Column: No room for prejudice in government

I’d gotten my hopes up after Trent Lott’s resignation as Senate majority leader this winter. His own party’s reactions to his comments at Strom Thurmond’s birthday that vaguely, yet favorably, recalled the aging senator’s racist views in past years made me think that perhaps Republicans would no longer tolerate intolerance. That perhaps the party currently controlling both the legislative and executive branches, a party infamous for its history of supporting state-sponsored segregation, sexism and homophobia would finally begin to understand that their party line is no longer acceptable to the American people.

Clearly, I was wrong. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) was quoted in an Associated Press interview as saying that he “(has) a problem with homosexual acts.” Quickly realizing the lack of political correctness in his statement, he tried to backtrack, saying that “if that’s their orientation, then I accept that … the question is, do you act on that orientation?” So much for that whole “pursuit of happiness” business they made him quibble about at Dickinson Law School. His suggestion that the act and the individual can be considered separate entities ignores our basic right as a people to pursue that which enhances and improves our lives, providing it is not done at the expense of society. Santorum is simply gay bashing in a new way; one that he thinks will make him appear more tolerant than his more conservative counterparts.

Santorum tries to argue that if law sanctions homosexual acts, then we are setting a precedent for all sorts of deviant behavior in the privacy of our bedrooms. This U.S. senator actually had the gall to sit in front of a reporter and compare a gay or lesbian relationship to “man on dog.” The problem with this, as anyone at GW who has suffered through logic will tell you, is that it’s a classic slippery slope. Let’s apply this logic to one of Santorum’s favorite issues – the Second Amendment. His logic says that because the Bill of Rights gives me the right to bear arms, I am legally permitted to own assault rifles and manufacture bombs in my dorm room. Yet, in reality, I cannot do these things. We have laws that are carefully defined to protect society while not infringing upon individual rights. It is ludicrous to presume that if we abolish outdated laws that infringe upon the private lives of consenting adults, we are endorsing potentially harmful and destructive acts. Santorum’s comments are a perfect illustration of why “tolerance” is an outdated operating mechanism. “Tolerance” merely means the absence of outright malice and legalized prejudice. I understand that my personal views, and those of my party, are not the views of all Americans. However, if we are to work well as business partners, as neighbors, as citizens and as friends, “tolerance” of one another is no longer enough. As an elected figure, particularly one in a leadership position, Santorum ought to be promoting harmony among his constituents and working to make their lives better, not making sweeping judgements about a lifestyle choice made by legal adults.

If Sen. Lott resigned from leadership because of vague references to a policy that ceased to exist 40 years ago, then Santorum’s comments warrant at least the same response. I am sorry to see that calls for Santorum’s removal from his position as Senate Republican chairman – the third-highest ranking position in the Senate – have been slow in coming. His behavior and his personal views are those of a man who is not only intolerant, but seeking to distort the truth and twist logic to suit his own purposes. This is not a discussion of public policy; it is a clear attack on the lifestyles of Americans. Small-minded and prejudiced people have no place in our government. Santorum is unfit to hold a position of responsibility and power. I am proud to add my voice to the chorus calling for his resignation.
-The writer, a junior majoring in history, is incoming president of the College Democrats.

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