This has been a big weekend for the gay community. First, New York became the latest state to enter the 21st century and legalize marital equality for gays. Given the population of the state, this had the effect of doubling the amount of people with access to gay marriage. Of course, New York also has the distinction of being a state that doesn't require residency as a requisite for getting married there, which opens their doors to an entire country of loving, committed gay couples who want legal marriage. It also makes the phrase "We're going to take a trip to NY" the official new gay code word for getting married. Seriously though, this is a big deal. Not just because it's a big step forward by a big state with a big population and a reputation for progressivism (Yes, I'm looking right at you, California, you fucking blew it and you know it.), but because the decision was reached through a bi-partisan consensus. Between the marital equality vote in NY and the "Paul Frank" federal marijuana legalization bill I talked about last week, I'm starting to see a trend among certain Republicans that, frankly, I am quite pleased with.
When I turned 18 and first registered to vote, I wanted to be a Republican, without question. I had listened to the descriptions of both parties platforms given by various politicians on both sides, and since Fox News wasn't around then, I didn't have a screaming propaganda machine distorting reality and demonizing the left, or any efforts by the left to counter-demonize the right, it was just "We believe in a, b and c" and "We believe in x, y and z." and the choice was up to me. Now, at that time, I believed - as I do now - that the most important thing in this world is freedom and liberty. I believe in the rights of the individual to live their life however they want, so long as they aren't infringing on the rights of others to do the same. I believed in personal accountability and responsibility. I believed in "hand-ups" not "hand-outs." At the time, everything I was hearing from the Republican side seemed to support those beliefs. Well, I was 18, and naive. I thought welfare just meant the lazy bums down at the office getting food stamps and not wanting to work for a living. I didn't realize it also meant subsidies and tax breaks and other similar entitlements for people who didn't need or deserve them. But, I digress, fiscal politics aside, I wanted to be a Republican because I believed the Republicans were the party that believed the government that governs best is the one that governs least. That they believed in personal liberty and allowing adults to be adults and make their own decisions. To me, being 18 and a Republican was like having an entire political party say "You're a man now, and we're gonna treat you like one."
Unfortunately, the actions of "my" party over the next 12 years would change that...
My first presidential election was in 1994. I had been out of school for a year, worked my ass off at a chicken ranch, hated it and quit and was selling dirt weed around town and making a decent living from it too. I didn't like Bill Clinton back then, not because I necessarily disagreed with his politics, I wasn't even educated enough about the whole political process to fully understand them, but because he lied about dumb stuff and it annoyed me. Who smokes pot and doesn't inhale? I mean really. Also, he got a blowjob, he fucked up, but he wouldn't just admit it and take his lumps, he had to try and weasel out of it and while I should have been even more outraged at the Republicans for the massive amount of time and tax payer money they wasted persecuting the guy for getting said blowjob, it just bugged me that dude couldn't just say "Yes, I did it, I got some head, sorry for being an AVERAGE MAN who likes having younger women suck him off." I mean, that's what happens when you start getting older and feeling a little insecure as a guy, and the more powerful you are professionally, the more insecure you can become personally. It's not a coincidence that there is a direct correlation between a man's professional success and his propensity to having an extra-marital affair. It's all ego. It would cause a lot less problems for people in relationships if they could just admit that, and start having some frank and honest conversations about why it is that sometimes a guy needs to have new, exciting lips on his dick to let him know he's still got it. Sorry ladies, we're one step above shit-flinging monkeys over here. It's not pretty, but it's the truth.
But, I digress!
Point being, Clinton's annoying dishonesty turned me off, so I voted for Bob Dole. I figured hey, he's got a hot wife and he can't get it up, pretty safe bet there won't be any BJ scandals distracting us from actual important issues with this guy! Of course he lost because apparently the only thing that turns off voters more than a guy who can't keep his dick in his pants is one who can't get it out. So, I "endured" four more years of Clinton, watched the whole Lewinsky thing unfold, marveled at what a colossal bunch of hypocrites our politicians were, and in the end, ironically, I found myself feeling sorry for Bill. I mean, all the dude did was get a little head, maybe chase a little poon here and there. This was a problem for him and Hilary to work out. I mean, when you go to the doctor, do you need to know if he cheats on his wife before you let him examine you? When you order food in a restaurant, do you need to know the cook is a faithful husband before you eat it? Surely when you board a plane, whether or not the pilot got sucked off by a thai massage girl the night before doesn't cross your mind as affecting the safety of your flight? So why do we expect this level of personal integrity from our politicians that we don't expect from any other profession, or even ourselves?
"Oh, but if he'll lie to his wife about having an affair, he could lie to the entire country about things that are much worse!"
Really? You really think that's the same thing? No, you lie to your wife about having an affair because you don't want to get divorced. You lie to your country, and get caught, and you get fired and possibly arrested, depending on the lie. Of course, that's assuming the lie is one of the ones you weren't supposed to tell, not the thousands of lies every politician is expected to tell in order to keep their jobs... It's funny, people expect their politicians to lie and cover up secret back room deals and goings-on that could have severe and far-reaching impact on the lives of every American, but they have no tolerance for a politician who lies about screwing around on his wife just to preserve the "domestic tranquility." And - in case you were wondering how a thesis statement about marital equality and personal liberty became a diatribe about the Clinton sex scandals, here's the tie-in - THIS was when the Republicans started to let me down. They were going out of their way to beat a guy up because of something he did in his personal life. It's not like he was doing heroin or gambling online using a company credit card. He was having an affair. And while that may not exactly be a good thing for a married man to do, it didn't hurt anyone except his family. It didn't affect his ability to do his job and it didn't affect the lives of anyone in the country who wasn't either married to him, descended from him, or saving his semen stains on one of their dresses. The Republicans were, in a way, attacking his liberty. If Hilary wasn't going to leave him over some head or a little side pussy now and then, what gives the government the right to say boo about it? If the dude could still do his job - which statistically he did quite well - then there shouldn't be a problem. But, it wasn't about morality or ethics, it was about "Us vs. Them" and so of course it became a political issue. Thank God for Larry Flynt and his million dollar bounty for anyone who could provide proof that they were having an affair with a Republican congressman, so we could all see how hypocritical and disingenuous the whole witch hunt was.
This was when the honeymoon started to end with me and the Republican party. More and more I started to see the ways that, while they preached personal liberty and accountability, they practiced a very different set of beliefs. I suppose a lot of it also had to do with me maturing as well. Becoming more of an "adult" and starting to see things beyond the fishbowl of the town I grew up in and the values of that small, rural community. The thing about small towns is they tend to be conservative, judgmental and intolerant in a lot of ways. I was raised in an environment that was thick with homophobia and religious conservatism, and that influenced me. However, when I moved to the coast to live with my future wife while she attended school at UC Santa Cruz, I saw a whole different world. I saw people of all different races, religions (or lack thereof), sexual orientations and cultures. Not only did I see them, I got to know them and realize that people are basically either good guys or they aren't and everything else is academic, like accessories on a car, they don't change what's under the hood they just set it apart from all the others like it. It seems like such a no-brainer, this "radical" concept that all people are basically the same and should be treated as such, but when you're a small-town guy, raised in a narrow-cast conservative, religious fishbowl, it can be quite an eye-opener to discover that gays don't want to destroy your family, that atheists don't want to burn down churches and that supporting freedom and liberty for yourself means supporting it for everyone. True freedom, true liberty means allowing everyone to fly their freak flag, whether you agree with it or not, because liberty isn't about everyone agreeing with each other, it's about everyone respecting each other's rights to do things they might disagree with. It doesn't mean acceptance, it means tolerance. It doesn't mean you have to like it, it means you don't have to worry about it if I do. It means "You do you, and I'm gonna do me."
The more the Republican social agenda swayed towards the far-right, religious conservative end of the spectrum, the more disenfranchised I felt. The more I realized protecting liberty meant not just defending my own lifestyle, but that of all Americans, the more I realized the Republican stance on freedom and liberty was a hypocritical one. Ultimately, it was my dissatisfaction with the moral agenda of the conservatives that first turned me off of the Republican party, and caused me to start listening to the voices of opposition with both ears. Granted, the dismal turn of events during GW's 8-year run would eventually seal the fate of the GOP in regards to losing my allegiance permanently and my re-registering as a Libertarian, but the spark that started the fire began with that basic intolerance that I just could no longer rationalize, because it's not rational in the first place.
If Republicans truly believe in personal accountability and individual liberty. If they truly believe the government that governs best, governs least, if they truly believe that we don't need "big government" holding our hand and telling us what to do and all that other socialist "nanny state" stuff they decry publicly, then it is not rational for them to use the government to impose personal morality upon the people. It is not rational for them to legislate morality by banning gay marriage, by making vices into crimes, or by creating unnecessary laws to tell people what they can and can't do, when we are perfectly capable and entitled to make those decisions for ourselves.
In the first GOP primary debate, Ron Paul made a brilliant point about legalizing drugs. He said "If we legalize heroin tomorrow, is everyone is going use heroin? How many people here would use heroin if it were legal? I bet nobody would, but 'Oh yeah, I need the government to take care of me, I don't wanna do heroin so I need these laws!" To a resounding applause from the crowd. Ron Paul is a perfect example of the endangered segment of the Republican party who still believes all that stuff they say about defending liberty and protecting individual freedom and allowing adults to act like adults and make adult decisions and live with the consequences of their actions, even if they personally disagree with those choices, even if they personally wouldn't make the same decisions. Ron Paul believes in marital equality for the same reason he believes in legalizing drugs and prostitution - not because he supports those things or wants to participate in them, but because he believes, correctly, that it's not the government's responsibility to make those decisions for the people.
Ron Paul is the kind of Republican that made me want to register as a Republican when I turned 18. The brave Republican senators in New York who voted in favor of marital equality there do as well. It's unfortunate that they are currently a rarity in a party that has been hijacked and dominated by the far-right, religious extremists and the corporate oligarchs. The two elements of the Republican party that have completely swung the party agenda from all of the things they claim to be for - smaller government, more individual responsibility and accountability, personal liberty, defending our freedoms under the constitution - and redirected it towards less individual freedom and liberty, more government control over what we can and can't do, thus resulting in bigger government to watch over us, less empowerment of the individual and more support for those who would see the average American exploited instead.
So, as I watched the vote come in to legalize marital equality in New York, I was proud to see that some Republicans were willing to stand up and support less government intrusion into people's personal lives. I was proud to see them supporting personal accountability and responsibility and the freedoms granted under our constitution. It gives me a little hope that there are still some intelligent voices left in the GOP, that it hasn't been completely usurped by the mouth-breathers who think Michelle Bachmann is anything other than a ignorant, bigoted turd, that Mitt Romney knows a damn thing about the working man, other than how to eliminate his job, or that Rick Perry isn't "GW Bush for Dummies." It's too bad those voices are being drowned out by all these other, louder, dumber ones, but every great fire begins with a small spark...
The second thing I witnessed this weekend that made me feel proud of the gay community was the pride parade in San Francisco. We are fortunate enough to have access to a bay area community channel in our cable package and they broadcast the entire parade, with color commentary from what can only be described as a "colorful" panel of hosts, ranging from an Asian lesbian to a gay member of the SFPD to a hilariously flamboyant man in drag, along with two street level interviewers who went after the most outrageous characters in the parade to catch comments that ranged from the wild and silly to incredibly insightful and intelligent. The beauty of the pride parade is that it celebrates so much more than just the LGBT community. It celebrates personal liberty, individual freedom and everything the first amendment protects. It celebrates tolerance and equality and it's truly a spectacle to behold. Next year we're definitely going to attend the festivities in person. It looked like the biggest party you were missing out on if you weren't there, like mardi gras only without the humidity, and with way more leather.
I know there's a lot of random political news today. Michelle Bachmann accidentally said she admired infamous serial killer John Wayne Gacy instead of the actor John Wayne because apparently her staff is no smarter than she is when it comes to researching the things she says before she says them, such as the hometowns that each man hails from. Rod Blagoyavich got convicted on 17 out of 20 counts related to trying to sell Obama's senate seat after he became president. Congress continues to push for more corporate tax cuts, even as unemployment begins to creep back up. Lots of stuff I can get to and mock and bitch about later on if I want to. Today though, I'm feeling gay. Real gay. I'm feeling a little more like I live in America again, a country that prizes liberty and justice for all above all else. We got a long way to go, but when I see things like the marital equality vote in NY, the "Paul Frank" bill in Washington... when I watch the pride parade and see tens of thousands of people from all walks of life come together to celebrate personal liberty on the most basic level... It's encouraging. The times, they are a changin'. We're making progress, slowly but surely, and the more I see Republicans willing to stand up to the ignorant, intolerant element that has hijacked their party and turned it into a haven for xenophobes, bigots, extremists and hypocrites, the more encouraged I am that things will only continue to move forward. This train is picking up steam, get on board now before all the good seats are taken.