A Republican must have reached a sorry condition when his plight elicits sympathy from Alec Baldwin.
“I feel sorry for Larry Craig. Truly,” Baldwin wrote in a two-paragraph commentary at HuffingtonPost.com on Saturday, the same day the Idaho Republican announced that he would retire from the Senate.
Craig has been behind some of the most intolerant and anti-gay legislation that a US Senator could put his mark on. Now the very condition that drives countless gay men and women into the closet, the bathroom stall or the hospital may have claimed Sen. Craig himself…
No one can honestly say what Craig did or did not do….In the new, jacked-up reality of airport ‘security,’ maybe those cops in Minneapolis jumped the stall. But if Craig has the chance, especially now that his Republican colleagues have cut his throat, maybe he will experience a change of heart and realize that to be gay, whether he is or not, ought not be a shameful thing, let alone a crime, for anyone.
What is interesting in Baldwin’s argument is the transfer of agency, rendering a U.S. senator a helpless victim of unnamed others. According to Baldwin, Craig is a victim of intolerance, or of overzealous police or — best of all — of Republicans who “cut his throat.”
Moreover, Baldwin changes the subject entirely, from the concrete facts of Craig’s disorderly conduct arrest to the abstract question of whether homosexuality should “be a shameful thing, let alone a crime.” But sexual preference is not being criminalized; homosexuality is not a crime in Minnesota. “Jacked-up” or not, airport police have better things to do than arrest people on suspicion of homosexuality.
Let’s hear from the arresting officer, Sgt. David Karsnia: “The Airport Police Department had received civilian complaints and has made numerous arrests regarding sexual activity in the public restroom.”
“Civilian complaints” — that is, law-abiding taxpayers had visited the restroom, expecting to use the facility for its intended and lawful purpose, only to discover other people using it for other purposes. Were the complaining citizens all intolerant bigots, crusading to criminalize homosexuality? Or did they just want to use the restroom without being harassed or disturbed?
The Associated Press examined police reports in 41 arrests made during the course of a four-month police effort launched in response to these citizen complaints at the Minneapolis airport. Arrestees ranged from airport employees to corporate executives, and many of those arrested engaged in actions that Sgt. Karsnia called “a signal often used by persons communicating a desire to engage in sexual conduct.”
Such actions — including reaching his hand under the stall divider and sliding his foot over to touch the foot of the policeman in the adjacent stall — were what led to Craig’s arrest and his subsequent guilty plea to a disorderly conduct charge.
Notice, however, Baldwin’s agnosticism on the undisputed facts of the case: “No one can honestly say what Craig did or did not do.” No one? Really? Does Baldwin mean to impugn the honesty of the arresting officer?
IT IS, OF COURSE, POSSIBLE that Sgt. Karsnia misinterpreted Craig’s actions. Yet who is a more competent authority on what the “signals” are in the matter of airport restroom sex than a police officer who has spent weeks assigned to the onerous duty of preventing such activity? (In fact, after Craig’s arrest became public knowledge, several gay writers verified Sgt. Karsnia’s account of the toe-tapping toilet-tryst code.)
Even if Baldwin wishes to dispute Sgt. Karsnia’s interpretive expertise, why must Baldwin implicitly accuse the officer of lying by asserting that “no one can honestly say” what happened in that airport restroom?
With his all-encompassing “no one can honestly say,” Baldwin issues an open invitation to a destination far beyond the non-judgmental tolerance that has become such common intellectual terrain in 21st-century America. Baldwin invites the reader to join him on a journey to a place where there are no facts, no certainties, no concrete reality to disturb the liberal’s utopian dream. To assert otherwise — to say that there are knowable facts — is to be “intolerant.”
Baldwin’s fact-free utopia bears a certain (and perhaps non-coincidental) resemblance to the Hollywood dream factory where Baldwin obtained the fame that, at least in his own mind, makes him a valuable political commentator. In his fantasy world, Baldwin is free to ponder counterfactual scenarios — “maybe those cops…jumped the stall”! — and to imagine an alternative universe in which powerful politicians are helpless victims of vicious throat-cutting Republicans who have made homosexuality itself a crime.
The Land of No Facts exists, of course, only in the liberal’s imagination, so the journey there doesn’t require any actual travel — and thus no contact with the messy reality of airport restrooms. Like a stranger’s hand reaching beneath the stall divider, Alec Baldwin’s disorderly thoughts are an unsolicited intrusion into the lives of Americans who have no choice but to live in the real world.
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