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A Hidden Life, and Unvisited Tombs


Recently I've seen attempts to justify unfriending friends or family (in real life and on social media) because said friends and family members voted for Donald Trump, or some other politician whom offends them. I've also witnessed far-left liberals trying to prevent anyone from celebrating Senator Cory Booker because he may not have always voted in ways they approve of.

All of this reminds me of an experience I had last week. It was a biopsy of some lymph nodes in my neck. It was in the cold, sterile setting of a hospital. There were several staff members running to and fro, going about their business of the day, a small part of which had to do with my procedure. Most of them were professional and polite, though not particularly warm and friendly.

Except for one.

One of the nurses was exceedingly caring and full of empathy. I was scared. This was a test to see what was going on inside my neck. Was cancer present? Was it just an infection, or nothing at all? Would surgery be required? Would I lose my jaw, as happened to Roger Ebert when he'd had surgery to remove a salivary gland tumor? If it was cancer, had it spread? These were the thoughts swirling in my head as the process began.

As I lay on my right side, a tarp (of sorts) being placed over my head and the numbing medicine quickly injected into my neck, I suddenly felt my head being cradled, and someone's hand slowly brushing my hair. "It's just me," cooed the aforementioned nurse. "I'll be here with you." While the fear and panic did not completely subside, it was made better during those moments by a woman who could have just gone on and done the bare minimum of her job, but who also was a fellow human being and decided to be of comfort to a frightened patient.

I recount this experience because, during the recovery process after the procedure, and awkward discussions ensued that were mainly attempts not to talk about the elephant in the room, it became clear that the nurse was not an Obama fan. A few other tell-tale facts and opinions emerged that made me suspect she could be a Trump voter (this wasn't explicitly stated, but it wouldn't surprise me). It's just that some of the political stuff she said are things I've heard from the lips of others who ended up supporting Trump, or other politicians with whom I disagree.

The dichotomy of someone being an empathetic human being, while at the same time supporting elected officials who appoint folks who seek to undermine my rights as a gay man is not always easy to understand, yet I've seen it play out enough times to reinforce the belief that people are complicated and not easily pigeonholed. Ashley was in the hospital room with me last week. I'm sure that someone as attuned to emotions as the nurse knew what was up.

I've known other people who have been exceedingly kind and gracious to Ashley & I as same-sex partners, yet know they support conservative politicians that look upon as an abomination. These people include certain friends, neighbors and family members. I'm not saying it's been easy to reconcile -- mentally and emotionally -- but I do think it worth considering the totality of an individual, rather than dismissing them completely because they don't conform to everything you want them to be.

We're in an era where we seem to demand perfection from everyone whom we know and vote for. And, yes, some of these issues are damned important, and a lack of agreement about them from others can be difficult to square with our passions and righteousness. It can also mean enduring pain and suffering  because of these differences. It's certainly no laughing matter, and not to be taken lightly.

And yet.... while I am big Obama supporter, last week someone who is not was one of the major reasons I was able to make it through a painful and distressing experience. And there are others like her. Do I dismiss them from my life, simply because we do not see eye-to-eye on everything, even things that are of great import to each of us? Or do I accept their kindness, and they mine, and attempt to understand that we're human beings, together on this planet, not always alike, and try to have a little more understanding of how imperfect we truly are?



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