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'The Power of Many' to 'In Us We Trust'

By William Messer · June 1st, 2000 · Sybil Ibburtezan Writes
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The first person to send in the correct number of Procter & Gamble brands mentioned in the following e-mail message -- even in partial or extended forms -- will win my ACLU "Card carrying and PROUD" furniture magnet. Start counting.

Hello, luvs. Vidal here. Sure it's none of my biz but that charmin, highly pampered Hugo Boss (head and shoulders above all rivals) had a fit when he couldn't safeguard the secret about the cover girl on the coast (Max factor, in always, it seems). But clearasil off for true dawn joy now, my puffs; the tide turned in a jif to whirl around Dr. L. as P&G bounced her bounty ("Not a fit for us").

When Procter & Gamble announced in mid-May it would become the first sponsoring advertiser for the upcoming Dr. Laura network television talk show, vigilant local human rights e-mail warrior John Zeh sent out appalled alerts and appeals to his ever-growing network, reminding us how Laura Schlessinger assumed "sexual deviancy" and "biological errors" with respect to homosexuality and claimed a "huge proportion" of gay men are predatory on young boys. Within half an hour, armed with the P&G Web address Zeh provided, I sent the following message:

Please reconsider your corporate decision to advertise on Dr. Laura's new program. It is not only Gays and Lesbians who find her expressed points of view offensive and even dangerous if accepted by large numbers of people. As a representative at a Cincinnati area assemblage of religious and social justice organizations called MAINstream Network, I can report reasonable consensus at our table regarding Dr. Laura. You are wrong if you believe the majority of Americans are opposed to fairness with respect to people's sexual orientation. Do not assist Dr. Laura to advance her message by providing P&G advertising revenue.

I am not homosexual, but I support equal rights and just treatment of all Americans under the Constitution. Also, I own P&G stock, which I would be prepared to sell in support of this issue. If you think animal testing has been a thorny problem for you, just wait 'til this fertilizer hits the AC vents. Do the right thing, sooner rather than later, voluntarily rather than due to the pressure of public opinion and market place sympathies.

I await your response.

Apparently there were plenty of others who expressed their feelings to the company. Within a week, Procter & Gamble announced that the company was dropping sponsorship of the Dr. Laura show. I received the following e-mail from someone called Chris on the USA P&G Team:

We have decided not to support the Dr.

Laura show. We have heard from a multitude of consumers with wide ranging opinions surrounding Dr. Laura on a number of topics. We're making the choice not to be involved with a show that will require time and resources to deal with multiple issues that are outside our business. Today, there are a lot of programming options that aren't as polarizing in the public's opinion.

The feeling of persuasive powerfulness lasted all day. I encourage you to feel the same sensation. Express yourself on the issues that matter to you.

· · ·

For those of you concerned about the plight of Cynthia Stewart, the Oberlin, Ohio woman who was facing 16 years in prison and losing custody of her daughter for shooting photos of the girl taking a bath, an uncomfortable settlement has been reached. Public opinion turned strongly in Stewart's favor, and even the city prosecutor publicly opposed the county prosecutor's persecution of the local school bus driver.

All charges were dropped, but Stewart had to A) sign a "deflection document" acknowledging that some people could perceive the photographs as "sexually explicit;" B) agree to undergo psychiatric counseling, as though having engaged in deviant activity; and C) permit the state to destroy the photographs (which it has), as though actually child pornography. It's a result that sucks, but one Stewart has accepted in order to try to leave the ordeal behind her.

· · ·

I didn't get to see last weekend's Showtime Dirty Pictures movie about the Mapplethorpe exhibition and trial in Cincinnati 10 years ago -- I don't have cable and don't know anyone who gets the channel. Showtime cut the screen time for the seven charged Mapplethorpe photographs to avoid an NC-17 rating, which could have allowed some cable systems to ban the program in prime time.

I did receive a press release, though, about a related event taking place right now in California. From May 24 through June 10, the Santa Monica Museum of Art is presenting a nearly photograph-for-photograph reconstruction of The Perfect Moment Mapplethorpe retrospective exhibition prosecuted here. The museum is accompanying the exhibition with special events to "illuminate First Amendment and censorship issues," recognizing the extraordinary significance of the moment in U.S. history when an art museum was put on trial for what it put on its walls. Contrast with this the pathetic absence of programming evidenced by the CAC, at which the events actually occurred.

· · ·

By now you know Sybil is a fervent supporter of the constitutionally mandated separation of government and religion. Recently the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recognized its responsibility to this principle by declaring the 41-year-old Ohio state motto unconstitutional. "With God All Things Are Possible" was proposed by a Cincinnati school boy and adopted in 1959 in the midst of Cold War paranoia about "godless Communism."

The Cold War is over, folks, and it's time to undue some of its errors and excesses. For the state to express its official identity through a Biblical "quote" of Jesus Christ not only encourages "the establishment of religion" but supports and effectively endorses a particular religion, both of which it's prohibited from doing. Sadly, the outpouring of condemnation of the court's ruling that The Enquirer has been publishing reveals citizens' lack of understanding of the importance of governmental removal from religion.

Ken Blackwell penned an editorial bemoaning the decision, believing the state's declaration of "a higher power ... should reverberate through the halls of the Statehouse, in the classrooms of our schools ... ." Many letter-writers presented inaccurate or (im)partial understandings of history, pointing out that the Pilgrims gave their lives for religious liberty, that some founding fathers were overtly Christian and that the only role for separation of church and state is in preventing the founding of a national church. One writer sited "Columbine ... to see the effects of eliminating God from society," oblivious to Littleton's being an evangelical Christian community and Columbine a school which encouraged religious expression and observance.

Another writer advanced the convoluted certainty that it's not "possible to have a free country without reverence to the God who gave us our free will." "What's next?," asked another one. "Perhaps we should change ... our currency to read: 'In Ourselves We Trust?' God forbid."

I'd shorten that to a catchier "In Us We Trust." That's what democracy means. This government was created to place the power with the people -- albeit often imperfectly implemented -- and with it grown-up civic responsibilities. From atheist to Zen Buddhist, Americans politically are not subjects to a king, don't flock to a shepherd and aren't children to a father. No one's god is better than anyone's else or anyone's lack thereof.

 
 
 
 

 

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