Monday, August 15, 2011

The Toilet in the Garage

I’m still thinking about “The Help.”  One of the symbols used by Kathryn Stockett in her book stays with me.  It’s the “Toilet in the Garage” and I see it connected to our current politics.

Fifty years ago, there were two sets of cultural standards in America: one for people with dark skin tone and one for everyone else.  The idea of separate toilets for the two groups was legitimized by our culture, and that symbolism has become a metaphor for the use of a cultural double standard.

There are major differences between then and now.  The pain and suffering of those engaged in the civil rights movement of the 60s was nothing compared to any of the indignities suffered by Republicans today. Even so, there is value in comparing our anti-Republican culture with the circumstances that existed back then.   The “Toilet in the Garage” metaphor is apt.

Perhaps you are aware of the treatment of Sarah Palin in response to her nomination for the Republican Vice Presidency in 2008.  The former governor ended up having to defend herself against 27 ethics complaints and to release over 24,000 pages of e-mail transcripts.

Contrast that with our President, who is able to ignore the customary release of either his college transcripts or medical records.  Is that a double standard?

How about Scott Gessler, the Secretary of State for Colorado?  He was reviewing alleged voting improprieties in one of our Colorado counties and had to sue Melinda Myers, County Clerk of Saguache County, to be able to audit the ballots.

Mr. Gessler, a Republican, had to sue a subordinate Democrat in order to obtain her administrative compliance.  Is that a double standard?

This past weekend, TheDenver Post ran an editorial that was critical of Republicans for their intransigence in not accepting increased taxes to ameliorate federal spending.  The editorial summarized its position: “The question is which is more important – trimming the debt and improving the long-term health of the nation or holding to a no-tax-hikes pledge?”

Republicans, of course, see the situation differently.  They do not believe the current increase in federal spending (from 20% of GDP to 25% of GDP) is good for the country.  They note that the country has never had this level of spending, and that it cannot be sustained by simply “taxing the rich.”

In an attempt at dialogue, Republicans have asked the Obama administration to provide figures on how the “tax the rich” formulation can work.  Unfortunately, there has been no explanation forthcoming.  In exercising its double standard, the administration lectures Republicans that not only does it not have to show them any data, it doesn’t even have to prepare a federal budget!

Like Aibileen in “The Help,” Republicans are facing a difficult struggle.  To their detriment, they seem to accept their plight.

But I’ve got to tell you, having to keep using that “Toilet in the Garage” is becoming an aggravation.
UPDATE 8/18/2011:
Leonard Pitts gets it, almost.  He relates the personal story of his mother working as a domestic in Memphis, and describes that all-too-familiar grievance: "...she was a fully formed human being with a life, and dreams and dreads of her own."

Yes, that's exactly the problem.  Cultures dehumanize groups of people to enhance the power of the dominant cultural group, and it's difficult being on the receiving end of that cultural double standard.  Polish people, Jews, Italians, Christians...the experience of these groups is well-documented.

Now, if Mr. Pitts could just step outside his personal politics for a moment, and note the universality of the phenomenon, he might gain a sense of our anti-Republican culture.  That would be progress!

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