Monday, January 17, 2011

Daniel Hernandez, A Role Model Intern

Listening to NPR this evening, I heard a story of how Billy Sipple, a gay veteran who prevented Gerald Ford's attempted assassin from taking a shot at the president, and they mentioned how Daniel Hernandez is also openly gay.  The NPR story contrasted how Sipple was shunned, being unexpectedly outed 30 years before don't ask, don't tell was repealed, and how he died at the age of 49, alone and estranged from his family.  In comparison, Daniel Hernandez has been lauded as a hero, even though he is reluctant to take on that mantle, and has selflessly and humbly redirected the "hero" label to the first responders and law enforcement and paid staffers who Daniel said are the "real heroes".  As I watched last Wednesday's speech on public television, I thought to myself "what a well spoken young man!" and was struck by how unassuming he came across. 

I highly doubt that many strongly conservative, fundamentalist Republicans would not be taken aback by Daniel Hernandez's sexual preference and would "hate the sin, but love the sinner", wanting to "cure" him, or help him to "choose" not to be the person that his creator has made him, but to someone like me who is not a fundamentalist, and who understands the differences between nature and nurture and basic programming that 10% of the population throughout all of history has experienced, and that it is not a "sin" or a "disease", someone's sexual preference "just is".  And Daniel Hernandez's preference had little to do with his heroic act of rushing towards the violence and chaos, and in deeply caring for his boss to stem the flow of blood from her head wounds and treat her for basic shock... but it DID have much to do about being in service to others, in affiliating himself with a political party as a volunteer intern that doesn't condemn him or try to change him.  It DID have a great deal to help him work for social change in this red state of Arizona, where he spent a Saturday morning, when most other 20 year old college students would be sleeping in, or hung over, to be ready to pitch a hand in at his boss's "Congress on Your Corner".

I hope Mr Hernandez has a long, happy, productive career in public service, and he does not go down the same route as Billy Sipple after his very public, very heroic act.  The world needs more - not less - people like Daniel Hernandez.

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