I have a very close straight female friend who voted against Bush in 2000 who confessed to me last night that she plans to vote for Bush this time. The reason? She doesn't like John Kerry. She saw a documentary that said he lied to get his medals in Vietnam, and she's offended that he spoke against the Vietnam war. She thinks if Kerry wins we'll have socialized medicine. She doesn't trust John Kerry. She thinks that Bush is what this country needs to keep it safe against terrorism. To top it off, even Robin Williams, she says, is conservative.
I love my friend dearly but her using Robin Williams as justification for voting for Bush seems to explain Republicans in a nutshell. She'd been forwarded an e-mail that listed a bunch of sarcastic conservative statements that Robin Williams supposedly said. See, she said, even Robin Williams is conservative. Except it just ain't so. First of all snopes.com found the original e-mail with no mention of Williams. Second of all, Robin Williams does fundraisers for Democratic senate candidates and jokes that "Bush complaining about a lack of intelligence seems sort of redundant." My friend would rather take some conservative propaganda at face value instead of examining it critically. Are all Republicans like that?
The documentary my friend saw was probably the Sinclair Broadcasting program featuring information from Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal. Whether Sinclair's airing of this program was right has been covered by many other bloggers and columnists, but what gets me is that my friend criticized Fahrenheit 911 as being biased propaganda that she didn't need to see. She can make judgments about John Kerry based on one program, but it offends her sensibilities to even watch something that's critical of the president. I pointed out to her that Kerry is the man who risked his life in Vietnam while Bush pulled family strings to stay as far away from Vietnam as possible. That doesn't matter to her. She thinks Kerry lied to get his medals and then dishonored them by speaking against the war. She wouldn't put it this way, but for her a coward is better than someone brave enough to speak his mind.
She also said that most veterans are against Kerry. She's seen the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" ads. She hasn't bothered to do any research as to whether these claims are valid. She has a computer which she uses to forward chain e-mail (such as the Robin Williams one), but she can't be bothered to google "Swift Boat Veterans" and do any reading. I've sent her a link to a truthout.org report discrediting one of the Swift Boat vets. I've also sent her a link to MoveOn PAC's Republicans Voting for Kerry ads. Considering that my friend herself is a Republican who voted against Bush, I hope she'll take time to consider her decision this time instead of just voting against Kerry based on having heard only one side.
I had to laugh out loud when my friend cited Kerry's plans for socialized medicine as a reason to vote against him. First, I'm not sure "socialized medicine" is an accurate way to describe his plans for reforming health care. More importantly, I asked her if she thought Democrats were likely to take control of Congress. When she finally quieted down and listened to me, she admitted that Republicans would probably retain control of Congress. How then, I asked, was Kerry going to implement socialized medicine? Were Republicans in the House and Senate going to roll over and pass whatever he suggested? Hell, Bill and Hillary Clinton had a Democratic House and Senate and couldn't get health care reform passed. My friend is a nurse and so perhaps she knows more about our country's great health care system than I do, but even if Kerry's plans for health care are bad, couldn't she hold her nose and vote for Kerry anyway, counting on political gridlock to fend off major changes?
My friend knows I'm gay, of course, and she has many other gay friends. She doesn't think we're evil or sinners. She's conservative enough that calling gay relationships "marriage" makes her uneasy, but not so uneasy that she hasn't gone to gay weddings. Yet she had the audacity last night to tell me that gay marriage wasn't her issue. That made me angry, it hurt me, and I feel betrayed. I told her I was disappointed in her. She tried to say that friends can have different political views, which I guess is true if you disagree about taxes or health care, but to me it's not quite the same when it comes to amending our state and federal constitutions to make me a second class citizen. I pointed out to my friend that she's been divorced twice (a low blow, perhaps, but it's the truth that she, like so many heterosexuals, is hardly in a place to tell gay people anything about how sacred marriage is) and asked her how she'd feel if these amendments were about restricting marriage to people who'd never been divorced. That thought had never occured to her, because heterosexuals just take their rights for granted. It doesn't matter that she's failed at two marriages; she automatically assumes that she should have the right to marry again if she wants. That I would not have the right to any recognition of a relationship, not even civil unions, is less important to her than feeling safe against terrorists.
"Marygate" came up, and my friend, who doesn't think homosexuality is a choice, said she was offended by Kerry's having brought up Mary. Never mind that Mary was already out, never mind that Dick Cheney himself mentioned Mary specifically when asked a general question about gay marriage, my friend was offended by Kerry. Why would she be offended by Kerry but not by the fact that Bush and the Republicans have demonized homosexuals? I truly do not understand. My friend is not alone, however, because most heterosexuals, even those who say they have no problem with homosexuals, were offended. I've already accused Lynne and Dick of being hypocrites about the matter. They're also quite sly, too. Tap into the latent homophobia that most heterosexuals have and divert their attention from real issues. It works well, and I have a very personal example of it.
I was angry at my friend, but now I'm really just tired, and yes, a bit bitter. Tired, because I really don't feel like wasting the time it will take to try to get my friend to think, to read information she wouldn't go out to find on her own, to see other points of view, to make an informed decision about whether she can really trust Bush more than Kerry. Bitter, because if my friend hadn't let her intentions slip, she would have gone on to vote for a man who uses oppression of people who are her friends as a way to retain power. This is not an apt comparision (at least I hope it's not), but I feel like a Jew in Germany in 1932 whose Christian neighbors held their noses about Hitler's anti-Semitism because they liked the feeling of security and national pride he brought them. Ironicially in 2004 I think I'd rather live in Germany than the United States.