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This is Rick Santorum's America (from the movie American Beauty):

It is a place in which a father throws his son out of the house because he suspects he is gay. A place in which a closeted gay man is so ashamed of his sexuality that he murders his neighbor across the street whom he believed was seducing his son into a life of homosexuality.

Does Rick Santorum advocate violence and terror against gay people? No. Does his rhetoric encourage that to happen? Yes, absolutely.

I have a confession to make. I used to hate gay people. I look back in shame at how I called them "faggots" during my adolescence and actually relished criticizing them in harsh terms. I believed they were disgusting and worthy only of scorn and social opprobrium. But I forgive myself. I assimilated this attitude from what I was taught, not because I was a hateful person by nature -- and not because my parents were either (they are not).

You see, I grew up in a conservative Republican home. The kind of attitude that Rick Santorum has toward LGBT people was considered normal and proper in my family, as in most conservative families. As I got older, I changed my mind. I evolved. So did my whole family. The fact that we have gay and lesbian cousins who are very nice people had a lot to do with that.

I would like to think that all of America can evolve to be a more tolerant, accepting society. We can become a people who respect the great diversity of the human race. We have that in our heritage, just as we also have the stern puritanical moralizing and theocracy that Santorum wants to see restored.

Rick Santorum's America would be an ugly place, a place of great pain and suffering for many people. But America is better than that. We are capable of a beautiful spirit of love and reconciliation for all people. We are a nation of all nations, all colors, all creeds, and all sexual orientations and lifestyles.

It is a shame that somebody like Rick Santorum is a frontrunner for the nomination of a major poltiical party in this country in 2012. It is deeply shameful for America, in the fullest sense of the word "shame." I thought we were past that as a people. I really did. It took me by surprise. But now that it's happening, we need to take it very seriously. It reveals that America still has a lot of growing up to do. We still have a large segment of our society that is full of hate for people who aren't like them.

I have realized that my strong reaction against the rise of Rick Santorum is in part a personal thing. Because of my experience of being anti-gay in the past and holding conservative religious and political views before becoming a progressive, I feel deep in my heart that Santorum represents a direction that would be profoundly wrong for America and severely hurtful for many of our nation's people. He should not be laughed at or encouraged in any way. This is gravely serious business.

I envision an America of peace, love, and freedom on the horizon. We, as a people, are capable of creating such a reality. But we are also a people who, historically, have proven ourselves to be capable of the Salem Witch Trials, enslaving African Americans, putting Japanese Americans in internment camps, and dropping nuclear bombs. We are a people that is capable of extremes of great good and great evil. We can't take our own people or the possibilities of what they might do, or how they might vote, too lightly.

Right now, there are dark storm clouds looming on the horizon of our body politic. An Obama-Santorum race could be incredibly vicious and nasty, exposing an ugly side of our country for all the world to see and leaving much collateral damage in its wake. I don't want to see that race happen. But if it does, at least we can hope it would be a learning experience for our people; a "taking a good look at ourselves in the mirror" moment for America, in which we confront our true face, warts and all, and hopefully emerge stronger and more beautiful after reflecting upon the progress that still needs to be made.

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