I am not typically drawn to the politics of this two caste system, but I must admit, I am totally intrigued by what it has meant to this country in current times. Each side has been vying for desperate positioning. The debates have been charged with vigor on both ends. Both candidates presenting what they consider their best face. The differences between the two men have been glaring. I' ve been fascinated by a certain issue, however.
In the vice-presidential debate, John Edwards made a specific reference to Dick Cheney's daughter, Mary, being a lesbian. In fairness to Edwards, he brought this up in reference to a question posed by Gwen Ifill to the vice-president:
IFILL: The next question goes to you, Mr. Vice President.
I want to read something you said four years ago at this very setting: "Freedom means freedom for everybody." You said it again recently when you were asked about legalizing same-sex unions. And you used your family's experience as a context for your remarks (emphasis added).
Can you describe then your administration's support for a constitutional ban on same-sex unions?
The vice-president discussed the president's position on this matter. Then it was Edwards turn to give his 90 second response. At one point he said, "let me say first that I think the vice president and his wife love their daughter. I think they love her very much. And you can't have anything but respect for the fact that they're willing to talk about the fact that they have a gay daughter, the fact that they embrace her. It's a wonderful thing. And there are millions of parents like that who love their children, who want their children to be happy."
I found Edwards mentioning of Cheney's daughter being lesbian to be benign; it was referenced to by Ifill's question. There were plenty of Americans who did not realize what Ifill was referencing and Edwards put it out there more directly. That being said I believe Edwards used it politically as well. Edwards must have realized that by making it clear that Cheney's daughter is a lesbian would benefit him politically. Why? Because there exists a significant contingency within the Republican chambers who believe that to be gay or lesbian is "wrong," a matter of choice an individual makes. This same contingency also believes that the parents are to blame if their son or daughter "turns out" to be gay or lesbian. These nonsensical thoughts are a reality within a certain segment of the Republican worldview and Edwards used that to tarnish the Vice-president's image. It shouldn't work, but it probably does amongst certain segments of this country. Cheney did not appear to be offended by this reference because it was in the context of the question. However, many republicans spat hell-fire and brimstone about Edwards' reference after the debate.
To further the cause, Kerry implemented it in his last debate with the Prez. Kerry's invocation of Mary Cheney came off much more disingenuous, too political. The question never mentioned Dick Cheney's daughter, but Kerry saw a political chance and took it. It angered the Cheney family. Angered? Hmm . . . angered them that Kerry mentioned that she was a lesbian? Yes, it was political, but why anger about mentioning orientation? Here's what I've observed.
There are three groups of responses around this public acknowledging of one's homosexual orientation. The first group are people who see mentioning someone's son or daughter as being gay or lesbian equivalent to mentioning someone's son or daughter being a convicted child molester. It becomes the nasty "L" or "G" words. This group is mostly made up of politically conservative individuals who see gay and lesbian as something shameful and evil.
The second group made up of both conservatives and liberals and all in between see this reference to Cheney's daughter as slightly uncomfortable, but not unmentionable. They believe that talking about it is equivalent to mentioning a daughter who has breast cancer in a conversation about healthcare. For instance, if the question was addressing the administration's statutes regarding healthcare, and Edwards or Kerry mentioned that this should be an important issue to Bush or Cheney because their daughters or wives battled some debilitating illness, this second group views homosexuality under the same microscope. They see homosexuality from a disease model.
The third group sees homosexuality as a minority issue like race or gender. There exists no offense in mentioning what someone is. It is not a shameful nor disease laden topic. If instead of being lesbian, Mary were black and the Cheney's had adopted her, there would be relevance in this group to mention that the Cheney's have a black daughter when talking about civil rights and affirmative action. One's orientation is not a pejorative reference. This third group is filled with consciously evolved beings, mostly liberals, but not exclusively. There are some moderate conservatives who fit smoothly into this category.
I try to operate from this third category in regards to this issue. Orientation will never be shameful to me, nor will it be considered a disease. It is like my race, but like my race, I hate the fact that it is used as political positioning. I am reminded of some lyrics by Run-DMC,
"I'm proud to be black, yall.
And that's a fact, yall
And if you try to take what's mine
I'll take it back yall
It's like that . . ."