Yesterday was a day that defies hyperbole. And I say this as a chronically hyperbolic person. I left a crumb trail of disjointed remarks throughout the day on the Twitter thingie, which showed itself to be a phenomenally clever mechanism for enabling an open-ended number of people to talk at, and sometimes even with, other people. In brief but fun spurts.
From the small clutch of voices I can manage to keep track of there, as well as perusing elsewhere, Aretha Franklin’s voice had most of us in tears, from the realness of it, the import of it all. And, at least that day, and at least for me, it had the effect of a big ole Warren de-tox cleansing enema, a Jedi mind trick. “That was not the homophobe megapastor you were kvetching over,” her voice told us, as she passed a well-manicured index and middle finger in front of our mesmerized faces. As I was saying to one of the preschool staff this morning, Warren sounded hollow and fake to my ears, and Franklin sounded real. Likewise Rev. Lowery. The preschool staffer, an African American woman old enough to know the both Franklin and Lowery and the history they’ve spanned, nodded emphatically. When Rev. Lowery finished his closing benediction, I lept up to my feet and pretty much applauded my watch right off my wrist. That. Now that was the invocation for this event. I went and grabbed a pen and paper when he got to the part:
And now, O Lord, in the complex arena of human relations, help us to make choices on the side of love, not hate; on the side of inclusion, not exclusion; tolerance, not intolerance. And as we leave this mountaintop, help us to hold on to the spirit of fellowship and the oneness of our family.
Box Turtle Bulletin has both the text of the benediction and NBC’s feed of it.
So basically, Rick who? from Saddle what? is my position on the matter right now, in the alpenglow of the inaugural day. Most sane people will remember things like the look on Beyoncé’s face as she sang “At Last” to the President and Mrs. Obama [!] the First Lady. Okay, or sane people like me will.
In his election night acceptance speech at Grant Park, Obama said:
As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, “We are not enemies, but friends. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.”
Yeah, so we got shafted again with the Bishop Robinson snub/snafu. Read all about it at Pam’s (Sunday’s news, and Monday’s), or your favorite outlet for queer leftie news, if you haven’t by now. Then there was the tragic snipping of the Lesbian Gay Band Association marching band’s 115 seconds of fame from pert’ near every network broadcast, except — ! — Fox’. Pam has a post about that, too.
But for all that, I won’t be going off and saying that Obama’s value to us all is more than dented by this, or worse, that he (or his team of advisors) is as bad as Bush, as some of the severely disgruntled have. I’m figuring that despite how utterly taken for granted, how utterly played I might feel when I’m at my most disgruntled, I will recall the various places and times, before the Bush/Gore election, in which I heard leftie chums opine that the two candidates were “six of one, half-dozen of the other.” You know, both in the pocket of Big Money, etc. Go, Nader!
Yeah, well. In the pocket of which industry’s Big Money seems to have made something of a difference. (Insert here the visuals of Bush et al. hugging various Saudi oil royalty, maybe juxtaposed with contemporaneous images of Gore wracking his brain in front of some chalkboard, puzzling out global warming.) Plus there’s the difference in their IQs. What need is there now to even go further, after Gore received the Nobel Peace Prize, and Bush is leaving his office in a bigger shambles than the office seems to have seen in generations? It’s like shooting fish in a barrel. Or rather, to keep on the environmental degradation theme, like shooting a dwindling number of fish species in a barrel.
Somewhere in between the Bishop Robinson thing and the marching band invisiblizing (certainly the fault of the LGBT-skittish networks), I’ve realized that the heightened expectations bring with them a heightened capacity to be let down. Ask anyone who’s spent time around a Women’s Studies department. So for the upcoming administration, I just need to develop some kind of practical coping mechanism for dealing with the steady stream of slights, or jabs, or socks to the solar plexus to us LGBTQ folk from team Obama, ranging from minor to major.
Minor: shunting Bishop Robinson to a spot out of the limelight, and/or not working hard to be certain that his few words get the benefit of whatever exposure they could. When I later watched a recording of the event, it became even more painful that Bishop Robinson’s words were excluded from it, for most of us watching.
Moderate: handing over a huge moment of the inaugural limelight to one who actively advocated the removal of civil rights protections from a group of Americans based on an immutable part of their identity. Utterly counter to huge things this presidency professes to be about.
And major: doing next to nothing to help turn back the tide of bigotry in California (and FL, and AK, and AZ) this past fall, in fact being sure to include the words “I am against gay marriage,” or “I believe marriage is between a man and a woman” every time he answered questions about Prop 8 and other anti-gay marriage initiatives. All of which has an even more bitter aftertaste when we’re reminded that he clearly asserted, in 1996, while a senatorial candidate, that he supported gay marriage.
What does all this add up to? A flawed person. Even an opportunistic one, in some regards. An administration clearly ambivalent about the message it wants to convey about the relative value of LGBTQ citizenship (and support). Obama (and/or advisors/entourage) is skittish about supporting this still vastly misunderstood minority group in broad daylight. And he’s not just cowardly about paying the short term political cost of that support, he’s uninformed about it. Since there’s far more benefit than cost: a recent study makes it clear what many of us knew for a while, anecdotally: pro-marriage equality candidates get re-elected, plain and simple.
Still, Obama is a person capable of being spoken to. Or his advisers are. After the Bishop Robinson debacle, at least (a) it was acknowledged as a mis-step, and (b) some kind of corrective was proffered (getting HBO to re-screen his invocation, and supposedly showing it, along with highlights of Sunday’s events, on the mall the morning of the inaugural, though I hadn’t seen confirmation that indeed happened). What we seem to have seen so far has been: misstep, followed by corrective (usually of a much more modest proportion than the misstep); then misstep again. Okay, fine. Not at all ideal, in fact fairly fatiguing, but fine. For my part, I’m just going to try to put on some metaphorical steel-toed boots. We work toward a time, hopefully before he’s done with his second term, when they’ve rid themselves of the habit of slighting or jabbing or socking us in the first place, because it’s both too costly, and just plain feels wrong.
My coping mechanism, meanwhile, is to see this as indicative of a consistent, severely frustrating blind spot around the current LGBTQ civil equality battle. But it’s a spot, to my mind, not a wholesale inability to see. Just look at the LGBT Civil Rights agenda on the new WhiteHouse.gov site. Queer bloggers I read (along with many of you) take this as an encouraging sign, a strong litmus against which to judge the administration. I think things are, on balance, pretty darned alright when the standard against which many of us would be glad to judge our government is one it produces itself.
How much progress toward these goals will be made in the first hundred days? Or even the first term? Who knows? Probably only those much better informed than I know. Or maybe even only Obama, et al. All the missteps, from minor to major, lead me to not want to hold my breath. And yet, as Harvey Milk said, “You gotta give ’em hope.” And heaven help me, I continue to have hope.