Homophobes Lose This Round: Congressman Michaud and Maine Pride
Politics has gotten pretty ugly over the years. Lately the stench from our nation’s rhetorical and fiscal rancor has filled the noses of every person with the intestinal fortitude to watch events unfold in Washington D.C. and at all our state capitols.
When Senator Ted Cruz revealed that the recent $24 billion government shutdown filled his campaign contact lists and financial coffers, most who advocate for a more sane and compassionate allocation of tax payer resources gagged convulsively.
But there’s always been political discord. How quickly we forget the 1856 caning of Senator Charles Sumner. South Carolina Representative Preston Brooks walked into the senate chambers and beat the Massachusetts senator bloody and unconscious. See, the day before Sumner had accused Brooks colleague, South Carolina Senator Andrew Butler of having a mistress. Sumner said Butler’s mistress “though ugly to others, is always lovely to him; though polluted in the sight of the world, is chaste in his sight.” Sumner didn’t just describe the mistress; he identified her by name, “the harlot, slavery.”
In 1860 the U.S. Census cites that 4.5 million blacks lived in the United States and 4 million of them were enslaved. When the bloody battle in the senate turned into the bloody civil war – even without considering the economic impact of the war itself – on any given day $3.2 billion dollars in human chattel was at stake.
3.2 billion 1860’s dollars! That dwarfs the economic impact of the 2013 government shut down. And that doesn’t count what the slave produced over time. Each slave’s value over time – after expenses – would be about $82,000 in today’s money. That means those 4 million black captives had a lifetime value of $328 trillion.
No wonder Brooks caved in Sumner’s head.
Certainly the kidnapping and enslaving of millions of people involved other issues, like racism. Today’s greedy individuals still use racism to gain and keep power. Racism, sexism and homophobia allow those lusty for power and wealth to pander to fear in others.
This weekend Congressman Mike Michaud came out in an editorial piece distributed to two major Maine papers and the Associated Press. He wrote "whisper campaigns, insinuations and push-polls" had intimated that he is gay. Michaud used the editorial to respond to these tactics with a simple declaration, “Yes, I am.”
He went onto ask – rhetorically of course – “why should it matter?”
Sadly, it matters because too much of the world still operates out of ignorance. Too much of the world – and in a three way race with challengers Eliot Cutler and incumbent Governor Paul LePage – too much of Maine is prejudiced against gays. And somebody powerful thinks they can mobilize the fearful and the hateful and eliminate Michaud’s chances of upsetting LePage in 2014.
What kind of political operatives launch whisper campaigns against a grown man making adult choices, a proven statesman, a faithful representative of his constituents? Only the kind of political operative that truly understands fear, and the people who best understand fear are – of course – cowards.
Congressman Michaud’s enemies are the kind of people who would have told a blind racist that there’s a black man in the room. They’re the type of people that would have launched a whisper campaign that Franklin Roosevelt couldn’t walk – hoping to instill doubt in his ability to lead. They are the kind of people who – knowing Michaud’s many strengths – are hoping to allege a weakness only homophobes understand.
Michaud doesn’t believe his sexuality should matter. In his editorial he wrote, “One thing I do know is that it has nothing to do with my ability to lead the state of Maine.” He’s right about the former but wrong about the latter. The sexual orientation of any person doesn’t matter – this is true. But his political struggle, his enemies’ attempts to destroy him, those things will make him a better governor.
Congressman Michaud knows that an awful lot of Maine people are up against it right now. Their state leads the country into recessions and is at the rear of the pack during recovery. Young Maine men and women struggle to find jobs and higher education is often out of reach. Maine’s higher proportion of seniors struggling in cold climates need a leader who knows how to fight. And being the target of prejudice, standing up to bullies, that takes a fighter.
Congratulations Congressman Michaud, those who admire your strength have yet one more reason to honor you. And I can’t help but thing that there’s some young man or woman in Maine or elsewhere in this nation that will draw courage from your actions. Young people will know that they can candidly be who they are. Hopefully this campaign against you will backfire and prove to enlightened folks and homophobes, gays and lesbians, transgender folks and bi-sexual individuals, that the sexual orientation of great leaders is irrelevant. Here’s to a whole new generation of happy healthy well-adjusted leaders who are learning from your example.