Monday, October 11, 2010

On Albino Squirrels

First of all, I have to say that I have not been updating this thing nearly enough, and for that I apologize, not to anyone who occasionally peruses this, but really to myself. While I have been working on a book, I haven't been writing daily or even weekly anymore, and I realized it was because something had to affect me on a visceral level, something that, upon my reflection, I *had* to write about it.

That has happened over the past few days.

This week, I had a great time hanging out with a friend of mine and a pal of hers who was visiting from Florida. We drank together, we went shopping together, we drank some more, and it was wonderful to spend time with the two of them, as I was worried that I would feel like a third wheel of some sort. I love that I now have a "Florida gay" in my life.

But I am writing about meeting him not because vodka is amazing (which it is), because he was a first for me. No, we did not have any sort of a romance or affair as I think he's into muscle dudes, but he was the first kind of a particular person that I had ever met:

He was a gay Republican.

A gay Republican, to me, is like when an albino squirrel is in your front yard. You know they exist, but to actually see one right in front of you is very jarring. Should you take a picture? Should you stare at it? What if he runs away?

That strange comparison aside, I think it's especially prescient to write about it this week. This morning, New York's Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino did a press conference denouncing homosexuality, reading a speech written for him by a rabbi who gladly espouses Leivticus's teaching that a man who lies with another should be put to death. This was the same morning that men in his state -- hell, the actual city he was in-- were arraigned for torturing gay teenagers and a man in a horrendous hate crime.

In Oklahoma, U.S. Representative Sally Kern is up for re-election; her opponent, a transgendered woman named Brittany Novotny, predictably has little chance. Yet Sally is known for Republicans because last year she announced that homosexuality was a bigger danger to our country than terrorism. Her comments drew a rare political reaction from Ellen DeGeneres, who rarely uses her talk show as a pulpit.

Here in Minnesota, Star Tribune columnist Katharine Kersten, the paper's lone conservative, argued that the most important issue facing Minnesota in our upcoming gubernatioral election is not poverty or unemployment, but the danger of gay marriage becoming legal and harming our children. The inexplicable, Maggie Lovejoy "what about the children?" was also a key point in Paladino's press conference, who re-itatered that homosexuals are indoctrinating our children and we must protect them.

It is 2010, by the way.

Here is what I am trying to wrap my head around: While I hate saying "I have Republican friends", not because I hate Republicans but just because I think it sounds just as stupid as when someone says "I have a black friend" or "my cousin is gay" ... I have Republican friends. And I respect and understand many of their viewpoints. A few months ago, I had a very illuminating dinner with a friend of mine who is a mother of a former classmate, yet I'm closer to her than with him (what? she's freaking awesome). I was worried about the discussion meandering into politics, but when it did, I was happy and relieved. She explained that, while she is a fiscal conservative and votes Republican, she doesn't believe in everything that our Republican governor Tim Pawlenty does. She was raised by a grandmother who spoke only Greek, and therefore was against the idea of "English-only" declarations in the legislature, and her experiences as a special education teacher instilled in her the importance of certain social programs. This was around the same time I had a discussion with my father and his friends -- all stuanch Republicans, yet they all had horror stories of the health care industry and, while against the idea of privatization or "Obamacare", understood that the system is broken and needs to be fixed.

Yet I still, especially after this week, cannot understand being a gay Republican. I do not think your sexual predispotion should affect your views on government spending, or health care, or our military actions in Afghanistan. But it was just two weeks ago when every single Republican Senator voted against the defense authorization bill that would have effectively repealed Don't Ask Don't Tell, effectively keeping us as the only country with a fully developed military with such a policy. And it is just this week, that, in the wake of far too many suicides of gay teens, prominent Republicans in the public eye are still denouncing homosexuality as "dangerous". Mr. Paladino went as far to say that it is "not valid".

I wish I would have been brave enough to ask my new friend about this, but I felt that with all the vodka flowing, things would have become heated, my other friend would have yelled that Obama is a Muslim, and I would have gone home crying. What I wanted to ask is, where do you reconcile your views? When you go to the polls, do you think about not being able to get married or to openly serve your country, or about your sugar daddy getting a tax break? This guy lives in FLORIDA, the only state where gay couples cannot legally adopt children, even ones they have raised as foster couples. Even Bill O'Reilly is against that policy, and he thinks gay marriage is like marrying your dog.

There is no tidy way to wrap this up. There is no "kum ba ya" platitude I can offer. I can only hope that the Republican party takes a cue from younger members like Meghan McCain, who has taken a more progressive stance on gay rights. I can only hope that these gay kids realize the entire world is not against them, even if it can seem that way. And I can only hope that we can all take a second to realize what is most important to us and the futures of our children, and all act accordingly.

End my pink soapbox.

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