Monday, March 18, 2013

It Shouldn’t Be Personal

Following up on the point I made at the end of my piece about Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) having a change of heart about marriage equality:

I respect Mr. Portman for his forthrightness in saying that it took a personal revelation to get him to change his mind.  It’s easy to be against something in the abstract but difficult to turn into a bumper sticker when it touches you: abortion is murder until your 16 year old daughter breaks the news, and God hates gays until your son sits you down and tells you that his roommate isn’t really just a guy who helps with the rent.  That’s when reality trumps the talking points.

My only wish is that it didn’t take a personal family experience to learn that.

I am glad to see that I’m not the only one who thinks like that, as my commenters pointed out.  Here’s Matthew Yglesias on the same subject:

But if Portman can turn around on one issue once he realizes how it touches his family personally, shouldn’t he take some time to think about how he might feel about other issues that don’t happen to touch him personally? Obviously the answers to complicated public policy questions don’t just directly fall out of the emotion of compassion. But what Portman is telling us here is that on this one issue, his previous position was driven by a lack of compassion and empathy. Once he looked at the issue through his son’s eyes, he realized he was wrong. Shouldn’t that lead to some broader soul-searching? Is it just a coincidence that his son is gay, and also gay rights is the one issue on which a lack of empathy was leading him astray? That, it seems to me, would be a pretty remarkable coincidence. The great challenge for a senator isn’t to go to Washington and represent the problems of his own family. It’s to try to obtain the intellectual and moral perspective necessary to represent the problems of the people who don’t have direct access to the corridors of power.

Senators basically never have poor kids. That’s something members of Congress should think about. Especially members of Congress who know personally that realizing an issue affects their own children changes their thinking.

Let’s take this one step further and say that it shouldn’t require someone to be poor, or gay or disabled to get a measure of understanding from a lawmaker.  Or anyone, for that matter.  It goes to the basic rules you learn in kindergarten: share, be nice, think of someone else first.  If you want to attach a religious theme to it, fine.  Or just remember the thing my father used to plead to us kids when we were fighting: Love One Another.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Comfort Dogs

I love this story.

A pack of sympathetic groups bearing supportive canines spent much of Monday with bereaved Connecticut residents affected by last week’s Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, providing children and adults alike with the cuddly comfort that only a four-legged friend can give.

The “comfort dogs,” or “therapy dogs” as they are sometimes called, were brought in by at least three groups late Sunday to help kids and adults alike cope with last week’s horrific shooting in Newtown that left 20 first graders and six school officials dead.

Among the groups was the Hudson Valley Golden Retrievers Club, whose members spent the afternoon at a makeshift memorial near the town center, where both kids and adults in need of compassion stopped to pet and cuddle the dogs.

Mourning or otherwise devastated children and parents said that petting the dogs gave them relief from their sadness.

“I just love dogs, so whenever I’m around them, they make me feel better,” said 12-year-old Ryan Williams. “When they come over and you pet them you kind of forget about what’s happening for a little bit.”

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Short Takes

Gag Rule Lifted — “President Obama yesterday lifted a ban on U.S. funding for international health groups that perform abortions, promote legalizing the procedure or provide counseling about terminating pregnancies.”

Get Frank Capra — Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich compares himself to an embattled movie hero.

Getting to Know Her — We are learning who Kirsten Gillibrand, the new Senator from New York, is and what she believes in.

Still Evolving — Texas state board of education is still trying to figure out a way to keep mythology out of the science books…or shoehorn it in.

That’ll Teach ‘Em — George F. Will comes out against SCHIP because it will teach sick children that they can rely on the government to help them when they need it.

Dancing with the Stars — Miami City Ballet is a hit in the Big Apple.

History Flights — “A group searching for missing WWII soldiers is raising money with rides in vintage planes.” They are based out of the Kendall-Tamiami Airport in Miami.

Saturday Morning Cartoon — Yakky Doodle

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Good People

Every so often a story comes along that restores and refreshes your faith in your fellow bipedal mammalian life forms. From the Sun-Sentinel:

DANIA BEACH – Willie Nelson, the Yorkie, found a new home. So did Muskrat, the cocker spaniel-poodle mix.

Even Pig Pen — an aptly named half-Maltese, half-poodle that looked as if he had never met a grooming brush in his life — found a master who saw beyond his matted white coat and sad past.

Excited barks and whines echoed from the Humane Society of Broward County’s shelter Tuesday as hundreds of would-be owners formed a snaking line outside, attracted by the news that more than 130 dogs were up for adoption after being rescued from a Tennessee puppy mill.

As the visitors packed the reception area, cooed over the kenneled canines, and signed waiting lists as many as six people long to vie for a pup, shelter volunteers posted cheery red stickers on many of the cages.

“Hurray,” the stickers said, “I’m adopted!”

By the end of the day, workers said most — although by no means all — of the dogs on display had taken the first step toward adoption. Still more are expected to become available today.

“It’s overwhelming. I come here and it reminds me: People are basically good,” said shelter volunteer Lisa Fechter, who said she was touched that so many were ready to adopt despite the poor economy.

Fechter, who was laid off from her job more than a year ago, adopted a dog of her own while fighting breast cancer. During rough times, she reasoned, humans and canines need each other.

“Right now, everyone is having a hard time,” she said. “But a pet lover has a heart, even when he doesn’t have a wallet.”

If my lease allowed it, I’d have been in line, too.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Ric’s Legacy

You’ve probably never heard of Ric Weiland. That seems to be the way he wanted it. But he was one of the men who was there at the beginning of Microsoft, and his legacy through philanthropy to the gay rights movement is making itself heard.

Weiland [pictured left with Bill Gates in 1976] has left $65 million to the Pride Foundation in Seattle and 10 nonprofit organizations, believed to be the largest estate gift ever given to the gay and lesbian community in the U.S.

His generosity didn’t stop there.

Weiland left $160 million, the majority of his estate, to charity. That includes a gift to Stanford University estimated to be worth $60 million, which the university said is the largest bequest it has ever received. Weiland also gave significant amounts toward environmental protection and scientific research.

Weiland, one of the first five Microsoft employees, committed suicide in 2006 at age 53.

It has taken more than a year to sort out his estate, and the full scope of Weiland’s giving is now starting to emerge. The first disbursements began last summer and will be completed sometime this year.

For the Pride Foundation, which has an annual budget of $2.5 million and endowment of $3 million, Weiland’s gift of more than $19 million will significantly expand its efforts throughout the Northwest.

The money will support anti-discrimination campaigns and programs to help youths, develop future leaders and provide scholarships.

[…]

Weiland was hardly a typical Microsoft millionaire.

He shunned the spotlight, refusing to be singled out on donor-recognition lists. Friends say he wrestled with the burden of wealth that came almost by accident, and thought deeply about how to give his life meaning.

Weiland, who suffered from chronic depression, found great solace in his philanthropic projects.

“I’ve never met someone with such a thoughtful personal agenda that was at the same time not about himself,” said Thatcher Bailey, a high-school classmate and friend. “It was about how he can be a good citizen.”

News of Weiland’s bequest brought a sense of hope to people still coping with the tragedy of his death. His suicide shocked even his closest friends, who didn’t realize how ill Weiland had become. That was the nature of his private personality, Haberman said.

“People knew him for years and years, but upon his death didn’t really know him very well,” she said.

[…]

Ultimately, Weiland hoped his acts would inspire more people to give, even though the visibility of these last donations would have made him uneasy, Bailey said.

“Each time he became more visible around his giving, I could tell he knew he was sacrificing something by doing that — the low profile that was so important to him,” he said.

But, Bailey added, “In his absence, he’s standing up one more time and showing people the way.”

Thank you, Ric.

(HT to CLW)