Wake Up Alabama! Blacks vow to take over Alabama.” – a technique now used so effectively by Christian groups and their political candidates when identically directed towards Muslims and gays. He was able to run effectively as a third party candidate for US President in 1968 with the strong military commander Gen. Curtis LeMay as his running mate (much like the Family Research Council’s No. 2 man) who advocated the use of nuclear weapons strategically in battle, and carried five of the major Southern states in the election. Most importantly, shortly thereafter the school confrontation, in 1964 Bob Jones University, a prominent fundamentalist Christian college who has awarded degrees to Billy Graham, Tim LaHaye, Lindsey Graham, John Ashcroft and others (with John McArthur and Fred Phelps (pastor of Westboro Baptist Church) having also been students there), conferred upon Wallace an honorary doctorate, praising his “brave” stands against the judges. Bob Jones had written a pamphlet entitled, Is Segregation Scriptural?, noting that it was morally wrong to “eradicate racial boundaries that God had set”. The school lost its tax exempt status due to its insistence on racial discrimination, and only permitted blacks to attend in the 1970s, while still prohibiting interracial dating. By the end of 1998, it still threatened to arrest any homosexuals who set foot on their campus. Bob Jones University, along with Liberty University, the largest evangelical university and largest non-profit private university in the world (set up by Jerry Falwell to be “a private school for white students” that much later consented to segregation) are the two mills that generate almost all the newer “movers and shakers” in leadership in the Christian para-church organizations today, and two of the few institutions that produce young people with traditional fundamentalist values.
I feel Kim Davis has well-earned this award, and who knows what she may achieve in the future, and whose causes she may help? I imagine that in future generations history will look at the actions of Ms. Davis and Gov. Wallace in a similar light. Regarding the Religious Right candidates who have flocked to her cause, I am sure they have learned what Wallace learned when he lost his early governor’s race, and why they (like he) avoid speaking of problems like poverty, refugees and the struggles of the underclass and infrastructure, and rather give the Christian masses the “red meat” scapegoating the stranger and those who are different, when Wallace lamented afterwards,
“You know, I tried to talk about good roads and good schools and all these things that have been part of my career, and nobody listened. And then I began talking about niggers, and they stomped the floor.”