Thursday, December 25, 2008

I'm with Rachel

Since my rant about Rick Warren I have received several emails from friends and family that suggest, in essence, that the left is too quick to criticize Obama, and that liberals need to, in the words of Washington Post writer E. J. Dionne, "come to terms with what it means to build a durable majority." I also got a link to the Huffington Post about Melissa Etheridge and her take on this whole business. While it's nice to know she feels better about Warren, at least, I submit that the only reason she was able to talk to him at all is because she is a well-known musician and he's a fan.

Well, this is what I say:

Dionne and similar articles and posts I've read about this issue are thoughtful and well-reasoned and, on the whole, written by people who are at least one degree removed from the situation, i.e, neither gay nor evangelical. As such, they can provide calm, measured analysis. But calm measured analysis is exactly the wrong tack to take. Because Dionne is not gay, he can feel third-person outrage when Warren compares gays to pedophiles but also know that Warren isn't targeting him personally. I wonder how Dionne would feel defending Obama's choice of Warren if Dionne himself were gay.

Who you are and how you identify DOES matter, and it should matter. No one should be asked to accept the kinds of insults Warren has aimed at the gay community because it's for some greater progressive feel-good-let's-all-sing-Kumbaya-agenda. Asking the gay community (I include bi and trans) to simply lie down, roll over and take it in the ass (as it were) when Warren calls us pedophiles reminds me of the way women were asked to subordinate their demands for equality during the civil rights and anti-war movements of the 60s in favor of the "greater good." You know the argument: "Yes, women's rights are important, and we'll work on that AFTER we get equal rights for African-Americans, or AFTER we get the troops out of Vietnam." Nuf ced.

I don't dispute that choosing Warren is a savvy political move on Obama's part, nor that it might create positive change within the evangelical community, or build more bridges between evangelicals and progressives. I agree those things are important to the larger goal of bringing Americans together and trying to heal the rifts that have polarized our nation. Nor am I surprised by Obama's political savvy. He wouldn't be where he is today without it. What pisses me off is what I said in my post a few days ago: "the casual, cynical assumption that marginalizing this group of people is an acceptable cost of doing business by the Obama team (and maybe even Obama himself)" and also that "I am sickened that his bridgebuilding comes at the expense, once again, of the right of gays, lesbians, trans and bi people to be treated with the same respect and dignity all people deserve."

If Obama is serious about change he must find a way to do it that does not, to borrow an analogy from the civil rights movement, force anyone to sit in the back of the bus.

And finally, a word from Rachel Maddow:

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