Nov. 7 of this year is already being referred to as the dawning of a new liberal America. The same election that brought a re-elected President Barack Obama also brought with it the legalization of recreational marijuana use in two states, the legalization of gay marriage in three and the victory of Tammy Baldwin, the first openly gay U.S. senator. I went to bed that night proud to be part of a country that was finally moving forward and a state that voted “no” twice.
And then Michele Bachmann was re-elected.
It is still somewhat baffling to know that a person under such a truckload of controversy could be re-elected for a fourth term. You would think that such large amounts of homophobia, Islamophobia and ignorance all smashed into one person would send most running in the opposite direction, but apparently not. The nine teen suicides in Anoka-Ramsey are also something to be concerned about, especially since they took place in her jurisdiction, which at the time was under a “neutrality” policy she allowed to flourish to its greatest potential.
This neutrality policy was more formally known as the Sexual Orientation Curriculum policy. It stated that teachers should be “neutral” when addressing issues concerning sexual orientation in their classrooms.
I suppose I should take this moment to pause and point out some positives about Bachmann. After all, she had to have been re-elected for some valid reasons. She’s fixing the Stillwater Bridge, for instance. She also helped the St. Cloud Regional Airport obtain a grant that will attract new air service. According to her website, her top priorities include restoring the economy, creating jobs and reducing debt — all of which are, without a doubt, important.
Yet, it is impossible to ignore all the blatant showcases of bigotry and hypocrisy she has displayed during each of her campaigns. During a Q-and-A in 2011 at Waverly Town Hall, Bachmann stated, “I ascribe honor and dignity to every person,” and then later, “We all have the same civil rights. And so that’s really what the government’s role is — to protect our civil rights.”
Then, when asked in further detail how she felt about the LGBT community and bullying, she went on to say, “There are no special rights based on your sex practices,” and “What I believe is that the federal government should have nothing to say about the local school classroom. The president shouldn’t; the government shouldn’t.”
Last year, the mother of a gay teenager who committed suicide in 2010 brought a box to Bachmann’s campaign office containing 141,000 signatures petitioning her to publicly address gay bullying. Bachmann responded by stating, “Bullying is wrong.” This statement contrasted a previous one she made in 2006, which, in summary, claimed that bullying has always happened and that prohibiting it would be impossible without infringing on freedom of speech. The cherry on top was her final question, “… will we be expecting boys to be girls?”
I hear the rhetoric that the personal beliefs of politicians have no bearing on their policies too often. Some people seem to think that Bachmann’s extreme homophobia does not and will not interfere with the well-being of the people in her jurisdiction, even though it already has. This past February, the Anoka-Hennepin school board finally replaced the neutrality policy, but there were still a good number of people, many from the Parent’s Action League, who thought the agreement was a “travesty.”
With Bachmann re-elected, I am extremely worried about the kids in her district. Her infamous silence on the matter can only be construed as indifference or even agreement with the harassment of kids who do not even necessarily have to identify as gay — but simply do not adhere to gendered norms.
Most bullying is entrenched in homophobic ideologies. The boys that get bullied are usually the ones who aren’t good in gym class, don’t get dates to prom or who are overweight or soft-spoken. Conversely, the girls that are typically targeted are the ones that are not “pretty” or are “tomboys.” It’s not only gay kids who are especially vulnerable; it’s any kid that does not totally conform to strict gender-coded norms. This is the true censorship. To imply that accepting homosexuality in schools is censorship is blasphemy. You don’t see any kids committing suicide because their anti-gay beliefs are being threatened.
Bullying is a huge problem everywhere, and with the emergence of social media, it only appears to be getting worst. Bullying — though often relegated to schoolyard taunts — has absolutely no element of innocence. Bullying is discrimination, harassment and in its worst form, terrorism — and for many, it never ends. To have a Minnesota representative whose views encourage this pattern, yet who acts with total indifference toward it, is horrifying. Despite her fiscal policies and self-described moral righteousness, Bachmann has blood on her hands. No achievement can obscure the fact that nine kids in her jurisdiction killed themselves, and she did absolutely nothing about it.
In this day and age, it is dangerous to have a homophobe in such a high position of political power. It threatens the lives and civil liberties of too many people. I can only hope that this time around no more kids have to die in order for this to be made all the more obvious.