Another letter to the West Branch Times

While I have been annoyed and or upset about Gregory Norfleet’s columns in the West Branch Times in the past, his column this week made me apoplectic.  Just ask Ms. DailyDisgust!  Below is his column, printed in all its convoluted and ultimately hateful glory.  Below that is the letter that I just submitted in response.

Soapbox Philosophy: A desire within, and a choice from the West Branch Times, Jan. 12, 2012

During the football season, at one of the home games, a couple people along the sidelines told me that they heard one of the high school boys — let us call him “Bill” here — shouting inappropriate comments at the opposing team.
Of all the people on that sideline who had a job to do that night, no one had more on their plate than Head Coach Butch Pedersen.

But anyone who knows Butch knows he has a deep desire to see boys and girls grow up to be responsible, mature and confident men and women. That desire trumps any football game.

Butch whipped around and called the boy out: “Bill! Show some class!”

Everyone in that immediate section fell silent. Butch locked his gaze on Bill long enough to make sure he got the message, then went back to the game.

It was one of those moments I will probably never forget: Four words with the right timing, right message and right tone. Depending on the situation, Butch knows how to deliver a kind word, or a metaphorical kick in the pants.

That memory came to mind when I saw one of the prominent Democratic leaders in this area, after the Iowa caucuses, post on Facebook an interview by journalist Chris Wallace of Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum.

The subject of this part of the interview was “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Wallace asked Santorum to comment on this quote: “The Army is not a sociological laboratory. Experimenting with Army policy, especially in a time of war, would pose a danger to efficiency, discipline and morale and would result in ultimate defeat.”

After Santorum “roughly” agreed with the point of view, Wallace revealed that it was a quote from Col. Eugene Householder, who in 1941 was arguing against racial integration in the military. Wallace was suggesting that homosexuals, like blacks, are born that way. I don’t understand how he sees these two as the same.

Butch is a great teacher and football coach, but he was not born that way. Scientists and doctors can put him through a barrage of tests and tell you his height, weight, eye color, skin color, etc., but they can’t show you anything, inside or out, that makes him a great teacher and coach.

Until he speaks or acts.

It is not Butch’s desires — not alone, that is — but the training he received, his experiences, his actions and his words that have made him what he is today.

So Santorum’s response was, essentially, that. You can’t change the color of your skin, so it is wrong to discriminate against that. But when your decisions and behavior play a significant part in your circumstances, then it is not so much a trait as it is a lifestyle, which is a collection of choices and behaviors.

The “born that way” argument suggests not only that your desires define you, but that you cannot do anything about them. However, self-preservation is a deep desire, yet there are plenty of parents who have risked their lives when a child ran into the street, or soldiers who jumped on a live grenade for their units. Desires can be overcome completely, or guided in different directions.

Santorum implied that homosexuality is one option people can choose for guiding an inward desire, but not the only one.

In Butch’s case, he became a football coach. But what would he be doing if football had never been invented, or if football was not socially acceptable?

Anyway, I did not support Santorum in the Republican caucus, but I’m taking a second look at him now.

Mr. Norfleet,

In the past I have found your editorials to be distasteful on occasion, particularly when they come to social issues.  Your piece this week is downright offensive and destructive.  You wrap your minimization of homosexuality in praise for Coach Pederson—a real stretch if you ask me.

I ask you: what harm does it do you if two people choose to love each other?

I can tell you what harm it does when you write these opinions about “choices” in your columns in this newspaper.  It helps to create an atmosphere wherein a whole class of people are made to feel alienated, isolated, marginalized, and offended within our community.  That is certainly not the type of community that I wish myself or my family to be a part of.

As for the issue of “desire” being a defining part of a person, I’d like to tell you about my wife.  I love her.  My desire for her love and her partnership in raising our daughter is one of the most important pieces of who I am as a man and as a human being.  Yes, there are other “options” I could choose, as your article suggests, but who are you or Rick Santorum to try to prioritize those for me?

I would hope that you would consider the power that you hold via your position as editor of the local paper of record before you write more articles that are an affront to the decency of the people of this community.


West Branch

3 Comments on “Another letter to the West Branch Times”

  1. Adam says:

    Good for you. I love how his column mixes worship of a high school football coach with a fear of homosexuals. It’s just so small-town Iowa.

  2. […] high school football coach with a fear of homosexuals. It’s just so small-town Iowa” (from Another letter to the West Branch Times at the DailyDisgust […]

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