For those who read my articles or listen to my radio show, you know a majority of my time is devoted to economic issues, integrity and ethics in government, and our general relationship with our government. However, I have never been shy about sharing with you the fact I consider myself a conservatarian (conservative-libertarian) and a Christian. I have shared stories about my family, my military and police service and the charities I feel committed to. I do this not for my benefit, but so you understand there are many life experiences that make us who we are.
In general, most of you have respected these elements of my being, even when you ardently disagree with me. Although debates with some of you have been spirited, they have been devoted to the free exchange of ideas whose foundation is rooted in honest, intellectual discussion. I wish the same could be said regarding the debate this week on Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
This topic is not easy to discuss because it can be emotional, but one we have discussed on my radio show. The audio and visual media helps to afford us not only the time to discuss the topic with respect, but permits people to hear the tone of our voices and the inflection of our words. It is a harder topic to discuss in an article or in social media, since it becomes just mere words for some people, absent of spoken context. The truth is, I will never know what it is like to be black, Hispanic, a woman, gay, mental-physically disabled, or of a different religious belief in our world. However, that does not mean I am ignorant to true injustice and inequality. It is important for all of us to remember something my father once said to me: “Just because you’re different does not mean you’re better.” This is something he learned in the military, but something I knew he understood his whole life. This simple statement had a profound effect on me throughout my life.
My father grew up in the South as a Catholic at a time when the KKK made the rules. I am in no way comparing the experience of being black in the segregated South to those who were Catholic, Jewish or a minority deemed less than others. Nor am I comparing the concerns of today’s society with the issue of inequality of our past. My father and his family had the “luxury” of being white, but still experienced prejudice because of their faith. This shaped my father’s attitude. Serving in an integrated military strengthened my father’s belief that all of us were different, but we all shared human dignity. This point was made clear in the following message I received from a listener of my show (edits were made to respect the privacy of the family):
“I am writing you as a quasi-conservative/libertarian/independent gay man who loves gay rights but is infuriated by the nonsense going on in the media as it pertains to the Indiana religious freedom law. I cannot believe the ignorance being disseminated to the public through the news media right now. There is no question that the liberal gay rights movement is largely responsible for the freedoms and liberties that I and my family enjoy today.
“My husband and I have adopted beautiful children out of the New Hampshire foster care system and we enjoy the protections of gay marriage in this great state. We feel safe to go about our lives and our careers without any thought of fear of retaliation from our neighbors, employers or our place of worship. I credit the gay rights movement for this but that is the end of any credit I will give. I am a Hoosier by birth. I grew up in a small town in Indiana to parents who were struggling small business owners. There were no gay rights and by my recollection, at least in my small farm town, the culture was rather bigoted, not just towards gays but to anyone different culturally, racially or otherwise. I’m not talking about the 1950s either; I am 35 so this was the 80s and 90s.
“But today as a Christian and as a veteran and as a resident of New Hampshire who is gay, I am appalled at the shear intellectual dishonesty and lack of veracity the media and gay rights movement are displaying. As a respected conservative pundit in New Hampshire I hope that you will be able to express that not every gay person follows this hyperbolic rhetoric hook, line and sinker. This is still America where individuals have freedom of thought, opinion, expression, and certainly speech. I do believe strongly in gay rights including gay marriage, but I believe equally as strongly in the individual’s right not to sell me a cake or whatever other ridiculous slight that activists can conjure up. Every activist group should have among its most hallowed tenets, a true desire to be obsolete. My fear is that the gay rights movement in its desire to remain relevant will undo the good it has certainly done and create a hateful backlash. That is a scary thought. So I am asking that you give voice to this side of the story in your coverage and know that I am not the only person who is gay that feels this way. There are many of us out there.”
The person who wrote this message to me is someone I respect a great deal, and he and his family have been a positive influence not only on my life, but on so many who have been blessed to meet them. This wonderful family has played a large part in helping to shape my attitudes on many issues, and served to remind me that “Just because you’re different does not mean you’re better.”
What happened in Indiana and across this nation this past week was just another disgusting display of mob rule. The media and professional agitators had their cause du jour and were determined to take no prisoners. There was a lot of yelling, screaming and name calling. Too many on both sides of the discussion lost respect for the opinions and sincere beliefs of others. Many people did not even read the law, and many more were unaware that in fact Indiana did not have an anti-discrimination charter in place prior to the passage of the RFRA. Too many debated the issue from a position of ignorance, and it showed.