(The Root) — We’ve all been there. Someone you care about starts dating someone you may not consider ideal for him or her. Maybe you think he or she has a less-than-ideal career. You may think to yourself, “There’s nothing wrong with being an exotic dancer, per se.” It’s just not who you pictured your baby brother settling down with.
You may have nothing against atheists personally. You just know that your best friend’s dad is a minister, and dating someone who considers church a waste of time won’t exactly be easy for her or her family. Maybe your cousin volunteered for President Obama’s campaign. So when she introduces you to her die-hard Tea Partier boyfriend, you think, “Her name’s not Mary Matalin, his isn’t James Carville and this isn’t going to last.”
But sometimes something surprising happens. Not only does it last longer than you imagined, but to your shock, and perhaps horror, they end up getting married. And then you have a dilemma. Do you speak, or do you “forever hold your peace,” as the wedding vows say?
Often how a person behaves in these moments, when real life throws a curve ball, tells you more about that person’s values than anything he will ever say, even if that person is a politician whose public life revolves around talking a lot about things such as values. I was reminded of this when photos surfaced of Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner at his daughter’s recent wedding.
Lindsay Boehner married Dominic Lakhan, a Jamaican-born construction worker, who happens to be black. He also happens to have been previously arrested for marijuana possession. Now, I don’t know Rep. Boehner at all, but I am going to go out on a limb here and guess that when he envisioned his ideal son-in-law, it probably wasn’t a dreadlocked manual laborer who was arrested for drugs. Very few men would envision such a man as their ideal son-in-law. Even fewer conservative men would — and even fewer conservative, powerful white men would envision such a man as ideal for their little princess.
There are men who would have made this clear, not only to their daughter but to everyone else, possibly by not attending such a wedding. And yet there was John Boehner, the man who has served as the primary face of the conservative opposition to President Obama — opposition that some have considered racially based in its intensity — showing that perhaps he’s not so conservative after all. He also showed that while plenty of people may have a problem with the increasingly brown America that Obama governs, one in which multiracial families are among the fastest-growing segment of the population, he is not one of them.
I can think of plenty of so-called liberals who might not have shown the same open-mindedness and character as someone in Boehner’s parental position — if not over the race mixing that this union represents, then certainly over the class mixing that it does.
A high-ranking Republican official endorsing such a union would have been unthinkable just two decades ago, when race-based political advertisements depicting black men as dangerous were still considered the norm. So just as the wedding itself is a testament to how far our country has evolved on race, Boehner’s attendance is a testament to our country’s political evolution as well.
For this reason, I want to congratulate the newlyweds, Lindsay and Dominic, and wish them much happiness. But I also want to give kudos to Boehner for not just talking the talk, as so many do, but for actually walking the walk — right on down the aisle. He set a positive example for his party and the nation, ultimately sending a message that yes, America is changing and will never be the same again. And you know what? That’s OK.