Politics is not my cup of tea, but I just read a series of Facebook posts about an article posted on the Advocate about the LGBT community’s “Disappointment” with Obama that kinda got to me today. This article is certainly not the first of its kind that I’ve come across; negative commentary on news is always current news these days and I’ve tried to ignore all the political jargon that’s been flying back and forth in cyberspace.
To be sure, these politically polarized online conversations often find ways to invade neutral social spaces offline. I should be used to this by now, but lately — perhaps due to the heightened sensitivity around hte political climate — it’s become even more difficult to avoid (or at least compartmentalize) the experience of becoming an accidental participant, much less an incidental spectator. Despite “Hiding” all the Facebook perpetrator Boo-Obama status updates in my News Feeds and RSVPing “(Hell) No” to radical political action committee meetings where at least two people are bound to punctuate their rhetoric with fist thumping on a non-profit budgeted table, I’ve found myself stumped for words on more than one occasion.
No one — gay or straight, liberal or conservative — should be so presumptuous as to slip in a last minute toast to “Electing a president with some balls the next time around” right before a first round of drinks, or offer the lean-in-with-deep-earnest-eyes-and-place-hand-on-one-shoulder gesture while they try to convince you that, “He’s just like all the others.” I don’t sport any visible Proud Obama Supporter merchandise, so I’ve often been confused about what typically prompts the latter (It’s cause I’m black, init?), but I’m beginning to wonder if maybe I should invest in a “Back Off, I Love Obama!” T-Shirt, lest I get taken by surprise when I’m having a really bad day and respond less than tactfully.
To cut to the chase, I’m not another queer liberal who’s angry with Obama. However, today, as I scrolled through Facebook News, digesting bits and pieces of social commentary in the anger, disappointment, humor, and hate categories, I was forced to think about whether or not I should be.
Is there evidence that members and supporters of the LGBT community should be angry? Yes. Is there evidence that Obama has made promises (ENDA, DADT) that he’s (so far) failed to keep? Yes. Should we hold our leaders accountable at any and all costs? Most definitely.
I whole-heartedly understand and empathize with where people are coming from. We certainly all have the right to be mad for one reason or the other. However, I’m losing patience with people that presume to think that I’m down with taking down “the Man” on a single issue just because I’m part of the LGBT community at large. “Do you think Obama has kept his promises to the gay community?” I answer, No. But…
Dear angry (and mainly white) liberal gay community, I’m more than just a single poll vote — I’m many polls and many votes. Shoot, I’m a database of hard facts about privilege in this country. I’m one of you, one of “them”, many of “other” — a whole and complex being — so please remember that there are too many other political and social issues at stake (for me, for my family, and for my community) for me to burn Obama for side-stepping a hot potato that’s been baking for far too long in the granite-counter-topped kitchens of rich white gay men.
Now, about this article. Richard Just writes:
“Obama argues that he is against gay marriage while also opposing efforts like Prop 8 that would ban it,” he writes. “He justifies this by saying that state constitutions should not be used to reduce rights. (His exact words: ‘I am not in favor of gay marriage, but when you’re playing around with constitutions, just to prohibit somebody who cares about another person, it just seems to me that that is not what America is about.’) Obama appears to be saying that it is fine to prohibit gay people from getting married, as long as the vehicle for doing so is not a constitution.
Really? This sounds like a critical reasoning paragraph from the GREs (sorry I’m in grad school application mode). Perhaps I need to brush up on my reading comprehension skills but this sentiment doesn’t describe how I’ve been reading Obama at all. How do we go from a president who’s clearly come out against the amending of the constitution to further legislate taking away basic rights from gay people to trivializing his position with semantics? How do we call someone who’s actually been decent about providing transparency (even if it means we see/hear him go back and forth vs getting to hear PR-proofed-and-puppeteered statements) a liar? Didn’t we hear over and over again that he would not be pushing through gay marriage, but rather, working with us to ensure that civil unions were protected? (read: please don’t force me to jeopardize my candidacy, I’ll do what I can, since no one else is doing it anyway).
NEWS FLASH: Obama is a politician. This shouldn’t be surprising, and it certainly shouldn’t constantly be used to insult him (or anyone else for that matter), especially since politicians are the only pawns we can elect into office. (Outspoken freedom fighters like me do our job on the ground because we wouldn’t last 5 minutes in the world of politics, and that’s the TRUTH). We should try to remember that politicians are subject to politics, bureaucracy, endless debate, soap box fails, and most importantly, our conditional love and support at best. It shouldn’t be so hard for us to see — as leaders ourselves — that sometimes you’ve gotta walk the thin line between proponent and opponent to get to the other side: progress.
I started paying close attention when he didn’t make the daft mistake of running the presidential race on a “black agenda” platform despite pressure to come out and do/say more about the experience of African-Americans in this country. He’s clearly fence-sitting, trying not to cause too many ripples so as not to jeopardize a possible re-election (during a future period where increased tolerance and awareness would better aid us). To do so would mean that he won’t be there to continue digging out the shit from the hole we threw him into in the first place.
And yet, every other day I log into Facebook, some angry liberal is posting about not voting for him, throwing him in the same category as Bush (really? George Double-yuh??), and helping our real opponents, extreme right-wing conservatives, burn him at the stake. I can understand your disappointment. Hell, sometimes I want to wring his neck and shake him into taking a god damn position… like I would do. Sometimes, we need to kick and scream and throw tantrums because this simply isn’t fair… to “us.” But we must never lose sight of the big picture, which includes ALL of us, and I’m not talking about our neighbors or check-box mates. I’m talking about recognizing that we are a part of many different communities that Obama HAS been fighting for — the middle class who can’t afford insurance, small business owners, WOMEN, educators etc. We should Thank Him for his progress in those arenas, rather than continually put him down for areas where his record could show a little more improvement. Isn’t that what good mentors do? Isn’t that what smart citizens should do?
This single-issue approach to ratings and slandering politicians just isn’t helpful. Moreover, it’s hypocritical. If we’re still having discussions about negotiating when and where to come out (based on safety, the age of children in schools, appropriateness in the workplace, generational attitudes re: elders etc), then we shouldn’t expect our president to be excited about outing himself to a sea of still predominantly conservative political voices and media.
And before you retort with, “Well, I’m not the president, it’s his job to…” please think about whether or not you would switch positions with him today, if given the opportunity. If you won’t accept the offer to be Obama for just one day — to be required to listen and engage the voices of over three hundred million people — then fall in line, and support him, especially if you voted for him. If we don’t stand behind our choices, we’d be no better than conservatives who threw Bush to the dogs the minute they ran out of rhetoric to distract the country from his complete and utter failure.
If I lose my gay card because I don’t “hold Obama accountable to the marriage issue” then so be it. One card can’t define me, and shouldn’t define the president of (still) the most powerful country in the world, where citizens are a sum total of the issues they care about. I still choose any president that’s brave enough to approach leadership with this in mind.
Now, don’t let me down, Obama.