By Mike Biggz
The NFL’s Super Bowl may seem like an unlikely venue for a debate over gay rights, but comments from players of the opposing teams, the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers, have put a spotlight on the question of football’s tolerance regarding sexual orientation.
Baltimore’s linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo has spoken out forcefully in favor of marriage equality and gay rights, while San Francisco’s cornerback Chris Culliver recently objected to having gay players on his team or in the NFL.
“I don’t do the gay guys man,” Culliver told shock jock Artie Lange, according to Yahoo! Sports. “I don’t do that. No, we don’t got no gay people on the team, they gotta get up out of here if they do. … Can’t be with that sweet stuff. Nah…can’t be…in the locker room man. Nah.”
Yet, while Culliver was outspoken about his opposition to gays in NFL locker rooms, Ayanbadejo muted his public support for gay rights in pre-Super Bowl comments to the news media.
“Actually, I talked about that so I don’t want to keep touching on that subject,” Ayanbadejo said, indicating that he preferred focusing on preparations for the game. “Obviously, we’re at the Super Bowl and it’s the pinnacle of sports in the United States so I just really want to focus.”
Later, responding to another question about his support for gay rights, Ayanbadejo was more expansive. “Equality is a relevant issue,” he said. “Whether you decide to speak out about it or not, it’s going to affect everybody one way or another. Hopefully I’ll be able to win a Super Bowl and do the entire media circuit so I can talk about these things.”
After the Ravens won the AFC championship, Ayanbadejo sent e-mails to some influential supporters of gay rights, asking “Is there anything I can do for marriage equality or anti-bullying over the next couple of weeks to harness this Super Bowl media”?
Ayanbadejo, a heterosexual father of two, first waded into the issue of same-sex unions by writing a supportive opinion piece for Huffington Post. He also has spoken out against bullying.
His comments in support of a same-sex marriage bill in the Maryland legislature prompted state delegate Emmett C. Burns Jr. to complain to Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti. However, the bill passed anyway and Ayanbadejo has refused to be silenced on the topic, despite his reticence at “media day.”
I wrote an article about Ayanbadejo a few months back and hoped he would take advantage of the intense media interest in the Super Bowl to highlight his pro-gay and anti-bullying positions. At this point, I’m not sure exactly what Ayanbadejo will do. He could wear a sticker on his helmet or a patch on his uniform, although NFL rules discourage such messaging unless it has prior approval.
Ayanbadejo has indicated he would meet with New Orleans lawmakers, who got in touch with him after hearing his position on gay rights. Win or lose at the Super Bowl, he also plans to go on the Ellen DeGeneres show to discuss these issues further.
And even though I don’t want his team to win the Super Bowl (sorry, I’m rooting for my home-team 49ers), I am proud of this man for standing up for the cause of gay rights and seeing the importance of this struggle.
As for the 49ers – despite the comments of cornerback Culliver – the team has joined in the campaign for tolerance, as the first NFL to do an “It Gets Better” public service announcement. Though Super Bowl ads are famously expensive, this intensely watched sporting event would make for a perfect opportunity to broadcast another PSA.
Super Bowl commercials are often more talked about than the game itself. And considering that in the last few years, I’ve seen some hyper-masculine, offensive and homophobic-laced spots where men are criticized for not being manly enough, a pro-gay/anti-bullying PSA would be valuable.
I hope in the future more NFL teams and players will join this crusade – and that we’ll soon see the first openly gay NFL player in the league.
Mike Biggz is a technical producer at Pacifica’s “Flashpoints” program, based in Berkeley, California.
(Originally posted at Consortium News)
One of the more successful things about Mitt Romney’s doomed 2012 campaign was his ability to portray himself as an aw-shucks clean-cut good guy; a Mormon who never drinks or smokes or uses profanity, and quite literally uses the word “gosh” in every day language. But just beneath the thin Ward Cleaver veneer is a sociopath who’s incapable of experiencing certain moral and emotional connections to fellow humans.
He possesses the cold, animatronic mind of a CEO. Like so many other men in similar posts, he was able to fire thousands of people without flinching while also raiding and busting-out unsuspecting business after unsuspecting business. This T-1000 Terminator mindset was also evident in his youth, especially when he and his buddies assaulted a student who they thought was gay. Romney pinned John Lauber to the ground and, while the boy screamed out for help, the future Republican nominee for president cut his hair with a pair of scissors.
The immorality of what he did probably never occurred to Romney, as it never occurred to him that his corporate raider business model helped him to earn his fortune on the backs of countless destroyed lives. In schools all across the country, LGBT kids continue to be harassed and terrorized. Just yesterday, a 15-year-old boy named Jadin Bell was removed from life support after doctors informed his family that he was brain dead. Jadin had tried to commit suicide by hanging himself from a jungle gym at a local schoolyard after being mercilessly bullied for being openly gay. Jadin’s mother told the press, “We always knew that Jadin is a special person. Now everyone knows.”
Bill Maher once joked that homosexuality can’t possibly be a choice because why would any teenager choose to get the shit kicked out of him by cruel thoughtless meatheads (like Romney and too many others)?
So it goes with a reintroduced Tennessee law, SB 234, also known as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill. The law would mandate that teachers and school officials inform parents if their child exhibits LGBT behavior. In fact, the author of the legislation, State Sen. Stacey Campfield (R-Of Course), referred to the students as being “at risk” for homosexual behavior, not unlike being “at risk” for obesity or alcoholism.
Anyone with half-a-brain can grasp the horrific implications of such a draconian law. Obviously, many teens who suspect they might be gay tend to shy away from informing their parents, and especially other kids, for fear of being rejected by their families and bullied at school. Oftentimes, as Jadin Bell did, LGBT teens will seek out the help and protection of school counselors if they’re being accosted and hectored, but the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill would effectively cut off this one last place of refuge as many students would fear that by seeking help they’d actually end up being prematurely outted to their parents. And so the targets on their backs would grow larger as they become even more vulnerable to brutal attacks from other students.
ThinkProgress reported that 40 percent of all homeless teens are LGBT. I’m sure you can guess the primary reason: they’re afraid to come out to their parents, either because they’re ashamed of their sexuality or because their parents would abuse or reject them. Perhaps a little of both in some cases. And now there’s a law in Tennessee that would force more and more LGBT teens underground, living as pariahs in a world that treats their natural sexual orientation as criminal behavior sanctionable by schools and reportable to parents, not unlike cheating on a test or bringing a gun to school.
One of the worst things about this law is that, as David Frum implied, it’s a reaction to the fact that Republicans appear to be losing the so-called culture wars. They can’t seem to hold back the tide of marriage equality so they’re reaching for low-hanging fruit: kids. By the way, this is the same Republican Party which, when it’s not attacking children, bitches and screeches about “nanny-state” politics. Republicans are against healthier food choices in schools because it’s another example of tyrannical Food Nazi Michelle Obama smacking tater-tots and sugary sodas out of the mouths of children. But they’re okay with schools becoming anti-gay shark tanks where everyone is on the lookout for evil homosexual behavior, and, for LGBT kids, everyone becomes a potential enemy.
Too many Republicans still believe they can cure homosexuality. In this case, I suppose they think that by outting these kids, parents and schools will talk/threaten/cure/exorcise the gay away before it’s too late. Of course this is as ridiculous as the notion of having more guns in schools. Good kids who just want to be accepted for who they are will be utterly cut down in the process.
To that point, what happens next? We could ask Jadin Bell or Matthew Shepard, but sadly they’re not with us today. For LGBT teens, if this bill is passed, it’ll be more depression, more homelessness, more unchecked bullying and more suicides.
The Daily Banter Headline Grab. From Yahoo! News:
The Supreme Court on Friday set in motion its constitutional machinery on the issue of same-sex marriage, probably producing a result in June, the most popular month for weddings. Friday thus marked a bold beginning, especially in the face of the reality that the court could have chosen to stay away from the issue altogether, but deliberately chose not to do so.
But the path from this beginning to the June outcome will be, for the justices, more like finding their way through a garden maze: the end at times will seem quite elusive. And, in this instance, the end might not be a clearly defined one: either that gay weddings will be made legal nationwide, or that states will remain free to ban them if that is their choice.
Between now and one of those clear results, there is a daunting series of turns. Too much can be made of that fact, though, and that would take away from the historic importance of what the court has begun. Aside from a fleeting look 40 years ago at a legally forlorn plea to allow a Minnesota gay couple to marry, the court until now had never seriously pondered the question.
The Daily Banter Headline Grab. From Reuters:
Hundreds of well-wishers braved cold and rain to celebrate 140 weddings at Seattle City Hall on Sunday, marking the first day that same-sex couples can marry in Washington state.
Washington, Maine and Maryland last month became the first U.S. states to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples by a popular vote, in a leap forward for gay rights.
“It means that I can use the word husband without question or explaining,” said Corianton Hale, a 34-year-old graphic designer, who was one of the first to tie the knot at City Hall. He married freelance copywriter Keith Bacon, 44.
“We originally registered to come down here to get married at City Hall because we thought we’d just get in and get out,” said Bacon. “It ended up being this incredible experience.”
About 300 people waited outside City Hall in frigid drizzle to cheer couples as they descended the steps to street level, some throwing rice, blowing bubbles and handing flowers to the newlyweds.
Earlier this month, I wrote an article in which I suggested that liberals stop hectoring people of faith and simply focus on religious groups and leaders who attempt to undermine or replace secular law with biblical dogma. But wow, they really, really make it difficult sometimes. Especially when they get it as horribly wrong as Pastor Rick Warren did the other night.
You might recall how Warren was invited by the president to deliver the invocation at the 2009 inaugural. As I’ve mentioned several times over the past couple of years in response to various Greenwald acolytes on the left, this was first of many actions by the president that I vocally opposed. Of course, as you know, if you subsequently say anything affirmative about the president, you’re categorically labeled an Obamabot.
Anyway, Warren, who’s allegedly one of the reasonable, sane preachers, has a long history of saying offensive things about the LGBT community. Here’s what he said to CNN’s Piers Morgan about homosexuality:
Here’s what we know about life. I have all kinds of natural feelings in my life and it doesn’t necessarily mean that I should act on every feeling. Sometimes I get angry and I feel like punching a guy in the nose. It doesn’t mean I act on it. Sometimes I feel attracted to women who are not my wife. I don’t act on it. Just because I have a feeling doesn’t make it right. Not everything natural is good for me. Arsenic is natural.
Uh-huh. Interesting logic there. Warren thinks there’s a victim of personal injury inherent in what’s evidently poisonous homosexual attraction, just as there’s personal injury when you punch a guy or cheat on your wife or ingest arsenic. Homosexuality, in Warren’s view, isn’t just evil (without any explanation as to precisely why it’s evil), but it’s also physically dangerous to anyone who’s confronted by the outward pursuit of homosexuality, not unlike the potential victims of Warren’s apparent Hulk-like rage.
So who are the victims of homosexuality?
We don’t know. He didn’t say, mainly because he can’t say. We’re just expected to believe there’s violence and a victim in the equation. According to Warren and others, pursuing same-sex attraction is another form of acting upon a hateful or deceptive impulse.
Now, that said, too many mouth-breathing dingus self-identified straight men believe that by witnessing two gay people holding hands, kissing or having sex, they themselves will perhaps turn gay — or if they’re tolerant of homosexuality, their idiot friends might think they’re gay, too. They usually make a big production out of saying how disgusting it is. So in that respect, some men think they’re victims of homosexuality, but unless they’re secretly gay themselves — and more than of few of them probably are — being in the presence of gay people won’t make them turn gay any more than being in the presence of women will make them grow breasts and a vagina.
No one, and especially Warren can adequately explain why being gay is wrong or so frightening. “The Bible says so,” simply doesn’t suffice and is easily the most ridiculous response anyone could give, mainly because there’s no real explanation in the Bible either. From Leviticus to Romans, the Bible says it’s wrong without any justification for why it’s wrong beyond the inexplicable coupling of homosexuality with theft and murder. But again, if the Bible believes homosexuality is a criminally immoral act, where’s the victim? God? Why? How? No one can answer this question even though it’s the centerpiece of homophobic religious dogma.
The sad and shameful reality of humanity is that all people are prone to violence, selfishness and impulsivity, regardless of sexuality, race or background. If there’s anyone who’s on the receiving end of our most disgusting and hateful impulses, it’s homosexuals themselves who are too often bullied, beaten and sometimes killed because of who they are — a consequence of the demonization proffered by ignorant homophobes like Rick Warren who don’t seem to understand that homosexuality is merely a loving, consenting relationship between two adults — not unlike Warren’s relationship with his wife.
In the absence of a rational, factual explanation, we can only conclude that these views are nothing less than bigotry. As such, I certainly hope “Pastor Rick” isn’t invited back to the president’s second inaugural.
By Chez Paziena: Yesterday evening I popped up a quickie post over at my blog, Deus Ex Malcontent, that generated quite a bit of push-back. (For the record, it’s always the minor brain droppings, as Carlin used to say, fired off on a whim, that seem to earn me the most feedback, outrage, rebuke, what-have-you.) Basically what I said is that the right doesn’t hold an absolute monopoly on making the sickening claim that not all rape is created equal and, with all the well-deserved fury being aimed at Todd Akin, it’s worth mentioning in the interest of intellectual honesty that Michael Moore has parsed the concept of rape in his defense of pious asshole Julian Assange.
What led me to draw the comparison wasn’t simply that I felt, out of the blue, like being phony-fair and bringing up one long-since-past example from the left to put up against the firestorm the right was drawing and regularly draws on women’s issues; it was because Moore and fellow filmmaker and indulger in way-far-out politics Oliver Stone penned a long-winded and indignant op-ed in Monday’s New York Times in which they once again made the argument that the rape case against Assange amounted, essentially, to an attempt to quash the Wikileaks founder’s right to free speech. They wrote it in response to Assange’s self-serving, Evita-like address from the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy in London on Sunday in which he blasted the United States, demanding that it end its “witch hunt” against the site and guy who’s spent the past couple of years gleefully spilling its classified information out into the ether.
You can probably guess what happened a few minutes after I hit the “Publish Post” button and what continued for the next couple of hours.
The response to my little slam against Moore, Stone and Assange was swift and ferocious. Via Facebook and e-mail, I was raked over the coals pretty relentlessly for daring to specifically correlate Michael Moore to Todd Akin, the argument of my detractors being that I had set up the dreaded false-equivalence. A number of people, including my friend, podcast partner and fellow Banter-ite Bob Cesca, felt that I was being a liberal self-defeatist and that I failed to see how Moore, as a guy who’s not in a position to directly affect public policy, was a poor comparison to someone like Todd Akin, who is. Also, according to my critics, there’s the fact that Moore is an outlier who isn’t thoroughly representative of the overall opinion of the left, as Akin’s views are of the right. All of this is, of course, true — but that’s not really the point and it’s not why I felt it was important to call Moore out for his views while continuing to call out Akin for his.
Here’s the thing: It’s not about the kind of phony objectivity we’re regularly fed from various mainstream news organizations, which often really does amount to a false-equivalence hastily and clumsily assembled for the sake of appearing fair. It’s also not about navel gazing or being self-defeatist, particularly since I go out of my way to not thoroughly align myself with any political camp and absolutely have no allegiance to any one party, certainly not the kind of blind faith that would lead me to ignore malfeasance of the variety of which I accuse my political adversaries. What it’s about is attempting to hold everyone accountable in the same manner, trying as best I can not to be hypocritical and, from a strategic standpoint, to make sure that the aforementioned adversaries don’t have a weapon to use against me. It’s about, I hope at least, intellectual honesty — which I think is more important than party loyalty. When you harshly criticize your opponent while deliberately overlooking the same sentiment coming from within your own ranks, even if that sentiment isn’t anywhere near as endemic or rampant, then your criticism becomes worthless.
Admittedly, the only person who thinks Michael Moore is as powerful as Todd Akin is Michael Moore, but there’s no denying that he’s still an icon to many on the left and he’s still given a platform by many of the same left-leaning media outlets that are currently trashing Akin. With that in mind, I think it’s entirely fair to hold Moore to the same standard you’d hold Akin, Ryan and their unholy ilk. There’s no doubt that Moore isn’t representative of the entire center-left mindset the way Akin is of his party’s views, but I don’t think that it’s always necessary to state as much when you’re simply making the claim that there are in fact those on the left who’ve made the same basic statements about the subject of rape as those on the right. I never said that there were an equal number of people on either side making like-minded claims — only that there existed on the left someone who said the same awful things that everyone was currently losing their minds at Todd Akin over. I shouldn’t have to pen a flowery disclaimer making it clear that I’m not trying to draw a direct correlation.
A couple of weeks ago, an LGBT activist fired a handgun in the lobby of the Family Research Council headquarters in Washington, DC. Floyd Corkins appears to have left no doubt as to why he shot a security guard, wounding the man; he reportedly had 15 Chick-fil-A bags in his backpack and detested the FRC’s ongoing campaign against gays and lesbians in this country. I shouldn’t have to say that I’m as disgusted by the Family Research Council as anyone; I can’t stand who they are and what they do. But it’s interesting how few people on the left were willing to consider how our toxic political climate may have influenced Corkins to do what he did. Many, including myself, are quick to assign blame to the incendiary rhetoric on the right whenever some terrified hyper-conservative nutjob uses a gun to get his political point across; with that in mind, it’s fair to at least acknowledge the possibility that our discourse has become so damn noxious that unstable people are being inspired to commit all kinds of insane acts out of anger, fear, whatever.
Now here’s where I will offer a disclaimer: No, of course the violent rhetoric and violent action we’ve heard and seen on the left is nowhere near what we’ve heard and seen on the right. One guy, one incident, doesn’t even compare to the eliminationism we’ve seen coming from across the aisle over the past few years — with political leaders actually calling for “2nd Amendment remedies,” guys like Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly demonizing left-leaning organizations and abortion doctors until their mindless acolytes feel that it’s their duty as God-fearing Americans to take action, and crazies bringing guns to events where the President of the United States is speaking. There’s a direct, 1:1 correlation between that kind of violent rhetoric and the resulting violent action, when it happens. To deny it is politically motivated nonsense. The mouthpieces on the right love to paint far-right gunmen, like the one behind the Sikh temple shooting in Milwaukee or the one who admitted to being inspired by Glenn Beck when he got into a gun battle with the California Highway Patrol, as being lone nuts under the influence of no one. This is, of course, horseshit. But it’s fascinating, though not the least bit surprising, how far those same mouthpieces were willing to go — how many hypocritical pretzels they twisted themselves into — to claim that the outrage of the left was the catalyst for Corkins’s actions. Family Research Council President Tony Perkins personally blamed the Southern Poverty Law Center for designating the FRC a hate group. Needless to say, he was full of crap because you don’t get to have it both ways; you can’t call the gunmen who espouse your beliefs lone wolves and the ones who espouse your opponents’ puppets of a larger conspiracy.
And that was the main reason I even bothered to broach the subject of Michael Moore — because if you don’t apply your indignation about certain subjects equally and hold everyone to the same standard, there’s no reason for anyone to listen to a damn thing you have to say. Again, Moore isn’t the same as Akin — of course not. There are also far fewer Michael Moores within the center-left culture than there are Akins on the right these days. But when someone on one side says essentially the same awful thing that someone on the other side is being rightly castigated for, there’s nothing wrong with mentioning it. Not harping on it obsessively — mentioning it, and pointing out that you would hope others would be willing to do the same in an effort to keep their house clean.
It’s not phony fair. It’s actually fair. More than that, it’s right.
By Bob Cesca: I’d like to defensively preface this column by making it abundantly clear that I’m both a supporter and participant in the boycott of Chick-Fil-A due (in part) to CEO Dan Cathy’s contributions to paleoconservative anti-gay organizations. It’s not surprising, and more than a little obvious given Cathy’s evangelical Christianity and Chick-Fil-A’s well-known symbiosis with religious zealotry.
Not to sound like one of those hipsters who always claims to have discovered a cool rock band before everyone else, but I personally haven’t stepped foot into a Chick-Fil-A location since the 1990s — and not just because of its ideological affiliations or the unavoidably creepy Happy Young Christian musak that’s piped into its dining areas.
Mass produced fast food is, in a word, bad, bad, bad. And on multiple levels. Therefore liberals who care about civil rights, the climate crisis, healthcare, worker rights and safety, animal cruelty, exploitation of illegal immigrants, genetically modified food, consumerism and corporate greed (you know, many of the marquee liberal causes) ought to be boycotting all fast food restaurants full stop.
I’m not exactly sure why Chick-Fil-A has been singled out, given what other fast food companies have been up to. But if Chick-Fil-A is boycott-worthy, so too are the others — times a thousand.
Let’s start with the same-sex marriage issue. In the 2004 election, you might recall that 11 states passed ballot initiatives banning same-sex marriage. It was a clever Rove-conceived strategy to get anti-gay right-wing evangelicals out to vote, and many analysts believed it tipped the election in favor of re-electing former President Bush.
One of the many religious organizations that helped finance and promote the anti-gay ballot measure in Kentucky was a right-wing anti-gay evangelical mega-church from Lexington, Kentucky called the Southeast Christian Church. Among other things, the church literally bussed congregants to the state capital to lobby for the initiative to be included on the 2004 general election ballot. It was, and it passed.
On its official website, the church purports to love “homosexuals” but suggests they require “redemption” for their lifestyles. The church also facilitates a program called “Journey to Freedom” that claims to help women “free themselves” from lesbianism. I’m not making that up.
So during that insane 2004 election year, two noted members of the Southeast Christian Church, David C. Novak and Gregg Dedrick were also the top executives at the Yum! Brands corporation. To this day, Novak remains the chairman and CEO of Yum! and a member of the church. Dedrick has since left the corporation, but remains active in the church.
You’ll probably recognize Yum! Brands by the fast food chains it controls and operates: Taco Bell, KFC (Dedrick ran KFC) and Pizza Hut, while also formerly controlling A&W Restaurants and Long John Silver’s. So yes, all of these companies are operated by right-wing evangelicals affiliated with a vocally anti-gay church.
By the Chick-Fil-A anti-gay standard, shouldn’t liberals be boycotting Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut, too?
Other fast food companies with evangelical, anti-gay or anti-choice affiliations (did I mention they’re also anti-choice?) include In & Out Burger, White Castle, Waffle House, Carl’s Jr. (including its Hardee’s brand) and Domino’s Pizza (which, by the way, happens to be owned by Bain Capital).
Oh, and there’s also Papa John’s. Its founder and CEO, John Schnatter, is coincidentally a member of the Southeast Christian Church and his golfing partner is the church’s pastor Robert Russell who said that Schnatter is a big contributor to the church.
But let’s say for the sake of argument that these CEOs and corporations don’t explicitly hate members of the LGBT community. What else?
–Mass produced, factory farmed beef is not only responsible for deforestation, but it also contributes to around 10-20 percent of CO2 emissions. This is reason number one, as far as I’m concerned, why everyone, especially liberals, should severely cut back our fast food consumption.
–Fast food is contributing to obesity-related healthcare problems. Meanwhile, unhealthy food like the crap that includes toys is also contributing to the prevalence of ADHD and other childhood health problems.
–Stressed, diseased cattle are routinely pumped with bovine growth hormone and antibiotics. The latter is leading to a serious healthcare crisis here and abroad due to immunity and the rise of drug-resistant diseases.
–Taco Bell and others have been pedaling “meat” that barely contains any actual meat.
–Meat packing facilities in the midwest routinely bus illegal immigrants into the country as cheap labor and many end up with crippling injuries without any legal recourse for fear of being arrested and deported.
–McDonald’s opposes the pro-union, pro-labor Employee Free Choice Act and, in 2008, issued a memo to all of its franchisees urging them to “actively participate in the opposition to EFCA.”
–Independent farmers are forced deep into debt because of an endless cycle of expensive equipment requirements handed down by Big Ag corporations.
–GMOs are in everything, and corporate giant Monsanto has a virtual monopoly on worldwide agriculture.
–Try staying in business with a mom and pop eatery when a KFC/Taco Bell joint pops up across the street due to political kickbacks and ridiculously huge tax incentives.
–And finally, do I need to get into corporations and how they control nearly every aspect of our lives including and especially our least expensive, least healthy and most readily accessible food sources?
Chick-Fil-A is not the only villain at shopping malls and highway pull-offs. If you need more evidence, watch Food Inc. or read Robin O’Brien’s website or read Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation. It’s all right there: dozens of reasons why liberals who are boycotting Chick-Fil-A should also be boycotting fast food companies across the board. Otherwise it’s just easy/selective outrage and, at the very least, utterly nearsighted.
By Bob Cesca: The funniest thing I’ve heard in the last 24 hours was this: “We’ve arrived at the point where the president of the United States is going to lead a war on traditional marriage.”
That was of course Rush Limbaugh reacting to the president’s remarks in support of same-sex marriage yesterday.
The ridiculousness of Limbaugh’s statement was obvious, even if you’re hepped up on Oxycontin. A radio disc jockey who’s been married and divorced three times, and who once traveled to the Dominican Republican with a bunch of guys and, mysteriously, a bottle of Viagra, accused a happily married (never divorced) father of two children of “leading a war on traditional marriage.”
That’s so goddamn funny. I’m still waiting for Andy Kaufman to pop out of that latex rubber Limbaugh suit and laugh his ass off.
Naturally, Limbaugh was probably aware of his hypocrisy and really didn’t give a flying rip how silly he came off to anyone familiar with his back story. See, Limbaugh really doesn’t talk much about his personal “war” against traditional marriage. He’s never talked about why, exactly, he needed all of that Viagra in the Dominican Republic when there were no female companions on the trip. Limbaugh’s goal, as always, was to antagonize, poke and incite without any connection to reality or consistency. This is simply what the far-right does now.
Nevertheless, Limbaugh is too much of a coward when it comes to discussing his personal history with marriage (and marriage and marriage), especially as it relates to his homophobic comments about “traditional” marriage.
On the other hand, there’s President Obama.
The way he attached the issue of same-sex marriage to his very honest and sincere personal evolution augmented his announcement to ABC News and made it more poignant and relatable to what’s happening all across America. We’re a nation that’s rapidly figuring out — now with majority support — that marriage equality couldn’t possibly harm or diminish straight marriages and, in fact, the growing inclusion of same-sex couples only strengthens marriage by welcoming more people to the institution. It goes without saying, however, that Americans, like the president, have been a little too slow on the uptake on this one area of LGBT civil rights, but that’s always how societal evolution, much like natural evolution, functions. Too damn slow.
But the glacial pace of the president’s deliberations, as well as the paralleled societal view on same-sex marriage will probably benefit its soon-to-be legalization on a national level. If it had been pushed too soon, there might have been a crippling backlash.
President Clinton’s early and crushingly unsuccessful moves on “gays in the military” led to some wickedly harsh blowback, first in the form of the awful Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy and, later, The Defense of Marriage Act. So perhaps the slowness worked, though, to be sure, that wasn’t part of the president’s motivation or strategy. From various accounts, it sounded like he was going to take more time with the issue until the vice president pulled the trigger on the topic.
Civil rights transformations always happen from the ground up. It was like that with Lincoln and slavery, it was like that with LBJ and the Civil Rights Act and it’s been like that with LGBT issues. Great democratic leaders often wait for The People to lead the way first. It’s often a frustrating yet ultimately a productive hallmark of representative democracy. America is slow and sometimes we have to get out and push. We sometimes have to go door-to-door to convince our neighbors that it’s the right thing to do — whatever “it” might be.
The president once echoed FDR and insisted that we make him do “it.” And in this case, activists, writers and other politicians (Joe Biden of all people) made him do it. That’s not to say he wasn’t almost all the way there — his roster of successes on LGBT civil rights is unprecedented. But to finally come out with it yesterday was the result of We The People making him do it. (I’d like to think it was the sensible voices on the left who exercised smart accountability and reasoned arguments, but it’s difficult to know yet. Though according to the president, his closest friends and staffers had a large part to play, and we can only assume they were respectful to their boss.)
So the event we witnessed yesterday was absolutely democracy in action. We the people tenaciously informed our chief executive exactly what we wanted, and this particular chief executive responded accordingly and reflected back to us our own national story — our own evolution — on this issue. And now we can expect that he’ll take the lead and exercise his part of the democratic bargain: change the law and make marriage equality the law of the land.