Chris Hayes is said to have said, “Great political theatre,” just after Bernie Sanders proposed that the nomination of Hillary Rodham Clinton be accepted by the convention and just after the roll call of states was concluded.
But it was much more than that. As Andrea Mitchell is saying at this moment, “When all is said and done, a woman has been nominated.” That is huge. And never believe that this is just a matter between men and women and not a matter for people who are sorted out in other ways, like LGBTQ people. A profound and prolonged study of the history of the treatment of LGBTQ people in this culture—which might take you as long as 14 seconds—will demonstrate that bigotry not only has its roots in the holy books of the monotheistic religions, but it also has its roots in cultural beliefs on what men are like, and what women are like, and on the proper sphere for each in which to operate. We’ve known for a while now that The proper place for a woman is in the House—and the Senate. And many of us already know that a man’s place is not only in the boardroom, it is also in the kitchen or the nursery, raising children. With Clinton’s nomination, we have accepted the fact that she can do anything she wants to do. We have made a huge step forward toward a world in which gender doesn’t matter. And if it doesn’t matter, many millions of us gay men now finally have an answer to those who told us as children, “Act like a man.” We can say, I am, I am, I am a man, and anything I do is what a man does. We are moving toward a world in which women can be elected to the presidency, but also toward a world in which men can do anything they want to do. Gender doesn’t matter, a person of one gender is legally indistinguishable from persons of another gender. And, to take this a step further, we’ve already moved pretty far into a world in which we are no longer believing that there are only two genders.
This kind of tectonic shift is immensely bigger and more important than anything that two or three thousand delegates to a national political convention can bring off. But this is a step. Next, we have to get her elected. This will be like marriage equality was several years ago. It will have a ripple-like effect through our whole culture and civilization. It will be immense, so big we won’t even know it is happening until we stop and look back and are amazed.
One last thing. Stop for a moment and look back at what has happened since 2008. There is a huge amount being written as we come to the end of the Obama years. Just now, I read something about Michelle Obama’s speech last night (see here). It is about how Michelle Obama is changing the American narrative to include the harsh parts of American history, the parts we usually leave out or gloss over. The White House was built by slaves, and the White House has been home for the last seven and a half years to the Obamas and their daughters, two beautiful, intelligent, black, young women. We can’t ever go back to saying only half of that.
The change that Donald Trump harps on so frequently, that so many find so disturbing, really is happening, but it’s happening in a different part of our culture from where Trump thinks it’s happening, and it’s not what Trump thinks it is. It’s Barack Obama’s being elected to the Presidency. It’s the number of black actors, newscasters, pundits, reporters, and also in every other area of our lives, that we see. All last night, one of the striking things I saw on the screen was the multicultural gathering of delegates of the Democratic Party. I was so proud of the Democrats because they looked like my own street here in Somerville, Massachusetts, next door to Cambridge, across the Charles River from Boston. I live in urban America, and that’s what the video of the convention last night looked like. Most of the demographics that I know about and many of the genders.
Then there is us. The LGBTQ folks. In January 2013, in his second Inaugural Address, the President included us in the short list of the great civil rights movements in this country. He said, “Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall.” Women, people of color, and LGBTQ people. The consequences of these changes—where women and people of color and LGBTQ people are Americans along with straight white men and may even be more American because we’ve moved on and the new narrative is our narrative not theirs, and they haven’t caught up yet—are going to be hard to understand and sometimes difficult to accept. I’m amazed at how different things are now, even just since C and I met in the Ramrod in 1990. I don’t think we’ve arrived in nirvana, but we are noticeably closer, and, I think we can look back just at this point and ask, What did we do to get ourselves here? And then we can do more of it.