The retort of decency: know your victim.
On Saturday April 23, during the Ayman cable news hour, MSNBC legal contributor Joyce Vance was asked to comment on a speech by Sen. Mallory McMorrow delivered earlier in the week from the floor of the Michigan Senate.
The context of Ms. Vance’s opinion was the improbable ask to link McMorrow’s speech to another event of the past week, the appearance of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene in a Georgia court. Ms. Vance, who had rehearsed her response, was up to the task. (What follows is a compressed paraphrase, ed.)
What we heard in this ‘Michigan Manifesto,’ was the response to hate speech, the kind of speech we have heard from Marjorie Taylor Greene… Greene may win her case in Georgia, but she will not win in the court of public opinion…what Sen. McMorrow did was fight back against the kind of bigotry and innuendo of Marjorie Taylor Greene and her supporters.
Google “Michigan Manifesto,” and one lands upon a page describing the Port Huron Statement, a mission statement created by a group of mainly white college students in the summer of 1962, seeking to organize college campuses to work together for social change. (2) This statement, like the voice of Sen. McMorrow, sought to achieve justice for the marginalized. Unfortunately, “social change” became smeared as conspiracy against the “free enterprise system, similarly as Sen. McMorrow’s respect and acknowledgment of the rights of her LGBTQ constituents in Michigan, subjected her to the smear that she is a “groomer.”
What ‘decency’ in political discourse looks like.
The cable news hour’s host, Ayman Mohyeldin, played a video clip of McMorrow’s speech, delivered Monday, April 18. (3)
Unlike Marjorie Taylor Greene’s video friendly accessory — a jeweled cross hanging from her neck — Sen. McMorrow’s hair was scooped up and held tight to the scalp with a band, resembling a young gymnastic performer. It’s a serious look, marking intent, and one which evoked the memorable and courageous appearance in the Michigan chambers of Dr. Nassar’s young victims of sexual harassment and abuse.
On that occasion victims of Dr. Nassar’s predatory crimes came forward to offer testimony as to why accountability for sexual abuse crimes shouldn’t stop with punishing the perpetrator. Nassar won’t outlive his sentence; however, the officials and institutions who refused to investigate and pursue claims of sexual abuse and sexual harassment remain in place, in their jobs, in their denial.
On this occasion Sen. McMorrow was responding to a Republican donor fundraising letter in which a fellow colleague, Sen. Lana Theis, claimed that McMorrow was a “groomer,” using her position as a lawmaker to coax the innocent into a sexual deviant lifestyle. By raising the issue of preferring smearing over governing, McMorrow used the fundraising letter as an opportunity to “out” Theis.
And ‘out’ she did, brilliantly.
On both occasions America saw itself once again witnessing public abuse and humiliation. Britain has political scandals; America has ‘culture wars meets Salem Witch trial.’ (4)
During the MTG appearance in a Georgia administrative court, MTG couldn’t recall any tweets about… (fill in the blank). All the attending press could report were the number of times Greene used a lack of recall to evade the questioning.
One is reminded of Ginni Thomas “feeling cold” walking down the Mall on the way to the Capitol Insurrection, January 6.
Exposure needs a cross around the neck, a mink coat around the torso.
Contrast with Mallory McMorrow’s presence in the Michigan Senate chamber where looking her verbal assailant in the eye, shared for the chamber her history as a daughter raised in the Catholic Church, a University of Notre Dame graduate, a civil rights supporter, a “mom,” and a fighter for fairness and justice.
In one frame, a sneering, disdainful law abuser; in another an aggrieved and frustrated law maker. In one subtext, ‘how much can I abuse the public trust.’ In another, how much can you lie and deceive to raise a few bucks.
Joyce Vance was asked by Mohyeldin if Democrats could borrow talking points from McMorrow’s retort when challenging similar Republican smear begetting fundraising attempts. Vance didn’t harbor this speculation, implying that Mallory’s retort was not a political strategy gambit. Instead Vance ignored the question, returning to the intitial speculation as to whether Marjorie Taylor Greene could be accused of helping start an insurrection, a federal offense, thereby disqualifying her from running for US Congress.
‘One would hope that the judge (in the case to remove Greene’s name from the Georgia ballot) would act with common sense… (rather than a narrow interpretation of the existing law, ed.).’
What ‘decency’ in political discourse sounds like.
McMorrow’s retort reminds one of a similar foray fifty-odd years ago into the limits of self-censure in political discourse. On that occasion, US Army counsel, Joseph Welch, appeared before the House on Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and challenged Sen. Joseph McCarthy and Committee counsel Roy Cohn:
“Have you no decency, sir?”
On this occasion, McMorrow challenged Theis with the obvious but frequently dismissed knowledge of whom one is speaking to:
“I am a white, straight, Christian married suburban mom.”
And the victims of Dr. Nassar?
What began with a courageous appearance in November, 2018 is finally finding some justice, some tentative legislative steps towards visibility and accountability:
On Sunday, April 24, Sen. McMorrow reappeared on Jonathan Capehart (MSNBC):
‘Just this morning I read (a report) about Christopher Rufo in the NYTimes…Exhaustion, that’s what our LGBTQ communities are experiencing… they have been taking the hits. I will take the hits…I will continue to take the hits. We are asking ‘white straight moms’ to take the hits…to stand up and challenge hate speech. (5)
April 25, updated May 3
1-About the title, “Saint Mallory:”
In 1952 was published a tome by French author/philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, entitled Saint Genet, actor and martyr, an essay on the life of the French queer author, playwright and social activist, Jean Genet.
4-Arthur Miller, The Crucible.