In these modern times, it is funny how we forge interesting and new kinds of relationships through media, social and otherwise. We gain unique attachments to people we have never met, some of whom we interact with on Twitter or Facebook, and some of whom we have never interacted with at all. I have such a pseudo-relationship with former first lady Laura Bush.
This week our relationship, which had moved into a rather warm and appreciative state of late, took a turn for the worse. Mrs. Bush had been featured in a new ad by the Respect for Marriage Coalition in which she and other Republican leaders had expressed support for marriage equality ideals. After the ad came out, she requested that her likeness and comments be removed from the public airways.
The request was perplexing since we have just come off an election cycle where a great many people were featured in a great number of television spots. Since most of those instances were intended to show these people in a bad light, I am pretty certain that none of them had given permission for their public comments to be used, or in some cases, mis-used.
The ad featuring Mr. Bush was not one of those situations. It presented Mrs. Bush making her point as she had intended it. It did not ridicule her nor was it defaming. With that puzzlement in mind, I would have felt remiss if I did not reach out to my virtual-media comrade in the form of an open letter. Here it is:
Dear Mrs. Bush,
First, I want to thank you for your grace and poise that you have shown to, and on behalf of, the American people. I have not always been on the same side of the political spectrum as you but have always held you with an earned level of respect.
You and I, coming from different walks of life, actually have a great deal in common. We know the issues of recovery in our family. Not only are we parents, but we are the parents of twins. Yours are girls, mine are boys. We each have a blonde and a brunette. Both our sets of siblings seem to be made up of independent, confident, well-grounded individuals. You are proud of your girls, as you should be, and I am equally proud of my boys. You and I each make our love, respect and priority of our children publicly clear and emphatic. You and I met of sorts in a virtual way on Valentine's Day weekend 2004. We were each visible on public media that week -- me, locally and you, nationally.
That week, the mayor of San Francisco had opened up City Hall and allowed same-sex couples to obtain marriage licenses and marry. My partner and I were there. We stood in a line with our then 2-year-old boys on our shoulders. The boys were very cute in their white turtlenecks, little black pants and tennis shoes, but more importantly, they demonstrated our whole reason for being there.
We were looking to legally affirm what we already knew to be true -- that we are a family. We were proud to stand with other families like ours, out of the shadows, to show that we love and we live as anyone else, and deserve the same due process.
A local San Francisco Bay area news team interviewed us as we waited and that footage was featured on the news here that evening. Soon after, the press covered your viewpoint as well in which you described our marriages as "shocking." Again, you and I had something in common. My actions to assert the legitimacy of my family shocked you, and your reaction which demeaned us, shocked me.
The strain between you and I continued over the next few years as your husband's political team capitalized on the public fear of families like mine and used it to create wedges and electoral capital. Admittedly, the tension was based on guilt-by-association, but there was nothing offered to offset it either.
Once your family left office, the icy feelings began to thaw. First your daughters showed that they were pretty great people in their own rights. Your daughter Barbara stepped out bravely for marriage equality, and your daughter Jenna took you onto Ellen Degeneres' show. Jenna offered up the family ranch for Ellen to use for her future wedding. Your "shocked" demeanor was not completely gone, but you made the effort.
Then, in 2010, you appeared on Larry King. It was during that interview that you endorsed families such as mine, and to be honest, it was my turn to be shocked. The cynical side of me wanted to say that it was "too little, too late," but mostly, I was warmly gratified. Our kindred spirits, the parents of twins, our love of children and their well-being, and our sense of fairness seemed to have met in the cosmos, and it felt wonderful.
Now, you seem to want to pull it back. It is unclear as to why, exactly. As a blogger, I know what it is like to have people take things you have expressed and run them in other venues without your permission. Personally, I am thrilled and grateful when my expressions are used with good intent and given the ability to reach more people.
I dearly wished that you felt the same.
Your daughters are twice the age of my sons. As I look at my boys, their confidence, their ideas and their basic goodness, I know I have been doing something right. When you look at the fine young women that your daughters have become, you must feel the same. You deserve that credit.
Someone, somewhere must have told them to stand up for what is right. I suspect it was you. I have seen that I give the best of myself to my sons in my instructions to them. There are times when I need to look at that instruction and absorb some of it back for myself, so I too can live and act as I would have them. It is a "Do as I say, and I will try to do it too..." kind of thing. In that, I let my sons show me the way.
Please let your daughters do the same for you. Please do the right thing and continue with your evolvement on fairness, equality and family commitment. Please give my family the same dignity that you allow for your own. You have done it before, you can do it now.
Please be more my friend, and not my pseudo...
Follow Rob Watson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/JandJDad