Friday, December 19, 2008

A Reader Asks That I Reconsider Obama-Warren

I stopped publicly answering reader mail quite some time ago -- I generally only did it years ago to make fun of right-wingers sending me hate mail -- but I got a note from Michael Rapaport of Brooklyn, New York who had some interesting comments on me and much of the Progressive media jumping Barack Obama for selecting homophobe Rick Warren to give the opening prayer on Inauguration Day.

Yes, I have Michael's permission to use his name and his full message and, no, I'm not going to make fun of it -- I thought he gently raised a point worthy of discussion and it's representative of many e-mails I received yesterday.

Here's Michael:
Bob, I understand your sentiments when you wrote that article asking what was Barack thinking with the selection. I am a 61 year old individual who can't believe I lived to see the day when someone like Barack could be elected. It made all the dreams I've had since I worked in Bobby Kennedy's campaign come true.

However, please look at what Barack's selection is really saying. The first task our new POTUS will have is to bring us all together after our beloved nation has been purposefully rendered apart for the past eight years for the most nefarious of reasons. It is why I wonder how truly progressive those who call themselves "progressives" really are. No POTUS has ever entered office facing the humongous challenges facing Obama and instead of criticizing him I think it is time we get behind him.
Fair enough, Michael, and I agree to some extent with the spirit of what you're saying. I've spent no time at all criticizing some of President-elect Obama's cabinet selections that may have raised my eyebrows, including retaining Robert Gates as Defense Secretary. While I'm inclined to say Obama should start fresh as he moves to end the Iraq debacle, I'm willing to concede that Gates is undoubtedly clear on Obama's intent to leave Iraq and will follow the Commander-in-Chief's directive. I also give Obama credit for wanting to begin the withdrawal with as little upheaval as possible at the Defense Department.

I'm also mindful of the huge challenges Obama is inheriting and the extent to which he needs support and not sniping from his own side of the political divide and, the fact is, I donated money and worked hard to help elect the man. I believe in him and I believe he will be a great president.

I say all of this to point out that I'm as far from an Obama basher as you'll find and hated even having to write my piece yesterday -- and I strongly considered not posting it precisely for the points you raise.

But this situation is different and his choice of Warren does anything but bring us together as a people.

Obama is not including someone from the other side of the aisle who has a mere philosophical difference with Progressives/Liberals and who, for example, may take a different stance on Iraq or stem cell research than we do. On this day of national pride and celebration, he's chosen to include someone who believes that a certain portion of our population should be demonized and deprived of the same rights enjoyed by other Americans.

The President-elect has picked someone to share center stage with him on January 20th who is, tacitly, a self-proclaimed bigot, who strongly supports discrimination against the gay community and who believes gay folks are something less than the rest of us.

It is as simple as that and, the last time I looked, that kind of bigotry was considered downright un-American.

What Warren believes is not exactly the same as the ugliness we saw during the Civil Rights struggle but it's damn close. And Rick Warren is someone who essentially takes the same approach toward gay people, based simply on their sexual orientation, as George Wallace, Bull Connor and that whole Cracker Brigade took against African-Americans in the 1960s.

So I appreciate what you're saying, Michael, and the support you believe we should all show for Barack Obama as he charts some incredibly tough waters ahead. As I said, I believe he will be a great president and that as the next few years unfold, I will feel far more pride and solidarity with him than I will disappointment.

But that doesn’t make choosing a known bigot to speak on Inauguration Day something we can ignore. Barack Obama will be taking that oath of office on January 20th because the majority of Americans, as Dr. King longed for, looked at the content of his character and not the color of his skin.

Our gay family, friends and neighbors deserve nothing less than the same standard of decency.