I’m for Pete Buttigieg like I have never been for any politician in my life.
I was, very literally, held up by my partner the morning after Hillary lost, nearly exploding into tears on his shoulder. I knew what horrors were about to befall us. Even worse, I realized what horrors must already exist inside of us that we would ever grant a presidential admission ticket to a man as hideous and amoral as Donald J. Puffnstuff.
Like all of you – be you a soul with a 2020 button reading “Amy” or “Beto” or “Bernie” or “She’s got a plan for that!” or anything else – I was activated by the loss of 2016. I was beaten in the face with regret that I hadn’t done more before the election; that I had been so fashionably passive.
I would not have been able to live with my conscience if I didn’t change my ways, but confused and overwhelmed, I didn’t know where to start.
Todd has dingy skin and a grey-white beard that hangs like a thicket all the way down to his clearly visible sternum. He stood outside our local Ralphs market in California where I used to live. Months went by as I told myself I should ask if he needed help, but it was a conversation I only ever had in my head. I argued offering food would offend his pride. I convinced myself just considering kindness was kindness enough. I actually gave myself credit for thinking much, and doing zero.
It shouldn’t have been so anxiety-inducing, all the weeks I spent talking myself out of approaching him. But I had to do something if I wanted to ever give myself credit for working on bettering myself, and putting my Catholic guilt to bed whenever I fell short.
A week after Trump was elected, I walked up to Todd with my hand out and said, “My name is Gary Carter Green.” He introduced himself and we talked. I asked if I could buy him a sandwich and he kindly asked for turkey, as turkey took longer to go bad than chicken. From there, we began developing a friendship. Sometimes he would decline my offer to buy him food, patting his stomach and saying he was full. He told me about growing up in Louisville, Kentucky, and the two times he hitchhiked from one end of the country to the other. He wouldn’t tell me where he slept, but said it wasn’t warm enough for him. I brought him socks and a jacket. When I’d drive past the store up to my home, he’d wave and yell out my name.
A few months later, my partner Michael and I happened to be in the car together when I pulled into the lot, went over to Todd and picked up our conversation where we’d last left it. Michael, wide eyed, asked me once we were inside, “Who ARE you?”
All of this was going on before Pete Buttigieg started popping up in stories on cable news about “the small town mayor who was forming an exploratory committee for a presidential run. Oh, and he’s gay.”
That was April, 2019. And I thought, “No chance.” Cut to our 2019 Christmas party. I broke down my art studio and re-dubbed it “The Pete Suite,” covering the walls with Buttigieg pictures, stickers and yard signs, leaving my “Binder Full of Pete” open like it was a Bible on an altar. As I made up the personalized Pete Buttigieg drink coasters, I has to ask myself, “Who AM I?”
I consider Pete Buttigieg a modern American hero. He is as flawed as the rest of us, but controls his deficits better than most. As some attack him for being born with advantages, the smart people realize he’s made the most of the opportunities presented him. He possesses full control of his sexual orientation narrative, and has converted it into pure power in a profession where it has been historically weaponized by others into weakness. He listens (ask Michael Harriot at The Root.com), he embraces (defending Warren and Klobuchar after the debate attacks), and he learns. That he learns is what matters most to me. Did Donald J. Trump, possessing the world’s most powerful office and all of our hopes and dreams as Americans, show that carrying that responsibility ever taught him one damn thing?
I often fail to #BeLikePete. Sometimes, I beat myself up for it. Other times, I think, “not even Pete can always #BeLikePete.” And for many years I was a comedy writer. I went from being raised by a family of snark directly into a profession that rewards richly for the same. I’ve made my living identifying where the line is, and then taking a bold step over it. I am a smart, multi-faceted, snappy wordsmith, but I’d make the world’s worst politician. I wouldn’t get elected to mailbox painter.
It was noble for all us Pete supporters to try and put ourselves above the campaign melee. But some days it isn’t realistic. I trust Pete will stand by his ten rules of the road, even if I’m not always able to do it. And I never doubted Joe, Elizabeth, Bernie, Andrew, Cory, Kamala and all the rest understood how politics works. We’re asked as supporters to commit with our hearts, minds, dollars, and hopes. So yes, we’re entitled to our opinions, and to let off steam now and again. After all, even Amy Klobuchar flings a stapler once in a while.
I have been out of the closet now for half my life. I’ve been in a loving relationship for 16 years, sober for 10 years, and haven’t dyed the gray out of my hair for the last six months. I juggle multiple careers, worry about retirement, but not enough to deny myself a 75 inch HD television. When I would have marked my ballot for Pete Buttigieg for president on Tuesday, November 3, 2020, I would have just turned 50 years old. I never imagined in my lifetime I could marry my partner, or even kiss him on the corner without fear. I never thought I’d be so damn happy to be able to so fiercely support an openly gay, mid-western mayor in his late thirties to be the next person to represent and defend my nation.
Aren’t we lucky to be living in such embracing times?
Happy holidays to you, and thank you for reading, supporting, and arguing my words, and for cheering on my journey to being a better person. Here’s to Pete for all, and to all a respectful, belonging, truthful, bold, substantive, responsible, disciplined, excellent and joyful good night.
I couldn’t work in “teamwork” as an adjective, but I wish you teamwork too. #RulesOfTheRoad