Carl Paladino really is the unwanted gift that keeps on giving, a politician whose every apology leads to another apology in a recursive loop that at some point crosses from a parody of the political process into an ”any press is good press” strategy that’s so crazy it just might work.
Truth be told, while I certainly found Paladino’s comments that children shouldn’t be ”brainwashed” into accepting homosexuality as a normal human condition to be offensive, I was actually more offended by the excuse that he was simply reading from a page of prepared remarks handed to him by the leader of the group to whom he was speaking. Nothing denotes leadership like a willingness to read from whatever script one happens to be handed.
Still, the comedy of errors surrounding Paladino’s bigoted and stereotypical foray into gay politics — although Paladino’s criticism of Democratic gubernatorial opponent Andrew Cuomo for bringing Cuomo’s daughters to a gay pride parade is an original twist on the usual anti-gay lexicon — does shine more light on the problems we still face in the language and attitudes of our parents and grandparents, the generation that’s still largely in charge of the rules of our society.
Right now, our community is going through a somewhat cathartic and long-overdue moment of sharing our stories of how ”it gets better.” It’s not only been a positive moment for LGBT and questioning youth who are hearing and seeing those stories, it’s been a positive moment for all of us who’ve already gone through those particular crucibles and come out happy.
More hardened, perhaps, but happy.
But what’s important is that we each make sure we’re taking the next step, which is working to make the world a place where those LGBT kids can find that it gets better faster and more easily than we did. We know that younger generations are far more accepting of LGBT people than their elders but, rather selfishly I’ll admit, I don’t want to wait until I’m 75 and that generation is in charge to see us achieve equality.
It’s no easy thing to ask LGBT people to challenge their own families on anti-gay attitudes. I’ve done it myself, so I know that it’s rare for such a moment to come without pain and, often, a sense of loss. But being willing to demand respect for who you are from the people who are closest to you not only leads to life getting better for you, it can help make life better for others.
Paladino, according many news reports, has a gay nephew who serves on his campaign staff, a nephew whom I would imagine is fairly mortified by what’s happening with his uncle. It’s unfair on some level to ask him to shoulder some responsibility for his uncle, but few are better placed to do so. Some young relatives handle this type of pressure well. Others, like Meghan McCain, find themselves ultimately unwilling or unable to effect any sort of change in their political patriarchs or matriarchs.
None of us choose our birth families, but we do get to choose how we live with them. This is not a task confined to those whose birth places them in political prominence — we all share the same responsibility to counter hurtful attitudes and encourage acceptance among even the most recalcitrant of our elders.
Education does begin at home.