Sunday, November 02, 2008

NYTimes: Hopefuls Differ as They Reject Gay Marriage

If Elected . . . - Hopefuls Differ as They Reject Gay Marriage

It is an altruism that you can be judged by the quality of your enemies. When the subject is political discourse, it is hoped that the saying can be rephrased to "opponents" oe "those who disagree." This U.S. Presidential Race is remarkable that there happens to be an issue that is considered a major flashpoint in American politics, and both major party candidates agree. Both Obama and McCain oppose same-sex marriage and both Obama and McCain oppose amending the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriage. But the difference lies in the way this opposition is presented.

Gay rights activists have reported many interactions with Obama on the issue of same-sex marriage. The New York Times article and other reports are the same, Sen. Barack Obama will not back same-sex marriage due to his Christian beliefs. And there is no expectation that Obama will be changing his understanding of Christian tradition that "marriage is something sanctified between a man and woman" , nor change his acceptance of this aspect of Christian beliefs and teaching. But they support him despite his opposition to this dearly held goal. Because his Christian beliefs also include a belief in his own sinfulness and fallibility. And a Christian faith that recognizes the fallibility of the holder is something they can live with.

McCain's opposition to same-sex marriage is due to acceptance of culturally accepted norms, according to his advisors. But when this is communicated to those of the gay community, it comes out, wrong. Whereas Sen. Obama always openly communicates to the gay community that he will not support same-sex marriage due to his Christian beliefs, Sen. McCain is less straight-forward. In his interview with Ellen DeGeneres, they had the following exchange.

The California Supreme Court had just cleared the way for same-sex marriage, and Ms. DeGeneres had announced on her program that she planned to marry her longtime girlfriend. “We are all the same people, all of us — you’re no different than I am,” Ms. DeGeneres told Mr. McCain as they sat next to each other in plush chairs. “Our love is the same.”

Mr. McCain called her comments “very eloquent” and added: “We just have a disagreement. And I, along with many, many others, wish you every happiness.”

Ms. DeGeneres said: “So, you’ll walk me down the aisle? Is that what you’re saying?”

Mr. McCain replied, “Touché.”

It is not that their views are different, but Sen. Obama is capable of communicating differences with people, even on issues that they hold dear, even when the differences are irreconcilable due to an immutable value on Sen. Obama's part. While Ms. DeGeneres catches Sen. McCain offering patronizing platitudes without being willing to follow through in action. So Sen. Obama can disagree and leave his opposition's dignity intact, and with the belief that they are also viewed as human, with the greatness and fallibility this implies.

It is not only with the gay community that Sen. Obama does this. The Palestinians Sen. Obama deals with knows this, that they will never change Sen. Obama's staunch support for Israel's right to exist with secure borders ([Rashid] Khalidi added that he strongly disagrees with Obama's current views on Israel, and often disagreed with him during their talks over the years - LATimes). Yet the Palestinians who desire peace also view Sen. Obama as someone who can consider the interests of the Palestinian people in the context of a secure Israel. (Those that do not desire peace dislike Sen. Obama without reservation) He has spoken openly to African-American audiences about the requirement for personal accountability and individual work ethic. Messages that have been reacted to badly when delivered by others such as Bill Crosby.

In his book Audacity of Hope Sen. Obama talks about the interaction of political candidates with special interest groups. He talks about how political advisors recommend not answering questionnaires from groups that oppose them, because it only gives them more reasons to hate you. But somehow, Sen. Obama has figured out how to confront audiences with his beliefs that are in opposition to their's, and leave them thinking that he is still the person they want in office. And I believe it is because he has this understanding of his own fallibility, that he knows there are no silver bullets, that the tasks and issues are not black and white and easy, but that the path ahead is hard. And he asks that along this hard road, his audiences follow him and work with him. And that this hard road ahead is something they can find believable, more then the many false platitudes they have heard before.
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