Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Obama & "The Fierce Urgency of Now"

From Lavender Newswire:
"I was impressed and intrigued with Barack Obama at first. His speech in 2004 at the convention was a barn raiser, a clarion call to reach past the politics that the Republicans had perfected so well over the last quarter century and find something more substantial and more sustaining in both our political process and in the American spirit.

I eagerly anticipated his announcement speech in Springfield last year and watched him speak on a cold day, announcing his candidacy for President. I was a little surprised that I was not as taken with this speech, as I was looking for something a bit deeper and clarifying, a glimpse into who this man really is and in what he really believes. It was, again, a finely crafted speech full of poetry and inspiration. But it left me somehow unsatisfied and hungry. I knew now that Barack Obama believed in hope, but I didn’t know why or to what end. I didn’t yet know the man beneath the flowery prose.

The first alarm bell for me went off at the Logo debate. Again, nothing specific, but he seemed, somehow, uncomfortable and out of his element discussing issues of importance to gays and lesbians. He went through the motions, as if a student preparing for an exam, and gave many of the right answers. But I saw no there there. I didn’t see a man who deeply felt and understood the struggles that gay people face on a daily basis. John Edwards was trying to get it, it was very easy to see he had agonized and thought deeply about the issues facing gay families. Hillary Clinton gets it on a very deep level, she understands the nuances of our concerns and her respect and commitment shine through. But Senator Obama was off key and removed. I remember registering an almost dissonant moment of disconnection. This man does not understand who we are.

Then came McClurkin. At first I gave him the benefit of the doubt and waited patiently for him to cancel the offensive tour or change the lineup. His campaign, obviously flustered, took a couple of days to come to a decision. Senator Obama decided to keep a man who seriously harms gay youth and who represents a movement that wants to destroy gays and lesbians, as a headliner at his concert. The motive was all too apparent and cynical. He was making a naked appeal to the black evangelical community at the expense of gays and lesbians, black, brown and white, everywhere. It was a breathtaking moment of betrayal, and for many people it brought into sharp focus the value system and priorities of this man who would lead us. This time I did get a glimpse into his soul.

Recently, Willie Brown made it public that he and Gavin Newsom had thrown a fundraiser for Barack Obama during his Illinois senate run in ‘04. This was shortly after Mayor Newsom had shocked the nation with perhaps the most electrifying act of civil disobedience in a generation. He sat through George Bush’s state of the union speech that year, listened to Bush’s call for a consitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, came home to San Francisco and decided, in a moment of sheer courage, to unilaterally declare same sex marriage legal in his city. His constituents, overjoyed and living as if in a dream, actually started getting married, and it was all carried live on national television. Couples who had been living under Jim Crow heterosexist laws for their entire adult lives together, couples of twenty, thirty, fifty years could actually walk down the marble steps of City Hall, having made their union legally equal to those of their straight friends, neighbors and family.

Senator Obama came to this fundraiser in San Francisco after Gavin Newsom had confronted the nation’s homophobia dead on and what did he do?

He told Willie Brown that he wanted to make sure he did not take a picture with Mayor Newsom. He did not want to be publicly associated with the man who just did for gays and lesbians what Martin Luther King had done for African Americans fifty years ago.

Senator Obama is fond of quoting Dr. King and speaks regularly of the “fierce urgency of now.” Gay people know this concept far too well. We have been told for many, many years that this is not the time, this is not the moment, keep quiet and we will take care of you later, don’t make a ruckus this election cycle and your demands will be addressed next time. We know what the “fierce urgency of now” means, because we have lived through decades of being told it’s not our turn.

If Senator Obama understood what he was uttering, if he really understood what the phrase meant and believed it in his heart and soul, he could never have refused to take a picture with Mayor Newsom. On the contrary, he would have been eager to be identified with a man who not only understood the “fierce urgency of now” but had just put it into practice, jolting an entire nation in the process.

I can’t listen to Barack Obama’s poetry now without wincing. “The fierce urgency of now” rings hollow, as for him it is a selective urgency, apparently excluding an entire population.

When will you address us, Senator? When will we become not only a part of the litany of your ritual poetry, but part of the fabric of your soul?

We’re over here watching you, still hoping that you will lift us up too. Not just in words delivered in a sermon, but in actions and deeds.

We’re your chance to prove that the “fierce urgency of now” is more than a revarnished political slogan, but something you actually feel deep in your heart.

We’re still waiting for you to reach out to us.

We’re still waiting for you to demonstrate that you understand who we are."