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Wednesday, January 21, 2009


After The Pulse Of Morning

Barack Obama and Michelle Obamavia WikipediaI've been quiet through the Obama inauguration festivities of the last week, and it's been noticed by some earnest, concerned readers. I don't mean to be absent on the subject; it's just because I've found myself very thoughtful, and concerned, about this moment and what it means. About the media's extravagant, 24-hour coverage of every single element. About the hysteria over the "end of racism" and "Martin's dream fulfilled" (which is the dumbest and most ignorant meme of our time...racism and prejudice are FAR from over, people). Mostly, about our collective need for this time, this President, this changing-of-the-guard to have mythic proportion, a complete turnaround of American fortune so grand and glorious that we can barely contain all of the great things inside it.

This is not what I voted for.

Obama is undoubtedly a historic figure, with the potential to become a legend, an icon for the ages, a hero. But as I write this sentence, he's been President for nine hours. It's so woefully early, and so potentially damaging, to lay these expectations on him. ("Save us, Barack!" was what I heard one woman yell out on the Mall, watching the jumbotron. As if he were from Krypton, indestructible and godlike, here to save us from an ecology-decimating asteroid or something.)

Do I think Obama is up to the formidable task of righting our nation, and getting us our of our bankruptcies (economic, spiritual, ethical)? Yes...or at least, I like his chances better than anyone else who wanted the job. But as one of the first bloggers to throw his support behind Obama, waaaaay back in 2007, I guess I'm more concerned with what he does tomorrow and the next day than the parties, pomp and celebration he'll be enjoying today.

I realize that this is about me; I'm in a different headspace. I'm watching friends throughout the theatre industry lose their jobs, great companies close up shop, people abandon their leases and homes. I'm concerned about my own job; I'm experiencing firsthand the shocking, devastating reality that all charities, including the arts, are being abandoned en masse by the wealthy. (So much for Reaganomics and the "trickle down," huh?) I'm watching hundreds of billions of dollars given scot-free to banks, who then use it to protect their rich investors, not jump-start the economy. And despite the sea change in leadership in the White House, at least on January 21st, we're still fighting two useless and morally bankrupt wars, the planet is still being deep-fried, and I still don't count as a person legally the way my heterosexual friends do. There's a lot to do, and I'm ready for Obama to get to it.

Watching the inauguration, I was moved, of course, by Obama's words and the carefully crafted images on CNN. But thankfully, cutting through the feel-good bullshit...was Rick Warren. As I listened to Ricky's prayer, his big swollen face barely hiding his black prejudiced heart, I was reminded that even Obama isn't the big-tent guy his publicity team claims. Sure, he brought Republicans into the fold...he found space for them by tossing out those who believe that marriage is a right for everyone. Sure I can "disagree without being disagreeable" on policy positions, but this is MY LIFE, not an esoteric political argument. I pay more in taxes and have no financial protections because my marriage isn't legal. That is the very definition of prejudice.

(Side note: If I were famous, I wonder if Obama would have let me speak today, and mention my belief that churches should be taxed as businesses. Could we have all "disagreed without being disagreeable" on that? Could Warren accept such heresy coming out of the mouth of our new president? Or if we wanted a real "big tent" philosopher, what if Warren's evangelic bluster had been accompanied by prayers from a rabbi, and an imam, and a Mormon elder, and a shaman, and a priest? Why were only Protestant Christians allowed at the national table?)

So....this is why I've been quiet. You'll find no bigger supporter than me of our new leader...even when he supports policies diametrically opposed to my own well-being. But it's time for some of that Change he promised. Time to get to work. Time to fix what needs fixing in America. Enjoy the party, but then, roll up your sleeves, Mr. President. Do what you came here to do.
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Blogger Kim said...

I think you're relishing being the malcontent. President Obama is more than just the best option out of the group that wanted the job. He's an extraordinary man. And he may even be the leader to get us out of the dire straights we're in as a nation. A world. Sure, he let gay men and women down with the Rick Warren choice. He made a mistake there. Perhaps bringing Rick to the table will one day lead to a productive dialogue with him. But, more to the point, by not cutting the President any slack on that, aren't you actually expecting him to be infallible? We, as gay people, are going to get to a place of equality sooner rather than later. And it will happen under this administration, too. In the meantime, if other, more pressing, problems are not addressed immediately, our victory will be a hollow one. The work started this morning. I suggest we all get on board.

1/21/09, 8:13 AM  
Blogger ModFab said...

I was with you, Kim, until the end there. You're right to call me on my high expectations, that may be too high. But what factual evidence do you have to support your statement that "We, as gay people, are going to get to a place of equality sooner rather than later. And it will happen under this administration, too"???

I don't see anything in Obama's statements, policy positions, or history that makes him an extraordinary friend of the LGBT community. He's pro-gay, but he's not an advocate or a passionate supporter. And his explicit stance against equal marriage makes me wonder what you know about his plans for equality that I don't.

Furthermore, I find the argument that there are "other, more pressing problems" to be specious and untrue. As if Obama can't chew gum and walk at the same time! Truth is, we can do a VARIETY of things at once...the economy, the environment, global peace, AND civil rights for all people. In fact, I'd argue that we MUST.

1/21/09, 2:31 PM  
Blogger Kim said...

I probably didn't express myself clearly. I'm not putting the issue of GLBT equality in President Obama's hands. But my feeling is that with the momentum we have going now, we will achieve equality regardless of whether he extends a helping hand to us. Through the courts, referendums, shifting public opinion, etc. I don't believe Obama will take any affirmative steps to prevent us from obtaining equality. Unlike his predecessors. And frankly, as long as he doesn't get in our way, we can do it without him. My reference to this particular administration was just based on my belief that we will get there in 4-8 years.
My other argument is not specious (that's a very strong word, btw). If the economy collapses, and it may, it's not going to matter one way or the other whether you can file a joint tax return. If unemployment creeps up to Depression-era levels, you're going to have a hell of a time paying the mortgage with a marriage license. Those things will make life miserable, and it's hard to cherish a marriage under those conditions.
I totally agree that we can - and must - address a variety of issues at once. That idea, however, applies to all of us, not just elected officials. It would be interesting to see the GLBT community speak loudly on issues other than equality (just as MLK took a strong stand against Vietnam). It's possible that by doing so, we'd further the equality cause quicker than we would otherwise....
Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

1/21/09, 6:55 PM  
Blogger ModFab said...

Thanks for clearing the first thing up. But I'd still argue that the economy's precarious shape does not obviate the need for social equity, environmental protection, civil rights, an end to war, etc. If we hit a depression, actually, I'd much rather have the tax benefits of a legal marriage...rather than have Mr. ModFab and myself paying extra because we have to file singly. I can cherish a marriage at any, and every, time.

I also think the gay community speaks loudly and clearly on many issues besides civil equality. Certainly, we've been at the forefront of the health care debate since the advent of HIV/AIDS. Fair housing laws and employment protections have had LGBT leadership for decades. And I've never seen a pro-choice effort that didn't benefit from the active participation of LGBT citizens.

1/21/09, 8:37 PM  
Blogger Jill said...

I hear you loud and clear, my friend. I actually had an argument with my sister tonight, who insisted that the Lord's Prayer is a Jewish prayer (it isn't) and that Rick Warren was only speaking for himself when he hijacked the inauguration for Jesus. I wonder if she realizes what kind of hell she, as an astrologer, is in for when Rick Warren's brownshirts go crusading for Christ -- and if they succeed.

I also was condescended to by some holier-than-thou self-styled A-list blogger who decided that the fact that I simply thought Aretha Franklin's hat was unattractive means that I don't know jack about the importance of headgear to African churches and that made me racist.

Sometimes I think we're going to tear ourselves apart on the left now that we don't have Georgie to direct it at anymore.

I read a blog comment recently in which the commenter said "My grandma said that when someone's mouth and feet are moving at the same time, watch the feet. If Obama ends up having schmoozed Rick Warren so that he can reduce the backlash when he takes an active role in ending discrimination against GLBT Americans, then it will have made sense. But if he marginalizes the GLBT community and all those who do not believe in the divinity of Jesus, then I will be sorely disappointed.

1/21/09, 9:22 PM  
Blogger the said...

You have read my mind, or parts thereof. I, too, have been silent regarding this Inauguration -- apart from my rather pointed criticism. This new Age of Euphoria with President Obama is extremely dangerous, and the fact is, Obama himself knows it.

All citizens should actually READ his Inaugural Address carefully: for the most part, it is a massive buzz-kill. Virtually everything he said is distinctly at odds with the celebratory madness, the hype, the reason-numbing ecstasy (or in fact, Ecstacy). The U.S. is on an unprecedented downhill slide, and if we think Obama or anyone else is our "savior," we are delusional and deranged.

The moment I started watching the coverage on Tuesday, I knew that the throngs and the massive, expensive show are horribly at odds with the horrific reality. We are barely on Day One of the gigantic mess we have now entered; much worse is yet to come. The euphoria is extremely inappropriate. When you read and think about Obama's concluding reference to George Washington's ordeal, the euphoria is actually obscene.

But I suppose these comments are valuable and meaningful only to those individuals who have thought long and hard about the danger and destruction we now face in our economy and our social fabric.

I heartily agree with you: this is not what I voted for in November or endorsed in early 2007.

1/22/09, 10:57 AM  
Blogger Derek said...

Jill nailed the essential point of this comment thread:

Sometimes I think we're going to tear ourselves apart on the left now that we don't have Georgie to direct it at anymore.

I, too agree that the fervor around Obama's inauguration has frequently lapsed into messianic silliness on the part of some. However, I wouldn't go so far as to call the jubilation "dangerous" or "obscene."

Let's not forget that there is a lot worth celebrating here. It's not just the inauguration of Obama - it's the end of eight disastrous years of having the Bush junta in the driver's seat.

As I'm sure we all did, I opposed everything about that goddamned rodeo clown ever since the beginning of the 2000 campaign, but I never imagined that even he could run the country this far off the rails in eight years. I don't by any means underestimate the enormity of the task of cleaning up after the Bush frat party, but as others have said, I can't think of anyone who seems better qualified to do so than President Obama.

I think Obama's address did a masterful job of simultaneously grounding people's view of the job before us and inspiring confidence that we are indeed capable of rising to the occasion. There are going to be disagreements about the order in which things should be prioritized to be fixed in the post-Bush America - even just among those of us on the left. It's only natural. I just hope that we can avoid the scenario Jill envisioned, where we'd be collectively cutting off our nose to spite our face, so to speak. If we go there, we'll have only ourselves to blame for shit not getting done.

1/23/09, 2:49 PM  

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