01 January 2011

Presenting Issues

In law schools I am told, is taught a hierarchy of targets presented to the students. First, attack the facts. If you cannot attack the facts, attack the arrest. If you cannot attack the arrest, attack the law. If you cannot attack the law, attack the victim.

In politics, this sort of hierarchy involves finding the, "presenting issue." A presenting issue needs several characteristics:
  • It must be easily reduced to a catch phrase.
  • It must be emotionally charged.
  • It must be off topic. That is not about what is being sought.
If you spend some time reading the postings and essays of the "evangelical" and "Anglo-catholic" reactionaries you will find in 2002/03 a discussion of the election, consent and consecration of then Rev. Gene Robinson and the permission to bless single gender unions in Canada were being touted as 'presenting issues.'

Presenting issues have a long and dishonorable history. If you like chocolate candy you might be familiar with a candy bar called the "Baby Ruth." It is a successful product, and by the way very tasty. Its name however is an early example of a presenting issue. When the candy bar was launched, Grover Cleveland, a bachelor and his woman friend had just welcomed a daughter into the world. The Republicans seeking to use his sex life and ignore the contemporary issues, put up billboards reading, "Ma ma, where is my pa?" Mr. Curtis who owned a candy company and detested Cleveland named the candy bar as a way to keep the "illegitimate child" presenting issue before the voters. The campaign failed, Mr. Cleveland was elected, and put up his own billboards saying, "Gone to the white house ha ha ha." He eventually married Ruth's mom.

Running against Governor Dukakis, President Bush's campaign used the unfortunate criminal behavior of Willie Horton who violated a "furlough" program that had been supported by Mr. Dukakis. The dishonor appears when we discover that Mr. Horton was assigned to the program in error, Mr. Dukakis never suggested felons serving life sentences should be released and that he had acted to fix the program. Never mind, the Bush campain had its emotional, snappy and off topic issue. Releasing rapists is safer ground than failed economic policies, war in Nicaragua or constitutional violations.

And of course, running for primate unable to carry the church with them, we have the founders of several allegedly "Anglican" North American communities. The idea that Gene Robinson was the "first gay bishop" is a hoot to those of us who knew others before his election. He is the first honest one. Canada takes the heat for allowing lesbian and gay couples to seek blessings even though everyone who cares knows which church leads in the number of couples blessed. Week in and week out that church is the Church of England. But then I told you presenting issues are dishonorable.

Something the use of presenting issues requires is very nuanced speech. So Archbishop Williams knows that there are several thousand Church of England priests in "registered partnerships." He also knows that his church blesses more gay unions than either Canadian or the American clergy do. And he knows there are gay bishops in England. But one then turns to 'nuanced speech' which is a fancy term for lies. You see it is the fact that TEC officially has lesbian and gay bishops, that Canada officially blesses some unions that matters! Yup, that is the difference.

Here are two not particularly subtle truths.
  • The archbishop and his staff know they are lying. The are counting on their self-observed superior intellects to cover for them. That is you are supposed to be too stupid to notice.
  • Those in AC-NA, CANA and the African churches that support them would continue even if every lesbian and gay cleric in North America was de-frocked and every gay union was eliminated. You see it is all a presenting issue.

That of course leads to the question of what the real issues are.


Leonard said...

Exactly--something about Power, Glory and Riches?

JimB said...

Yup. At the end of the day, that is exactly the location of the answer.


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