Here’s video of our president this week, deceiving the public about the historical role of the federal government in the history of marriage equality. “…the federal government has to respect [a] decision by the states. That’s traditionally been how it works.” But the key historic marriage equality ruling was 1967′s Loving v. Virginia, the federal Supreme Court ruling that forced every state to recognize interracial marriages from any other state. Existing state bans on marriage equality were ruled unconstitutional.
Yup – to president Obama, the unanimous Supreme Court ruling allowing his own parents to travel from Kansas to neighboring Nebraska, Missouri or Oklahoma without risk of being arrested for fornication (as the married Lovings were, in Virginia, before Robert F. Kennedy and the ACLU helped them sue and win) – to him, that ruling never mattered or existed.
Obama often opposes and despises the ACLU – his White House refers to such organizations as “The Professional Left”. And of course he has never been a member – why should he join a group Republicans don’t like when he’s already black?
If he was a white Republican, Democrats might be outraged by such omissions and lies. If he wasn’t known as a constitutional scholar and his own family’s rights were never affected, we could pretend he’s just ignorant. If he was George W. Bush he’d be condemned for both ignorance and lies. But he’s black, a Democrat, and Barack Obama – and he insists he now opposes the Defense Of Marriage Act (which he used to defend in court and still enforces, ignoring two federal court rulings) – so really he’s heroic.
As it happens I watched the movie The Help last night – and suddenly I’d never felt so angry. People like Medgar Evers and the Mississippi housekeepers depicted in it lost their jobs, risked their dignity, and even their lives challenging states’ right to discriminate. But we have a president who’s eager to pretend it never happened. And – because so many people trust him, voted for him, never suspect he’s that venal, consider him an expert, and never dream a mixed-race president would mislead them about that – he succeeds. Especially for young people who don’t know better, he can take decades of successful federal intervention into state discrimination – the core of the civil rights movement – and make it all go away.
His Justice Department’s weird, famously inept argument from last week – that states can invent a new institution that’s stronger than Civil Unions but isn’t called Marriage – actually antagonized the justices. And with his signal to Justice Kennedy – if you chant ‘States Rights’ you never have to address the moral issues behind discrimination that led to your court’s previous unanimous marriage equality ruling – he may actually help the Supreme Court reverse lower courts that ruled California’s Prop 8 was obviously unconstitutional.
ESCAPING THE MEMORY HOLE
As it happens, I also just finished Orwell’s 1984 and properly understand what the Memory Hole is.
But Orwell didn’t envision the internet, where the truth is often sitting out there uncensored and the most serious barrier is readers’ desire to discover it. (For instance, we can literally have a full year of “coverage” of a Presidential Election where the vast majority of the citizens literally have never heard of most of the candidates and don’t even realize it – because the two wealthiest ones have joined a private corporation to manage “debates”, agreeing never to mention the others, and the news media is even more eager to comply.)
So Orwell didn’t realize: our rulers don’t need an expensive internet Memory Hole system erasing our history from public view. Obama doesn’t have to physically shred anything. Most of our lovable black Big Brother’s trusting fans will believe his claims as long as they never hear them contradicted.
That’s why the importance of blogs, adversarial columnists, social networks of activists and communities like Firedoglake just can’t be overstated.