Friday, January 25, 2008

Obama Alienates Homophobes, Also Homosexuals

Give him credit for guts. Speaking at Martin Luther King's sometime parish, Ebenezer Baptist, Barack Obama spoke a little unwelcome truth when he told worshipers that “If we are honest with ourselves, we’ll acknowledge that our own community has not always been true to King’s vision of a beloved community. We have scorned our gay brothers and sisters instead of embracing them.”

And this on the MLK holiday weekend!

It helps to remember that, as much homophobia as there may be in church circles generally, there appears to be considerably more in black church circles. This made Obama's remark fairly daring for a black man courting black voters, especially when many of them already suspect that he is "not one of us."

On the other hand, it seems like a great way to impress liberals in the broader electorate, especially those with a strong interest in gay rights. Which is apparently what happened, as the gay blogosphere caught fire -- for a while. "How gutsy," they said; "how daring." And, one suspects, just a hint of "He looks like them, but we know he's really one of us."

Then Obama was endorsed by Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell, pastor of a huge black church in Texas, the website of which advertised one of those "ex-gay" ministries that work so well and are so deeply beloved of all homosexuals. Even though Caldwell denied any knowledge of the ministry, and removed it from his church website, Obama's flurry of support devolved into a flutter of confusion. "How gutsy is he really?" And, more importantly, "Is he really one of us?"

We like Obama. We really do. He is trying to move the political dialogue beyond tired old identity politics, which is something that absolutely must happen for the good of the nation. But, just as it took Nixon to go to China, so dismantling identity politics might be better accomplished by somebody with a more distinctive identity.

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