Indeed: ‘Freedom means freedom for everybody’
It does seem strange lauding Vice President Dick Cheney, but laud I will today after reading of his quote: “Freedom means freedom for everybody.” His reference is to gay marriage. His stance appears to be in opposition to his boss’ regarding the so-called “Defense of Marriage Amendment.” The reason for this conservative’s apparent contradiction is obvious. Dick’s daughter is a lesbian.It’s terribly difficult to objectify a group of people for ill purposes when one of those people is someone you love. I’ve seen it time and time again over the years as I’ve counseled folks who have suddenly found themselves in the awkward position of discovering that someone they love is someone they’ve been taught to hate. When a familiar face replaces fractious feelings all kinds of preconceptions go poof. I’ve written before of my good friend who happens to also be an Evangelical Christian pastor. Stereotypes get shattered every time we get together.
Another of my closest friends is an ardent Republican, a real compassionate conservative who lives out his political convictions in a myriad of impressive ways. His friendship has been a tremendous teacher, inviting me to see other solutions to common problems. I still don’t agree with much that he says, but I recognize his good intentions and honor his integrity.Not long ago, an article in The Denver Post caught my attention. It was the story of a former chief executive officer of a large software company who had volunteered his services in Iraq. He continues to support the war in Iraq but upon his return he reflected to the Post’s reporter: “I went over there with all kind of prejudices about Arabs. I had a really negative view. I learned to like Arabs. They were charming, loving, devoutly religious, beautiful people. They would give you the shirt off their backs.” We’ve all read the stories of young people from opposing, even warring, cultures being brought together for several weeks at a camp or a school and discovering that, despite what they had been taught by others, they could be friends.
In a nation that is becoming frighteningly polarized, we need to find ways of de-objectifying the opposition. When we discover that our archenemies love their kids as we do, want a decent life as we do, seek a world of peace as we do, it will become harder and harder to view them with hate.I continue to be shocked by the virulent e-mails that are sent me by supporters of this cause or that, despicable descriptions of folks portrayed as the very essence of evil, reducing real human beings with hopes and dreams, family and friends, to inanimate objects that can and should be destroyed.This past Friday night, my wife and I had the good fortune to renew a friendship with a young man who grew up in our county and excelled in our schools.He lives in New York now with his gay partner, and the two of them regaled us with tales of life in the Big Apple. New York City is host to a myriad of different cultures, traditions and lifestyles. The forced hospitality of an urban environment can be a model for those of us who haven’t had the opportunity to experience a world different than our own. Living in an apartment peopled with folks from different countries, with different viewpoints, even different sexual orientations, can be a bridge to understanding and a guide to a peace-filled world.
It was a joy to see how this young man and his mate experienced life as rich with meaning and filled with love. Together they envisioned a future not unlike the future envisioned by their straight friends – of personal happiness, social responsibility and universal freedom. “Freedom means freedom for everybody.” That isn’t just a political slogan. It is the recognition of what happens when a person replaces a political view.Thank you, Mr. Cheney. I’m going to try and do the same for you. Rich Mayfield writes a Saturday column. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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