You are NOT the father!

Let’s get the party started with a little mixed grill of tasty bloggage, shall we?

I gotta tell ya, whenever those VH1 compilation shows comes on — “The 100 Most Shocking TV Moments,” whatever — they always fall short. None ever mentions what I consider the most jaw-dropping shows on television. Which are, of course, the paternity-test shows on “Maury.”

You think: It cannot get any lower than this. You think: These people must be actors. You think: No sane human being would make such a spectacle of himself. Or herself. And what about the baby?

But no.

Small wonder, then, that Maury’s paternity-test shows are audience favorites, that they have, god help me, returning characters:

Guests are encouraged to be forthright, and Sanquenetta is. “I’m not 100, I’m not 1,000, I’m a million percent sure he’s the father of my baby,” she says. “Maury, this is the first and last time you’re gonna see me on your show.”

That last statement alludes to some of Povich’s more notable female guests, who have made a staggering number of appearances in seeking to establish first this man, then that one, then still another as their children’s fathers. (A woman named Georgetta has attained legendary status by appearing 12 times to test 13 men.)

…”Maury” fans express delight when such guests as Georgetta make repeat appearances. The previous week featured the eighth visit by a woman named Simone, who is known for her lightning flights from the stage each time she hears the words “You are not the father.”

“During her taped piece, we showed a retrospective of all of her appearances on the show,” Faulhaber says. “And she came out the first time and said, ‘Maury, I’m 110 percent sure.’ And the next time she goes, ‘I’m 130 percent.’ . . . ‘I’m 155 percent.’ ‘I’m 200 percent.’ ‘I am 1 billion percent.’ . . . And each time it’s amazing, because she sits there and she says, ‘I know it this time.’ “

You really have to read it all.

Meanwhile, I’m 1 billion percent sure you’ll be bummed out to learn that southeast Michigan seems to have a homicidal animal killer on the loose. I suspect it’s the usual story — a badly damaged person in a spiral of sorts:

Since January, authorities have found nearly 40 dead domestic and wild animals — some decapitated, some skinned — within a 3-mile radius of Superior Township, including coyotes, foxes and deer. On March 16, they started finding dogs. The most recent find, on Sunday, included the tied-up pit bull puppy and a cocker spaniel that had been shot in the back of the head.

However, as someone points out in the story, Jeffrey Dahmer got his start this way. Keep your cats close and your dogs closer, if you live nearby.

Finally, we come to the much-commented-upon Westboro Baptist Church, which has grabbed the spotlight in recent weeks by bringing their God Hates Fags act to the funerals of soldiers killed overseas:

The three protesters stood by the sidewalk, holding signs and chanting antimilitary slogans outside the funeral of Army Cpl. Nyle Yates III, who died in Iraq. “Cpl. Yates is in hell!” they screamed Monday morning, dragging the U.S. flag on the ground. “Cpl. Yates is in hell!”

Lately, in Michigan anyway, their activities have been somewhat mitigated by another group, who stand between the Westboro-ites and the bereaved family and basically outshout them. I suppose, given the choice between hearing that your dead soldier is in hell or hearing a less-cruel chant, I’d go for option B. Still.

Here’s what bugs me about this story. Two things, really — first is the language used. The Westboro Baptist Church consists of “the Rev.” Fred Phelps and a bunch of his relatives, and that’s pretty much it. And yet they have a name that makes them sound like a real church, and a website, and so instead of being called, more correctly, “a clan of crazy people from Kansas,” they get a certain gravitas just by being identified as a church congregation. Not much, maybe, but some.

This is one case where the need for journalistic “objectivity,” and the need to file people into certain easy-to-understand slots — “activist,” “protester,” etc. — really stands in the way of the first job reporters have, which is telling the truth. In this case, you have to read between the lines, add up the euphemisms and weigh them against the facts, to figure out what’s really going on.

But that’s nothing compared to the second thing, which is: They have been doing this for years and years and years. The Phelps folk, I remind you, were the ones who showed up at Matthew Shepard’s funeral waving signs reading God Hates Fags, and that was eight years ago. Since then, they’ve protested at funerals of other gay people and AIDS victims, and while I won’t say they’ve been doing it with the approval of the rest of the country, certainly far fewer people were clutching their chests and squealing the horror the horror, mmm?

In fact, about a year ago, Phelps came to Fort Wayne for a “debate,” a “forum” or whatever — some sort of public discussion. And while the closest I can come to contemporaneous coverage is this incomplete excerpt from one of the newspapers, I distinctly recall that some phrases simply weren’t attributed to Phelps — “God hates fags,” for one. In fact, Phelps was politely identified, by most media outlets, as an “anti-gay activist,” which is a little like calling a Holocaust denier a “World War II historian.”

Anyway, while it’s good to know that decent people have a breaking point, it’s less good to know it lies somewhere between screaming “God hates fags!” at the funeral of an AIDS victim and screaming “God hates fags!” at the funeral of an American soldier. Still, I guess we’ll take progress where we can get it.

Posted at 9:38 am in Popculch |
 

22 responses to “You are NOT the father!”

  1. Jeff said on March 28, 2006 at 9:55 am

    “instead of being called, more correctly, “a clan of crazy people from Kansas,�? they get a certain gravitas just by being identified as a church congregation. Not much, maybe, but some.”

    Thanks, Nance. That loon-pack has been in two communties i’ve served — Fred Phelps hs been at this *at least* for 25 years, all with his children and now sons- and daughters-in-law and grandchildren, maybe having 40 tops in his “church” — and leaves behind this sense that this represents some strand, even if a low and thin one, in the Christian cosmos.

    They’re a blip that even his Falwell-ness has condemned, but that doesn’t get said often enough. They’re affilliated with no church body of any sort, let alone Baptist (i’m not one myself, but they deserve better, Southern, Missionary, General, or whatever Baptist), and your description is precisely correct.

    “a clan of crazy people from Kansas” — and that’s not even entirely fair to Topeka.

    Peace,
    Jeff

  2. mary said on March 28, 2006 at 10:44 am

    One of the main things I miss about not working at home anymore is watching Maury while I eat lunch. The paternity tests are amazing. If I was running late and missed Maury, I would watch the people’s court, which was not nearly as seamy, but I enjoyed the judge. Here I eat at my desk and read Slate, which is ok, but nothing compared to women who have had sex with at least 13 different men in one month.

  3. brian stouder said on March 28, 2006 at 11:09 am

    “…but nothing compared to women who have had sex with at least 13 different men in one month.”

    I cannot decide whether the 13 times in one month –

    or 13 different men – is the more remarkable

  4. 4dbirds said on March 28, 2006 at 11:22 am

    I have a friend who to this day is unsure which man is the father of her oldest child, her ex or her lover. Her lover is dead and she hasn’t spoken to her ex in over 25 years. I think these situations while not common are more plentiful than people realize.

  5. brian stouder said on March 28, 2006 at 11:43 am

    “I think these situations while not common are more plentiful than people realize.”

    I remember being impressed when I read that Tom Hanks is related to Abraham Lincoln’s mother – Nancy Hanks – …….impressed UNTIL seeing the Hanks family tree (as shown in Herndon’s Informants, for example). Half the state of Kentucky can probably make an accurate claim to be related to Nancy Hanks! (Nancy’s mom was ahead of her time, as were her aunts)

  6. nancy said on March 28, 2006 at 12:07 pm

    Sure they’re plentiful. It’s not the disputed-paternity that bugs me, it’s the going-on-national-TV part. But you knew that.

  7. Jim from Fla said on March 28, 2006 at 12:13 pm

    Phelps and his ilk are despicable. A funeral, after all, is to bring some comfort to those who knew and cared for the deceased, not to promote some agenda.

    He was here in Tampa a few weeks back. He blows into town, gets his 30 seconds of publicity on the local news, and then is off to the next protest, (hopefully) never to visit again.

    What bothers me more? There too many people out there who hold the same beliefs as Phelps, who aren’t “in your face” like Phelps, but who do what they can to deny fellow citizens basic rights, teach their children that it’s ok to hate, and lobby their elected officials to pass discriminatory legislation.

  8. Jeff said on March 28, 2006 at 1:08 pm

    I’ll grant you that three are “too many,” but that’s exactly what bugs me about Phelps. He wants folk to see him as the shiny tip of a vast iceberg, when he is really a blob of pond scum bobbing around in the shallows of the ocean.

    I work with lots of “religious conservatives,” and you’d be hard pressed to find Fred Phelps a quorum in rural Ohio or West Virginia, and i don’t imagine anywhere else is all that much more numerous in supporters.

    Don’t let Fred sell you his grape Kool-Aid; it’s slow acting, but the same poison.

    Oh, and as for paternity; the whole flap over Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson was vastly complicated by the amount of dodgy paternity that turned up in the first round of DNA tests — for both families — and the refusal of most slated for the second round to co-operate, for fear of outing grandmama or great-gamma as a round-heeled wench behind the WCTU badge. Common indeed, as any geneaologist let alone pastor can tell you.

    But going on TV with it; well, some folks really like the unlimited room service deals the producers set you up for in the big city. When the hotel room is bigger than your apartment or trailer, that is a sadly effective motivation, especially when your dignity wasn’t valued to highly to start with . . . speaking of 13 in a month. That’s not sexuality, that’s self-abuse with an audience to start with, so Maury and the studio isn’t much of a step.

    Peace, Jeff

  9. John said on March 28, 2006 at 1:16 pm

    Brian…13 times in a month is only about 3 times a week…even this old carcass hauls that many ashes on a good month…at least one of those 31 day kind.

  10. 4dbirds said on March 28, 2006 at 1:46 pm

    Nancy I can’t imagine my friend announcing her plight on national TV. I knew her over ten years before she confided in me.

  11. brian stouder said on March 28, 2006 at 2:18 pm

    “even this old carcass hauls that many ashes on a good month…”

    Braggart!

    Ray Romano’s character on Everybody Loves Raymond and I seem to be on the same ‘ash hauling’ schedule

  12. Dorothy said on March 28, 2006 at 2:50 pm

    Brian – temper your admiration with re-reading John’s statement: “on a good month” is what he said! I think most of the country would be on the same schedule as you and Raymond, that is if they were being honest.

  13. Jeff said on March 28, 2006 at 3:01 pm

    Isn’t that definition of a good month a tautlogy?

  14. brian stouder said on March 28, 2006 at 3:17 pm

    A ta-ta-tautology!

    Anyway – thanks for the vote of confidence, Dorothy!

    You know, to be really honest – many years ago, when I was a kiddo and had a full head of hair and all, I was in a relationship with a young woman who was more or less insatiable. It was grrrreat for about 8 or 9 weeks – but in the end I just couldn’t keep up (pardon the puns)

    Boring is good

  15. Dorothy said on March 28, 2006 at 3:38 pm

    I love to learn new words!! Thanks for that one, Jeff!

    Stop making me laugh out loud while I’m at work, Brian. You’re gonna get me in trouble!

  16. Adrianne said on March 28, 2006 at 3:55 pm

    nance:

    We had the displeasure of encountering Fred Phelps and his crazy, inbred shock troops outside our Catholic church in New Paltz on Palm Sunday two years ago. They were demonstrating because the mayor of New Paltz decided to start marrying same-sex couples, and Phelps declared that the churches weren’t doing enough to stop this atrocity. How the Catholic Church was considered a fellow traveler on the gay marriage thing, I don’t know. The most noteworthy sign of protest: Thank God for 9-11 (because it killed gay people, of course). Phelps did not succeed in his aim at getting counter-demonstrators arrested, and was pretty much ignored by all.

  17. John said on March 28, 2006 at 4:30 pm

    I’ve been married to the same wonderful woman for 26 years. While it’s not like the first couple years of marriage, it’s still pretty damn interesting and both of us are still interested in hauling the ashes. Moral of story? Probably none. But the blanket statement that 13 times in a month is somehow as remarkable as 13 different partners just doesn’t jive with my experience.

  18. Kath said on March 28, 2006 at 4:40 pm

    I was at a gay & lesbian legal conference that Fred Phelps and his gang protested. As I was approaching the entrance they started ranting at the guy who was going in ahead of me, but as I walked by they didn’t say anything to me. Apparently, God hates fags, but he loves dykes.

  19. brian stouder said on March 28, 2006 at 4:51 pm

    “…both of us are still interested in hauling the ashes. Moral of story? Probably none.But the blanket statement that 13 times in a month is somehow as remarkable as 13 different partners just doesn’t jive with my experience.”

    Actually – I’m more likely to argue with the metaphor than with the math; it’s backwards, isn’t it? Wouldn’t it be better to refer to “hauling in the wood” (the better to stoke the home fires) than “hauling out the ash” (conjuring images of a cold hearth?)

  20. Dwight Brown said on March 28, 2006 at 5:21 pm

    “Anyway, while it’s good to know that decent people have a breaking point, it’s less good to know it lies somewhere between screaming “God hates fags!�? at the funeral of an AIDS victim and screaming “God hates fags!�? at the funeral of an American soldier.”

    Mine comes after less than five minutes of *Maury* doing paternity tests.

  21. John said on March 28, 2006 at 5:30 pm

    from the Urban Dictionary:
    http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=ashes+hauled

    I can’t remember when I first heard this term, but it seems like it is from the 70s.

  22. ashley said on March 28, 2006 at 8:51 pm

    Here’s how the Lakota Sioux honor a fallen soldier:

    http://multimedia.rockymountainnews.com/slideshow/slideshow.cfm?type=DEFAULT&ID=012006lundstrom&NUM=1