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Keith Olbermann on California’s Prop 8

Jim Burroway

November 10th, 2008
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Here is the official transcript:

Finally tonight as promised, a Special Comment on the passage, last week, of Proposition Eight in California, which rescinded the right of same-sex couples to marry, and tilted the balance on this issue, from coast to coast.

Some parameters, as preface. This isn’t about yelling, and this isn’t about politics, and this isn’t really just about Prop-8. And I don’t have a personal investment in this: I’m not gay, I had to strain to think of one member of even my very extended family who is, I have no personal stories of close friends or colleagues fighting the prejudice that still pervades their lives.
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And yet to me this vote is horrible. Horrible. Because this isn’t about yelling, and this isn’t about politics. This is about the human heart, and if that sounds corny, so be it.

If you voted for this Proposition or support those who did or the sentiment they expressed, I have some questions, because, truly, I do not understand. Why does this matter to you? What is it to you? In a time of impermanence and fly-by-night relationships, these people over here want the same chance at permanence and happiness that is your option. They don’t want to deny you yours. They don’t want to take anything away from you. They want what you want—a chance to be a little less alone in the world.

Only now you are saying to them—no. You can’t have it on these terms. Maybe something similar. If they behave. If they don’t cause too much trouble. You’ll even give them all the same legal rights—even as you’re taking away the legal right, which they already had. A world around them, still anchored in love and marriage, and you are saying, no, you can’t marry. What if somebody passed a law that said you couldn’t marry?

I keep hearing this term “re-defining” marriage. If this country hadn’t re-defined marriage, black people still couldn’t marry white people. Sixteen states had laws on the books which made that illegal in 1967. 1967.

The parents of the President-Elect of the United States couldn’t have married in nearly one third of the states of the country their son grew up to lead. But it’s worse than that. If this country had not “re-defined” marriage, some black people still couldn’t marry black people. It is one of the most overlooked and cruelest parts of our sad story of slavery. Marriages were not legally recognized, if the people were slaves. Since slaves were property, they could not legally be husband and wife, or mother and child. Their marriage vows were different: not “Until Death, Do You Part,” but “Until Death or Distance, Do You Part.” Marriages among slaves were not legally recognized.

You know, just like marriages today in California are not legally recognized, if the people are gay.

And uncountable in our history are the number of men and women, forced by society into marrying the opposite sex, in sham marriages, or marriages of convenience, or just marriages of not knowing, centuries of men and women who have lived their lives in shame and unhappiness, and who have, through a lie to themselves or others, broken countless other lives, of spouses and children, all because we said a man couldn’t marry another man, or a woman couldn’t marry another woman. The sanctity of marriage.

How many marriages like that have there been and how on earth do they increase the “sanctity” of marriage rather than render the term, meaningless?

What is this, to you? Nobody is asking you to embrace their expression of love. But don’t you, as human beings, have to embrace… that love? The world is barren enough.

It is stacked against love, and against hope, and against those very few and precious emotions that enable us to go forward. Your marriage only stands a 50-50 chance of lasting, no matter how much you feel and how hard you work.

And here are people overjoyed at the prospect of just that chance, and that work, just for the hope of having that feeling. With so much hate in the world, with so much meaningless division, and people pitted against people for no good reason, this is what your religion tells you to do? With your experience of life and this world and all its sadnesses, this is what your conscience tells you to do?

With your knowledge that life, with endless vigor, seems to tilt the playing field on which we all live, in favor of unhappiness and hate… this is what your heart tells you to do? You want to sanctify marriage? You want to honor your God and the universal love you believe he represents? Then Spread happiness—this tiny, symbolic, semantical grain of happiness—share it with all those who seek it. Quote me anything from your religious leader or book of choice telling you to stand against this. And then tell me how you can believe both that statement and another statement, another one which reads only “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

You are asked now, by your country, and perhaps by your creator, to stand on one side or another. You are asked now to stand, not on a question of politics, not on a question of religion, not on a question of gay or straight. You are asked now to stand, on a question of love. All you need do is stand, and let the tiny ember of love meet its own fate.

You don’t have to help it, you don’t have it applaud it, you don’t have to fight for it. Just don’t put it out. Just don’t extinguish it. Because while it may at first look like that love is between two people you don’t know and you don’t understand and maybe you don’t even want to know. It is, in fact, the ember of your love, for your fellow person just because this is the only world we have. And the other guy counts, too.

This is the second time in ten days I find myself concluding by turning to, of all things, the closing plea for mercy by Clarence Darrow in a murder trial.

But what he said, fits what is really at the heart of this:

“I was reading last night of the aspiration of the old Persian poet, Omar-Khayyam,” he told the judge. It appealed to me as the highest that I can vision. I wish it was in my heart, and I wish it was in the hearts of all: So I be written in the Book of Love; I do not care about that Book above. Erase my name, or write it as you will, So I be written in the Book of Love.”

Comments

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paul J stein
November 10th, 2008 | LINK

Thanks Keith, Accurate, simple, to the point. Thanks again!

Dave
November 10th, 2008 | LINK

Keith Olbermann is hysterical, hyper-partisan, and an all-around pompous twit.

Who the hell cares what he thinks about Prop 8 or anything else?

Ken R
November 11th, 2008 | LINK

Keith Olbermann is hysterical, hyper-partisan, and an all-around pompous twit.

Who the hell cares what he thinks about Prop 8 or anything else?

Dave,

The same can be said of Fox’s Sean Hannity and Bill O’ Riley.

Nice try tho! ;)

Is it me or did Keith seem a bit choked up as he was speaking?

Piper
November 11th, 2008 | LINK

I have to admit I got a little choked up watching that, and if it makes me hyper-partisan, then so be it.

And yes, I understand the arguments against Olbermann, and I still like the guy.

werdna
November 11th, 2008 | LINK

Yeah, Olbermann’s a bit of a blowhard and ultimately more of an entertainer than a serious political thinker, but when he’s on point like this, he’s great.

Emproph
November 11th, 2008 | LINK

“Who the hell cares what he thinks about Prop 8 or anything else?”

He’s a voice of MSM confirmation.

It means plenty, if only for getting the ball rolling.

Especially for getting the ball rolling.

Patrick
November 11th, 2008 | LINK

Thanks to Keith.

It’s been difficult to find national media discussing the large protests. It’s nice to have a prominent voice speak up.

cowboy
November 11th, 2008 | LINK

Maybe we should be grateful for the Proposition 8. It has galvanized us now. Complacency is not a part of the gay marriage issue any more. That’s a good thing. We are mobilizing. We have the attention of the news.

It was the kick-in-the-pants we needed.

Louie
November 11th, 2008 | LINK

Wow! What an awesome video! Kudos to Mr. Olbermann! Bravo! Well said!!!

It does my heart proud to witness a “Straight” ally such as Mr. Olbermann.

Dave
November 11th, 2008 | LINK

Ken R,

Olbermann is light-years beyond either Hannity or Colmes in the partisanship department. No one in the media even comes close in the hysteria department!

As for O’Reilly, he is puts forth his own right-of-center view, but he isn’t partisan. (He neither roots for nor against any political party.)

Timothy Kincaid
November 11th, 2008 | LINK

The question isn’t whether Olbermann is partisan; it isn’t possible to be more partisan than Sean Hannity.

The question is whether Olbermann was right. And on this issue he was spot-on, totally focused on the true issue, and 100% correct.

John
November 11th, 2008 | LINK

Ok, this whole mess is making for very strange bedfellows. Olbermann definitely is a “hysterical, hyper-partisan, and an all-around pompous twit” as Dave says. I personally cannot stand him. However, I do appreciate the effort here.

Note to Ken R – I agree with you about Sean Hannity & Bil O’Reilly. I’d add Rachel Maddow, Alan Colmes & Mark Levin to this list as well.

Jason D
November 11th, 2008 | LINK

Also Keith has silly hair. :P

So, are we just going to lob childish insults about a man who has no reason to support us yet DOES support us, or are you going to be appreciate the fact that he gets us?

We’ve had 8 years of cynical partisanship and insults, isn’t that long enough? It’s a new day. Wake up.

John
November 11th, 2008 | LINK

Um…I did express appreciation for his remarks, Jason D, or did you miss that? Olbermann was a BIG part of why we had “8 years of cynical partisanship and insults”, which is one reason I cannot stand him. He made a good statement in this vid. Great. Thanks. Hope he does more if it helps. Beyond that, I still cannot stand him.

Jason D
November 11th, 2008 | LINK

John, yes you expressed appreciation…..but you couldn’t pass up the opportunity to toss in a slam, could ya — that’s the cynical partisanship and insults I’m talking about.

If Olbermann is part of the problem, what are you doing to change it? Or are we playing “monkey-see, monkey do”?

How about appreciating someone for what they do and deciding “you know what, I’m not going to pulled down into this cynicism and insults by taking a shot at him, I’m just going to be appreciative and move forward.”

By all means, express yourself, and I’ll check back in with you in 8 years and see if cynicism, partisanship, and insults suddenly became helpful. I don’t have much faith in that, to be honest.

Again, I repeat:

It’s a new day. Wake up.

John
November 11th, 2008 | LINK

It’s a new day. Wake up.

Oh BS. After all the completely unhinged nonsense from the Left over the past 8 years, of which a lot came from Olbermann, it is patently absurd to completely ignore that and toss out a meaningless platitude like this. I’ll join with Olbermann when I deem it necessary but that does not in any way mean that his past behavior has been forgotten or forgiven. I don’t have to like or trust allies of temporary convenience, a concept Olbermann practices himself.

kevin
November 11th, 2008 | LINK

I think we have one of those 27% who voted for McCain here. I honestly don’t get right-wing gays. Is it the clothes? Sarah Palin totally was in it for the clothes.

Dave
November 13th, 2008 | LINK

“The question isn’t whether Olbermann is partisan; it isn’t possible to be more partisan than Sean Hannity.”

We disagree here. Oblbermann’s entire show is devoted to trashing Republicans and conservatives. Hannity is partisan, yes (as is his tv partner, Colmes) but he doesn’t devote all his time to how his opposition is pure evil.

“The question is whether Olbermann was right. And on this issue he was spot-on, totally focused on the true issue, and 100% correct.”

My point was that I consider Olbermann to be such an insane commentator that I don’t care what he says. Period.

werdna
November 13th, 2008 | LINK

“My point was that I consider Olbermann to be such an insane commentator that I don’t care what he says. Period.”

Then why do you keep commenting about him? Obviously you do care and you are paying attention to what he says, otherwise you’d have no basis for your criticisms.

Timothy Kincaid
November 13th, 2008 | LINK

My point was that I consider Olbermann to be such an insane commentator that I don’t care what he says. Period.

I can understand that. I feel quite the same about some who make comments here.

Jason D
November 13th, 2008 | LINK

John said

“Oh BS. After all the completely unhinged nonsense from the Left over the past 8 years, of which a lot came from Olbermann, it is patently absurd to completely ignore that and toss out a meaningless platitude like this. I’ll join with Olbermann when I deem it necessary but that does not in any way mean that his past behavior has been forgotten or forgiven. I don’t have to like or trust allies of temporary convenience, a concept Olbermann practices himself.”

You couldn’t make my point any clearer than with your foaming at the mouth about “the Left” and Keith.

We have an opportunity to move beyond cynicism, to hope, prosperity and making this a better country. But no, you want to wallow in insults and meaningless, and useless attacks. What are you gaining? What have you gained in 8 years of fear-based bashing?

I’m not ignoring anything, but what is to be gained by fixating, no, OBSESSING over the past 8 years, wheren’t they bad enough, do you really want to keep reliving them?

This is your nightmare, too, why don’t you want to wake up from it?

What, is it too comfy in there, curling up with a blanket of insults and a sipping a nice hot cup of righteous indignation?

That’s my point. We can continue the useless partisan nonsense or we can “wake up” to a new day and work together.

It is so sad to me that you really think this whole negativity thing is going to get you, or me anywhere.

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