The Catholic League scores another victory for “civil rights”
The Catholic League (whose website proclaims the motto “for Religious and Civil Rights”) began a campaign yesterday to have the Smithsonian Portrait Gallery remove a 4 minute video from a privately funded exhibition. The video was viewed on YouTube by Catholic League president William Donahue, who says, according to the Washington Post, he found the homoerotic segment and the part with ants (Camponotus sp., I believe) traversing a very inartfully crafted crucifix laying on the ground, “vile.” When I first saw the video I thought the crucifix was actually a device for killing vampires, but on closer inspection I could see that it perhaps could be considered an objection of veneration, maybe. Bill Donahue (as the Catholic League’s website refers to him, perhaps, to soften his image) worked himself up about it so much that he referred to the video as “hate speech.” I think he is referring to the ant part because the homoerotic part didn’t seem to me to be preaching “hate.”
The video was created by David Wojnarowicz, who died of AIDS 18 years ago. The video was called “Fire in my Belly,” and museum director Martin E. Sullivan told the Post that Wojnarowicz was very angry over the disease (which you may recall devastated–and still does–millions in a grotesque manner). Perhaps that is what Mr. Donohue was referring to as “hate speech,” Mr. Wojnarowicz’s hatred of AIDS. That could very well be. Mr. Donahue looks like the kind of guy who loves all god’s creatures, even the little HIV virus.
The video had been on exhibit for a month. Mr. Donahue, according to the Catholic League’s website, has been busy erecting a pro-Christmas billboard on the New Jersey side of the Lincoln Tunnel in his never-ending fight to combat atheism. That probably explains why it took him a while to catch up on his viewing of homoerotic videos on YouTube.
Donahue was joined in the condemnation by John Boehner, the soon-to-be Speaker of the House. Boehner is looking to bring a new (orange?) face to the American people, because he has suffered from some bad publicity of late. For example, conservative Republican TV commentator Joe Scarborough had this to say about Congressman Boehner last summer:
“Every Republican says that John Boehner, by 5:00 or 6:00 at night, you can see him at bars. He is not a hard worker.”
This of course was not a fair criticism. Some people may need to work late, but if you really are efficient you can get your job done during the day time. Just take the case way back in 1995 when Congress was about to vote on tobacco subsidies. Boehner by chance had a pocketful of checks from tobacco companies. So, knowing that some of these Republican Congressmen can’t get their work done during the day, and not wanting to bother them when they are struggling to work overtime, he decided to hand the checks out on the floor of the U.S. Congress. Says Bohener:
“BOEHNER: They asked me to give out a half dozen checks quickly before we got to the end of the month and I complied. And I did it on the house floor, which I regret. I should not have done.
“It‘s not a violation of the House rules, but it‘s a practice that‘s gone on here for a long time that we‘re trying to stop and I know I‘ll never do it again.
“BOEHNER: I think if my memory serves me correctly, I think it was a tobacco check, yes.
He had only a vague recollection of the event during the interview; evidently either he gave out checks on the House floor lots of times or recall problems are one of the less advertised effects of being a bar every night starting at 5 p.m.
Boehner was delighted to help out the Catholic League in this matter. The last time he ran for Speaker (back in the glorious days of 2006 when the Republicans were still in control of all branches of government and therefore were not particularly interested in deficits) he had a reputation for not being friendly to the religiously right wing. “In 2002,” according to a profile in the Washinton Post, “Boehner voted against a bill that would have permitted churches to engage in political campaigns without jeopardizing their tax exemptions.” The religiously-motivated reactionaries in that race voted for Roy Blunt. Representative Boehner has had a religious awakening since then and is even comfortable being seen with religious figures, at least those that don’t preach teetotalalism. He must have found that the religious of the right sort don’t have to separate him from the lobbyists he is “tightly bound to.”
In any event Boehner was able to fight on the side of those fighting for an ant-free idol of Jesus and those who want to slash the spending of the federal government. At the same time! But it was proably close to 5 p.m. so Boehner designated his aid to speak to the Washington Post on this so he could concentrate on bar-work:
“Boehner’s spokesman, Kevin Smith, said in a statement that the congressman was monitoring the episode. ‘American families have a right to expect better from recipients of taxpayer funds in a tough economy,’ Smith said. ‘While the amount of money involved may be small, it’s symbolic of the arrogance Washington routinely applies to thousands of spending decisions involving Americans’ hard-earned money.'”
There you have it in a nut shell, a picture of the Boehner leadership style: pandering, addressed to a non-issue, politically motivated, and able to be issued while the Speaker is in a bar, where they probably had wifi so he could “monitor” the video.
The Smithsonian of course caved and removed the video. You can read the Washington Post article to see how the Smithsonian explains how it wasn’t actually caving but it was removing the video anyway, on its own initiative. I’m not sure I can follow the reasoning exactly so I recommend it to you.
Meanwhile, I suppose Mr. Donahue can go back to Christmas billboards, assuming he is done with his review of homoerotic videos. Christians can be proud to have a warrior like Mr. Donahue on their side. It’s not often they can have a fighter like him. You can see from his picture that he is willing to risk a stroke for what he believes in. The fact that he believes in graven images might concern some. Or the fact that he is divorced might bother some who actually follow the sayings of the nominal founder of the Christian Church(cf. Matthew 19:6-9). But god has to take them where he finds them; he cannot be choosy. And if it takes someone like Mr. Donahue to get a 4-minute video out of the National Portrait Gallery and onto YouTube where many thousands have now seen it who otherwise would not ever have heard of it, well then, I say, the Catholics have scored another vitory for civil rights.
Meanwhile, Boehner is having drinks with manufacturers of parts that go in the back of buses to see if they want him to go after the Smithsonian for it’s Rosa Parks’ exhibit today. (The Catholic League doesn’t take a position on those kinds of civil rights.)