4 September 2015
Every week it seems someone or something new fascinates us, the collective population of the social interwebs. If it’s an especially juicy topic, we’ll tear at it like starved jackals, fighting and reducing ourselves to the basest life form. This week our prey has been the notorious Kim Davis, Clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky, who claims that religious beliefs preclude her from performing her duties.
Davis says her job description changed with the Supreme Court’s June ruling; technically, it did not. Her function is to issue marriage licenses to persons who qualify; it is not to analyze the moral character of said persons. Indeed, any heterosexual couple that desires to marry might “sin” in numerous ways, but until now Ms. Davis had never questioned their values. Justly so. Clerk Davis was not elected to evaluate the character of Rowan County’s citizens, but rather to check birth certificates and collect a fee. If she feels compelled to take her authority further than the county’s handbook defines it, then it’s her duty to resign the post and find another job. Barring that, the county’s only recourse is to either hold her in contempt or issue a fine. Yesterday the court ordered jail, probably since it expected Davis to pay the fine with a GoFundMe campaign, and this morning Rowan County deputy clerks began issuing marriage licenses to all applicants.
I regard this outcome as a triumph of the American system, though it stands in stark contrast to the proceedings of the past week, during which thousands of critics took to the interwebs to tear down Kim Davis. “Hypocrite!” we called her, she of many marriages and a child out of wedlock. “Ignorant!” because she believed her religion trumped the rights of her fellow citizens. “Lame!” because she claimed to be the one persecuted for holding beliefs. “Ugly!” because her appearance was frumpy. “Glutton!” because she did not conform to society’s physical ideal.
Most or all of these accusations may indeed be quite true, but that didn’t entitle the mob to pile on Ms. Davis like ravening carnivores. It disgusted me to witness all this gleeful pyre-dancing. For me, the matter comes down to only one thing: legally speaking, Kim Davis is wrong. The people of the United States owe her no consideration, but we do owe it to ourselves not to behave with the same hypocrisy we accuse her of showing. Most of us are also overweight and plain. Many use the internet to harass other people about their personal beliefs while not troubling to research both sides of a question. In short, every one of us who harps on Davis is the very hypocrite we consider her to be.
So here we sit, the foam-mouthed citizens of the United States, watching this stupid drama unfold. It’s such a waste of time and energy, especially when there are children dying on the beaches of Europe. Why can’t we direct our outrage toward the villains who have driven 43 million people—11 million of them Syrians—from their rightful homes? Let us focus on more important topics, like condemning war while giving succor to all those in need. The refugee crisis builds daily for the beleaguered nations of Europe while we fling our ire at a mousy, middle-aged woman.
Take a step back, my fellow citizens, and let Kentucky’s justice system handle that sideshow. Turn your eyes to the other side of the world. Prove yourselves champions of human rights and love by speaking out and taking action in a cause that truly matters. Use your precious right to vote as a method for directing our leaders to care, too.
Don’t be hypocrites. Be a model of love for the world.
(Meanwhile, watch this poignant video about what it’s like to live without basic human needs.)
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