Though it has been a shamefully long time since I posted on this blog, a recent event compels me to speak up. On Tuesday, May 17, activist Nick Espinosa dumped a box of glitter on GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, in protest of Gingrich's opposition to marriage equality. Though I would agree that, "Anyone telling people who [sic] they can and cannot love is offensive, especially coming from a serial adulterer like Newt," I cannot approve of Espinosa's actions. Condemning and even embarrassing those who would discriminate against their fellow Americans is legitimate, but no political protest is acceptable that actually trespasses upon the physical person of the target.
This principle has become especially urgent in the wake of the shooting of Representative Gabby Giffords, and does not apply only in the movement for marriage equality but for all Americans of any political persuasion. Though glitter may seem harmless and "fun," Espinosa's use of it exposed vulnerabilities in Gingrich's security that might be exploited by those who mean him actual harm. Security personnel are acutely aware of this fact, and will adjust the public profile of Gingrich and other similar public figures to close off these vulnerabilities in future. Even if incidents like Espinosa's don't open the door to further violence, the sum effect of such actions will be to radically curtail the accessibility of all figures across the entire political spectrum, bleeding our civic life and politics of much of its dynamism and openness.
As a society we must adopt a "zero tolerance" policy to any and all physical assaults on public officials and politicians. Either the persons of our officials and politicians are sacrosanct, or we condemn ourselves to living in a police state in which the "political class" is forever insulated from the public it serves. To pranksters like Espinosa, I say: cut the crap. Speaking truth to power with humor is all fine and good, but physical comedy is not a funny matter when it comes to politics.