My name is Jordan Reeves. I’m gay. I’m from Hueytown, Alabama. And, I’m concerned.
I’ve written about how as a gay man that grew up in a conservative, religious, and intolerant environment outside of Birmingham, Alabama, things where’s always as they seemed. While I had a great childhood in the South, there have been many things that have challenged me. But nothing could have prepared me for the gut-punch reality of a Donald Trump presidency.
My biggest concern is that the safety of real people is at stake. I’m terrified of how LGBTQ, Black, Muslim, Hispanic, Jewish, and female people will fare in their day-to-day lives. We continue to see hate is on the rise. People are actively thinking about who to hate and how to hate them. Studies have shown direct correlations between anti-Muslim Google searches and anti-Muslim hate crimes.
With Jeff Sessions (a senator from my home state) as the new Attorney General, I’m concerned that we’ll lose the civil rights that we have fought to secure over the last 240 years. As the “New York Times” reported,
Mr. Sessions, who is considered one of the most conservative members of the Senate, will most likely push for wholesale changes and hard-line stances on immigration, terrorism, crime, drugs and guns. Democrats fear he could wipe away progress in civil rights, changes in sentencing and police accountability.
His ultra-conservative ideology is corroborated by a statement on the senator’s website:
Sessions believes that a marriage is union between a man and a woman, and has routinely criticized the U.S. Supreme Court and activist lower courts when they try to judicially redefine marriage.
One could also criticize his stance on the Voting Rights Act.
Sessions is not alone. Steve Bannon’s nomination is troubling because of his blatant white supremacy. He has said many things that should discredit his ability to be the President’s top advisor. His heroes? A hard-right cadre of politicians like Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Lou Dobbs, Michele Bachmann, and not surprisingly, the God-fearin,’ gun-totin’ patriarch Phil Robertson. Bannon has proven himself willing to compromise important values that should be held in high esteem. Just browse the headlines of Breitbart News, the platform for the alt-right, where Bannon served as executive chairman. While Bannon later denied Breitbart’s connection to the alt-right, the content is bigoted, hateful, and prejudiced.
That dangerous ideology is also touted by fellow future cabinet member, Michael Flynn. His suspected camaraderie with the alt-right, a term I choose to use only to point out that it is synonymous with white supremacy, is demonstrated in Flynn’s tweets that repeatedly tag hard-right leaders, including this plea for people to follow Mike Cernovich. Why does this matter? Because of the ease at which Cernovich spreads unfounded conspiracy theories. Flynn is also a direct threat to Muslims, as evidenced in his flippancy on social media (here and here). His un-American rhetoric is cause alone to dismiss Flynn’s appointment, but one could also point out his penchant for spreading fake news.
Then there’s Scott Pruitt, Trump’s nominee to to head the Environmental Protection Agency. He positions the United States to fall lightyears behind other countries. If we walk away from fighting climate change, we’ll continue to see our natural resources disappear, our lands dry up and die away, and the extinction of our endangered species. We’ll also open pathways towards reviving an unsustainable industry: coal. We should be running towards renewable energy that’s good for the environment and paving the way to cleaner, safer water and air. The United States could be a world leader in sustainable energy production, creating countless jobs in a burgeoning field, but not with climate change deniers in positions of authority. The Washington Post reported,
Pruitt, who has written that the debate on climate change is ‘far from settled,’ joined a coalition of state attorneys general in suing over the agency’s Clean Power Plan, the principal Obama-era policy aimed at reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector. He has also sued, with fellow state attorneys general, over the EPA’s recently announced regulations seeking to curtail the emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, from the oil and gas sector.
I agree with Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund:
Our country needs — and deserves — an EPA administrator who is guided by science, who respects America’s environmental laws, and who values protecting the health and safety of all Americans ahead of the lobbying agenda of special interests.
It continues with Mike Pence, the staunch opponent to equality, who famously passed the religious freedom bill that allows blatant discrimination against LGBTQ people. He also supported the use of federal funding to treat people “seeking to change their sexual behavior.” Although it wasn’t explicit, Pence’s position has been widely interpreted as support for conversion therapy, a practice that is illegal in some states and has been thoroughly condemned by the medical community. (In case you don’t know, conversion therapy seeks to cure people of same-sex attractions.) This isn’t progress. Nor is Pence’s incredibly restrictive stance on abortion, his minimum sentence for drug incarcerations, or his feelings towards refugees. This is not the kind of person that should serve as Vice President of our United States.
I could continue talking about Trump’s cabinet ― it is made up of the people he selected to help make decisions, and along with Congress, he knows he can’t do anything without them. But what about Donald? Where does he fit into this picture. His divisive rhetoric has grown, not coincidentally, alongside the rise in hate crimes. His foreign policy may be summed up in a few telephone calls and conspiracies, but there is a mountain of work that needs to be done (and he should start by attending his intelligence briefings). Will Trump reduce the amount of faith our allies have in the United States? His tendency to pontificate on Twitter is troubling because it shows he lacks good judgement and that he acts impulsively. It also further proves that he is a bully. I could go on, but there are countless reasons why Trump is not the best person to be our President. He is the most unqualified candidate we’ve ever seen run for office. You would think he’s more accomplished based on his characteristic braggadocio, but Trump has never held an office in any government capacity, including in the military.
So what do we do? It’s good to be an optimist and to hope for a better future. It’s good to talk about vision and strategy and how we are going to affect change, but what does any of that mean for our day to day lives? All of this bad news about white supremacy and ultra-conservatives leading the country begs us to ask, “Have we gone too far? Can anything be done?”
The truth is, I don’t know if anything can be done. But, that doesn’t mean that I am willing to give up the fight. Fighting for what’s right is always worth it. So here are three things I am going to do:
- Martha Gellhorn, the great war correspondent, said: “People will often say, with pride: ‘I’m not interested in politics.’ They might as well say, ‘I’m not interested in my standard of living, my health, my job, my rights, my freedoms, my future or any future.’” Simply put, I am going to care more about politics. I’m going to start by getting involved (here’s a guide on how to get started).
- There is power in numbers. You are not alone. There are groups and organizations where you can donate a few hours of your time each week. Don’t have time? Ask your employer to consider giving your team the freedom to volunteer, as a unit, each month. Family commitments? Take your family with you. Still don’t have time? Give money. I started a non-profit, VideoOut, to amplify the common narrative of the LGBTQ community, and I give most of my time to that mission. We’re so close to full equality. I believe that together, our voices are unstoppable. Find what progress you’re passionate about and then give your time, talents, and money to bring it to life. Change will come!
- I am going to listen. It’s so easy to post on Facebook or shout louder at the Thanksgiving table, but when did that ever change a person’s mind? I’m going to talk to people. People who don’t care. People who care deeply. People who are different than me: white supremacists, racists, homophobes, xenophobes. I’m going to hear their concerns and figure out how to reach them. The problem with the political machine is systemic. We need real, door-to-door, grassroots campaigning that starts with listening. If we understand each other, we can move forward together, and if we don’t, we’ll move farther apart. (These TED talks will help!)
There’s a long road ahead. I’m concerned. And I too am asking if we’ve gone too far. I promise, however, to fight with every fiber of my being for what is right. I promise to stand up and speak out. And I believe with my heart that change is going to come.