Gangster of love

Dear Mr. Olbermann,

I was watching MSNBC on Monday night, but the Home Companion heard the theme song from Countdown with Keith Olbermann begin, and then changed the channel. No one else in the room -- neither I nor the three spayed female cats we liberated from the nearest no-kill animal shelter -- dared voice even the briefest protest. Such is the dismal state of my life in November 2008 in what Americans, in our hubris, call the United States of America.

It was not until later in the week that I began seeing samizdat links to your Special Comment on Proposition 8, which people said moved them to tears. I finally had a chance to watch the segment on my laptop, when I was least likely to be discovered and belittled by the Home Companion. (I think it may be a hate crime to identify the Home Companion more specifically, and I am striving for discretion.)

I have now watched your Special Comment a mystical three times, and I noticed several different things that may have diminished your effectiveness in pleading with the people who voted for Proposition 8.

• You begin by noting that Proposition 8 "rescinded the right of same-sex couples to marry, and tilted the balance on this issue from coast to coast." Would it not be important to note that the California Assembly approved this right statewide three years ago, and that the California Supreme Court struck down a ban on gay marriage in May? Is it not also relevant that this rights-rescinding language was imposed on Proposition 8 by Attorney General Jerry Brown?

• You ask the supporters of Proposition 8, "Why does this matter to you?" and "What is this to you?" Have any of those supporters asked the same questions of you? Have they asked why they should pay attention to a lecture on marriage delivered by a 49-year-old heterosexual who, although unhindered by any vows of chastity, has never married?

• You assure the supporters of Proposition 8 that you would like to hear their answers to your rhetorical questions. Why does your body language suggest otherwise? Although you heroically manage to refrain from your default Special Comment setting of splenetic yelling, why do you still furrow your brow and squint your eyelids into a glare? Did someone along the way convince you that this is a good way to soften people's hearts?

• For that matter, why does anyone need lessons in love and tenderness from the host of the Worst Person in the World segments?

• You tell the supporters of Proposition 8: "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." In growing up Unitarian Universalist (a tradition known for its inquisitive religious education), or in dating the Catholic convert Laura Ingraham, did you not learn anything more precise than that about the world's great religions? If your theology is that shallow, should you scold believers based on what you assume they believe?

• You say: "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." The murder trial involved Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, and Darrow quoted Omar Khayyam. Considering the backstory of the killers, do you think a direct citation from Khayyam might have been a better idea?

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