Posted by John Wellington Ennis on December 29, 2008
I told myself I would hold back on this one. But everyone from Harvey Fierstein to Frank Rich have flogged the Rick Warren Inaugural Invocation Horse so bad, it makes the decapitated horse head in the Godfather look humane.
Getting outraged over Rick Warren speaking at the inauguration is like throwing down over the typesetting on the invitations. Rick Warren? This is nothing. It is so small, in such a long day of pageantry, on the first day of some long years of the fight ahead. In terms of the fish-frying before us, Rick Warren is a scallop, and Moby Dick, the elusive wedding-white whale, is circling us.
We’ll be facing much greater forces of homophobia as old-school baller ‘Man in the Middle Barry’ races to stay centered like a lumberjack in a log-rolling contest. In those slippery times, Obama will really need support to stand up to chest-beating theocrats proclaiming their inflated importance.
Before the back-lashers skip the rest of this column and just start posting irate comments below, let me air my record on gay rights: I’m a member of HRC. My wedding vows opened with Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall’s first lines in the Massachusetts Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage. Our wedding ceremony was performed by my wife’s lesbian sister, who got ordained specifically to marry other gay friends. My gay brother was my groomsman. Hell, ten years ago at the Gay Pride Parade in New York, I performed gay marriages in the street at the intersection of Christopher St. and Gay St. and broadcast it on Manhattan public access.
Obama unwittingly created a culture clash at a prestigious event between traditional Christian symbolism and the Oscars audience. Personally, I presume any anti-gay demagogue, Christian or Republican, to be one tweeker-turning-tricks-away from being the next Ted Haggard. (I mean, doesn’t “Saddleback Ranch” sound a little Brokeback Mountain?) I could give a crap about Rick Warren, although I guess he actually has helped people in Africa, so props for that.
As such, the only thing I would even know of Rick Warren was that he was somehow empowered to host a debate between two presidential candidates, thereby legitimizing him more than Katie Couric. Asking Rick Warren to invocate or whatever was probably the most apolitical gesture in Obama’s mind that would help stop the religious right from shitting themselves when he finally says, “I, Barack Hussein Obama….” That Reverend Wright thing that jumped the shark back in March, it really scared a lot of white people.
While I have a hair-trigger to call out pandering, I really don’t see this as a cynical play for evangelicals or a ‘you’re likeable enough, gays’ diss like Frank Rich dishes about. (Note to Frank: When you’re so flip about how the state of New Hampshire votes, you make it easier for inexplicable polling results to go unchallenged.)
Rick Warren is going to talk for, what, five minutes? Is he going to gay bash in those highly anticipated couple of minutes? Is he instituting policy or swearing himself onto the Supreme Court? Rick was just around the corner from me, trying to smooth things over, at the West Hollywood Out of the Closet, all open arms at the gay charity. (Though if he’s checking out any of the clothes I just donated there, I have a hunch if they don’t fit me anymore, they won’t fit him either.)
I’d suggest those at the Inauguration that can’t tolerate his intolerance turn their backs while he talks. Or blow whistles. Or fully break into a Queen song, like “We Are the Champions” or “We Will Rock You.”
We don’t have to ruin the party because we don’t like one of the guests, especially when literally the entire country is invited. Inauguration Day will be a great day for celebration, though I am not sure if it will be more for the first black president or the official end of the Bush Reign of Error. One thing it won’t be like is this scene from Bush’s 2004 Inauguration. (However classic)
Remember that dreadful day of a disputed election credited to stoking anti-gay prejudice proficiently.
Obama may not be the first homosexual president, but he is the first metro-sexual president, and that itself is a significant step forward. Obama did not brave the establishment’s uproar over arugula for nothing. He’s as cut as the steam room at the West Hollywood 24 Hour Fitness. And in throwing 10 Inaugural Balls — almost assuredly in the hands of the top gay talent in DC–Barry has already proven he has more balls than Bush.
It sucks, but as we know well, America is a homophobic place. Actually, almost everywhere else is, too. Homophobia seems to blossom on its own, independently in every culture around the world, just like homosexuality does. I don’t get it either. There is a long history of religions condemning homosexuality (or people using religion to condemn homosexuality), but then, religions have been used to burn witches, too. Homophobia–as fundamental a defiance of basic human rights as it is–it just is.
The slippery slope, I believe, is in debating the oppression of gays and lesbians in a secular vs. religious context. The true believers will feel their beliefs are under attack, and there are some biases that only die with the people that cling to them. If anyone has proven adept at gracing taboo prejudices that defy reason, Hawaiian-born American native Barack H. Obama has been a spokesmodel of keeping cool.
You want to talk about being offended by outdated ideas persisting in this Inauguration? May I ask, as an apatheist, why the HELL we have religious leaders blessing or invoking or praying or chanting anything at a formal political ceremony? Why is touching the Bible required to finally be President? That there are so many religious trappings in a country founded on a separation of Church and State, endlessly prioritized in the ‘War on Christmas’ Media, that feels like a gut punch.
I know where this rage is coming from. Prop 8 here in California appears to have become the national rallying call of “ENOUGH.” It’s sad that it had come to this, but it’s a good time to show up. Make no mistake: This is the time to fight for gay marriage. So let’s get on it, instead of letting this rankle in the press for weeks on end like this really was Obama’s ‘first big blunder.’ (We’ll know when that happens, believe me.)
I am fortunate to have worked as a Director/Producer on a reality series alongside Dustin Lance Black, the critic’s darling who wrote Milk from scratch. The show was Faking It, wherein someone crammed for 30 days to pass themselves off as a professional. Lance happened to be documenting a sheep-shearer from the countryside studying to be a hairdresser. This hick kid did not like gays, a career hazard in that field. Lance smartly set up interactive counseling dialogues that would address this prejudice and open up the mind of this boy.
In Milk, a similar strategy is embraced when Harvey Milk stresses that the fight against homophobia comes from every gay person letting those around them know that gay people are not foreign deviants, but the people in your community, in your family. The new fight will be in the courts, at the polls, in the press, and on the streets. (Not so much at the bars anymore.)
It’s just possible that the majority of Californians do not actually want to amend our state constitution with bigotry. This poses the more specific challenge to gay activists to focus on campaign financing and election reform as gay issues.
Rick Warren seems like a wedding toast compared to all that. Accordingly, people have grumbled about his poor choice in the wedding party, but everybody will be too drunk and distracted to care whatever he said anyway. Not only does the drawn-out Rick Warren flap distract from the much bigger issues down the line, it provides fresh fodder for the divisive opportunists who literally have no other card to play except the Phantom Gay Menace card, feeding tabloid news a faux controversy at a slow time of year. Moreover, we have to get ready to party, and I haven’t even shopped yet.