Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Kim Davis, you are no Parks or MLK

There are times when it is difficult for me to discuss political matters without getting heated.

I want to appear mature, intelligent, and if I'm lucky, maybe even seem like I know what I'm talking about. But then there are times when my buttons just get pushed. One such time this past week was when Kim Davis was compared to both Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks.

In April, the United States Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that same sex couples have the right to get married. Kim Davis, Clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky, didn't much like that decision. It meant that she, a professed Christian, would have to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. She refused to do so, was thrown in jail, and was released just yesterday. Matthew Staver, Davis' attorney, compared her to Dr. Martin Luther King, quoting from Letters from a Birmingham Jail and saying that Davis was willing to be jailed as a consequence of not betraying her conscience. Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has also rushed to Davis' defense, Huckabee himself once calling for MLK-like resistance to gay marriage. On Twitter, Republican Congressman Steve King said, "Kim Davis for Rosa Parks Award."

Geez. Where to start?

First of all, there is no shame in following one's conscience and certainly one's religious beliefs. If we see something occurring that we believe is wrong, it is our duty to act in a non-violent manner or to at least say something. We even have the right to oppose and disobey laws that we believe are morally unjust, provided we are willing to face the consequences of that opposition. Kim Davis has done just that by refusing to do her job.

It's after that where the King and Parks comparisons really fall apart.

When Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks took action, they did so in an effort of inclusion. African Americans were not being treated as equal parts of American society. They were not even being afforded basic rights or dignity. King's acts of non-violent, civil disobedience were carried out to defy immoral "separate but equal" policies and to have African Americans included as full members of the societal fabric. Parks refused to move to the back of the bus, thus sending a message that anyone should have the right to sit in any open seat they prefer.

But Kim Davis is not Rosa Parks. She's more like the bus driver who refused to drive until Parks changed seats.

What Kim Davis did was an effort of exclusion. Regardless of how much her convictions are steeped in religious belief, she wanted to deny a basic right to people, a right that was ruled by the Supreme Court as being "the law of the land," not at all unlike their civil rights rulings of the 1950s-60s.  Her actions intimate that homosexuals do not share the same rights as everyone else, in effect denigrating them as less than human. How else can one interpret that? If you do not have the same rights as everyone else, then you really must not be a person.

This whole Kim Davis matter of comparison reminds me of the 1988 Vice-Presidential debates. Senator Dan Quayle stated that he had the same level of experience in the Senate as John Kennedy. His opponent, Senator Lloyd Bentsen, calmly replied, "You, Senator, are no Jack Kennedy."

You, Ms. Davis, are no Rosa Parks. You are no Martin Luther King. I'm not even sure if you're any Jimmy Swaggert. Aside from the fact that Parks and King were also bipedal, I run out of similarities. No, you have not made these comparisons yourself, but your supporters have. You have not exactly jumped up and eschewed the comparisons, either.

The truth is, Davis and her supporters are in trouble. As an elected official, she has a job to do and she has refused to do it. This has placed her in contempt of court. Her own lawyer refuses to answer basic questions as to what the legal limits are to Davis' conscience, were fair accommodations made, and just where the funding is coming from for her defense. Huckabee can't answer simple questions about the Bible and marriage. The American public is not on Davis' side as the majority support gay marriage. History is not on her side. She will not be remembered as a King or a Parks. Instead, it is likely that Davis, Huckabee, and the rest of the brood will be looked upon more as the Southern Segrationists that once served in Congress.

I am left wondering how deep these convictions run or if they are all Fata Morgana for "stuff I don't like." How would Davis and her supporters would apply their Christian beliefs in other situations? One online comment really encapsulated the conundrum of arguing from a biblical perspective: How would Republicans react if a Customs Agent gave food, water, and clothing to an illegal immigrant? What if, when pressed, said agent explained her/his actions by stating, "I am Christian. I am obligated to love my neighbor and welcome strangers to my land. Have you read the parable of the Good Samaritan?"

Yes. What would they say indeed.

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