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Imagine working weeks, months, years, to help spread a message of hope and change that you never once doubted would apply to you, that would mean the dignity you have been long denied would soon be affirmed for you by a strong and loved leader in the highest office of the land.
Imagine the joy when this leader triumphs on a night of splendid celebration, a night of tears, reverence, relief and complete certainty that a new day is coming. Yes, we can.
Imagine then the heartbreak, the pure hurt, when this leader who has promised inclusivity gives voice, on the very day the world will change, to a spiritual "leader" who has rejected your right to love the way you are meant to love, who denies the legitimacy of your very essence. How do you hold onto your joy when you understand that the new day of inclusivity excludes you?
Barack Obama's choice of popular right-wing evangelist Rick Warren to say the invocation at his inauguration is not hard to understand. Obama has shown himself to be a committed team-builder, keeping his eye on the prize of a strong, rebuilt and respectable nation, forming a team of the best and brightest, including thinkers of all stripes who have the common quality of knowing how to get the job done.
Even Leon Panetta as CIA director may be a stroke of genius. Who better than an outspoken critic of the excesses of our intelligence agencies to show the world that we really want a new America? What better way to say we will not torture, we will not cover for a war-making lie, we will not now be the America we had become under George W. Bush, than to put Panetta at the head of an agency that is surely feared and reviled in the dark corners of the world?
And who better than Panetta, an administrator with decades of experience at the top, so respected that he is roundly recognized as the "nicest" person in politics, to be charged with the delicate task of leading the CIA to a new way of working without diminishment of our current protections? I have no trouble appreciating the solid sense of priorities in that gutsy pick.
But that's the thing. Those of us who are grieving over the Warren deal love Obama. We appreciate the team of rivals, the respect given to Hillary Clinton, the welcoming of Republican pragmatists in the work toward economic recovery. We love Michelle. We love Sasha and Malia. Our eyes widen and water when it hits us every now and again that the impossibility of electing a black president is now a reality. That we will never go back to that time before.
But Warren is a public figure who explains his opposition to gay marriage by saying neither does he support marriage between a brother and a sister, or between an adult and a child. This is a minister who bans gay people from membership in his church. This is a preacher who teaches that women should be subservient to their men.
I would not have wished any other outcome of this election, and on Obama's inauguration day, I will be very glad he is our president. I expect we will all be glad, but will we all rejoice? Will we all come together around Warren when he calls on his God?
I want to believe Obama regrets this decision. I want to believe he just didn't understand that Warren's anti-gay rhetoric is not simply an opposing political opinion, but an attack on the worth of millions of Americans. I hope he will come to see how symbolic such a choice is to people who want only equality and dignity. I want him to make it up to them somehow, to all of us. I want to give him my passionate support again. I want my joy back.