Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Death of The American Republic

Much as I feared would be the case, the members of the Electoral College flushed the intent of the Founding Fathers down the toilet today and certified the election of Donald Trump to the presidency - a man manifestly unfit for the office and precisely what the Founders sought to protect the American Republic against.  Thus, America has embarked on a road similar to that of the Roman Republic when it voted Octavian, a/k/a August Caesar the title "Imperator" following the defeat of Mark Antony and Cleopatra at Actium. the road of Italy in 1922 when Benito Mussolini was elected Prime Minister, and Germany in 1933 when Hitler was made chancellor of Germany after winning much less than a majority of electoral support.  While Augustus maintained the trappings of the Roman Republic, such did not occur in Italy or Germany in the 20th Century.   In reality, all three republics died.  So too, I am afraid will be the case with America in 2017.  The disasters of the past might still be avoided if Americans wake up and open their eyes.  Unfortunately, I am not betting on that happening.  Thus, the question becomes whether to stay and fight or emigrate.  The following are highlights from my December, 2017, VEER Magazine column which expresses my feelings:

Each morning since November 9, 2016, I find myself waking up and realizing that the electoral win of Donald Trump is not some bad dream or nightmare from which I soon will awaken.  Rather it is in fact a frightening reality, especially for LGBT Americans and minorities.  American democracy has seemingly committed suicide - although death will be a while in coming as the poison unleashed by Donald Trump and his more extreme supporters slowly spreads through society and our political structure.  Now,  we have seen the KKK having celebratory marches and Neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups jubilantly announcing their plans to target and harass gays and minorities.  Meanwhile, other than a brief "stop it" remark during a 60 Minutes interview, one hears not one word from their anointed F├╝hrer in condemnation of such hate, bigotry and threats of violence.  Things that heretofore were deemed reprehensible have now been normalized by Trump, the once reputable Republican Party and a largely hapless and irresponsible media.
 There are moments when I feel as if we are reliving the early minutes of the 1971 movie The Garden of the Finzi-Continis or the 1978 mini-series, Holocaust. As in those works, where initially normalcy seemed to continue until creeping changes began to unleash a nightmare, the media and Trump voters want to convince themselves that something horrible and dangerous is not really happening.  Worse yet, they are in denial that they played a part in allowing it to happen.  But it is happening.  Denial does not make it untrue.  Nor do statements and hollow assurances by one's supposed "friends" who voted for Trump - all of whom, of course are white heterosexual Christians - that they don't agree with the anti-LBGT rhetoric bring any comfort or safety.
 If one is apprehensive about the future, look no farther than Donald Trump's cabinet nominations to date.  This cavalcade of extremists demonstrates that much more is in store for America than mere overheated campaign rhetoric.  Without exception, every single one of Trump's Cabinet appointees has a documented history of being hostile to LGBT rights and in some cases civil rights in general.  That's right, every single one of them.   Here's a brief rundown of some of Trump's nominees: Jeff Sessions, Attorney General nominee:  Sessions supported a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage; voted against adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the definition of hate crimes; voted against repealing the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy; and is co-sponsoring the First Amendment Defense Act, which would let individuals and businesses, including government-funded organizations, ignore non-discrimination laws and ordinances that conflict with their religious beliefs.
  Mike Pompeo, Central Intelligence Agency director nominee: While serving in congress, Pompeo voted to protect anti-same-sex marriage opinions as free speech and also supported a bill saying a state’s definition of marriage should supersede the federal one.
 Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education nominee:  Other than Sessions, DeVos is among the most frightening nominees. DeVos and family members have devoted hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars to anti-gay hate groups Focus on the Family Family Research Council and reportedly donated thousands to efforts to block the legalization of same-sex marriage in states like Florida, Michigan, and California.  In addition, DeVos is a rabid supporter of debunked "ex-gay" conversion therapy, opposes safe schools programs (that include things like anti-bullying policies), and sees the schools as a vehicle to forward the Christofascist. agenda.
 Tom Price, Secretary Health and Human Services nominee:  As Tom Price voted against prohibiting job discrimination based on sexual orientation, voted in favor of defining marriage in the Constitution as between one man and one woman, and could take away protections specifically for transgender Americans. Price is in favor of dismantling the Affordable Care Act, which bans sex discrimination — including discrimination against trans people — in health care.  Price has also opposes protections for transgender students in public schools.
 Reince Priebus, White House Chief of Staff nominee:  As chairman of the Republican Party, Priebus spearheaded one of the most anti-LGBT platforms in Republican Party history. Among other things, it calls for the repeal of same-sex marriage, gives states the right to choose which bathroom transgender people use, and defends businesses who deny service to LGBT Americans based on their religious beliefs.
 Mike Flynn, White House National Security Adviser nominee:  Retired Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn has a “history of animus toward LGBT people.” Most recently Flynn, went on a tirade against “political correctness” in response to the Obama administration’s decision to allow transgender soldiers to serve openly in the military.
 Equally disturbing are signals reportedly being leaked by Trump himself and/or his minions to the opponents of LGBT rights in Congress.  Just recently GOP Representative Steve Russell, who had sought to insert a sweeping anti-gay "religious freedom amendment in to the recently passed federal defense-spending bill, boasted that Trump and his administration had given him “very good assurances” that it will be addressing the issue of "religious freedom" and the manufactured myth that Christians are being subjected to persecution here in America.   On a similar note, indications are that Trump will start reversing LGBTQ rights initiatives upon taking office, including scrapping President Obama’s 2014 executive order that barred LGBT discrimination by federal contractors or further elaborating George W. Bush’s 2002 executive order that protects religious rights of social service groups such as foster care and adoption agencies receive state and/or federal taxpayer derived funds.
 Despite these frightening signs, Trump supporting "friends" continually assure me "that there is nothing to worry about."  I am not alone in my fears.  Mother Jones reports that calls to LGBT suicide prevention hotlines have soared in number since Trumps victory. The volume of calls has increased in some case to five times the previous daily number of calls.   Among callers' concerns are the potential roll back of LGBT protections and the increased boldness of Christofacsists and other alt-right groups in their anti-LGBT propaganda and physical attacks.  Indeed, last month a piece in Newsweek looked at the plans of a Trump supporting Neo-Nazi organization to embark on a campaign of harassing gays, women, minorities - and, I'm sure, Jews - to the point where they will commit suicide. This is Trump's new America.  Clearly, his promise to "make America great again" translates to "make America white and heterosexual again."
 People have good reason to be fearful.  Yet the question that remains of what to do both on a personal safety level, particularly in the face of increased levels of hate crimes and embolden Christofascists and right wing extremist who believe that Trump's election has given them license to act on their bigotry, and a larger level to defeat the ugly elements now being empowered by the Trump/Pence regime. I will start with the issue of personal safety.  I have long been a strong advocate of gun control and have heretofore been very anti-gun and pro-gun control legislation.  Now, I and others are looking to form a Pink Pistols chapter in Hampton Roads (chapters exist in Richmond and Northern Virginia) which will assist members of the LGBT community to learn how to own and use handguns for self protection.  Over the years I have received death threats before in comments left on this blog - one reason I moderate comments - but heretofore never took them too seriously.  Now, things may be different and a new vigilance needed.  I have always been proud to be "out" and visible.  Now, one has to wonder if that makes you a potential target.  Is it a coincidence that 81% of evangelical Christians supported Trump and that literally every death threat I have received in the past has come from someone professing to be a conservative, Bible believing Christian?  I think not.
 On the larger community and societal level, LGBT citizens must redouble their efforts to educate family members, friends and neighbors about the policies that are already being planned that will harm not only the LGBT community, but also minorities and the elderly if the Trump/GOP plans to repeal the Adorable Health Care Act and convert Medicare into a voucher program come to pass.  This effort will be laborious and will not be accomplished over night.   Sadly, many will not want to hear the message they need to hear.  Yes, many Americans have been economically  battered from global economic change, automation and the continuing wars in the Middle East that should never have been launched.  But the real question now is this: will 2017 Americans act like 1933 Germans did when confronted by the rise of Hitler and his message of hate and bigotry and, of course, vilification of scapegoats or will they oppose those seeking to play upon their worst instincts and stand for decency.   As a recent column by Megan Carpentier noted, "we all like to think that we’d stand up to wholesale abrogations of our fellow Americans’ constitutional rights (or, at least, for the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness), but a large body of psychological research suggests that once we’re ordered to do something atrocious, we feel relieved of the burden of feeling guilty about doing it. 
 Each of us has a role to play in stopping the worse from happening.  We need to speak out and make it clear to all of our elected officials that we oppose the ugly elements of the Trump/GOP agenda.  We cannot afford to act like 1930's Germans.  
 My "friends" who supported Trump have already proven that they are no better than 1930's Germans who abetted or tolerated Hitler's rise. Those who opposed Der Fuhrer are the ones who must act, along with those who were too lazy or indifferent to get out and vote.  Many of these latter do not grasp that they are on the target list.  Either get off your ass and act or expect to be swept away.  Now is not the time for excuses or cowardice,. 

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