The run-up to an election is a trying time for friendships, especially for LGBT people who feel personally attacked when their friends vote for anti-equality candidates. Some of us, like HuffPost blogger Kergan Edwards-Stout, find ourselves saying "Please Defriend Me." This open letter to a friend tries to find another way.
I'm writing because I've been told you're leaning toward Romney this year, and I'd like to talk you out of that. Now, don't be offended, please. In fact, take it as a sign of my respect for your intellect and your open-mindedness. If I didn't respect you, I wouldn't even try.
Why should you listen to me? Because I know you.
I remember when you used to be a Democrat, along with much of your family and mine. Of course, circumstances have changed since then, in your life and in the country. You've never been a big fan of Obama, and lately you've been around some people with strong opinions against him, including a little bit of talk radio. Rush Limbaugh is potent, and your new friends persuasive, and I don't know if I can compete in a short letter, but I have three things going for me that they don't.
First, in 20 years, I've never lied to you; Rush has. Second, I love you and your family and have your best interests at heart more than your new friends or some stranger on the radio possibly could. And third, I'm less biased than they are.
Yep. You heard me. Less biased.
I know you think I'm completely swayed by the Democrats because I'm gay, and it's true that the president has been much better on gay issues than any president in history, while his challenger has promised to be the exact opposite, but here's a little secret about gays and lesbians that you won't hear on talk radio:
Gays are among the most conservative people you'll ever meet.
Think about all the institutions that conservatives claim to care about: marriage, church, the military. Those same institutions are cherished by many gays and lesbians. In fact, despite big talk from conservative leaders, many of them avoid church, dodge military service, and get divorce after divorce, trying like hell to stay out of those institutions, while gays and lesbians work, plead and even die to try to get in.
You know that there was a time in my life when I would have given anything to be able to openly serve in the Army or at a pulpit, and you know that my relationship has lasted longer than most of your conservative friends' marriages.
Gay or no, I live in this country, and its fate is mine.
Being able to serve overseas doesn't mean much when terrorists come to our shores. Being able to get married doesn't mean much if no one can afford to come to the wedding. Having workplace protections doesn't mean much if there are no jobs. So I may weigh gay issues more strongly in my decision making, but before I cast a vote, I look at the whole candidate, just like you do, and make my decision based on his or her values, policies and character, just like you do.
You've known me long enough to know that I've voted Independent and Republican in the past. And I've known you long enough to know what you value: God, work and basic human kindness. If you were to vote for a man who reflected those values, even if his policies hurt me personally, it would hurt, but I could at least respect it.But do you really think Mitt Romney is that man? And are you really sure Obama isn't?
Let's take a look at where the candidates stand on your values:
God, the Democratic Party Platform and Money
Obama himself is a strong believer in God. He's talked about his Christian faith many, many times -- more times, in fact, than Romney has. I know that talk is cheap, but we can't see a man's heart. If he says he's a believer, then we must take him at his word, and at his policies, just like we've done for every other president.
Despite what you may have heard, God is in the Democratic Party Platform. Yes, some Democrats have objected, but can't you see why they might?
- In the name of God, Pat Robertson blamed you and your family for hurricanes in Louisiana.
- In the name of God, churches have hidden pedophiles from the law.
- In the name of God, Mormons have historically prayed an "Oath of Vengeance," which asks God to enact blood retribution on the United States because the founders of the Mormon religion were killed by U.S. citizens.
The people who claim to be so godly want to cover their internal corruption by polishing the outside, like when Romney talks about things like keeping God on our currency.
No one is trying to take God off the currency, by the way, but is this really something that God cares about? God is God. If God wants to be on the money, He'll damn well be on the money. God doesn't need our help.
But God's children do. In fact, Jesus made clear what would prove our devotion, and it had nothing to do with putting the word "God" on a piece of paper. Every time the disciples tried to show their devotion by puffing up their chests the way people do, Jesus asked for something a lot harder: "If you love me, feed my sheep," and, "What you've done to the least of my brethren, you have done to me."
Work, Welfare and Clinton
This brings me to your problem with Obama and the work requirement for welfare. You've been told that Obama has increased the size of the welfare rolls and pulled back on Clinton's Welfare-to-Work requirements.
It's true that there are more people on welfare, but Obama inherited an economy that was losing 800,000 jobs per month! Would you really suggest letting those people starve? In some states the Clinton-introduced work requirement for welfare has been temporarily relaxed during the economic recovery, but the work requirement is still present, as Clinton himself explained at the Democratic National Convention.
I know there are many who believe that taking care of the poor should be the church's job, not government's, but if churches really believed that, wouldn't they try to be better at it? For the truly poor, these days, there aren't many alternatives but government help.
Your own church understands that the government plays a role. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has roundly criticized the Romney-Ryan budget for its disastrous consequences for the poor. Even Pope Benedict has called for an end to the type of greedy capitalism that the anti-regulation, trickle-down economics that the Romney-Ryan policies represent.
In light of the Romney-Ryan budget's failure to even try to provide basic safety for the poor, while providing tax cuts for the super-rich, all of that talk about God is revealed as empty piety.
They're so worried about keeping God on the money because they know they've stopped keeping God in their money.
Basic Human Kindness
Finally, let's talk about the third thing you value: plain old human decency. I saved this for last because, sadly, this is where you differ most from the people you're thinking of supporting.
A couple of weeks ago, Paul Ryan met with a group of leading right-wing religious types and assured them that the Romney administration would try to enact their agenda. These people have repeatedly called people like me pedophiles, Nazis and every other horrible thing. They've gone to other countries and supported the death penalty for gays. They've openly advocated making my relationship illegal. These are hateful, hateful people, and the Romney-Ryan ticket owes them.
And it's not just about gays. You live in Louisiana. I know you've heard all the race-based Obama hatred. You know the jokes. Stop and think about that for a minute. You know where much of Romney's support in Louisiana comes from.
I'm not saying Romney is racist, or that everyone who supports him is a racist, but I am saying much of his support is racially motivated, and you know it. Furthermore, much of his support comes from people who want me criminalized or dead. They've had his ear, and they've already heard enough promises from him to know they will have power in his administration.
You are no racist or homophobe. You're not like the people who've gone out of their way to misinform you. But do you trust them? Do you want to cast your ballot with them? Do you really want to reward their behavior with your support?
Has Mitt Romney proven he shares your values in any meaningful way?
Not once has he exhibited any godly concern for regular hardworking people like you and me. In fact, with his rich donor friends, he dismissed us outright. Not once has he stood up to the hateful elements of his party, and he's had many chances. In fact, in his treatment of cops, of workers, of the family dog, of the U.S. tax code, he's proven he can be pretty heartless himself.
Now there are a lot of friendships being lost over this election, both on Facebook and in person. A lot of gays and lesbians, like the man who wrote this article, are taking it very personally that people are voting in ways that specifically harm us, and rightly so. It is personal, and maybe he has enough friends already. I don't. And I know it's hard to get good information sometimes, especially when you're surrounded by bad information, so I'll forgive the personal slight. I'd love to see you vote for Obama, but no matter what happens in November, I want you to know that you're still family to me, and still my friend.
However, If you're going to vote for a man who has promised to roll back my rights, then it's a kick to my stomach if that man doesn't at least share your values enough to deserve that vote.
And no matter what you've been told, Mitt Romney just plain doesn't. Better that you didn't vote at all.
Follow Wayne Self on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ewayneself