As a teenager, I could not wait to get out of my tiny hometown. I felt there was something oppressive in its quaintness. It is a middle-class suburb outside LA County, a place full of conservative, sheltered white people, who go as far as to put traffic cones at the ends of their cul-de-sacs to keep their home-schooled children from wandering too far from the nest. My mother, a former Democratic club president who posted signage all over our yard during the Bush years, was often a pariah in our neighborhood, and the older I got, the more I wore her status as borderline outcast as a badge of honor. My parents taught us to care about all people, not just the ones like us.
This is why I’m not sure how to feel about the recent news that noted Republican Ohio senator Rob Portman reversed his opposition to marriage equality after learning that his college-aged son is gay. On one hand, it’s great that such a prominent politician has joined the 21st century. On the other, it is yet another example of how people, across both sides of the aisle, seem entirely unable to feel compassion or empathy for their fellow human beings without first knowing and loving someone who is directly affected. Would Senator Portman have changed course had his son happily married a woman? Probably not. Would he have continued to use his national platform to tow the line that same-sex marriage, in all its the sinful gayness, would destroy the fabric of American society? Probably so.
Is it really so difficult for people to treat others with respect and dignity even when there is no direct personal gain? Apparently.
In other, less incendiary news, I went back to my hometown today to visit Fertile Myrtle and the Fiece. All political annoyances aside, there is no arguing that I grew up in a gorgeous place. After years in the city, quaint is looking pretty alluring.
Also, closer proximity to an adorable child wouldn’t hurt.
I am a notoriously annoying person with zero self-control, so I spent a lot of the day poking this two-year-old in the ribs until she said, quite eloquently and with a finger pointed directly at me, “Stop it, Auntie Sarah. How dare you.”