Obama and the Future Present

While the president made LGBT history in his inauguration speech, the future of equality was watching from the crowd

Not being a person who’s into large crowds, I didn’t trek down to the Capitol on Monday for the Inauguration. If I’m going to watch President Obama give a speech, I’d rather watch it on the screen in my living room than a giant screen on the Mall, not to mention that even when the weather is described as ”great for January,” it still means it’s cold.

Yet the moment that Obama linked three American struggles for equality — ”the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall” — left me wishing that I’d been standing on the grounds with a bunch of my fellow LGBT people to savor the surprising and historic moment.

Brandon celebrates his first Inauguration

Brandon celebrates his first Inauguration

(Photo courtesy of Diana Le)

Instead, I sat in my living room with my jaw a bit dropped at what had been said and how much further the president went in becoming the first president to say the word ”gay” in an inaugural speech. But more important to me than saying the word was that linkage of civil rights movements.

It was humbling to hear it, because as a white gay man I know my own personal struggles have been very different than those faced by women and African-Americans. But while each movement differs in the particulars of its cause, at heart they share the same fundamental American values of liberty and equality.

Being more tolerant of crowds and cold than I, my cousins Brad and Diana took their 9-year-old son, Brandon, to see the inauguration speech and parade. She texted me a picture of Brandon standing near the White House holding an American flag: the son of a Vietnamese-American mother and a Midwestern Ohioan father, celebrating the second inauguration of the son of a Kansan mother and a Kenyan father.

There are moments in life that sneak up on you, but when you recognize them they take your breath away. Seeing Brandon along Pennsylvania Avenue was seeing the future in the present. We talk about the importance of making the world a better, more equal place for our next generations. Our next generations are here.

Brandon and his three little sisters are a future the Founders couldn’t have seen — children growing up with families of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Children growing up with gay uncles who are treated as full members of their families. Children living in a country where we are ever more free to be who we are, not who others tell us we should be.

Our national story of the great melting pot may sometimes feel trite and false, especially because we have so far yet to go from those starting points of Seneca Falls, Selma and Stonewall. But the rural Kentucky boy in me is still amazed that for both my husband’s family and mine, the kids are emerging from a mixture of family names that tells a truly American story: Bugg, Le, Kintner, Cu, Eickholt, Nguyen, Polk, Walker, Tran, Thompson.

Again, we haven’t reached the goal yet. But the Inauguration was a sign of how far we’ve come, from the president who spoke of our equality from the steps of the Capitol to the youngest of those who came out to watch history being made. Wherever you may have watched it from, it was an amazing moment to see.

Sean Bugg is the co-publisher of Metro Weekly. Email him at sbugg@MetroWeekly.com or follow him on Twitter @seanbugg.

Sean Bugg is Editor Emeritus for Metro Weekly.