Have you ever heard the name Chris Buttars? Well, neither had I until this week when—while laid up and suffering from what I thought was sure to result in my untimely death—I stopped in at Blurbomat between fevers. I frequent the site for several reasons: Blurb's a great and inspirational photographer who's been known to offer generous pointers and detailed how-tos; he's a musician with an ear tuned to what's great in the music scene; and he writes with honesty, humor and openness about marriage and parenthood, which I think is über-cool for those of us who dig the perspective of an über-cool man.
But what I really like about his site is that he frequently highlights the outrageousness of politics in my home state. I haven't lived in Utah for a long time and am fairly well disconnected from Salt Lake City, where I grew up. But there are people in Salt Lake who helped raise me to be the proper heathen that I am, so I have a small, warmly lit corner for it in the chambers of my wildly radical heart. I do like to keep up with the Joneses, or Allreds, as it were. (Full disclosure: Allred is my maiden name, and somehow my genes can be linked back to Brigham Young. And, no, I'm not Mormon.)
After visiting the doctor, getting a shit-ton of pharmaceuticals to prevent my impending death (i.e., treat my pneumonia) and a partial return to the land of the living, I found I could blink at my computer screen again without the feeling of a Whack-a-Mole mallet repeatedly striking the crown of my head. And that's when I encountered the death knell, via blurbomat, that is Republican Utah state Sen. Chris Buttars. That's when I actually died. Right then. My heart just stopped. I'm writing this post-mortem. Here's the skinny:
This past week, the Utah Senate was busy debating a bill that state Sen. Howard Stephenson disliked and referred to as an “ugly baby.” The metaphor was contagious, and other senators echoed it as they took turns opposing the measure. When Sen. Buttars got the mic, he offered his own charming twist. “This baby is black,” he said. “It is a dark, ugly thing.”
Rewind, rewind! Oh no, he di-un't!
Well, yes, in fact—he did. Read it again. I super-duper enjoy the part where he defines the black baby as being “dark” to head off any confusion as to how truly vile the black baby is. If he'd said, “It is a café au lait, ugly thing,” his statement wouldn't have had nearly the same impact. But I'm thinking Buttars doesn't see shades or tones or nuance. I'm thinking he just sees white against black and that's good enough for him.
According to The Salt Lake Tribune—the more liberal of the two local papers in the state's capitol—“[Democratic] Sen. Ross Romero approached Senate President John Valentine with concerns about the offensive remark and, when senators returned, Buttars apologized, but insisted it was not meant to be racist.”
“I made a comment that I think a lot of people could take racist.” (A moment of silence, please, for the senator who can't form a proper sentence.) Carry on, Senator: “I certainly did not mean that in any way but it was wrong and certainly could easily have been taken that way,” Buttars said. “I apologize to anyone who took offense… I ask for your forgiveness.”
The Mormon-owned Deseret Morning News—the more conservative of the two papers—headlined its version of the story, “Buttars apologizes for potentially racist comment.” It reported that Buttars told his colleagues, “I just got my mouth a little bit ahead of my brain here.” Indeed. Where is that pesky I'm-out-in-public-now editing switch when you most need it, Mr. Public Figure?
This news, which caused my death, led me to do a little research in my afterlife. Surprise, surprise—this isn't the first time Buttars' mouth has gotten out of the gates while his brain was still back digestin' the cud. This is simply the first time he's apologized, tepid as it was since it pertained only to those “who took offense.”
In a radio interview in August 2006, Buttars declared that the landmark ruling Brown vs. Board of Education was wrong. When the interviewer pressed him to explain his stance, he refused and told the interviewer to “one day call me again and we'll take a half hour on that one.” Buttars refused to return any follow-up calls.
Like any bigot worth his salt, Buttars also has a thing against the gays. He vowed to go “all the way” (my insides tickle at that one) in fighting an initiative to repeal Utah's sodomy statute and—call me fruit-loopy—but it sounds like his interest may stem from personal experience: “You can like sodomy, I don't. I think sodomy is sickening.” Buttars also authored a bill to amend Utah's Constitution to ban gay marriage and worked obsessively to establish legislation banning LGBT clubs and gay-straight alliances in schools, clubs he believes are “tearing down the moral fabric of society.”
I was already stiff with rigor mortis when I learned he's a big pusher of revising biology textbooks to include “divine intervention” and that he sponsored a bill that would allow police to withhold misconduct reports from the public.
Few things infuriate me more than small-minded people with too much power and the small-minded people who elect and re-elect the former. This guy is a racist paid to represent the people of Utah. I know people of Utah. I am people of Utah. We're good people, many of us. And the Democratic Utoids—as I call them—made me very, very proud on Super Tuesday as they showed the rest of the country that they don't share Buttars' beliefs. But what of the other Utoids?
As of last Thursday, the regional president of the NAACP called for Butthead's resignation, but that's about where demand for accountability stops. Gov. John Huntsman refuses to say the comment was inappropriate. The Senate is aligned to do nothing. As of this writing, there's not been a peep from the Mormon Church to ameliorate the damage inflicted by one of its members; the church is complicit in its silence. I, for one, will roll over in my grave if the Mormons actually jump into the fray and call him out on this one.