Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Oh, SSM, Obama


I'm eager for Barack Obama's strong pro-SSM platform to play out. I hope it takes a long time and everyone gets a say.

Those who will niggle and interpret are understandably parsing their little hearts out. That is their value added, which on one hand can make the more impulsive slow down but on the other roils clear waters unnecessarily.

Yesteryear Denial

Let me take you back to the thrilling (or at least not boring) late 1960s. Colleges with hot with fomenting ideas of rights and duties. Those coming from many political angles each and all knew they were reasoned and right, unlike the rest.

One evening had a scheduled political meeting in the University of South Carolina student union. The chief of reporters for the student paper assigned staff. Also, as executive editor (number two) that semester, I told two J-school students who wanted to join the staff to cover the meeting, write up a piece and we'd discuss their output.

Mirabile dictu! All three returned with similar stories. That really wasn't hard, because an even more left-wing than I chum had stood up in the middle of the meeting, making a short inflammatory statement at high volume about shutting down the campus if her group didn't get its way. She sat down and was silent for the rest of the meeting.

When the paper was out the next morning, she came to the office and quite literally screamed at me. The quote wasn't accruate and she was taken out of context.

Not only was the assigned reporter a good one, but the other two had separately gotten it right. I was able to pull out the other articles and show her the same quote and what others had said before and after. She kept repeating that there was missing context.

I had and have no doubt any additional context was in her head and unspoken.

No Obama Boo Hoo Yet

So, let's roll around in the niggle bucket with the scholar and lawyer types on Obama's letter to the San Francisco LGBT Dems. It's not become big yet, but in corners, people are parsing his statements and supplying a context he did not.

The platform area of what he wrote was without qualification. It reads:
As the Democratic nominee for President, I am proud to join with and support the LGBT community in an effort to set our nation on a course that recognizes LGBT Americans with full equality under the law. That is why I support extending fully equal rights and benefits to same sex couples under both state and federal law. That is why I support repealing the Defense of Marriage Act and the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy, and the passage of laws to protect LGBT Americans from hate crimes and employment discrimination. And that is why I oppose the divisive and discriminatory efforts to amend the California Constitution, and similar efforts to amend the U.S. Constitution or those of other states.
He could easily have qualified each point into mush. He did not. He could have cited his previous statements in favor of civil unions for homosexual couples, but not marriage. He did not. He could have pulled the states' rights covers over his head. He did not. He could have avoided mentioning the pending amendment vote in California. Instead, he said he opposed it. He could have done a Hillary with DOMA — let's tweak it — but said repeal it.

Those who are quick to say "I'm sure he meant" are trying to add context he did not.

Even though I often wallow in the pits of politics, I don't believe all the fluff and guff. I'm not surprised when office seekers or office holders later revise or reverse their statements.

Sure, Obama might return to the more milquetoast liberal he has generally been. He might blame some pinko equality zealot in his campaign for the letter and fire someone. After all, this was a letter and not a public speech.

Meanwhile, I hold onto what's real. That's an unqualified, broad and detailed call for marriage equality at state and national levels.

My generation's favorite junkie, Lenny Bruce, was fond of saying, "Reality is what is. What should be is a dirty lie."

For the short term, I'll go with what is. It represents what the Democratic party is supposed to be about.

If Obama turns out to mumble and equivocate, we're no worse than before. If he holds his ground, that will bring the California rights and discrimination issues to the foreground early so they can be debated and resolved.

Sizzle Update: I predict this one will crackle. Check today's Reuter's report. Obama's people seem happy with the statements. Over at the Campaign for Children and Families, the very anti-gay/anti-SSM president, Randy Thomasson, must be turning many colors. "This guy is in favor of homosexual marriage. That's what he's saying. Virtually in every state people have said marriage is between a man and a woman so he's taking a huge risk." Thomasson is one of those sock-worrying pups. He'll do his best to elevate this.

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1 comment:

Rev. Ricky said...

I'm excited about Obama's statement and happy to have his support. And the statement is, after all, not different from the statements he has long had posted on his website. But surely it does count as an (unspoken) "qualification" that in all his calls for full legal recognition he never mentions marriage. I'm not blaming Obama for avoiding the word. I would rather he finesse this issue and get elected than use the word and lose in November. But I still think you're giving him more credit for boldness than he deserves.

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