Wrong About Herbert? | Buzz Blog

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Wrong About Herbert?

Posted By on October 7, 2009, 4:59 AM

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I didn't think he'd do it. I thought Gov. Gary Herbert's office would find a way to cancel his meeting with the gays.

Happily, I was wrong. Herbert's Tuesday meeting with representatives of Equality Utah and the Foundation for Reconciliation came off, apparently, without a hitch. ---

Frankly, I've gotta hand it to the Guv. At least he's willing to talk to us. It's more than I expected, given Herbert's August dismissal of the need for basic protections against job and housing discrimination for LGBT people.

Actually, the way Herbert put it (as reported by the Trib's Robert Gehrke) was this: "Where do you stop? That's the problem going down that slippery road. Pretty soon we're going to have a special law for blue-eyed blondes."

It was mainly that quote upon which I based my assessment of the governor.

So, maybe it's unfair to judge based on one quote. It's just that this particular joke is so old, and has been milked to death by so very many comedians over the decades that it seems natural to place them all in the same category.

It's the category of jokesters who say things like, "What's next? Will we have to start worrying about the 'dolphin-loving left-handed Lithuanians?' Yuk, yuk, yuk." Or, "Be careful -- you wouldn't want to offend the 'one-legged lactose-intolerant lesbian vegans,' now, would you, heh-heh?"

In 1984, at the height of right-wing indignation against campus multiculturalism, these jokes were hilarious. They could still garner a chuckle through 1988. By 1991, they elicited scattered groans, and in 1997, hearing some poor, outdated humorist attempting to revive that belabored litany of random characteristics ("uh … red-headed, um, Spanish-speaking, club-footed … hemophiliacs!") was a sure signal at parties that it was time to start edging away.

Fast-forward to last August, and we have Herbert thinking on his toes while he delivers his response to a top Trib reporter. Marshaling his thoughts, he begins: "Where do you stop?" And, as soon as it comes out of his mouth, he knows he's committed himself to a particular kind of response.

He's schooled, he's polished: He knows it's a "slippery-slope" argument. Of course, he remembers that when you pursue, for instance, a "straw-man" argument, you shouldn't actually use the word "straw." Still, as he makes his mental calculations, the words keep coming, and somehow it comes tumbling out: "That's the problem going down that slippery road."

Oops! That was a mistake. It's never good to explicitly name your logical fallacy. Next sentence better tone it down … let's see … bald-headed, dyslexic, nearsighted librarians? No, half my base have receding hairlines. "Pretty soon, we're going to have to have …" Gulp! Time's running out!

To finish his sentence, Herbert casts desperately about for some group, any group, one that's as uncontroversial as possible. And what comes to mind? "… a special law for blue-eyed blondes."

Whew! That was close! Mission accomplished: A reasonably correct English sentence was completed, and Utah gays and lesbians who face unfair eviction or job termination heard their concerns compared to the plight of … um, Norwegians.

It seemed an awful lot of trouble to go through. So, forgive me if I interpreted it simply as Herbert's way of glossing over a belief that gays are so morally corrupt that we simply don't deserve equal rights.

Maybe I was mistaken. Maybe Herbert's different.

Maybe he'll even follow up with Equality Utah.

Time will tell.

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