In Favor Of “Flip-Floppers”

Today President Obama announced that he has changed his mind about gay marriage and now favors it.  Opponents of the move called him a “flip-flopper.”  Presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney has modified his position on certain issues over the years.  He’s been criticized as a “flip-flopper,” too.

I don’t get the “flip-flopper” criticism.  I think it’s common for people to reassess their views about issues.  I certainly don’t adhere to every belief I held when I was 20, or 30.  Life experiences have shaped my views, and circumstances have, too.  I don’t want a President who is so rigid in his thinking that he is unwilling to reexamine his position, even when events strongly suggest that his position is wrong or ill-advised.  Why wouldn’t we want a President who is flexible and open-minded enough to react to new information or new developments?

It’s worth remembering that perhaps the greatest “flip-flop” in American political history involved Abraham Lincoln.  Lincoln was morally opposed to slavery, but also was opposed to the notion that the government could, or should, simply order that slaves be freed.  He favored voluntary emancipation by slaveowners, who would be compensated as a result.  Military and civil conditions during the Civil War, however, caused Lincoln to revisit his position, and the Emancipation Proclamation was the result.  Although some people opposed the Proclamation, I don’t remember that people reacted by shrieking that Lincoln was a “flip-flopper” or an unprincipled hack.  Now, does anyone care that Lincoln’s views on the issue changed over time?  The important point was that Lincoln’s ultimate position clearly was the right position.

The lesson of Lincoln, I think, is that we should focus on whether we agree with the politicians’ stated positions, without worrying overmuch about how they finally got to those positions.  In the case of same-sex marriage, I agree with the President.  If a gay couple wants to make the commitment of marriage, and to assume the rights and legal obligations that accompany that status, I think they should be permitted to do so.  Why should a gay couple be treated any differently from another couple simply because of their sexual orientation?

I recognize that other people will disagree with this position because of their religious or cultural beliefs.  Such disagreements are the stuff of which political campaigns are made.  The important point, for purposes of this posting, is that the issue of same-sex marriage be considered and debated on its merits.  Whether a politician’s position on the issue has changed doesn’t advance the debate, and indeed just distracts from it.

Let A Pig Be A Pet

In Houston, a Texas district court judge has declared that Wilbur, a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig, is a “household pet” who can remain in his owners’ home. The case addressed whether Wilbur violated the local homeowners association rules.

Wilbur was a Christmas gift from Alex Sardo to his wife, Missy, and he quickly became a member of the family.  A few months later, a neighbor brought the pig to the attention of “The Thicket at Cypresswood Community Improvement Association,” which concluded that Wilbur was not the kind of “common” and “traditional” pet permitted by association rules and sent the Sardos a letter saying Wilbur had to go.

The Sardos went to court, and on Monday Judge Mike Engelhart ruled that a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig is a household pet not bred for commercial purposes.  He also noted that “Homeowner’s associations are there, on one hand, to maintain a neighborhood in a particular way, but they also have responsibilities not to infringe too much on homeowner’s use of their land the way they see fit.”

Hear, hear!  The ruling is a victory not only for pot-bellied pigs, but also for people who yearn to be free from the nosy intrusions of busybody neighbors who want to control how other people live.  This isn’t a case of people raising hogs in their backyard or having a lion for a pet.  Wilbur was a well-mannered pig who was kept in the home, didn’t cause trouble, and brought some joy to the lives of the Sardos.  Why should neighbors raise a stink, rather than doing the neighborly thing and keeping their opinions to themselves?  If Wilbur’s story causes even one homeowner’s association to back off, he’s served the interests of mankind.

Somewhere, a spider named Charlotte and a rat named Templeton are happy that Wilbur was judicially recognized as “some pig” — and no doubt “humble” as well.