Dave Agema has been a controversial figure in politics these days. He is a prime example of why moderates, many republicans, and liberals are disgusted with a particular group of Republican Party attitudes. His nasty, inaccurate, and bigoted statements over the last two years and most recently about gays, bisexual, and transgender folks as well as Muslims, are finally getting some serious attention and calls for him to resign his post as a party spokesman. About damn time. Even our governor made veiled comments against this kind of attitude. But it seems that as soon as Betsy DeVos, a former national Republican spokesperson and rich donor, spoke harshly about Agema’s comments we now see a flood of calls to resign. Ok, good. As a former republican, I say it is about time but I am finding some disgust with all this. Why? It comes down to evolution. Society is changing and with change comes upheaval and the extinction of some ways of thinking. As an analogy only, for I know better to seriously equate evolution in the biological sense to politics, there is a parallel from biological evolution that can be applied here.
370 million years ago, in the Devonian period, a group of fishes called the Sarcopterygii, began to adapt in ways that were more suitable than any other vertebrate to date for a life on land.
That being said, they were bound to water. They had to mate and lay their soft eggs in water and couldn’t handle environments that were dry. They were the first amphibians, the forerunner of today’s frogs, toads, and salamanders. “Amphibian” is derived from Greek and it means double-life. Double, as in the sense that amphibians are inextricably tied to water even if they live much of their life on land.
Around 60 million years later, the first unquestionable reptile fossils were found. These creatures evolved from amphibians and were far better adapted for life on land than their ancestors. They mated and laid hard-shelled eggs on land. Some, like a few modern snakes, may have given birth to live young much like mammals. These animals could move from the wetlands to the ancient trees, hills, and could even handle the harsh rays of the desert sun. Reptiles were the dominant land animals for 200 million years for good reason. Birds in turn evolved from a line of tough, swift, and warm-blooded feathered dinosaurs. Both the birds and another line of non-dinosaur reptiles became the first vertebrates to take to the skies.
Some republicans have said their views “are evolving” (a number have already evolved, thankfully). Granted, our democrat president has said the same thing about gay marriage but in general, it isn’t the Democratic Party that has the most resistance to the change in society coming from the acceptance of LGBT folks and their quest for equal rights and equal treatment under the law. “My views are evolving,” I hear some of the republicans, as well as some democrats say. Some are still in that double-life stage, like the amphibians forced to live partly in water and partly on land, never fully being independent of the swamps. They haven’t quite completely accepted the notion that LGBT individuals should be treated equally under all laws like heterosexuals are, and some even hold inaccurate views of our LBGT citizens, but are no longer speaking vile or bigoted statements. It’s progress. But I’m not letting them off the hook because they are evolving.
Granted, evolving views are far, far better than hearing some Agema-esque throwback to the pre-Devonian period. But, here is the issue: The party itself is still evolving on this topic, evolving slower than many of its own members. Their own platform bears this incredibly slow, halting, and haphazard evolutionary process. I think those citizens who want equal rights under the law are done with the glacial pace of evolution. As one of those citizens, I don’t want to wait for the amphibian to evolve to deal with the bright rays of freedom and equality. Given the choice, I’d choose the animal that has already evolved, not to wait for the thin skinned, wet amphibian to become a tough, swift desert dweller and then a feathered bird.
As much as I’m relieved to see the GOP evolving and starting to cut ties to backward bigots like Agema, I’m not completely satisfied. Finally calling for his removal isn’t enough since it is still an early stage in their slow party’s evolution of civil rights for LGBT citizens. In turn, until all citizens are treated the same and given the same rights, we still haven’t evolved far enough as a nation. As a nation, we still are in between as a group of feathered dinosaurs that one day may hope to evolve flight. Do we become the birds or does this movement go extinct like all the other non-avian dinosaurs? I think it will be the former; civil rights for other groups of people have evolved. There is little reason to believe this civil rights movement will fail. The only serious question is how long will it take?
In the next election, I will ignore the evolving but still slime-coated, water-logged amphibians from whatever political party. Perhaps in the due course of time, when it comes to this analogy, nearly all citizens will be like the birds and only a few will be still mucking it out in the stinking swamps slowly going extinct. Until then, I’m voting for eagles.