Andrew Sullivan is scrupulously documenting the electoral unrest in Iran, and it seems he hasn’t stopped for days. I applaud his tenacity and the variety of sources and video clips he has managed to cull together for his blog in The Atlantic. As I have been following the story, I couldn’t help but to discover the irony of one particular entry, in which Sullivan quotes Matt Steinglass, who is covering the Iranian election for Word Press, and how closely it may reflect the situation in Washington as well:
“Iran has an electoral system that is similar in some respects to China’s or Vietnam’s. Elections are held periodically, but the lists of candidates are carefully vetted by the real controlling power structure — in Vietnam or China’s case, the Communist Party; in Iran’s case, the clergy — to ensure ideological compliance and loyalty. Moussavi passed through this system of ideological control; he’s no radical reformer. But what’s happened is that simply by representing an alternative, Moussavi became a vehicle for the expression of the hopes of people who are far more radical in their reformist hopes than anyone in the dominant power structure. Even though the players in the Iranian elections were all screened for their personal views, the simple fact of an election became a forum in which radical and unacceptable political views could express themselves and ultimately co-opt one of the candidates.”
Try replacing the references to China and Vietnam’s Communist Parties or Iran’s clergy with the United States' Party System and business oligarchy, and replacing the name Mousavi with Obama. A little disturbing, isn’t it?
This week’s outrage celebre has come from the nearly unbelievable amicus brief written by the Obama Administration in favor of a Defense of Marriage Act case. Ostensibly written as the Justice department’s responsibility to uphold rather than alter existing law, the letter went out of its way to compare same-sex marriage with incestuous marriages, and used rhetoric one would expect from only the most extreme right-wing anti-gay rights activists. The letter was so reprehensible that it has fostered criticism from the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, even the Wall St. Journal, as well as, of course, all over the web.
Over the last several months, I have written a few columns regarding President Obama, first suggesting that the gay community had been had by Obama’s campaign rhetoric (amongst other disappointments), and then one that pointed out specifically what Mr. Steinglass refers to (regarding the Iranian example) as “simply by representing an alternative, Moussavi [insert Obama] became a vehicle for the expression of the hopes of people who are far more radical in their reformist hopes than anyone in the dominant power structure”
I would like to hold out the following hope for Obama, however. With respect to social issues, perhaps he can learn that he must respond to the public will (and especially the public that elected him). But the public must make it known loud and clear. I’m not suggesting anything like the unrest that Mr. Sullivan is chronicling in Tehran. But there will need to be a new march on Washington for full equality for LGBT Americans. The march will not be a party of the Gay Pride Festival variety, but rather a no-nonsense affair that will require not only gay people but straight supporters of the cause. There must be so many bodies and voices overflowing the mall that the press can’t underestimate the crowd. There mustn’t be a single available hotel room in DC that day. And the demand must not be just for the repeal of DADT, DOMA, and in favor of ENDA, but to enable every gay, lesbian, and bisexual person in America to come out.
Because the only way this matter will ever really be settled is when everyone finally knows that someone they know and like or love is gay, and once they wrap their heads around that, they can no longer maintain the dehumanizing opinions they presently harbor.