Archive for December, 2008

Tolerance, Equality and Unity

With Rick Warren appointed to give the invocation at Barack Obama’s inauguration, suddenly the gay community takes notice. I’ve been astonished by a number of gays and gay-friendlies I know, who voted for Obama completely unaware that he is against gay marriage.

It’s not surprising to me that an evangelical pastor, who opposes gay rights, will help usher him into office. It’s not a purely political choice either, which people who’ve been listening to him all along will recognize. Obama is the only one of the major party candidates who cited religion as the reason he opposes gay marriage, even though his own UCC church officially supports it. Even Sarah Palin didn’t do that as far as I know. In fact, she talked candidly about her gay best friend, surely realizing that it would rile her conservative supporters.

Obama’s surrounding himself with people who disagree with him is a fine and noble idea, and I’ve supported some of his selections that other groups have opposed. Rewarding a person who has been intolerant of a group he proclaims to support, however, does merit some mulling over. What will this achieve, really? Some of his supporters propose that the choice might be out of a loyalty to Warren, or to appease fundamentalist Christians. But these don’t sound like legitimate reasons, and they don’t seem like things Obama would support either.

This is also not to say that Warren himself hasn’t done some good work, or that his role is anything more than symbolic, but there are plenty of open-minded clergymen who would be tolerant of opposition and support anti-discrimination policies too, for example, the former minister of Riverside Church in New York, Dr. Rev. James Forbes. I asked a friend who was making the argument for the “team of rivals” if it would have been okay with her had he chosen Rev. Jeremiah Wright instead. She gasped and said, “No, point taken.”

Gay marriage has not been an issue that is more important to me than universal healthcare, the economy, the wars, or the destruction of the environment. Marriage itself has never been a main concern of mine, and equal rights under the law are more important to me than religious ceremonies, which could still be practiced with civil unions. But with the passage of Proposition 8, revoking the California Supreme Court’s decision to allow gay marriage, it moved significantly higher up on my priority list.

What solidified the change in my thinking was a friend in Holland, where same-sex marriage is legal since 2001. I asked her what it was like living in a country where it’s legal, and she said, “Now that we have it, I think it’s important that people have that option, more than I did before we had it. It changes people’s perception of gay relationships, gay people’s and straight people’s perception and it feels as if this change in perception has happened in an almost gentle way (not everywhere and by everyone) in comparison to some of the hard fights that had to be fought to get to this point. To me, that’s beautiful and an important step, more than I could have anticipated.”

That’s reason enough for me to stand up for it, to offer legitimacy to everyone in this country not only in actuality but in perception as well. Some things are not okay, and it’s important to point those things out. Obama seems to be asking for that as well. Separate but equal is not okay, and only through true equality can we hope to achieve real unity.

– Hope Dascher

Related Stories:

Obama’s Choice Of Warren Is Very Disappointing By Rep. Barney Frank
“Religious leaders obviously have every right to speak out in opposition to anti-discrimination measures, even in the degrading terms that Rev. Warren has used…”

Disappointed by Rick Warren By Joan Walsh
“I am not theoretically opposed to Obama choosing an antiabortion gay-rights critic; I’m opposed to Warren himself. He’s a poster boy for kinder, gentler 21st century bigotry…”

Hopefuls Differ as They Reject Gay Marriage By Patrick Healy
“The difference, Mr. Obama has told them, is religion.”

United Church of Christ Backs Same-Sex Marriage By Shaila Dewan
“The United Church of Christ became the first mainline Christian denomination to support same-sex marriage officially …”

Obama on Warren by Ben Smith
“Obama makes the case for including people he disagrees with in the inauguration… ‘I am a fierce advocate for equality for gay and lesbian Americans, it’s something that I have been consistent on and something that I intend to be consistent on during my presidency…’”

How the hell did Rick Warren get inauguration tickets? By Mike Madden
“…Brad Luna, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign. ‘[Warren's] job there is to kind of represent the spiritual totality of our nation. When that sort of person is put there, it definitely makes our community stop and think…’”

Justin Bond Is Living
“…it seems we need to be fighting for two things.
1) The repeal of tax-exempt status for any organization that uses that status to disrupt our democracy…
2) The word “Marriage” should be stripped from all civil codes and laws…”

Freedom or Power? by Andrew Sullivan
“The key point about marriage rights for gays, after all, is that they do not affect or change marriage rights for straights. No one’s rights are removed.”

Comments (1)

The Government Channel

BY KRIS BRITT

I have an idea.

When I lived in Denmark around 1990, they had at least seven political parties, and for campaigning, each party had an equal time slot on the same television channel to present themselves, and I’m pretty sure that’s all they were allowed to do for campaigning on television, in order to keep it fair.

So I can’t claim all the credit for this idea. But I will claim credit for trying to think of an American version that might help address some of the issues we’re dealing with around campaigning.

I would like to see a Government Channel here in the U.S. First of all, it should be a network channel, because then every voter can get it who at least has access to a television set. It should be nonpartisan and make every attempt to be unbiased and give equal representation to all parties. I think it would be more likely to fly if it were owned by a private entity (rather than being government owned). It would be great if there were no commercials on this channel. I don’t have that part quite worked out yet.

Obviously it would be nearly impossible to make this the only outlet for campaigning. But once established, maybe some and hopefully most American citizens would make it their first choice for becoming informed. Subsequently they can choose to ignore the smear advertisements that sometimes seem to be the only turds that achieve floating above all the other noise.

What would be on the Government Channel apart from equal time campaign presentation slots? How about summaries of government activities, such as Congressional hearings? I can picture Sarah Palin as an anchor, explaining what has passed each day and what the nuances are. I guess if you want to follow entire hearings they could air them, though those seem to get pretty boring after a while. Maybe they’d be good with simultaneous color commentary (like the director commentaries you can listen to on a DVD), or with interactive chat commentary from the public live in real time on the screen like MTV does for some of their shows.

Of course there would be a website too.

What do you think?

Kris Britt lives in Brooklyn and owns a multimedia development company called silente.

Comments (3)

Why Huff Post Should Lay Off P-BO*

Last week on Huffington Post, I saw an article seriously questioning Barack Obama. They may have published other such missives before, but this was the first one I had seen. The Robert Scheer column expressed a few beefs with Obama’s selections for his team to get us out of the economic crisis.

Scheer wrote, “Maybe Ralph Nader was right in predicting that the same Wall Street hustlers would have a lock on our government no matter which major party won the election… how else is one to respond to Obama’s picking the very folks who helped get us into this financial mess to now lead us out of it?”

Reading that quote, I felt a little vindicated. I’m one of the 750,000 people who voted for Nader, and one of the things that earned him my vote was that he was against the bailout. And he didn’t just come out against it; he offered what sounded to me like reasonable alternative solutions. He’d been thinking about this for a long time, having predicted the housing crisis eight years ago when members of Congress laughed at him.

On opening night of the Democratic National Convention, not having realized the significance of the date and still unsure who I would vote for, I attended a benefit concert for The Living Theatre. Sitting there, I felt not so alone in my doubts about the Democratic Party. Hearing “This Land is My Land” performed by Eisa Davis and Colman Domingo of Broadway’s Passing Strange made me teary, and the performances of Nellie McKay and Justin Bond that followed blew me away. The evening was fundamentally political – The Living Theatre has been the epitome of political statement for 60 years – but it was very different from politics as usual. For that one night, surrounded by fellow outsiders, I felt part of a beautiful, happy revolution having our very own convention in NYC.

Another questioning article appeared on Huffington Post a few days ago, about how Obama’s small donor base image is a myth, as revealed by a new study conducted by the nonpartisan Campaign Finance Institute. I had just discussed this very thing with a friend who insisted that 80% of his donations were from small donors and how important that was. Nothing I said to my friend could convince him otherwise, although the information was out there to be found if one was looking.

I find it curious that Huffington Post is only now starting to feature more prominently probing analytical stories about Obama. Why didn’t they scrutinize or report objectively throughout the election season? It seemed to me they suffered from “the bandwagon effect”, that notion among certain crowds that you absolutely must adulate Obama and loathe Sarah Palin, and anything less made you a traitor.

I’m in the comfortable position of not feeling terribly upset by anything Obama does now, because he disappointed me early on. During the campaign, I heard him offer standard-issue Democratic positions, and at times I thought he even came across rather Republican. I never saw the cool progressive change guy many of my friends seemed to see. What I saw was more of a Centrist, someone in the middle leaning liberal or conservative depending on the issue, like Bill Clinton or Rudy Giuliani.

Obama was not my choice when it came time to pull the lever, but I don’t think the people who helped elect him should be so quick to criticize him now, before he even takes the oath of office. He seems to be letting himself be guided by pragmatism, and I think Huff Post ought to give him a chance to do the job they seemed pretty partial to seeing him get.

Nader recently wrote, “While the liberal intelligentsia was swooning over Obama during his presidential campaign, I counseled ‘prepare to be disappointed.’ His record as an Illinois state and U.S. Senator, together with the many progressive and long overdue courses of action he opposed during his campaign, rendered such a prediction unfortunate but obvious.

“Now this same intelligentsia is beginning to howl over Obama’s transition team and early choices to run his Administration.”

I’m starting to get a funny feeling that by the time P-BO disappoints everyone else, I might be left liking him again, in the minority again.

– Hope Dascher

* P for President(-elect), BO for Barack Obama, a term of endearment

________

UPDATE: This week a little flurry of columns appeared on Huffington Post to criticize Obama with some pretty harsh words from a source that mostly championed him just weeks ago.

Beyond the Bailout State by Steve Fraser
“A suffocating political and intellectual provincialism has captured the new administration in embryo. Instead of embracing a sense of adventurousness, a readiness to break with the past so enthusiastically promoted during the campaign, Obama seems overcome with inhibitions and fears.”

Obama’s Uninspiring Nation by Lionel Beehner
“Still, Obama’s familiar-looking team of national security fixer-uppers does not inspire confidence. Nor do his vague answers to detailed questions on specific policies… Obama seems to think he can wish away the world’s evils with his eloquence and charm.”

Obama’s Windfall Taxes Shift: First Broken Promise
“The Obama team’s decision to drop the idea of forcing oil and natural gas companies to pay a tax on their windfall profits has caused a firestorm among liberals and small business coalitions.”

Comments (3)