About Time, Mr. President

The following was intended as today’s post. It has been pre-empted by Obama’s endorsement, today, of same-sex marriage.

Barack Obama will soon sit down for an interview in which he will, in all probability, attempt to explain his ‘evolving’ views on gay marriage. Perhaps he will come out strongly in favor of gay marriage. Or perhaps he will equivocate a bit, and attempt to triangulate his desire to be re-elected–and thus the need to placate those segments of the electorate that thinks the president should take a stronger moral stance on this subject, whether it be condemnatory or laudatory–, his actual personal views on the subject, and his evident talent for backing away from the ‘soaring’ campaign rhetoric that so enthralled so many (and still continues to captivate many every time he deigns to address the nation on a matter of grave importance, or to offer clarification for some mysteriously weak-kneed response to his political opponents).

I have a suggestion for the President, a pointer to a course of action that might help his views ‘evolve.’ He should go to the Library of Congress, which I believe is located in Washington DC, contact a good reference librarian (after first getting a patron card filled out appropriately), and ask him or her for some help in locating some good historical material on the social institution of marriage. He should also ask for some historical material on institutionalized racism. The President could also put out an open call to academics the nation over, and ask them for book recommendations on these subjects. Then, he should sit down and read a couple of these books. (Only if he has time to spare from the relentless electioneering that will soon be his primary occupation; after all, elections are the most important part of a democracy, aren’t they?)

I think President Obama might be interested in what he will find in the course of these historical investigations. (I’m presuming here that he will read with an open mind, that he will deploy his intelligence, which I’m presuming has not been warped excessively or deformed by the extensive contact it has had with organized religion and its vile prejudices.)  In his readings on marriage, he will find that marriage has a history, that it has cultural variations, that it has served very particular functions in the past, many of them grounded in the preservation and promotion of very particular economic states of affairs. He will find that far from being a divinely exalted and sanctified expression of the love of man for woman (or vice-versa), marriage is infected with the profane, through and through. And when President Obama reads a history or two of institutionalized racism, he will be struck by the similarity of the language deployed as apologia for racism to the language used to delay and deny gay marriage today.

Mr. President: The denial of gay marriage, and its writing into state constitutions, are acts of bigotry. Get with the program, and use your bully pulpit to condemn it.  As I wrote today on Twitter: President Obama: If your views are “evolving” on gay marriage, please hurry the fuck up – that timescale is a little sluggish.

5 thoughts on “About Time, Mr. President

  1. I’ve always felt … without proof … that Obama supported same-sex marriage, he just sacrificed it to other priorities because he didn’t want to hand the Right a hot-button social issue they could use to change the subject and dominate the conversation. Not saying that was morally right. It did seem justifiable as a political decision to me, based on Obama’s stated priorities. What changed? Did the president decide that he was unlikely to get the votes of anyone opposed to same-sex marriage any way? Did he want to draw a contrast with Republicans after the vote in North Carolina? Did Biden’s public statement in favor of same-sex marriage pull him over? Was Biden’s statement Joe being Joe? Or was it deliberate? I’d love to know the inside baseball details. Regardless, I agree with the president and with you. It’s about time. The equal protection clause and the spirit of the Constitution and simple fairness all demand it.

    1. Peter,

      I’m inclined to agree; it was his waffling on it that disappointed me. I think he had a chance well before yesterday to make this statement and then lead a ‘national conversation’ about it. It’s a pity that it’s timing is going to invite cynical political speculation (over and above the expressions of agreement and gratitude).

  2. While I agree with this move, I am extremely disappointed in Obama. In my view, he has not governed substantially differently from GW Bush. In fact, if you take the drug war—which is one of my main issues—he’s been worse than Bush.

    Obama is either extremely stupid or extremely cynical. He is clearly trying to triangulate a la Clinton, but the fallacy here is obvious: the Right today largely views Obama as a Muslim/Communist/N___ger. There is simply nothing he can do to get them to vote for him. Nothing. I don’t care how many pot dispensaries he busts; how many “terrorists” he kills…the Right’s hatred of him is not going to budge one inch. Triangulation worked for Clinton because (a) he was a white southerner and (b) because the Right was not nearly as crazy then as they are now.

    What Obama can do, however, is alienate his own base. He’s gotten me so angry at him, that I am actually seriously considering voting for Romney. Weasels like Obama need to have a very clear message sent to them, and Romney is clearly a moderate Republican, regardless of the BS he has been telling his base.


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