Monday, December 22, 2008

Dialogue Yes, Honor No

Cynthia Tucker of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has joined the majority of liberals in supporting Barack Obama’s decision to invite Rick Warren to give the invocation at the inauguration (San Francisco Chronicle, December 22, 2008, p. B5). Where Cynthia Tucker goes, there, almost invariably, go I. And I have promised friends I will not work to undo Obama’s efforts (a power I don't have and would not dream of using if I did) to crank up an administration we are in desperate need of, to lift us out of the Bush pit and possibly even bring back some pride and dignity in being American out in the world.

Here we go again. Yes, Obama is the king. He’s a wonderful man. Love him. Love his daughters. Love his smarts. Approve. Approve. Approve. Yes, we’re lucky we’re not listening to Sarah Palin tell us the world is only 6000 years old and we should visit the Creation Museum near Cincinnati and see the saddles men used to ride the dinosaurs. Yes, we’re lucky we have a president who supports stem-cell research, the right of women to control their own body. Yes. Yes. Yes.

In the Vietnam War days there were these endless discussions when people used to ask me, “Well, do you want the communists to take over the world? Go live in a communist country, and see how long you go on thinking the United States is the bad guy in Vietnam.”

You gay people who would criticize Israeli policy in Gaza and the West Bank try living in an Arab country and see how long you survive.

What is it with people and this “if you’re not fer us, you’re agin’ us” crap?

Cynthia Tucker is not making that mistake, but she is trying to provide a place for us to go so we can be in the "for" camp again, and leave the "against" camp behind. She does not see that in suggesting gay protest is misplaced she is actually putting too much into black and white terms an issue that needs to remain what it is, in all its complexity. In her column this morning she, like the majority of people on the left, sees in Obama’s invitation to Rick Warren a “striving for a spirit of bipartisanship.”

“Among Obama’s several admirable qualities is his ability to sit and converse – debating, but also listening – with those with whom he strongly disagrees…. Obama seems to be sincere about looking for ways to revive not only bipartisan cooperation but also ecumenical cooperation. He’s right to try.”

“Some (gays),” she says, “even seem to think that Obama agrees with Warren’s offensive rhetoric…”

That’s true, they do. But that’s a red herring. Most don’t believe that for a minute, although you can’t blame them for wondering. They’re not turning on him, they are protesting his decision. Now that we’ve got that lousy bunch replaced with “our guy” we’re supposed to like everything he does? Justify his moves? March behind him and be his yes-men?

Tucker, and the rest of the left, have a good point in arguing that “there’s no reason to believe broad consensus can’t be reached on other (issues), such as broadening the social safety net for children from poor families. Or intervening to stop genocide in Darfur. Or helping victims of HIV/AIDS.”

Of course we should work for broad consensus. But do you really think Rick Warren would suddenly stop working on HIV/AIDS (a cause he deserves a great deal of credit for) or turn around from his belief that evangelicals ought to care more for the poor than they do, simply because Obama invited him to lunch at the White House instead of giving him this position of honor at the inauguration? Come on. Gays are not going to abandon Obama for this wretched decision, and Warren is not going to stop being Warren if Obama missed this alleged opportunity to build bridges.

I used to watch Donahue back in the days when we placed such a high value on “balance” that every time we had a Jew talk about Auschwitz, some people thought we ought to have a Nazi there to “give the other point of view.”

We had lynching in this country as a form of national culture terrorism to keep blacks in such fear they would not get “uppity.” When we tell that story today, do we have to have representation from the Ku Klux Klan?

This man Rick Warren preaches to the 20,000 people who come to his church every week (and the 80,000 who belong and fill his coffers) that gay people are in the same category as those who commit incest. And he suggests they are like those who prey on young children. This man actually gets up in America today and says things like that, and reasonable good people like Cynthia Tucker think we can get away with calling that a “difference of opinion over social issues.”

It’s hate speech. When gay people get their brains bashed in by thugs, they have the spirit of Rick Warren to thank for what drives them. We still have anti-Semites, but they are now forced to live on the perifery of society, as the mean-spirited fools they are. Most non-Jewish people today let them have it and they are marked as indecent.

Someday that will be true for people who suggest that gay people prey on children, that gay people are sick in the soul and in desperate need of change, that gays given their rights by a state here and a Supreme Court there should have those rights taken back from them, because there is something fundamentally flawed about them. Think about that. Really think about that. It is socially acceptable in America today to say that this group of people, because they are morally flawed (because I tell you they are morally flawed), should be treated as a group apart. Not like us.

Someday gays will not have to endure public pronouncements on their inferiority any longer. Just not today. Not yet. On the contrary. While Obama would never invite a Ku Klux Klanner to see if maybe “broad consensus can’t be reached” he still invites this homophobe to a place of honor.

OK, maybe he would sit down with the Klan. He’s really quite good at reaching out. But the issue at hand is not reaching out; it’s bestowing honor.

All these words will have to be sautéed à la chinoise and eaten if it turns out Rick Warren is so moved by this invitation that he falls away from his soul-killing homophobia.

I’ll invite you to watch.

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