Heterosexism and Republican Hypocrisy

What in blue blazes are police officers doing hanging out in men’s bathroom busting gregarious civilians for non-criminal offenses? Isn’t the public better served by having the police fighting crime? It’s not like a man putting his foot in my stall is rape or some other actual violation of my person. I’ve had men make passes at me in bathrooms. Do you know how I respond in such a situation? It’s simple, really. I ignore their gestures, wipe my ass, and move on with on life. No harm no foul. But not Republicans. Not only do they oppose gay marriage, but they also support criminalizing gestures they think gay men use to communicate with one another in public places. Does anybody else out there recognize this as the hallmark of the police state – criminalizing homosexual flirting?

Because you can’t get away from this story, and because I have suspected there’s more to the facts of the case than what I have been hearing, I listened to the actual taped interview between Senator Larry Craig and the arresting officer. Good grief. The whole thing is nonsense, with the most irrational elements thrown in. The officer keeps going on and on about how embarrassing it all is and how disappointed he is in Craig. Who gives a damn what this police officer thinks about Larry Craig? It’s not for a cop in this situation to tell a senator that he’s disappointed in him. This isn’t Romper Room. The officer can be heard crying like Craig is his incorrigible son whom he’s at wit’s end to control. That is embarrassing. 

Craig is heard rationally and politely disputing the officer’s account, as well he should (though not politely). The officer sounds like he knows he’s blowing smoke with this arrest (his shaky voice gives him away). But since he’s arresting a man for ambiguous behavior that shouldn’t even be policed in the first place, he’d better have a convincing story to tell. But he doesn’t. The officer says Craig made gestures with his left hand. He knows because he saw the wedding band and he knows what a left hand looks like. But Craig’s left hand was opposite the stall the officer was in. The officer even admits this fact. Does this officer really expect us to believe that Craig is turned all the way around in a bathroom stall to gesture with his left hand – the hand with a wedding ring on it, no less – when he could have simply used his right hand, already in a position close to the officer? Sure the officer knows Craig has a wedding ring on his left hand. That doesn’t mean he saw it in the bathroom stall. The officer asks Craig if he had his wedding band on his right hand at any point during the day. Why ask this? The officer already said he knows what a left hand looks like.

At that point, the officer goes all racist on Craig, saying that he usually deals with people from the wrong side of the tracks, real scumbags who are expected to lie, but that he expects more from Craig. Why, because Craig is a well-off white man? What makes his little lecture all the more disingenuous is that, while most people believe that “all politicians are liars,” this cop expects more from a US senator. Sorry, but that doesn’t pass the smell test.

I completely understand why Craig copped a plea of guilty. The officer keeps telling Craig that if he cops a plea it will all end and that he, the officer, won’t blab it around town; but if Craig decides to fight the charge in court, the officer tells him, then the officer will have to appear and testify about what happened – that is, give the court his story, and we all know that means a public trial and a media circus. So Craig says to himself, “Okay, just sign the papers, pay the fine, and move on with my life.” After all, the man is a US senator with a family and friends. He has a reputation to protect. Does anybody out there really believe that he should see such a thing to trial so that the whole world shares in his embarrassment – over gestures in a public bathroom? And then it gets blabbed all over town. 

What we have here is entrapment, in which a cop is waiting around in a men’s bathroom stall to bust people who gesture with their feet and hands (note to self: when next taking a shit in a public restroom be sure to sit frozen like a stature with feet held firmly together and hands buried under armpits); blackmail, in which the cop says either Craig pleads guilty and makes it all go away or he disputes the cop’s story in public over a crime that is not even a real crime while the whole nation watches (which happens anyway); and the state criminalizing homosexual flirting. Imagine a unisex bathroom where a man or a woman flirts with a member of the opposite sex and one of them is a cop who arrests the flirter. Hard to imagine because it wouldn’t happen. Nor should it. Meanwhile, women suffer the real harassment of cat calls and whistling and the state does nothing about that. It’s about homosexuality, not flirting.

We all know I don’t care for Republicans, and the way they are bailing on Craig shows you why I find them such a despicable lot. They believe this cop’s story over their colleague – more importantly believe such charges are legitimate – and then run as fast as they can away from the man they used to call friend. At the same time, they have colleagues they stand behind who have committed actual ethical violations. It makes you wonder why the Democrats haven’t pitched in more here to help out Craig. Surely Democrats don’t approve of police officers arresting men in bathrooms for wandering feet.

Speaking of actual moral offenses, the obvious truth that appears to have eluded everybody now enters the public discourse: How can the Republicans distance themselves from Craig over such a petty thing – really a no thing – when they stand shoulder-to-shoulder with a president who is guilty of the crimes of kidnapping, lying to Congress and the public, spying on US citizens, torturing prisoners, and waging aggressive war? Playing footsies in a public bathroom is a terrible moral offense, but murdering Iraqi children for oil is noble? Talk about misplaced values. That, brothers and sisters, is the real hypocrisy in this whole affair.

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Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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