It’s telling that the title of this post is one of the most popular things I’ve ever posted on Facebook. I routinely post status updates that are juvenile, cynical, overwrought, or broadly inappropriate, and I often receive a bit of virtual tittering from the peanut gallery, but this one lit up the board.

Frankly, I was surprised by how beloved this meme is about Santorum, the bodily fluid, not the man. Maybe Dan Savage is more widely read than I had realized. I was surprised by how philosophically diverse the people were who responded so enthusiastically to my post; some of them were the usual suspects, but as a group they were not at all the ones I expected to bowl over by publishing that particular outburst of obscenity.

I’m of two minds about the Santorum-as-ass-byproduct meme. On the one hand, I love internet memes; the worse, the better. Do I know some Chuck Norris facts? You’d better believe it. Nor do I usually have a problem with obscenity, with or without redeeming artistic value. On the other hand, I don’t feel entirely comfortable with politicians being smeared in that manner. The very attitude that encourages such smearing is extremely corrosive. As an American, I don’t like seeing my country being torn apart at the seams in that fashion.

On yet another hand (if a sour-faced dandy named Ross comes to your town, keep an eye on his hands–all three of them), Santorum himself is extremely corrosive to American politics. He’s a bog-standard theocrat whose fixation on wedge issues, usually sexual in nature, bodes great ill, and a man motivated by exceptional officiousness and malice. I can’t say that a politician with such creepy sexual obsessions and an insistence on imposing them on his countrymen doesn’t deserve to have his name appropriated to describe seminal butt goop. Perhaps it’s all the more appropriate that he has come to be associated (hey, I just said “cum” and “ass!” Fuck, I’m immature, and distractible) with anal sex rather than the laity-tested, clergy-approved vaginal variety that he champions. Anal sex isn’t for everyone, and there are reasons either to abstain or to engage in it judiciously, but Rick Santorum’s distaste and moral outrage is not one of those reasons. Santorum doesn’t entirely agree with that last statement, and he’s rather nasty about it, so a large swath of the public has every reason to tell him to shut the fuck up and mind his own damn business.

Or, perhaps, to compare him to that which dribbleth out after a righteous butt fucking. The comparison is relevant, proportional and, for a latter-day William Bradford running for national office, equitable. An individual can consent to be fucked in the ass, but the country can’t. Santorum and his noxious fell0w-travelers can bitch all they want about Roe v. Wade and, if they’re particularly officious, Griswold v. Connecticut, but the would-be office-holding top eyeing the hot bottom that is the citizenry faces a number of constitutional cock blocks. Power may be an aphrodisiac, and the Constitution may not be one of Sean Connery’s penis mightiers, but when Uncle Sam decides to have his way with us as citizens, we aren’t exactly in a position to deny consent.

In any event, it is not a good sign that Santorum’s name has the obscene dual meaning that it has. It demarcates yet another front in the culture war, this time between liberals, broadly defined, and theocrats and their allies who have their panties in a righteous bunch over the slander of a great statesman and man of God. For a time in our republic’s early history, our politicians accused each other of such things as incest, and we do not want to return to that. Even without Dan Savage’s help, our politicians have been straying dangerously close to that corner of the mudpit; my gut feeling is that some relatively inconsequential pot shot, such as an occasionally nasty sex columnist obscenely smearing one of his nastiest political adversaries, could be the tipping point that plunges our politics into that most vile and corrosive patch of mud, and that it might be awfully difficult to clean up afterwards.

On the other hand (I have four hands now; Ross has nothing on me), the obscene meme may just be a canary in the coal mine. It may be an effect, and not so much a cause, of our political degeneracy. Perhaps the real reason that it caught on is that Americans who are fed up with theocratic demagoguery are groping around in the dark for ways to understand how the hell a nosy cretin like Santorum has a national political following, including a regional following strong enough to win the Iowa caucuses. Then again, there are also a lot of exceptionally bitter leftists fuming about Santorum and his ilk. They’ll pick up on any reason, legitimate or loony, to hate on reactionaries. Most recently, there has been a big kerfuffle about Jan Brewer shaking her finger at Barack Obama. God forbid, she disrespected the President! She must be a racist to do such a thing! I agree that Brewer is something of a shit, but that scandal is an utter contrivance. As Thatcher quipped, all that is left will be bitter, and all that is bitter will be left.

The religious right, for its part, is positively swarming with thin-skinned people looking for reasons to take offense so that they can air fabricated grievances. At Moral Majority and the 700 Club, it’s Festivus for the rest of us all year long. This aggrieved attitude extends into a good part of the secular right, too, although some of the targets are different. When the fever swamp secular right and the religious right have a common grievance, hold on to the reins, because that bull’s gonna buck. Obama allegedly disrespected Benjamin Netanyahu by showing him the soles of his feet, which everyone knows that our Kenyan president knew to do because he was raised a Muslim and isn’t a true converso yet. It’s great to see that America’s jingoists are now so familiar with Arab customs of rudeness. Has anyone stopped to consider that this alleged scandal involves a Chicago political operator from Honolulu and an Israeli political operator from Philadelphia? Has anyone considered that neither of these fellows is a shrinking violet, and that they would have no difficulty savaging one another in their common native tongue? Of course not; taking these things into account would be too sane. Pass me the smelling salts; I’m fainting again.

We have some real sickness in our politics, and theocratic lunacy is a big part of it. We’re lucky to get a bloody thing done for the common good while asshats yell at each other about imagined slights. Exceedingly few people are willing to stand up and denounce the theocrats for turning religion into a political wedge. No one has the courage to say, “hey, now, religion is a private matter, and the franchise is an individual prerogative that your church has no right to usurp!” Actually, I once made the latter argument at a Newman Club meeting, eliciting mainly shrugs. Yikes.

It’s telling that, despite Europe’s widespread political dysfunction, it doesn’t appear to have its own Santorum. It has DSK, the LePens, Berlusconi, and some odious right-wing screechers in the British National Party, but I can’t think of a French Santorum, or a Dutch Santorum, or even a British or an Irish Santorum. Am I missing something, or would that creep be booed off the dais and told to take it to a missionary society instead? Santorum might fit in as a backbench annoyance at Prime Minister’s Questions, but would the Tories be able to find a riding that wouldn’t turf him out at the next byelection for being an asshat?

Verily, we have some goop in the national bunghole, and it isn’t coming out.

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