At age fourteen, as I was just realizing I would not grow up to fall in love and marry a woman, the evening news broadcast a story about a local gay pride parade, with footage of floats, men in drag, people marching and loudly professing their hope for a broader acceptance of diversity in the country. As we were watching, a family member in the room said aloud, “I wish they’d all just go back into the closet!” and a second family member answered, “Amen!” It was a moment of personal shame and fear within me that has lost no impact over the three decades since.
What a great time to be alive in this country today! To have been able to witness the groundbreaking work of Pete Buttigieg, and to be able to support him in his quest for the presidency, an office his disposition, intellect and heart make him so perfectly suited for, makes me very happy.
I would never support a candidate because of their sexual preference. There are a lot of nasty gay people in this world. In my twenties, I dated most of them. It’s been a thrill to be able to put my support behind such a qualified man who just so happens to share some of the same formative moments in his youth as I did. Those moments have shaped my thinking about people different from myself, and engaged my sense of compassion and empathy. But never before have I been so politically active. For that, I give Pete the credit, and my thanks.
In deciding to support Pete, a choice I made back in May when no one gave him a shot, I learned how to converse with total strangers about politics. I overcame my fear of calling up people in states I’ve never visited and telling them about Pete. I made new friends, and we supported and loved each other as we fought for a common cause. Sharing the message about Pete made me feel less alone.
Even more importantly, I developed my understanding of the country’s political system and the realization that I do have a voice, and that voice not only matters, but is crucial to building an American future better than the one we have today. I made a difference. I changed people’s minds. I swayed votes. That is something I do not doubt.
We can all agree that Pete did not get a fair shake. But… that’s politics. As time goes on, the useless bickering and baseless prognosticating about his candidacy will fall away, and won’t be remembered. What will be remembered is that Pete Buttigieg led an exemplary political campaign, unlike any other we have seen. He did this while not only retaining his values and sense of self, but by promoting them as an example for the way we can all go about treating each other, friend and foe.
Through all these months, Pete remained respectful, focused, congenial, true to his beliefs, and both a fighter and gentleman. I believe the media will eventually see this period as Pete “paying his dues” (silly, I know), and that next time around, Pete’s strengths will be celebrated and supported. Time will change the outlooks of the many who refused to see the tremendous political talent who offered his skills up to all of us in 2020, so that we could benefit from them.
Pete’s “Rules of the Road” are not just a catchy campaign angle. They’re principles we can all adopt to make more sense of an often ugly world and a destructive political climate, to hold on to our moral compasses and wage fierce war on the sinister players who want to hold power for their own selfish gains at the expense of the American experiment.
Pete Buttigieg is more than a candidate. He’s a teacher, a hero, an icon, a courageous soul, and a warrior. He’s an example I’m very grateful to witness in my lifetime. And now, he’s a permanent part of our shared history. Young people will read about him in textbooks. They’ll learn the expression “Be Like Pete” and everything that it means. They’ll see the Time magazine “First Family” cover with the photo of Pete and his husband, Chasten. None of this will be erased. It’s part of the American story now. And because Pete is a groundbreaker, his name will be associated with it forever.
We know what still needs to be done. I hope we can hold in our hearts that the path to a better world requires all of our commitments and voices. Because it’s easier to be cynical than it is to be brave. We have a job on this planet, and it’s to make it more inclusive, loving and unified than it was when we first arrived here. That’s the purpose of Pete’s Buttigieg’s candidacy. And I believe in Pete Buttigieg.