By Jon Hoadley
Over the past few months, our state has been in the spotlight for many things we’re proud of–car and truck of the year, the rebirth of the auto industry, another year of Promise students–and a few things we’re not, like Dave Agema’s divisive comments.
Dave Agema, Republican National Committeeman for Michigan, is giving Michigan a bad reputation.
Agema has characterized gay people as “filthy” and promiscuous and has said they support the Affordable Care Act only because they are dying young of AIDS and want free medical care. On his Facebook page, he also endorsed a new Russian law making it illegal to discuss lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender issues in ear-shot of children as “common sense.” To top it off, although I’m sure it’s not the last we’ll hear from him, he has shared a blog post suggesting Muslim Americans have made no positive contributions to this country.
You know his behavior has passed the point of a spirited political disagreement when his actions receive not-so-subtle rebukes in Gov. Snyder’s State of the State address with calls for more “civility” and out-right calls for resignation from prominent Republicans like Betsy DeVos.
Enough is enough. We can’t be the state famous for one man’s hate.
It is time for our political leaders and people of goodwill everywhere to speak out against intolerance and to quickly and forcefully provide equal protection under the law to everyone, no matter their race, religion, or sexual orientation and gender identity. Quick and decisive progress on this issue will allow our communities to move on to the many other pressing issues that face our state and our nation today.
We should be investing in kids and schools. We should be protecting the Great Lakes and our natural resources. We should be helping to attract and retain the next generation of entrepreneurs and job creators.
Instead, we’re talking about Dave Agema, and he’s telling a bunch of people you’re not welcome here.
I refuse to let his comments exclude me from my home here in Kalamazoo. Despite his decidedly “uncivil” comments, I’m still a small business owner and job creator, a partner, an advocate for education, and a friend.
But I’m worried about the impact of his hateful words on others. I’m worried about the Muslim teenager trying to picture his or her future here in Michigan. I’m worried about the gay student who feels a little less safe at school because of the culture Agema is promoting.
This past week we celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Among the volumes of wisdom he left us is his observation that, “We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.” This lesson seems to be particularly useful.
It is time for Agema’s politics of division to be over. Let’s get Michigan’s boat rowing in a direction that makes everyone feel welcome and helps us all succeed. And let’s keep Michigan in the national spotlight for our victories of inclusion, not comments of exclusion.