In a comment to my post on Chris Matthews keynoting the LCR convention, one critic wrote
Well, this will be one Republican event where you will at least have a seat at the table. . . . Any other Republican events would exclude you from even cleaning the table.
These words reminded me of the countless sweeping generalizations about Republican attitudes toward gays I hear (or read on the web) on an almost daily basis. Most gay critics of the GOP assume that the Republican Party excludes gays. And yet, while several state parties (Texas and North Carolina come to mind) have excluded Log Cabin from setting up a booth at their state conventions, I have not yet read (nor heard) of a state party which has prevented individual gay men and lesbians from attending GOP events or serving on state (or local) party committees.
Indeed, I know countless gay men and lesbians who have served on committees (and in party offices) in states as diverse as Virginia, California, Nevada, Maryland, Georgia, Louisiana and Florida. To be sure, some have received a cold shoulder from social conservative party activists, but other leaders have welcomed them.
In reading that comment, I was reminded yet again how many who criticize the GOP have never attended a GOP gathering -- or even talked to a gay Republican active in the party.
This attitude reminds me of the negative attitude so many Europeans have towards Americans in general and our nation's conservative leaders in particular. Some on the left (especially in the MSM) act as if European opposition to an American president is a new thing, coming with the supposed "unilateral" foreign policy of President George W. Bush. Twenty years ago, "sophisticated" Europeans held similar feelings about our then president. Living in Europe during the late 1980s, I witnessed first hand the narrow-minded opposition to Ronald Reagan among many such Europeans.
When I was Eurailing/backpacking across the continent during the last year of the Gipper's second term, I stayed at the Youth Hostel in Verona, Italy. At dinner one night, I struck up a conversation with the guy sitting next to me. I introduced myself in Italian, but when I recognized his accent, I spoke to him in German. Unable to recognize my accent, he asked where I was from. As soon as he learned that I was American, this German young man began to attack our Ron, ascribing sinister motives to the American people for electing him twice (both times, I might add, with a majority of the popular vote). He assumed that because I was educated, spoke three languages (and a smattering of a fourth), lived in France (which I did at the time) and studied at the Sorbonne that I would have to oppose America's Great Communicator.
Well, for nearly an hour, in good German, I defended the greatest American president of my lifetime. When I noted why people elected him--he appealed to our best hopes offering a positive vision of our nation and what we could accomplish--this German man insisted that I had it wrong. Yep, a German was telling me that I got it wrong about why my fellow citizens twice elected the Gipper -- and why I cast my first vote for president for that great (and good) man.
This man acknowledged that he had never previously talked to an American who had voted for our fortieth president. He had never visited the United States. He hadn't even read American newspapers. But, he "knew
" all about my fellow citizens--and our political concerns. He said he was stunned that an American (in near flawless German) could so articulately defend the man he -- and so many of his peers -- reviled.
I don't know if this man changed his attitude toward Americans who supported the Gipper. He never showed up when we were supposed to meet to see a production of "AIDA
" at the Arena
the following day. But, at least, in talking to me, he confronted an American who challenged his narrow view of our great land -- and its most popular president of the second half of the twentieth century.
Like this European who claimed to know so much about Americans and their political choices, so many gay activists (and their allies on the left) claim to know everything there is to know about Republicans -- and their attitudes toward gays. They hold that the GOP wants to exclude us and attack us. Yes, there are some within the party who were rather we weren't there. And some who are as obsessed with gays as Michael Moore and Barbara Boxer are with President Bush. And yet, when I was more active in the party, I experienced exactly the same thing that my blog-league noted in a post earlier today
, "people I've interacted with in the GOP could care less that I'm gay. They care if I'm a productive person, active in the party, and willing to work hard."
It's unfortunate that these negative stereotypes of Republicans persist in certain gay circles---just as negative stereotypes of American conservatives persist in many elite European circles. And just as the reality of Americans differs from European stereotypes, the reality of our party's treatment of individual gays differs from the stereotypes of many gay activists, including some who call themselves Republicans. It's too bad that the nation's largest gay and lesbian Republican organization with a full-time Washington office
has not been promoting the inclusive reality of the GOP to the gay community.