Friday, December 19, 2008

The Perils of Symbolism

And thus did the overheated discussion of the Obama inauguration go off the rails, with Andrew Sullivan as the star-crossed conductor:

Here's an idea. A reader notes that one of the other Americans honored at Obama's inaugural will be Itzhak Perlman, the great musician and violinist. Rick Warren compared one of Perlman's daughters to someone practicing incest or pedophilia, and argued forcefully that her marriage be nullified. Perlman, for his part, made a moving commercial against Proposition 8 in defense of his daughter's marriage, dignity and humanity.

Would it not be appropriate for Obama to invite Perlman's daughter and her wife to share the podium with her father? If the inaugural is to be inclusive, wouldn't it be a good gesture - and an olive branch to the gay community - to invite a lesbian married couple to the stage?
The tediousness sets in soon after the opening of "here's an idea." Yes, it is an idea, but the idea sprawls so wildly and so quickly -- now we have at least two more people on the stage, these bearing the symbolic weight of Respectable Lesbian Marriage, whose presence can only open the way to the suggestion of more Symbolic Presences -- every variety of hyphen-Americans, Self-Identified Dish-Satellite-TV Subscribers, Fencing Enthusiasts, Birders, Drunken Men Who No Longer Care, etc.

I don't mean to burden Sullivan with this; I don't even disagree with his suggestion. Everyone agrees the selection of Rick "Crap Sack" Warren is symbolic, not least Obama himself, who characterizes it as an embrace of national diversity. Sullivan just took the next logical step, but the problem is, there's no obvious place for this symbol-wielding to stop. The stage is only so large.

The reliably more-cynical-than-thou Tim Dickinson chimes in with a corrective bit of perspective on Crap Sack's delivery of the invocation:
The sum total of the invocation from 2001?: 435 words.

No comments: