February 13, 2008

Waterboarding, race and rape

Sully continues on this thread--that our focus on whether waterboarding is torture (of course it is) distracts us from other issues including the very real possibility (and likelihood) that many other interrogations used by our government are also torture.


At a time when we might actually elect a man of color as President, we are reminded that racism is far from dead. A Utah state senator compared a bill he didn't like to a black baby:
Republican Sen. Chris Buttars' comment came during a debate on SB48, aimed at equalizing school construction funds. Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, called it "the ugly baby bill," but, as Buttars stood to vote, went further. "This baby is black. It's a dark, ugly thing," he said.
Worse than that, possibly, was his "apology:"
"I made a comment that I think a lot of people could take racist. I certainly did not mean that in any way but it was wrong and certainly could easily have been taken that way," Buttars said. "I apologize to anyone who took offense. . . . I ask for your forgiveness."
A Democrat said he appreciated the apology, but:
"I have no idea how it would be interpreted not to be offensive."
Yeah, me too.


And let's not forget sexism. H/t to Feministing for this little gem from Kentucky.
Sen. Doug Henry, an 81-year-old Nashville Democrat, explaining to the state Senate his votes surrounding amendments to the abortion resolution: “Rape, ladies and gentlemen, is not today what rape was. Rape, when I was learning these things, was the violation of a chaste woman, against her will, by some party not her spouse. Today it’s simply, ‘Let’s don’t go forward with this act.’


But somethings are really not about sexism, or at least not what some want it to be. David Shuster got in trouble for asking why the Clinton camp was "pimping out" Chelsea. He shouldn't have said that, but Hilary has made a bigger deal out of it than was merited. I am glad that Shuster is not going to be fired.


And a couple of disconnected posts I found interesting. This one attempts to debunk common free market myths about Canadian healthcare. This one suggests that our view of moderate Islam needs to be corrected. And speaking of the TPMCafe, they have an interesting discussion about E.J. Dionne's new book on religion in politics. Unfortunately, I can't find a good single link that connects us to the discussion. But check here and you will see some.


ANewAnglican@gmail.com said...

What, exactly, is wrong with that apology?

This was obviously a horrible thing to say and it does reveal something about the person who said it, but I can't see how that apology is problematic. Are we to a point where the only acceptable "apology" is to resign and just go away?

Just curious.

Streak said...

I read it as someone saying, "I am sorry people took offense." It was offensive. I agreed with that last comment--that he wasn't sure how it could not be considered offensive to compare something he didn't like to a black baby.

I am not asking him to wear sackcloth and ashes or resign, but maybe he just should have said, "I said something horribly offensive and apologize for it."

leighton said...

The actual apology might have been good, but I don't see a way to parse the specific language of the apology quoted in the article except as a backhanded, passive-aggressive "I'm sorry if you took offense because you misinterpreted me" non-apology. There might be other regional or generational ways to interpret his language; that's just how it sounds to me with my background.

Streak said...

As usual, Leighton said it better. Maybe his apology was sincere, but it came across as a non-apology, or at least an apology that really didn't understand what he had said wrong.

ANewAnglican@gmail.com said...

OK, that's a good point. There is a passive-aggressive thing going on there that I didn't pick up on in the first read. Maybe that says something about me and my background: so forgiving of others that I sometimes let people walk all over me? My wife certainly thinks I'm prone to that.

The senator's brand of "I'm sorry that you were offended but not really sorry that I offended you" reminds me of the boss in Office Space. Instead of being a man and saying what he thinks, he mealy-mouthes it with, "Uh, yeah. I'm just not sure about that right now."

leighton said...

I think I'm prone to a bit of that too; it has something to do with really disliking how I am when I'm offended by something.

Now that I think about it, I think I'm distinguishing between public and private communications in how I've interpreted Stephenson's response. As a private apology, even the quoted section (particularly the "I ask for your forgiveness" line) would be more than adequate, since he'd know not to do it around me again. For a stranger or acquaintance, that's the most I could hope for.

But with public communication, it seems important to me to distinguish between three things: actual displays of remorse; politically motivated boilerplate apologies concerning issues those delivering the apologies don't really care about, but are expected to respond to nonetheless; and dog-whistle non-apologies that try to deceive outsiders into thinking there's remorse, while clearly communicating to those in the loop that there's not.

I don't think the article gives enough of the context to say for sure, but with what we have, #2 seems most likely to me in Stephenson's case.