Friday, March 15, 2013

The Road to Damascus

I was reading about Republican senator Rob Portman's about-face on the gay marriage issue tonight. The gist of it is that he was strongly against gay marriage, then he found out his own son was gay, now he decided it's a good idea after all. DOMA is wrong, says the suddenly enlightened senator.

I'm reminded of the story of the conversion of Paul the Apostle. According to the New Testament, Paul, who began his life as Saul of Tarsus, was an ardent persecutor of early Christians. Traveling to Damascus, he had a vision of the resurrected Jesus and subsequently became an equally ardent Christian. In Portman's case there was no vision of supernatural beings, just a vision of his own son revealing to him who he really is. 

Funny how it's easy to rail against something when it's just an abstract concept that has no direct connection to your own life, but one fine day when it unexpectedly affects you or someone close to you, the world suddenly looks a lot different. Said Portman: "It allowed me to think about this issue from a new perspective and that’s as a dad who loves his son a lot and wants him to have the same opportunities that his brother and sister have."

I'll give the good Senator credit for seeing the error of his ways and admitting that publicly, but there's still a kind of bitter aftertaste of hypocrisy that I can't quite get out of my mouth. Portman has called for the repeal of "Obamacare"; would he rethink that position if his son couldn't get health insurance because of some pre-existing condition? Portman has voted against a number of measures related to gun control; would he feel differently if his son had been among the victims in Aurora or Newtown when some unbalanced guy with a military-grade weapon showed up and began blasting away?

It's easy to think that all illegal immigrants are here to live off welfare and food stamps when you've never actually met one. It's easy to think that the minimum wage is a bunch of liberal nonsense when you've never spent time with somebody who is trying to scrape by on $7.25 an hour. It's easy to think that 47% of Americans are lazy do-nothings whose only purpose in life is to live off other people's taxes when you are most at home among people who can afford to attend your $50,000-a-plate fundraiser. I wonder what the Republican party would look like if its members would just get out a little more.

Aw, c'mon guys! You didn't think I really meant it when I voted for DOMA, did you?