The hero is a popular element of myth. In his single person is concentrated the collective powers and abilities of a people, and, in his activity, its needs are consummated and satisfied. But we must remember that the heroes both of legend and of history are anointed by the people who believe in them. And every hero so elected has a mandate to which he must adhere if he would retain his title, his army, and his crown. All too often, we gaze on the glory of the hero and forget that he, like the moon, shines with borrowed light. We wait on his command to march, and we hope for his voice to utter the battle cry our ears so long to hear; we forget that his voice is ours; we ask, when we should tell.
There is a place in the order of things for the executive. From the top down, the obelisk derives its point, with which it pierces the cloud of heaven and aims our gaze clear unto our desired end. However, from the bottom up are all lofty things erected. Obama and Joe Solmonese have their glory and their place, and their place of glory is in our service. The unseen hand which chose them and empowered them is ours, and by that same hand, grown weary of the slowness and willfulness of its tools, were marshaled a goodly fraction of our forces this Sunday in our capital.
From the top down, Fox News encouraged and incited the so-called “grassroots” movement of Tea Baggers. It is no secret that the National Equality March was a different animal, less tame and, like all free things, assuredly less uniform. I marched this Sunday with some who shouted in frustration and, with clenched fists, yelled into the open air, “We’re here, we’re queer, we’re fabulous, don’t f**k with us!” Their words and dress were, at times, vulgar and unseemly, but their potent language and uncommon raiment suited their rage and their message. I danced with people in feather boas down the streets of D.C., exuberant and inspired in the company of friends and allies. I bought LGBT paraphernalia from some enterprising devotees of Capitalism who, in serving their self-interest, were yet guided by the same invisible hand that led me there, and I gazed on a crowd filled with people holding signs printed by Socialists who recognized that the cause of LGBT equality is linked to the interests of society as a whole. Some wanted the right to wed; others wanted to be free of employment discrimination; still others wanted to commit to the service of their country with the fullness of their identity and under the banner of Truth. Some cried out for lovers in distant lands, kept from their sides by unfair immigration laws; others shouted in the names of our fallen brothers and sisters, ruined and murdered throughout the ages by the activity of bigots and by the inaction of bystanders; still others denounced unjust adoption laws, toothless hate crime legislation, and the innumerable lies that terrorized them as children and sabotaged their wills as adults. At first glance, the untold vastness gathered there seemed amorphous and chaotic, but, underlying the superficial dissonance, there was a theme, a chord of ancient music set to an undying verse.
The crowd lifted up a hymn to Equality in Diversity. Of many, there, on the holy ground of the nation’s capital, one community formed and became the voice and emissary of a people. “This is what Democracy looks like!” we screamed. This is what Democracy looks like. Democracy happens, not only in the voter’s booth and in the chambers of high officials, but also in the common streets where people of all genders, ages, income levels, races, languages, sexual orientations, political affiliations, and religions join in the demand for equality. Indeed, Democracy only happens when such different voices join in conversation with each other, just as life only prospers when it finds the delicate balance between diversity and unity. When radically different organisms joined together in a symbiosis so intimate that they ceased to be able to live apart from each other, the first cellular and multicellular organisms came to be. LGBT people live in a Diaspora, and, in their scattered locations and divided loyalties, they often lack a tribal sense of their shared heritage, condition, and needs which would serve to make them value their sexual and gender identities and work for the interests of their community. We may be seeing the evolution of that tribal sense in this generation of the LGBT community and its allies. But can we have a robust group identity in a world where identity is wed so closely to memory and where LGBT communal memories are not transmitted to children by their parents and teachers? The elderly LGBT folks who could tell us some of our history are often shunned as creepy, ugly, and boring. Could our community select a hero who can serve for us as an organizing, unifying, representative, executive, and inspirational principle of coherent action?
In any case, Obama is not that hero, and neither, bless her heart, is Lady Gaga. Our heritage is deeper than the superficial world of popular culture; our legacy is far richer than that. It embraces every language, nation, and faith that ever was. Obama serves our national community, and, insofar as he serves the interests of our nation, he serves us. Obama will work to keep the citizens of this nation from becoming unemployed, for example, but members of the LGBT community can still legally be fired for being LGBT in over 30 states. Obama must obey the same invisible hand of enlightened self-interest that we all obey. He attempts, in these troubled times, to balance a number of values, threats, goals, and ends, but at least we number among them. Our task, dear friends, is to continue to remind our leaders that their self-interest is tied up with ours and to overturn those leaders that do not serve us. And we shall organize; we shall agitate; we shall grow in power and need; we shall hope for the day the hero of our people is made manifest and is chosen by us for our service; but, in the expectation and service of his coming, may we even now strive to serve him. Thus, as the Rabbis say of the meaning of the figure of the Messiah, each of us can live as if we were to have the responsibility to bring about the Messianic Age. As we work in the service of our ideal, we become that ideal.