Friday, December 19, 2008

Obama’s first mistake?

So far, President-elect Barack Obama has been doing pretty much everything right. Now, however, Obama is facing criticism for what many are calling his first mistake: Inviting far-right preacher Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration. Mind you, some progressives say keeping Robert Gates was his first big mistake, but that’s another topic, and one I’m personally not sure about ether way.

Warren is an ardent opponent of GLBT rights, most notably in pushing California’s Proposition 8, which took away the right of same-sex couples to marry. In a recent interview, he said he couldn’t see a difference between same-sex marriage and incestuous, polygamous and pedophile “marriages”. He’s also declared that those who don’t believe in God shouldn’t be allowed to hold public office. He’s not a nice man.

In fact, Warren himself has said that the only difference between himself and arch-homophobe and überbigot James Dobson (of Focus on Hate, er, the Family) is one of tone. On that one thing, I completely agree with him: Warren, Huckabee, Dobson, Bauer, etc., etc., are all the same apart from the way they express their bigotry.

Understandably, gay activists and progressives alike are outraged. Obama responded:

I think it is no secret that I am a fierce advocate for equality for gay and lesbian Americans. It is something I have been consistent on and something I intend to continue to be consistent on during my presidency. What I've also said is that it is important for America to come together even though we may have disagreements on certain social issues… What we have to do is create an atmosphere where we can disagree without being disagreeable, and then focus on those things that we hold in common as Americans. So Rick Warren has been invited to speak, Dr. Joseph Lowery—who has deeply contrasting views to Rick Warren about a whole host of issues—is also speaking.

I completely agree with the president-elect that we need to find a way to “disagree without being disagreeable”, but this is not the way to do it. Warren’s ignorant, divisive and bigoted rhetoric, along with his use of gay people as a political weapon, mean he’s not fit to take part in an event meant to bring all Americans together. He uses his faith to instil fear and sow the seeds of hate, and he’s never shown a willingness to “find a common ground” on any issue.

It’s not “finding common ground” to give bigots such a prominent role. If he were a preacher who used his bible to justify racism, we would never have this discussion because he would never have been chosen. In America, racism is not given official sanction, but homophobia, well, that’s to be given respect and tolerance “even though we may have disagreements on certain social issues”.

The only mitigating factor I can think of is that the wingnuts are every bit as outraged, but for different reasons: They think that all “Christians”— a word they define as meaning only those who hold the same loony beliefs they do—should shun Obama. So, if this makes the wingnuts angry, it can’t be all bad.

Still, choosing Rick Warren to give the invocation was a mistake. I hope that those at the Inauguration will turn their backs on Warren when he speaks. I know I’ll definitely ignore him when I watch the TV coverage.

But here’s the thing: Choosing Warren, wrong as it was, is not the end of the world. If anyone seriously thinks that this Administration will be anything but a massive improvement over the current one—for all Americans, including GLBT Americans—then they need to have their heads examined. This was a mistake, and I call it as I see it, but there are definitely better days ahead.

1 comment:

Roger Owen Green said...

There is a gay man in my church who used the word "hurt" to describe Warren's invitation. I hadn't seen it that way, but he (and you) are making me rethink my position.