It’s amazing what happens when a politician goes off-script, so to speak, and says something noble and from the heart. You can almost hear the sighs of relief from coast to coast.
The speech Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox gave Monday at a Salt Lake memorial for the victims of the Orlando massacre has gone viral, most likely because of its obvious sincerity and because what he said is not something America expects to hear from a straight, white Republican from Utah.
If you haven’t read a transcript of the speech, a copy of it is here: http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865656262/Ut-Lt-Gov-We-must-learn-to-truly-love-one-another.html
Cox apologized for being unkind to gay people in his youth and told about how his heart had changed. Then he asked members of the straight community to ask themselves how they felt when they heard of the shooting, and then to ask themselves, “Did that feeling change when you found out the shooting was at a gay bar at 2 am in the morning?”
If it did, he said, “then we are doing something wrong.”
The current presidential campaign season has been dominated by people who claim to “tell it like it is.” Cox made them all look foolish by talking about how sad he was “to see far too many retreating to their over-worn policy corners and demagoguery.”
He didn’t have to mention by name the people talking about gun control or banning Muslim immigrants. They are seemingly everywhere since Sunday. They looked downright opportunistic compared with Cox’s message of genuine sympathy and love.
The reaction, as far as I can see, has been nothing but positive. The gay news site Queerty.com said, “This is the Republican Party we need.” Amber Phillips of the Washington Post said Cox was “a source of comfort for the gay community in one of its darkest times.”
That was what was needed in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy. Important policy debates can come later.
A lot of Americans I encounter are dismayed by their political choices this year. They see dishonesty and nastiness where once the nation could expect grace and decorum. Cox has renewed a sense of hope that this doesn’t have to be a permanent condition.