Sunday, August 22, 2010

A Question of Presidential Leadership....

Dear President Obama,

On June 11th, 1963, the man who sat at the same desk in the same office you now occupy, and said these words.

Now, nearly half a century later, our nation is once again in the middle of a great debate over Civil Rights. However this time, it is not the color of an American Citizen's skin that is the defining factor some would use as the basis for discrimination, but rather the issue today is,  sexual orientation.

The defining lines in this Civil Rights debate are just as clearly drawn as they were in the debate some 47 years ago. On both sides sits a core document. Those who would deny equal rights to millions of Americans claim that 8 verses of the Bible,  command nothing less than the codification of one a religious viewpoint into civil law. On the other side sits the Constitution of the United States which says:

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Now when an entire sector of American Citizens are denied that basic equal protection under the law,  officials  from your Administration,  one which would not have been possible, or even conceivable without the leadership and courage of  your predecessors, complain that victims of  discrimination, and those who support their cause,  are just  whining  members of  some nebulous "Professional Left".   

What have  seen from you  Sir,  is  great speeches.   Great words, on the need to treat  all Americans equally.   You  have said  all the right things.  Yet all the while,  your Administration continues to for all practical purposes, stand idly by while the civil rights of millions of  the  citizens  who's constitutional rights you swore to preserve, protect and defend,  are denied.

Are you really that  surprised  that  many Americans  who supported you, are now confused and disappointed?

Mr. President,  this is not just about  equal rights  for  Gay and Lesbian Americans.   This debate is not just about  the separation  of Church and State.  This is about the  role of  the President of the United States to uphold the  Constitution.  Your predecessor,    John Kennedy,  was  certainly  warned by his advisors  that  taking  leadership  to uphold  the constitutional  rights  of  people of color was politically  dangerous. But JFK  knew  that  to sit  at that desk,  the desk  you know sit behind,  meant  you  couldn't  pick and choose  who the Constitution protects based on how it might play out at the polls.

When faced with the  question  are  people who are not white,  equal to  people who are.  President Kennedy did not  hesitate,  he did not  equivocate,   he did not have to carefully craft his answer like in some rhetorical game of twister.  He did not give an answer  where  he desperately tried to not say he was for civil rights for Blacks, while at the same time  not saying he was against it either.      When you were asked  about the civil rights  debate of this generation,  your  reply  was at best, a painful attempt  to  placate everyone  while offending  no one.

What the nation saw was,  the first  African American President,  advocating   for "Separate but Equal" treatment of  millions of Americans.

Mr. President,   I understand  your Administration, and your political party are afraid.   You are facing an  energized  Republican Party.   A party that  has found out  that your desire  to build  bi-partisan consensus  can be  used  to  stall and  even stop your agenda.  As result,  you are going to have a real uphill battle  selling  your accomplishments to the American electorate  this November.    

What  was  supposed to be  "Heath Care for All Americans"  turned out to be  health insurance  reform for  some Americans,  that will greatly benefit those who had a vested interest in stopping health care reform.   What was supposed to be  holding those  responsible for the collapse of  our economy  accountable,  became mild tinkering  with  regulations,  and business as usual for those who made billions of dollars  off the misfortune of millions of Americans.

And now,  with the issue of  Civil Rights,   we find at the moment we as a nation are once again most in need of  Presidential Leadership,  the chair  behind the  Resolute Desk,  appears to be empty.

President Obama, the time as come to  show the nation you  have courage to sit at the desk.   The time has come  to uphold the Constitution for  all Americans.

The time has come  turn words into  action.

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