Dr. Tiller’s Legacy, A Fake Prom, And A Gavel-Based Freakout

Julie Burkhart talks about the aftermath of Dr. George Tiller’s assassination. Also, right wingers obsessed with the Speaker’s gavel, and a small town throws a fake prom to exclude a lesbian student.

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Anti-meat rampage

Right wing gavel obsession

Way to act like adults!

Fake prom?

Constance comes out on top

Richard Cohen babbles about gays

On this episode of Reality Cast, I’ll be talking to Julie Burkhart about her work with Dr. George Tiller and the sentencing of the man convicted of murdering Dr. Tiller.  Also, a lesbian tries to go to prom, and the entire school and town act like giant babies about it, and the opposition to health care reform goes low.  Like in your pants low.

I don’t know what to make of this story.

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I’m just going to note the links between this guy using the control of female bodies as cover for his aggression and the excuses made by anti-choicers, and leave it at that.


The right wing reaction to health care reform passing has gotten so completely silly that I couldn’t contain it in this week’s wisdom of wingnuts.  And for some reason, there’s a strong penis theme running through the entire freak out.  If you think I’m kidding, well, let’s just start with the meme that’s running through the right wing noise machine about Nancy Pelosi and her giant……gavel. 

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Boy, they just can’t scrub that image from their heads of Nancy Pelosi walking around with a big gavel in her hands!  Think there’s maybe some psychosexual issues going on there?  Why the fascination with her giant gavel as some sign that she’s too big for her dainty lady britches?  And the language being used—that she was “asking for” violence by walking around with a big ol’ phallic symbol of power in her hands?  This is getting raw and weird. 

The gavel, for what it’s worth, is symbolic to people without these kind of sexist hang-ups for an entirely different reason.  The gavel was lent to Pelosi by Rep. John Dingell, whose father used it when they passed Medicare in 1965.  It was about the historical legacy of health care reform, one that I hope continues into the future, since this bill doesn’t do nearly enough.  But it’s hilarious watching all these right wing dudes completely lose it at the memory of Pelosi, the first female Speaker of the House, walking along with that giant gavel in her hand.

But this is far from the only penis-related wingnuttery to come out of the aftermath of the health care reform bill passing.  If you haven’t heard it, check out this story of a Florida-based urologist Dr. Jack Cassell who has decided to react to health care reform by telling his patients that voted for Obama that they’re not welcome to his care.  He went on the Alan Colmes show to defend himself, and let’s just say that his level of understanding of the issues should alarm anyone who has let Dr. Cassell near his precious man junk.

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So Dr. Cassell read a bunch of misinformed right wing media, and got ideas about cuts in Medicare that aren’t going to happen.  Even though, you know, the people that are raising this alarm are right wingers who’d like to shut down Medicare altogether.  But when Colmes calls him out on this misinformation, his reaction is to pretend that there’s no way to know what’s in the bill.  But the sources he’s reading are telling him they know!  So is he admitting that they just make it up and he believes it because he wants to?

Anyway, the notion that the bill is some miserably impossible thing to get your hands on is completely silly.  Not only is the text available to anyone who wants to read it, as I covered last week, Congressional members who passed this bill have gone on an all-out education frenzy so that people know how much is in the bill.  As a doctor, Dr. Cassell might be interested to know that paying for health insurance for his employees will get much cheaper for him now.

But for those of us whose minds are in the gutter, I have to point out that someone who is that incurious and prone to knee-jerk reactions is probably not the person you want, if you’re a man, handling your man parts.  At least if you cherish them. 

Jon Stewart on the Daily Show also went straight to the penis jokes.

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In all seriousness…..okay.  I can’t be serious.  When the opposition seems to see what is functionally a dry piece of health care legislation as some sort of monster assault, often aimed directly at their manhood, I’m left in a sea of childish giggles.  What else can you do? 


Insert interview


The moral of the story of Constance McMillen, a teenage girl from Mississippi embroiled in an ACLU lawsuit, is twofold.  One, it’s refreshing to see how strong and brave some people can be when they’re so young.  But it’s also sad to see how mean-spirited and bigoted others can be. 

But let’s start at the beginning.  Constance is a high school student in Fulton, Mississippi.  Like many high school students, she wanted to go to the prom and she wanted to bring as her date the person she was dating.  But in her case, that person is female, and instead of doing what they should and just being cool with it, the school decided that they would do absolutely anything to keep a lesbian couple away from the prom. 

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What’s interesting about this tactic is that the school officials are such experts at exploiting teenagers’ worst impulses.  From an adult perspective, it’s clear that the people who cancelled the prom were the people who, you know, actually cancelled the prom.  But of course, teenagers can be very small-minded, and so blaming the girl who sticks out a little for being the one who caused the prom to be cancelled is clearly effective.  Dan Savage addressed the case on his podcast, and talked about how bad something like this really can be.

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And indeed, as Dan predicted, the unwillingness of the school to just let this one go, but instead kick and scream and oppress this teenager for what is a very simple desire, has created a real storm and a lot of abuse aimed at Constance.  And a lot of it comes from adults who seem dead set on highlighting the difference between Constance’s calm maturity and their own childish unwillingness to get along with other people who are different from them. 

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You heard that right.  A bunch of so-called adults got together, made signs taunting a teenage girl, and hung those signs all over the school. But it gets worse, if you can believe it.  Since this is going on in Mississippi, we’re talking about an area that has a whole lot of practice in finding ways to get around anti-discrimination laws, trying to keep segregation alive for decades after the federal government banned it.  One thing that’s happened in a lot of places in the South, especially Mississippi, is that the white kids have a separate, private prom that the black kids aren’t invited to.  And that’s the strategy that was used against Constance.  The school had the official school prom, and she went and there were, in her words, only 7 students there. 

It was her, her date, a couple of kids with learning disabilities, and I’d bet dollars to donuts the others were also social rejects.  The school, the families, and the kids plotted to set up a fake prom to send these kids to while they all partied down at the big prom that they didn’t tell them about.  It’s amazing to me, since this is a small town.  So that means the people plotting against her know her.  The parents that plotted against her?  They probably remember her as a little kid playing at their houses.  And despite all this, they conspired to set up a fake prom.  That’s a level of hate that’s incomprehensible to me.

But there is good news in all this.  Constance, who has been brave and commonsensical all through this, was invited to go on Ellen Degeneres’ show..  Warning about this next clip.  It will make you teary-eyed.  Or it did me. 

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So the path out of there is set for Constance.  Too bad that’s the best solution for a lot of young people who are gay or even just different—to leave.  Because the people that are poorer for it are the people in these places, who don’t get to benefit from the energy, intelligence, and creativity of the young people they squeeze out.  And let’s hope the ACLU wins this lawsuit.


And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, okay then edition.  There’s a 50s-era law on the books in California that requires doctors to look into the “causes and cures” of homosexuality, and California lawmakers want to overturn it.  You know, because the APA and every other reputable medical organization has come around to the view that gay is not a disease to cure.  But CNN, in their infinite wisdom, brought ex-gay goober Richard Cohen on to defend this old  law. 

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Of course, no one is stopping anyone from researching whatever they want.  They can research why unicorns like to eat pixie dust, if they want.  They’ll get about as far as you’ll get looking for the cure for homosexuality.  Of course, Cohen has been thoroughly discredited and kicked out of the The American Counseling Association for his unethical work.  He shouldn’t be on TV, much less given a platform to pretend vicious anti-gay legislation is just a matter of asking questions.

Follow Amanda Marcotte on twitter: @amandamarcotte