Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Wanted: President with empathy

Dear President Obama,

I write to you today as a parent, and I am asking you to hear my plea not as President of the United States, but as the parent of two beautiful daughters.

My husband and I cried tears of joy that November night back in 2008 when you were declared the victor and 44th president of the United States. But despite our tremendous relief that George W. Bush would soon be gone and you would soon be taking over, it was still a bittersweet night for us. Yes, our hopes and prayers had been answered. Yes, the eight year nightmare finally felt almost over. But our intense joy was overshadowed by the passages of hateful marriage amendments in both Arizona and California.

My husband and I understood exactly what those horrible marriage amendments were really all about and we knew it had nothing to do with protecting the sanctity of our 27-year marriage, and everything to do with hate, ignorance and bigotry masquerading as a mandate from God. It was also the point at which we painfully realized that enough of our fellow Arizonans, possibly friends and neighbors among them, felt so strongly that our son was not worthy of the same rights they enjoyed that they could pull the lever for enshrining his second-class citizenship into our state constitution. I cannot describe the pain we felt. Saying it was excruciating just doesn't do it justice.

But thankfully I was able to console myself with the knowledge that these amendments represented the last of the divisive political tactics used by the previous administration to pit American against American simply to win, with no regard to the damage it would do to our country. We just knew that with your election this kind of stuff would soon be an ugly memory and that we would soon have a man of honor and dignity coming into office - a man who promised, over and over, to make things right.

Mr. President, we were deeply moved by all of the inspirational speeches you gave during your campaign. We hung on to your every word. We were so desperate for change and your words filled us with so much hope and optimism. We believed you when you promised you'd fight for legal equality for gays and lesbians by expanding the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity, we believed you when said you'd urge states to treat same-sex couples with full equality in their family and adoption laws, we believed you when you promised you'd repeal the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, and we believed you when you said you'd support the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

Just recently you spoke about choosing a person who would judge with “empathy” for the U.S. Supreme Court. That resonates with me. I believe in the power of being able to walk a mile in someone else's shoes. I believe that ability makes one a better a better friend, neighbor, parent, judge, lawmaker, and yes, President of the United States. And it is, Mr. President, a quality I thought I saw in you.

But maybe I was wrong.

Yes, I know, you walked into a horrific mess on January 20th, 2009. Yes, your plate is full. Yes, there are many urgent matters that must be dealt with. And yes, you must make some tremendously difficult prioritizing decisions. But your silence on every single one of these LGBT issues Mr. President, is deafening. And it is a crushing disappointment.

Do you ever ask yourself how you'd feel if one of your precious daughter's rights were up for negotiation at the ballot box every time some person or church decided that who your daughter chooses to love doesn't meet their religious standards? Do you ever wonder what it would be like to explain to your daughters why one of them will have all the rights and protections guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States and the other never will? Have you ever asked yourself how you would feel if people who claim to be religious used all their time, energy, and precious resources fighting to keep one of your daughters from being included in school anti-bullying measures or hate-crime legislation while the other daughter's inclusion is a foregone conclusion? Do you ever ask yourself how you'd feel if one of your daughters was dismissed from the military after years of committed service to her country because she refused to lie about who she was? Do you ever wonder how it would make you feel if one of your daughters was turned away from a job, or fired from a job, or denied housing because of her sexual orientation, percieved or real? Does the idea of putting one of your daughter's rights up for a vote feel like mob rule to you? Do any of these scenarios make you sick to your stomach. Would these scenarios feel like minor injustices that could be put on a back burner to be addressed at a much later date if one of your daughters were gay?

I could go on and on, but I won't. The fact that I am pleading with you nearly 5 months into your presidency to keep the promises you made while asking for my vote is telling. The fact that I have to beg you to make my son an equal citizen of this great country is something I cannot believe I'm being forced to do. The idea that the constitutionally protected rights of a minority can be put up for a vote by the majority is un-American, unconstitutional, and just plain wrong.

So I ask you Mr. President, how would you feel if you were forced to beg your friends, your neighbors, your fellow citizens, and even the President of the United States to treat one of your precious daughters the same way they treat their own children? How would you feel? Horrified? Indifferent? Filled with seething rage? I need to know, because your answer to that question will tell me just how much empathy you have. Share


Annie said...

Thank you so much for writing this letter. Thank you for your blog, for your activism, and for your open mind and open heart.

I forwarded this letter to my parents, hoping they would be inspired to write their own letter to President Obama. And I added a quote from your letter and a link to your blog on my FaceBook page.

When I have more time, I plan to explore your blog at length (I found a link to it on Pam Spaulding's blog).

Another other mother said...

This is beautifully written. I know it's unlikely, but I hope Obama reads it. You've inspired me to stop being lazy about it and write my own letter.

Armagnac Esq. said...

Beautiful and profound.

While our Bear and Mitt-Mitts are too young to have decided their preferences, it saddens me to think they might find, through no more fault of their own than if they were born a different colour, they are treated as lesser humans.

One of my hopes in living in pretty much the most tolerant pocket of Australia is that, whatever their actual inclination, the kidlets will grow up around diversity and break the hate-infused mould I was caught in until my 20s.

Good luck. Keep seething.

Annie said...

Hi again. My mom wrote her own letter. You can read it here:

Doug in Mount Vernon said...

Thank you so much, Seething Mom.

As a gay son to a wonderful Mom in Denver, CO, I know that she would thank you as well.

Trust me, your son feels lucky to have you, and yes, crushed by the weight of what it feels like to live as you are in this sometimes callous country. But, as much as it sometimes hurts, it's sometimes powerfully healing as well, because of people like you.

Thank you, Mom!

PICO said...

What a moving, profoundly thoughtful, patriotic, and powerfully spiritual letter. I hope it floods the Web.

I'm going to link to it from my Facebook page and my blog.

I'm a lesbian who's been out and fighting this fight for almost 35 years, the last 14 in Arizona. I was blessed with the fervent support of my mom, too, and saw her reach hundreds whom I'd never have been able to sway.

Thank you for your passion.