Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Pray Tell

Like almost everyone else in the national GLBT community, I am not cheered at the prospect of a rich, homophobic business-preacher like Rick Warren praying at Barack Obama's inauguration. I have, in an earlier post, already made it quite clear what I think of Warren and his Wall-Mart church. But, like about half of us, I have decided that it doesn't mean anything particularly dire for us. Knowing what we already do about President-Elect Obama, and about the Democratic Party as it exists today, it is par for the course.

Obama has made it clear that his administration will be "bipartisan." I don't think much of "bipartisanship," as the Democratic Party seems to use the term today. To me, it smacks of the same old "centrism," all dolled-up in a bright and shiny new package. But the Progressive brand has been so badly damaged by the Right Wing's thirty-year smear campaign against it that if Obama were to come out of the gate as far to the Left as his principles -- as he has already very clearly expressed them -- indicate that he should, he would never be permitted, by the conservative establishment still so entrenched in power, to govern.

That is OUR challenge: to more the political machinery (which consists of so much more than just Obama, and at so many levels) to the Left. We never had any reason to believe we could merely sit passively by and let one politician do it all for us. And, for all his progressive principles, Barack Obama is still a politician. Surprise! But really, shame on you if you didn't know that.

As a political gesture, this is brilliant. The Nutball Right cannot credibly go on crying about how victimized they are if the new President duly genuflects to Pope Rick. And a mere genuflection is all this is. It makes no law and sets no policy.

What all too many are overlooking is that the other pastor invited to pray at the Inauguration, the Rev. Joseph Lowery, is about as progressive, inclusive and gay-friendly as they come. What Obama is trying to do is show a balance. Just as he's been saying he would, all along. Hello?! He DID, indeed, tell the country he was going to do that, remember?

Obama, like most straight people, does not think about gays as often as we do about ourselves. That doesn't make us selfish; it is only natural. But it's only natural for straights, too. To him, Rick Warren is a prominent (these days, probably the most prominent) representative of conservative Christianity -- and a good deal less reactionary, even toward gays, than some of the other characters he might have picked. So - whether we like it or not -- it's doubtful that he thought, specifically, about Warren's homophobia before he chose him.

Though I see no major problem with Pope Rick's little prayer, however, I disagree with those who say we shouldn't have protested it. By all means, we ought to flex our mucles, loudly and often. The Religious Wrong has no intention of being quiet or passive. And the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

What our indignation -- loudly expressed as it has been -- tells the new President and the Congress is that we are watching very closely, and that we're not going to shut up or go away. President-Elect Obama has made promises to us -- promises, I might add, unparalleled by those of any other President in history. We have no intention of forgetting that, nor will we back down if they're not kept. We need pay no mind to the threats raised against us by the Religious Wrong, as they warn us not to get too loud or too proud. Getting loud and proud hasn't hurt them any, and as idiots are going to say idiotic things, it is to our political advantage to let them go on making damned fools of themselves.

Will they go on crying about how victimized they are? Of course they will. Only now, no reasonable person in this country will listen to them. We, on the other hand, would have sent a message of weakness and ineffectuality, had we merely accepted Warren's presence at the Inauguration without putting up a fight. Whenever bullies preach reasonableness and passivity, we know we've got 'em cornered for sure.

We are flexing our muscles, making our voices heard and refusing to let ourselves be trampled upon or shoved out of the way. Good for us. And after the Inauguration, when the real business of governing begins, we must get still louder and prouder and exercise those muscles every chance we get. There's a new spirit in our community. The sleeping giant has been awakened, and we must resist every effort to lull us back to sleep.

The gesture has been made, but our message has been sent. And at Barack Obama's inauguration, we will hear not only Pope Rick, but also the good Rev. Lowery.

Pray tell!


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