BY SUSAN HOROWITZ
We started penning this week’s op-ed last Thursday when the sad and horrific arson attack on a Jackson LGBT couple took their home and five dear pets. Since then the spectacle of hate has gripped the nation with the events in Charlottesville, Virginia tearing at our hearts and minds.
National television captured the gathering of thousands of people promoting Nazi, KKK and white supremacist ideology and also showed the citizens of Charlottesville standing up to these un-American ideas. The violence was hard to watch, and then on Saturday afternoon the cameras captured the domestic terror attack by Nazi sympathizer James Alex Fields, Jr., 20, who deliberately drove his car into peaceful protestors, resulting in the murder of Heather Heyer, 32, and the injury of 19 others.
It took President Trump two days and two awkward statements to condemn the racist agitators – first attempting to offer a moral equivalency between those gathered to promote hate and those standing in opposition. It was repulsive. It was on purpose and it was one more wink and nod by Trump to part of his base that they should feel emboldened to air these white supremacist sentiments. Every American who has fought back in war and peace against these un-American ideas was on our minds as Trump’s surrogates defended this weak and cowardly man. Any fleeting hope that this man would become the president for all Americans was over.
It was really not any surprise. We knew Trump would never get it right. It is not who he is. He reaffirmed who he truly is in the first press conference Saturday. He was exactly who candidate Trump offered us all through the campaign last year. He is an unabashed pussy-grabbing, bigot at heart. He demonstrated this clearly and firmly for over 16 months of campaigning, regularly affirming his racist and bigoted world view and inciting violence at his rallies. And as President he has surrounded himself with the views of alt-right activists Steve Bannon, Steve Miller and Sebastian Gorika at his side. As a country we need to open up and admit, learn and humbly ask why we allowed this. It will be a long, national reflection.
Trump’s lack of presidential leadership at this moment continues to inflict harm. From the beginning we knew his policies where terrible choices for moving the country forward. And while the resistance has had some success stopping some of the most heinous efforts through ardent grassroots lobbying and the court system – we are just at the beginning.
In the LGBTQ community in 2015 – as we celebrated marriage equality – some people thought our work was done. They questioned the need for different programs, services, community centers and other important institutions. We were “post-gay” – we had moved on up. Today no one should question the need for safe spaces and the need to step up our support of these precious resources.
During the 2016 campaign season we witnessed how easily hate tears at the hearts and minds of our citizens and how a right-leaning, populist presidential candidate could stir the lowest parts of the soul into action, setting back our fight for equality. This hubris and righteousness is infectious. Unfortunately the invitation to go low was accepted by millions of our citizens. The herd was ready to inflict pain and suffering – ironically even on themselves.
Trump shouted, “I could shoot somebody in the middle of Fifth Avenue and they would still vote for me!” And in essence he was right. No amount of insults and injury to immigrants, people of color, LGBTQ people and women would be enough to stop the road to hell we find ourselves on today. Hate and loathing are powerful emotions and they are tearing at our country’s foundations.
We still wake up in a state of disbelief, shake our heads and commit to another day of resisting.
Locally, Nikki Joly, director of the Jackson Pride Center and his partner, Chris Moore, are in the crosshairs of this hatred right now. They have paid an unthinkable price – their five beloved pets are dead – burned to death in a fire that brought down their home. They now face the task of rebuilding their life – left only with just the clothes on their back, and even those were taken as police and firefighters look for evidence of arson.
They are not the only target. A hate crime is always much larger than an attack on just an individual. It aims to strike fear and intimidate whole groups of people. Today it is the Michigan LGBTQ community, tomorrow it could be an attack on a mosque or ugly graffiti. It is hard to not hate right back, yet we need to try.
We need to find ways to go high as we hope to make positive changes in the world. Right now we need to support Nikki and Chris with money, clothes and fierce love. And we need to demand that the Jackson City Council and Mayor Bill Jors speak out against this heinous act. Jackson cannot allow this to define who it is.
BY SUSAN HOROWITZ