Response to Russell’s Post on Outing
I got picked up for shoplifting when I was in my 20s. It was a stupid thing I did for no other reason than because I could. I grew up in a cop family so there was an added layer of embarrassment. Thankfully, the incident was hidden from my former-police officer grandfather though I want to believe he would have been forgiving because he understood that kids do stupid things. I paid for my crime with community service and my worst offense since that day has been a few speeding tickets. Still, there are some that would say my position both then and now as a staunch defender of our laws and the need to observe them was weakened by my actions.
It seems to me that the larger issue here is private vs. public life among public figures. My inclination has always been to allow politicians to exist in a vacuum of sorts in the sense that one’s private life should not preclude one from having seemingly contradictory public opinions. Also, I have always despised the notion that if you are not a bright, shining example of all those policies you support then you lose your moral standing to speak on them.
The counter-argument seems obvious which is that there is a difference between past actions and doing it in the present while you are publicly opposing that very thing which you have done in private. The problem is that we are all imperfect. As I wrote recently, “…there is a regrettable gap between my beliefs and my actions and the challenge is to try to make that gap smaller and smaller with each passing year.” I don’t know anything about the Congressman that Russell wrote about so I will not assume that he is ashamed of his sexuality and wants to change it. I don’t know if his political positions are designed to stay in office and he is acting out a part so he can keep his job. What I do know is that humans are complicated and full of contradictions. That is why I agree with Russell that public outing is wrong.
I understand the fury that comes from observing such blatant hypocrisy. I’m not even willing to say the journalist that did this shouldn’t have. It’s a legitimate story and he is doing his job. The press has no responsibility to hide elements of people’s private lives, but we can still hold up the ideal that private actions do not dictate public positions. In much the same way, if I was in elected office I doubt that my private opinions would all translate to public policy. For example, I am fiercely anti-abortion but I would never support a federal ban on the practice. The Congressman has his reasons and perhaps naively, I am inclined to respect them.
You can find Russell’s post here.
Mike Dwyer is a freelance writer in Louisville, KY. He writes about culture, the outdoors and whatever else strikes his fancy. His personal site can be found at www.mikedwyerwrites.com. He is also active on Facebook and Twitter. Mike is one of several Kentucky authors featured in the book This I Believe: Kentucky.