You don't get many of them, really, in your lifetime. Two or three? Maybe a half dozen if you're lucky? I suppose it largely depends on the era you get to live in, its energy and pulse, its surfeit or shortage of joie de vivre. Also, who you get as president. And if he or she has any real, you know, balls.
Should we count Obama's sort of stunning, sort of overdue, sort of obvious, sort of shockingly open-throated support of gay marriage as one of those things, one of those turning points, a truly ballsy, pivotal moment in culture, in politics, in the way we view ourselves? Is it not something that explodes the way we think and reorients the nation in the same way his skin color already did, something that, a generation from now, will still be discussed as a watershed moment in the accepted meanings of love, sex, and evolution of the human soul?
Damned right we should.
Sure, it's not momentous in the way that, say, Bush's disgusting, failed war on Iraq was momentous. It's not historic in the way that Watergate scarred the soul of the country. It doesn't have quite the perspective-upheaving romance of the Moon landing, the jarring heartbreak of the Kennedy assassination, the fire and wow of the fall of the Berlin Wall. But in some ways it's got something more than any of those: It's got soul. It's got real audacity. And it's got a serious truckload of heart, all very much in the right place -- which is to say far, far away from the bitter fear of the Christian right, the miserable pathos of the Catholic church, the second-rate confusion of twitchy North Carolina, and the repellant Colorado GOP, et al.
Go ahead, let yourself be a little astonished. Inspired, even. After all, as pointed out elsewhere, no sitting president has ever come out on the progressive side of a hotly contentious social issue that didn't eventually become the law of the land. Put another way: You don't, as president, voice your support for one of the most divisive civil rights in the country, one that encompasses all our favorite cultural pastimes -- sex, love, marriage, God, leather, the church, rainbows, funny haircuts, strap-ons, and glitter -- without irrefutable evidence that it will prevail, without a deep understanding of historical context and scope.
To be sure, Obama took a massive risk, what some have called by far the gutsiest, most significant move of his presidency so far. Supporting gay marriage might sound minor, a forgone conclusion to those of us in the educated, progressive cities. It might seem like he's just playing into history's hands. It might seem like, without a piece of major gay rights legislation to endorse, it's just empty words. But that's just silly. When the most influential and visible human on the planet puts his shoulder into an idea that still infuriates every organized religion, gives the pope night terrors, and makes a large, backwards portion of his own country quiver in fear, there is real power. It also reignites his liberal base at what you might call a rather vital time.
Are you snickering? Are you rolling your eyes and calling bulls**t on the whole gambit? Go for it. You're not alone. I've been enjoying the nasty emails and tweets of a few particularly hardcore gay advocates who are spitting all over Obama and his little coming-out party, calling it meaningless lip service, calling it too little too late, calling it negligible in the wake of what he should be doing -- which, if I understand them correctly, is coming over to their house and begging forgiveness for not kowtowing to their every ideological whim. Whatever. As if ignoring DOMA to death isn't enough, as if killing DADT wasn't enough, as if a president should just casually risk all political capital on what amounts to a relatively minor, hot-button issue that doesn't, in the larger scope of vital presidential duties and responsibilities, carry quite the same weight as, say, nuclear proliferation, or economic stimulus, or restoring America's stature in the world after Bush decimated it for eight solid years.
I'm ignoring them all, particularly those who are, in their way, just as rigid and unappeasable as any evangelical Christian...
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Mark Morford is the author of The Daring Spectacle: Adventures in Deviant Journalism, a mega-collection of his finest columns for The San Francisco Chronicle and SFGate. He recently learned how to properly spank a nun, requested that you please join his Tantric yoga sex cult, and begged you not to eat this. Join him on Facebook, or email him. Not to mention...