Yesterday, Kip Williams, co-founder of the activist group GetEqual, interrupted Obama’s San Francisco fundraising speech for Senator Barbara Boxer. He heckled the President on the progress of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.
Loosely calculated, it is said that one response to a published blog represents something like 2,000 readers of that blog. Likewise, it might be possible that this one heckler represents all gays, shouting in a crowded auditorium to a resolutely—albeit transparently defensive– indifferent Obama on the issue of support for civil rights for gay people.
It’s upsetting to shout publicly. Most of us would never stoop to that. There is a desperation, a rage, that only the dismissed, disenfranchised, and the double-crossed would understand. Something the Black community used to know about intimately, and many still do.
Putting aside my idiosyncratic belief that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is absurd, because: #1. Turning away anyone willing to die for America is the essence of a hateful, stupid position; and #2. It does nothing for the advancement of gay people to allow this moronic aphorism to die, at the same time that it would allow gay soldiers to die. The overturning of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ only serves as an item conservatives can point to to indicate a phony support for gay rights, in my opinion. That aside.
Since many brilliant political advocates for civil rights believe in this as “advancement”, I rest their case and turn the focus back on Obama.
The overflowing “banquet” of urgencies Obama faces on his Presidential buffet I understand and have compassion for. However, he may have too smugly assessed the rights of gay people as being not only a side dish, but a frivolous condiment. He simply left their rights and quality of their lives on a strategically constructed menu of afterthoughts that never made it to the printers.
Obama still has it good with the gays. However, his response to Mr. Williams could use more emotional intelligence and political acumen. Even the gay voices who have patiently remained unheard will more and more be heckling for hope, Mr. President. The understanding required while watching your defensive indifference and your outrage to an obviously ill- timed shout-out plea to you about a true broken promise, has a finished shelf life.