Wednesday, May 28, 2008

How Smart an Ememy?

Tony Perkins, not the high-class family butcher, rather the anti-gay/anti-marriage equality Family Research Council president, was on the Colbert Report. Everyone's in a family way, so to speak.

By the bye, despite political differences, I admit freely this is also not the Tony Perkins who played Norman Bates, mother mummifier and cross-dressing murderer.

Instead, this Perkins was smooth. His demeanor still is of his former life as a Southerner. He is gracious and can say the outrageous with a smile. And he regularly does.

Click below to see and hear his mellifluous unflappability. Stephen, another Southerner, hammers him gently, as in asking if he keeps kosher if he believes in Old Testament law. Perkins remains smiling and calm.

Oh, No, the Klan!

While such vindictive folk as Perkins feign indignation when anyone likens their groups to the shameless haters, like the Ku Klux Klan, he did bring back a comparison to a Grand Dragon I interviewed. It is the slickness, the sociability and obvious intelligence that is similar and disturbing.

Even as these characters claim to practice the precepts of Christianity and support the ideals of our country and our families, they openly work through a variety of methods of limit the liberties of others. We are not exactly living in the garden end of Eden, but we have lots of such smarmy serpents. They tell us their truths, ones intended to lure us into actions that harm others and ourselves.

Consider Robert Scoggin, whom I interviewed a long time ago when I was an editor of my college paper. That's when various Klan factions were feuding, Scoggin was Grand Dragon of the Klan in South Carolina, and such slithering serpents were as plentiful as they have become since they coalesced around anti-gay rights.

After interviewing Scoggin, I had similar thoughts and feelings as I do about Perkins. Both come across as smart and reasonable. Yet both were as malicious and twisted as humans can be while still functioning.

I have never spent any time with Perkins and Colbert really didn't. Yet Perkins was clearly skilled at foiling the obvious criticisms and comparisons. He carries the shield of practiced dishonesty and sneakiness.

Scoggin too had the ready answers, charming grin and lucid grasp of the underlying issues — all together unnerving. His was the more remarkable. It was in his Spartanburg, South Carolina, office. He was under suspicion under multiple murders. Police were on the access roads and a state police helicopter was overhead throughout my visit. At one point, the country sheriff, whom I recognized, came by in uniform. They went to the far side of the huge office and chatted. They laughed, slapped each other's shoulders and generally had a great time.

Brands of Enemies

It was when Scoggin returned that I had my realization. We had been in the middle of a complex concept of race relations when the sheriff interrupted. Scoggin returned to the chair on his side of the desk and recommenced answering, exactly at the word he stopped at in the middle of a sentence. Through about eight minutes of other ideas, words and location, with the thumping copter noises, with all the verbal and visual stimuli, he had stored all and lost nothing.

I was deeply bothered to realize that one of the bad guys was so focused and so bright. I was also bothered that I would have preferred my enemies to be dumb and emotional. I flashed on Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, where he wrote, "I choose my friends for their good looks, my acquaintances for their good characters, and my enemies for their good intellects. A man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies."

Having met Scoggin, I was surprised to see a self-serving piece by Wall Street Journal writer Frank Aukofer, who recounted his meeting Scoggin. He wrote, "He was a pathetic creature, unwashed, with rotting teeth. He lived in poverty in a shack without indoor plumbing or electricity, with rusted old cars, junk and garbage strewn about the yard. Scoggin was filled with hatred and the conviction that, because of the lighter skin shade you could almost see through the grime, he was somehow superior to millions of other people." That's pretty much crap reportage, well at odds with my own experience and that of every other reporter I have seen. Compare it with the adoring and dishonest from the other angle interview with Scoggin's daughter.

Scoggin in his serpent mode downplayed and denied any concept or practice of harming or hindering non-whites. He was opposed to stereotypical Klan violence, alone among the various sects of the organization. However, his primary aims and beliefs in the inferiority of Black Americans and the responsibility to suppress them was the same.

However, to hear him talk about it, the Klan as he knew it was more like the Lions or Elks than a hate group. He cited the charity work his group did with poor people, Black and white. As his daughter did in that interview, others spoke of Scoggin himself helping Black widows by planting for them or providing KKK-produced vegetables. The serpent whispers.

Fast forward to GLBT rights, a woman's right to choose and marriage equality, the enemy slithers about. Some are mean and not too bright, like MassResistance. Some are pedantic and vindictive, like the Mass Family Institute crew. A few, like Perkins, fit Wilde's model of choosing enemies.

Now I wonder how much validity I should ascribe to that. We have had a dull-witted President for seven and one-half years. One would think Americans of at least average intelligence would have tossed him quickly. Instead, we listened to his simple-minded lies and responded emotionally by re-electing him.

Perhaps if he had had the wit to make his thinking known and offer people a choice, we would have do better for ourselves. Beware of serpents.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

No comments: