Last summer, an old friend said to me, "America will never elect a black President." I’ve thought about that a lot since then. He was obviously wrong, and his reason for saying it wasn’t just a political observation, it was a reflection of his Republican classist ways of seeing America. But it has stuck with me because in a way, he wasn’t that far off of the mark. Obama is not a "black President." I think President Obama would like for us to stop seeing race altogether – like in that line from MLK’s Dream Speech:
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character…
And he’s been able to bring that off so far. He’s still opposed by the hard core racists, but we are much further down that road than we were when King made his speech in 1963. And frankly, I would credit George W. Bush with some of that progress. Even we "lefties" have a lot of respect for the african-americans who were in Bush’s cabinet – Condoleeza Rice and Colin Powell. I want to spank both of them for going along with some of the insanity of that bunch, but I think we all saw them as the only principled players in a sea of misguided Republicans. Obama is doing well by women – Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice, Sonya Sotomayor. He’s bringing off race-blind and gender-blind.
But Obama’s in trouble with homosexuality. I don’t doubt for a second that he’s fully supportive of rights for gay people. It’s hard to imagine otherwise. But he’s stammering with how to proceed. For example, DOMA [the Defense Of Marriage Act], which is clearly one ridiculous piece of legislation. But in order to get it passed, its advocates had to agree to something they didn’t want – it is only about the term "marriage," not about equal rights for domestic partners. So, for its supporters, it upholds their version of the sanctity of marriage as a guy/gal thing. For Gay people, it feels like a disavowal of their personhood [which it is], a continuation of second-class-ness or less-than-ness [which it also is]. But in truth, it’s a silly piece of drivel that has to do with the dictionary. What the hell is the government doing getting involved with the dictionary in the first place?
Then there’s DADT [Don’t Ask, Don’t tell]. In some ways, it’s even more absurd. There’s a way you could hear it that would be progressive – "Sexual Orientation has nothing to do with the right to die as a soldier." That’s absolutely true. But, of course, that’s not how it’s interpreted. It actually means, "If you are Gay, and in the military, and you talk about being Gay, you have to leave." That’s absolutely nuts [though if they had such a rule during our last really bad war, we’d have had regiments of Klingers in a New York minute]. But seriously, DADT is as silly as DOMA.
This is the biggest "culture war" issue of them all, and both sides want to win. There’s no middle ground. So if you suggest adding a category, "pairriage," and make it open to all [man-woman, man-man, woman-woman], I’ll bet a lot of hip real heterosexual people would choose it for their domestic unions. I think I would’ve ["Will you pair with me," would’ve been easier to say]. But, that would be seen by the Gay Community as losing. So it’s insoluable for Obama who wants to stay in the middle, or cut a compromise of some kind. And trying to be neutral will offend both sides of this war. Were I he, I’d do a Solomon/Baby thing. I’d dump DADT which is about rights, and proceed with the "rights" part of civil unions – but stay out of the nomenclature business as long as I could get away with it [until enough States make it a moot point]. But he’s still going to take flack. Culture Wars are just like that.