Sunday, November 15, 2009

My One-Year-Later Thoughts About Obama.

I stopped reading Americablog a while back because it was too shrill and marriagey and anti-Obama, so I missed the beginning of this boycott, but I have to say I support the sentiment. So many liberal or progressive-minded people assume the Democratic party represents their views, and it just ain't so.

And I stopped reading what used to be my favorite gay blog, JoeMyGod, because of an ongoing series of posts called This Week in Holy Crimes, in which he publicly shames any and every small-town clergyperson who is arrested for a sex crime, convicted or not. And just the general tone of the blog got so anti-everything, I couldn't stomach it any more.

But I need my fix of queer politics, so recently I started reading and enjoying this blog. As far as I can tell, its positions on issues are close to Americablog, but it's not quite as whiney:

For the record, the President’s position in same-sex marriage is this: "I'm a Christian. And so, although I try not to have my religious beliefs dominate or determine my political views on this issue, I do believe that tradition, and my religious beliefs say that marriage is something sanctified between a man and a woman."

While that is a position, it is not an argument. Rather, it is indistinguishable from the positions (not arguments) adopted by the Vatican and NOM – which is to say, it is unchallengeable in any civic forum. And it is intended to be unchallengeable in any civic forum. References to tradition and particularly sanctification have little purpose other than to short circuit any opposition – certainly any secular opposition, which is what the President was being asked about.

Though I'm not a supporter of same-sex marriage, I feel this frustration, too. It's the same frustration I felt back when J and I brought R into our relationship and my mother so fiercely refused to acknowledge or discuss it. Being anti-religion, she wouldn't ascribe her opposition to the Bible or religious tradition, but somehow that made it even more infuriating to me. "This is a committed, supportive relationship. What is bad about that?" "That's just not how people are made," she said. In the end, her argument and Obama's is "I believe it because it's what I believe." It shuts down the conversation, and there's nothing more maddening than that.

It's not so much that I'm angry that Obama opposes gay marriage, it's that I thought he was smarter than this. One of the top reasons I supported Obama and was so thrilled to see him elected is that he is so intelligent. But his stance on this issue, like my mother's on my three-way relationship, is intellectually incoherent. In both cases, it is deeply disappointing.

When he talks about race, I'm dazzled and moved and edified. Racial politics in America is such an overwhelmingly complex issue to tackle -- history, urban policy, biology, sexuality, education, and on and on -- but he connects the dots in ways that let us begin to make sense of it and entertain some hope that things may get better if we try to listen and understand each other. I have never thought of any president as a teacher before Obama, and he makes it clear over and over how powerful that is. I still think we are incredibly privileged to have a president who can do that. I think the American population, if nothing else, will be smarter at the end of Obama's tenure.

So ... equally complex is the issue of the place or function or role of homosexuality in our society. What a trove of ideas to chew on. And all he has to say is, "I'm a Christian."


ep said...

"I believe it because it's what I believe."

I'm not entirely sure that's what's happening here. The President doesn't want to engage in the discussion. He can talk eloquently on race because he has a personal connection to the topic. He is not only intelligent, but he is careful, and doesn't want to spout off on an issue he maybe doesn't fully connect to.

I wouldn't want to proclaim "right or wrong" on gay marriage or a three-way relationship, either, as they are not part of my experience. I wouldn't oppose either for anyone, because I'm a firm believer in to each his own, as long as no one gets hurt.

As far as you mom's concerned, I don't know her background and the whole story of your relationship, but I'm not sure why this still bugs you (as you're no longer in this relationship, correct?) Aren't there always things about our parents' lives that we find hard to accept? Shouldn't it be vice-versa, too? No matter how liberal, would any parent really be excite to know the intimate details of their child's sex life? My daughter is going on six, and I want her to have a full and happy and fulfilled life in every possible way - not sure I would want to know all the details. We will have to see how I feel when I get there.

Steven said...

Yeah, I guess my calling out Obama on his intelligence was rhetorical. I know he's smart enough to address gay marriage in a less cursory way. That's why it's disappointing that he uses his religion. He could still come up with a political response that would satisfy me, like "People have very strong opinions on both sides of this issue, and this is a new phenomenon in our society and there is a lot to learn and consider, blah, blah." It's the "I'm a Christian" thing that is so dumb.

I never shared details of my sex life with my mom. She opposed the domestic arrangement. My mom and I have always been able to, even if we disagree, pick at each other's positions, try to persuade each other, hash it out. But she refused to discuss that relationship. That's why it was frustrating and why it lingers. We still can't go there. Her attitude at the time was that she would just wait until it was over. Can you imagine how painful that would be to have your parents just hoping that your relationship won't last? I still believe that one of the reasons that relationship was difficult to maintain is the opposition and discomfort from people around us.

Totally parallel to gay relationships and people's discomfort and lack of support. They're uncomfortable thinking about the sex. In fact, the whole experience was very much like a second coming out, and much harder than the first one.