Hard to Believe

A friend of mine recently e-mailed me a link to the White House’s newly updated Civil Rights page and pointed out the addition of a section on issues important to the LGBT community. I read through it, and I have to say, I’m honestly very impressed. And actually, not a little teary-eyed as well.

Now, I know that these are really just words, and that especially in politics words don’t usually mean a thing until something actually gets done, but still… the sheer existence of this section, on a page called “Civil Rights,” on the website of the White House! The website that, to quote a line from one of the first blog posts under its new leadership, will “serve as a place for the President and his administration to connect with the rest of the nation and the world.” The official electronic mouthpiece, in other words. The one-stop resource for all things related to the new presidential administration, its views, policies, and current plans.

And a resource that’s being used, at least in part, to talk about support for things like repealing the military”s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy… and support for repealing the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” and expanding the rights given to same-sex couples to include all of the more than 1,100 federal benefits as well… and even support for expanding adoption rights, in language that can’t get much plainer or more direct: “[President Obama] thinks that a child will benefit from a healthy and loving home, whether the parents are gay or not.”

… Wow. Just… wow. Talk about a turn-around from the previous administration, eh? Again, it may not be “real” in the political sense until the legislation’s drafted and things get changed and repealed and enacted in the proper way – and I’m sure that, even for Obama himself, there are plenty of hoops to jump through – but it’s still amazing, not to mention supremely uplifting, to know – hard as it may be to believe -  that on the actual website of the President of the United States, there is FINALLY direct, unequivocal support for LGBT people and their rights in words that don’t reek of two-faced, patronizing hypocrisy.

Change has come, indeed.

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2 Responses to Hard to Believe

  1. Jane F says:

    Change has come, indeed!

    Obama … his calmness has been sent to soothe the tempest, a balm of scented oil on the tumult of our oceans.

    I’d like to give you an Australian perspective, just my thoughts! Having had a strict and rather moralistic upbringing, and having been raised in a conservative home, I will always be a little right of centre. It is hard to fight against what has been so deeply imbedded since birth. Over the last few years I have questioned why I did not search for my own opinions at an earlier age.

    As a young teenager, in 1969, I had the opportunity to demonstrate against our participation in the Vietnam War but, instead, I sat at home with my mother shaking my head at the unruly mob on the television set and making up care packages for our soldiers. I sat with my father, in our St. Kilda Road, Melbourne office and listened on his little portable radio as Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990 and I remember thinking (with a tear trickling down my cheek) this is the end of the world as we know it. Australian forces were deployed in the First Gulf War under the auspices of the UN but we all knew it was about supporting our big brother, the USA. Yes, again and again we have followed you into war. Korea, Vietnam, Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan. Our casualties and dollar investment was small compared to yours but huge for a country with only the population of your mighty New York City.

    So now you realise I have come to dread the decisions of your Presidents. I know we will follow you like lambs. I have wanted to shout enough is enough! I have asked, when will have repaid to you the cost for you assisting us defend our shores against the Japanese in World War II? The answer is simple the price will never be paid because we are your little brother this blood bond is so strong between our nations that the thread joining us, however thin, will never be snapped. Needless to say, without your support, we would be unable to defend our country at any past, present or future date.

    Oh, I have wandered in my musings.

    In Australian, on the night of Tuesday, 20th January 2009 in Australia from 11.00pm to 12.00noon on Wednesday, I sat in front of my television set. This time alone … or maybe my parents were sitting with me in spirit. This time my shivers, shakes of head, tears of awe and sighs of wonderment were my own. I watched a miracle taking place and although the spectacle was over the top, in Australian terms, it was truly magnificent.

    I took pride in being a citizen of a country who has supported the USA, in good times and bad, and I wanted to share the joy shown on the faces of your peoples on my screen. I shrugged off the apathy that had settled so deeply into my spirit during the past 8 years and looked to the future with hope. I know I’m not alone and I also know that there are those who will disagree with me, but as I said at the outset of this monologue, “just my thoughts”,

    Today I read an article written about Michelle Obama and she said “I hope that our image as a nation, in the world, is improved. I’m hopeful he can build some different bridges and change our image.” Naturally she talked of education and healthcare, her girls, her marriage but so could have “Mrs. Joe Blow” from down the street. To me, it was important to hear that the woman behind your President cares about what the rest of the world thinks of her nation.

    I’ll close with the words of Karen Duncan, the Tasmanian-born (Tasmania being a State of Australia) wife of the new Secretary of Education and form CEO of Chicago Public Schools, Arne Duncan. “Barack is really that relaxed and laidback – he’s practically Australian. His calm makes other people around him that way.”

  2. Erik says:

    Thanks so much for taking the time to share your thoughts, Jane. Your perspective on our countries’ shared histories is both interesting and very sobering, and I’m sure one that unfortunately too few people think about. It’s true, the USA has tended to be the “leader” for much of the world, whether for good or ill; hopefully now with Obama’s administration there will be a change not only with regards to in which direction he’ll lead, but also with regards to how the rest of the world views that leadership.

    I know, from having lived in Europe and having family there and hearing through the proverbial grapevine of relatives and friends abroad, that the USA’s image in recent years has indeed been seriously damaged, more so than many Americans realize, and it is very good to know that Michelle and of course Obama himself care what the world thinks of us. In the back of my mind I can hear the voices of those who might say we shouldn’t care what people think, but while that may generally be a good stance to have as an individual human being – caring too much about others’ opinions having a tendency to become rather counterproductive – at the scale of countries and governments the opinions of others certainly matter and have very real and lasting consequences.

    That’s a great quote, by the way, about Obama being “practically Australian,” though I have to say, it seems like everyone nowadays is trying to claim Obama as their own. First the Irish – singing about how no one is more Irish than Barack “O’Bama” – and now the Australians. ;-) But I agree, he does seem to have a very calm, relaxed, and laidback demeanor about him that is very reassuring. And actually, in all seriousness now, despite my joke about everyone trying to “claim” him, I think much of that may be his Hawaiian upbringing. I read an interesting article from the Washington Post that talked about Hawaii’s positive influence on his personality. Having lived there for a few years myself, I can say that I’m not surprised. :)

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