Thursday, May 10, 2012

Oh, I almost forgot...

... a few weeks ago I finally received a letter from UC Davis. I got in!

So, even though I had already decided on Iowa well before the news came, it was still pretty cool.

Here's the final count:

12 accepted
3 waitlisted
2 rejected

Whoo hoo!


Well, the question of who to vote for in 2012 just got more complicated for me.

If the election were before yesterday, I probably would have voted for Barack Obama. Not especially avidly or ardently or with any fire in my belly, but simply because life for me and my family during the past four years hasn't been that bad. In fact, it's probably been better than it would if John McCain were president. Erin's and my being able to stay on our parents' health insurance until age 26, a tangible result from Obamacare, has actually directly affected and helped me, a head of household who made fewer than five figures last year (and not for lack of work ethic).

I like President Obama's plan for supporting education and making student loans less burdensome. Although we only know through retrospect, the auto bailout worked. The economy isn't great, but it's better than it used to be. In the realm of foreign policy, under President Obama's watch the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are tapering off, and both Osama bin Laden and Muammar Gaddafi were toppled. And in the case of Gaddafi and Libya, not a single American soldier was lost and the operation was only a matter of months.

Maybe Romney would be a better president, especially in relation to the economy. And he also supports lower interest rates for student loans. But in almost everything else (taxes, immigration, foreign policy), he's either the typical rich snob, the typical Republican, or both. It's hard for me to be a big fan of someone who has an elevator for his cars, says "corporations are people too" and calls himself a fan of "sport." Maybe I'm just skeptical and hesitant when it comes to people whose wealth is in another stratosphere, and who don't know how to relate to people whose wealth is closer to earth.

I disagree with some of his political beliefs, but I wouldn't bemoan Romney becoming president, and I don't think he'd be a disaster or anything. He could even be great. Who knows?

And, since yesterday, I might be more willing to give him a chance.

Barack Obama came out in personal support of same-sex marriage yesterday, in an ABC News interview. He said that his views on the subject have "evolved," and after talking with his family and pondering about it, he has decided that same-sex marriage should be legal.

That in and of itself doesn't bother me. Of course he's entitled to his opinion.

And, a vote for President Obama doesn't necessarily mean a vote for same-sex marriage (yet). He said that politically, legalizing same-sex marriage should be left up to the states. And I can live with that. I wouldn't flee the country even if a majority of states legalized it. Heck, I'm about to willingly move to a state where same-sex marriage is legal. Iowa can legalize it if it wants to, and North Carolina and California can make it illegal if they want to. And I'm fine with that.

But here's what does bother me:

1) There was some discussion, definitely warranted, on how when Romney changes his mind on something, it's "flip-flopping," but when President Obama does it, it's "evolution." I usually think Romney does flip or flop according to what is most politically opportunistic. He's a capitalist, in the sense that he likes to capitalize on any situation and make any statement that will get him votes. But, on some of his positions, I think Romney probably did genuinely change his mind. So does President Obama, and so does any human being. The media should remember that in their portrayals of both Romney and President Obama, and should be fair to both sides. And by portraying Romney and President Obama in this way, it's a dead giveaway of media's liberal bias.

2) What bothers me more than that, however, is this will add momentum to the sense that universal support for same-sex marriage is inevitable, and that it's only a matter of time before everyone else will "come around."

In many ways, I think the change in opinions and understanding about homosexuality is progress and evolution. And I've progressed and evolved too.

But no matter how much knowledge I gain about the issue, I don't see myself ever voting for same-sex marriage.

Just in my own short lifetime, I have seen a shift in public opinion on this issue. Support for gay rights and same-sex marriage rights have moved from being represented by folks on the extreme fringe to being shared by people in the mainstream. I remember when someone who wanted marriage for same-sex couples was radical. Now, someone who doesn't want same-sex marriage is widely considered a backward-minded bigot.

Some gay rights activists see themselves in the midst of a revolution, and compare themselves to Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. In reality, the Mormons and others who supported Prop 8 in California are more like the civil rights crusaders than the gay rights activists are.

"After a significant majority of California voters (seven million - over 52 percent) approved Proposition 8's limiting marriage to a man and a woman, some opponents characterized the vote as denying people their civil rights. In fact, the Proposition 8 battle was not about civil rights, but about what equal rights demand and what religious rights protect. ...

"The marriage union of a man and a woman has been ... the core legal definition and practice of marriage in Western culture of thousands of years. Those who seek to change the foundation of marriage should not be allowed to pretend that those who defend the ancient order are trampling on civil rights." - Elder Dallin H. Oaks

No matter what side of the debate we are on, we have to realize that fighting for same-sex marriage is not the same as fighting for human rights. The freedom to marry is not the same as freedom from oppression or tyranny. Sexual orientation is not the same as race or ethnicity, and being gay is not the same as being black or white.

Being in a homosexual relationship or marriage has always been a choice. Even if someone is born with a susceptibility to the temptation, acting on that temptation is still a choice. Being tempted by homosexuality does not define us any more than any other temptation or sin defines us.

“You serve yourself poorly when you identify yourself primarily by your sexual feelings. That isn’t your only characteristic, so don’t give it disproportionate attention. You are first and foremost a son [or daughter] of God ...” - Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

I can't help but see this issue through the lens of the understanding and knowledge I have, whether that be secular or spiritual knowledge. I don't want to force or impose that knowledge on others, but at the same time I don't have to embrace something that is contrary to and conflicting with my knowledge.

On a lot of political issues, there isn't any cut-and-dry knowledge, secular or spiritual, to make an obvious choice. But you won't be seeing me voting to legalize same-sex marriage, marijuana, taking the Lord's name in vain, coveting or anything else I know is wrong.

At the same time, if other voters choose differently and put me in the minority, I won't hate them. I'll just have to work harder to follow what's right and teach what's right to my family.

3) President Obama said that he talked about this topic with his daughters at the dinner table. And what they said surprised me. The president's daughters had friends who had same-sex couples as parents, and to them it was completely normal.

"It wouldn't dawn on them that somehow their friends' parents would be treated differently. It doesn't make sense to them," the president said in the interview.

Before that, when I imagined Allisyn and my future children growing up and learning about the world around them, I was expecting that I would need to teach them to be tolerant and respectful of people who choose to live a homosexual lifestyle.

But now, I wonder if maybe Malia's and Sasha's and my children's generation lives in a different world than I do. I might have to teach my children from the other direction, guiding and reminding them that although we should be tolerant and respectful of others' beliefs, God intended for marriage to be between a man and a woman, and there are reasons for that. I agree that "their friends' parents" shouldn't "be treated differently" by my children. But those parents and their lifestyle shouldn't be treated as just another viable option, because according to what I know and what I want my children to know, it isn't.

It's not necessarily a problem that I would have to teach that way. Just an interesting factor to add to my future parenting methods.


I don't know yet whether all of these thoughts and feelings will make me vote any differently this November. But, I'll put it this way: spending the summer in a house with a Mitt Romney sign on the front lawn might not be as bad as I thought it would have been a couple of days ago.

Did done gradjiyated

The lack of blogging activity over the past three weeks hasn't been because of lack of activity.

The same week as my Daily Herald finale, BYU had its graduation ceremonies. Even though Erin and I both graduated in December, we wanted to participate in the ceremonies. We were in town anyway, staying in Provo while I worked and while we decided where we would be heading after leaving Provo. And, even though we already had our diplomas framed and everything, it was still nice to have some more formal recognition.

Both of our families came to Utah to see us and celebrate with us. On Thursday we had commencement, which was a gathering in the Marriott Center for all of the graduates. Elder Dallin H. Oaks spoke. Then on Friday we divided by colleges for our individual convocations. Even though Erin graduated with a major in family studies, she joined me at my communications convocation. I loved having her with me (and I'm sure our families appreciated not having to go to two convocations!).

The convocation was nice too. I thought the speeches by Ray Beckham, Briana Carr and Christine Clark were great and inspirational.

I just had two complaints about convocation:

1) When Erin's name was called, it was mispronounced. Even with phonetic instructions on the name card, it was messed up.

And, 2) there was no recognition of the existence of The Daily Universe. I'm not saying The Daily Universe is the end all be all of the BYU Department of Communications. But I never understood why the newspaper is treated like an afterthought when it should be treated like a flagship. I'm sure most of the parents and alumni there remember The Daily Universe from their BYU days, more than the Ad Lab or BYU Eleven News. (Maybe I'm just jealous that I didn't get to speak at convocation, haha.) Anyway, it brought up some of the emotions I had when I wrote this post back in January.

But, all in all, it was fun to be a part of graduation.

Thanks to Beth Mathews for taking pictures!

This one is a meme waiting to happen.
So that was just one big event in our family that week. We also moved out of our apartment, which was a bigger task than I imagined. We did it in stages, which was nice. We moved some big stuff a month earlier, most of our stuff when Erin's dad and brothers and their big muscles were in town, and the rest of it when it was time for the landlord to prepare the place for new tenants.

But at the same time, it seemed like it would never end. I was working, and so I didn't actually do a whole lot of packing or cleaning. Which makes Erin the hero for getting all of it done.

What we came up with for our plan to transition from Provo to Iowa City was to store most of our things at Erin's grandparents' place in West Valley. And then we stayed there for about a week and a half, while I worked at my other job making money right up until the bitter end of living in Utah, and while Erin waited for Jamie's homecoming from her mission in Peru.

Then, we drove from West Valley to Erin's family's house in Tomball, Texas. This will be "base camp" for a couple of months. We still haven't been to Iowa to look for a place to live, and it will be easier to do that from here, where we don't pay rent and where I don't have to ask for time off work. Plus, between Erin and I we have three siblings graduating from either high school or college, and it will be nice to not have to ask for three weekends off in June. I don't highly recommend unemployment, but it does make your schedule more flexible!

Like we did last summer, we accomplished yet another successful Despain Family Road Trip. (We will have photos on our family blog soon, but I'll post a few here.)

After going to church with our ward in Provo one last time, we spent Sunday night at a hotel in Page, AZ. We first tried getting there via Highway 14 from Cedar City, but it was closed for some reason. So we instead got there with Highways 59 and 389 through Tocquerville and Hurricane, and still got there before midnight (thanks to Arizona's opting out of Daylight Savings Time). We're pros.

From there we went to the Grand Canyon and spent the morning and early afternoon there.

We wanted to get to Four Corners Monument before it closed, but we weren't sure if we would make it. From the park we had more than 200 miles to go, not on a freeway, and only about 3 1/2 hours to do it. But due to my expert driving, we made it just in time. The lady at the gate even let us in for free since they were almost closed. It meant we didn't get any Navajo tacos or fry bread, but we did get some pictures of us standing in Utah, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico at the same time. And we got to our motel in Cortez, CO, nice and early.

The next morning we went to Mesa Verde National Park. I was excited about this one, because finally I was taking the well-traveled Erin to somewhere she hadn't been before. For those of you who haven't been there or haven't heard of it, the national park preserves cliff dwellings built by the Anasazi Indians about 800 years ago. You can hike to some of them, but all the stairs and ladders would have been too much for Allisyn. So we went on a driving tour that had some good views.

We spent that night at a motel in Tucumcari, NM. Then, yesterday was spent just driving. We went through Amarillo, Fort Worth and Dallas on our way to Tomball.

In about a week, Erin and I will fly to Iowa and spend a few days there getting to know Iowa City, and we hope to find our new home while we're there. We plan on moving to Iowa with another road trip sometime in July.

And that's our summer so far.

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