Wednesday, May 3

Love has its limits

In her new memoir, Now It’s My Turn (Simon & Schuster/Threshold Editions, 2006), Mary Cheney writes that when she told her parents she was gay, the first words out of her father’s mouth “were exactly the ones that I wanted to hear: ‘You’re my daughter, and I love you, and I just want you to be happy.’”

Unless of course being happy requires that Mary be afforded the freedom to marry another woman. In that case, Cheney doesn’t want his daughter to be that happy.

Although both Dick and Lynne Cheney made statements during the 2004 presidential campaign suggesting that they disagreed with Bush’s call for a federal amendment protecting traditional marriage, they stand by their belief that it’s a matter for the individual states to decide. In other words, if a state chooses to deny marriage rights to same-sex couples (and currently 45 out of 50 have done so in some form or another), the Cheneys support that decision as a matter of states’ rights. That doesn’t exactly amount to a ringing endorsement of the right of same-sex couples to marry. Depite their desire to appear supportive of their lesbian daughter, the Cheneys support the right of individual states to discriminate against same-sex couples.

In her memoir, Cheney also writes that her mother hugged her, but then burst into tears, worried that she would face a life of pain and prejudice.

You mean like the kind of prejudice embodied in the Republican party’s narrow definition of family and the kind of pain caused by legislation that marginalizes GLBT people, restricts their rights, and undermines their dignity? That kind of pain and prejudice?

Perhaps what the Cheneys should have told their daughter was, “You’re our daughter, we love you, and we want you to be happy, but don’t expect us to change our politics or our ideology or advocate for GLBT rights on your account.”

I’m sure it was implied.

13 Comments:

Blogger The Persian said...

Interesting. If he is in fact truly (we will assume this is a deep seated prejudice and not a position of convenience)against gay marriage (and who knows perhaps homosexuality in general) then isn't the statement to his daughter even more powerful in fact?

As a parent, I could without hesitation make that same statement to my sons no matter what it is they have done or what lifestyle they choose to live. This statement to Mary does not in itself make him a hypocrite.

9:45 PM  
Blogger Sandouri Dean Bey said...

jim,
thanks for your comment. in the spirit of dialogue i would offer the following:

i wonder what it means to say you love someone while supporting legislation that marginalizes them. the cheneys believe it is acceptable for states to discriminate against glbt people. and treating glbt people like second class citizens perpetuates a climate in which violence against them is acceptable. how is that love? so, i would disagree that his statement to his daughter is even more powerful. in fact, i think it is meaningless.

cheney said he wanted his daughter to be happy. what if she defined happiness as receiving the same rights as straight americans? what if she defined happiness as being granted equality? what if she defined happiness as being able to marry her partner of 14 years? frankly, i'd be surprised if mary cheney didn't define happiness in these ways. and yet her father isn't really willing to help make any of those things happen. clearly, there are far more important things to our vice president than his daughter's happiness.

i think there is a difference between professing love and following those words up with genuine actions.

i guess the real point here is that mary cheney was happy with her father's answer. he said the words that she desperately wanted to hear. however, if i were told by a family member that they loved me only to have them turn around and support policies that marginalized me and undermined my rights and dignity, i would not be happy. i know that i would question the genuineness of that love. and i would want answers. and i would probably want to put some distance between myself and those people.

12:46 AM  
Blogger Brad said...

Dear God help me but I have avoided weighing in on this post at least 3 or 4 times today. Fuck it.

And FUCK Cheney! He is even worse than "The Perpetual Deer In The Headlights" guy.

*I guess the real point here is that mary cheney was happy with her father's answer. he said the words that she desperately wanted to hear.*

BULLSHIT. I guaranfuckinteeyou that he sat her down and said, "honey I love you and will forever... but you made a life decision and it can't affect mine." Or words to that effect. They were "on the same page" together from the start and its all bullshit.

Mary bites her tounge to avoid hurting Dad. While Dad continues to be the freakin DICK (literally) that he is and paying only lip service to his SUPPOSED love for his daughter.

I DETEST this man more than I do Bush. He was a HORRIBLE Secretary of Defense. He has been a horrible VP if not downright criminal in "hooking up his pals" with RECONSTUCTION contracts in Iraq. I am not even going to get into the "support" he has been to his daughter.

You know what surprises me more than anything else in this particular families case? The fact that the Republicans didn't spin and capitalize on this in a HUGE way to make them look like a CARING party. They missed one hell of alot of potential mileage the spinsters could have gotten out of that. And THANK GOD they weren't bright enough to figure that out.

1:28 AM  
Anonymous L said...

It is one thing to legitimately criticize public and other figures for policy positions, but questioning someone’s heartfelt love for their child may cross the line. I think that it is entirely possible to strongly disagree with a parent on a variety of issues that strongly influence our lives, without severing deep seated bonds of love. I certainly agree that Mary Cheney should be unhappy with her father’s position on “state rights.” At least, however, she has initiated a dialogue with her father, something that was once denied a friend of mine who was thrown out of the house (at Christmas no less) for having the courage to come out. Meaningful dialogue is achieved by recognizing common ground and working from there. In this case, I’m not sure that questioning the Cheney’s love for their child is the best way to get there. I certainly wouldn’t want my parents love for me called into question.

9:40 AM  
Blogger Sandouri Dean Bey said...

that is indeed exactly what i’m doing. i question the cheneys’ heartfelt love for their daughter. i simply cannot reconcile their profession of love with the support they’ve shown for a state’s right to discriminate against glbt people. in this case, love does NOT cover a multitude of sins.

and exactly what and, more importantly, whose line have i crossed? the cheneys’ line? i would hope that i’m not so morally bankrput that i start looking to the cheneys for a definition of decency.

part of the dialogue, moreover, IS questioning the genuineness of love. all i’m doing is offering a healthy critique. after all, L, if you can question my decency, why can’t i question their love? have either of us crossed a line? i think not.

in reality, dick cheney is not just any father. he’s the vice president. he has significantly more power to shape policy than the average parent. that’s not to say he can work miracles. but his role in the debate over same-sex marriage is considerably more significant than, say, someone who simply voted republican in ‘04.

at the same time, i think that if the parents of a gay or lesbian son or daughter voted republican in ‘04, they should be prepared to explain, if asked by their child, why they felt compelled to support a platform that marginalizes glbt people. when private choices (i.e. a vote) have public ramifications (i.e. establishing policies that discriminate), an accountablity issue arises.

it’s up to each child individually to decide. i am not advocating for any child to pick a fight with his or her parents or some other family member over the issue of glbt rights or same-sex marriage. at no point did i advocate “severing deep seated bonds of love.” what i am saying is that *I* would question the genuineness of my parents’ love if they consistently supported policies that harm me. and, as a result, i would initiate a dialogue with them.

i wrote this post because there appeared to me to be an inconsistency between simultaneously professing love for someone and supporting policies that harm that person. is it easy to challenge a loved one on that inconsistency? no. does it make us uncomfortable? yes. would it be easier simply to accept a parent’s decalaration of love at face value and leave it at that, no questions asked, no rocking the boat? sure. but that’s not for me. it would not be my choice.

in the words of eliza doolittle on the subject of love, “Don’t say how much, Show me! Show me!”

and i’ll remind you (and my other readers) that the original post was not a critique of mary cheney’s decision to accept her parents’ statements without questioning the genuineness of their love (though perhaps she has questioned their love) OR her decision to work on the bush-cheney campaign. it was a critique of her parents’ hypocrisy. if we choose to close our eyes to that hypocrisy because we’ve been taught never to question a parent’s love, we do ourselves and our parents an injustice. it is not the path i would choose.

11:46 AM  
Anonymous L said...

Dean,

I’m sorry if you interpreted my post as a challenge to your decency. My intent was to question the suggestion that, a priori, belief in gay marriage is an absolute precondition to loving your child. For the recond, I happen to hate Dick Cheney’s politics. And while I believe that sexual orientation should not be used as a basis for discrimination in the context of marriage, I also believe that the extension of state provided benefits for “marriage” itself is inherently discriminatory. In any event, I can’t say with certainty that my own parents are completely comfortable with the concept of gay marriage. I love them dearly as they do me.

1:15 PM  
Blogger Sandouri Dean Bey said...

no need to apologize, L. however, suggesting that someone "has crossed the line" would, i think, be interpreted by most third-party observers as a critique on a person's decency.

and i want to make it absolutely clear that i am in no way offended by that. i welcome the critique. the reason i welcome it is that i am confident that questioning the cheneys' love for their daughter is absolutely reasonable, given their actions. likewise, i want to make it absolutely clear that i am not questioning your parents love for you. it would be terribly unfortunate if you took my words to be a critique of your parents. my post was about the cheneys. period.

let's try to remember what we are talking about here. we're not talking about whether or not people are "completely comfortable with the concept of gay marriage" and whether or not we can measure a person's love by measuring how comfortable they are with glbt issues. what we are talking about are specific actions that undermine glbt equality.

what we're talking about is standing up, as the cheneys have done, and making a bold declaration in favor of a state's right to discriminate against glbt people, while professing love for their lesbian daughter. i think a light needs to be shone on that kind of inconsistency and hypocrisy.

1:35 PM  
Anonymous L said...

Where do you draw the line then? Wouldn't the expression by anyone of any discomfort about gay marriage (in whatever form) become an “action” that “undermines GLBT equality”, thereby calling into question that person's capacity to meaningfully love a gay child? There is indeed a dichotomy that exists between Cheney’s relationship with his daughter and his stance on gay marriage. To focus on that gap is fair game, with respect to the Cheneys or anyone else. I just happen to believe that your original post went beyond that. Peace.

3:32 PM  
Anonymous outiboy said...

i can only second everything dean has posited (and posted :) on this issue; primarily because I feel comfortable saying that perhaps a good deal of the fabric of his well-stated position was crafted over several months, as a team effort with me :)

what I wish to underscore emphatically is dean's last point to L, which is to carefully discern between parents' discomfort with any gay-related issue, and love between parent(s) and a gay child. I would also like to view the “discomfort” and “love” issues together with the premise of "meaningful dialogue toward common ground."

consider: we have a parent or parents that are uncomfortable with some aspect of their gay child's life as a gay person, and/or the general concepts surrounding their child's existence on the planet as a gay individual. The child in turn has some discomfort about their parent's or parents' discomfort. Discomfort all around. But, at the same time, there is the profession of love all around.

So, what does that profession of love really mean? Well, if it provides a foundation for putting respective discomforts aside enough so as to genuinely open doors to substantive dialogue toward finding common ground, mega kudos to that. Indeed, that sounds like love, or at very least mutual respect (arguably, a key component of love).

But what if there are profuse professions of love from parent(s) to child, but the buck stops there? That is to say, what if the word "love" is tossed around ubiquitously and with great emotion and fanfare, but yet no one wants to speak substantively about underlying issues of discomfort? What if real dialogue is off limits as “too uncomfortable” for the parent(s), or worse, deemed by them to be "unnecessary"?

What if, coupled with this, not only is there no movement to find common ground via dialogue and little if any willingness to do so on the parents' part, but moreover an insistence by the parents that they can continue to support institutions, fully and unabashedly and without accountability, that clearly and undeniably undermine or, worse, intend harm in some fashion to glbt people (e.g., the Catholic church, the president and his administration, much of the republican agenda in general, etc.) - while at the same time claiming unwavering love for their child?

Is it not reasonable, at this point, for the child to be a bit confused? Is it that unseemly for the child to dare question: what, then, does love mean? What if the meaning of what constitutes the purported "love" is questioned, and the reply from the parent(s) is merely a hearty insistence on the truthfulness of the naked word itself, and nothing more?

OK, so I know I am a wingnut generally, but objectively speaking, I think this is a very confusing situation for the child - and, unfortunately, not uncommon. Humans have an uncanny capacity for unreconciled realities, and an even greater uncanny capacity to doggedly refuse to explore unreconciled states. “I love you, my dear GLBT child, but President Bush is the best president we’ve ever had, Scalia is an Italian-American hero and, by the way, did you go to Mass this week?”

So, to sum up – I understand Dean’s statement when he intimates that perhaps it takes more courage than the average person can muster to question what parental or familial "love" really means. We instinctively want such love, from the day we're born we're programmed to crave it, and throughout our lives we often go to incredible efforts to maintain whatever we think we have of it. And, as a result, as long as many of us hear at least the naked word from a parent or parent, we are satisfied, and that is generally enough.

So, Mary got her word. Would that I were so easily satisfied.

3:54 PM  
Blogger Sandouri Dean Bey said...

to answer your question, L:

Where do you draw the line then? Wouldn't the expression by anyone of any discomfort about gay marriage (in whatever form) become an “action” that “undermines GLBT equality”, thereby calling into question that person's capacity to meaningfully love a gay child?

my response is, no. i do not think that an expression of discomfort about gay marriage, while it might be hurtful for a gay child to hear, itself constitutes an action that undermines glbt equality. unless of course that expression of discomfort is made in a public forum and is intended to convince others of the immorality of the "gay lifestyle" or made as part of a larger political agenda or anti-gay campaign. there is a difference between expressing discomfort and supporting discrimination.

in other words, i would draw a distinction between private expressions of discomfort uttered as part of a family dialogue, on one hand, and a public show of support for discrimination, on the other. surely that is a valid distinction. and even when a parent has supported discrimination, it is through dialogue with the offended and injured party that the parent will be brought to repentance. but how can that happen if the parents are never shown the harm caused by their actions?

the emphasis that i am placing on public expressions or acts intended to influence others or support a discriminatory political agenda should help you understand where i draw the line.

4:18 PM  
Blogger Aethlos said...

wow, i assume you've read this book... super!.. i'm anxious to learn more about her....

7:19 PM  
Blogger Sandouri Dean Bey said...

nope, haven't read her book. do you think i've spoken out of turn?

my post wasn't really about mary cheney or her book. it was about her parents and the hypocrisy of telling their lesbian daughter that they love her while promoting an agenda based on hate. i'm not sure how her book would shed any more light on this basic premise than what can already be discerned from the positions taken by the cheneys during the 2004 campaign (and both prior and since).

moreover, of all the memoirs in the world for me to read, it's doubtful that mary cheney's will end up on my reading list. besides, i've already read uncle tom's cabin.

8:50 PM  
Blogger Phoenixboi said...

Im not an american and your politics at times confuse me, however I have to agree with Persian Guy when he says that the statement made my Cheney is a powerful one.
I don't think that because he loves his daughter he has to agree with her views or visa versa.
Sure he has power and influence, but you wouldnt want him to use that power and influence in order to please his family.

6:49 PM  

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