Freedom is the distance between Church and State

Why be born again when you can just grow up?
MAY 12, 2012 6:38PM

Part 2: Obama Eight years behind Cheney

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This is a follow up to commentary and email in response to Obama on Marriage Equality: Eight years behind Dick Cheney!

Cultural historian Morris Berman, who makes Michael Moore seem like a rah-rah American cheerleader, is not one of my favorite writers partly because, like the-sky-is-falling Chris Hedges, he sometimes sees too clearly for my comfort and, while I disagree, I also fear both may be right in their diagnosis and prognosis.

His most recent book Why America Failed: The Roots of Imperial Decline is a vituperative, Spenglerian, screed in which he (as Michiko Kakutani writes in a NYT review) “describes this country as ‘a cultural and emotional wasteland,’ suffering from ‘spiritual death’ and intent on exporting its false values around the world at the point of a gun; a republic-turned-empire that has entered a new Dark Age and that is on the verge of collapsing like Rome.”

Like his earlier Twilight of American Culture I was just not able to get through it – not so much because I think he’s wrong but because I, like most of mankind (as T.S. Eliot noted) “can not bear too much reality.” As with Hedges’ writing I sometimes grow impatient not because I disagree but because I do agree and because the arguments are sometimes too well-crafted to refute.

As Thomas H. Naylor, wrote in his review at Cockburn’s “Counterpunch” (“There Will be No Rabbit Pulled Out of the Hat”) “most books about the decline of the American Empire conclude with a ‘happy chapter’ explaining how some idea such as campaign finance reform, banning corporate personhood, or a return to the Constitution will guarantee eternal bliss. Berman makes it very clear that his book has no ‘happy chapter’ because the endgame is not going to be very pretty. ... Berman describes life in the United States as vapid, utterly meaningless, and without heart. ‘The United States has run out of steam.’”

Perhaps this is why I slammed the book against the wall. Cynicism doesn’t offer much hope. Or, as Lord Byron so poetically put it, "What is hope? The paint on the face of existence. Just a touch of truth rubs it off and then we see what a hollow cheeked harlot we've got hold of."

In America, according to Berman, "the living dead can be found everywhere – surfing the Internet, checking their e-mail, texting, day trading, glued to the News hoping for an event in an otherwise uneventful life, driving alone across town in a gas-guzzling SUV to Wal-Mart in search of more low-priced plastic yuck, stopping at McDonald’s for a quick taste-fee meal, feigning interest in a mindless bureaucratic job, viewing Dirty Housewives of New York on BRAVO," or pounding their keyboard in their pajamas while trolling the Internet. Meanwhile our government, our politicians, and the high priests of Corporate America pull our strings. We are all (Left and Right) dizzy from spin and hype. The hustle is the American way of life. We are always in a big hurry as though in a race to nowhere.

How is this apropos here? In Why America Failed Berman’s section on the Internet (which many view as a disappointing tool for Enlightenment) he posits it has nurtured a readership with the attention span of poodles. People don’t really read on the Internet they just surf... skim, they don’t really ‘get’ (or even care to get) or try to digest, a writer’s arguments, and few seem able to follow a line of argument farther than an overfed civic center pigeon can fly. They just surf and skim for the phrases and buzz-words that trigger a visceral response and then react. This is not reading or even thinking. Anyone at Open Salon who has taken the time to labor over an argument only to be greeted with comments that make you wonder people evevn read their work with the slightest care knows what I’m about. ‘Reactionary’ is the word.

And this apropos of? Still we must take our victories as we find them.” And “Yes, we must take our victories as we find them...”. Now, presuming they actually read with any care or genuine interest, exactly what part of that repetition don’t some readers get?

Despite the glee of many slogan-swallowers (they are the intended targets of the Madison Avenue manufacturers of consent) I do clearly and logically see Team Obama’s ploy for what it is: Kubuki Theater. But if people want to take to tainted bait when they can see the rusty hook sticking out then they are exactly the gullible fish the spin-doctors are seeking.

Obama’s first duty as a lawyer is that of “zealous advocacy” which is the minimal ethical requirement in every American jurisdiction. His first duty as a law professor is to educate and his first duty as a President is leadership and he is sworn to uphold the Constitution. I understand, as a matter of survival, the need for Ketman and political hypocrisy but throughout his eight year participation in this faux debate the equivocation of this Constitutional ‘equal protection’ expert and African-American child of mixed-race parents it should not take eight years and counting for him to still not to tell us what part of Loving he does not get or refuses to admit and fails defend.

Throughout his eight year participation in this faux debate he has misrepresented the law, failed to educate, and unethically argued in ‘bad faith’ thatdeep faith” and religious beliefs are legitimate legal reasons to deny a ‘fundamental’ right to an entire class of his fellow-Americans who are made to are made to suffer an ‘immutable characteristic’. This is the very essence of both First and Fourteenth Amendment violations. So, about that oath...

This pettifoggery is not merely a misrepresentation of law by a Constitutional law professor but a bold exploitation of ignorance and, as Thomas Jefferson wrote, "If a Nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be... if we are to guard against ignorance and remain free, it is the responsibility of every American to be informed." Instead Obama has, for eight years, knowingly, misrepresented the law and exploited ignorance. This is a reality we should all lament for, as we have seen in state after state, "nothing is so terrifying as ignorance in action." (Goethe.)

This disingenuous platform of our President has not extinguished or even quelled the religious bigotry but as proven, in state after state after state, to pour napalm over the flames of dogmatic religious hatred and bigotry. He has, in fact, played each side against each other and same-gender-loving couples have been left helplessness to surmount it. Despite his patronizing nod to Separation of Church and State and his token Ketman that “no one should be discriminated against” it is Obama who has sent the message out loud and clear, to the citizens of state after state that he thinks they have the legal right to, purely because of their “deep faith” and the “religious connotations to marriage,” make state laws that deny and violate others’ federal guaranteed ‘fundamental’ civil human rights. Mr. Obama’s misfeasance and nonfeasance have not only fueled a bigoted and legally ignorant rationale but he has done absolutely nothing to disabuse Americans of their ignorance. Rather he made a conscious Machiavellian choice to exploit that ignorance for his own political advantage. He holds his finger to the wind to see which way it blows and then proposes to dole out civil rights piecemeal. Roll over in your grave Coretta Scott King!!!! 

This much was always in the President’s hands but same-gender families bear the consequences and many of us can no longer take seriously the empty bumper-sticker slogans and preposterous and phoney ‘evolutions’ used to win power. Great. DADT is gone and ‘gays’ now have the dubious ‘right’ to serve as cannon fodder in imperial wars. Hurray! Hurray! We have been and we are being Tom Sawyered.

The LGBT Community are the only ones who suffer the violent results of his decision (and make no mistake about it, it was his calculated decision) to use religion as his sole excuse for denying a ‘fundamental’ Constitutional right to an entire class of his fellow-Americans. In fact, this so-called ‘civil rights lawyer’ has never, not even once!, proffered even one legal reason for denial of this ‘fundamental’, federal right. Instead, he continues to show, despite his smarmy spin (‘I talked it over with my wife and kids’? Oh pulease! Pull me out a violin!) a consistent platform that tells us (in no uncertain terms) that he utterly lacks the courage to openly regard us as ‘persons’ to whom the U. S. Constitution guarantees ‘fundamental’ rights and ‘equal protection’ of the law. You can spin it all you want but there is no way to refute these irrefutable facts and Obama has never even tried to. Indeed, under the Federal Rules of Evidence his silence in these regards may be taken as an admission of guilt. 

So, before you open your wallets to play this cynical game of Three-card Monte, think before you swallow spoon-fed claptrap. Wise up slogan swallowers! For Obama to cavalierly toss-over Dick Cheney’s tired old states’ rights canard is not to ‘evolve’ but to  collaborate with and capitulation to the enemy.

When Dick Cheney cavalierly tossed over Obama’s arguments eight years ago it was less of an insult. In light of the fact that Obama’s own shameless arguments were the explicit reasons his own parents’ Hawaiian marriage was illegal in 16 states (a felony in Virginia punishable by one to five years in the penitentiary) we all know where his parents might be under his rules of law had they traveled through the American South on their honeymoon: “Strange fruit swinging in a Southern breeze.”

And yet not once, and still not even now, has he made the slightest attempt to educate the electorate as to the most rudimentary Constitutional bedrock this nation fought a Civil War so as to assure all classes of ‘persons’ are guaranteed ‘due process’ and ‘equal protection’ of the law. And he has never even attempted to educate the public that, as a matter of law, no state has the legal right to deny such rights.

It’s bad enough a right wing one percent war-monger conceded Obama’s phoney ‘evolution’ (what vapid spin!) eight years ago but the fact that an African-American, Harvard educated, civil-rights lawyer has consistently opposed due process and equal protection for no reason other than deep faith and religious connotations  is nothing less than a disgrace to the giants whose shoulders he admits he stands on.

Symbolism shimbolism. If this is a symbol of anything it’s a symbol of the gullibility of the bankrupt Liberal Left that desperately swallows Orwellian slogans and takes to tired old bait with rusty hook sticking out. Get real. It is no great victory (but a travesty) for the LGBT community that, after eight years of debate, and more than half the states turned religious blood-red, Barack Obama has ‘evolved’ to the same ‘state’s rights’ bigotry that made his parents felonious criminals in nearly half the states. The fact that eight years hence he still lacks the cajones to move beyond Dick Cheney’s ‘states’ rights’ rubbish is a fact we should all lament. So, yes, take your capitulator’s pettifogging ‘victory’ as you find it and enjoy the glittering show at the Kubi Theater – at least it doesn’t suffer from the acrid stench of the dog and donkey shit that bites into our nostrils at the GOP dog and pony show.


 Francois Arouet

Copyright © 2012

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This is really quite a funny essay - you really have a way with words. Interesting your comment about Berman. I find it difficult to get through Chris Hedges' articles without wanting to give up activism and lie down and die.

You refer to Obama as African American, but I don't think he identifies as African American. He has brown skin but was definitely raised (by his grandparents and later his mother) as white. He shares none of the family history of slavery or Jim Crow that culturally defines nearly all African Americans. If you look at his early history, he entered adulthood expecting to be treated like a white person. The racism he experienced in junior college came like a slap in the face, a source of profound resentment, which I don't think he ever resolved.
Doc Stuart: "I find it difficult to get through Chris Hedges' articles without wanting to give up activism and lie down and die." I know what you mean. Ain't it the truth? Why even bother?

I will take you to task on your criticism of Obama playing the "African-American" card even though most of my black friends agree with you. Still, being a descendent of slaves is not a requirement for he is an American who shares and African ancestry. If Ayaan Hirsi Ali or Kofi Annan married a white American citizen to beget a child would you really exclude that child from the rubric African-American heritage? Really? Please show me were being a descendant of Southern Colonial slavery is a prerequisite for an African-American designation.
Francois, all that well-marshaled argumentation over something that furthers the promotion of same-sex marriage. Maybe Obama should have done it earlier, maybe he should have done in terms you’d approve of, but he did it. I said in my comment on your previous post that I thought you underestimated its import. Look, it’s a big step forward. In this era where we’re beset by the corporatization of everything where states pass law prohibiting teachers from talking about petting and masturbation, a president stating that he is in favor of same sex marriage is significant. It’s a step forward. As a politics as the art of the possible adherent, I suspect we’re in different camps though we probably agree on most policy issues. These days I take my half loaves where I find them and this was better than half. Always entertaining to read you though.
Abrawang: Oh, it’s “important” all right but not for reasons we agree on.

It is unfortunate that you have not read “well-marshaled argumentation” very well or only well-enough to beg the questions - or blow them off. “Maybe Obama should have done it earlier”? Please READ AGAIN with care for he actually did do so long ago. Evolved? Really? He finally talked it over recently with his wife and kids? Please. You chomp at this tainted bait? Is there a journalist alive in American who can vet the propaganda spoon fed to them? Clearly not.

In detail: in a 1996 statement he said 'I FAVOR LEGALIZING SAME-SEX MARRIAGES'. Outlines newspaper and the new Windy City Times surveyed candidates for all levels of elected office and summarized the results in a 1996 article by Trudy Ring, but did not list exact answers to questions. In that article Outlines did note that Obama WAS A SUPPORTER OF SAME-SEX MARRIAGE; that article was never challenged or corrected by Obama. Obama's answer to the 1996 Outlines question was very clear: "I FAVOR LEGALIZING SAME-SEX MARRIAGES, AND WOULD FIGHT EFFORTS TO PROHIBIT SUCH MARRIAGES." There was no use of "civil unions," no compromise whatsoever.

IMPACT, which was Chicago's main GLBT political action committee for several years, surveyed Obama and other candidates. The IMPACT marriage question was a bit less direct but it asked if Obama would support a Marriage Resolution being considered at the time, which read in part "BECAUSE MARRIAGE IS A BASIC HUMAN RIGHT AND AN INDIVIDUAL PERSONAL CHOICE, RESOLVED, THE STATE SHOULD NOT INTERFERE WITH SAME-GENDER COUPLES WHO [ CHOOSE ] TO MARRY AND SHARE FULLY AND EQUALLY IN THE RIGHTS, RESPONSIBILITIES AND COMMITMENT OF CIVIL MARRIAGE." Obama responded: "I WOULD SUPPORT SUCH A RESOLUTION."

He flip-flopped in 2004 when it was no longer in his best interest to support us AND even though Cheney came out in favor of such state’s right!

"Evolved"? This information and much, much more has always been freely available online - I am not going to do all your homework for you. Who has reported it? Whisk, whisk. Goodbye to all that. History is bunk. “Evolved? Rubbish!

Then, when he did not need our money so badly integrity suffered a different political expediency. Now when our money matters again he has an evolutionary epiphany. What a miracle! Pulease. Give me a break. And he only did this because his feet were held to the fire.

Nor did he offer you a half a loaf Abrawang - Dick Cheney offered that eight years ago. Obama now serves you Cheney’s left over crumbs for which you grovel. Big deal. And he only did that AFTER he (falsely!) made it clear to the states religious faction they had the legal right to deny this ‘fundamental’ FEDERAL right purely for reasons of religion. THESE ARE NOT OPINIONS BUT FACTS. The consequences of those facts have (thanks to him) given the voters in state after state the impetus to vote against secular rights for religious reasons and thereby cause immeasurable pain and differing. THESE ARE FACTS, NOT OPINIONS.

I will leave you to kiss and wash the feet you should be holding to the fire. Enjoy your crumbs.
Evolved? Really? Journalist are so lazy. Here is an update for the slogan-swallowers who don't have a clue how to vet the propaganda spoon-fed to them. Obama finally talked it over recently with his wife and kids? Please. People chomp at this tainted bait? Is there a journalist alive in American who can vet the propaganda spoon fed to them? Clearly not.

In a 1996 statement he said 'I FAVOR LEGALIZING SAME-SEX MARRIAGES'. In Chicago Outlines article reported Obama WAS A SUPPORTER OF SAME-SEX MARRIAGE. Obama's answer to the 1996 Outlines question was very clear: "I FAVOR LEGALIZING SAME-SEX MARRIAGES, AND WOULD FIGHT EFFORTS TO PROHIBIT SUCH MARRIAGES." There was no use of "civil unions," no compromise whatsoever.


To now say what he said 16 years ago is NOT evolution. It’s flopping back from where he flipped before.
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