Barack Obama on his invitation to Rick Warren to provide the invocation at his inaugural: What we have to do is create an atmosphere where we can disagree without being disagreeable, and then focus on those things that we hold in common as Americans.
Rick Warren: But the issue to me is, I’m not opposed to that as much as I’m opposed to the redefinition of a 5,000-year definition of marriage. I’m opposed to having a brother and sister be together and call that marriage. I’m opposed to an older guy marrying a child and calling that a marriage. I’m opposed to one guy having multiple wives and calling that marriage.
[Interviewer]: Do you think, though, that they are equivalent to having gays getting married?
Rick Warren: Oh I do…
Barack Obama asks that we avoid disagreeability; however, he does not consider Warren’s comparison of gays to pedophiles and incestuous siblings to be “disagreeable”—just our criticism of his decision.
Obama invited preacher/gospel singer and well-known homophobe Donnie McClurkin to perform at one of his campaign rallies during the Democratic primaries. Obama defended that decision with similar “big tent,” “reach across divides,” “I support equality” language. He has repeatedly stated his opposition to gay marriage.
At this point, I think it’s fair to say that Obama suffers toward gays what a great many Americans suffer towards blacks and women—a soft bigotry. He believes in equality and may vigorously advocate for it, but to him, we remain just a little shy three-dimensionally human. To him we are “issues” not people. For him, that some believe we should not exist is a sociopolitical disagreement—like taking exception to where a dam should be built. It is not disparaging one’s being, because, in his eyes, there’s a little less human there to begin with.
Obama would never employ similar tactics or language with anyone who suggested that Israel was a rogue nation or that African-Americans’ rights should be “up to the states.” Obama’s support for gay rights—and his lingering distaste for gay lifestyle—simply puts him on a par with a majority of Americans. It’s a political win-win for him.
Like most who harbor soft bigotries, Obama probably considers himself enlightened and free from prejudice. He hires gays, he reaches out to them, etc. But I’ve had several very liberal, very educated, highly “enlightened” whites make excruciatingly racist comments in my presence and not realize what their comments betrayed until confronted.
When you are taught from birth to revile a certain minority group, smarts and doctorates do not dispel that teaching. Smarts and doctorates suggest that there is no rational reason for you to feel that way, so you outwardly change your behavior. But a voice deep down keeps singing… “they’re less, they’re dirty.” That’s when it becomes safe to turn an entire group of people and their ability to live and love as freely as their fellow citizens into an “issue,” as opposed to a “right.”
Unemployment benefit payouts hit a 26-year high. Foreclosures up 30% from a year ago. Layoffs abound. 43 states face budget deficits, forcing them to cut jobs, programs, and funds for education and social services.
A major story on CNN.com is, “’Mad Men’ star’s hair is ‘bane of my existence.’” The Fox News front page promises Glenn Beck on the “Washington State Christmas Scandal.”
Economists fear deflation, and depression. Two of the Big Three automakers may not survive through the end of the year.
The Washington Post’s Kathleen Parker writes about a 27 year-old, Facebook, and a Hillary Clinton cardboard cutout. Jackson Diehl luxuriates in a bubble bath of quid pro quo and self-congratulations for his attendance at a Bush photo-op.
Food stamp usage nears an all-time high with more than 31.5 million Americans using the program. Americans are losing their livelihoods and having trouble buying food to eat.
I sense a disconnect.
The country is in serious trouble and a significant segment of the mainstream press hasn’t got a clue how to handle it. They appear tone-deaf and increasingly trivial. During the bubble years, the press learned to hawk self-promotion, triviality and political boosterism as “journalism.” They became insiders, members of a ruling court, not detached observers or, heaven forbid, muckrakers. They shed the ink-stained wretch image and became privileged, cosmetically altered insiders, intimate with power and happy to knead that intimacy into power of their own.
A lot of journalism became a gossipy exercise in snark and sniffy outrage during the Clinton years. With 9/11 and The Bush ascension, the profession morphed into a jingoistic orgy of access amplification—who knew the highest ranking who from whom to get the latest, probably deceptive administration spin.
The rest of us put up with it. During the Bubble Years, weren’t we all destined to be rich? Just watch that high-tech 401k grow 27% a year; get that “liar” loan and watch your home value double. We all identified with wealth and power; we dreamt we’d have it. We weaned a whole generation on that illusion. Politics reduced to celebrity gossip and international affairs to jingoistic sound bites—it suited us fine. We were untouchable.
Even 9/11, through which we might have examined our place in the world and our exercise of power within it, instead led us to pull further inward, to howl not only at the guilty, but at the whole world. We were like kings insulted by peasants, desperate to re-establish might. So we broke things.
Now, suddenly, the prospect of plenty disappears; government actions have actual consequences—and not just for anonymous foreigners in godforsaken deserts. One congressional bill might mean the difference between having a job and not—between keeping your house and homelessness. But much of the mainstream press—particularly the television press from which most of us get our news—don’t adequately address this. They don’t do the hard work of explaining why this is happening or how it might be stopped or where it might end. They shake and shimmy to the gossip and the spin. They are so obsessed with their roles as insiders and removed from the lives we lead that they continue to partner with the powerful as spin conduits (In today’s Washington Post, Frank Ahrens discussed the old right wing wish for Mitt Romney as “car czar” because “he has autos in his DNA,” since his father was chairman of American Motors. Obviously, it’s his birthright, like a throne), or desperately clutch a sensational local story like the Blagojevich affair and construct hypothetical Rube Goldberg-like connections to the president-elect to justify their excessive, prurient interest.
The press doesn’t know how to handle our descent into darkness; and neither do we. We’re still in denial. Just as the financial kings Ben Bernanke and Henry Paulson have attacked this crisis piecemeal—‘let’s throw a little money here to handle this part, a little interest rate adjustment there to handle that part’—we’re not acknowledging the big picture. Our eyes have been so blinded by 20 years of bright and shiny things that we can’t fathom an America generally re-cast in sepia and gray.
But yes, the next job on the chopping block might be mine or yours. Your credit cards might readjust to 26% for no reason. Next year’s health insurance bill might rise 30%. The fire department might not come when you call due to crisis-induced layoffs. How many of us acknowledge that we might be sustaining ourselves with food stamps?
We haven’t seen the worst of this. We hear that again and again. Obama keeps telling us, but gas prices fall and we convince ourselves that all will be well. Blagojevich kindly distracts us with sleaze. The Fox News dancing girls dazzle us with smiles and the pundits gossip and chatter at one another as if there’s nothing more substantive to say or do.
Our dreams, along with our toys, are vanishing. The press and the public pretend not to notice. The first stage of grieving is denial. We’re doing such a damned good job of it, I dread the day we get to anger.
I currently have two completed novels. One might actually have a hope in hell in today's mainstream publishing marketplace; thus my agent is shopping it. The other does not. Thus, I offer it here. Called A Memory of Fictions (or) Just Titty-Boom, it concerns a black character but is not a "black book." It concerns a gay character, but is not a "gay book..."
Read the rest.
In his column on the overwhelming black vote (black female vote in particular) in favor of California’s Proposition 8, the New York Times’ Charles Blow noted two main trends: a particularly irrational form of religiosity; and black, female self-pity and resentment. He then insists that we dare not question either. One would have thought he was joking, but alas, he was not.
“[the] high rate of church attendance by blacks informs a very conservative moral view. While blacks vote overwhelmingly Democratic, an analysis of three years of national data from Gallup polls reveals that their views on moral issues are virtually indistinguishable from those of Republicans.”
“Marriage can be a sore subject for black women in general… Women who can’t find a man to marry might not be thrilled about the idea of men marrying each other.”
“Comparing the struggles of legalizing interracial marriage with those to legalize gay marriage is a bad idea. Many black women do not seem to be big fans of interracial marriage either.”
“…don’t debate the Bible. You can’t win. Religious faith is not defined by logic, it defies it. Instead, decouple the legal right from the religious rite, and emphasize the idea of acceptance without endorsement.”
This is a portrait identical to that of white evangelical racists—personally resentful and misusing religion to justify their bigotry. Blow then explains what this strict morality does for the black community—how this religiously-based, “conservative” moral philosophy serves us:
…for instance, most blacks find premarital sex unacceptable, according to the Gallup data. But, according to data from a study by the Guttmacher Institute, blacks are 26 percent more likely than any other race to have had premarital sex by age 18, and the pregnancy rate for black teens is twice that of white teens. They still have premarital sex, but they do so uninformed and unprotected….”
“…black women have an abortion rate that is three times that of white women.”
“…blacks overwhelmingly say that homosexuality isn’t morally acceptable. So many black men hide their sexual orientations and engage in risky behavior. This has resulted in large part in black women’s becoming the fastest-growing group of people with H.I.V.”
Blow paints a picture of hypocrisy, irrationality, resentment and plain ignorance. Blacks are much more likely than whites to attend church, he says, and much more likely to engage in behavior that their churches and their own religious codes condemn as immoral. I’d say this calls for a closer look at those churches and their teachings. If abstinence-only education leads to higher pregnancy rates, you don’t politely ignore that fact and recommend chastity belts; you attempt to change the educational paradigm.
There are two issues at play here, but Blow is loathe to separate them. First, there is the issue of gay rights. Blow is trying to steer a course by which blacks are brought to accept homosexuality and, by association, gay marriage. But why would religious blacks be more persuadable than white evangelicals? If Blow is correct, they are not. The movement for gay rights should write them off, just as we write off devout Mormons or Catholics.
The second issue is one for the black community: black religiosity, which conservative political correctness insists we must not question. Black preachers who railed against gay marriage used arguments as biblically specious as those that insisted blacks were cursed in God’s eyes and meant to serve white men. They also displayed a rigorous ignorance of black history. Both Brown vs. Board of Education (which gave black children the right to attend schools previously reserved for whites) and Loving vs. Virginia (which gave blacks the right to marry the person of his/her choice) were highly unpopular with the majority. Should the majority will have prevailed? What if public sentiment should turn against blacks once again? Should our right to live where we choose be abolished if the majority thinks so?
The gay rights movement needs to move on when it comes to the black religious vote. It is as remote as the white evangelical vote. There is no brotherhood here.
The black community needs to question the unquestionable—the continuing perversion of its religious traditions that promote irrational, self-destructive path devoid of reason and drunk on revivalist hysteria. When churches lead their followers down self-destructive paths, it is time to do what Charles Blow insists we must not: It is time to “go there.” It is time to question the cultural value of some black churches. It is time to call them on their ignorance and bigotry. It is time to suggest that their followers seek more constructive pastures of faith.