I hereby applaud anyone's awakening. I champion anyone's arrival to a new and improved state of awareness, a more compassionate way of being resulting (most frequently) from the unexpected release of some ugly, false conviction that only served to keep you angry and cramped and Republican and very much on the wrong side of history.
Which is to say, it behooves not just you or me, but all of humanity to acknowledge when a powerful, long-irrational public figure has a personal breakthrough that leads to less fear, more kindness, more understanding, even more -- dare I say it without either of us cringing and rolling our eyes? -- love.
It happens all the time; it doesn't happen nearly enough.
So it went with Sen. Rob Portman, classic rigid Republican from Ohio, rated very near zero on all scales of goodness and love WRT civil liberties, social issues, the environment, women's rights, gay rights et al, according to various watchdog groups that keep track of such things (NARAL, FAIR, ACLU, etc). Portman's views on the issues of the day still bode quite ill and ugly for modern culture as a whole.
Until now. Until, I'm guessing, just this once.
In case you missed it, Portman took what some consider to be a radical, even brave step into the cultural fray when he very publicly reversed his stance on gay marriage, not when it was particularly safe to do so, not when he stood no chance of re-election anyway, not because he was just arrested with a gay meth dealer in an airport bathroom stall, but simply because his own son came out as gay.
Bingo. After years of deep homophobia and toeing the heartless party line, the mildly thoughtful senator finally snapped to the fact that his kid deserved as much right to be as in love, legally married, miserable and undersexed as anyone else.
Is it not a nice thing? A little bit brave? Should such a public turnabout by one of the GOP's "rising stars" (and currently the only active Repub in Congress to publicly support gay marriage) be cause for celebration and stunned headlines throughout the land? Of course it should. Even Obama patted Portman on the ego. Good job, Rob. Way to wake the hell up. Tell your friends.
Of course, we must hereby put "brave" in quotes, with a truckload of caveats, simply for the fact it took a politician until his own child came out for him to realize how abhorrent and reprehensible is the GOP's Bible-stupid stance on homosexuality. You're a public servant, Rob. Shouldn't you be equally concerned about everyone else's gay kids? Like, 20 years ago?
It is brave, I suppose, to risk the wrath of all the extremist knuckle-draggers in your own party. It's always brave to admit that you've been dead wrong for pretty much your entire life about what millions of other people already knew. But, really now. You know when you suddenly wake up to the fact that, say, shooting large animals with high-powered rifles for sport is moronic and sort of horrible? It's that kind of brave. Which is to say, also sort of foregone. A given.
But you know what? It's easy to be cynical. It's easy to be more than a little snide and disparaging, especially when confronted with yet another longtime Republican homophobe who's had a change of heart, even if all he's doing is realizing he didn't really have one before. Welcome to basic human decency, senator. What took you so long?
As Politico's Roger Simon < A HREF="https://twitter.com/politicoroger" target="_blank">tweeted: "Does this mean Portman has to have a black child before he'll support civil rights?" Or further: Does this mean someone he loves must be raped before he'll reconsider his anti-choice stance, or someone dear to him has to be shot with an assault weapon before he'll support a simple ban? Is this really the reactionary, emotionally stunted way most conservatives operate?
Be careful of your answer. Do not get too cocky. I've known plenty of very smart libs and progressive who've had (or could sure use) similar breakthroughs over a wide variety of issues that keep them mean and judgmental, not about homosexuality per se, but certainly about convictions just as troubling to their families, hearts, worldviews. Republicans certainly have no lock on the needful personal epiphany market. Hold too tightly to any ideology, and watch your soul shrivel.
Then again, my friends' personal lockdowns aren't ruining millions of lives; they aren't lying about the Bible, aren't souring the flavor of the species as a whole, and aren't getting kids beaten up, hated or killed. So, you know, relative.
By the way, isn't it interesting how you never see a Portman-type scenario in reverse? How you will never hear an intelligent progressive step up to a microphone and say, "Ladies and gentlemen, after years of fighting for liberal causes, I've come to the conclusion, after my daughter revealed she's a born-again Christian, that I've had it all wrong. I now believe women are far inferior to men, and the church should make all the decisions about their horrible vaginas. Also, more guns will solve the problem of all the guns, homosexuality is a disease, and black people should never be allowed anywhere near a public drinking fountain. Thank you." True heart openings are always toward the progressive; true thoughtfulness never constricts.
Perhaps this is the ugly downside of Portman's epiphany, and why it made headlines at all: because of the stark contrast to the norm. Because the right's intolerance is still so heartless and cruel. Because so many conservatives still react in the exact opposite manner when their kid -- or any kid -- comes out.
Which is to say, they will not welcome their gay child. They will not offer compassion, understanding or love. Many gay children are instead shunned, abused, beaten, rejected and kicked out of the house. The parents will refuse to attend the gay wedding, refuse to allow the gay partner into the home, will never speak to their godless pervert kid ever again.
Don't think it happens much anymore? You are wrong. It happens far more than you think. And it's behavior completely exclusive to the conservative right.
But maybe that's changing? Cracking open, just a little? After all...
Read the rest of this column by clicking here
Mark Morford is the author of The Daring Spectacle: Adventures in Deviant Journalism, a mega-collection of his finest columns for the San Francisco Chronicle and SFGate, and the creator of the NEW Mark Morford's Apothecary iPhone app. He's also a well-known ERYT yoga instructor in San Francisco. Join him on Facebook, or email him. Not to mention...