Friday, December 19, 2008

OPEN LETTER TO Elizabeth Alexander 

Dear Elizabeth I'm writing to you today to consider saying No to reading at Barak Obama's inauguration in light of his invitation to Rick Warren to officiate the blessing. Mr. Obama's invitation to Rick Warren is clearly a message to the Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Transgender community that he is not interested in our rights, not interested in our struggle, not interested in our suffering.

Rick Warren's money, time and effort towards Proposition 8 in California is a very clear message. Any man who would put THAT MUCH time, money and effort into a campaign is sending a message which is nothing but clear.

This is not an easy thing to ask you to do Elizabeth. As a poet I know full well how long and hard we work with little or no recognition and respect. Being asked to read at Mr. Obama's presidential inauguration is without a doubt one of the highlights of your life as a poet, I'm sure. The papers say you say you're "completely thrilled." I believe that. I understand that, but, I'm asking you as a poet, and a queer man to consider the implications of reading in January.

When George W. Bush was reelected I was one of millions in DC to protest the inauguration, but that was different, that was very different because he was transparent. The transparent man is always easiest to protest. Mr. Obama is not transparent, and while he talks about building and maintaining bridges with opposing forces, that should not in my opinion spill over into the celebration of his inauguration.

Asking Rick Warren's blessing is Obama's message. Rick Warren has been publicly open about his homophobia, but Mr. Obama has not been, not until now that is. In asking Rick Warren to bless the inauguration the LGBT community is being told straight up we will not count, we will be ignored, we will continue to suffer.

Protesting Mr. Obama's inauguration is much more important than protesting George W. Bush's inauguration ever was because Mr. Obama promised us he was a man with ethics and courage. By asking Rick Warren to give the blessing the weakness of Obama is immediately clear. Courage is something someone has when they are standing against oppressive forces, not when they stand with them.

It wasn't my intention of turning this letter to you into a lecture, but while I'm at it, let me say that I PROTEST this choice Mr. Obama made to invite Rick Warren on behalf of the many LGBT people I have known, most especially the African American LGBT friends I have made over the years. I have learned from these friends just how entrenched homophobia is within the African American community, and this decision of Mr. Obama's serves to galvanize that bigotry.

If we are going to send Mr. Obama a message, better to do it on his first day. Send it now, tell him No Thank You, please do that Elizabeth Alexander. Mr. Obama isn't George W. Bush, meaning HE WILL LISTEN, but, if we don't tell him how we feel then how will he know? You have the power in your hands to tell him how you feel. You have the opportunity and power more than any other poet in America right now Elizabeth Alexander. And if you read then you are telling him that it is more important to you to read for him than it is to tell him you are disappointed with his decision to invite Rick Warren.

But then again maybe you aren't disappointed that he chose to invite Rick Warren? What do I know about you after all? Maybe all of this is just fine with you?

Here's to hoping you tell Mr. Obama No Thank You on behalf the millions who suffer under the pressures of Rick Warren and all those who stand beside Rick Warren and his very bad, bigoted decisions. It was easy for Sharon Olds to say No to George W. Bush, but for you it's a more difficult decision, I understand that. But the only right decision in my opinion is to say No, and I hope you realize that.

Most sincerely,

cc: Graywolf Press, wolves@graywolfpress.org

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