Saturday, September 29, 2012

Dispatches from the Holy War: 9/29

Justice Not Politics is among organizations working to shield Iowa's Judiciary from right-wing extremists.

It's been kind of a slow month around here --- unless you count Bob Vander Plaats' "No Wiggins" bus tour, which wrapped up Thursday in northwest Iowa.

Vander Plaats heads up The Family Leader and affiliated Christian parody troupes that two years ago with funding from outside the state convinced enough Iowans to vote "no" on the judicial retention ballot to unseat three Iowa Supreme Court justices.

This year, Vander Plaats, with funding from the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and other Chirstianist groups, is aiming for another justice, David Wiggins, hence "No Wiggins."

Among those hauled in to bolster Vander Plaats' cause this week were NOM's Brian Brown, poor old Rick Santorum and Louisiana's Bobby Jindal --- governor of the state that would be as close as these United States comes to a third-world country, were it not for Mississippi. Certainly something for Iowans to aspire to.

Without assistance, Iowa's judges --- as a rule committed to truth, honor and judicial objectivity and unlikely because of ethical concerns to campaign for their own retention --- are at a disadvantage when under assault from morally-challenged folks like Vander Plaats, who operates without such constraints.

This year, the Iowa State Bar Association stepped in with a tour of its own, "Yes Iowa Judges," scheduling appearances that coincided with those of the Vander Plaats bus to point out the hazards of politicizing the state's judiciary.

This is the most familiar image used this fall by Vander Plaats and his associates, illustrating the deceit upon which their campaign is based. The quote attributed to Wiggins, "So tell me, in your best way, how we can get around the Iowa Constitution," was clipped from a series of taped interviews by Iowa's Judicial Nominating Committee, which Wiggins chaired during January 2011, with those who had nominated themselves to fill vacant Iowa Supreme Court seats. Angela Onwuachi-Willig had just acknowledged that she was not licensed to practice law in Iowa, which automatically disqualified her as a candidate, when Wiggins asked, tongue-in-cheek, if she could suggest to the panel a way around the constitutional ban on her inclusion on the short list of nine to be submitted to Gov. Terry Branstad for consideration. The way the quote as used here, of course, is a lie. Now which commandment is it that talks about false witness? Oh wait, these guys are Christians. They don't have to play by the rules.


On a brighter note, the first national touring company presentation of "It Gets Better," a collaboration of the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles, Speak Theater Arts and the It Gets Better Project, will take place Friday, Oct. 19, in Iowa City. The performance is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. in the Main Lounge of the Iowa Memorial Union.

The It Gets Better touring company centered here around Drew Tablak also includes Jason Currie, Tyler Houston, Tod Macofsky, Mario Mosley and Sacha Sacket.

Here's how University of Iowa publicists describe the production: "In 2010, columnist and author Dan Savage created a YouTube video to inspire hope for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered youth facing harassment. A year later, "It Gets Better" had grown into a global movement supported by countless celebrities, organizations, and politicians. Now, a live performance shares this rousing message, a response to bullying delivered through the dynamic musical energy of the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles, as well as the incorporation of local guests and digital media. By tackling broader issues of tolerance and diversity, the work addresses the nation's — and our community's — civic challenges, while reminding us all that yes, it does get better."

The performance will conclude a week-long residency by the six-member touring cmpany cast during which its members will collaborate with local performers, citizens, schools and other agencies to create local content that will be woven into the performance.

There is one late-developing oddity here. The performance originally was scheduled as part of groundbreaking festivities for the University's new Hancher audtiorium. That groundbreaking now has been postponed, The Daily Iowan reports. University officials say the delay will not affect the start of construction, but declined to comment on why groundbreaking has been postponed.

God knows, I am not a conspiracy theorist. But you've got to wonder in these toxic political times if University administrative wonks got to wondering if the combination of groundbreaking and gay folks might not be a little too much to swallow for Republicans in the Iowa Legislature, actual or potential. I'm sure University officials and members of the Board of Regents never think in those terms, however.

Whatever the case, the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles performed many months ago "True Colors" in what has become one of the most popular It Gets Better videos. I liked it so much then, I'm going to post it again now.

1 comment:

V.Cox said...

Beautiful song, Frank. Thanks.