“It’s not easy being the tool of Satan”
IT’S NOT EASY BEING THE TOOL OF SATAN
As soon as I picked up the phone, I knew it was another right wing, pro-life, Christian wacko. I’m the kind of a guy who never got an obscene phone call in his life; then I filed for public office. Maybe I deserved the calls. I was a moderate, pro-choice, Republican, who was the son an Italian-Jewish Holocaust refugee, un-married and over 30 years old.
The call was from an older woman, probably in her sixties. She had a nondescript accent and hacked as if she’d been smoking for thirty years. In the background, I could hear the strains of country-western music and the pounding of a Bible.
“Now, I’m a good Christian . . .”
It was the third call since the newspaper had published my letter to President Bush. About a month before I filed, my District Chairman had distributed a letter stating that only conservative, pro-life, pro-family, pro-abstinence, Christians were welcome to run in my District. When I brought the letter to the attention of the State Republican Party, their attitude was “So?”
So I wrote President Bush and sent copies of my letter to the local paper. My protest made the front page and all across town right wingers were looking my name up in the phone book.
It didn’t take me long to understand what “a good Christian” meant when a Christian said it. It meant that a religious fanatic was about to do something unspeakable. Saying the words, “I’m a good Christian” was their way of cleansing themselves before they did something unspeakable, reminding God that they are REALLY doing this filthy thing for Him and they certainly don’t want Him to think they’re getting any joy out of it.
“. . . we don’t want any butt-fuckers like you running. Why don’t you gay people stay in San Francisco?”
By the third call I’ve become used to being known as the “gay” candidate though I have to admit that it came as a great shock to me to discover that I was gay. But then again, from a Christian point of view, being marriageable and single is clearly an unmistakable sign of homosexuality.
The calls kept coming in. I was misguided, unaware of the evil that I was perpetuating and a blight to the political process. After all, I was running against a “good” Christian and the Lord wanted the best of His people to be in the legislature.
One of the stranger calls I received was from a man who wanted to know what my middle name was.
“Channing,” I replied, unsure why he wanted to know.
“How do you spell it?”
I spelled it for him then he said, “NOW! I see: 8 and 4 makes 12.” In his world of numerical prestidigitation, the eight letters of “Channing” combined with the four letters of “Levi” — divided by two — plus the six letters of “Steven” made me the anti-Christ: 666. I wonder what he would have done if I had been a “Stephen?”
I’ll have you know that it is not easy being the tool of Satan. The hours are lousy, the clientele is schizy and the pay abominable. On the phone or in doorways you have to deal with voters who know less about politics than you do about sassafras soufflé. They don’t know where to vote, when the election is or who is running. Many of them don’t even know if they are registered to vote.
But when you arrive at the Christian households, it’s an entirely different story. They may be just as uninformed as the average voter, but they have been told that you, the tool of Satan, are making the rounds. As the word spreads, each passing day becomes fraught with more and more abuse. Doors get slammed in your face. People see you coming and tell you to stay off their property. Others toss your campaign material in your face and call you the pro-Death Candidate. When they see you in their neighborhood as they are driving they will slow, roll down their window and yell “MURDERER!”
Then there are the obscene calls. They come in around the clock, many of them of an intensely personal, sexual nature leading me to wonder why the population of the extreme right wing Christians is so small considering how much they apparently know of the sexual process.
Fanatics of any ilk are fascinating to observe, though it may be with morbid curiosity. Just as the Nazi Party opened to door to perverts and psychopaths, the pro-life movement opened the door to people who, in Moslem countries, would be terrorists. Whether it’s slashing someone’s tires, waving banners of aborted fetuses or putting up political yard signs in public right-of-ways, every misdeed in forgiven for it is was done in His name.
From the street level, you can watch the disease of ignorance spread. The network of extreme right wing Christian churches provides membership lists and from these the pro-life candidates canvas the neighborhoods. Your opponent’s yard signs go up in the yards of pro-lifers, even if they are still working on their citizenship papers. At first I used to stop at homes where my opponent’s signs were up, but in many cases the people didn’t even speak English. In other cases, they didn’t even know there was an election coming. All they did know was that their pastor had told them to put THIS sign in their front yard.
As fast as my opponent’s yard signs went up, mine came down. During the night my signs disappeared faster then I could put them in during the day. I, let me quick to add, wasn’t the only pro-choice candidate losing signs. So many of the pro-choice Republicans were losing signs that it was laughingly said that you can always tell which candidates were pro-life because their yard signs were the ones which were still up in the morning.
Being the tool of Satan also means you have to accept threatening phone calls. One morning I awoke to find a threat on my phone recorder.
“You won’t be walking down any stairs,” the raspy voice of a young man sneered. “We’ll make sure of that.”
I thought it was rather funny. Someone was actually setting an alarm to get up at 3 a.m. to leave a death threat on my recorder. Actually, he was probably already up from having taking down my yard signs all over the district.
Two nights later the same voice snarled, “You won’t be making any calls next week.” He was right. I was walking the district.
While there is more than a trace in humor in the idiocy of the pro-life, right-wing of the Republican Party, the greatest problem is that the collective IQ of the Party diminishes as the moderate and liberal wings of the party evaporate into the non-partisan category. This accelerates the right-wing swing of the Party and allows extremists like Pat Buchanan and Pat Robertson to feel that they are mainstream Republicans. What frightens many Americans is that Pat Buchanan and Robertson might just be right.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that in many parts of the country, it has reached a point where the staunch Republicans are easy to spot on the street. They are the ones who have coined such political terms as “Praise the Lord,” “Amen,” “backsliding” and “fucking faggot.” The men dress in dark polyester, have haircuts short enough to pass for skinheads and wear buttons that read “I Speak for the Unborn” or “I Love My Wife.” The women stand behind their men in both senses of the term and say “My husband will tell me how to vote” when you talk to them.
In Alaska, like many other parts of the country, the state party is goose-stepping right along with the national party. A decade ago, the Republican strategy was to field quality, mainstream Republicans into the political process so that, when elected, the basic Republican tenets of free enterprise and lower taxes would be reflected in legislation. Now the Republican creed is to get as many right wing, pro-life candidates through the primary election as possible, regardless of their chances of winning in the general election. Why? Because of the belief that voters will continue to elect Republicans regardless of the pro-life issue. This is master plan of the Republican right wing which is not so crazy, particularly when viewed from the perspective of the local level.
As an example, in an effort to purify the party in Alaska, the Republicans closed their primary. Unfortunately for me, they closed the primary a week after the filing deadline. This locked me into race with two extreme right wing, pro-life Republicans in a conservative Republican district. Those voters who were not outraged by the closed ballot were confused by it. Non-partisan voters, who make up about 55 percent of electorate, avoided the Republican ballot as though it were a plague thus driving voter participation on the Republican ballot even lower. This, in turn, allowed the churches to play a pivotal role. While I had to collect my votes one by one, my opponent did so one congregation at a time.
Being the tool of Satan also makes it hard to get any assistance from the White House. It took George Bush almost two months to get around to answering my letter. Perfectly timed to miss me, a low level flak called at 4:30 p.m. Washington D.C. time on the Friday before the election. The next Monday was Labor Day so no one would be in the office at the White House. The flak at the White House left a message that he had talked with the State Republican Party and that he had been assured that everything was in order.
That was nice to know. It was also typical of the way George Bush handled controversy. He simply ignored it, the way he had ignored the deficit for four years, the plight of the cities, homeless and the rise of racism in America. It’s no wonder an unknown governor from the Deep South did him in.
Alas, in the end, my candidacy went down to defeat. While some of my fellow politicos called my loss an “honorable” defeat, it still stung. In a district of 14,000 — not counting the unborn — only 2,300 votes were cast in my race — one of the lowest turnouts since statehood. The pro-lifer who beat me by a three-to-one margin had done no advertising. I had two weeks of radio, seven direct mailers and spent more than 3,000 hours walking the district or calling voters. For the 318 votes I received, I would have made better use of my $7,000 campaign chest by taking a trip to Maui.
But I did have my moments. My clearest bit of triumph came with the call I received late one night from a man who said that my name spelled “Evil” backwards. But I couldn’t be fooled. As a child, my family had once played a game of how-is-your-name-pronounced-backwards. I was Nevets Ivel so I knew my name didn’t spell “evil” backwards.
“No,” I said tiredly. “It spells ‘ivel.’ Evil is spelled with an ‘e’ at the front and the ‘i’ in the middle.”
“It’s the same thing,” he snapped.
“Fine,” I told him. “Call me back when you learn to read and write.”
I’m betting he was one of the 871 voters that flushed my career as a Republican legislator.
[Addendum. The candidate who beat me in the primary and went on to win the general election. Three years later he was sentenced to jail for six years for corruption.]
[Steven Levi’s books can be found at www.authormasterminds.com and on Kindle.]