Thursday, April 4, 2013

201. Portman's selfish move helps US

I've often noticed when celebrities get involved in medical causes that it is because of a personal interest-usually themselves or one of the their children has been overcome by the disease or illness. Think of Michael J. Fox and his work for Parkinson's disease as one example. As a celebrity, they have an opportunity to bring tremendous awareness and funding to the cause--and it is great that they do.

However, it's obvious that there is a self-interest in the undertaking. Finding a cure would help them or someone they care about overcome the disease, and I guess nobody can be blamed for that. The fight also stems from personal awareness. In being inflicted with the disease, they have likely met many others who share the same struggle. Suddenly, it is an issue worth fighting for.

I thought of this sudden awareness when I heard that Senator Rob Portman had abruptly changed his position on gay marriage--because of his gay son. This perspective, of course, goes against the conservative mindset and the values that he embraced. His change of position is selfish and hypocritical.

And of course, Portman is not the first Republican to have this change of heart; former Vice-President Dick Cheney had the same revelation, for the exact same reason.

In writing "Consider this . . .," I have always worked to challenge perspectives. We should think about the issues, from many perspectives and come to a moral and ethical position. It should not be driven primarily based on self-interest, but rather what is right or wrong. Until sparked by a personal interest (and notably after he was no longer a possible Vice-Presidential candidate) Portman was willing to ruin the lives of gays who wanted to marry.

Matthew Yglesias, of Slate magazine, makes this distinct point:

"Remember when Sarah Palin was running for vice president on a platform of tax cuts and reduced spending? But there was one form of domestic social spending she liked to champion? Spending on disabled children? Because she had a disabled child personally? Yet somehow her personal experience with disability didn't lead her to any conclusions about the millions of mothers simply struggling to raise children in conditions of general poorness. Rob Portman doesn't have a son with a pre-existing medical condition who's locked out of the health insurance market. Rob Portman doesn't have a son engaged in peasant agriculture whose livelihood is likely to be wiped out by climate change. Rob Portman doesn't have a son who'll be malnourished if SNAP benefits are cut. So Rob Portman doesn't care."

Trying to find some sort of justification, Portman wrote in the Columbus Dispatch, "We conservatives believe in personal liberty and minimal government interference in people's lives."

That is not entirely true. Many Conservatives believe that government should be based on the principles of Christianity--which is quite adept when it comes to telling people how they should live their lives. And they have no trouble limiting liberties when they want to tell woman what they can do with their bodies, who should be allowed to live in this country, what language we should speak-and who is allowed to marry.

Conservatives, like everyone else, pick and choose when they want regulation and when they want personal liberties. When people do not behave how they would like them to, they ask government to make them. Whether their arguments about a particular issue are right or wrong, Portman's assertion is ridiculous.

If that wasn't enough, Portman then said, "The overriding message of love and compassion that I take from the Bible, and certainly the Golden Rule, and the fact that I believe we are all created by our maker, that has all influenced me in terms of my change on this issue." Huh? That doesn't even make sense--it's just an attempt to use as many key words as possible in a sentence (Bible, Golden Rule, created by our maker, love and compassion). In fact, it's his interpretation of the Bible that shaped his view of gay marriage.

Conversely, by many counts, the Bible includes over 100 passages on serving the poor. Yet, Portman misses this message when he works to protect the interest of the wealthy. Where is his love and compassion when it comes to the poor?

The truth is I do not care how we get there, as long we move progressively forward. Having to choose between his son and his values, I will accept the public enlightenment of Portman as a positive revelation that will help move this country forward.

Admitting that you were wrong, especially on a moral issue, is something that many people-particularly public officials-are reluctant to do, so I give Portman credit for his public announcement.

Maybe he will take this opportunity to also revisit some of his other perspectives.