Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Hallelujah, The Work Begins

We're all awash in a sea of words today, and I'm loath to add my few drops to the sea.

Still, much remains to be said, because much remains to be done. Everything remains to be done. For those of us who have been starved for a better America, there is a clear mandate for change, and what needs to be changed won't change itself. It demands our work. As Robert Borosage says on Huffington Post, "Hallelujah. And now the work begins" (

Borosage is among many folks who will now be giving the new president advice. As he himself notes, the mainstream media have already mounted a spin narrative suggesting that the mandate for change is a centrist one. The mainstream media (and, more importantly, the corporate world that owns the media and their mavens) do not want Obama to change things significantly.

In Borosage's view, this spin narrative distorts what the mandate is all about. It's clear that a majority of Americans are hungry and thirsty for real change, for substantive change. Borosage calls on the new president to step up to the plate and recognize the full extent of the mandate he's just been given:

Govern from the center? Americans voted overwhelmingly for change. And to be successful, Obama will have to be bold. In reality, the center has moved. Bob Rubin now is for a large, deficit financed fiscal stimulus. Conservative SEC Chair Chris Cox now tells us "self-regulation" doesn't work, and calls for re-regulating the banks. Alan Greenspan admits his ideology blinded him to reality -- or at least that he got it wrong. "We're all populists now," says Will Marshall, a leader of the Democratic Leadership Council, the Wall Street wing of the party.

Mandates are not given; they are claimed. Majorities do not form; they are forged. The center is not frozen; it is molded by events, moved by leaders and movements.

For LGBT Americans across the nation, it is impossible to hear those words without thinking immediately of what the election has just said to us, as citizens, as human beings, as brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers. Once again, we have received clear signals from many sectors that we are second-class citizens, unwelcome brothers and sisters, demeaned persons.

It appears that the citizens of California have voted narrowly to end gay marriage. In Florida, the amendment to the state constitution to prohibit recognition of gay unions passed. In my home state of Arkansas, to our shame, we have voted through a homophobic initiated act that will prevent the placement of foster children in the homes of any unwed couple, gay or straight, though many foster children in Arkansas have no home and desperately await placement.

Much work remains to be done. Mr. Obama began the work during the election by boldly speaking about the place of gay Americans at the table, even when he took heat for doing so. He spoke out courageously in a staunch Republican community in small-town Texas, at an African-American church in Atlanta, to audiences he knew would not be receptive to this message.

And he continued to do so last night in his acceptance speech, in which he states,

It’s the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled – Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.

As Brian Juergens notes today on AfterElton, "This is the first time an elected President has chosen to speak to the topic of diversity in sexual identity in his victory speech" (; emphasis added).

Mr. Obama can be assured that those of us who are gay, who have worked hard for his election, who have given lavishly to his campaign, whose hopes for his victory have run high, will continue to remind him of what he has said repeatedly up to last evening: we belong, too. We count, too. We want to contribute, and we have to have the unjust barriers to our inclusion removed, in order to make our contribution.

For us, the victory celebrations have been bittersweet. On the one hand, we rejoice in the possibility that we will be hated, demeaned, excluded a little less in the America now coming into being. On the other hand, our joy at the significant victory of Mr. Obama and other Democrats around the nation cannot help being undermined by the results of those ugly initiatives in many states singling us out once again.

As Emma Ruby-Sachs notes on the 365Gay blog early this morning,

Against all odds it looks like the state I just spent four days sweating for will go Obama. And now that I am out of the crowds outside I find it hard to celebrate at all. Yes, Obama won, but I, and many of my friends, lost. We may have a Black man as president, but this is obviously not a country that embraces equality (; emphasis added).

How can one avoid reaching that conclusion--this is not a country that embraces equality--when states like California and Florida simultaneously voted for Barack Obama and against gay rights? In other words, even among Mr. Obama's supporters, those beside whom gay citizens have toiled hard for this victory, there are those for whom the mandate to change represents a call for continued subordination of LGBT citizens.

Lest we who are gay in Arkansas are in any doubt about that fact, we awoke today to read on the blog of the Arkansas Times the following exchange by two citizens of our state last night (

LeavingSoon: If Arkansas passes Act one, my wife and I (married in CA in July) will be moving out of state. The DOMA is bad enough, and we will not stay in a state that thinks we're fine for our tax money, but the rest of us is shit.

It's a shame, because we're both highly paid professionals and pay singles taxes. I'm an educator and have taught thousands of your college kids over the 10 years I have lived here. I am nationally known; I have brought almost a million dollars in grant money to the state; I have brought in half a million in tourist dollars through my work.

No more. We're not staying here. I'm tired of this.

Chasv: Leaving soon, don't let the door hit you in your arse. In other words run don't walk.

The respondent, chasv, is a Christian, by the way, and a staunch one. He has repeatedly informed contributors to this blog that he knows Jesus and walks with God and is saved.

And as Wayne Besen concludes today, "More than any year I can remember, there is a razor thin line between feelings of exhilaration and desperation [in the gay community]" (; emphasis added).

Silence despite the sea of words that will now wash over the nation, with advice of every sort for the new president? I don't think so. We have miles to go before we sleep--at least, before we sleep peacefully.