If this is one of those times you find yourself a little frightened by the sudden population spurt among the lunatic fringe, you're not alone. It's a case of déjà vu all over again in Vermont and across the nation.
Six-year-old Elian Gonzales has provided the remaining anti-communist crusaders with a last gasp in this, the post-Cold War Era. Ah, but how they miss the old days. They've happily recycled the passionate war chants of "Down with Fidel" and "Better Dead than Red." Shucks. It makes you want to go out and kill a commie for Christ!
But in Vermont, we don't need Elian to get the juices flowing. The Green Mountains have been gayly rocking and rolling for four months straight over the issue of equal benefits for homosexual citizens. Same-sex marriage is the name of the game. And the lunatic fringe has taken the field and they're playing dirty.
Last week, Republican Rep. Nancy Sheltra of Derby, Randall Terry, the professional right-wing New York agitator, and Alan Keyes, the biggest mouth on the presidential campaign trail, were all a-twitter praising the Lord and condemning sodomites on the steps of the Statehouse. Mr. Keyes made it perfectly clear: This holy war against equality for gays and lesbians is all about ignorance and bigotry and sex. If they would just "keep it in the bedroom," chanted the celebrity orator, all would be cool. But if "they" take it out and "do it in public," he exclaimed, "we must fight them!”
No wonder this bozo got all of 2.6 percent of the Vermont Republican vote on Presidential Primary Day.
Yeah, baby. Rock on for God! How inspiring to hear Rep. Sheltra praising the Lord God while condemning Gov. Howard Dean as an unholy man! Wistfully, the member from Derby recalled the old days of the 119th century when the "moral people" controlled the government and the media. If only there were more Nancy Sheltras out there, we might be able to bring back slavery!
The good news is, these darlings of the lunatic fringe didn’t draw much of a crowd. Expecting a huge turnout, the state police were well-prepared. They even brought in four porta-potties so God’s chosen people could conveniently answer nature’s call. But these Three Stooges drew only 150 scripture-quoting zealots, and the half-dozen we met were from New York and Virginia.
At this point in the matrimonial battle, it’s starting to sink in with the right-wingers — the state of Vermont will soon recognize the loving, caring, committed relationships between all Vermont couples.
Unfortunately, there will always be loonies out there. Take the hateful coward from Underhill Center who last week shelled out over $600 to send an anonymous piece of anti-gay hate mail to over 5000 of her closest neighbors in the Underhill-Jericho area.
The one-page, single-spaced letter obtained by Seven Days is undeniable proof of a warped human mind. Under a banner proclaiming "Voice of Vermont," the rambling, convoluted text expresses the viewpoint that choosing homosexual conduct is exactly the same as choosing "to smoke, steal or get drunk."
Dear pathetic, anonymous author: You need to talk to your doctor. Soon.
The twisted text rambles on about AIDS and malaria and the blood supply. It erro-neously claims up to 90 percent of gays in New York and Los Angeles are HIV-positive. And while there's no claim made about whether the Earth is flat or round, you quickly get the feeling you know where the troubled author stands on that question.
The letter goes on to predict with certainty that, as soon as it's passed and the governor signs it, Vermont's civil union/domestic partner law will guarantee an instant influx of homosexuals into our state as well as the departure of health insurers, "as Kaiser-Permante already has." Really?
The hate sheet also foresees the impending decimation of Vermont's hospitality industry. "Ninety percent of tourists are heterosexual," it states. "They will choose to go elsewhere." (As it is they sleep in the same beds that gay tourists sleep in.) And the author predicts the forthcoming appearance of "naked" homosexuals on our beaches and in public places. City Hall Park? The mall? Riding the buses? But how will we know? The writer failed to say what "they" look like with their clothes off.
We tried to contact the author, but she had covered her tracks. After all, what decent person would be anything but profoundly ashamed of authoring such a foul piece of garbage? The envelope was marked by a return address of P.O. Box 99, Underhill Center, and a pre-sorted, postage-paid stamp.
Under the law, the identities of P.O. box-holders are confidential. But those of bulk-rate permit-holders are not. We traced this particular permit number to First Step Graphics & Design, a mom-and-pop print shop on Park Street in Underhill.
A co-owner confirmed they do hold “Permit No. 11.” She told Seven Days they had printed and mailed the document for a customer. She declined to identify the customer other than to indicate it was a “female” who was “not a regular customer.” Postage was over $600, she said, and there was a $25 charge for using First Step’s bulk-mail permit. The co-owner requested we not use her name in this story and emphasized she does not tell customers what they can or cannot write.
“Just because we printed it does not mean we agree or disagree with it,” she said. She told Seven Days that she had not even read the document before mailing. As for the civil-union issue, she said she and her husband do not have a position one way or the other. Cool.
The anti-gay hate mail that hit the Underhill-Jericho area at the end of the last week was indeed unfortunate. Sometimes we humans behave so badly. All too often we define our world and our lives as a never-ending battle of “US” against “THEM.” It's "US" — the good moral, right-thinkers — against "THEM" — the evil, immoral, wrong-thinking Huns. Protestants against Catholics. Arabs against Jews. Serbs against Turks. Whites against Blacks. Men against women. Straights against gays. Smokers against non-smokers. For me to be right and noble, someone has to be wrong and ignoble. Can't have one without the other, right?
Woody Allen, the brilliant writer and filmmaker and a Freyne favorite, hit this one squarely on the head in Deconstructing Harr. In one of our all-time favorite scenes from filmdom, Woody, playing a writer whose life is unraveling, unexpectedly stops in to visit his half-sister and her devoutly Orthodox husband in the suburbs.
"It's always enraged you that I returned to my roots," she says.
"What roots?" he asks sarcastically. "You were a wonderful, sweet kid. You got me through my childhood. Then you go to Ft. Lauderdale and you meet this fanatic, this zealot. And then he fills you full of superstition."
"It's tradition," she answers.
"Tradition is the illusion of permanence," replies Woody.
"You have no values," she snaps. "Your whole life is nihilism, it's cynicism. It's sarcasm and orgasm!"
"In France," he responds glibly, "I could run on that slogan and win."
"I'm a Jew," replies the exasperated sister. "I was born a Jew. What? Do you hate me because of that?"
"And if our parents converted to Catholicism a month before you were born," Woody suggests, "we'd be Catholics and that would be the end of it. They're clubs," Allen declares. "They're exclusionary — all of them. They force in the concept of `The Other,' so you should know clearly who you should hate."
"That's enough!" she screams.
“Let me ask you a question,” he continues. “If a Jew gets massacred, does that bother you more than if a Gentile gets hurt, or a Bosnian?”
“Yes. Yes, yes,” she answers. “Because I can’t help it. It’s my people.”
“They’re all your people!” shouts an exasperated Woody.
Thank you, Mr. Allen, for the reminder.
“Tradition is the illusion of permanence.” Brilliant!
Media Notes — Notice that odd at the top of page one in day's Burlington Free Press? Gannett's Washington writer Erin Kelly covered out-of-state editorial reaction to Vermont's civil-union bill. Highlighted were the negative comments from The Weekly Standard and the Manchester Union-Leader, two very conservative sheets. But missing was any mention of the positive editorials we noted here last week from The New York Times, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the Concord Monitor and the Arizona Daily Star. Add to that growing list of positive editorials the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune and The Herald of Rock Hill, South Carolina. That's right — South Carolina.
"Vermont is moving in the right direction, one that in the long run will promote stability, and common decency as well," editorialized the Post.
"We hope more states will follow Vermont's example and enact laws that conform with reality," wrote The Herald.
The Chicago Tribune, long a bastion of conservatism, called our civil union legislation "a ground-breaking experiment ... There is no reason to arbitrarily deny two committed people of the same sex who want to live together basic legal rights." The Tribune editorial concluded, "There would need to be compelling societal reasons for denying gays and lesbians the right to form stable, committed and legally recognized relationships. In a free society that respects individual rights, no such reasons exist."
Must have been an oversight by the Freeps. Human error. 'Course, The Burlington Free Press continues to duck taking an editorial stand of its own on civil unions. The omission is a glaring one.
Political Foot Fetish — Independent Congressman Bernie Sanders got great press this week in The New York Times and the Boston Globe for his leadership in the battle against the greedy pharmaceutical companies. His bus trips to Canada and his proposed legislation have made him the recognized leader of the fight. The Times reported how Bernie spoke with “contempt” of the drug company lobbyists and their “fancy shoes.”
Fancy shoes? Ol’ Bernado’s into feet?
We contacted his Capitol Hill office Tuesday and asked just what kind of footwear Mr. Sanders slips on. His spokesman, David Sirota, said Bernie wears “understated black work shoes.” In the wake of the Times’ story, he added, “everyone in the office is now careful not to wear shoes that are too fancy.” Good idea.
Meanwhile Sanders is using the Internet to wage the good fight. Check out his new site dedicated to halting the prescription drug rip-off — www.Bernie.house.Gov/bustocanada.
Silence is Golden — Kudos to Ruth Dwyer for keeping her mouth shut on "The Mark Johnson Show" last week when a caller professed his undying support. "Ruth, God bless ya," said the caller. "It's about time we got one of our own in that office and get these flatlanders out of our state ... get rid of them all," he exclaimed.
'Course, the dummy didn't know what Ruth knows — that she's a flatlander, too. Yep, born in Ohio as Ruth Cook. And Truthless Ruth didn't bother to point that fact out. Maybe she forgot?
Correction — Old Faithful continues to be located exactly where it's always been located — in Yellowstone National Park. We got the park name wrong last week. Sorry. And thanks to the park ranger who set us straight. Hi-ho, Silver. Away!