Follow the Personal Experience

Along with “follow the money,” it’s the surest guide to predicting anyone’s position on anything — gay marriage, more funding for social services, gun control laws, public transportation, the mortgage crisis….. and stem-cell research:

Under fire from congressional Republicans for lifting restrictions on stem cell research, President Barack Obama got a powerful endorsement for his move Monday from Nancy Reagan, the former president’s wife.

“I’m very grateful that President Obama has lifted the restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research,” she wrote in a statement released shortly after Obama reversed the Bush administration limits. “These new rules will now make it possible for scientists to move forward. I urge researchers to make use of the opportunities that are available to them and to do all they can to fulfill the promise that stem cell research offers.”

Nancy Reagan has been an outspoken advocate of stem cell research — and scientists hope that the research could someday lead to a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, which afflicted her late husband, Ronald Reagan.

Her statement also illustrates how support for the research crosses party lines, even though many in the anti-abortion movement strongly oppose the research on moral and ethical grounds.

Reagan continued, “Countless people, suffering from many different diseases, stand to benefit from the answers stem cell research can provide. We owe it to ourselves and to our children to do everything in our power to find cures for these diseases — and soon. As I’ve said before, time is short, and life is precious.”

It’s not about this particular issue, as Craig Gordon suggests in the sentence I emphasized. He completely misses the boat on that one. Nancy Reagan, as a conservative Republican, might very well be opposed to embryonic stem-cell research right now — if it were not for the fact that her husband had Alzheimer’s disease.

Many years ago, I belonged to a support organization for families of children with Tay-Sachs disease. Through that organization, I met more than one parent who opposed abortion — until they watched the child they loved suffer and die from an incurable genetic condition — and then had to face the prospect of putting another child — and themselves — through that horror.

Even Dick Cheney did not engage in the homophobic posturings of other Republican leaders whose conservative bona fides are certainly no more solid than his are. In part, that’s because social issues never interested Cheney — his passion is facilitating unchecked executive power. But it’s surely also because one of Cheney’s daughters is gay.

Of course, there are exceptions. Newt Gingrich fulminates against gays and lesbians in spite of the fact his own sister is gay. Alan Keyes disowned his daughter when she came out as gay.

But those are the exceptions to the rule. And it kind of makes me sad, you know? This world is made in such a way that a person can accuse pregnant women entering clinics of murdering their babies, and then come to realize the importance of choice when a daughter or a sister or a close friend is raped, or has a pregnancy that threatens her life.

It’s different when it happens to you. And I wish that we humans had the empathy and imagination to put ourselves in another person’s shoes more frequently and more consistently than we do. This world would be a better place.

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