Thursday, September 03, 2015


I've seen this argument already in comments at Salon:  that Kim Davis gets rich and famous now because she's a "martyr" in jail for her "sincerely held religious beliefs."

I respectfully dissent.

First, Kim Davis is not Sarah Palin, which is to simply say, she doesn't look anything like Tina Fey.  Sorry, but being attractive matters, especially for instant celebrity.  She resembles the mother (I know she has a name, but I never watched the show) of Honey Boo Boo, a show people watched because it was a train wreck and the characters on there were so bizarre as to be almost interesting.

Nobody's watching Honey Boo Boo anymore; that ship has sailed.

Nor is she eloquent.  The report from the courtroom today had her answering briefly the questions put to her, until she spoke about her religious beliefs.  She speaks from the heart about her religious beliefs, but she sounds like people I grew up with, people as nondescript and otherwise uninteresting as Kim Davis.  Nothing against Ms. Davis personally, and I won't join in comments on her appearance or her marital history; but she's not a charismatic person who's going to excite interest for very long.  She's ordinary; she's not electrifying.  She's a symbol, which is how she's being treated by her lawyers.  But she's not an interesting person with something to say.

She's a woman who suddenly found herself on the world stage, and she seems to still be blinking in the klieg lights.  Now she's going away for what could be as long as three years.  Courts don't generally imprison people for contempt for years on end, but that's the outside number on this issue, as she doesn't come up for re-election until 2018.  I don't know the law in Kentucky, but it may be the office can't issue marriage licenses without the signature of the elected clerk, and unless there's some provision to declare her unable to complete her duties, there's nothing to keep her from blocking the issuance of marriage licenses in Rowan County until 2018.*

There are no cameras in jail, and no microphones.  More to the point, Ms. Davis hasn't sought out the cameras and microphones.  Reports are that recently she's been hiding in her office, coming out briefly to address crowds of people, and then retreating behind closed doors again.  She isn't seeking the spotlight now, and she won't command it from a jail cell.

Her lawyers and "supporters" may try to make a martyr of her, but I think they'll find they have no raw material to work with.  She isn't a particularly sympathetic character (my sympathies are with her because she reminds me of people I've known all my life.  I have no sympathy for her stubbornness that put her in jail, and I think she expected things to go differently when she started this.), and she won't become more so when she's once again locked away from public view, a public view she's never really tried to exploit.

Other people can only exploit someone for their own publicity for so long, and then they have to move on.  Ms. Davis' 15 minutes are down to about their last five.**

*There is undoubtedly some provision in KY Law that will eventually replace Ms. Davis and get the work of the county flowing again.  Or it may be pressure simply builds on her to resign because the entire county can't come to a halt while she serves her martyrdom in jail.

**The problem with commenting on a "breaking" story is that you never have all the information at one time.  Now it seems the deputy clerks, save Davis' son, have promised to issue marriage licenses, so the work of the county clerk's office will go on without Ms. Davis.  She won't be released from jail immediately, but I also wonder if the Judge will soon release her with instructions that if she blocks the issuance of licenses again, she's back in jail instanter.

Of course, if she's not in jail for long, and if the licenses flow, then whither her martyrdom?  Or even if she is there for long, it will be only her stubbornness that keeps her there.  She won't stop the marriages from happening.


  1. Of course, if she's not in jail for long, and if the licenses flow, then whither her martyrdom? dandelion seeds.

  2. He son? I wonder why that isn't an issue.

    Thank you for helping me to see her, the little I've seen about it has been the kind of two-minute-hate talk that seems to grow wronger as it goes longer. She would seem to have disqualified herself for the office she holds by refusing to uphold the law, which is a serious disqualification to hold upblic office. I'd be a lot more impressed with her if she quit on her principle but hatin' on her only brings us down to a lower level. That IS supposed to be the issue, to decrease the level of hate and if the alleged left is using this ti increase that we're 1. doing nothing to decrease that level of hate, 2. giving the opponents of equality even more reason to hold the position they do. Persuasion is smarter politics than preening in a superiority that is disproved by the preening.
    Online commentary is better at preening than persuading.

  3. The son is not in jail because presumably the son has not yet denied anyone a marriage license.

    And since he's not the County Clerk, he can't order the deputies to follow his lead.

    And I picked up Bonhoeffer's "Letters from Prison" last night. I'm just about convinced the internet is populated with children who seek outrage as proof they are important (or even just alive). Bonhoeffer's analysis of evil, how it works in the world and how we allow it, is trenchant and a lovely response, even, to those few who get hung up on theodicy as a reason to discard God.

    Davis, of course, is the flip side of that: her strident theodicy is that God is anxiously waiting to sit in judgment on us all.

    Anyway, reading Bonhoeffer I wonder again: "Why do I waste so much time on the internet?" A new Renaissance it ain't.

  4. Jane--yup.

    I hear this morning the clerks are ready to issue marriage licenses, and people are expected to show up and get them. So why, again, is this woman in jail? What is she accomplishing?

    And since she can let herself out anytime she chooses.....

  5. I assume you two gentleman do not have Facebook accounts. I do more writing there than on my blog now, not because I like FB better, but because blogs, except for the most popular, seem to have lost their luster. I still much prefer blogging. Anyway, says the long-winded lady, here's what I said about Davis early on over there.

    Though I have no sympathy for Kim Davis for refusing to do the job for which she is paid $80,000 a year, I wonder if she was fully aware of the real possibility that she could be taken into custody. Yes, I know she said she was willing to go to jail, but what sort of advice did she receive from her lawyers, who to all appearances seem incompetent? No doubt her attorneys are raising loads of money for Liberty Counsel, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt "religious ministry", because of the publicity surrounding the "religious persecution" of their client. Kim Davis is being used for a cause and by an organization that will benefit, even as she is the person in jail, willingly perhaps, but whether with full knowledge of consequences, I'm not sure.

    Judge Bunning was correct in not imposing fines on Davis, because others would raise funds to pay the fines. We'll see how many deputy clerks refuse marriage licenses to same sex couples and join Kim in jail.

    Since none of the deputy clerks except her son will refuse the licenses, it's now business as usual in the office.

  6. I almost consider blogging a kind of psychopathy, at least in my hands.

    Reading Bonhoeffer last night I appreciated anew the virtues of books, and the terrible weakness of the intertoobs where everything is immediate but, because it is, is also ephemeral. Bonhoeffer wrote for people to read; the internet exists, it seems, just to prod. Books can release us from our cages; the internet just pokes us through the bars so we'll respond with outrage.

    I'm getting tired of it but, as I say, some pathology in my psyche won't quite let me break the habit.

  7. Maybe psychopathy is better than full on insanity, where I might find myself if I didn't have some source of release for pent up frustration. My husband is tired of listening to me. Take my word for it that Facebook is a vast wasteland inhabited by psychopaths and worse, but for the few I count among the sane. I don't include myself in the sane count.

  8. These days I can only read e-books on my Android tablet. Most of which I check out from our library's online service.