The inauguration of the 44th President of the United States of America is only weeks away. And here we stand on the eve of something historic. In the wake of an ugly history of racism and bigotry of other forms, a man has found the courage and the drive to rise above the fray. This man has transcended beyond the petty politics of division which daily threaten to tear apart our great republic, has risen above the ignorant rhetoric of race, has called out to the best hopes and dreams of a lonely nation that knew it should demand better of itself…And that nation answered.
On January 20, 2009 Barrack Obama will assume the presidency of our country, but his election has already changed us as a nation. This historic election represents a sea-change in the expectations that we as Americans place upon our elected representatives, to uphold their offices in dignified practice. Mr. Obama has promised a White House that is more open, more accountable, and more responsive to the concerns of the American people.
We should not be surprised by this pledge. This is exactly what Mr. Obama called for in his speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2004. This brand of moral righteousness is what he wrote about in his 2006 book, The Audacity of Hope. And this is the bold vision he expressed consistently as he campaigned to open the hearts and minds of voters all across this nation to the plausibility of Change.
Senator Barrack Obama ran for the Office of President, but we voted for the man. And once the results of the election had been tallied, and we knew that the man for whom we had voted had won the office he sought, we all crossed our fingers in a sincere hope that he would not allow the heady nature of the office he is now destined to occupy undermine the core of his character. We are waiting with baited breath to see if the man we elected will actually prove to be the man we get.
Preliminary results are a bit mixed. While many liberals will admit to being more than a bit anxious about Obama’s decision to retain Robert Gates as secretary of Defense, (a holdover from the Bush era), the general consensus is that the President Elect has done an exceptional job recruiting his cabinet.
But just as we prepare to give praise to a man who has made so many correct moves in favor of thwarting the divisive residue of our political culture, he goes and picks Reverend Rick Warren, a man who represents the engine of division in this country, to be a speaker at the inauguration. Rick Warren was a key player in support of the passage of proposition 8, banning gay marriage in California. For a man dedicated towards bringing our nation together, it seems odd that Mr. Obama would choose this momentous occasion to bestow the honor of his stage upon the serpent in our garden, and give audience to the mouthpiece of the masquerading faithful who hide behind religion while preaching bigotry.
I am neither gay nor black. And yet neither is a prerequisite for seeing clearly how wrong it is to allow government to legislate bigotry of any form. I do maintain that there are many intelligent, moral people among us who fully comprehend the travesty of justice being perpetrated by those who seek to undermine the civil rights of Gay Americans. But for some reason those people remain in the shadows while their best intentions lay shackled in silence. These people should ask themselves something. What kind of person are you? How would you like to see yourself? What would you stand for? Who among us does not identify with one minority group or another? If we do not stand for each other, we risk falling alone.
As a caucasion, male atheist with a thinning hairline, a lineage tracked back to Russian and Romanian Jews, Scottish, German, and Native American ancestors, a private religious-education, an affinity for science fiction, a tendency towards driving American-made cars, an appreciation for rum-raisin ice cream, a soft belly where my abs used to be, a love affair with the state about to loose its junior senator to the office fifth in-line to the presidency, a fondness for salty sea-air…. I think you get the point.
More importantly, you must recognize that the more we acknowledge our differences, the more insignificant they seem on a grander scale. Even though in fourth grade I refrained from saying one two-word phrase while reciting the pledge of allegiance, I still love my country. Even if you don’t set off fireworks on the fourth of July, root for the so-called “America’s Team” Dallas Cowboys or the so-called “American Pastime’s” winningest franchise New York Yankees, drive a Chevy, eat apple-pie, drink diet coke, or wear red-white-and-blue striped pajamas, I’d be willing to believe you if you said that you love America too. And if you didn’t say it, that would be your right. This is America, the melting pot, where we defend the rights of the few to protect the many. Or so we claim….
I hope that the president elect will see his error, and rescind his support for California’s proposition 8 banning gay marriage, as it represents a boon to all those who favor government legislated bigotry. How many Plessy vs. Fergussons do we need before we learn from history? Gay people are no less deserving of the right to declare their love for one another than are any of the rest of us. I further hope that Mr. Obama will at least speak to the issue he has created with his endorsement of the so-called reverend. Like most religious radicals, the hatred Rick Warren preaches does not appear to be contained within the texts he uses to defend his position. And even if it were, his position would still have to be considered wrong.
When it comes to bigotry, you either are or you aren’t. Despite what we may allow the law to at times claim, there is no middle-ground for justice. And there can be no compromise with those who would advocate for hate in our society. We need a president who will speak up and remind this nation that we must act to defend the civil rights of every citizen if we are truly to become one America.
I believe President Barrack Obama is a better man than this most tragic error in judgement. I hope I am right.