Monday, January 19, 2009

No Pretense

(U.S. athletes Tommie Smith, center, and John Carlos, extend gloved hands skyward and stare downward in racial protest during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner after Smith received the gold and Carlos the bronze for the 200 meter run at the Olympics in Mexico City on Oct. 16, 1968. Australian silver medalist Peter Norman is at left.)

No pretense.

That's what I'm asking for this inauguration, and of you who have a chance to witness it in person tomorrow.

If you respect Barack Obama's message, the platform he ran on, the possibilities that are waiting for him and us, you will demonstrate that by respecting him AND by having the guts to disagree with his mistakes. (He does and will make mistakes.) Inviting Rick Warren to usher in this new era with prayer is an offensive mistake.

If you agree with the positions Rick Warren promotes about the role of women to be submissive to their husbands, his Johnny-come-lately recognition that AIDS exists with a position which favors abstinence and prayer over condoms and sex education, his refusal to accord human rights to lesbians and gays (including being instrumental in fundraising for the recent effort to remove marriage rights for lesbians and gays in California), his insistence that someone who does not believe in g*d should not be allowed to hold public office, his opposition to reproductive choice and equation of legal abortion to the Nazi Holocaust, his insistence that God puts government on earth to punish evildoers, his "nonegotiable, nondebatable" opposition to stem cell research, his disavowal of evolution, his refusal to take a public stand against torture, his contention that Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and other non-Christians will "burn in hell", his request to followers that they emulate the mindless devotion of Hitler youth -- then you'll find no reason to object to his presence on the podium. But if you agree with the man, you're not an advocate of progressive human rights, that's fairly clear.

If, on the other hand, you find his views repugnant, you should not pretend to allow him to speak for you (and us as a nation) in his address to g*d. Do not pretend to a respect you do not feel. You'll regret your silence, you know you will.

Here's where you make your chops as a feet-on-the-street activist, instead of a keyboard theorist. Stand up and turn you back on the man when he starts to speak. If you believe in prayer, do your own, out loud and with honest feeling. If you don't believe in prayer, sing "America the Beautiful", which was written by a LESBIAN. (Except if it was me, I'd replace every other "brotherhood" with "sisterhood".)

I booed Tommy Thompson at the Kennedy Center when he came to speak to an international gathering of disabled artists. It made some heads explode, but he heard it, others heard it, and who knows how far those ripples have traveled.

And you won't be alone. There's a Turn Your Back on Rick Warren Campaign well underway. (I wonder if its inception was my original post on this issue here.)

I'm all for forgiveness. I live by forgiveness. But since being given this honor, this reward for past hateful behavior, Rick Warren has not sought our forgiveness nor has he sought reconciliation. He's scrubbed some of past (and no doubt future) hate-based views from his website. He's raised money for his anti-liberation work by parading his selection around as proof that the conservative message of convert or die is working. He has Not Changed. And when people resist growth, you can have patience but you don't give them respect for persistent shitty choices.

No pretense. Not on this day.

{And, just to prove the point that Obama could have chosen from a vast number of religious leaders who DO live/preach genuine liberation messages, check out Reverend Al Sharpton's keynote speech at the Human Rights Ecumenical Service held at Atlanta's Tabernacle Baptist Church to welcome the Atlanta-based Alliance of Affirming Faith-Based Organizations.}