Treachery with a smile on its face
by Tom Sullivan
The Bush administration's infamous torture memos were not the first legal documents to use the color of law to whitewash moral obscenities. Jim Crow had etched that tradition deep into the national culture over a century earlier.
Jim Crow may be gone, but the tradition persists in the branding of legal initiatives that purport to do one thing but in fact do the opposite. And in laws advertised as defending one American principle while violating others. And in using the color of law, as Bush and Cheney did, to justify the illegal and the immoral. Whether it is "election integrity" measures meant to limit ballot access or "religious freedom" as justification for discrimination, treachery with a smile on its face has become standard operating procedure where many of this country's laws are made.
Like a wicked, little boy who stomps a cat's tail then smiles sweetly — Who, me? — lawmakers figure you can fool some of the people some of the time with such legislation. Then they dare us to stop them.
Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act isn't the first of the new, flag-draped attempts at putting "those people," however defined, back in their places. But it is egregious enough that prominent people are calling bullshit.
"There’s something very dangerous happening in states across the country," writes Apple CEO Tim Cook in today's Washington Post. Cook condemns "a wave of legislation" designed to sanction discrimination under color of law:
These bills rationalize injustice by pretending to defend something many of us hold dear. They go against the very principles our nation was founded on, and they have the potential to undo decades of progress toward greater equality.
America’s business community recognized a long time ago that discrimination, in all its forms, is bad for business. At Apple, we are in business to empower and enrich our customers’ lives. We strive to do business in a way that is just and fair. That’s why, on behalf of Apple, I’m standing up to oppose this new wave of legislation — wherever it emerges. I’m writing in the hopes that many more will join this movement. From North Carolina to Nevada, these bills under consideration truly will hurt jobs, growth and the economic vibrancy of parts of the country where a 21st-century economy was once welcomed with open arms.
Cook concludes, "This isn’t a political issue. It isn’t a religious issue." That's putting it mildly. And far too politely. It is a moral issue.
My only real complaint with Cook's op-ed is that he argues discrimination is bad for business. That may be. But completely beside the point. These efforts to resurrect and slap a smiley face on Jim Crow are evil.