First, a quick thanks to Taylor for the invitation to join other guest bloggers here at TM. I’m appreciative of the opportunity, and look forward to conversation.
Framing. Ideology. Perspective. Or maybe, bias. It’s very much in the eye of the tweeter reader.
Last Tuesday (January 4) Sarah Palin retweeted a comment by conservative radio host Tammy Bruce (who is “openly” lesbian, and chairs the advisory board of GOProud, a pro-gay rights Republican group). Bruce’s original tweet referred to Owen Honors, the captain of the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise who was relieved of that command Tuesday when a part of his past commandery actions came to light. A few years ago, while second-in-command, Honors was responsible for a series of videos described variously as “offensive,” “lewd” and “ribald,” and shown on the ship’s closed-circuit television system. The video skits, in which Honors frequently participated, were said to have been made to relieve boredom and boost morale, which apparently required much sexual innuendo, straight and gay.
So, Bruce reads about Honors and the gay jabs (as someone described them), considering her own support for the repeal of DADT, and sends this tweet:“But this hypocrisy is just truly too much. Enuf already – the more someone complains about the homos the more we should look under their bed.” (Or under the bus?)
Palin retweets, and with it came almost immediate speculation about what she meant — was it a tacit endorsement of the repeal of DADT? Was it a “having it both ways,” able to say she’d forwarded something that supported repeal, while also maintaining her ability to truthfully say she hadn’t said that at all? Or maybe she didn’t read carefully, and wasn’t aware what she was sending to her tweeter followers. Whatever, the incident raised questions on both left and right, and provides yet another example of something about the power of framing.
Palin is conservative. Repeal of DADT is liberal / progressive. That’s what our either / or political and ideological framing tells us, at least. When one’s ideology values tradition, customs and conventions, and the stability and maintenance of the same, it isn’t absolutely necessary, but examples abound to tell us it isn’t unusual, either, to resist what appears to challenge the comfortable status quo. When one’s ideology values needed reform, transformation, updates, and change, then it isn’t unusual to see that, in fact, the status of the quo needs to be challenged. Just because something “was” and “is” doesn’t necessarily mean it “should be,” forever and ever. Of course, it also doesn’t mean there aren’t ideas and beliefs of lasting value, either. But how “change” is understood makes a difference.
I acknowledge, those are generalized and simplistic “definitions,” and that those who hold both perspectives will have differing interpretations. I doubt there is any ambiguity about my own take on each, as I am certain the liberal perspective which frames what I see is quite obvious.
But given generalities, and back to Palin’s retweet: forwarding the pro-DADT-repeal is one example of how the world of Queerdom (as well as other “different” groups) is often viewed, and framed, and acted upon. In my own liberal persuasion, what I hear, and what I’ve experienced, from many (not all) of the conservative persuasion – especially among the more vocal — lets me know I, as a lesbian, am not a part of their comfortable status quo framing of equal rights.
That’s changing in some significant ways, actually. Polls show more and more people are supportive of LGBT rights. But whatever the specific focus, when “tradition” is challenged and stability shaken, a common response is to retreat into the safety of the known, and not infrequently, to attack the unknown “different.”
After Palin retweeted Bruce’s message, and the questions began, Bruce followed up, tweeting, “I think @SarahPalinUSA RT my tweet is her first comment on DADT, treatment of gays & attempts to marginalize us–thank you Governor.” Followed by, “I know Gov Palin & this ‘anti-gay’ meme has been a lie–plain & simple. She’s a decent woman & friend to the community.”
What Palin actually thinks about DADT, and Queerdom in general, is unclear. The Washington Post reports that in February of 2010, in a Fox News interview, “she said she was surprised that President Obama was pushing to repeal the ban – but she never condemned his position on the substance. ‘There are other things to be worried about right now with the military,’ Palin said. ‘I think that kind of on the back burner’” (a position familiar to many whose needs don’t match those of the Elites).
Bruce also said she thought Palin’s retweet was aimed at the conservative groups choosing not to attend the upcoming Conservative Political Action Conference because GOProud is a sponsor. A clearly conservative opinion was offered by Mathew Staver, founder of the Liberty Counsel, which is one of those not attending the CPAC. He hedges: “I doubt if she has changed her position, but if she has, she will have lost a large base of her support.” He speculated, though, that Palin “opposes the ‘homosexual agenda’ in general.
The LesbianConservative had a rather different view: “The fact that such a major event like CPAC has welcomed a gay organization should serve clear notice on the virulent anti-gay wing of the conservative movement. Homosexuality can no longer continue to be the bugbear of US conservatism.”
From Dennis Ayers at AfterEllen.com, we see a progressive kind of hopefulness: “This is great for the GLBT community I think, because … it advances that meme amongst her conservative fanbase that the vocally anti-gay probably have something of their own to hide.”
Andrew Belonsky, at Change.org writes that “Gawker’s Max Read was right on the money when he wrote, ‘Palin is not, in the context of her party, rabidly homophobic.’ But if Palin ‘truly wants to win over the LGBT set, she needs to take action — and, contrary to popular opinion, a re-tweet is not ‘action’– by actively opposing her party’s entrenched homophobia and discrimination …”
John Aravosis, at AmericanBlog, was as clear in his own assessment of Palin as he was in his assessment of this incident. “Yes, she’s an idiot. But she’s also a powerful leader in the GOP. This is important.”
I haven’t seen anything linking the Palin Retweet to this, but a couple of days later John McCain said of the DADT repeal, “I think I have to do everything I can to make sure that the [impact on the] morale, retention, recruitment and battle effectiveness of the military is minimized as much as possible.” Not a ringing endorsement of repeal, but perhaps a recognition that things are changing. A very much resisted, disliked, and apparently frightening change, but a tiny move out of the comfortableness of “this is how things are, should and forever shall be.”
Without uttering a word herself, Palin generated yet another conservative / liberal conversation. Or rather, another round of mostly internal conservative conversations and liberal conversations. That’s not to say there is internal agreement in either group. But as Aravosis writes, “This is important.” Palin’s is a voice that is heard by a lot of people, and whether she does or doesn’t support the repeal of DADT the retweet served to nudge some of the right to state their support for change. Of course it also nudged others to repeat “homosexual agenda” claims as if those claims are as sacred to them as the Bible, Constitution and totally straight Founding Fathers.
Interestingly, Bruce says she’s never asked Palin about her DADT views. Maybe that’s another instance of “I won’t ask so you don’t have to tell and upset anyone” kind of thing. No doubt, though, Palin will be asked, and by now, may have been and I haven’t seen it. But my liberal leanings yearn for answers and actions, so for what it’s worth: Gov. Palin, should DADT be repealed? Or better yet, should Queerdom residents have equal rights? If so, why? If not, why? And in either case, what actions will you take (beyond a tweet)?
As I said earlier, how you understand “change” is important. For me, and liberally speaking, a change for the good requires a bigger picture view, including the big picture view of the entire Constitution, not just bits and pieces. A “change for the general welfare” kind of good.