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While thinking about what I wanted to write for this issue, I was also listening to coverage of Barack Obama’s speech Monday morning where he addressed recent coverage of his former pastor’s political views which had been heralded in the media as “anti-American.”

Though Obama’s campaign staff must certainly have urged him to distance himself in anyway possible from the negative spotlight, I admire the stance he took in his speech, a stance which declared it is possible to care for someone without agreeing with that person.

Obama talked about his white grandmother who played a large role in his upbringing and explained that even occasional racially hurtful comments from this caretaker did not cause him to change his feelings.

The other side of the coin in this case is how to deal with the hurtful remarks of someone you do not like at all. Do you fight the speaker or the words? Opposing the words and ideas is a right afforded every American by the first amendment, but opposing the speaker’s right to say those words is dangerous.

This all reminded me of a rant I typed out four years ago during the last presidential campaign.

The following is an except from that rant. It may be a little dated in its political references but I think the message applies.

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

I’ve tried for years to follow this philosophy. Maybe it’s a result of having a politically vocal mother. Maybe it’s a result of the respect I have for the first amendment, gained during a lifetime of being around journalism.

In the final few days leading up to the presidential election, I’ve tried to pay attention to what political analysts are saying, watching the debates, actually stopping on CSPAN for awhile when I’m channel surfing. And while I still feel that this election could very well positively effect the country, I grow weary of what I’m hearing.

I just stumbled upon Tom Delay addressing the House on the topic of gay marriage and wished I could throw something at him. He stood there and talked about how even though gay parents and single parents have successfully raised children that it is not the “ideal” situation envisioned by our constitution and by our society.

Setting aside for a moment that marriage cannot be boiled down to merely a means of child rearing, Delay has entirely undermined his own rhetoric by trying to describe the “ideal” situation for children.

If you ask me, the “ideal” situation is for children to live in a home where they are loved, where there is food and medicine, clean clothes and education. A traditional man-and-wife couple can provide this but so can a single parent, a gay couple, a grandparent, an older sibling, an unmarried couple or a foster or adopted family.

Time has only proven that the success of a family structure does not rest on the composition of the household, but on the effort and love of those in the home.

A gay couple in today’s world works harder to become parents and are unlikely to do so unless they are truly dedicated to being parents and taking on all the joys and responsibilities that come with the territory.

A few years ago I read about a couple in Florida who took in a number of foster children with AIDS and other terminal illnesses. Other foster parents were reluctant to accept these children because of the addition financial and emotional stresses involved.

Yet though this particular couple knew from the moment they met these children that they would live only for a few more years and would require lots of extra attention, they embraced them, excited to share their home and their love with these forgotten innocents.

After a few years, they knew that their time with a particular child was coming close to sad end and wished to adopt the child so that at least before the child died, she would know that not only was she loved, but that she was part of a real family, always.

But because the couple was gay, they were denied the opportunity to adopt the child. The state was fully willing to let them take the child home, feed her, clothe her, make sure she went to school, got medical treatment and love her, but would not let them call her their own.

It’s true that it doesn’t take a piece of paper signed by the state for a child to know that her parents are really her parents, just as it doesn’t take a piece of paper for a couple to know that they love each other and are committed to one another.

There is so much hate in the world right now. Why shouldn’t we do every single thing in our power to strengthen and encourage loving relationships?

Regardless of my personal opinions and how angry some viewpoints can make me at times, I hope I can demonstrate the integrity Barack Obama has shown this week by remembering to be critical of ideas and positions, not of those voicing such opinions.

In the coming months of increasingly heated political discourse, we should all remember to not let issues and rhetoric get in the way of the things that really matter like family and friends.

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