This morning I watched the inauguration (second inauguration, to be more exact) of President Barack Obama, and I have to say I’m far less ambivalent about my vote last November. When I voted for Obama in 2008, it was as one of millions looking for real leadership in this country. Four years later, I really hadn’t witnessed much of that. I voted for Obama in November because there was no way I could support the party of exclusion and hate. Barring a national run by Chris Christie, I doubt I’ll vote for another Republican in my lifetime.
But I digress…
Yesterday I was moved by several things the President said in his inaugural speech. He recognized that Climate Change is real, as is the science behind it. He acknowledged that social programs actual provide Americans with opportunities to be innovative and engage in risk (in the best, progressive sense). And no fewer than three times, he mentioned gay Americans and equal rights for LGBTQ people. They were represented by poet Richard Blanco (an openly gay Cuban American—talk about reaching across demographics!). And during Episcopal priest Rev. Luis Leon’s benediction, prayers were offered for “gay or straight” people alike.
Liberation sometimes comes from the strangest of corners. Consider Lyndon Baines Johnson, a Texas good ole boy if ever there was one. He was red neck through-and-through and—according to biographer Robert Caro (his magnum opus is a recently completed four-volume biography of LBJ)—largely despised by the Kennedys. When JFK was assassinated, the Vice President who took over the Presidency lost no time in pushing through civil rights legislation. The same legislation that, ironically, allowed a black man to become President 40-some years later.
Now let us look at the evolution of Barack Obama. Four years ago, not only was President Obama not for marriage equality, he was pretty much against it. I attributed this to certain prejudices among Americans in general and religious African Americans in particular. I don’t know what made him change his mind, but even if things are still bleak in this country and many problems still need to be addressed, the future is much brighter for the LGBTQ community.
Today’s youth face an uphill battle with regards to civil rights. Warrantless wiretaps, ubiquitous cameras recording our every move, not to mention tracking e-mail and IP addresses means that we do have cause to fear our government. I am still disturbed by the economic and educational policies of my political leaders. However, I know that wherever we are heading as a nation, all people will be included, regardless of gender or sexuality.
That, my friends, is progress.