Our 44th president’s right-wing detractors have made a brand of their unrelenting vilification and thinly concealed racism, whether through ”Birtherism” or wagging their finger at him as if at an errant servant or heckling him in the Rose Garden. But perhaps more remarkable is the spectacle of progressive activists appearing shocked to discover that the president of the United States is a politician.
These advocates are disgusted that President Obama has not set aside pragmatic politics, a mountain of other challenges, and obstruction by congressional Republicans. “Where is the fierce advocate?” they demand. What they overlook in their critique is his lengthening pro-gay record, including most recently setting off a favorable shift in public opinion on marriage equality.
After the president’s LGBT Pride Month Reception on June 15, one avowedly radicalized Washington gay careerist quoted Obama’s statement, “I’ve said before that I would never counsel patience” on LGBT rights. The activist snarkily retorted, “Nor have I.” Some activists cannot give the president credit unless it is begrudging.
Let’s face it: Some among us are just not going to quit their petulant sniping. I do not refer to all of Obama’s gay critics (of which I occasionally am one), but to those who refuse ever to give him non-backhanded recognition, however deserved. It hardly matters whether these coldly unmoved Princess Turandots are disillusioned or never much liked him in the first place. They cannot even show respect toward hard-working activists who decline to compete with their self-righteous grandstanding.
After his comment about not counseling patience, Obama added, “But three years ago, I also promised you this: I said that even if it took more time than we would like, we would see progress, we would see success, we would see real and lasting change. And together, that’s what we’re witnessing.” He then rattled off a lengthy list of LGBT-related accomplishments, which I will not bother to list because they have already been much discussed, and Obama’s detractors will not pause to celebrate his achievements for which so many of us laid the groundwork.
How, you may ask, can we as activists give President Obama due credit without pathetically slobbering all over him? By coincidence, an example arose on the same day as his Pride Month reception: Obama’s executive order saving from deportation many undocumented aliens who were brought to America as children. It was a deft political move, but it was also the right thing to do. Immigration Equality Executive Director Rachel Tiven praised the action even as she raised the plight of binational same-sex couples. There, was that so hard?
While grownups quarreled over how to deal with an imperfect presidential ally, a fifth grader at PS 195 in Queens, N.Y., stepped forward, demonstrating with splendid simplicity the transformative power of the president’s bully pulpit.
Kameron Slade wrote a speech supporting “same-gender marriage” for a school competition, but his principal banned it, declaring his topic inappropriate. Ironically, his speech addresses that point: Kids are learning about the subject anyway, so there’s no point in hiding it. Happily, an NY1 TV crew invited Kameron to read his speech to them.
“Like President Obama,” Kameron said in a now-viral video, “I believe that all people should be able to marry whoever they want. Marriage is about love, support and commitment. So who are we to judge? … We must learn to accept and respect all differences.” He forthrightly recognized his mother’s lesbian friends and their daughter as a family. The furor over the censorship led to his being allowed to give the speech at a special school assembly on June 18.
Kameron Slade, you are awesome. Standing bravely and making your case, you showed squabbling adults the face of the future.
Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.