May You Live in Predictable Times
BY ED SIKOV | “During his election campaign, Donald Trump claimed he was ‘better for the gay community’ than Hillary Clinton. He even stated in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in August that he would protect ‘our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology.’
This is the opening of a brilliant opinion piece, headlined “Trump’s Cabinet: a who’s who of homophobia,” that was written for the Boston Globe by New York’s very own Michelangelo Signorile, who becomes more eloquent and knowledgeable with every passing year. The op-ed is illustrated with a photo of Der Drumpf (Drumpf is the Trump family’s original German name) clasping hands with Peter Thiel, the gay reactionary billionaire Drumpf supporter who co-founded PayPal, as Vice-President-elect Mike Pence appears to scowl on the side.
One wonders which “hateful foreign ideology” Der Drumpf is referring to. Could it possibly be the Russia of Drumpf’s BFF, Vladimir Putin? Under Putin’s dictatorship, Russia has become the most homophobic major country on earth, not to mention one of the least democratic. Drumpf’s sick bromance with the Russian tyrant scarcely bodes well for any easing of the vicious anti-gay attacks that currently rack that wretched country.
Signorile continues: “But what about a hateful domestic ideology that is a much greater threat to the actual rights of LGBTQ citizens in the United States?
“So far, Trump’s transition team, led by Vice President-elect Mike Pence — the Indiana governor with a history of anti-gay positions and actions, including signing the draconian Religious Restoration Freedom Act in 2015 — appears to have given payback to anti-gay Trump supporters, including the Family Research Council, designated a hate group in 2010 by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which described the group as a ‘font of anti-gay propaganda throughout its history.’”
The Religious Restoration Freedom Act – which Pence was forced eventually to backpedal from with a new law, which had its own stark shortcomings – would have made it possible for caterers, for instance, to assert that having to cater gay couples’ wedding receptions– despite the catering company being a “public accommodation” subject to nondiscrimination laws of general application – is an infringement on their religious rights. Conceivably, racists who consider African-Americans to be less than human could refuse to serve them as well on religious grounds, but in point of fact, this law was aimed strictly at us. This isn’t to say that racism has become unacceptable in this country. Far from it. But with the exception of Breitbart.com, the neo-Nazi news outlet formerly run by Drumpf’s chief strategist and senior counselor, Steve Bannon, it’s generally considered to be outside the limits of polite conversation.
Here’s more of Signorile: “FRC’s Tony Perkins, who helped write the GOP platform, considered among the most anti-LGBT GOP platforms in history (and which promotes so-called ‘reparative therapy’), endorsed Trump, in a speech at the RNC, and helped turn out white evangelicals for Trump in percentages equal to or surpassing former GOP presidential candidates.
“It’s not surprising, then, that Ken Blackwell, former Ohio secretary of state and FRC senior fellow, was named domestic policy chair of the Trump transition team. Blackwell has compared homosexuality to arson and kleptomania, and in an interview with me at the 2008 GOP convention he explained the comparison: ‘I believe homosexuality is a compulsion that can be contained, repressed, or changed… That is what I’m saying in the clearest of terms.’ Kay Coles James, former vice president of FRC, is also on the transition team, as is Ken Klukowski, former director of FRC’s center for religious liberty, and Ed Meese, former attorney general under Ronald Reagan, who has written for FRC’s blog.” (Edwin Meese! Edwin Meese! Slowly I turn, step by step, inch by inch….)
The issue suddenly making it more difficult to engage seriously in a discussion of LGBT rights in this brand-new era of Drumpf is the punditocracy’s voguish aversion to “identity politics” – or, put more precisely, the stubborn limitation in public discussion of the term “identity politics” to refer only to black people, women, immigrants, Muslims, gays, and trans folks, as though the angry white middle class doesn’t have its own distinct and definable identity.
None of the groups accused of perpetuating politics based on identity will ever transcend the aspersion cast by the term “identity politics” until some very popular public figure points out the basic unfairness of the term and manages to rally some considerable support around the idea that angry, undereducated white people – precisely the voters who provided Der Drumpf with his Electoral College victory – cast their ballots on the basis of their own interests just as we do.
In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the vicious homophobes who will soon serve in Drumpf’s cabinet were selected precisely because of their identity politics – hideous anti-gay crusaders are nothing if not exemplars of a most reactionary identity. It’s just that the identity they promote is a fictional notion of an all-white, all-straight, non-trans America that they view as “the good old days.”
What are the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family if not throwbacks to the days when gay people let the straight world harass us, subject us to electroshock “therapy,” and generally encourage us to kill ourselves?
That, my friends, is at the core of their identity.
Signorile goes on to blast one of Drumpf’s many billionaire Cabinet nominees: “Trump named as his education secretary nominee Michigan billionaire Betsy DeVos, whose family’s foundation has given millions of dollars to groups working against LGBT equality — including FRC, as well as the National Organization for Marriage, which received $500,000. DeVos and her husband, Richard Jr., heir to the Amway fortune, helped lead a successful ballot measure to ban marriage equality in their state in 2004, donating $200,000 to the effort. They have also donated several million dollars to Focus on the Family, which promotes reparative therapy for gays. In 2001, at an evangelical conference, DeVos explained that her work in public education, promoting ‘school choice,’ is a way [to] ‘help advance God’s Kingdom.’”
Amway, it bears remembering, is a pyramid scheme (also known as “multi-level marketing”) in which employees recruit other employees, who then pay their recruiters a portion of their sales. This corporate structure is illegal even in China, which does not, shall we say, put great curbs on questionable business practices. (It was China, after all, that gave its consumers baby formula made from human hair.) Thus “God’s Kingdom,” in the DeVos sense of the term, appears to be a vast celestial Ponzi scheme, where, to paraphrase “It’s a Wonderful Life,” every time a person gets defrauded, an angel gets his wings.
The Family Research Council, Focus on the Family… these organizations are notorious for the anti-gay hate they promote. Trump’s promise to protect the LGBTQ community is as much of a boldface lie as his stupendously false claim that “millions” of illegal votes were cast for Clinton. The supposedly ancient Chinese curse, “may you live in interesting times,” has no application to today. These times aren’t interesting at all. They’re entirely predictable.