I just finished Mary Cheney’s book Now It’s My Turn: A Daughter’s Chronicle of Political Life and recommend it as the most important book addressing a gay topic of the year, if not the past few years. Indeed, it is must-read book for anyone who wishes to talk honestly about the Bush Administration’s record on gay issues.
While I will not, at this time, write a complete review of the book, I expect this to be a continuation in a series of posts on the significance of the book — and what it reveals about the Vice President of the United States. I have already noted how it shows what a good man Dick Cheney is and how few gay leaders and activists are willing to acknowledge his positive record on gay issues.
Because he is our nation’s Vice President, widely respected in conservative circles, even by social conservatives who know about his relationship with his lesbian daughter, I wish to focus on what this book tells us about this good man and what its release shows about the narrow-mindedness of gay activists. Perhaps you will say that I have said this already. But, as the comments to my recent posts indicate, some of our critics don’t seem to be listening, so, in the words of AndrÃ© Gide, “it is ever necessary to start again.“
What emerges from reading Mary’s book is that the Vice President is an exemplar of how a parent should treat his gay child. When Mary first came out to her father, she writes, “the first words out of his mouth were exactly the ones I wanted to hear: ‘You’re my daughter and I love you and I just want you to be happy.'”
About fifteen years later, when then-Governor Bush, the Republican nominee for president in 2000, was considering Cheney as his running mate, the former Secretary of Defense talked with his daughter about what his selection might mean. Mary notes that he “was concerned that people would target me and my sexual orientation in an attempt to attack him. He wanted to make sure I understood exactly what this decision could mean.”
In order words, this man showed great sensitivity to how his career choice might affect his lesbian daughter’s life.
This is not the only example which shows the Vice President as an exemplary parent of a gay child. It’s clear as well from Mary’s narrative that Dick Cheney has welcomed Mary’s partner, Heather, into the family, treating her as he would a child’s different-sex spouse. Indeed, on Election Night 2004, Heather and Mary slept with him (though on different sofas and chairs) in his White House office.
Despite these stories of the Vice President’s relationship with his daughter, in their Washington Post column, Elizabeth Birch, former executive director of HRC and her partner Hilary Rosen, refuse to praise him directly for treating his child as we would want all parents to treat their gay children. Perhaps they didn’t even read Mary’s book.
Instead they focus on how her coming out might impact political battles. To be sure, I share their delight that “timing of the book’s release is a welcome boon to the effort to defeat (for the second time) the . . . Federal Marriage Amendment.” In their column, however, Birch and Rosen fail to reference the content of Mary’s book, a sign that they are unwilling to let Mary tell her story even as they applaud her “leap onto the national stage.“
So much have these two activists spent inside the Beltway that they remain focused on legislative (& judicial) solutions to the concerns of our community. They have apparently long since lost sight of the real goal. Perhaps were they to read Mary’s book and focus on the Vice President’s relationship with his daughter, they might discover it once again.
Reading this book would expose them to a side of the Vice President different from the one they are accustomed to hearing in the liberal circles in which they travel. They would see how much Mary loves her parents even though she occasionally disagrees with them on matters of policy. They would see how loving a father Dick Cheney is to his daughters and that Mary’s coming out did not cause him to love her any less.
As they read her story, they might realize once again that we all wish our parents would react as did Dick and Lynne Cheney. Not only that. They would see the impact of a child’s coming out on a parent’s attitudes toward gays. Mary’s coming out didn’t make Dick Cheney any less conservative, but it surely caused him to speak out in favor of tolerance for gay couples and in opposition to a constitutional amendment defining marriage.
Birch and Rosen (and their allies on the left) may be upset that Mary’s coming out didn’t cause Dick Cheney to switch parties. (Heck, her coming out didn’t cause her to become a Democrat either.) But, once they let go of their expectation that coming out makes one liberal, they might have the sense to praise this good man and his wife as exemplars of how parents should treat their gay children. And praise the Vice President as a model of political courage, willing to defy part of his political base to speak up for what is right.
Mary Cheney’s book shows what a good man her father is. And in describing their relationship, she helps us focus on (what should be) the real goals of the gay movement. That we can live freely and openly as gay individuals in our families and in American society.
And yet, Birch and Rosen, like so many other gay leaders and activists commenting on Mary’s book, focus more on the political implications of Mary’s coming out than on the actual contents of her book. It’s too bad they prefer their own fictional narrative about the Vice President to his daughter’s own true story.
So, I suggest that before they criticize the Vice President, they read his daughter’s book. It confirmed to me that I’ve been right to look up to this man for as long as I’ve been involved in politics. They may not share his politics as do I, but they will at least come to respect him as a man and look up to him as the type of father we all wish we had. (And that some of us do have.)
-Dan (AKA GayPatriotWest): GayPatriotWest@aol.com
UPDATE: A reader wrote in to take issue with a point I made:
It’s not that Dick Cheney is “an exemplary parent to a gay child.” He’s an exemplary parent, period. The qualifying adjective diminishes the larger point—the nature of parental love.
WELCOME INSTAPUNDIT READERS!!
While you’re here, please browse around the blog that has been called “the most reliably conservative gay blog on the Internet.” You might want to check my recent post on John Murtha & media bias or my co-blogger’s piece on a reader e-mail which heartened him. And I note that not only did Dan Brown get Christian history wrong in the Da Vinci Code, he got the Grail legend wrong as well.
I have blogged pretty extensively this past week on Mary Cheney and her father. I discovered that one ostensibly gay book store is not stocking it. Here I note that by living quietly and openly as a gay woman, she has done more to help gays than many activists. And in these two posts (here and here), I show how the animus most gay groups and leaders have against President Bush and his allies and associates has prevented them from acknowledging what a good man the Vice President is.