Liberal Hollywood's reaction to Barack Obama's choice of Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his swearing in ceremony was swift and immediate: Expressions of disappointment, wonderment at what political motivations were at work and some consternation at what lies ahead. Shepard Fairey, who painted the iconic portrait of Obama as well as Time's Person of the Year portrait, called the moment "bittersweet."
Over the weekend the chilly rhetoric against Warren gave way to some dialogue, in the form of a meeting that Melissa Etheridge had with the pastor in Long Beach when both were appearing at a Muslim Public Affairs Council event.
Etheridge's wife, Tammy Lynn Michaels, posted an item on her blog, offering some words of understanding and some suggestions that the gat community may be too quick to condemn Warren: "i'm starting to think that there are indeed some people... some well-meaning and loving people... who are not at all ANTI-GAY, that's not why they don't want the word marriage used... they are merely RELIGIOUS. and for religious (archaic) reasons, they want to stay safe and respectful to WHAT THEY'VE BEEN TAUGHT."
She adds, "rick is not a televangelist. rick is not falwell. rick spoke of some "stupid" things he's said (his word, not mine), some missquotes that were given, and lots of ammunition from the media. all excellent points. (we're all war-minded right now, you know. it's easy for the media to distract us by throwing us into our own verbal wars here at home.) ) what to do, what to do.... the rest of the public is given an animation of rick warren... and then my wife meets the man behind the projections, the quotes, the "OTHER SIDE". and he is warm, caring, effusive, and LOVES gays. since he nearly swallowed honey when he hugged her, i tend to believe him. he wants our gay marriages to be just as respected and embraced as the straight marriages. he just wants to wear his yamaka, and me wear my hat.
"anway. hath hell frozenth over? rick warren was humble and kind. honey and i are to go to his church sometime soon. and honey invited him to our house for an afternoon, to be with our family. (w.t.f.)
"open minds hearts hands
differences fade." (via the Daily Dish).
This is not Etheridge, but her wife. But it is a moment of nuance in an inauguration flap that hasn't had a whole lot of it.
It's also worth noting that Etheridge was so dismayed by the passage of Proposition 8 that she vowed not to pay her taxes. During the initiative campaign, she appeared at a fund raiser to raise money for No on 8. And last year, at a forum of presidential candidates sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign, she rather famously told Hillary Clinton that gays felt "thrown under the bus" when her husband signed the Defense of Marriage Act.
Naturally, Warren and even Michaels do some blaming of the media for fanning the flames of the controversy over Obama's pick, even though the media didn't really have to prod HRC and People for the American Way to issue statements condemning the choice.
Whatever the case, Etheridge's meeting could be the beginning of a period of diffusing the situation, as attention turns to the matter of Prop 8 itself and the Jerry Brown and Ken Starr legal briefs filed on Friday.
Another note: The whole episode, more than anything, shows how much easier it is to be in opposition than not. Many of the groups and figures that have condemned Obama also supported him, and it is much easier to criticize the whole than the parts. Even Fairey as much as says this in his post, in which he says that he considered dropping plans to do an inaugural portrait of Obama and will instead donate proceeds to the No on 8 legal fund.
"I wouldn’t want withdrawing the image to come across as a blanket boycott of Obama. I’m sure I will ultimately disagree with Obama about many things, but I think I will agree with him on more. I think it is important to speak one’s mind, but also to not let the narcissism of petty differences sabotage our unity and progress."
Etheridge spoke about the Warren meeting after the appearance.