Tuesday, December 23, 2008

What's all the hubub, Bub???

Controversy of the week, President-Elect Barack Obama's choice to invite conservative pastor Rick Warren of the evangelical megachurch, Saddleback Church, in Lake Forest, California, to give the invocation at the inauguration.

This issue is particularly causing an uproar among the gay community because in addition to his generally conservative ideology, Rick Warren advocated for the Prop 8 ban on same-sex marriage in California and has even gone so far as to compare same-sex marriage to incest. Considering Warren's ideology, the fact that a progressive like President-Elect Obama (who was often described as the most liberal senator in the United States Senate) has invited him to the inauguration has left most folks scratching their heads wondering WTF?

Many have voiced the proposition that, to give a platform to a man like Rick Warren is to legitimize or provide a public endorsement to what pastor Warren stands for: namely anti-gay sentiment. Others have seen that this is a centrist move by Obama to reach across the aisle to those of differing viewpoints. I submit that when considering an issue it's always important to look at the facts.

First, Pastor Warren invited John McCain and Barack Obama to his church in California where he hosted the Presidential Civil Forum Discussion that effectively provided America with the first Presidential debate between the two candidates.

Second, Obama has consistently characterized his administration as one taking a 180 degree departure from the Bush Administration's policy of refusing to talk to or work with any and all people who think differently from the administration.

Third, Rick Warren is not being offered a cabinet position, is not being asked to swear Obama into office (that job goes to conservative Chief Justice Roberts), and he is not being invited to share his ideology to the crowd that will be assembled on Inauguration Day.

That being said, I submit that the controversy over Rick Warren, while understandable, is misplaced. Inviting Pastor Rick Warren to give an invocation is not an endorsement of this person's views anymore than Columbia University could be accused of hating America for inviting Ahmadinejad to speak.

I futher submit that in America, we pride ourselves on our diversity of thought and as such, should excercise tolerance (not to be confused with acceptance) towards those who think differently from ourselves. Should Obama's inauguration only involve those who Obama agrees with? There's a party going on, and Warren is invited to give an invocation and sit his ass down. No more, no less. To attribute much more to his invitation is to confuse his invitation with an endorsement of his beliefs.

People have every right to protest Warren on the basis of his ideology but I would challenge everybody to distinguish between accepting his ideology and his right to have his ideology unto himself as he commingles with the rest of us.

Most importantly, Obama said he was going to do this thing differently from the Bush administration, so let him do it. Doing things differently from the Bush administration means NOT firing U.S. Attorneys who belong to a different party than your own, NOT hiring people on the basis of whether they share your party affiliation, and NOT surrounding yourself with yes-men who think, believe, and act exactly the same way as you do.

But this whole controversy speaks to an underlying point which I think we're going to have to come to terms with which is the fact that there will be times when Obama's administration will have to do something that will be unpopular with the Democrats/Black Community/Minority Community/Liberals/etc. I, for one, am ok with that as long as our interests are being looked out for. I don't expect Obama to make every executive decision from the viewpoint of the black community. That's ok. But I can guarantee that there will be many folks within the black community, democratic community, etc. who will be up in arms over the next 4 years over some issue when an Obama policy departs from what WE think he should do just because he's black or because he's a Dem or because he's a liberal, etc. I think some people's expectations are a little unrealistic and dismissive of the fact that Obama is the President of whole United States, not just the Black states, not just the Liberal states, and not just the Democratic states.

So in the great words of the Rolling Stones "you can't always get what you want...but if you try sometimes, you get what you need."


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