Saturday, September 16, 2006

A Former GOP Senator from Missouri Comes Out Swinging

Former Senator John Danforth first caught my eye last year when I read a couple of New York Times op-ed pieces he wrote that resonated with me and even made me nod my head in agreement. I was stunned, speechless, and yes, even a bit relieved. Why? Because I had come to believe that I could never again feel anything other than complete contempt and revulsion at the mere mention of a Republican politician’s name let alone anything he/she might write. But there it was, an op-ed written by a former United States Senator from Missouri, an Episcopal minister, and a Republican no less. And he was writing words that did not make me scream in disgust and anger. Wow.

I guess I had become so hardened to the brutality and thuggery of the Republican Party (as it stands today) and the bullies extremists Christians of the Religious Right that are connected to their hips, that it didn’t occur to me that there might still exist somewhere on this planet a Republican politician who actually has a soul, a conscience, and a vision for America that does not include hate, exclusion, and filthy dirty politics.

I rejoiced when Senator Danforth lamented in a March 2005 op-ed piece that Republican principles were becoming secondary to the agenda of Christian conservatives. And I nearly spit my coffee across the breakfast table when he broke with Rovian talking points and said this of his time in the Senate:

As a senator, I worried every day about the size of the federal deficit. I did not spend a single minute worrying about the effect of gays on the institution of marriage. Today it seems to be the other way around.

And then in June 2005, to my delight, he wrote another piece that took aim at the staunch authoritarian and absolutist Dobson, Robertson, Falwell crowd:

Moderate Christians are less certain about when and how our beliefs can be translated into statutory form, not because of a lack of faith in God but because of a healthy acknowledgement of the limitations of human beings. Like conservative Christians, we attend church, read the Bible and say our prayers.

But for us, the only absolute standard of behavior is the commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. Repeatedly in the Gospels, we find that the Love Commandment takes precedence when it conflicts with laws. We struggle to follow that commandment as we face the realities of everyday living, and we do not agree that our responsibility to live as Christians can be codified by legislators.

When, on television, we see a person in a persistent vegetative state, one who will never recover, we believe that allowing the natural and merciful end to her ordeal is more loving than imposing government power to keep her hooked up to a feeding tube.

When we see an opportunity to save our neighbors' lives through stem cell research, we believe that it is our duty to pursue that research, and to oppose legislation that would impede us from doing so.

We think that efforts to haul references of God into the public square, into schools and courthouses, are far more apt to divide Americans than to advance faith.

Following a Lord who reached out in compassion to all human beings, we oppose amending the Constitution in a way that would humiliate homosexuals.

So today when I read that the former Missouri senator was on the short list to be then-Governor Bush's running mate in the 2000 presidential election, second choice only to Vice President Cheney, I wanted to cry.

Well cry I won’t, but buy his book --- I will. And apparently this time he does not hold back. He comes out with his dukes up:

Danforth blasts the alignment of the Republican Party with the Christian right, lays out his most aggressive pro-gay stance to date and attacks the handling of the Terri Schiavo case.

He calls the Terri Schiavo case "Big Brotherism" and “a threat to all the families that had seen their loved ones suffer through terminal illness”. He goes on to say:

They [the administration and congress] intervened not in the name of principle, but at the expense of principle. They abandoned principle by deciding a medical question without any firsthand knowledge of what they were doing.

And on gay rights -- a cause he has championed since his retirement from the Senate, he writes:

"I believe that homosexuality is a matter of sexual orientation rather than preference," he writes. "Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is, in my view, comparable to discrimination on other civil rights grounds. It is wrong, and it should be prohibited by law."

"I think that the only purpose served by the campaign for the amendment is the humiliation of gay Americans, advocated by the Christian right and eagerly supported by its suitors in the Republican Party," he adds. "In reality, it is gay bashing."

He also calls supporters' arguments that the amendment would protect marriage ludicrous:

"America's divorce rate is now over 50 percent, and marriage is under attack from a number of quarters: finances, promiscuity, alcohol and drugs, the pressures of work, cultural acceptance of divorce, et cetera," he pens. "But it is incomprehensible that one of these threats is when someone else, whom we have never seen, in a place where we may have never been, has done something we don't like."

Ok now is your chance, if you are a principled Republican politician (oxymoron?), and you are nauseated, embarrassed, and fuming at the damage done to your party and to this country as a result of this current batch of Republicans, join Senator Danforth and COME OUT NOW AND SAY SO, or remain silent and share the blame that this country is most assuredly going to cast on your party and upon you and your fellow Republican members.

And to everyone else:

Let’s throw these bums out of office in November. They have done enough harm and obviously there are too few John Danforths to save them from themselves. Share

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