members of Washington, D.C.’s chattering class
who are yammering and bobble-heading over the
former name of presidential candidate Rick Perry’s
family hunting camp in Texas were clearly rooting
for the Washington Redskins last Monday night.
As the Redskins lost to the Dallas Cowboys,
my politics-heavy Twitter feed filled with casual
commentary about Monday Night Football, and
the beloved Washington team of many a pundit
— which, as we all know, happens to be an ugly
caricature if not outright slur of native Americans.
Just interesting to note the simultaneous outrage
over Perry’s camp’s onetime name — “Niggerhead”
— and all the rooting for the NFL’s “Redskins.”
By the same people.
It proves a long-running point in American politics
and culture: any ethnic group that believes
it is aggrieved must first talk to the Native
“We have a serious obligation to a lot of our
native Americans we have not fulfilled for a
long time,” U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, told
me recently in connection with a story I was
doing on suicide epidemics in South Dakota.
“And we just keep ignoring it much to our national
shame, I think.”
Still, the hunting camp name issue is not good
for Texas governor.
Perry, 61, did grow up in a much different Texas
and can say times have changed, and so has he.
All of this reminds me of one of the more disturbing
sentences I’ve read in some time about race.
In the July issue of Texas Monthly, Jan Jarboe
Russell writes about her hometown of Cleveland,
Texas, a place where her mom taught school in
1967 when local education there desegregated.
“I can recall sitting in church and listening
to the white people around me argue about whether
black people had souls,” Russell writes. “That
was a long time ago, but some of that old ugliness
still hangs like smoke in the heavy boughs of
Debating whether black people have souls?
• • •
On Sunday, several anti-abortion advocates
held “life chain” rallies in places like my
hometown of Carroll, and in Maryville, Mo.,
which I happened to be passing though in the
One of the questions I’m known for asking anti-abortion
candidates is this: If your position on abortion
prevails, and it is again prohibited, what should
the penalty be for a woman who has an abortion
and/or a provider who performs one?
Obviously the actual answer matters, but what
I also look for in the interview is something
I can spot right away: has the pro-life candidate
even considered the gravity of the issues and
rolled them over as part of his or her worldview?
That speaks volumes about both ideological and
Candidates who clearly had given this a great
deal of thought before I asked it and embraced
the question are: U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa;
former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Penn.; and
state Sen. Jerry Behn, R-Boone.
Some candidates who were thrown by it and didn’t
seem to make the connection between the signs
of the protestors and the potential outcome
for women should Roe v. Wade be overturned are:
former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Iowa
Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, both Republicans.
This said, conservatives often ask if I have
a similar line of questioning for those who
advocate abortion choice. There’s really a false
equivalency here because the penalty-for-abortion
query leads to a scenario in which a candidate
or advocate, who embraces the “baby killing”
or abortion-as-murder argument, must square
up to whether they would favor execution for
a teen-age girl who was raped and had an abortion.
Could they pull the switch on the chair or push
the needle on the deadly chemical cocktail?
There’s not really an equally compelling question
for pro-choice pols. But here’s one that’s close:
If I walk over to that pregnant lady on the
bench, the one sitting in the middle of a crowd,
and punch her in the stomach area as hard as
possible, what will onlookers scream? Will they
say, “You appear to have damaged a fetus.” Or
will it be something more along the lines of:
“The baby! You killed the baby!”
Another question surrounds the rape exemption
many politicians call for in abortion debates.
Should motivation for the procreation really
matter? Doesn’t a child conceived by violence,
a rape, deserve the same status as one created
through love? Does the motivation behind the
intercourse have any bearing on how we define
its results, whether it’s a baby or a fetus?
The rape exemption has no place in the debate.
Motivation doesn’t matter. A baby is a baby
or a fetus is a fetus. Just as children of illegal
immigrants had no say in their residency in
Texas, the life forms inside of pregnant women
weren’t consulted before the act. Whether you
are the child of a rape or love, you are the
same. Or are you? CV
Douglas Burns is a fourth-generation Iowa
newspaperman who writes for The Carroll Daily
Times Herald and offers columns for Cityview.