Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Quickie

Hey gang, just wanted to send out a quick post on a few small topics. I have to run in a few minutes, but here goes:

** First of all, TIME has a nice little post on Swampland about the Rick Warren flap, the gay community's response, and what it all really means for the Obama team. The author looks at a slightly different angle, noting that it's the underlying ideology of Obama's decision that perhaps is really sparking such discontent. Some great points are made about the potentially positive impact of pragmatically seeking the 'radical' (and to some people it is) agenda of guaranteeing nondiscrimination policies in the military and the workplace and strengthening hate crimes laws, while virtually ignoring the marriage question. The article also pulls some quotes from the campaign when Sen. Obama espouses a position akin to separate but equal. Here's a quick excerpt:

This is a remarkably complex, if only subtly controversial, argument. He suggests that laws preventing gay marriage are as unjust as laws preventing interracial marriage, the very union that led to his own birth. But he further argues that the best way to fight this injustice is to indefinitely cede the central moral argument--that in America all men (and women) must be treated equal--and rather score incremental victories that push the nation in the right direction. In Obama's formulation, it would have been indefinitely acceptable for interracial couples to be denied the rights of civil marriage, if other progress was being made to advance racial equality. In the same way, it is indefinitely acceptable for gay couples to be denied the right to civil marriage, if other progress is being made to give gay couples similar rights. There is an unstated assumption here: If Obama is successful he will clear the way for a subsequent politician to support gay marriage, just as the broader civil rights movement cleared the way for an end to anti-miscegenation laws in 1967 by the (activist?) U.S. Supreme Court.

Whatever advantages this approach scores tactically, it also carries with it a cost. Namely, Obama effectively cedes the clarity of a moral argument for gay rights equality. He cannot argue that separate is not equal, because he is endorsing a separate system for gay and lesbian couples, an accommodation that seems, on its face, to contradict a central principle of the civil rights movement, as laid out in 1954 by the (activist?) U.S. Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education.

It's certainly worth a read and the full piece may be found here

** While I have been very clear in my condemnation of the whole Rick Warren affair, there's another perspective besides the TIME article that's worth mentioning. One of my more favorite writers, Andrew Sullivan had this to say as his final word on the issue. He makes a good point that perhaps this is an important (even teachable) moment. Maybe we can use this chance with Rick Warren to show our compassion and engagement in the future of this modern civil rights movement. While I don't always agree with Sullivan, what he writes here really made me think. Here's just an excerpt of his post:

Gay people contribute disproportionately to the religious and spiritual life of this country and we seek no attack on free religion freely expressed and celebrated. I find the idea of silencing my opponents abhorrent. Many gays voted for McCain. I believe in family, which is why I have tried my whole life to integrate my sexual orientation with my own family and finally two summers ago, to become a full part of it as a married man. I love my church, however much pain it still inflicts on itself and others. And I am not alone in this, as I have discovered these past two decades.

If I cannot pray with Rick Warren, I realize, then I am not worthy of being called a Christian. And if I cannot engage him, then I am not worthy of being called a writer. And if we cannot work with Obama to bridge these divides, none of us will be worthy of the great moral cause that this civil rights movement truly is.

The bitterness endures; the hurt doesn't go away; the pain is real. But that is when we need to engage the most, to overcome our feelings to engage in the larger project, to understand that not all our opponents are driven by hate, even though that may be how their words impact us. To turn away from such dialogue is to fail ourselves, to fail our gay brothers and sisters in red state America, and to miss the possibility of the Obama moment.

It can be hard to take yes for an answer. But yes is what Obama is saying. And we should not let our pride or our pain get in the way.

**In other news, Al Franken has now gained a lead in the Minnesota recount for the first time. While this makes me happy personally, it is hardly the end of the long process. Regardless of who wins, this is just one more example of how badly we need national election standards and how far we still have to go in the wake of the debacle in Florida in 2000. Minnesota thankfully has rather open election standards that allow officials to follow the intent of the voter (if it is at all clear). The Franken campaign has taken a very steadfast position that each and every vote that can count should count, while Coleman has taken to the courts a few times now to prevent blocs of votes from being counted (first the 133 ballots that were lost in a Franken stronghold, then an attempt to prevent absentees from being counted because they were erroneously thrown aside, and then claiming a few hundred Franken votes were double-counted.).

I have absolutely no illusions that were the vote count reversed so would the positions of the respective campaigns. If Coleman were initially behind he'd be trying to get more counted, and had Franken been ahead he'd want to end the process. Hopefully this can help the country move to a more uniform election system, with the same standards, the same process, the same machines/methods. I'm not holding my breath though...


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