Posted July 21, 2012

Legacy

A Naptown Tales Sequel by Altimexis

Chapter 17 - Reconciliation - Kurt DeWitt

“Dad?” I said aloud as my father strode up to the pulpit, where I stood. My knees were shaking and I felt like I was about to lose it. I hadn’t noticed him seated among the congregation and it was a complete shock when he shouted out to stop all the negative words that were being flung my way.

“Let me handle this, son,” Dad said, “and then we’ll talk after the service.”

Speaking into the microphone, Dad began.

Ladies and gentlemen, for those of you who don’t know me, I’m Sanford DeWitt and I used to be the senior pastor of this congregation. Kurt is my son.

About twelve years ago, I made a terrible mistake. I put what I believed was God’s will above the welfare of my family. Not only did I abandon my son at a time when his need was greatest, but I walked out on my wife and my other two sons, all because I thought that’s what God would have wanted me to do. My wife spoke of Christian love and accepting our children as they are. The truth is I didn’t want to face having a gay son, and to have all of you knowing I had a gay son, and so I fled. In other words, I used the word of God as a cowardly excuse to avoid facing up to reality. I was in denial.

Let me make one thing clear. Make no mistake, homosexuality is a sin. The Bible is quite clear on this and it is a fundamental teaching of our church. Adultery is a sin, and so is gambling. Being drunk in public is a sin. Usury is a sin and the list goes on and on. Many of my colleagues single out homosexuality as one of the most egregious of sins, and advocate the casting out of those who practice it, even from our own homes. Until today, I did as well. Yet we would never cast out the gambler, or a person who has had an alcohol or drug problem, and I can tell you that I personally know several men of the cloth who are guilty of adultery. Why should we have a double standard?

It goes without saying that the Church has a love-hate relationship with anything at all having to do with sex. Without sex, there would be no procreation. God commanded us to be fruitful and multiply, so in this sense, God must see sex as a good thing - an act of love between a man and a woman arising out of holy matrimony. On the other hand, if there is anyone here who has never partaken of sex outside of marriage, who has never viewed pornography, who has never masturbated, who has never acted on lust rather than love, who has never deviated from the missionary position and who has been 100% faithful to their spouse, please come forward so that you can be nominated for sainthood.

There was actually some laughter from that.

The Papists carry this concept to the extreme,” Dad continued, “insisting that every sexual act must be open to the possibility of procreation. Although we don’t hold such a strict view, it remains important to distinguish between sex as a deviant act of pleasure-seeking of the flesh, versus as an act of love between two married individuals.

The thing is, my son Kurt and Trevor Austin are indeed a married couple and although their marriage isn’t even legal in this state and it certainly isn’t sanctioned by the Church, there is little doubt that they love each other and I expect that their deviant sexual activities are indeed an expression of the love they share. So how do we reconcile that with the teachings of the Church?

There is nothing I could ever say or do to make my son and his husband turn away from each other. Some would say they’ve made their choice to turn their backs on God while others would say it was God who made them that way. Although I have always believed the former, it’s hard to reconcile my beliefs with my son’s actions. In every other way he has been an outstanding human being, doing tremendous good for society. Do I really believe God would condemn him to Hell for all eternity in spite of all the good he’s done?

The world isn’t black and white… it’s made up of colors and various shades of grey. We must never lose sight of that fact that it was God that created our world. That is why Our Lord told us that vengeance is his and his alone. It is not up to us to punish the sinner. Jesus did not cast out the sinner. On the contrary, he took the sinner into his home!

My friends, we have all been taught that homosexuality is Satan’s tool and it is, but not in the way we’ve been taught to believe. Maybe it is a means to capture one’s soul, but it is society’s reaction to homosexuality that is Satan’s most powerful ally. When we shun those we love… when we turn our backs on those in need, it is then that Satan is at his strongest and it is then that we are the most vulnerable to his siren call . . . it is then that we add to his power.

Don’t let Satan win. Leave the issue of homosexuality to Our Lord. Give our children the love they need and deserve, no matter how they may stray. That is Jesus’ way.

And please give my son a chance. He’s a fine young man who has done many great things in his short life. As long as he doesn’t cross the line and he keeps his private life private, I see no need for the hateful rhetoric being heard here a few minutes ago.

Thank you, and Amen.

As Dad stepped away from the podium, the room was completely silent. With tears in our eyes, my dad and I embraced each other for the first time since I was a little boy. He might not have come around completely, but I had my father back.

 

I was amazed when Trevor accepted an invitation from the Kimballs for a barbecue at their place the next Saturday in celebration of my first week as assistant pastor. I didn’t think he could commit to keeping the weekend free like that but, as he said, “If we don’t make the time to be with our friends now and then, we might as well not have friends.” David’s parents, Trevor’s and mine were also invited, and my dad actually came!

The barbecue was held on the Kimballs’ back terrace, right by their swimming pool. The meal consisted of grilled fresh yellow fin tuna, corn on the cob, vegetarian baked beans, coleslaw and potato salad. It was a feast! We also had Becks beer - not that any of us were beer drinkers, but it was nice to be able to enjoy a beer with the folks.

For dessert, Carlotta made hot fudge sundaes that were out of this world. After polishing them off, we sat around the pool in our swimsuits drinking another round of beer as we ‘shot the shit’ with our friends and parents. It was cool to be able to relate to our parents at an adult level now. They weren’t just our parents, they were our friends too. Sweetest of all was that my dad was once again a part of my life, and he and Mom were getting back together!

As we sat around letting our food digest and enjoying our beers, David got into an animated discussion with Tom Kimball, Jeremy’s dad.

“I appreciate what you’re saying, David,” Tom said, “but even the best intentioned government regulations can have unintended consequences. Take the economic stimulus package Obama put through when he first took office. Included in the bill was a badly needed extension of COBRA benefits.

“Before then, displaced workers could opt to continue their health insurance, but they had to pay the entire premium out of their own pocket. Many simply couldn’t afford it and let their benefits lapse. Under the new rules, the government picked up 65% of the tab, making health insurance affordable for those with the greatest need. It was a good idea, right?”

“Not as good as a real national health plan, which would have made COBRA moot,” David answered, “but given the climate at the time, yeah, it probably prevented a lot of needless suffering.”

“I’m sure it did, David,” Jeremy’s father responded, “but it also created an enormous burden on businesses. The problem was the way the benefit was implemented. Whereas COBRA payments were traditionally handled directly by the insurance industry, the government created a mandate. The businesses themselves had to lay out the 65% themselves, which the government then credited to their tax bill at the end of the quarter. It created a lot of extra work and many businesses had to hire more people to manage it.

“Now as a business owner myself, knowing the added cost involved, it certainly made it less desirable to lay people off, but it also made it significantly less desirable to add employees in the first place. Why would I take a chance on hiring someone new if there was a risk I might get stuck with extra costs if they didn’t work out or if I had to cut positions? Politically, I think those were unintended consequences.

“I’m not discounting the need for federal oversight, but regulations place a major burden on the economy… a sort of drag, if you will… and they balloon the size of the government. And contrary to popular belief, the Republicans are just as guilty of doing this as are the Democrats.”

“But what’s the alternative, Tom?” David asked.

“I don’t have a good answer to that one, David, but the ideal situation would be a self-regulating economy. What’s needed is a framework for business with a fundamentally level playing field. If small businesses were to have the same access to the markets as large corporations, if the cost of entering the market could be kept low and if the market were to extract a heavy price for resorting to anti-competitive practices, there wouldn’t be a need to regulate it.”

“Sort of like Microsoft versus Google,” David responded. “Federal regulators in the U.S. and Europe tried to regulate Microsoft and to break up its monopoly position, but it was Google that came along and knocked Microsoft down to size.”

“Google’s a special case, David,” Tom countered. “Microsoft consistently produced a mediocre product and they stuck with a PC-centric model, even as enterprises were moving to a cloud-based architecture. But Google could have never developed and marketed their alternative operating system and productivity software had it not been for the success of their search engine. Their enormously deep pockets gave them the resources to take on Microsoft.

“Mark my words, however,” Tom continued, “someday the Supreme Court’s going to have to weigh in on the legality of giving software away for free as Google does. It’s one thing to use advertising revenues to fund software development… anyone can do that . . . but it’s actually anticompetitive to divert resources from other projects to do so, as it prevents smaller developers from even getting a foothold.”

“I never thought of that,” David replied thoughtfully.

“Few people have, and that’s the problem,” Tom replied. “I’m not saying every mom and pop operation should be given the chance to compete head-to-head with the likes of Microsoft and Google, but if you come up with a better alternative to what they have to offer, you shouldn’t have to worry about them shutting you out of the market by making exclusive deals with manufacturers or Internet Service providers, or tying you up for years with legal maneuvering.

“There’s nothing wrong with large corporations making deals with each other to streamline operations and lower costs, but those same deals need to be open and available to anyone and everyone that can provide the same service at the same price. Selling something at or below cost serves only one purpose… to shut out competitors and drive them out of the market. In no way does that serve the consumers’ interests in the end. Competition between brilliant minds is the driving force of what humanity has become today.”

“But in this era of globalization, won’t corporations just move their headquarters off-shore to skirt the rules?” David asked.

“They already do,” Tom answered, “and we let them get away with it. The bottom line is that the same rules should apply to all companies that do business here, regardless of whether they’re based here or not. If a company like Google wants to give away their software for free as a way of directing customers to their own sites, which display their advertising, there ought to be some sort of tax applied to eliminate or even penalize their anti-competitive advantage.

“I’m not quite sure how to do that, but it’s got to be cheaper than creating layers of ineffective government bureaucracy to try to achieve the same result. And unlike regulations and bureaucracy, taxes and fees can be applied to all who do business here, regardless of where they’re headquartered.”

It was evident David was taking what Tom said to heart and was seriously thinking about it. I realized in that instant that I’d witnessed a moment that would drive David’s economic philosophy, perhaps for the rest of his life.

 

Life settled down pretty nicely after that and I even talked Trevor into taking time out of his busy schedule to lead the youth choir - something he continued to do even after I left the position of assistant pastor four years later. Trevor was wonderful with kids and ended up helping many families through the ‘crisis’ of having a gay child, much as he did when he was in high school. No matter how busy he was at work, Trev always made the time for kids in need.

David managed to pull off a major political upset and won the governorship. I was one of his first political appointments. He hired me as his chief of staff, thus beginning a ping-pong back and forth between politics and the clergy that would mark the rest of my professional career.

It was as David and Jeremy began a serious discussion of their options for having children that Trevor and I got serious about adopting. We decided against the Watanabe procedure, particularly as it was still experimental and, after all, there were so many kids in need of a loving home. Having biological children wasn’t that important to us. Our children would be our legacy, no matter what their origin. We ended up adopting three children who’d been horribly abused and they became the light of our lives.

Trevor ended up convincing his dad to spin off their company’s network security operation and turn it into a publicly traded corporation with a truly national scope. Doing that had a major impact on our lives, however, as Trevor had to spend a lot of time on the road, setting up local offices, training personnel and making sure every local office or franchise adhered to the standards his father established in building the business in the first place. He was successful beyond our wildest dreams.

When David finished his second term as governor and then won a Congressional seat, Trevor and I decided to move with them to Washington. We bought a big old house together in Georgetown that our families shared and their two children and our three became inseparable. Trev continued in his role as CEO of the company and I headed up David’s Congressional office but I found being a staffer to be a very different job than being a governor’s chief of staff.

When a position became available at the National Cathedral, I applied even knowing it was a long shot. After all, I’d never been anything more than an assistant pastor at a moderate-sized congregation in a Midwestern city. With lowered expectations, I remained calm, collected and somewhat confident of my life’s accomplishments during the interview. Surprisingly, I got the job and went on to become the Dean a few years later, a position I held right up until David tapped me to be his chief of staff in the White House. In the meantime, Trevor resigned his position as CEO to become the Director of the NSA, a position he held right up until David tapped him to be his National Security Advisor.

When David became president, both our families moved into the White House. Now it looked like we’d all be moving back to our house in Georgetown, which we’d been renting out.

 

“Dr. DeWitt?” the President’s secretary called into me on the intercom.

“Yes,” I answered.

“Jeremy Kimball is here for his meeting with the President,” she announced.

“I’ll meet them in the Oval Office,” I replied. Yes indeed, the President’s office in the Underground White House was a replica of the one upstairs.

“Mr. Kimball,” the President said as he reached for Jeremy’s hand, “I know I haven't had a chance to say it before, but you have my sincerest condolences on your loss. Although we often disagreed, David Reynolds was a great man. His loss was everyone’s loss.”

“Thank you, Mr. President,” Jeremy responded as he shook the President’s hand. The three of us sat down in a grouping of chairs and sofas in the center of the room.

“I assume Dr. DeWitt filled you in on the reason for this meeting,” the President continued.

“He did, sir,” Jeremy answered, “but I’m still a bit astounded that I’m even being considered for the vice-presidency in your administration.”

“You shouldn’t be,” Schroeder replied. “You’re more than qualified. The thing is, the American people are looking for continuity. When the constitution was amended to provide a line of succession, it was assumed the Speaker of the House would take over only in the event of a national catastrophe, which in many ways this is. In some ways it might have been better if we’d stuck with the presumed line of succession from the President’s cabinet, but Congress appropriately felt that the President should be someone who was elected by the people.”

I couldn’t help but reflect on how ironic his statement really was. The cabinet secretaries had to undergo intense scrutiny and then be approved by the Senate, whereas the Speaker of the House was elected only by those in his local Congressional district. The only reason he served in his position was because he was the most senior Republican in the House. Longevity was generally a good thing as far as presidents are concerned but in Schroeder’s case it was a major liability.

“If you become the vice-president,” the President continued, “it will help to reassure the people that the policies of the man they elected will continue. The legacy of David Reynolds will not be lost.”

“But is that really the case, Mr. President?” Jeremy asked. “Will you actually continue the course charted by my husband?”

“The American People elected your husband as their president… not me. I fully intend to carry on with your husband’s policies,” he answered, but why did I get the impression he was lying through his teeth? He continued, “I may not have agreed with everything your husband stood for, but I certainly respected the man. He started out as a brash young Congressman…”

“A congressman with two terms experience as governor,” Jeremy interrupted.

“Yes indeed, but he was unseasoned in Washington politics,” Schroeder explained. “During his term in the House, I watched Congressman Reynolds mature a great deal, as I have seen you mature in the House, I might add, while your husband was in the Senate.

“If you’re asking me if I will handle everything exactly the same way your husband would have, I can’t commit to that. Not even you could do that. Things come up that aren’t anticipated. However I can assure you that I will do my best to continue the legacy of President Reynolds.” Why did I get the impression that his best wouldn’t be good enough?

The conversation went on for another two hours, right up until the President’s secretary announced that Sammy was waiting outside. During that time, Schroeder and Jeremy discussed anything and everything about the key issues America faced. Whereas Jeremy was very up-front in responding to every question the President asked, Schroeder was the quintessential politician, managing to evade giving a direct answer, even when asked a direct question. Some might have put it down to a habit developed from a lifetime in politics, but I was certain Jeremy understood exactly what the President was doing.

In the end, Schroeder assured Jeremy multiple times over that he would honor the legacy of David Reynolds, whatever that meant, and Jeremy, for his part, assured the President that, as vice-president, he would never challenge the President openly in public. It was quite clear from the way the President handled himself that he took Jeremy for a dupe who could easily be manipulated. If he thought that, I suspected he would quickly be proved wrong.

The contrast between the political perception of Sammy Austin and reality was even more glaring, and it appeared that Schroeder hadn’t a clue. Sammy was beyond a doubt the smartest person I’d ever met. An absolute genius who’d earned a doctorate from NYU by the time he was 22, no one was better read than he. With my photographic memory, I could recite the Bible in the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, but Sammy put me to shame. He was fluent in more than a dozen languages. His intelligence extended well beyond book smarts, however. Sammy was a shrewd politician who’d honed his experience in the classrooms of inner city schools, gone on to be a principal, a school superintendent and mayor, and who had several terms in Congress under his belt.

Sammy’s political persona was that of an intelligent but uneducated Midwestern hick. It was a carefully crafted act designed to counter reality. People weren’t entirely fooled - they knew he was brilliant - but his appearance as an ordinary guy helped make him electable. Unfortunately for Schroeder, he bought Sammy’s outward appearance in its entirety.

“Sammy, it’s good to see you, although sadly under these circumstances,” Schroeder began, and I was a bit taken aback that he’d called Sammy by his nickname. He’d been so insistent in calling me ‘Dr. DeWitt’ and Jeremy ‘Mr. Kimball’ - the difference was jarring. Perhaps it had to do with Sammy being a fellow member of the House, or perhaps he’d totally forgotten that Sammy himself held a doctorate.

“I know David Reynolds was a good friend of yours and I don’t have to tell you he will be missed,” the President continued.

“Thank you, sir,” Sammy responded.

“Your closeness to the President would be a particular plus when it comes to the vice-presidency,” Schroeder began his pitch. “The American People want to see continuity and you’re one of the few Republicans who can provide that reassurance. You’re widely identified with Reynolds and his policies, and your vice-presidency could provide the Republicans the cover they need to move the country a little bit more to the right.”

What the fuck? Did Schroeder have any idea what he was doing? I might be able to nod my head and pretend I was agreeing with him, but not Sammy. Sammy was never one to hold back from speaking his mind. I therefore knew an explosion was imminent.

“Mr. President!” Sammy practically shouted, “If you think I’m gonna provide you cover to reverse the policies of David Reynolds, then you’ve got the wrong man. I will never understand his tacit acceptance of the murder of the unborn, but in every other respect, I have supported President Reynolds policies more than 95% of the time. I am not about to abandon those policies now!

“Whereas Republicans such as yourself have been touting smaller government and lower taxes for years, David Reynolds actually delivered on that promise. Frankly, he was more of a Republican in ideals than the Republicans ever were. Socially, he was a liberal, but then so am I. I’m firmly in support of women’s rights. I firmly support gay rights. I fully believe in equality of all men and women. Nothing is gonna make me waver from those positions!

“The founding fathers saw fit to ensconce the separation of Church and State in the Constitution through the First Amendment. They made it clear that Congress may not pass laws favoring one religion over another. Yet you have repeatedly shown a willingness to favor Christianity… fundamentalist Christianity… over all other religions. I’m gonna tell you right now that is something I could never stand for. Despite all the rhetoric, God has never shown favoritism and neither should we.

“Unless you can agree up front, right now, to abide by the fundamental policies for which David Reynolds was elected, then I’m afraid you’ve got the wrong man.”

Whoa! Was Schroeder ever shaken up by Sammy’s tirade! The President did a lot of backpedaling and bent over backwards to assure Sammy that he would stay the course, but knowing Sammy as I did, I knew he wasn’t buying it.

At the end of the two hours as Sammy was leaving, I used the guise of escorting him out of Schroeder’s office to take him aside and tell him, “Just remember, Sammy, you can do a lot more to keep Schroeder in check by being on the inside than the outside.”

“I’m not sure I want to be a martyr, Kurt,” came Sammy’s reply. Still, he seemed to have gotten the message.

After returning to the Oval Office, I asked the President if he’d made his decision, and he indicated that he had. When he told me his answer, particularly with what I’d just witnessed, I was surprised to say the least. I assured the President that everything would be in place for his news conference later that evening.

The author gratefully acknowledges the invaluable assistance of David of Hope in editing, Low Flyer in proofreading and Ed in beta reading my stories, as well as Gay Authors, Awesome Dude and Nifty for hosting them.

DISCLAIMER: This is a fictional account of the assassination of the first openly gay president of the United States. Except as noted, all characters are fictitious and the reader is cautioned against attributing anything from the story to real individuals. There are occasional descriptions of consensual sex between underage boys and it is the reader’s responsibility to ensure the legality of reading this material. The author retains full copyright.