Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Have you no sense of decency, Mr. Cuomo?

Here’s the lede on a story filed on LifeSiteNews on Oct. 26: “An employee with the New York Archdiocese warned of an ‘impending persecution’ after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called same-sex ‘marriage’ opponents discriminatory and ‘anti-American’ last week.”

October 26 … a week and a half ago. And this was on comments Cuomo made “last week”, i.e. two and a half to three weeks ago.

Where were we when this happened? Was nobody except the Archdiocese of New York awake when Cuomo let this appalling sentiment fly? Why isn’t Cuomo being raked over the hot coals of the religious conservative world?

I could understand if the New York Times didn’t pick it up; the editors of that fading rag have long since abandoned any pretense of fairness or objectivity. But surely such an assertion should be as damning as Rev. Samuel D. Burchard’s infamous “Rum, Romanism and Rebellion” line that cost James G. Blaine the 1884 election!?

For the first time in many years, I’m truly surprised. Anyone my age ought to be at least dimly aware of what McCarthyism was, and how long a shadow it cast on American politics. Anyone claiming to be a liberal ought to be especially sensitive to it. That a politician with the national presence of a New York governor can utter the word “anti-American” without pundits making the automatic mental association to “House Un-American Activities Committee” is both bad news and worse news.

The great Senate spoilsman Roscoe C. Conkling once sneered about “goo-goos”[1] like the young Theodore Roosevelt, “When Dr. [Samuel] Johnson defined patriotism as ‘the last refuge of a scoundrel’, he ignored the enormous possibilities of the word ‘reform’.” But it should be noted that Dr. Johnson merely called patriotism the last refuge, not the only refuge. Had he been witness to American politics of the last half-century, the good doctor would have had sufficient cause to add several more ideals misused as combinations of shield and pedestal by public leaders and political figures.

But to call someone of an opposing view “un-American” is bad politics, especially when it comes to the same-sex marriage debate.

Cuomo is talking about people who, on the whole, say the Pledge of Allegiance with as much piety and belt out “The Star-Spangled Banner” with as much enthusiasm as anyone else does — if not more. They pay their taxes even though they grumble about how much they take out of their paychecks and how the money is being wasted by the government. They obey the laws of city, state and nation as well as anyone else. They’re fully vested in the well-being of their communities and their states. Many of them have served with distinction and honor in the military; some have even been wounded in that service. And each one who lives in the Empire State potentially has a vote in Cuomo’s next election in 2014.

Moreover, anyone with the slightest grasp of American history knows it’s not true: Bigotry is as American as baseball, hotdogs, apple pie and lynch mobs. We don’t like it; we’re trying to rub it out; but it’s part of the warp and woof of our culture.

Racial bigotry still lies under the surface of white-black interactions, the tension still providing a source of African-American humor. Jewish-Americans know it. Muslim-Americans know it. Asian-Americans — especially Japanese-Americans — know it; the internment camps aren’t that far in the past. Native Americans know it all too well. And so do American Catholics, who have been the targets of both religious and ethnic bigotry since not long after the Mayflower hit Plymouth Rock.

Now, the source of the story is Edward Mechmann, the archdiocesan director of the Safe Environment Program, who also works with the Archdiocesan Family Life/Respect Life Office on public policy issues. Mechmann’s source was the Gay City News, to which he refused to link (but I will in the interests of documenting facts … or, at least, what journalists consider to be “facts”). Here is the quote in context:

Asked by Times reporter Michael Barbaro, who led the Albany bureau’s coverage of the issue, what arguments from opponents he found persuasive, the governor, without hesitating, said “None.” Even as he commended New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan for the manner in which he made his case against gay marriage –– and riffed about his worry that the Catholic Church had eliminated Purgatory as a way station between the best and worst case scenarios –– Cuomo said, “There is no answer from the opposition. There really isn’t. Ultimately, it’s, ‘I want to discriminate.’ And that’s anti-New York. It’s anti-American.”

The fact is, all laws discriminate; the only question to be considered is whether the grounds upon which a particular law discriminates are just or unjust. Under the law obtaining in most states, homosexuals are not discriminated against; a gay man can marry any woman of consenting age, if she will have him as a husband.

But the core of the opposing argument is that “same-sex marriage” is a contradiction in terms. To dismiss that argument with the claim that it’s “discrimination” and “bigotry” is simply to engage in mudslinging. To call it “anti-American” is to wrap the mud up in red, white and blue bunting.

As Mechmann says, “In reality, Mr. Cuomo doesn’t just disagree with our arguments, he denies their existence.  He clearly believes that they are pernicious, beyond the pale of proper discourse, and motivated only by hatred. That is why he has now declared that we are ‘anti-American’ — that is to say, enemies of our nation.”

As an Italian-American, Cuomo ought to be more sensitive to how such language is used. It wasn’t all that long ago that Americans automatically tied people of his ethnic group to the Mafia. As a liberal Democrat, he should be aware that people like him went up before HUAC sixty years ago to have their lives ruined for even the most tangential association with Communists.

As Joseph Welch asked “Tail-Gunner Joe” McCarthy, have you no sense of decency, Mr. Cuomo? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?

[1] I.e. “good government”, supporters of civil-service reform.