Wednesday, May 09, 2012

News Worthy

This entry is going to be about politics.  Fair warning.

Today, I ate lunch at about 3:30.  As usual, I pulled out my phone and started scrolling through news.  Going in reverse chronology, a friend at the top of the list said "I <heart> Obama!"  I pursed my lips and metaphorically clucked my tongue.  You just don't see that kind of unvarnished opinion -- not without someone taking them to task or at least commenting ironically.

But a sudden hunch made me skip the gradual progression backwards and just fiercely scroll back.  Story after story appeared about President Obama's announcement regarding support for gay marriage. 

"Well," I thought, "that's something."

I had friends commenting that it was a politician pandering to an audience, hoping to get re-elected.  Perhaps it was.  But I think it's the nature of politicians to follow public opinion.  I have no idea what his personal feelings on guacamole are, but they don't make a spit of difference as to whether I should be able to purchase some.

I think -- like much of the population that's about his age -- Obama has complicated reactions to gay marriage.  Raised in an era when it was not spoken of, he's become a public figure in a different era when the population approving of gay marriage has topped 50%.  He can have all the personal reservations he likes, but it's up to him in his role as president to adapt to the will of the people.  He is, after all, our elected representative.

I grew up in an age when "gay" was still a pejorative term.  I remember saying it before I even knew what it meant.  In my high school, there was one boy in particular who was out.  He had an earring, hung out with the girls in ways that none of us other guys seemed to be able to do, and wore clothing we didn't.  At the time, I assumed he was just angling for attention, but he's stuck to his story: he know lives happily with a husband of several years and an adopted child. 

Of course, he doesn't really have a husband, because they live in Missouri.  Same-sex unions are prohibited there.  They're just two guys who happen to have the same house.  One of them is the actual adopted parent of the child.  The other is just *a guy*.  Should the father die, the child will be remanded to the state, because he has no other legal guardians.  He has no protections to ensure that his life would continue with the only parents he has ever known.  That's the sort of situation the president is speaking of.

The office of president is the biggest bully pulpit that exists.  What Obama says about anything is going to be toast-and-coffee conversation the next morning.  Hell, by the time I got back from lunch, two of the technicians and I were having a serious conversation about it in the break room!  Obama doesn't need to be the first drop over the wall.  His proper time should be somewhere in the middle, because he represents America.  In all of our self-contradictory glory. 

North Carolina just had their vote on a constitutional amendment yesterday.  The approval of that amendment, striking down all existing "non-traditional" unions, was loudly celebrated in certain circles.  Among those cheering were the KKK and splinter groups of Neo-Nazis.  I can only hope that may give unassuming people pause, especially when the South still bears the marks of the Civil Rights era. 

My favorite comparison for today came from someone who said Obama's statement of approval was a great deal like Lincoln issuing the Emancipation Proclamation.  Lincoln's Proclamation freed no slave in the north or west.  It freed only slaves in parts of the US "currently in rebellion", which was rather unenforceable at the time. 

As a practical matter, the Emancipation Proclamation accomplished very little.  But it meant a great deal, and became a signature moment for Lincoln.  So it is with this declaration: may it be greeted with a chorus of "well, of course" in the fullness of time.  Maybe in 50 years everyone will wonder how we could ever have thought otherwise.

I sincerely hope this doesn't become the "Homosexual Proclamation" or a signature event of Obama's presidency.  I hope it's a non-issue that gradually tapers out in the years to come.  Homosexuals aren't slaves.  But they are a challenge to our national DNA of "all men created equal".  Let's just do it.

If we all become the butt of something that history professors chuckle about in the future, I can think of worse ends. 

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