As Gay Rights Ally, Bernie Sanders Wasn't Always in Vanguard

Bernie Sanders expressed varying levels of support for gay rights as he rose politically, and some gay rights advocates say he was less than a leader.

This headline caught my eye the other day and I found myself musing on the prerequisites for office in the 21st Century. More specifically, I wondered how early, consistently, and enthusiastically must one have embraced a position in order to be “authentic”? I thought the left believed in evolution – a concept often extended to philosophical understanding. And evolution, as we have come to believe, occurs gradually, a small mutation at a time. Advocacy that is worth its name is rarely created in a flash of light on the Road to Damascus. It involves education, experience, and yes, some small flashes of insight along the way. So if Bernie Sanders, a man of about my age, born and raised in Brooklyn, was a little slow in getting on the gay rights bandwagon, can’t we give him a little slack? The fact is that he, with a lot of other heterosexual men of a certain age, came to manhood in a culture that couldn’t have and wouldn’t have put gay rights on the same platform with civil (people of color) or women’s rights advocates. If you didn’t have outwardly gay friends – and relatively few people did, since being “out” was too dangerously outré for most, you had little chance for gaining real insight into the culture, not to mention understanding the fear of losing life, limb, or a living that went with it.

Now, I think I understand the search for this bogus authenticity on the right. These folks, not to put too fine a point on it, don’t believe in evolution of any kind, so the suspicion that someone may have at one time held opinions counter to those now espoused is for most (excepting Donald Trump) a death knell. I should think those of us with leftish views would be a little more forgiving. But no.

Some of us still chide Hillary for her Iraq vote, some are still convinced that she did all women a disservice by standing by her man, too many of us don’t trust her because she’s become a canny working politician, as if only a wide-eyed innocent who has remained a true believer in current progressive principles from before the day she first appeared in public life, who never learned how to work a room or a rope line, deserves our trust.

I trust Bernie when he stands up today for gay rights much as he continues to stand up for civil rights.

I trust Hillary, if elected, to do the best she can for progressive values under the circumstances.

I’m gonna continue to stand by the woman, and can only hope that there will be more than an occasional flash of insight on the Road to Damascus where, try as we might to avoid it, it appears we’re still going. I don’t know what the authentic response there is to be found on that road. It doesn’t matter to me that she doesn’t know the way, step by step, at this time. I do trust her to try to find it.