Spare Me the Righteous Indignation
People evolve. People rebrand themselves. People change. And you know what, change is good.
Changing demonstrates an understanding that although your way may not be perfect, it can be improved. A willingness to change shows a wherewithal that better options exist. To change is not to deceive, because changing is human. Having unwavering consistency is an attribute, whether it is a positive attribute is the question.
Supporters of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, tout his steadfast unwillingness to adapt on key issues as the prime qualifying attribute for his candidacy. As if evolution is all of a sudden a bad word. As if progressing ones views in acknowledgment of a progressing societal cultural shift is negative. When we are privy to new information, that new information ought to guide our future decision-making. That’s life! Admitting wrongdoing and acknowledging past failure is admirable, not grounds for political indictment.
Don’t misconstrue this message. The theory is not that Clinton should be exonerated of all past transgressions. Rather, she should not be held to a 2016 standard that focuses on speeches made over twenty years ago.
A middle-aged former Marine from the South raised me. His subconscious homophobia rubbed off on me. Playing college football only exasperated those beliefs. Gay marriage? Civil unions? Adoption? No! No! And Heck no! That was my mindset. The fear of what it meant to grant LGBT folks, personhood was palpable and real. After completing nearly half of my undergraduate degree, I finally realized the error of my ways. I understood more of the plight of LGBT people and saw firsthand their struggle for equality. What happened?
I am neither embarrassed nor ashamed of my younger myopia. No, I speak very openly about this personal evolution. Stigmatizing willful evolution is not in society’s best interest if we expect folks to change. I don’t apologize for my younger homophobia. I learned from it. I didn’t run from my homophobia. I grew from it. And today, I am proud to advocate for the LGBT community and am even more proud that so many in the LGBT community call me friend.
Growing up on Townsend Street in Santa Ana, California, I saw my fair share of crime. Gang violence, drug abuse, you name it, we had it. Former governor Pete Wilson passed the nation’s most comprehensive crime bill to combat these ills. That 90s era California Crime Bill was known as the ‘Three Strikes law.’ The essence of the law was to hold repeat offenders accountable by lengthening their term in prison. A second felonious conviction resulted in the doubling of a prison sentence. While a third felonious conviction resulted in an automatic 25-year sentence. I thought this was pure genius, and I grew up adoring Pete Wilson for the effort.
I watched my father work three jobs the majority of my childhood. I could feel his anger as he pondered how to replace the tools that were stolen from our garage every year. As he questioned how he could keep my sisters and I safe every time we dove to the floor during a drive-by shooting. The affect of crime was real. As a result, I was a huge proponent of Three Strikes! In my view, any policy that kept recidivist criminals off the streets was born of good intentions and I supported it, period. Actually, I hoped similar legislation would sweep the nation, and I held this belief for a very long time. But guess what.
After completing my undergraduate degree and working in a Massachusetts Sheriff’s Department, I learned that rehabilitation in prisons is non-existent. I learned that recidivism rates have ballooned as intended in order to accommodate our lucrative prison industrial complex. I learned that mandatory minimum sentencing and laws like Three Strikes systematically oppress a faction of people with limited resources. I learned that non-violent drug offenders are often treated as poorly as violent menaces to society. So…
Not only do I recognize how harmful laws like Three Strikes are. But I understand and appreciate why I previously believed that passing it was in the best interest of society. When new information is available, or societal views on issues change, governmental policy on those views should follow suit and align with the people who have placed them in power.
Maybe I’m in the minority. Maybe I’m the only person whose views have evolved over time. Maybe I deserve to receive the same vilification for evolving as Secretary Clinton. Or maybe, Sanders supporters should come down from their high horse and admit that evolving is not a legitimate criticism for any person.
Praising a politician for allegedly holding the same beliefs for forty years is among the most asinine of “qualifications” to be president. People change. Ideologies mature. Thoughts grow. New ideas form. And you know what — change is good, so spare me the righteous indignation!