EVERY ONCE in a while when I watch one of those television panel discussions and the subject in television itself, I feel like going up to the set and yelling, "Yes, but you can't cut it out." You can't do with television what I do with newspapers and magazines - clip out stories and stick them in my pocket in a desk drawer or someplace else and then wait until I have made up my mind about what they mean. Until you can do that with television, I will not take it seriously. Sorry, Walter.
At the moment, my clipping file contains a clip that refers to a book called. "Gay American History" and to the deputy mayor for criminal justice of New York City, a man by the name of Nicholas Scoppetta. One side of the paper is Scoppetta and the other side is gay history and for the life of me I can't remember why I cut it out. Gay history is interesting, but so is Scoppetta. I have another clipping. This one is an ad for the Pentagon Motel. I think I cut it out because I thought it said something about American society or may be just our times and I've become carrying it around in the hopes that it suddenly will become clear to me. The ad says that the Pentagon Motel features, besides a restaurant, adult films on closed circuit television, waterbeds and mirrors.
I have a clipping regarding a 67-year-old building superintendent named Zygmunt Soroka who received an award from a gun club for shooting the man who tried to rob him. It's the award that bothers me. I'm not sure why. This is one clipping I'll hang into for a while.
We come now to the clipping which for unaccountable reasons I have filed under "E" in my address book. It refers to a speech given recently by Karen DeCrow, the former president of the National Organization for Women. I consider this clipping to be the dilly of my collection, better even than the UPI story of the other day in which Spiro Agnew said Maryland has a corrupt political system. In her speech, DeCrow called for a cut-off on federal funds and other economic sanctions against states that have not ratified the Equal Rights Amendment. Here is what she said: "Congress could vote to take away all federal funds from unratified states. Government contracts and water projects should be taken away." DeCrow also urged NOW members to begin a tourism boycott of nonratifying states and ended with this quote: "This conference should vote to put economic sanctions on those states and I hope it will."
I had no trouble remembering why I clipped this item or what I thought about it. I was furious. What DeCrow is urging, is clearly outrageous - cutting off water projects on the basis of a few votes in the state legislature. I got steamed and then immediately I thought about some of the women who had called me right after I had written a pro-ERA column and had read me out for writing the column after the vote in Virginia. Why not before? they demanded. Where was I when it counted? Dear reader, I have a confession to make. I was livid and when I read what DeCrow had said I thought, "serves them right. Maybe those state legislatures know what they were doing after all." I thought some other things, too, and it had to do with some of the women who came around for the ERA when I was covering the legislature in Annapolis and how some of them gave new meaning to the word zealot. There were lots of jokes about these women and how what they really needed had nothing at all to do with a law.
Anyway, I clipped out the DeCrow item and filed it under "E" and had every intention of getting to it when I heard or saw something that brought to mind the assassination of John F. Kennedy, specifically something that had happened that night. I had gone for a drive with my friend, Steve, and hwat we were going to do was just look at people. We were stopped for a light, both of us feeling very sad, when suddenly Steve said something I will never forget. "Thank God a Jew didn't do it."
I have thought a lot about what Steve said and about that moment and I have a term for it - the ethnic moment.I don't know it for a fact, but I think that 'the ethnic moment occurs whenever the first bulletin comes across that someone has done something terrible. It is then that people say, "I hope it wasn't a" and then fill in the blank - Pole, Italian, Greek, Jew, Black. You name it. The thing about the ethnic moment, of course, is that it should never occur.It reeks of prejudice, the notion that somehow a group can be held accountable for the actions of a single individual.It's a defensive reaction and it's the result of bigotry.
Well, I had that in mind when I came across the DeCrow clip still there under "E" and I thought about my initial reaction - how, I, too, had thought in terms of "them" and "they" and how I was prepared to damn a cause and a group all because of what one person had said. I thought, too, how there were probably plenty of state legislators across the country who thought no differently than I did, and may be a woman or two who heard something about the DeCrow speech, stopped for just a moment and hoped that a woman had not said that.
Ladies, welcome to the club.