Generally speaking, we here at And Why Not? prefer to focus on the positive. There’s enough crap in the world that when given the opportunity to be affirmative, we take it. Hence the recent reflections on what an awesome song November Rain is. But sometimes, in an effort to get what some might call “perspective,” it’s worth contemplating the other side of the spectrum. Which brings us to today’s post.
We’re aware that it’s early April, which puts us only 3/4ths of the way through this first quarter. But sometimes, even though the race officially continues, there’s already an obvious winner. And so: drum roll please as I open the envelope:
The award for Dickhead of the Quarter, First Quarter of 2015, goes to:
Tom Cotton, of Arkansas, America.
For those not familiar, Tom Cotton is the junior senator from the State of Arkansas, who has successfully nosed his way into the news several times over these first few months of 2015. Going in reverse order, Cotton most recently suggested that critics of the religious freedom law passed in Indiana should get some “perspective,” because, “In Iran they hang you for being gay.”
Oh Tommy. Tommy Tommy Tommy.
The first and most obvious thought that comes to mind is that perhaps we’re setting the bar a touch too low here. If the baseline standard to measure our morality is—Did we hang anybody??—perhaps something’s a bit off.
Cotton’s thought here is that gays should stop arguing for increased civil rights in America because in other countries they’d be treated even worse; specifically, in Iran they’d be hanged. Leaving aside the apples-to-oranges component of his argument (unlike our our constitutional republic where church and state are to be kept separate, Iran is a theocracy with power ultimately seated in a cleric), any hard facts that might substantiate his claims (we’re all pretty sure that Iran is not at the vanguard of LGBT rights, yet the country, a notoriously closed-off place to get information about, insists that it does not hang homosexuals simply for being homosexuals), and the very curious concern Cotton is suddenly expressing for gays in Iran while simultaneously deploring them here, let’s take the structure of his argument and apply some different terms to it to see how it sounds from another “perspective”:
Hey little Billy, stop complaining that your brother broke your toy; after all, in Iran they’d hang you simply for being a child.
Or: Listen up hombre, no mas hablar from you about the squalor you’re forced to work in and the dinero you don’t receive; after all, it’s better than being—como se dice—hanged? Comprende??
Or perhaps the most revelatory substitution of all:
Hey African Americans, why don’t you quit your grumbling about institutional racism that gets expressed through higher incarceration rights, income inequality, greater levels of poverty and so on… After all, at least we’re not hanging you.
Anymore. Hanging you anymore.
But Cotton’s right about one thing: sometimes perspective is important, which brings us to why Cotton was in the news in the first place this year. In early March, Cotton drafted a letter to the Iranian leadership. The letter, which before being sent was signed by the huge majority of Senate Republicans, pedantically explained how our constitutional system works and insisted that any non-proliferation deal that might be reached that went unratified by the Senate would be repealed once Obama left office.
The problems with this letter are many, the most prominent one being that its motivations and conclusions point almost-exclusively to war. In other words—Tommy: If you don’t want Iran to have a nuclear bomb and you also don’t want to reach a peaceful agreement with them to resolve the issue (one that likely involves ongoing monitoring in exchange for lifting existing sanctions), then what, pray tell, do you you see happening here?
Another issue is that Tommy’s little letter was likely illegal, as it potentially violated the Logan Act, which prohibits unauthorized citizens from negotiating with foreign governments. The point of the Act is that negotiations on behalf of the country, say, about a nuclear non-proliferation deal, are to be carried out by the executive branch, in this case President Obama’s Secretary of State, John Kerry.
Now, nobody in American has ever been charged under this law, and it’s not likely that Cotton will be the first. But in the interests of the “perspective” that Cotton earlier suggested gay rights activists should consider, let’s try and provide some for Little Tommy1:
Tommy, let’s pretend that you’re a member of the Iranian parliament: How do you think the nation’s leadership would have responded to your self-appointed diplomatic efforts with a mistrusted foreign government? If you think that in Iran they’re hanging gays simply for being gay, how do you imagine they’d treat your hubristic insubordination, an act that surely carries far graver geopolitical ramifications??
Now, as our program come to a close and everyone returns home with their gift bags, we can only hope that you’re proud of having won this award, Mr. Cotton. On the odd chance you’d prefer not to win such accolades in the future, our selection committee suggests that you learn the value of being a reasonable, thoughtful, respectful, and kind human being. Odds are that’s asking way too much, so perhaps you can simply learn to keep your mouth shut when your brain tells it to open.
And if you’re truly, deeply unsettled by this new title, Tommy, well, that’s too bad. We suggest that you don’t complain too loudly. After all, in Iran they hang dickheads like you.
- This wasn’t Mr. Cotton’s first end-around run; in 2006, while serving in Iraq, Cotton wrote an open letter to the NY Times in which he criticized their reporting and suggested that a story’s authors, along with the Times’ editor, be charged with espionage. Of course it’s not espionage if a newspaper reports on facts of government programs, and more importantly Cotton, as a Second Lieutenant, was in no position to be publishing such a jeremiad; he was disciplined for lack of discipline. Bad Tommy, bad! [↩]