January 24, 2005

"Freedom Speech" leaves out gay Americans

Inaugural hypocrisy: Who would have expected anything less? From an administration that enjoys flashy displays of insincerity, this event was just another installment in an unfortunate chain of events. Yet because the inauguration carries so much lasting symbolic importance, it is almost appropriate that the President's address continued the legacy of hypocrisy that will long remain a symbol of what his administration stood for.

In his speech, Bush boldly claimed: "America, in this young century, proclaims liberty throughout all the world and to all the inhabitants thereof. Renewed in our strength—tested, but not weary—we are ready for the greatest achievements in the history of freedom." He challenges us to look at the state of liberty in the United States. After all, what kind of liberty are we trying to proclaim abroad if not the liberty we have here at home? Sadly, though, when looking at freedom and equality here at home, one begins to doubt our credibility as a model for other nations.

As I read the words of Bush's speech, I tried to look at his idealistic claims from the viewpoint of the queer community. The discrepancies between what the Bush administration is trying to promote abroad, the ideals that Bush claims the United States embodies so well, and the reality for American queers are blaring and nauseating.

Bush claims that "from the day of our founding, we [America] have proclaimed that every man and woman on this Earth has rights, and dignity and matchless value because they bear the image of the maker of heaven and Earth." Meanwhile, he and his party are attempting to force second-class-citizenship on the queer community.

He claims: "We will persistently clarify the choice before every ruler and every nation—the moral choice between oppression, which is always wrong, and freedom, which is eternally right." And yet the freedom to marry, the freedom from discrimination in hiring and housing, the freedom to serve in the military, and the freedom to adopt and raise children are all being threatened by the policies of the Republican Party. While Bush claims that "edifice of character is built in families, supported by communities with standards, and sustained in our national life by the truths of Sinai, the Sermon on the Mount, the words of the Koran, and the varied faiths of our people," he and his party continue to work to deny the right of same-sex couples to form legally recognized families.

The low point of the speech was when Bush went so far as to declare: "Americans, at our best, value the life we see in one another and must always remember that even the unwanted have worth. And our country must abandon all the habits of racism because we cannot carry the message of freedom and the baggage of bigotry at the same time." This statement comes from the man who has built bigotry into his party's platform, has slashed the budgets of programs that work to fight the spread of HIV in the queer community, and has failed to live up to his pledges to work to fight the AIDS pandemic.

Bush tells us that "freedom, by its nature, must be chosen and defended by citizens and sustained by the rule of law and the protection of minorities. And when the soul of a nation finally speaks, the institutions that arise may reflect customs and traditions very different from our own." I'm still waiting for the soul of our nation to speak, and when it does speak up for "the protection of minorities," there will arise many institutions that are very different from the President's institutions of inequality and discrimination.

Bush believes that "history has an ebb and flow of justice, but history also has a visible direction set by liberty and the author of liberty." I'm crossing my fingers that he's right about this. Right now, he and his bigots might be in charge, but that doesn't mean that, in the end, equality won't finally come through for the queer community.