Barack Obama's choice of Pastor Rick Warren of
Orange County's Saddleback Church to give the invocation at his inauguration
has sent the liberal blogosphere into a frenzy of apprehension and indignation.
Warren is an advocate of Proposition 8, the measure that repealed gays' right
to marry in California. It is no doubt a poor choice by Obama, but the outrage
arising from the liberal-Left misses a number of crucial points, primary among
them the fact that Obama's selection of Warren may be in poor taste but it is
in no way a betrayal.
In fact, none of Obama's Cabinet or advisory selections have been betrayals,
although such an accusation is in vogue among increasingly jittery liberals.
"Now it has officially gone too far," declares
Sarah Posner in the Nation, displaying a bit of the ceremonial righteousness
that only the pious can muster. Warren is "a poster boy for kinder, gentler
21st century bigotry, and Obama shouldn't validate him with this lofty symbolic
Joan Walsh at Salon.com.
The disapproval of Warren is justified, but the anger at Obama is not. (The
very existence of an invocation delivered by an evangelical pastor at an American
presidential inauguration is problematic in itself, but that's a topic for another
day.) I ask Obama's disillusioned advocates: When exactly did Obama support
gay marriage? Please find the public statement he has made that indicates he
would eschew centrism in favor of his grassroots' concerns.
Obama had to say about gay marriage during his campaign: "I'm a Christian.
And so, although I try not to have my religious beliefs dominate or determine
my political views on this issue, I do believe that tradition, and my religious
beliefs say that marriage is something sanctified between a man and a woman."
This statement exquisitely portends the courtship of somebody like Rick Warren.
Obama's running mate, Joe Biden, also spoke to the issue during the campaign.
debate with Sarah Palin, he was asked if he supported gay marriage. "No,"
Biden responded flatly. "Barack Obama nor I support redefining from a civil
side what constitutes marriage." Palin, the blight of decent liberals everywhere,
chimed in, "My answer is the same as his."
I take no pleasure in Obama's selection of Warren, because if his bigoted activism
helps preclude American citizens from exercising their rights, then there is
little to say in his favor. However, I find it amusing to watch liberals howl
their disappointment. Most of them apparently never listened to Obama during
the campaign, when he contextualized his staunchly centrist politics with the
slogans "hope" and "change." What did he really mean by
"hope" and "change"? These terms, after all, can denote
nearly anything. It turns out they were a bit of marketing genius, because Obama's
rhetoric didn't require denotation. He smiled charmingly and watched most of
his supporters project their own wishes onto the slogans, never really aware
of (or interested in) the positions Obama actually professed. His actions since
the election do not belie any of those professions.
These facts are indicative of a profound lack of critical thought in the American
electoral process. They also illustrate how complicit liberals are in domestic
chauvinism and overseas aggression. It is deeply saddening that vapid platitudes
like "hope" and "change" captured the imagination of so
many people who proclaim (or actually desire) a commitment to justice.
These facts also underline an implicit hypocrisy among most liberal commentators,
one that is important to identify and work against: their silence about, or
reproduction of, anti-Arab/anti-Iranian/anti-Afghan racism. I'm glad that Obama's
friendship with the homophobic Warren inspired outrage, but where was the outrage
when Obama displayed racism during the election? Just like Obama's legitimization
of homophobia, his racism wasn't explicit, but it was there tacitly, available
to any interested person, particularly in his unswerving support of Israel's
colonization of Palestine.
Again, I do not blame Obama here. He made his politics perfectly clear during
the election, as when he announced that "the
Iranian regime is a threat to all of us," or when he stated repeatedly
that Afghanistan "has
to be our central focus, the central front, on our battle against terrorism."
The following quote is a
good indicator of his feelings about Israel's brutal treatment of the Palestinians:
"[I]n the end, the Palestinian people are suffering from the Hamas-led
government's refusal to renounce terrorism."
When Obama dredged up a coterie of Zionist A-listers for his foreign policy
team, liberals could be heard grumbling here and there, but very few of them
expressed any concern for the many people in the Arab world and Central and
South Asia who would suffer from those choices.
Arabs and Muslims should therefore recognize the implicit message loudly and
clearly: discrimination is a bad thing, as long as it isn't happening to those
with brown skin, strange names, and an embedded suspicion of the Democratic