[Marla] Spivak, a senior from Hamden, was one of the students invited to have lunch earlier with Rove. That left her somewhat emboldened as she stood before the crowd and asked Rove to explain how giving gay people the right to marry would endanger other people.
Rove took issue with the way the first gay marriages came about, through the Massachusetts Supreme Court. An issue as important as the definition of marriage should be resolved by a legislature or a referendum, not a court, he said.
Gay couples could gain the legal rights of married couples through legislation without actually getting married, he said.
But wouldn't creating a separate body of legislation for gay people be creating a separate but equal system, a step back?, Spivak asked.
Rove replied with an answer about Mormons changing their views on marriage to conform with the nation's laws.
Spivak kept pressing. "You never actually answered, how does it threaten anyone?" she asked.
Rove asked, what's the compelling reason to throw out 5,000 years of understanding the institution of marriage as between a man and a woman?
What, Spivak countered, was the compelling reason for society to allow interracial relationships when they had once been outlawed.
Then Rove invoked the Declaration of Independence before Spivak interjected that its reference to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" seemed to support her claims.
Their verbal pingpong match tapered off after Rove brought up polygamy and Spivak acknowledged that she did not know enough about polygamy to answer. Rove later asked when she planned to run for political office.
I'll give Rove credit for two things — praising the importance of studying Shakespeare, even for non-English majors a bit later, and recommending The Looming Tower. However, he ducked Spivak's question, and brought up polygamy, a slippery slope argument, to derail her. Spivak did well, but she was going up against a pretty slick hack who was able to escape with a classic logical fallacy and some other tricks. Realistically, it's doubtful he would have answered honestly. Still, just imagine if the media always pressed political figures like this. Some do, but many are content to be suck-ups and apologists for even the most authoritarian, dangerous BS.
Rove's stepfather was gay, and he was quite close with him by most accounts. It appears he even lied to the Choate students when he claimed he didn't know whether his stepfather had been gay or not, since that contradicts several public accounts of his contact with gay friends of his stepfather after his stepfather's death. In any case, his stepfather's sexuality didn't stop Rove from using a 2004 campaign strategy that depended in large part on exploiting homophobia (Al Franken sharply called the campaign "Fear, Smears, and Queers"). Rove's approach was very similar to Reagan's consistent race-baiting, even if Reagan was rather clever about it, using code words like "welfare queens." There are apologists who maddeningly claim that Reagan wasn't personally racist (I don't know if you caught the NYT editorials back and forth on this). Perhaps Reagan wasn't, although I'm not convinced — he certainly seemed both ignorant and biased, and just because that was the social norm for his crowd doesn't mean they weren't bigoted, even if Reagan was no David Duke. In Rove's case, I'd imagine he's not personally a raging homophobe. But really, who cares? Does it really matter if Rove or Reagan weren't personally bigoted when they pressed bigoted policies and exploited bigotry? Why should they get any points for that? Isn't that even worse? A Klansman is a bigoted scumbag, but at least one knows where he stands, and most of society will condemn him. But Reagan and Rove are somehow respectable because when they did something they knew if wrong, their hearts supposedly weren't in it? Aww, poor dears! Realistically, such disingenuousness is common to politics, but especially since we're talking about demonizing an entire group of people, if we're talking ethics, that's clearly wrong, or even evil.
But back to Ms. Spivak. Her conduct was fantastic. This is why I loved working with teenagers, who are consistently undersold by adults, the press, and much of our society. Yes, there's plenty of immaturity and self-absorption in the demographic as a whole, but there's also some really sharp, well-informed, conscientious young adults out there. (I certainly remember a hell of a lot of condescension when I was that age.) This election season has seen a record youth turnout, including teenagers of 17 who will be 18 in the fall coming out to vote in the primaries. That's profoundly exciting. Meanwhile, adults have been complaining about how horrible the kids are today are and how they won't listen since at least Socrates' time. Those periodic, stock pieces slamming the wastrel youth of today always lack insight, and are partially to completely full of crap. I'm not saying the young don't have a great deal to learn about the world and life, and wise mentors are always welcome, but at their best, young people have great bullshit detectors and try to keep the older, complacent and corrupt folks honest.
So good for Marla Spivak, who as a senior should be voting this fall with many others her age for the first time in a national election. (I hope it's as exciting and successful as my first voting experience was.) Welcome aboard, and keep up the good work!
(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)