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.