Monday, January 21, 2013

When the President Thinks of Me...

         …he considers me equal.

         Today I watched the second inauguration of President Obama. It was the seventeenth inauguration in my lifetime and the first time I shed a tear. Some presidents I voted for. Some presidents I voted against. Some presidents I was too young to understand or care what it meant.

         This was the first inauguration that mentioned me, a gay American, as fully equal in citizenship.

         The key word is equal. I, and others in the GLBTQ community, do not seek anything special. We want to be equal, not lesser than. We simply demand that discriminatory laws that prohibit equality be repealed. President Obama gets it:

We, the people, declare today that 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; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.

It is now our generation's task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm.

         I could not control my tears. As a social justice Christian, as an educator, and as a gay man, the words of the President moved me to a new point in my life. The dialogue of nearly one-half century convinced me that our leadership would never accept me, much less embrace me, as a full citizen of the country. Nevertheless, the President likened my desire to be considered an equal citizen of the country to that same struggle of women and ethnic minorities in past centuries.

         Contrary to what the naysayers scream, there is nothing special about equality.

         Equality is bland drudgery compared to discrimination. Seneca Falls, Selma, and soon Stonewall, have shown this.

         In physics, negative energy leads to nothingness. In theology anything that does not build-up destroys. Both science and religion recognize the power of positive and negative.

Hatred consumes the hater.

Love energizes the lover.

Discrimination limits the discriminator.

Light overcomes darkness.

That the President understands the difference signals a change of perspective greater than I expected to see in my lifetime. More and more people understand just what he means when he says, “We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still….”

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