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Posts Tagged ‘the Atlantic’

“Sorry, Sorry, Sorry….”

August 25th, 2010 4 comments

Here we go again. Another prominent Republican, this time former RNC Chair and Bush Campaign Manager Ken Mehlman comes out (to the Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder).

And now he’s, like, all into equality and stuff.

Here’s the core of his infuriating mea-sorta-culpa:

Mehlman acknowledges that if he had publicly declared his sexuality sooner, he might have played a role in keeping the party from pushing an anti-gay agenda.
“It’s a legitimate question and one I understand,” Mehlman said. “I can’t change the fact that I wasn’t in this place personally when I was in politics, and I genuinely regret that. It was very hard, personally.” He asks of those who doubt his sincerity: “If they can’t offer support, at least offer understanding.”
“What I do regret, and think a lot about, is that one of the things I talked a lot about in politics was how I tried to expand the party into neighborhoods where the message wasn’t always heard. I didn’t do this in the gay community at all.”
He said that he “really wished” he had come to terms with his sexual orientation earlier, “so I could have worked against [the Federal Marriage Amendment]” and “reached out to the gay community in the way I reached out to African Americans.”
It’s the last paragraph that had me wishing I’d printed the story out so that I could have torn it into tiny scraps. Note the unstated assumption: He couldn’t help the community sooner,  because he wasn’t yet out to himself. As if his long residence in the closet excuses his politically self-serving, homophobic agenda. Try “wouldn’t” instead of “couldn’t.”
This may come as news to Mehlman, but all of us who identify as part of the LGBT community had our own “journey” (to use his word), and many, many of us didn’t engage in gay-bashing while trying to figure it all out. It turns out to be quite possible to support gay rights even when you’re “straight.”
Read the whole story. Ambinder reminds us that Mehlman presided over the RNC and the Bush campaign at a time when our community was being used, again and again, as electoral fodder for their campaign in order to drive the base to the polls and give Bush his disastrous second term. Because of that, we have many more anti-gay constitutional amendments in place than would otherwise have been the case. Mehlman’s attempt at expiation by working with pro-equality groups can’t begin to unravel the harm he helped weave.
Oh, but let’s not be too hard on the guy. After all, he “privately” supported civil unions and, he claims, “privately” met with Republican officials to “beat back efforts to attack same-sex marriage.” That seems to have worked well.
He’s still a Republican, of course. No matter that the party is way behind even the pathetic Democrats when it comes to LGBT issues; it’s all about the lifestyle and access to which he’s become accustomed. He’s like Stephanie Vanderkellen, the empathy-challenged character from the old Newhart show, who when forced to apologize for shocking behavior, apathetically intoned: “Sorry, sorry, sorry….”
I’m not usually this unforgiving, but this is a particularly egregious case. And Mehlman still doesn’t seem to quite get it.

Recession, Unemployment, and Class

February 22nd, 2010 1 comment

I made the mistake of reading two stories, back to back, about the recession’s long- and short-term effects; one in the Atlantic, the other in the NY Times. As usual, the Atlantic did the better job; Don Peck’s story about the combination of factors that seem likely to cause serious, long-tail social dislocations and dysfunctions, is hard to read. But you should. (In fact, you should defy logic and subscribe to the magazine; I started doing so back in the mid-1980’s after reading an absorbing two-part series by Nicholas Lemann on the origins of the underclass in the U.S., and since then it has arrived each month to teach and challenge me. Pay for the damn thing.) I won’t offend the article by simple summarization here, but it suffices to say that Peck has amassed a wealth of data and thoughtful opinion in support of what turns out to be a fairly bleak picture of how the protracted unemployment that is expected to follow the current recession will affect (especially) men, families, and marriage over the long-term. (Why doesn’t Maggie Gallagher spend more time responding to these challenges to marriage, which cause actual, direct harm to people?)

The Times article focuses more on women of a certain age (middle to late middle age, roughly) who can’t regain their footing after they’re laid off. The story is more anecdote than data, but effective in its way. Among its easily overlooked points is that our social safety net is mostly constructed around the assumption of jobs, or brief periods of joblessness; the disturbing trend towards chronic unemployment challenges us to find new legal and social tools to help our fellow citizens.

One point that bubbled up through both stories is that unemployment is embarrassing, for both the unemployed and those who know them. It opens up class and status anxieties that are otherwise subterranean. One poignant example from each story:

From the Atlantic:

Over lunch I spoke with Gus Poulos, a Vietnam-era veteran who had begun his career as a refrigeration mechanic before going to night school and becoming an accountant. He is trim and powerfully built, and looks much younger than his 59 years. For seven years, until he was laid off in December 2008, he was a senior financial analyst for a local hospital….

Recently he’d gotten a part-time job as a cashier at Walmart, for $8.50 an hour…. Some neighbors were at the Walmart a couple of weeks ago, he said, and he rang up their purchase. “Maybe they were used to seeing me in a different setting,” he said—in a suit as he left for work in the morning, or walking the dog in the neighborhood. Or “maybe they were daydreaming.” But they didn’t greet him, and he didn’t say anything. He looked down at his soup, pushing it around the bowl with his spoon for a few seconds before looking back up at me. “I know they knew me,” he said. “I’ve been in their home.”

From the Times:

Last week, [Janine Booth] made up fliers advertising her eagerness to clean houses — the same activity that provided her with spending money in high school, and now the only way she sees fit to provide for her kids. She plans to place the fliers on porches in some other neighborhood.

“I don’t want to clean my neighbors’ houses,” she said. “I know I’m going to come out of this. There’s no way I’m going to be homeless and poverty-stricken. But I am scared. I have a lot of sleepless nights.”

Humiliation, depression, the prospect of unending stress and poverty: These are in our national future, perhaps for a long time. Maybe those who criticize the focus on health care over jobs have a point, but it’s obviously all tied together in some vicious and worsening circle.