Clint McCance is stepping down. This Tuesday, The Advocate reported that McCance, a member of the Midland School Board in Pleasant Plains, Arkansas, made a series of homophobic posts on his Facebook wall [PDF], expressing disgust for "queers" and noting, "I like that fags can't procreate. I also enjoy the fact that they often give each other aids and die." McCance's words quickly spread through the blogosphere, and a Facebook petition calling for his dismissal gained over 64,000 fans. On Thursday, McCance appeared on Anderson Cooper 360°, apologized for his comments, and announced that he'd be resigning his position with the school board.
What McCance Wrote McCance's initial Facebook post was about Wear Purple Day, a nationwide campaign urging people to wear purple to honor the memories of Tyler Clementi and other recent gay teen suicides. McCance wrote, "Seriously they want me to wear purple because five queers committed suicide. The only way im wearin it for them is if they all commit suicide. I cant believe the people of this world have gotten this stupid. We are honoring the fact that they sinned and killed therselves because of their sin." Later, in comments appended to the post, McCance wrote:
...[B]eing a fag doesn't give you the right to ruin the rest of our lives. If you get easily offended by being called a fag then dont tell anyone you are a fag. Keep that shit to yourself. I dont care how people decide to live their lives. They dont bother me if they keep it to thereselves. It pisses me off though that we make a special purple fag day for them. I like that fags cant procreate. I also enjoy the fact that they often give each other aids and die. If you arent against it, you might as well be for it [...] I would disown my kids if they were gay. They will not be welcome at my home or in my vicinity. I will absolutely run them off. Of course my kids will know better. My kids will have solid christian beliefs. See it infects everyone.
The Apology During his appearance on Anderson Cooper's show, McCance said, "I would never support suicide of any kids, I don't support bullying of any kids ... I don't wish death on anyone." He also repeatedly criticized his own word choices: "I used some really strong language, and it wasn't correct. It was too emotional ...]The words I used were unfortunate. I should have picked different ones ... I know my statements were too harsh. I don't agree with the language I used." McCance told Cooper, "I am going to resign from the school board ... If they decide later, a year, five years, 10 years from now, to vote me back in, if my constituents want that, then I'll run again."
Was It Enough? Joe Solomonese, president of the LGBT advocacy group the Human Rights Campaign, called McCance's resignation a "step forward for the community he represents," but added that "what remains troubling is that Mr. McCance focused his regret on particular word choices not the animus behind those words. We hope he will take this time to reflect not only on the language he used but on what he can do to make the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning young people better."
Why This Is Good News At New York Magazine, Mike Vilensky wonders whether "Arkansas is getting less homophobic," noting that "McCance faced heavy criticism from the school board that forced him to publicly resign and apologize... Some hopeful part of us would like to think his generation is a dying breed, even in Arkansas, and maybe the students were more okay with 'Wear Purple Day,' and think McCance is gross." Vilensky also cheered the fact that "you can't just write totally homophobic things on the privacy of your own Facebook anymore ... Tolerance need not only apply to public figures."
What McCance Wrote Is Awful, But He Wrote It On His Own Time "Are McCance's views deplorable? Absolutely," writes Mary Elizabeth Williams at Salon. "Is it the right of every American to express his or her opinions, even despicable ones? Also yes." Williams's piece was published before McCance announced his resignation, but her questions still have resonance: "We... need to think long and hard about whether, in the age of Facebook, we are all expected to represent our jobs and titles at all times, and the implications of firing people for being jerks. And ask, who will set the standards of our 'meanness,' and decide what we say and do in our nonworking hours?"
The Rare Nazi Analogy That Might Have Merit Tom Levenson at Balloon Juice translates the inscription on a plaque in Germany: "This memorial plaque at Metro-station Nollendorfplatz in Berlin-Schöneberg is to commemorate the Pink triangle. It was one of the Nazi concentration camp badges, used by the German Nazis to identify male prisoners in concentration camps who were sent there because of their homosexuality." Levenson adds that McCance "reminds us that there are real consequences when words like his cease to horrify enough of us," and that "I Godwinize for memory, not to make blunt and false parallel." (To "Godwinize" is to make an analogy involving Hitler or the Nazis during an online debate.)