Bashing Brittney’s loyalty, and other acts of Republican valor

I find myself pausing amid the festivity of the season to marvel at the MAGA miasma of viciousness, dishonesty, double standards, and derangement.

On one hand, it is salutary for democracy and egalitarianism that election deniers lost key races in November; that Democrats retained control of the Senate; and that last week saw passage of the Respect for Marriage Act and the release of Brittney Griner from a Russian labor camp. On the other hand, the pathological narcissist who preceded Joe Biden in the White House keeps pouring gasoline on the culture-war fires, and his mounting legal problems have not quelled his enraged rabble.

Republicans did not so much as pause to celebrate Griner’s release. Dinesh D’Souza tweeted, “Don’t expect #BrittneyGriner to start singing the national anthem. Her refusal to do so — indeed her anti-American stance in general — is why Biden picked her over the Marine to bring home. Biden, like Obama, values anti-Americanism over traditional American patriotism.”

That is an awfully brazen assertion by D’Souza, considering Vladimir Putin’s popularity among Republicans. Dissent is a fundamental American freedom. Treating it with contempt while inventing base motives for rescuing an American hostage is at least an order of magnitude worse than declining the ritual singing of “the rocket’s red glare” prior to a sporting event.

Even the brother of Paul Whelan, the Russian-held former Marine invoked by D’Souza, praised the Biden administration for accepting the only deal Russia was willing to make. Biden made it clear that efforts to release Whelan and other Americans unjustly imprisoned by despotic regimes will continue.

If Republicans were acting in good faith, they would criticize Trump for failing to help Whelan after he was taken prisoner in 2018. But it is easier for them to inflame the MAGA hordes by claiming baselessly that Biden “chose” Griner over Whelan because she was a black lesbian. They miss no opportunity to stoke animosity by inventing grievances.

Speaking of stirring displays, Republican Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler of Missouri wept in Congress as she urged her colleagues to vote against the marriage bill. She claimed, as the bullies always do, that it is Christians, not LGBTQ people, who are under threat. She added the self-refuting declaration that Christian voices are being silenced.

Marriage equality activists have stressed from the outset that we are talking about civil marriage, not religious marriage. We have not sought to force members of any faith to give us their blessing. That the theocrats persist in their incitements makes them partly responsible for the increase in hate crimes.

The bipartisan marriage bill passed despite Hartzler’s weeping. Her gay nephew Andrew Hartzler went viral with a rebuke of his aunt in which he emphasized the importance of coexistence.

The Proud Boys, who admittedly are not called the Bright Boys, should figure out already that coexistence is not replacement. Drag queen reading time does not turn children queer any more than drag performances by servicemembers eighty years ago (see South Pacific) back in World War II. Media mavens wedded to both-sidesism ought to be reminded that it was not “radical socialists” nor Antifa nor AOC’s Squad who tried to overthrow the American government.

The constant injection of poison into our public discourse by autocratic know-nothings will not be defeated by deleting our Twitter accounts. Nor will the grace and class of Cherelle Griner speaking in the White House stop domestic terrorists from attacking our power grid any more than President Obama’s self-assured stroll across the South Lawn to Marine One ended racism.

But here we are. With diversity not a mere political agenda but a societal reality, our goal cannot be unanimity — we are not North Korea — but rather the restraint required to coexist across ethnicities, faiths, and cultural traditions.

We can argue over public policy without destroying civility and mutual respect. We must, however, be honest: There was no respect for African Americans in the recruitment of Herschel Walker as a Senate candidate against a man as learned and eloquent as Rev. Raphael Warnock. Lindsey Graham’s claim that electing Walker to the Senate would prove Republicans are not racist was his own minstrel show.

Happily, before the takeover of the House by Republican nihilists, I was invited to attend the Respect for Marriage Act signing at the White House. The law represents a compromise, not the end of our journey. Nonetheless, for all the attendant crying, catcalls, and calumny, it reminds us that we continue to create our country.

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