Monday, June 04, 2012

President Obama Celebrates Pride Month

The White House description for this video says simply: “The President highlights the unsung heroes of the LGBT community.” Talk about understatement—no other president has ever done something like this, and I think we too easily lose site of that. Bush 2 could never have done it, and if the Republican candidate was to be elected I can imagine him making a video condemning us, being so desperate to court favour with the most extreme elements of his party.

When I watched the video the first time, I remembered one of my colleagues from back in my GLBT activist days who used to say that his motivation to keep going, to keep fighting in the darkness of the Reagan years was, “how dare they!” He couldn’t accept being treated as a less-than-second-class citizen, and that kept him motivated to continue the struggle.

Much has changed in the 30 years since then, and while there’s been huge progress in changing society’s attitudes, politicians lag far behind the people, as they so often do. Our adversaries have become entrenched, and as their stubborn opposition becomes ever more desperate, so, too, does their rhetoric. They, too, know we’re winning.

And yet those implacable foes have managed to slow progress, to delay the inevitable triumph of fairness, decency and justice. So, while much progress has been made in my lifetime, in many respects GLBT people have progressed only to the level of second-class citizenship. The struggle continues.

Still, never underestimate the power, symbolic and otherwise, that comes from having the president on our side. Among other things, it offers much-needed encouragement to those struggling for simple justice. Of course, it also inflames our adversaries, but, quite honestly, it’s not like they need any encouragement to start another round of rabid frothing—they find their own excuses.

So, this video is far more important than it may seem. President Obama is on the right side of history, moving forward with society. His—and our—opponents are not. The simple act of being with the majority of society, not trying to yank it backwards, says—and helps—a lot.

And, it’s always good to salute our unsung heroes, like my colleagues who fought so hard all those years ago, but who never lived to see developments such as this. Now, let’s finish the work and achieve that inevitable victory.

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