These Questions For Rick Perry Crossed A Line

by Lulu Chang

On Tuesday evening, a group of Dartmouth students created and circulated a list of questions to be posed to Republican Governor Rick Perry of Texas, which included inquiries like, "Does your ideal anti-sodomy law prevent me from playing with my own poop shoot," "You have recently said that homosexuality tears at the fabric of society. If I showed you hard science that anal sex does not tear at the fabric of your butthole, would you change your mind," and "I know you have been very strong on all foreign policy issues, including Somali pirates, but what is your stance on butt pirates?" Following Governor Perry's speech at the College, two different students asked some variation of these questions to the politician, despite entreaties from the president of the Dartmouth College Republicans to refrain from doing so.

According to the distributed document, these questions were meant to "mock the individual and the event," and were "intended to mock the idea that a policymaker should have opinions on our sex acts." Not only did these questions fail to achieve their desired goal, but they also were a disappointing reflection on the ideals of tolerance liberal policies are meant to embrace.

As a Texan woman, I not only understand, but truly empathize with the anger that many feel toward Governor Rick Perry (R-TX). The man compared homosexuality to alcoholism, attempted to effectively eliminate access to abortion, and cut the state's budget for education so many times that it is a wonder that we still have public schools in the Lone Star State. But regardless of his political beliefs, and regardless of yours, it is perhaps the saving grace of the United States that citizens are able to have differing opinions and express them in a public forum, which is very much what Governor Perry did on Sunday evening at Dartmouth College.

But the same could not be said for a handful of students, whose behavior was not only — from a moral standpoint — incredibly disrespectful and disappointing, but perhaps more importantly — from a political standpoint — entirely ineffectual and unstrategic.

If these students were attempting to mock Governor Perry's views, they did not. They made a mockery of themselves. If these students were attempting to showcase the intolerant opinions held by Governor Perry, they did not. They showed only how intolerant they themselves were of different opinions. If these students were attempting to show Democratic superiority to a Republican candidate, they did not. They misrepresented the entirety of the Democratic party.

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The frustration the entire nation feels with our political system has been evidenced time and time again by plummeting approval ratings for Congress, the president, and, most damningly, by dropping turnout rates at the polls. In the 2014 midterm elections, fewer than 40 percent of the voting-eligible population of the United States made an appearance at their local ballot boxes. At Dartmouth, the most common reason I heard for not voting was that neither party represented the interests of the individual — both were far more interested in politics than in ideologies, more interested in smearing their opponents than advancing policy goals and long-term solutions for any one of the many problems that plague the United States.

And this episode at Dartmouth only reinforces the cycle of negativity and complete lack of productivity that seems indicative of the devolution of American politics today. Asking questions of a sitting governor of an American state that ultimately boil down to "Will you have anal sex with me?" is a complete waste of time, and a missed opportunity to engage in honest, challenging discourse that actually allows for an exchange of ideas and information.

If the standing frustration is that candidates are never forced to speak to real issues in pre-recorded campaign ads and pre-prepared debates, then live discussions with live audiences are perhaps the best antidote to manufactured spin material. Squandering, or as Governor Perry said, "frittering away" this chance at a legitimate dialogue was nothing more than a petulant attention stunt from a group of juvenile 20-somethings with no apparent regard for the legitimacy of American political office or their own political efficacy. After all, you have to be pretty down on yourself to believe that the most effective question you can ask a potential 2016 presidential candidate is, "Wanna bang, bro?"

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The author(s) of the question noted,

Governor Perry likely has practice dodging high-brow political questions about his economic and social policy, especially given that he will have the final word. The strategy to undermine him should therefore incorporate a little trolling or subversion.

But questions about anal sex are not subversive — they are insulting. They make light of the very serious discrimination faced by LGBT Americans, and reduce the entire notion of sexual liberation and independence to a joke that 8-year-olds find funny. What, exactly, was the desired goal, or rather, the expected reaction from Rick Perry? Was he intended to turn red in the face and suddenly realize that his stance on marriage equality was wrong? Was he expected to be so flabbergasted that he would turn tail and leave the cold of Hanover, New Hampshire for the humidity of College Station, Texas, never to return to the national spotlight again? Did anyone actually think that was going to work? And if not, what were these questions meant to achieve? No one in the audience laughed, for the record. Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike let out a collective groan when both the first and the second questions were asked.

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Why ask Rick Perry if he would have anal sex with you if you could ask him why he believes the state of Texas has final say on a woman's uterus? Why ask Rick Perry if he would have anal sex with you if you could ask him why he believes separation of church and state does not apply when it comes to marriage? Is it cowardice? Is it a power play? Is it a giant screw you, democracy meant to echo from the White Mountains? Because whatever it was, it didn't work, and it never will.

We will not fix the problems inherent in our system by laughing them away. We will not delegitimize the system by asking illegitimate questions. And we should not want to. Our generation is unparalleled in our our access to information, our ability to reach wide audiences, and ultimately, our ability to affect change. But this is not it. This is not the change for which we should strive. If the bigotry, racism, homophobia and general discrimination in the United States is a product of ignorance and a lack of education, then it is our responsibility to create channels of conversation that do not reinforce existing prejudices, but rather bring the issues to the forefront in a serious and respectful way. This is not to say that constituents should pander to their elected officials. But it is to say that "Will you have anal sex with me?" will not get anything done.

Images: Getty Images (3), Lulu Chang