American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson described Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, without ever meeting him: “The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.” The expression actually goes back a bit further in English literature, appearing as “counting spoons” in James Boswell’s The Life of Samuel Johnson.
“Why Sir, if the fellow does not think as he speaks he is lying; and I see not what honour he can propose to himself from having the character of a liar. But if he does really think there is no distinction between virtue and vice, why, Sir when he leaves our houses let us count our spoons.”
The metaphor has lost some of its relevancy in an age wherein table spoons come not just in pewter or silver, but in aluminum, stainless steel, and various kinds of plastic. However, it holds its force as a description of the prudent response to voluble protestations of (self) righteousness.
Did we not wonder why the man was so vehemently anti-gay, anti-abortion, anti-modernity? Why he insisted beyond all reason that a massive monument to the Ten Commandments be installed in his courthouse? Most counties are satisfied with a smaller, more tasteful, monument located on a nice piece of manicured lawn. Not so Mr. Moore. Most public officers were, at least grudgingly, willing to abide by the law of the land on gay marriage. Not so Mr. Moore.
Most people in this country are willing to tolerate a range of beliefs, even if such beliefs are personally objectionable. Not so Mr. Moore, who is essentially an eliminationist. Those with whom he disagrees should be silenced. Those of whom he does not approve must be incarcerated. Some scholars have associated the Nazi eliminationism with native antisemitism. The combination was violently toxic and heinously lethal. Moore espouses a particularly vehement hatred of Muslims — they are to be excluded from public office and civil society. Moore has decried that the “government started creating new rights in 1965.” The date is instructive. The Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, and the decision in Griswold v. Connecticut was rendered in 1965. Mr. Moore is nothing new on the face of the earth. He’s as old as patriarchal tribal conflict.
He’s as old as the theories of female responsibility for leading First Man astray, as old as the opponents of the cults of Isis, Aphrodite, and Mother Earth. There’s no single point of origin for misogyny, but Mr. Moore can find plenty of carefully selected Biblical passages to buttress his prejudices. We could also assemble a number of equally carefully selected passages to oppose his views. The common denominator for these views precipitate down to Power. Not necessarily sex, but power of one gender over another.
This isn’t about a cultural issue, although support for Mr. Moore can be utilized as a “political wedge issue,” under the category of Culture Wars. However, no matter how it’s implemented, it’s still not a cultural issue. It’s still about good old fashioned garden variety power.
Why else would a 30+ year old man seek the attentions of teenage girls? Why else would a man grope? Not because it’s a form of play — but because it’s a display of power. And that’s the last thing Mr. Moore needs to possess — more power over anyone, anywhere, anytime. The good people of Alabama deserve better representation than that which is so sadly demonstrated by Mr. Moore.