By Bob Cesca: The new cover of Newsweek contains a photo of the president with a rainbow-colored halo over his head and the text: “The First Gay President.”
I get the joke. President Clinton was nicknamed “the first black president,” and the Newsweek headline is a variation of the Clinton meme, which originated from novelist Toni Morrison. Clinton’s obviously not black and President Obama isn’t gay. Unless, of course, you listen to various conservative talkers who will likely be giggling at the Newsweek cover for the next several days, muttering “I told you so” under their breath — the very same conservative talkers who have been describing the president (and many liberals) as effete, spindly, weak “San Francisco” liberals — all intended to evoke the gay stereotype.
Americans, as the ploy goes, want tough-talking, ballsy, cowboys in the White House. Preferably with a southern accent. Barack Obama is the first president since Reagan to not have a southern twang in his voice, and even Reagan went around in cowboy drag at his “ranch.” (Before that, there was Ford and Kennedy, then you have to dig back to FDR for a non-cowboy-ish president.) But if you’re a liberal from the north, and you’re familiar with foods like arugula and gherkins — you’re kinda gay in the minds of way too many conservatives. By the way, yes, gherkins. Michelle Malkin once attacked the president as a northern elitist for using those miniature pickles in his egg salad recipe along with — gasp! — Grey Poupon.
While we’re here, it’s curious how similar the “effete San Francisco liberal” attack is to Romney’s high school gay bashing. Both represent a form of right-wing bullying. Unless you drink Budweiser, watch NASCAR and wear a cartoonishly large belt buckle, you might be a little gay. And in order to emphasize their masculinity, they beat up on the gay guy.
Naturally, to paraphrase Seinfeld, there’s nothing wrong with being gay or being perceived as gay. However, the stereotype from conservatives is intended to be a negative and insulting — not unlike Senator Rand Paul’s joke over the weekend, “Call me cynical, but I wasn’t sure his views on marriage could get any gayer.” I assure you, that wasn’t intended to be a compliment. To these guys, being gay is considered abnormal — a sinful trespass and an aberration against God and nature. To lack their brand of masculinity is to be incapable of the societal expectations of manhood, and therefore weak and, by their definition, unhealthy — disabled. And as we witnessed with countless stories from Matthew Shepard to Mitt Romney’s gay-bashing, reactionary conservatives tend to prey on anyone they consider to be weak or different.
The Republicans have circled their wagons around this and other qualifications for being worthy Americans. The goal of the party appears to be all about preserving the male-dominated, Christian, white, straight, conservative demographic, and anyone who doesn’t fit those narrow qualifications are banned from the exclusive country club of doofs and dickbags — and if you don’t qualify, you’re unworthy of enjoying equal protection, equal rights and equal opportunity. And so the conservative marriage “club” should only allow straight couples.
The Bible and the dictionary say so. Case closed.
Well, I guess I’ll be a Debbie Downer and point out that the Bible doesn’t say anything about same-sex marriage. Not a word. It has some scary passages reflecting archaic views on homosexuality, but it also contains freakishly archaic views on women, too, and very few western cultures pay attention those anymore. Incidentally, it also features a lot of characters who were polygamists, including Abraham — defying the conservative “one man, one woman” marriage definition.
As for the dictionary, we all know that definitions change all the time based on an expanded and evolving awareness of the world and new social mores. I mean, are they seriously putting up such a fuss about a dictionary definition?
Incidentally, the definition according Merriam-Webster has already been augmented to include same-sex couples: “(1) : the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law (2) : the state of being united to a person of the same sex in a relationship like that of a traditional marriage.”
Sorry. Too late, Republicans.
In reality, the dictionary and the Bible are just convenient excuses to mask the basic homophobia and bigotry of the conservative club. Each book is a convenient patsy — the dictionary is an objective standard for language and the Bible is a popular standard for morality, therefore anti-gay bigotry is explained away with alleged universal justification. It’s worth noting here, that in addition to the Adam and Eve story (two white people created in “God’s image”) Genesis 9:20–27, also known as the “Curse of the Ham,” has been used by racists as a justification for their opposition to interracial marriage.
Today, the anti-interracial marriage faction is mostly irrelevant — now a marginalized and shrinking group of zealots and Nazis, no longer welcome in modern society. And the anti-marriage equality groups — the anti-gay bigots of the world — will soon join them. History will consider both to be useless and pathetic vestigial organs that gratefully withered away from our societal evolution. Ugly stains on the human record.
So if President Obama, for opening the door to nationally recognized same-sex marriage, is recognized as “the first gay president,” then history has proved that one day very soon every president will be considered gay, irrespective of political party.