I haven’t posted in a while largely because I have had nothing I thought was worth publishing. With Gingrich and Santorum out of the race and boring old Mittens the presumptive candidate I have just not found any inspiration. But along comes President Obama endorsing gay marriage and the muse has struck I guess.
Now I have been in favor of gay rights, gay marriage, etc. and human rights in any form. And I have participated in writing, calling, etc. to support civil rights issues. And I follow the news on these issues regularly. I think I have a pretty good idea of what is going on. But I was somewhat surprised that Mr. Obama actually very directly endorsed gay marriage today. And it gave me pause to reflect. So here are a few of those reflections.
First, I am and have been a supporter of President Obama.
Second, I do not agree with many of the things he has done and am not afraid to say that but those disagreements are not the subject of this post.
Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage is truly a historic moment. It is like Truman’s desegregation of the Armed forces, Reagan’s pronouncement to “tear down this wall” in Germany, Johnson’s signing of the Civil Rights legislation and Lincoln signing the emancipation proclamation. All these things are significant moments in the evolution of equal rights for all. But there are factors which I think should be discussed.
Marriage is an institution commonly thought of as a very natural ritual which is done out of love for one’s partner. I believe that it can be that but it has not historically been an institution based exclusively on love, rather there are a long list of marriages of convenience, political marriages, etc. thar hardly do honor to the idealized image of marriage. The point is that marriage is far from being treated respectfully by our culture. So the rather sudden upsurge in the last few years of this need to protect marriage is actually pretty hypocritical. If you want to support marriage and families you do that by making them economically viable. No marriage tax, a living wage, pregnancy leave, health care for pregnant women and for the children to whom they gave birth, education, etc. You get the picture. So the romantic conception of marriage is a construct and even though some people buy it, it is not this sacred institution that the right wingers would have us believe it is.
Economics. The most cynical part of my musings centers on economic reality. In fact, I believe that no rights are extended (to women, to blacks, to immigrants, to gays, etc.) unless economic conditions force them to be necessary. More gays making money that in turn supports campaigns results eventually in equal rights legislation. Slavery becomes no longer economically viable due to innovations like the Cotton Gin and slavery is abolished. Women begin to assert their economic pressure on society and they gain the right to vote. In short, if you can demonstrate that you are profitable or that your oppression will reduce profits then you can likely become a more equal partner in our society. (Which, of course, leaves me mystified on the medical marijuana and universal health care issues but that’s another blog post.)
I am not saying that struggles are unnecessary or that there are not humanistic reasons for the granting and protection of rights I am just saying that the most salient issue is economic. Especially in a capitalist economy, nothing that fails to make a profit survives.
Politics and Showmanship. P. T. Barnum I think serves as the model for the way politics are practiced in the United States. Lies, obfuscation, cons are an essential part of “selling” any candidate. But the great showman never misses an opportunity to shine by simply being there at a critical historical moment. The Berlin Wall was gonna come down eventually. The USSR was essentially bankrupt and no longer able to support the drain of keeping people in their police state dystopia so it just makes sense that they would have to give up the wall. Racial integration and, more recently openly gay military were also inevitable. When you find increasing examples of fine soldiers who are black, gay, etc. it is only a matter of time before you have to grant them equal status. The Cotton Gin and other factors were making slavery increasingly unprofitable and freeing the slaves was inevitable. The intelligent politician takes this historical moment seriously because being there at the right moment is priceless. They will remember you for all time. Even George W. Bush’s lame appearance in a flight suit on an aircraft carrier declaring the alleged end of something in the middle east will stick in memory….pardon me while I go spit.
I am not saying that the politicians associated with these historical moments had no part in them or that they did not accelerate the process. But like the struggles to which I earlier referred the politicians presence or words are not the salient factors. They are just the ones that are remembered. So no sane, intelligent politician will make such a move unless he or she believes that it will work for them and their party. While certain risks may be involved the politicians who make these crucial appearances and statements have some degree of certainty that they are in sync with the forward momentum of history.
So gay marriage takes another step in what I think is the progression of human rights in a just society but I also realize that it is increasingly not viable economically to spend tons of money and time fighting the inevitable and withholding from productive, tax paying citizens what they desire. And what they desire, I think, is simply what all other productive tax paying citizens have. And now they are using their economic power to influence politics and gain those well-deserved rights. So far, so good.
I applaud President Obama in this historical moment. He has certainly shown courage and thoughtfulness. I just hope we as a society can put a stop to the horrible economic drain perpetrated by the right who are trying to stop the inevitable as the southern states tried to preserve slavery and, later prevent blacks from voting. I hope that human rights can continue to be made economically viable. I hope that this country will actually support “family values” by providing health care and education affordably for all, even immigrants. I hope that those who cherish the romantic notion of publicly declaring their alleigance to their beloved can achieve that goal. And I hope we can find ways to make the economy support love and happiness.