Not every selection for the Dumb Ass Hall Of Fame is an idiot, dotard, or buffoon. Some, like this week’s honoree, are just brain-numbed by hate and ignorance.
The morality of the nation crumbles around us, hurtling toward a precipice of as-yet-unimaginable depth, spurred by the pubescent leadership of our President, the jibbering sycophants who surround him, and the spineless cowards of the Senate and Congress, most of whom are more than intelligent enough to see what this man is, but refuse to act for reasons both partisan and personal. I awake each morning, take my pills, and empty my bladder beneath a cloud of dread: what terrible things have transpired since the day before. What has the skulking boy king said, what has he done or, most often, what excremental feats of churlish impertinence have the lunks and sneering bounders emboldened by his example been up to?
Another cop killing an unarmed black man? Running him down with a patrol car? Shooting him seven or eight times in the back? Gunning him down for closing a door–a fragile blue ego more important than a warrant and the Fourth Amendment? Or maybe another ally insulted? Another adversary provoked? Another treaty broken? Another bold faced lie maintained in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary? Another denial of that lie, despite video?
Given all of this and so much more, I am barely surprised to hear that South Dakota state Representative Michael Clark tried to press the argument, that businesses should be allowed to turn down people based on the color of their skin. As my dad used to say, “I shit you not.”
In a heady stupor of exclusionist victory dancing following the Supreme Court ruling in favor of a homophobic Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple because of his religious beliefs, Clark boasted on Facebook that the decision was a “win for freedom of speech and freedom of religion.” Other FB users called him on his gleeful embrace of bigotry, and the intrepid lawmaker doubled down.
“It is his business,” Clark wrote in a comment. “He should have the opportunity to run his business the way he wants. If he wants to turn away people of color, then [that’s] his choice.”
We’ve seen this mindset before. On buses in Tennessee. In schools in Arkansas. At lunch counters in Alabama.
It is modestly affirming that a furor quickly built, on Facebook and among the general public and first regional, then national news organizations began covering the incident. At first he tried to frame his bigotry as standard anti-government rhetoric, asserting that business owners only need serve certain segments of society and that the market would ultimately determine if the business succeeded or failed. The negative comments and press coverage built up, as some of reminded this attorney and elected lawmaker of a not-so-irrelevant document called The Civil Rights Act of 1964. Predictably, the heat was too much for tough cowboy Clark, who ultimately deleted the post on Tuesday. He said he had “jumped in on it a little bit too fast,” the Argus-Leader reported.
Not long after, he apologized via email to a reporter for the Leader, followed by a glib, insincere retraction on Facebook. “I am apologizing for some of my Facebook comments. “I would never advocate discriminating against people based on their color or race.”
But in an interview with the Argus-Leader, Clark said he believed that business owners should be able to turn away certain customers if they would otherwise violate their religious beliefs. “If it’s truly his strongly based belief, he should be able to turn them away,” Clark told the Leader. “People shouldn’t be able to use their minority status to bully a business. The vote of the dollar is very strong,” he said.
I’m still parsing which is more disgusting, the unapologetic awfulness of the President and his Trumpkins, or these slimy, cynical clones who imitate his success playing to the lowest common denominators, shouting whatever vile and hateful bile they happen to be regurgitating at any particular moment? It is a tough contest indeed. Trump is culpable for setting the tone, but they’re all playing the same game: vomit out sinful rhetoric to the bleating masses and keep pressing–then either deny it completely and blame the press for making it up, or mutter a dishonest, heartless apology rife with crocodile tears and move on. “I didn’t say that. But if you have tape that shows I did, then I certainly didn’t mean it.”
Well, Mr. Clark, we’re not buying what you’re selling. You don’t get to worm and squirm out of it with a cynical “I’m sorry,” so take ownership for the man you’ve become. Burn a cross, beat a gay man–be your honest self. Your soul is already exposed before your neighbors, your friends, and especially your God.
It is easy to say, “I would never advocate discriminating against people based on their color or race” but the simple fact is that yes, you would, because yes, you did. It’s not like we haven’t seen your kind before.
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