Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Right Wing Mardi Gras

photo from the Washington Post

We humans are social animals. We like to live in cities or towns, and in neighborhoods. We join churches, we join choirs, we join clubs, gyms, book clubs, professional associations, athletic teams and leagues, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, groups of collectors, boards of directors, retired military organizations, fantasy sports leagues, car clubs, gun clubs, gardening clubs – you get the idea. We’re joiners. We like to find people who share our interests and hang out with them.

If we are musicians, we find people to play the same kind of music we want to play.  We find people who like the same sports teams we do and we watch games with them. We find people who share our political beliefs and we associate with them. And with all of that can come uniforms, team jerseys, patches, badges, buttons, or pins. In addition to joining, we also like to identify ourselves as belonging.

Some people get deeply involved. We see middle-aged men wearing jackets for sports teams they never played on. Some of the faithful wear shirts with the name and number of their favorite player. We see supporters of political candidates wearing buttons and tee shirts, but the real die hards may have invested in hats, tote bags, even jewelry. That’s typical for a great many things - we have badges and pins to proclaim our various allegiances.  The 1999 movie “Office Space,” featured a chain restaurant called “Chotchkies,” where employees were supposed to wear at least 15 badges, buttons, or pins. In the movie it was called “flair,” which has stuck as a slang term for having a lot of pins, buttons, or badges on a hat, a vest, or a lapel. Excessive flair is usually a male condition.

We’ve brought our vehicles into the statement making party. Trucks can be seen actually flying flags: usually US, but also Confederate or Gadsden.  Bumper stickers make statements – either manufactured or homemade. We can all see how people feel about politics, food, kids, peace, dogs, and all religions, including guns. 

That’s the segue, folks. A couple of weeks ago, there was a rumpus at the NH House because some of the least charming members of a right wing NH women’s gun club handed out pearl necklaces to members of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. The Committee was going to be hearing testimony on a gun bill. The members were urged to wear them “in support of second amendment rights.” One of the members of the committee was already wearing lapel flair that included a large AR-15 pin. These manly, gun-totin’ guys donned the pearls.   

photo of the rather over-accessorized Rep. Scott Wallace from the Washington Post 

In a representative democracy, we the people elect representatives to go to the State House and represent our interests. Most of us expect them to go and behave in a professional manner – one that doesn’t embarrass the voters of the district. We expect them to behave like adults, not boys going to a meeting in their secret clubhouse with decoder rings.

This is an increasingly unrealistic expectation. In recent years the amount of flair in lapels has expanded to include all manner of political statements  - from gun pins to abortion. A NH voter coming to speak before a committee on a matter that concerns them can often get a read on how many members of that committee have closed minds, just by looking at lapels. It doesn’t end with flair. A national group whose goal is the destruction of public education hands out big, ugly yellow scarves to receptive legislators, who wear them in support of that goal. The gundamentalist girls handed out their pearl necklaces. Committee room tables can be populated by people so laden with signal sending trinkets it looks like right wing Mardi Gras.

In 2016, the Republican controlled state legislature passed HB 1503, which prohibits the wearing of campaign stickers, buttons, pins, or clothing inside the polls. The sponsors claimed that wearing a campaign button was an attempt to influence other voters. Yes, folks, that’s right – you can’t wear a campaign button at the polls because it might influence other voters, but the candidates you elect can bedeck themselves with gewgaws proving they’ve already been influenced and are now just mocking the legislative process.

Adult behavior is in short supply. This week, during a floor debate on a gun bill, the Republicans got up and left the room. A bill on repealing the Education Tax Credit, which is used for funneling tax dollars to private religious schools caused the legislators who oppose public education to get out their yellow scarves and wear them to work. The Speaker (finally) informed representatives that those wearing “props” would not be allowed to wear them while debating on the floor. 

Most workplaces expect adult, professional behavior, and frown on the wearing of bizarre, clownlike accessories. We really should be able to expect the same of our state representatives.  

published in the March 22, 2019 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper

For more on legislative behavior: 

The House Majority Leader tried to discuss civility with his colleagues. The minority party didn't take kindly to it as Nancy West reports for

1 comment:

xteeth said...

Am I the only one that remembers the slang meaning of "pearl necklace?" Try Google. A pearl necklace is a slang term referring to a sexual act in which a man ejaculates semen on or near the neck, chest, or breast of another person.