Yesterday was a powerful day. Gay marriage has never been one of “my issues”*, but I was caught up in the emotion of Friday’s decision anyway. I was at home getting ready for work when the decision hit. Within seconds waves and waves of people I follow on Twitter and Facebook were exploding in joy. People happy to be recognized as people. People telling their stories of going from being excluded to being accepted. People just happy in the moment. I found the tears flowing freely for most of the morning, at least until I pulled myself together when I got to work. :-)
Later in the day Obama spoke at the funeral of Reverend Pinkney, who was killed in the terrorist attack in Charleston last week. If you haven’t seen it, go watch it now. This is Obama at his best. This is the aspirational Obama. This is the Obama calling out the hurt and pain of those who have been victims. This is Obama calling out the need for progress and improvement, and yes, change. This was the Obama that I voted for in 2008. It was powerful, it was moving. I was once again in tears for much of the speech.
Yes, there are policy questions raised by Obama’s speech and many may disagree on parts of it. Should there be more restrictions around gun ownership or use and how does that balance against people’s right to self-defense or sport? What are the right ways to address systematic racism in our society? How can we bridge some of the obvious gaps in our society? Is there a role for government, or is this better managed in the private sphere? Reasonable people can disagree on these things, but that was not the real point. It was about mourning, solidarity, understanding, and the need to recognize and actually do something about real problems.
And yes, there are legitimate arguments over process questions on gay marriage. Should the court really be the one to decide this? Were the specific legal grounds they used sound? As the day progressed and I started seeing more and more from the people upset by this decision, there was sometimes a veneer of these sorts of arguments, but it always seemed to ring hollow. Most of these folks didn’t REALLY care about how the decision was made. They just didn’t want gays to be able to marry. But at least they tried to hide it.
In the mean time, many others thought this was a good time to show off their intolerance, insensitivity, and closed mindedness. Although I heard many YOUNG Republicans joining in the joy of their gay and lesbian fellow citizens, or showing a sense of respect and understanding toward racial issues, none of the Republican presidential candidates were even close.
Reactions to marriage ranged from Jeb Bush saying he supports traditional marriage but the court has spoken to Huckabee in a full out intolerant tirade, to Walker suggesting a constitutional amendment, to Jindal suggesting (jokingly?) that we should just get rid of the Supreme Court altogether. Not one could say, “This is good!”.
On Charleston the echos of last week’s cowardice and reluctance to call out the racist culture leading to the attack still resonate. When comments did eventually come they seemed half-hearted and reluctant at best. Come on now.
I often find myself looking for the “reasonable Republican” because I’m not particularly happy with Democrats a lot of the time. After being an Obama supporter in 2008, I could not bring myself to vote for him in 2012. (I voted 3rd party, Romney wasn’t even a consideration.) I am not a Clinton fan, and don’t particularly want to vote for her. On certain issues I find myself attracted to Republican or Libertarian minded positions. I want to have a reasonable debate between alternatives that results in a compromise that turns out to be better all around. When I go to vote, I want to feel like I have more than one reasonable choice.
But then we have days and weeks like this. The worst parts of the Republican base come out, and the LEADERS, the Presidential candidates, the Senators, the Governors, do nothing to separate themselves from those people. Some of them actively encourage it and egg it on. I have voted for Republicans before. I hope to vote for Republicans again. I have prided myself as being non-partisan, someone who could vote for either party so long as they had a good candidate with interesting ideas that I could get behind.
But as I said in this week’s Curmudgeon’s Corner podcast, so long as the Republican party is still a welcoming place to racists, homophobes, xenophobes, and science deniers, let alone if they are LED by those folks, then they are just pushing me further and further into the arms of Democrats. Any positive aspects to any particular policies pushed by any one Republican get completely outweighed by the thought that by supporting that candidate, I might enable not just those things, but a whole raft of things I vehemently disagree with.
Yesterday I was moved to tears twice by “the left” and felt positive and affirmed.
Yesterday each time “the right” spoke, I shook my head in shame and disgust.
Good job guys. You may be strengthening parts of your base, but you are alienating the middle. And you need us to win.
* My “real” position on marriage is that I don’t understand why government is involved in or recognizes any marriage at all, other than as a contract entered into between adults, just like any other contract drawn up between people, and that it shouldn’t have any implications to anything else. As far as the state is concerned anyway. But that isn’t how things are. So long as government does recognize marriage and there are legal and financial implications to marriage, as well as cultural and social ones, then I feel it should be wide open to whoever wants to participate.