THE BLOG

Family and Politics, Sister and Brother, Republican and Democrat

11/05/2012 05:35 pm ET | Updated 5 days ago
  • James Stack Poet, 'Pleasures and Seasons of Vermont;' and memoirist, 'World’s Fair'

Some people may think it odd that the person I'm closest to in my family, my sister, is a Republican -- and not just any Republican. She's married to a previous Republican State Chairman from a Southern state who is also a major GOP fundraiser. We rarely talk politics, yet during this presidential season we have had conversations, although peripheral and few in number. The other day she told me that her state had raised millions more for Romney than for any other GOP candidate in the past. She has informed me of each time the Romneys have visited her home, and how wonderful Ann Romney is. I'd like to think that the Romneys are decent people, but I still don't want them to be our country's first family. Furthermore, she told me that she and her husband will be with the Romneys in Boston on election night to celebrate in the event that Mitt Romney wins. The following is what I would have liked to have said to her in response:

You know that Ron and I have been together for 33 years. You came to and participated in our commitment ceremony back in 1999. You are aware that we tied the knot in Vermont in 2009 once same-sex couples could marry in our adopted home state. We typically stay with you in your home when we go to the South. You always appear so accepting, yet you are supporting someone for president who would continue to deny us equal protection under the Constitution and do all in his power to deny us the rights as a married couple that you and your husband take for granted.

As a person with cancer who is rapidly approaching retirement age, I'm looking forward to both Medicare and Social Security to help pave the way through my later years, and I am thankful that Obama cares enough to have provided us with Obamacare so that my preexisting condition will be covered. And to think that Obamacare has already helped millions of seniors and people with disabilities better afford prescription drugs and has guaranteed that 17 million children with preexisting conditions will no longer be denied health insurance coverage! Yet you, with whom I am so close, are supporting a candidate for president who would do all in his power to take those things away; Romney would prevent me from receiving medical coverage for my cancer.

There is also my niece, your 20-year-old daughter, who currently lives with you. Under Obamacare she qualifies to be covered under your family's medical insurance. Your daughter is also entitled to apply for student loans, Pell Grants, for which Obama has doubled the funding, and you could take advantage of the college tax credit established by Obama. Your daughter will one day find herself in the labor market (which has seen 32 months of job growth, adding 5.4 million private-sector jobs), where she will be able to earn equal pay for equal work thanks to Obama signing into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. (How appropriate that my niece has the same first name.) Why would you support a man who would nominate Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade and cause your own daughter such hardship in the future? At least with Obama we know that he supports women making their own health choices, which are personal decisions and best made in conjunction with a doctor, without interference from employers or politicians.

And then there are all the other things -- huge things -- like responsibly ending the war in Iraq; killing Osama bin Laden; rescuing the American auto industry from collapse, thereby saving more than 1 million jobs; passing Wall Street reform, thus empowering the consumer; cutting taxes by $3,600 for typical middle-class families making $50,000 a year; establishing historic fuel efficiency standards that will save families thousands of dollars at the pump; repealing "don't ask, don't tell"; and, dear to my heart, supporting marriage equality.

But I didn't say any of these things. My sister and I tango around these issues. We haven't discussed any of them, as I fear that they would drive a wedge between us from which we may never recover. I so wish that we could discuss these things civilly, but while George W. Bush was president, if any of these matters came up, the conversation quickly deteriorated into a less-than-pleasant discussion, for which I take complete blame. I am adamantly opposed to those who would deny me the rights that our Constitution guarantees.

My memoir, World's Fair, recently serialized on The Huffington Post, tells the story of how my sister saved my life. I will be eternally grateful to her for that. Many people, upon reading this memoir, have commented on how lucky I am to have her for a sister (I wholeheartedly agree), what a special person she must be (she is truly very special), and how they hope that she still has my back (she has told me that she does). That gives me hope that when she walks into the voting booth on Tuesday, she will vote intelligently, and with her heart. I hope she'll vote for Obama, even if she has to tell everyone she voted for Romney. I would like to think that this is what she will do -- and we need never speak of it.

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