The third nationally-televised Republican presidential primary candidates' debate gave viewers another in what is becoming a rather embarrassing (or at least those guilty of committing the faux pas should have the sense to be embarrassed of and for themselves) litany of offensive reactions to questions offered to or comments given by the candidates in-attendance. When a gay U.S. Army servicemember asked in his YouTube question of the candidates whether they would attempt to circumvent the progress made in gay rights, epitomized most recently by the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", shouts of "Boo!" were heard emanating from the attending audience. And while those audience members called-out their derision for the gay man who had the courage to put voice to his concerns, the candidates on the stage stood silent. They not only did not rebuke the disrespect those audience members showed toward someone who is currently serving in the United States armed forces; their silence, to coin an old phrase, "was deafening." They essentially gave license to anyone who wished to condemn and ostracize an American if they are gay. Such behavior is not only offensive, but it is beneath what this nation is supposed to be all about.
Political candidates have an opportunity throughout a campaign, and then later while serving should they win their campaign, to define the moral character that they embody. It gives potential voters a chance to see/hear what ideals and principles are important to the candidates. Often times current events helps to shape what 'ideals and principles' are at the heart of voters' consciousness. The fairly protracted legislative repeal of the federal government's policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (allowing gay servicemembers to serve in the U.S. armed forces openly and honestly), and the official recission of that policy from the respect codes of conduct of the various armed forces, thrust the issue of gay rights and gay men and women serving in the armed forces into the forefront of the ongoing political debate. And such moments provide candidates with a perfect opportunity to portray themselves someone who does not side with those who would choose to discriminate against gay Americans. Instead, the entire cadre of candidates stood mum; looking like the perverbal "cat that ate the canary."
And if there was any doubt about how many Republican voters feel about gays in general, Rick Santorum gave voice to their despicable moral stance by declaring that he would not attempt to "get around" the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"; he would reinstate the policy. He doesn't feel that the U.S. armed forces is the place for any sort of discussion or recognition of sexual orientation/intimacy. An opinion that is obviously out-of-touch with reality. If our armed forces was such a paragon of non-sexual virtue, then we wouldn't have experienced the "Tailhook" scandal of the latter part of the 20th century. We wouldn't have servicemembers reporting all manner of sexual assaults, rapes and molestations committed upon their persons by their fellow soldiers; they wouldn't exist is such a sex/sexuality-free vacuum.
Let's face it. There are some Americans who simply do not like homosexuals. Period. In fact, many of those same Americans feels so strongly in their dislike of gays that they would support the forced removal of them from American society. That's fine. While many would agree with the premise that discrimination against gays is simply wrong, noone is suggesting that Americans shouldn't be allowed to believe whatever they wish to. But the right to think that homosexuality is some sort of corruption visited upon human society has not, does not and should never give anyone reason to believe that it is appropriate to actively publicly discriminate against gay men and women.
It's safe to say that noone thought that the contest among Republican presidential candidates wannabe's would produce some stalwart defender of acceptance, tolerance and equality. Americans aren't quite that naive. But I do believe that most Americans would hope that those individuals who feel they are, for some reason, qualified to be the leader of the free world, would demonstrate the very best of our those very American ideals of acceptance, tolerance and equality.
I don't think any American is expecting any sort of miracles to come about from the Republican debates. I don't think most Americans expect much of anything from the debates, other than perhaps a certain measure of amusement and macabre entertainment. I do think most Americans want our President, whoever he or she might be, to be someone they can be proud of when standing on the world stage. Who could be proud of the shameful display we witnessed last night? Not I.