Disclaimer: Still not gay.
Over the weekend, my wife and I went to Charlotte, North Carolina to hangout with my brother at his new apartment. My brother and I are massive cigar snobs who struggle with viewing our non-smoking brethren as lesser men. While Charlotte is not Tampa, in terms of quantity of cigar shops, there is a surprisingly good selection to choose from. On Saturday we committed the afternoon to hitting up all of the best cigar shops in town. As we drove into the city, we saw more and more signs promoting a gay pride parade that afternoon. Being from Middle Georgia, I assumed the parade would consist of 5 obnoxious people decked out in rainbow colors, occupying a street corner. Boy was I wrong.
After making it into the city and heading to the first cigar shop, we walked around a corner and were greeted by a massive wall of rainbow colored everything, as far as the eye could see. Thousands of people from all backgrounds and life stages were (as baptist call it) fellowshipping in the street. Aside from being the only 2 registered Republicans within a 6 block radius, what made matters worse was we looked the part. Our white skin, Polo shirts and Khaki pants basically screamed privileged, homophobic, Republicans.
Still in search of the cigar shop, we were approached by a man, literally, yes literally, wearing a rainbow flag. As the guy walked toward us, I braced for the awkward conversation that was about to take place. I was wrong. He was friendly, cordial, and made us feel welcome to the event. He was proud of who he was and what be believed in, but not one time did he try to force his beliefs on us. Again, it was abundantly clear to him that our political beliefs likely did not line up, but he accepted us for who we were. Before we finished the conversation, he even invited us to his church where they had the first transgendered priest in the city! Not kidding.
Between talking with this guy and finding the cigar shop, we had a handful of conversations along the same lines. People stopped us to chat, just to make us feel welcome to the event. As I sat in the cigar shop, smoking my Rocky Patel, I couldn’t help but wonder, what if the opposite scenario had unfolded. What if someone strait out of this event, came to a large conservative gathering? Would we go out of our way to make them feel that welcome? Would we treat them with respect and make them feel like they belonged? For myself I can say, probably not.
As minority populations and special interest groups increase, the make up of the Republicans Party will continue to change. Conservatives need to be reminded that it does not matter how superior our ideas are, if we fail to welcome those who are new and different from us. If we do not treat those contrasting voices with the love and respect they deserve, our side will never grow.