Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Loving Obama…with critical eyes

I remember when I was 19, back in the university in Cuba, my mom, my boyfriend and I had a political argument and I said, "Yes, I have plenty to criticize now. And I will have plenty to criticize if the regimen changes. I guess I will always be in the opposition to anything because there is no perfection. The next political class, if we ever get one, will be full of problems as well." My mom took this comment as proof of my stubbornness and rebellious nature. And, indeed it is. I converted to Catholicism in Cuba when it was problematic, because in that case, religion was actually revolutionary. Then I outgrew that and realized it did not go well with two main traits of my persona: my cerebral self, and my love of science. Religion was a nice escape, but when I delved into it, I found all the same problems that plague humans everywhere. Except that, supposedly, if you add God, those problems should be fewer, shouldn't they?

Anyways. I am in love with Obama. Oh, yes! I cried like a baby when he won – I was a Hillary supporter until she lost –, I went to the streets of DC at midnight. I also feared for my health: I may have died of something if McCain had won. The reasons for this love affair are many: he is black and president of the U.S.; he is liberal – not as liberal as me, but certainly much more than McCain and Palin; he is smart and nuanced; he wants policies that work, not just ideology; he is black, but that's not all he is. The most important part for me is that finally we will see a son of Africa leading the world, so that's important for all black children everywhere.

But my cerebral nature also tends to put a stop to things that go too far. Lincoln's bible? Vintage train? The symbolism and parallels are a bit over the top. There is a sense of adoration that really rubs me the wrong way. Even Jesus had to do something before the cult started. After seeing what the cult of personality can do to a country – I'm Cuban, what can I say? – I'm terrified when I see the excesses around this inauguration.

Also, this adoration leads us to cut him infinite slack.

Obama and I parted company when he chose Rick Warren to give the invocation at the swearing in ceremony. I have no problem with Rick Warren. I have a problem with Obama giving him a platform. And in this case, the biggest platform there is, at this historical moment, with the world watching. Our message is: we value all opinions in America, even those discriminatory ones that promote hatred.

There are plenty of pastors to choose from – since we apparently must offer a religious invocation in this state ceremony – so there was no need to go for the extremist. We cannot chose which group we can annoy and offend in our quest to build unity, to seem open minded and willing to compromise. I want compromise. I did not want the democrats to win the 60 seats in the Senate because I want practical, enduring reform, no stuff that will be undone when the next wave of republicans take over. But there are things we cannot compromise on: minority rights, and opposition to hatred and discrimination being just a few of them. We cannot kill the Jews to make peace with the Muslims, or vice versa.

I was for Hillary – the calculating bitch (I'm being sarcastic here, of course) who would do anything to win. I remember how David Brooks kept saying Hillary should ask Obama which of his principles he would be willing to compromise to be bipartisan and non-ideological. She never did, of course, although he would have sweat talked himself out of that one. Now we know which.

Obama has said Warren and him don't agree on everything. Well, that's comforting. But Obama knows full well this is not a matter of differing opinions, but of professing hatred and discrimination, likening committed gay relationships to incest, polygamy and "an older guy marrying a child" is a bit more than a disagreement. I don't believe Obama would say that Warren's comments are just words.

What we opposed and disliked in the Clintons was their turn to the center, funny how things turned out. Ironically, we went to Obama trying to run away from the Clintons but at the end the cabinet looks Clintonesque and one wonders, would have Hillary's cabinet look much different than Obama's?

What we loved in Obama was his desire for a new politics, non-calculating – an oxymoron, of course, but we wanted to believe it. Warren, actually, is not someone who would want to compromise in issues of guy marriage, abortion rights, etc.

Would Obama invite one of the pastors who blessed the KKK to give the invocation? He loves blacks way too much for that.

Will he choose Lou Dobbs to be his press secretary? No, unless he wants to count Latinos out of his tent for 2012.

Lastly, didn't Obama renounce Rev. Wright because he was…divisive?

The defense of the decision was also based on Warren good deeds, say, on AIDS. Well, just imagine the alternative! Not to mention that if churches had not been so bigoted against guys and so blind about sex, the epidemic of AIDS could have been contained much earlier.

The sad thing is that this was a calculated decision to choose a very controversial issue that would give the appearance of compromise and openness without jeopardizing any important voting bloc. Basically, who can we push in front of the bus without sacrificing too much. Gays it is.

The consolation prize of nominating the gay Bishop V. Gene Robinson to deliver the invocation on the concert on Sunday almost feels like an insult.


Oh, we will succeed, and Obama will succeed, because we can and because we have to, but let's temper our adoring looks and our tears and lend the brother a hand and a critical voice…He will need as many of those as he can get.

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