Posts Tagged ‘ obama ’

Anita Bryant then, Rick Warren now

Watching “Milk,” the new biography of murdered San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk, I was struck by the arguments made in the film by Anita Bryant against gays in the mid-1970s. She and others of her ilk at the time claimed that gays were immoral and thus should be denied their civil rights. In California, this thinking manifested itself as Proposition 6, which called for firing gay public school teachers.  The argument behind the proposition, as John Briggs, the California state senator who led the campaign stated repeatedly, was the demonstrably false argument that gays somehow “recruit” or train children to become homosexual. This claim was at the heart of Bryant’s broader anti-homosexual crusade and the beginning of the modern Christian conservative political movement.

I was struck both because the idea that sexuality is learned is so ridiculous, but also because the evil lie that homosexuality is immoral persists so strongly today. The proof of its persistence is the fact that Rick Warren, pastor of the Saddleback megachurch, can publicly assert views nearly identical to Bryant’s and still be invited to give the invocation at Barack Obama’s inauguration Tuesday. Warren said late last year that allowing gays to marry would be equivalent to allowing “a brother and sister to be together and call that marriage,” or “an older guy marrying a child and calling that a marriage.” This is the same argument Bryant was making in the 1970s–that if we tolerate gays, the next thing you know we’ll have to tolerate bestiality, incest, and pedophilia. It is shocking to have to explain this, but just to be clear, homosexuality is merely a status, a person’s identity. There is nothing immoral about being attracted to a person of the same gender. Bestiality, pedophilia, and incest, on the other hand, are behaviors chosen by (mostly heterosexual) people. A homosexual may act in an immoral manner, just as a heterosexual may, but Warren and Bryant see immorality and criminality in the mere existence of homosexuality. And if Warren indeed is only concerned with avoiding a redefinition of marriage, why not push for civil unions to be allowed for homosexuals? After all, that’s all a civil marriage is anyway. The sanctity of a “5000-year tradition” exists in the church, not the courthouse.

The movie version of Milk’s life and politics highlighted his brilliant insistence that gays come out to the people they knew. My best friend bravely took Milk’s advice just a few years after Milk’s murder, even though I had earlier drawn upon my Psych 101 expertise to confidently tell my friend that homosexuality was “clearly abnormal.” When my friend told me, I spent the whole day trying to reconcile what I thought I knew with the reality that he was the same person he had always been. By the end of the day, I accepted that it just didn’t matter–we were friends and would remain so. He wasn’t a monster or any more or less moral than he had been when I didn’t know he was gay.

We may need another wave of gays coming out to their friends and family, but this time in our churches. We have to demand that our fellow congregants know that the gays among them are sinners, just as we all are, and thus have a place at God’s table.  Rick Warren should be ashamed to pretend to judge any person, gay or straight, for that is God’s job, not his.  And Barack Obama should be ashamed to accommodate Warren’s hate.



Barack Obama’s amazing victory proved so many blowhards wrong, it’s been fun just to sit back and watch the lies deflate: white people won’t vote for a black man–wrong!He can’t win“–wrong! What will be more interesting, and will take more time, is for us to cast off the last iteration of this hokum, generated in the desperate last days of the McCain campaign: that Obama will now join hands with Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid in a triumvirate of the Left. Gun sales shot up immediately following the election, fueled by dizzy nightmares of taxes rising for Joe Sixpack and jackbooted thugs from the ATF coming to pry guns from freedom lovers’ cold dead fingers. Cue New World Order and black helicopters.

Sorry to break it to the tighty whity Righties, but it ain’t going to happen. There are good reasons for this that have been laying there in plain view for any who wanted to look at Obama’s actual record and at his actual associates. First, Obama didn’t spend much time working with Reid, and even less with the Speaker of the House. He spent much more of his precious little time in the Senate with Dick Lugar working on their loose nukes legislation. Second, Obama has a fairly strong history of disappointing those who insist on painting him as a one-dimensional symbol, from the activists in Chicago to African-American members of the Harvard Law Review. In both cases, Obama acted instead like a real leader for all concerned rather than for a narrower constituency. Past behavior being the best indicator of future performance, some dreamy lefties have some downer days coming.

Finally, Obama didn’t come all this way–confounding the cynical establishment media and racking up the largest vote for a Democrat since the 1960s–just to lay down for a coequal branch of government. Presidents, Republican and Democrat, generally have found the Congress to be a foe more than a friend, regardless of which party was in charge. Which is why I can’t yet figure out why so many of the people–by my count, nearly half–in Obama’s transition brain trust, starting with Rahm Emanuel, are best known as Clinton Administration people. Perhaps they’re just unavoidable as the most seasoned Democrats around, but in looking at the lineup of advisers at Obama’s first press conference, I had more than a tinge of the cringe I felt when watching the ghosts of the 1990s looming onstage with Hillary Clinton during her Iowa caucus defeat. While many are smart, capable folks, what does it say that Obama is taking advice from one of the architects of the mortgage meltdown, former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin? Is that all there is to Democratic Washington, no one to go to other than Larry Summers and Robert Reich again?

Of course, none of these people, other than Emanuel, have to actually get jobs in the new administration, and maybe serving in their current roles may help exclude them from contention more than it includes them. I’m just hoping that after the skill Obama showed in defeating the Clintons and besting Bill Clinton’s share of the electorate to put to rest the lame fiction that Clinton was our “first black president,” Obama won’t settle for Clinton II.

Sorry, Joe. No free lunch.

Joe “the Plumber” Wurzelbacher, or “Wurzelburger” if you’re John McCain, is quickly becoming the Clara Peller of this election. Before his 15, or maybe five minutes are up, I thought I’d jump on the bandwagon. Instead of Clara’s “Where’s the Beef?” tagline, Joe said that Barack Obama wants to “redistribute wealth” and that this was a scary prospect. Joe added,

“[…]I’m not trying to make statements here, but, I mean, that’s kind of a socialist viewpoint. You know, I work for that. You know, it’s my discretion who I want to give my money to; it’s not for the government decide that I make a little too much and so I need to share it with other people. That’s not the American Dream.”

The Republicans and Senator McCain in particular have made similar arguments in this campaign and for decades. The problem is that, by the definition Joe offers, both parties redistribute wealth, and thus embrace “socialism.” Or did Joe not notice the $700 billion recently redistributed from taxpayers to lenders? The redistribution argument today wears almost as thin as “ownership society” privatization of Social Security does following the collapse of the market. The one thing Joe and the rest of us can be thankful for is that our Social Security accounts are not in the same shape as our 401(k)s.

If Joe’s not convinced, we can look at the original socialism bogeyman, healthcare. Anyone who proposes providing for 100% health insurance coverage is branded a socialist, usually accompanied by the argument that government involvement would mean a bureaucrat will decide what doctor you see and what care you get. This ignores the fact that we already have a socialized healthcare system, but an extremely inefficient and costly one. It’s socialized because a) medical facilities cannot legally deny care, and b) the costs of the uninsured are passed on to businesses and employees in the form of higher premiums. So Joe is already having money taken away from him against his will, except the money is being taken by an insurance company instead of by the government. And which is more responsive to Joe? A company that sees paying his claim as a loss rather than the service he paid for, or a government agency accountable to him through his elected representatives in Congress?

The latent “socialism” extends further. So McCain says Obama will raise taxes. But to avoid ever being accused of raising taxes, the only place for McCain and “conservatives” to go is to foreign governments to borrow the money. Or did Joe think the Iraq War was free? And cutting pork only gets you less than $20 billion in savings, less than one percent of the federal budget. So would Joe rather pay taxes to fight our wars today, or would he like to finance it with credit from People’s Republic of China and Saudi Arabia? That way, Joe’s taxes never go up, but his and my kids will be paying foreigners for decades to pay today’s bills.

And if Joe likes flat taxes, how about we ask all candidates why they don’t push to extend FICA witholding to wages above $102,000 a year?

We need to get past this, all of us. This republic costs money, and there’s no getting around it. You can’t wish it away, though decades of ideological imperatives have put a premium on hiding this fact from us. The costs are hidden through truly redistributive shell games like hiring illegal immigrants to keep prices and Americans’ wages low. The costs are hidden by comparing costs of electric cars to gas powered cars based only on the retail price of gas at the pump, rather than including the huge associated costs of keeping the oil economy running. Promoting the general welfare costs money. Patriots understand that we are all in it together, and that we all have to pay our share. Believing that doesn’t make you a socialist. It makes you a realist and a good steward, something I always associated with conservative ideals.