Thursday, August 26, 2010

All too Easy

This week the blogs are all alight with the coming out of Ken Mehlman, President Bush's former campaign manager and architect of his homophobic 2004 campaign. Melhman has been a vocal opponent to gay rights and strong supporter of George Bush Juniors efforts to write a ban on gay marriage into the U.S. constitution. He was Bush's Political Director during his first term and Head of the Republican National Committee from 2005-07. He has stumped the campagn trial in opposition to gay rights and marriage equality and actively worked against the gay community because he was getting paid very well to do so.

Well, now he is coming out claiming that he knew he was gay...despite public denials...but that he was, "not comfortable with that part of himself" which is his one sentence summation for why he worked for one of the most homophobic administrations in recent history. It's also the defacto excuse for why he went to such lengths to make sure that America stayed focused on the "gay menace" for the Bush administration....because he wasnt "comfortable with himself"....yeah...I'm sure the position of power and fat paycheck didn't hurt either.

But now he's out and its a big deal...well I have a song for Ken...find it after the jump..




I'm changing the lyrics a bit to  reflect the story...

"Comin out it was easy....cause I know I won't have to sacrifice"

It sure seems easy now....when the Republican party is becoming split within their own party about acceptance of gays, when you are no longer employed with the express purpose of stagnating gay rights for your overlords...and when you find it politically advantageous to come over to the Pro-marriage camp now that public opinion is shifting in favor of it. It's easy to come out when what you stand to lose is minimal.

The problem here is that Mehlman's sexuality was a very poorly kept secret. Mike Rodgers of Blogactive has been blowing the whistle on Mehlman for years. Even Bill Mahar outed Mehlman on air in a segment that got cut from airtime and buried in an avalanche of White House denials. Both of these incidents were documented in the movie Outrage. So, we already knew Mehlman was gay and most of the work of coming out had already been accomplished, usually in the face of Mehlmans vehement denials.

Now...one the one hand I know that coming out to yourself is very difficult and that some of us just can't do it until well into our adult lives. I fault no one for that. That Ken Mehlman took a long time to accept himself is plausable. What is NOT plausible is using that to explain his actions under the Bush administration.

Nor is acceptance of himself an adequate explanation for his sudden step back into the public light. As the nations attitudes have slowly shifted to above  50% mark for support of gay issues, so have conservatives begun to shift away from using gays as a wedge issue to define them from Democrats. Republican politicians and pundits alike, being politcally savvy, have noticed the change in the wind and moved to capitalize on it. With people like Ann Coulter...how was way over the top against gays before...now coming out in support of gays, more and more conservatives are making a sudden about face. This change in attitude need not be confusing when you see the poll numbers for public support of gay marriage. Republicans are positioning themselves to look like the good guys when full marriage rights are finally won. They are hoping that we will forget all the rhetoric and the fear of us they engendered in the American public. They are hoping we will forget how much they profited from that as well. They want to sweep in late in the game after having done no work to support the gay community, in most cases working to harm us, and them claim credit when the fight is over.

This is why its easy for Ken Mehlman to come out now. It may be hard for him to say the words out loud...it may be hard to face those who are now pointing out the obvious hypocracy...but facing harsh criticism is his biggest loss. In fact he stands to gain more now by putting himself back in the limelight and recasting himself as a defender of the gay community. He may end up in a nice job at the HRC or Log Cabin Republicans or GoProud. Indeed, he is now opening his rolodex of contacts to the fight for marriage equality and many people are cooing with happiness over this fact welcoming him out of the closet.

The problem with this is that he will need to do alot to take responsibility for the actions he took under President Bush. Its not enough to come out in public and say "I regret all that". Too many people have suffered along the way. Now he needs to work for that recognition. Like Larry Craig, or Roy Ashburn...its easy to say.."oops! I'm sorry for all the work I did to destroy the rights of other gay people even though I myself am gay" and then be expected to be embraced with open arms. The dog has simply been beaten too much to trust your outstretched hand. Its gonna take alot of work and accepting alot of the blowback from his previous efforts against us.

I don't believe that anyone is beyond redemption. I need to believe that...its just something peculiar about me and what I know about human beings. We all have the potential for horrible actions, even if we never act on that potential. I've seen this all to clearly in my own life. As a young man, I was very fundamentalist and had nothing but horrible things to say about gay people. I was also in deep denial about myself. How ironic that I now sit here, married to a man and blogging for gay rights. I have made many mistakes in my life and I know how important forgiveness and acceptance can be. We get, after all, what we give. But I am not sure we are ready to see Ken Mehlman in that light. What Ken Mehlman did under President Bush was incredibly and willfully selfish...so much so that I don't think he can fully comprehend it when confronted. He sold out his own sexuality and the lives of others while at the same time expecting to be able to act on that same sexuality. He profited from working against the rights of others on the basis of a trait that was also integral to himself. Now...he wants to be accepted for that trait. I also suspect that this sudden urge to come out is not limited to an amazing moment of epiphany but that he also smelled the change in the wind and is attempting to capitalize on it.

So before we talk about acceptance...before we talk about redemption...the work he did against the gay community needs to acknowledged and atoned for. Don't just open the rolodex to HRC...tell us the real story about who said what in the White House and who is responsible for the events that occured. Roll up your sleeves and get dirty...we know you are capable of that because you did it for Bush. Make us believe that this is for real. Forgiveness...redemption...acceptance...all of these can be given without condition, but all of us must face responsibility for what we have done with our lives and act to remedy those things. We must repair the damage we have done. Mr. Mehlman is no different...nor am I. Thats the part that isn't so easy.

8 comments:

  1. sorry guys...I had to borrow a quote from Darth Vader for this one. Its been far too long since I've had a Star Wars reference.

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  2. I need to see tears before I believe a word the man says.

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  3. David. G (thatgaybloke)August 26, 2010 at 2:18 PM

    Both anecdote and scientific studies lend considerable weight to the conclusion that men who are most violently homophobic are simply exhibiting a manifestation of their internal conflicts of their own sexuality. The evidence just keeps stacking up, doesn't it? It's easy to be angry at people like Mehlman, but really we should pity miserable,pathetic creatures like these. Everyone now knows enough about Mehlman to make an accurate assessment of his character and integrity. I'm certainly pleased I'm not him.

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  4. Can there be a check box at the bottom for "brilliantly written"? There needs to be one. Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I don't watch the news much, so you're blog is my main source for what's going on in the BGLT world. I always enjoy reading your thoughtful perspective on issues.

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  5. For some reason in '04 they REALLY singled out Ohio. It was so nasty..it just sort of appeared on the ballot. The GLBT community had no time to fight back. "Shall we preserve the sanctity of marriage to be of ONE man and ONE woman"..of course..almost everyone voted yes..they never bothered reading the mice type about how they would not recognize civil unions or any other unions from other states or countries that were not of a man and a woman. I still have PTSD from that election. Thanks Ken.

    You say you are sorry..then help us Ohioans dig ourselves out of the hole that you dug. I would love to put my partner on my health insurance..I would love to know that if I was admitted into a hospital that he would not be kicked out.

    I hope you never have to go through the hospital thing...we did.

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  6. A part of me believes he deserves to be ostracized by the gay community, but the humanitarian side believes in redemption. Even though he spent the majority of his career under Bush setting back gay rights, he now has the potential to make up for those decisions. If he helps break down the laws he helped to create, then we should consider forgiveness.

    So far by continuing to support anti-gay candidates, he isn't making a good case for himself. But if closeted politicians see the backlash from the gay community at every outing, won't that give them even more incentive to stay further in the closet and continue impeding on our rights?

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  7. The Democratic Party used to be the Pro-Slavery Party. Now we have an African-American Democrat as President. Change Happens (sometimes). I think a Pro-Gay Republican is better than an Anti-Gay Anybody. But especially when it comes to politics I think there are three things that all can agree on
    1) Actions speak louder than words.
    2) Believe it when you see it.
    3) Respect/trust must be earned.

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  8. It seems too early to be condemning him, so forgive him for now and wait to see what happens next. I say that everyone deserves at least one chance at redeeming themselves. Besides, isn't this the whole point: trying to bring everyone over to the side of righteousness? You talk of him more like a spy than a convert, someone who's just pretending in order to learn our 'secret gay agenda' and foil our "plans of world domination."

    C'mon guys, have we so quickly forgotten what we all went (and perhaps continue to go)through to get to where we are today? Those days of deep and dark depression, ostracism, and desperate need of acceptance? The feeling of being so isolated that you might as well be on another planet? When sometimes you'd do almost anything to avert all suspicion? It is true that he's done many bad things, but do we really need to ask why? If his sexuality was such a "poorly kept secret," then it shouldn't be too hard to figure out.

    Besides, look at all of the politicians (and pastors...) that have been caught in homosexual acts and still refuse to admit what they are. Would you rather he continue his old campaign trail of oppression? And if you want him to show you how much he cares, then let him support gay marriage and don't attribute all of it to his personal ambition. Michael is right, actions do speak louder than words, and I'd much rather see him doing all that he can to further gay rights than sit around and lament about days long past.

    I just read an article (link at bottom) with an interview with him, and he seems to be honest about this and has already done something to atone. In short, we should cherish the good friends who have been with us, fighting the good fight all this time, but we also shouldn't be refusing enthusiastic help from newcomers. "Make new friends, but keep the old: one is silver and the other gold."

    http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2010/08/bush-campaign-chief-and-former-rnc-chair-ken-mehlman-im-gay/62065/

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