There has been a lot of Obama hero worship going on recently what with his coming out in favour of gay marriage and all. People have been calling him ‘brave’, and presenting him as some kind of champion of equality. This seems ridiculous to me. If this is what he believes, why has he changed his tune now? Why didn’t he say this from the start? Surely he’s only doing it now because he’s already alienated the anti gay marriage crowd with the contraception mandate and so is trying to win back waverers on the Left. It’s not that I am against someone changing their mind on an issue (or ‘evolving’, as everyone is calling it). It’s just that there’s nothing brave about giving the people who are most likely to support you what they want. He’s not losing any votes he might have had, not really. That ship already sailed a while ago. He’s only winning back the admiration and support of people he might have otherwise lost if he had carried on sitting on the fence. Make no doubt about it, he was under a lot of pressure from within his own party to do this. The election is approaching, and he had to do something big, he had to make a statement.
I hate saying this, I really do. I was just as excited about Obama back in 2008 as the next person. He seems like such a nice guy. An intelligent, friendly, funny, well read, eloquent guy; such a refreshing change from George W, who seemed like an illiterate buffoon next to Barack. I would like to sit next to him at a dinner party. One of my ‘Favourite Quotations’ on Facebook is from ‘The Audacity of Hope’: ‘[Empathy] calls us all to task, the conservative and the liberal, the powerful and the powerless, the oppressed and the oppressor. We are all shaken out of our complacency. We are all forced beyond our limited vision.’ Finally, I thought, a politician who sees the subtlety of situations, the nuances, who will consider things on a human level and not just think like all the other power grabbing good-for-nothings in politics. But the problem is, we all idealised him too much. You have to get your hands dirty in politics, and he’s no different from the rest.
A recent timeline by ProPublica compares the Bush and Obama administrations in terms of torture, surveillance, and detention. When you think what a reputation Bush had for being a trigger happy war-mongerer, it’s scary to see how Obama has continued and furthered what Bush started. Obama has upped the drones, and despite declaring his intention to close Guantanamo in 2008, he backed out of this in early 2011. I know people who voted for him because it seemed like he might put a stop to the illegal detention and torture of unproven terrorist suspects. His change of tack on this is a scandalous betrayal of American trust.
So yes, if you are pro-gay marriage, by all means celebrate this moment. But remember that a healthy dose of cynicism probably wouldn’t go amiss, either. There’s a great deal of less-than-savoury tactical manoeuvring going on behind this so-called ‘courage’.
Do you think I am being too harsh on Obama? (After all, I do feel bad for the guy – his hair has gone very grey with all the stress of being President… A job I certainly do not envy.) Please do add to the debate and leave your thoughts, below.