Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Voters in the Granite State will reject Rick Santorum and his hard-line, right-wing social views next Tuesday, says James Hormel — the first openly gay U.S. Ambassador, named by President Bill Clinton to head the American embassy in Luxembourg in 1998, over the fierce objections of Santorum and other Republican Senators who were powerless to stop the recess appointment.

Hormel, a meatpacking heir who grew up in a solidly Republican family, is the author of Fit to Serve, a recently published memoir of the public and private struggles that led to his pathbreaking appointment. Santorum, a committed opponent of gay rights in all forms, once denounced Hormel’s appointment as “a complete insult to Catholics,” and therefore an insult to the Catholic majority in Luxembourg. “It’s like nominating someone who is anti-Jewish for the ambassadorship to Israel.” As Hormel explains in his book, Santorum’s warning proved utterly false, and he was welcomed by Luxembourg’s people, politicians, and monarchy.

Now Hormel gleefully predicts an electoral debacle for his old antagonist. “Is there a Waterloo in New Hampshire?” he asked jokingly. (Yes, there is.) “I think that’s where Rick Santorum is headed. He already has exhibited his brand of forensic style by twisting an earnest question about marriage equality into a polemic on polygamy…He will discover that his extreme, exclusive, and rigid quasi-religious views are not in harmony with overall local perspectives. New Hampshire voters are God-loving, not God-fearing.”

At the age of 80, Hormel re-entered the public sphere as an author to examine not only his own life, which included many closeted years as a straight husband and father, but the role he played in the history of gay rights over the past few decades — a story of social progress resisted by the likes of Santorum, who has become a symbol of intolerance in the gay community. Although Hormel supports the movement toward marriage equality, he feels even more strongly about the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, which would prohibit employment discrimination against homosexuals. He also believes that his own story demonstrates his deeply-held conviction that homosexuality is not a choice but an inborn trait — a viewpoint that scientific research increasingly supports, but that the American right refuses to accept.

In an interview with The National Memo, Hormel said he sees no reason to prefer Mitt Romney, because “Mormon doctrine” is strictly anti-gay and the Church of Latter-Saints has made fighting gay rights its official policy. He notes, however, that two Mormon Republicans serving in the Senate at the time of his ambassadorial nomination — Orrin Hatch of Utah and Gordon Smith of Oregon — supported his appointment. As a longtime political activist and Democratic donor in California and nationally, Hormel discounts Santorum’s Iowa surge but regards it as cause for vigilance:

“In Iowa, Santorum came in a close second, but the fact behind the headlines is that he spent almost a year visiting every county in the state and only managed to motivate one and a quarter percent of eligible voters to support him. His campaign is likely to end in New Hampshire. Nevertheless, the [gay] constituency should pay attention because his views are counter to just about everything we stand for. This man is not about equality; he does not stand up for equality. His views are extreme, exclusive and rigid. He doesn’t want women to be equal, he doesn’t want gays and lesbians to be equal — it’s as simple as that. If that’s who the Republican party wants to put forward as their candidate, the choice for the LGBT constituency come November will be especially easy.”

Photo by Mediamodifier from Pixabay

Reprinted with permission from TomDispatch

When it rains, pieces of glass, pottery, and metal rise through the mud in the hills surrounding my Maryland home. The other day, I walked outside barefoot to fetch one of my kid's shoes and a pottery shard stabbed me in the heel. Nursing a minor infection, I wondered how long that fragment dated back.

A neighbor of mine found what he said looked like a cartridge case from an old percussion-cap rifle in his pumpkin patch. He told us that the battle of Monocacy had been fought on these grounds in July 1864, with 1,300 Union and 900 Confederate troops killed or wounded here. The stuff that surfaces in my fields when it storms may or may not be battle artifacts, but it does remind me that the past lingers and that modern America was formed in a civil war.

Keep reading... Show less