Senator Rob Portman of Ohio recently reversed his stance on same-sex marriage. We are all supposed to respond by squealing with glee, to swoon and commence widespread back-slapping because a conservative saw the light. Except he didn’t. He changed his stance because he found out his son was gay (and not until after the election ended–he had revealed his son’s sexuality to Mitt Romney when being vetted for VP). He changed his stance because it affected him personally. Not because he exercised thought or reason. Not because he took time to examine his own beliefs and consider how they affect others. They affect him. He changed his mind because it now affects him. There is no honor in such an act, and it deserves no praise. Like thumbing your nose at a charity until you get cancer, it isn’t progressive or admirable if it is all about you.
This isn’t the first time this has happened in the Republican Party either. Cheney’s daughter is a lesbian, and thereby he has also bucked the party on the issue. This sort of flip-flopping isn’t limited to the treatment of gay and lesbian couples. Governor Chris Christie and Representative Peter King both blasted the GOP for trying to thwart Hurricane Sandy aid to New York. Republicans against social aid, that suddenly sang a violently different tune when their own districts needed help – and expected to be applauded for it.
It is a fine thing when someone publicly announces that they are wrong and changes their mind on important social issues. It takes a lot of courage to admit you are wrong publicly. There are many people who are changing their minds on how they feel about gay marriage and homosexuality in general each and every day. Yet that which slows and makes a mockery of this change is when it is only stirred by the most heartless and self-centered of reasons.
This is in no way limited to Republicans or to politicians in general. People in this country largely do not change their stance on anything until it directly affects their own lives or that of their families. They are all for guns until a family member is shot. They accept gays once a brother comes out. They demand government health care when an insurance company drops their mom for having cancer. That isn’t compassion; it is narcissistic self-preservation. It sends a message that we just don’t give a damn about anybody that is gay/sick/shot as long it is outside our own respective little circles. But when (insert social-debate topic) finds our homes, well hold the phone – we’re an activist! Throw YouTube hits and Facebook likes our way immediately! Support our struggle! Sign our petition!
All of us need to spend more time asking ourselves questions, the tough questions that we think will never pertain to us. What will I do if someone in my family molests someone? Would I turn my brother in if he beat up someone because they were gay? Would I be able to kill someone who invaded my house? Would I tell my daughter it is wrong to have an abortion if she is raped?
We don’t ask ourselves the tough questions, but we all feel so very qualified to judge people living in situations we have never encountered and maybe never will. Those with insurance scoff at the possibility of paying a tax to provide for those that don’t (Until they lose their jobs). White people make blanket statements about minorities (Until someone marries a person of color in their family). Men think they are qualified to comment on wage equality and the reproductive rights of women (You’ll never have a vagina- so just shut it). The rich pass laws for the poor and the healthy set legislation for the sick. We all judge, judge, judge, and then waive our hands in the air for mercy when the hangman comes for us. Then we want everyone to pity and understand poor, poor us.
As far as the Republicans are concerned, they are seeing the writing on the wall. They haven’t seen the light. Public opinion is rapidly changing and they want to be reelected. That is not commendable, it’s actually detestable. No, Rob Portman, you do not deserve our cheers and adoration. You are just like every other selfish, small-minded individual that only looks out for their own interests and never stops to think how their choices affect other people. I’m glad you changed your mind, but you don’t get a gold star for effort.
For the rest of us. The time has come to start asking those tough questions of ourselves. For if we do not, we are subject to only our emotions and selfish motivations rather than our principles. Life is bigger than our own little worlds, and we have no idea what other people are suffering. When you don’t understand someone, try learning about them instead of judging. And for all of the things in life you just feel you’ll never understand, Let It Be.
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