Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Do politicians have no feelings for people their comments hurt?

When unionist councillor Jackie Crawford told Magherafelt District Council that being gay was like having “a disease” turns out he was mis-speaking.

It was a slip of the tongue he now says and “if I had to say it again I wouldn’t use the word disease”.

Ummm. So what would he use? Mild infection?

Councillor Crawford says he knows some gay people and that they are nice. Good for him.

He’s even happy for them to avail of civil partnership but draws the line at gay marriage. Apparently that’s because of “his reading of the Bible”.

Heavens! Does the Bible actually have anything to say about gay marriage? Does Leviticus endorse civil partnerships?

Who knew the text was so up-to-date with 21st century legislation.

The problem with politicians mis-speaking is that most of them don’t know when to stop. Even when they try to retract a foul comment they seem to just make it worse.

Also mis-speaking out this week — this time on the other side of the Atlantic — was Republican senate nominee Todd Akin who has attempted to clarify bizarre comments he made about rape.

He had claimed that victims of what he described as ‘legitimate rape’ (!) could not become pregnant because “the female body has ways to shut that whole thing down”.

Akin, who, God help us, is a member of the House Science Committee, has since regrouped.

He now says he was trying to make the point that he believes abortion to be wrong — even in rape cases.

But he does not enlarge upon the medical basis he claimed for his obnoxious suggestion that victims of sexual assault don’t get pregnant. He just says he’s sorry if he offended anybody.

Maybe the most shocking aspect of this story is that the global headlines and the outrage it has provoked does not necessarily spell the scuppering of Todd’s political career. On the wilder fringes of the political frontier in the US it might actually bolster his vote.

Two words. Tea Party.

That said, as another Missouri representative points out, Akin has succeeded in angering many of his own voters too.

“It’s one of those things where everyone has a mother, a daughter, a sister or a cousin and to think of that as an acceptable comment about violence against women is just appalling.”

Spouting unscientific guff does seem to be something of a growing political trend — from Missouri to Magherafelt.

But outside of a nutty fringe-vote the pronouncements of the likes of the Ayatollah Akin are surely political poison for exactly the reason outlined above.

People do relate such comments to their own circumstance, friends and families.

Whatever the councillor might feel, we don’t think of homosexuality as akin to disease. We think of people we know and love and feel disgusted and angry at the use of such language. Of all this talk of abomination and condemnation and worse.

And it’s not just the mis-speaking that’s revolts most voters. It’s the callous, heartless mis-thinking that generally lies behind it.

And political parties are badly mistaken if they are naïve enough to think this won’t rebound upon them someday soon at the polls.

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