Please help me in my campaign to prolong Mary Margaret Haugen’s moment in the spotlight. Already fuzzy on placing that name? She’s the conservative, church-going, democratic Washington state senator from cozy Camano Island who, like our church-going democratic governor, had the courage to change her mind. Thanks to Mary Margaret Haugen, gay marriage is almost certainly going to be legal in our state, very soon.
How I admire a politician who thoughtfully and deliberately Changes. Her. Mind. This is not what we love to call “waffling.” This is the human brain doing what it does best: considering new ideas. Pondering them. Reflecting. Praying. Departing from long-unquestioned assumptions to ask and answer questions one might never previously have thought to ask.
This is why gay marriage is such a linchpin issue: because it is getting rational, thoughtful people all over the American belief spectrum to think in new ways. To have new conversations.
I’ve been reading a book by the Quaker writer Parker Palmer called A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life in which he talks about how damaging it is to live a life in which “soul” and “role” are kept firmly separate, our outer selves orbiting further and further from the compass of our true, inner selves. Politicians, perhaps more than any of us, are expected to wall themselves off in this way, keeping firmly out of sight any quirks or views their constituents might reject.
Gay marriage has given them, and us, a chance to ask: OK, how do I really, truly feel about this and why? And how would it change my life if I changed my mind? I would be changing the lives of others, and that’s pretty great. But might I also feel more whole, holding this new view?
Like Washington Governor Chris Gregoire, state Senator Haugen did not arrive at her decision lightly. In a prepared statement, Haugen said, “For some people, this is a simple issue. I envy them. It has not been simple or easy for me.” She went on to say, “I think we should all be uncomfortable sometime.” She concluded by pointing out the only reason she was the so-called 25th vote, the vote that ensures passage, is because she insisted on taking as much time as she needed to hear from her constituents and to sort it out for herself, to reconcile her religious beliefs with her beliefs, “as an American, as a legislator, and as a wife and mother who cannot deny to others the joys and benefits I enjoy.”
Wow. I want more politicians who think we should all be uncomfortable sometimes. Who think conversations that change minds are possible. Do I even need to bring up the Republican debates for contrast?
It is interesting to see these grown-up men working so hard to portray themselves as full of steely and unchangeable resolve, as if the ability to cling to one viewpoint without ever wavering is exactly what we’re looking for in a world leader. Isn’t one of the great reliefs of getting past, say, 30, the realization that you will, in fact, continue to change and grow for the rest of your life? I’d like to think so. Mary Margaret Haugen, you’re living proof.
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