Eyes on the Prize

I want to write some words of encouragement to my friends in California and across the world who experienced, like me, the very personal defeat of the passage of Proposition 8 last week. While I am disappointed in this result, I remain encouraged in the overarching victory of the election of Barack Obama as the next President of the United States. While we may have lost some battles that night, including Prop 8, Obama’s election bodes well for LGBT folks. Let’s take the long-term view.

Prop 8 succeeded in large part because of the final ugly push by the pro Prop 8 bigots that preyed on people’s basest fears and prejudices. The Prop 8 folks organized a last-minute effort of robocalls aimed primarily at African Americans and some Democrats who they knew would be supporting Barack Obama. I received one of these calls on Election Night on my cell phone which has a 415 area code (they must not have had in their notes that my wife and I were the second couple married at San Francisco City Hall in 2004). The calls featured an audio quote from Barack Obama where, in his own voice, he says that marriage is between one man and one woman, followed by another voice urging voters to vote yes on Prop 8.

Obama did not give permission for them to use his quote for this purpose, and he adamantly opposed Prop 8.  In response to the robocalls last week, Obama issued this statement:

As the Democratic nominee for President, I am proud to join with and support the LGBT community in an effort to set our nation on a course that recognizes LGBT Americans with full equality under the law…And that is why I oppose the divisive and discriminatory efforts to amend the California Constitution, and similar efforts to amend the U.S. Constitution or those of other states. For too long, issues of LGBT rights have been exploited by those seeking to divide us. It’s time to move beyond polarization and live up to our founding promise of equality by treating all our citizens with dignity and respect. This is no less than a core issue about who we are as Democrats and as Americans.

When has any other candidate seeking the Office of the President came out with an unequivocally supportive statement of gay rights like this? And for the first time in history, a President Elect said the word “gay” out loud in his acceptance speech.

It’s the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled — Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.

It is a new day, and I am ever hopeful that we will have equal rights one day soon.

Accountability and Forgiveness

Now that Barack Obama is the Democratic presidential candidate, it is time to unite the party. I am relieved that we have finally one person to get behind. The infighting and mudslinging of the past six months has really gotten to me, and I fear has done a lot to hurt our chances of unity and success.

I have long been perplexed by the rabid supporters of either Clinton of Obama, those who say they will absolutely not vote for the other if their candidate loses. What’s the alternative? McCain? Another Ralph Nader? How does that help us?

This morning I was thinking about forgiveness. I really hope that Clinton’s supporters will not further alienate themselves from the rest of the progressive movement. I think the only way that is going to happen is if they can practice forgiveness. Not to say that they need to change their perspective of values, but they do need to open their hearts to other perspectives and values, ones that are more akin to their own than they know.

I have been more inclined to support Obama than Clinton all along because of her vote to support the war in Iraq. That was really the deciding factor for me. Other than that, I really liked both Clinton and Obama, and have thought of them both as viable candidates. I want to hold Clinton accountable for her vote, and to date she hasn’t said anything that satisfies me as an answer for why she did it. I really wish she would just apologize instead of try to justify her actions. I would feel a whole lot better about her.

However, I do get it. She, like so many others, bought into the lies that the Bush Administration told to justify the invasion six years ago. Unlike her, I was never persuaded that the war was justifiable, but given the information she had at the time, I believe that she felt she was making the best decision. And like any politician, she has had to make compromises to continue to move her agenda forward.

Every politician in this country has to compromise. Even the late Senator Paul Wellstone, whom I still miss today, voted for the Defense of Marriage Act. That was a move that was extremely disappointing to me personally. He let me down. However, I know that he never would have wanted to support DOMA. But I know that’s how politics works, and though it hurt me personally, I forgive him.

I forgive them. I forgive Paul Wellstone, and I forgive Hillary Clinton, and I’m even willing to say in advance that I will forgive Barack Obama for compromises that he will have to make in order to succeed with other agendas. Indeed, he already has taken positions that I feel are hurtful to me, but I know that he is the candidate who will lead this nation in the right direction overall, so I forgive him.

That doesn’t mean that I won’t hold him accountable or that I won’t speak out if I feel that something is wrong. But it does mean that I won’t be punishing, withholding my support for him because he does or says something that I disagree with. I won’t take part in hateful, hurtful, and divisive speech because I disagree with and may even be angry at politicians for the decisions they make.

I watched the live feed of Van Jones’ speech at the National Conference on Media Reform today (I will post the link to the video when it becomes available), and he spoke right to this issue. He said that we have to keep the progressive movement together, that we can’t be so stubborn and say that there is only one right way to do things, anything else is a sell-out. If we do that, we will surely fail.

Earlier, I heard a lesbian couple on NPR, avid supporters of Clinton who said they wouldn’t vote for any ticket where Obama was at the top. This stubbornness really saddens and scares me. How can we even talk to each other about how to move the progressive agenda forward? Do people really believe that they’d do better on their own?

I need to practice forgiveness, too, to those whose politics should be aligned with my own but who choose to walk alone instead of in solidarity. I hope that our paths converge again.