The current flap over John Kerry’s debate comments about the Cheney’s lesbian daughter Mary has, of course, shoved meaningful news stories off the table for a few days. Lynne Cheney has been showcased wagging her head at crowds and mournfully repeating, “This is not a good man…” in reference to Kerry, and Dick has been unconvincingly playing the roll of irate father. What’s interesting to me about this campaign side bar is that it says far more about how the Cheney’s view their daughter Mary than it does about the substance of Kerry’s remarks.
Dick Cheney has talked openly on the campaign trail about Mary. That he has a lesbian daughter is no secret to anyone, yet the Cheney’s are upset that Kerry spoke the words aloud. Why? Setting aside the fact that they despise the Senator, and would take advantage of any opportunity they could to put him in a bad light, the outrage they profess sends another signal about how they view their gay daughter.
At least a part of their anger (the part that isn’t manufactured for the media) results from their view that Mary has an affliction. A disease. A deformity. Being gay is being sick in the Cheney’s world-view, and it has certainly been the cause of much inner grief for them. As a result, Kerry’s remarks during the debate were akin to talking about some deformity or horrid illness in the Cheney family, which is something a person outside the family just doesn’t do in a civilized society. The fact that many millions of Americans don’t view being gay as a medical condition, and would find nothing negative about mentioning Mary in the context of advocating tolerance, isn’t something the Cheney’s can comprehend. The only group of people who would be shocked by Kerry’s remarks are those who see gayness as an illness—the hardcore religious Right who support Bush.
So the Cheney’s, mixing part real indignation with equal doses of pandering to their constituency, capture the campaign spotlight for a few days to try and garner sympathy for themselves (and Bush) and get a few licks in at Kerry. And of course, the ever-obedient media complies.
The outcome of the campaign does not hinge on this minor incident, but it is one more telling reminder for me that placing ideology, superstition and party loyalty before logic, science and simple humanity only leads to the gradual starvation of the very soul one loudly claims to be nourishing.