Richard J. Rosendall – Washington Blade: Gay News, Politics, LGBT Rights http://www.washingtonblade.com America's Leading LGBT News Source Fri, 21 Sep 2018 19:46:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 Blue wave builds as red regime unravels http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/09/19/opinion-blue-wave-builds-red-regime-unravels/ http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/09/19/opinion-blue-wave-builds-red-regime-unravels/#respond Wed, 19 Sep 2018 21:29:48 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=48205044 As the political tide turns, our besieged constitutional system shows resilience

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blue wave, gay news, Washington Blade

Brett Kavanaugh faces the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Our politics are like a major storm watch. Most of us think we are not in the flood zone, that others bear the risk. But our civic foundations are eroding, and much of what our forebears won for us could be swept away. Yet hopes are rising as the Trumpist storm feeds on itself. Paul Manafort has flipped. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is tightening the noose.

As Hurricane Florence bore down on the Carolinas, Donald Trump disputed the official death toll from last year’s Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, a debacle for which (as always) he gave himself an A+. Meanwhile, the purported Deep State turned out to be led by the president’s own staff. Trump’s shrillness increases against his predecessor, his defeated rival, his critics, reporters, and athletes. As he unravels, he resembles Captain Queeg in The Caine Mutiny. He is both dangerous and ridiculous. He is an improbable leader, which is why few took his candidacy seriously.

Demagoguery is not defeated by pretending it doesn’t work. The most strident professed patriots are those attacking American institutions and saying “I’d rather be a Russian than a Democrat.” Defeating them requires persuading voters, not calling them stupid. Democratic candidates are learning this lesson. They are listening to voters and addressing their needs while conservatives cackle past the graveyard mocking “Trump Derangement Syndrome.”

Smartphone warriors on platforms like Reddit love wielding over-the-top verbal missiles like “Ben Shapiro ABSOLUTELY DEMOLISHES Libtard Feminazi Charlie Kirk.” This recalls the plague victim in Monty Python’s “Bring out your dead” scene who cries, “I’m not dead!” Trump’s true believers hurl schoolyard taunts at Bob Woodward’s detailed reportage, yet it remains very much alive. Appealing to reason instead of passion is harder, but success in that effort is more enduring.

In sorting out candidates, we do well to consider what people’s best roles are. Everyone who excels at what they do doesn’t merit a promotion. Here are two examples: Sen. Elizabeth Warren is sharp-witted and effective at grilling witnesses. Stormy Daniels’s attorney Michael Avenatti is bold, scrappy, and well suited to taking on Trump’s nihilist right. Neither should be president. The Democratic standard bearer needs to connect with independents as well as party stalwarts.

Avenatti, age 47, at least passes the entry-level test of whether presidential candidates are closer to 48 than 78. Most Democratic presidential aspirants meet basic criteria of smartness, diligence, sanity, and non-treasonousness. Several, however, are over 70. It is time for the Democratic team to freshen its bench.

It bodes well for 2020 that the midterms have brought so many new faces, including a record number of women. There are signs of a turning tide. Ohio billionaire and Republican donor Les Wexner has renounced the party and praised President Obama. Boston billionaire Seth Klarman, previously New England’s biggest Republican donor, is giving millions this year to Democrats. The Pew Research Center reports a surge in turnout for this year’s U.S. House primaries, especially among Democrats. Many Centrist Democrats have adopted popular progressive policies. Our besieged constitutional system shows resilience.

Restoring our republic requires adding votes, not subtracting them through ideological purification. As Joe Biden likes to quote his father, “Don’t compare me to the Almighty. Compare me to the alternative.”

News broke on September 16 that Christine Blasey Ford has come forward with her allegation that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her more than thirty years ago in high school. She told The Washington Post about it before Kavanaugh’s nomination, and passed a polygraph test administered by a former FBI agent.

Stephanie Mencimer notes in Mother Jones that the alleged witness in the case, Mark Judge, who attended Georgetown Prep with Kavanaugh, has written about rampant drunken partying there. That might explain his inability to remember the incident.

Senate Republicans have used a process complaint about the lateness of the charge to distract from its credible substance, inadvertently demonstrating why victims of such assaults hesitate to speak up. Power trumps all for the Republicans, who are in a hurry to install a wildly unrepresentative right wing majority on the court while they can.

The battle over what kind of country we will be goes on.

 

Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist. He can be reached at rrosendall@me.com.

Copyright © 2018 by Richard J. Rosendall. All rights reserved.

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Insurgent Democrats beat back the trolls http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/09/05/opinion-democratic-candidates-2018/ http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/09/05/opinion-democratic-candidates-2018/#respond Wed, 05 Sep 2018 18:25:26 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=47300421 Candidates like Abrams, Gillum, and O’Rourke offer midterm shakeup

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Democratic candidates 2018, gay news, Washington Blade

From left, Georgia state Rep. Stacey Abrams (D-Atlanta), Mayor of Tallahassee, Fla. Andrew Gillum (D), and U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas). (Photo of Abrams by Kerri Battles of the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs via Wikimedia Commons; photo of Gillum public domain; photo of O’Rourke by Inter-American Dialogue via Flickr)

“Damn the torpedoes! Four bells. Captain Drayton, go ahead! Jouett, full speed!” Thus did Union Admiral David Farragut order an attack on the Confederate fleet at Mobile Bay in 1864. As with Farragut, defeating Donald Trump’s tide of racist populism calls not for caution but for boldness and conviction like that of Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.

Gillum, who last week won the Democratic nomination for governor of Florida, is dismissed as a socialist and a communist by partisans of a president whose lips are firmly planted on the butt of veteran KGB agent Vladimir Putin.

Gillum’s issues page states, “Andrew is running for Governor so that Florida can finally confront the challenges we’ve shrunk from over the past 20 years: rebuilding our economy, revitalizing public education, protecting and expanding healthcare access, and addressing our climate change crisis with a clean energy economy.” Somehow Republican nominee Ron DeSantis interprets this as Gillum wanting “to turn Florida into Venezuela,” though it’s DeSantis backer Trump who appears bent on turning America into a banana republic.

DeSantis indignantly denied any racist intent in his “monkey this up” reference to Gillum. That‘s how it works: blow the dogwhistle and play innocent. Two days later, DeSantis had to denounce robocalls by an Idaho-based Neo-Nazi group portraying Gillum with a minstrel voice and jungle noises.

Trump’s diehards don’t want honest debate. They prefer to smear and caricature. Gillum sticks to his positive message. He exemplifies the appeal of fresh voices who focus on solutions rather than kowtowing to fearmongers.

Stacey Abrams, the Democratic nominee for Georgia governor, is a progressive whose bipartisan efforts in the General Assembly belie Republican labels of her as radical. She can win not just because her proposals like Medicaid expansion and small business investment address popular needs, but because the diversity some decry as a leftist slogan describes a changing electorate.

Another impressive Democrat is Beto O’Rourke, challenging Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. His answer to a question about NFL player protests has gone viral. Here is a portion: “The freedoms that we have were purchased not just by those in uniform, and they definitely were. But also by … peaceful, nonviolent protests, including taking a knee at a football game to point out that Black men, unarmed; Black teenagers, unarmed; and Black children, unarmed, are being killed at a frightening level right now, including by members of law enforcement, without accountability and without justice…. I can think of nothing more American than to peacefully stand up or take a knee for your rights anytime, anywhere, anyplace.”

Cruz twisted this into an attack on wounded veterans.

If Trump’s desired autocracy takes hold—and we are on the knife’s edge—the main cause will not be white nationalist stockpiles but a fatal decline in our habits of thought and discourse. In our click wars we are like someone walking down the street who is too fixated on his smartphone to notice the open sewer grate he is approaching.

Trump has lately threatened Big Tech companies, not because their platforms help disseminate misinformation but because he is a thin-skinned bully. He doesn’t want Google’s search algorithm to be fair and unbiased, but only to be flattering towards him.

Reality is like that sewer grate. If we are distracted by bots and trolls, we are in for a fall.

Mockery and epithets have replaced arguments. Solving our shared problems requires connecting across various divides. It requires mutually recognized facts, norms, and authorities. These foundations of our republic are under assault by Trump and his enablers in the GOP.

In his latest display of family values, Trump has ramped up passport denials to Americans born in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley; one report blamed President Obama despite his having settled in 2009 an ACLU case begun under George W. Bush. A gunman echoing Trump’s “enemy of the people” mantra threatened to kill Boston Globe employees, yet Trump calls Democrats violent.

This madness can only be countered by a voter turnout large enough to overcome vote suppression. Our country is governed by an unrepresentative minority determined to lock in its power. If we don’t rise to this fight like many insurgent Democratic candidates, that may happen.

 

Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist. He can be reached at rrosendall@me.com.

Copyright © 2018 by Richard J. Rosendall. All rights reserved.

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‘Cardinal Wuerl is not telling the truth’ http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/08/22/cardinal-wuerl-is-not-telling-the-truth/ http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/08/22/cardinal-wuerl-is-not-telling-the-truth/#respond Wed, 22 Aug 2018 18:56:36 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=46515734 Evasions continue in wake of grand jury report on child sexual abuse by priests

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Donald Wuerl, gay news, Dignity Washington, Washington Blade

Cardinal Donald Wuerl (Photo public domain)

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington and former Bishop of Pittsburgh, responded like a politician to the Pennsylvania grand jury report on child sexual abuse in six Catholic dioceses: by covering his ass.

“I acted with diligence, with concern for the victims and to prevent future acts of abuse,” His Eminence insisted.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro responded, “Cardinal Wuerl is not telling the truth. Many of his statements in response to the Grand Jury Report are directly contradicted by the Church’s own documents and records from their Secret Archives. Offering misleading statements now only furthers the cover up.” Yes.

Reading a fraction of the report leaves you numb. 300 priests sexually abused 1,000 victims. The catalog of outrages runs 900 pages. Here I will cite just one case, that of Father Ernest Paone of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

“In … another confidential memorandum sent … to Wuerl, Paone’s various assignments and sexual abuse complaints were again listed in detail. The Grand Jury noted that this process showed no concern for public safety or the victims of child sexual abuse.” “Approximately 41 years after the Diocese learned that Paone was sexually assaulting children, he was finally retired from active ministry. In spite of Wuerl’s statements to the Vatican, the clear and present threat that Paone posed to children was hidden and kept secret from parishioners in three states.”

The Roman Catholic Church is the world’s largest religious organization, and is used to holding itself above the law. The abuses described in the grand jury report persisted for decades, shielded by evasions that would not be accepted from a child. Our public order substantially relies on norms of behavior. It is a deep irony that one such norm is respect for the very moral authority misused by the Church in betraying its position of trust.

The pull that the Church exerts on those weaned at her breast, and the customary assumption that priests are above reproach, provides cover, however unintended, for corruption.

Christ said, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to fall away—it would be better for him if a heavy millstone were hung around his neck and he were drowned in the depths of the sea.”

Drowning is a bit drastic. But until there is real accountability, and public relations campaigns are no longer the first response to scandal, the Church will face continued distrust from congregations and potential converts due to its facilitation and coverup of child sexual abuse. In my own historically Catholic family, my youngest sister suggested boycotting churches or putting condolence letters to the victims in the collection basket.

An article in LGBTQ Nation is headlined, “American Catholic leaders blame the Pennsylvania sex abuse scandal on gays.” This is perhaps overbroad. The article quotes only two people with the views described: Bill Donohue of the Catholic League, and Cardinal Raymond Burke, whom Pope Francis removed as prefect of the Apostolic Signatura (the Vatican supreme court) in 2014 and reappointed as a cardinal-member in 2017.

Church leaders have often deflected criticism regarding sexual abuse by scapegoating gay clergy. But the creaky libel of gays as child molesters does not withstand scrutiny. Instead of assuming a defensive crouch, LGBT Catholics and their allies are encouraging Church leaders to end the treachery of the closet and offer gay people a healthier option than lifelong celibacy. Rev. James Martin, S.J. wrote a book, Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity.

New abuse cases decreased after the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops adopted the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” in 2002. The new grand jury report will boost continued reform efforts by clergy and laity. The Leadership Conference of Women Religious has persevered despite persecution from bishops. New Ways Ministry educates and advocates for LGBT Catholics.

His Holiness says he is on the side of the abuse victims. Let him then accept resignations from Wuerl and others who covered up sexual crimes by priests against children, and stop the silencing of victims. Let the Church be shaken to its foundations; for were they not strongly laid?

 

Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist. He can be reached at rrosendall@me.com.

Copyright © 2018 by Richard J. Rosendall. All rights reserved.

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Rudy on a ledge and other speculations http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/08/08/opinion-rudy-giuliani/ http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/08/08/opinion-rudy-giuliani/#respond Wed, 08 Aug 2018 15:30:15 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=45835078 From the Time cover to defending Trump is a long way down

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Rudy Giuliani, Republican National Convention, gay news, Washington Blade

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani speaks at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio on July 18, 2016. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

In late 2001, when then New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was chosen as Time’s Person of the Year, his cover photo shoot was done on the roof of what was once called the RCA Building, later the GE Building, still later the Comcast Building. This grand Art Deco widow of a skyscraper, passed from one well-heeled partner to the next like the Countess De Lave in George Cukor’s film The Women, is better known as 30 Rock, which must make the folks at Comcast feel like cucks, to use a term favored by trolls.

There Rudy stood, high above Rockefeller Plaza, when photographer Gregory Heisler, looking to create an iconic image, asked America’s Mayor to step up onto the parapet. Rudy was game, not to mention an opera lover with a drag fetish, so he got in touch with his inner Tosca and hopped onto the ledge.

Imagine if a sudden wind had kicked up as Hizzoner stood there grinning on the edge of oblivion with his back to lower Manhattan. In that awful event we would not now be able to marvel at his novel legal defenses of Trump from the couch at Fox and Friends across Sixth Avenue.

Instead of a horrifying plunge, Giuliani simply reverted to his familiar smallness. His intemperate attacks on the Justice Department despite being a former federal prosecutor, along with his unhinged rant at the 2016 Republican Convention, suggest that his shining moment after the 2001 terrorist attacks was past retrieval. His harshness as mayor; his posthumous smear of unarmed Haitian, Patrick Dorismond, who was shot by police in March 2000 after rebuffing an undercover drug sting; his callousness in informing his wife of their separation via television; and his bizarre attempt to remain in office past his term—all suggest that his inspiring performance on 9/11 (which obscured his own mishandling of security concerns) was at best a decent interlude. Defending another bully is more consistent with his squalid record.

Rudy desperately tries to convince us not to believe our lying eyes. While his mad client takes credit for an economic turnaround actually led by his predecessor, and calms his nerves amid the Paul Manafort trial with a riff about rigged witch hunts, our nation clings to reality like someone on an out-of-control roller coaster.

It is open season for mischief. As I write, Lawrence O’Donnell is at 30 Rock with the Empire State Building behind him, just like Rudy all those years ago. The QAnon conspiracy nuts have constructed wild narratives on less.

As a cable news viewer, I cannot decide whether I am happier with CNN reporter Jim Acosta rebuking Sarah Sanders over calling journalists enemies of the people, or with Jeff Flake galavanting off to Zimbabwe when Mitch McConnell needed him in Washington to confirm right-wing judges. As an impenitent newspaper writer, I am wondering how I look in the glow of my iPad to the ICE police scanning through my blinds for undocumented immigrants.

You can find conspiracies everywhere with enough determination and credulity. Incidentally, does 3D printing of AR-15s count as a blow for freedom of the press?

Trump’s $12 billion bailout for farmers hit by his trade war is like a guy who steals your car, ties a big bow around the tires, and makes a gift of them to you. He gives himself a ‘10’ for his hurricane response in Puerto Rico, which he barely recognizes as part of the United States. His EPA says rolling back greenhouse gas emission standards will save lives. We are in a golden age of gaslighting.

Meanwhile, Robert Mueller quietly continues his Russian investigation despite 45 saying he’s conflicted over a dispute involving golf club fees. You would think Trump makes things up.

Inhabiting one’s own reality can bring swift and brutal correction in the case of, say, someone high on drugs believing he can fly, or an executive ignoring an engineer’s safety concerns about a Space Shuttle rocket. The consequences for an inadvertent confession by tweet, or a fading attorney ineptly defending a charlatan, may take a bit longer. But they will surely come. A clown can’t dance on a ledge forever.

 

Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist. He can be reached at rrosendall@me.com.

Copyright © 2018 by Richard J. Rosendall. All rights reserved.

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America’s descent into unreason http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/07/25/opinion-ill-informed-notions/ http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/07/25/opinion-ill-informed-notions/#respond Wed, 25 Jul 2018 18:04:14 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=45244080 We must wield facts and values in fighting the theft of our republic

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ill-informed notions, gay news, Washington Blade

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice. (Photo by Soniakapadia via Wikimedia Commons)

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), a member of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, believes that coastline erosion and silt deposits from rivers contribute to rises in sea level. Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner claims that global warming is caused by body heat and the earth moving closer to the sun. Let us say gently that the earth’s orbit is more stable than Mr. Wagner’s.

Alas, these examples illustrate a problem that affects far more than just politicians: too many of us would rather cling to ill-informed notions than pull out our smartphones and look things up.

Even creators of fantasy do their research. Black Panther director Ryan Coogler and his design team, for example, drew inspiration from real cultures across Africa in fleshing out the imaginary Wakanda. If you are less in touch with reality than a Marvel superhero movie, you may have a problem.

Speaking in Johannesburg on July 17 in commemoration of Nelson Mandela’s centennial, former president Barack Obama said, “[For democracy] to work, we have to actually believe in an objective reality…. Without facts, there is no basis for cooperation…. Unfortunately, too much of politics today seems to reject the very concept of objective truth. People just make stuff up.” Obama did not mention his successor; he didn’t have to.

The substitution of partisan spin for investigative journalism on cable news is a big part of the problem. As a journalism tutor once said, “If someone says it’s raining and another person says it’s dry, it’s not your job to quote them both. Your job is to look out of the f**king window and find out which is true.”

Our aim should not figuratively be to tattoo “Stupid” on anyone’s forehead, nor to pull our punches in public debates, but to end the destructiveness that results from continually giving free, unfiltered media to demagogues who appeal to our lowest impulses. A nation of ignorant trolls will produce nothing resembling greatness in competition with other nations.

Our push-back should not be solely about current policy disputes, but the founding principles without which America exists in name only. They begin with the holding that all of us are created equal.

The threat we face was summarized on July 16 by Bree Newsome, who climbed a flagpole on the South Carolina statehouse grounds in 2015 to remove the Confederate flag: “White racists in US have shown time and again they’d rather burn the republic to the ground than have racial equality in America…. The commitment to white supremacy is stronger than commitment to western democracy.” Sadly, yes. Racism and know-nothingism poison the public square that we all must share.

It makes no sense to demonize black athletes for kneeling in protest against racist law enforcement, while praising or excusing our president’s supine behavior in Helsinki. Peaceful protest is a time-honored tradition here. Siding with a foreign despot against America is not.

Effective policymaking depends not just on facts but on sound reasoning and goodwill, which are lacking in Trumpland. To understand the embrace of President Seven Deadly Sins by white evangelicals, we need to recognize the flights of unreason that sustain their besieged worldview. For them, Trump is God’s tool, just as the Bible is a weapon.

Consider members of First Baptist Church in Luverne, Alabama, interviewed by Stephanie McCrummen in The Washington Post on July 21. Sunday school teacher Sheila Butler says that Christians are faced with “annihilation.” “Obama was acting at the behest of the Islamic nation.” Christ’s call to welcome the stranger means the “legal immigrant stranger.” Slavery’s evils are overstated, because “Slaves … got housing. They got fed. They got medical care.”

Regarding the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which opened earlier this year in Montgomery and features 800 steel monoliths hanging in a powerful evocation of lynching, Ms. Butler says it promotes violence because it will stir “feelings of revenge” in young black men. Does she also think memorials to our war dead promote violence? What about crucifixes?

I hardly know how to react to the Post article, except to note that these paranoid people vote. For the stolen children, for our stolen country, so must we.

 

Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist. He can be reached at rrosendall@me.com.

Copyright © 2018 by Richard J. Rosendall. All rights reserved.

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Against tyranny, we need the storm http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/07/11/against-tyranny-we-need-the-storm/ Wed, 11 Jul 2018 15:51:20 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=44587727 Liberals and moderates must stop acquiescing to Trumpist deflection

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tyranny, gay news, Washington Blade

Patricia Okoumou on the Statue of Liberty (Screen capture via YouTube)

America verges on an abyss. Compromise essential to governance is scorned as firewalls against tyranny are knocked down. Members of the ruling party, serving an entrenched minority, trample everyone in their way without a trace of honor, decency, or any identifiable standard other than power at any cost. Long-held norms and values are cast aside.

More people are awakening to the threat. We are like the woman in a horror movie when the policeman tells her, “We’ve traced the call… it’s coming from inside the house.” We must do more than scream.

The brazenness of the GOP’s vandalism is at least clarifying. Every branch of government is now aligned with our cut-rate Napoleon. His court packing absolves him of all sins in the eyes of his base, while any hopes for post-confirmation epiphanies of moderation are as likely as the president being struck by a meteorite on the 18th green.

This raging, heedless tribalism stems from what Times columnist Charles Blow calls White Extinction Anxiety, interwoven with misogyny, xenophobia, and religious bigotry. The battle by a shrinking demographic to maintain its historical supremacy is impervious to reason or feeling. Why care about children ripped from their mothers if you consider both less than human? Why hold your team to standards you apply to your opponents? For the sake of fairness? That is precisely what Trump’s mob rejects.

Trump demands that our NATO partners pay up, as if the alliance were a protection racket. That is not how it was set up; but coming from a mobbed-up New York real estate market, that’s all the juvenile delinquent in the executive mansion knows.

Allies who sent their soldiers to fight and die alongside ours do not deserve such high-handed treatment. Real strength requires respecting allies and understanding the role of soft power; but all that matters to Trump is his swagger. As exiled Putin critics continued to be murdered, Trump considered recognizing his pal’s annexation of Crimea, and eight Republican lawmakers spent Independence Day in Moscow brown-nosing Russian officials.

Last week, attorney Alan Dershowitz slammed friends on Martha’s Vineyard who shun him for defending Trump. I suggested that if Dershowitz is concerned about civility, he should take a long look at the man he is defending. A friend scolded me, “If we are not defending the constitution, we are no better than Trump. If attorneys are allowed to refuse to represent those they find despicable, none of us are safe.”

This high-minded pose is like Robespierre defending the guillotine. All of our necks are under the blade. Dershowitz effectively argues that Trump is above the law and cannot obstruct justice. A president has many powers, but not the right to use them for criminal purposes. Rather than acknowledge this, Dershowitz pretends he is Joseph Welch staring down Sen. Joe McCarthy.

Treating a bully as a victim, and attacking those who call him to account, turns truth on its head.

Some protests against Trump officials do reveal more passion than planning. We are a diverse movement. But protest is constitutionally protected just like due process rights, which Trump would abolish as cavalierly as he breaks promises made to immigrant soldiers. Autocratic behavior is not protected. If Dershowitz loves the Constitution so much, he should condemn the attacks on Robert Mueller. Instead he joins in.

Speaking of bullies, Rep. Jim Jordan, co-founder of the Freedom Caucus, reacted like a coward to the Ohio State wrestling scandal. Credible claims that his late former colleague Dr. Richard Strauss committed sexual abuse are not erased by inventing a “deep state” conspiracy. The wrestlers who came forward expressed fondness for Jordan and dismay at his claimed ignorance. Instead of threatening to impeach Rod Rosenstein, Jordan should check a mirror.

Trumpists wear down the opposition with endless lies, conspiracy theories, and deflections. In the face of this onslaught, it is colossal folly to let Trump win the low-expectations game while chastising Maxine Waters for being harsh or Patricia Okoumou for inconveniencing tourists by climbing to Lady Liberty’s feet.

Enough with one-way calls for civility. As Frederick Douglass said in 1852, “We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake.”

 

Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist. He can be reached at rrosendall@me.com.

Copyright © 2018 by Richard J. Rosendall. All rights reserved.

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Our cruel, ginned-up border crisis http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/06/27/opinion-border-crisis/ Thu, 28 Jun 2018 01:29:20 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=43905360 America has a home-grown infestation of bigotry

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border crisis, immigration detention centers, gay news, Washington Blade

(Screen capture public domain)

Many of us cried listening to it: an audio recording of migrant children crying for their parents at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection detention facility. Obtained by ProPublica, it was played on the House floor by Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) on June 22. I appreciate his defiance of the presiding officer. We are in a pitched battle for truth.

There is no crisis on our southern border except the ripping apart of migrant families by our president. His relentless lies about immigrants are to inflame his white nationalist base, who will not accept America’s founding creed that we are all created equal. His “zero tolerance” policy, which he falsely blamed on Democrats, is both cruel and incompetent. His tweet that immigrants are an infestation carries echoes of Hutus calling Tutsis cockroaches during the run-up to the Rwandan genocide.

Speaking of which, if you don’t like Holocaust comparisons, don’t take children from their parents while claiming that you’re giving them baths. If you don’t like slavery comparisons, don’t tear babies from their mother’s breasts. If you have a soul, don’t say “Wah wah” like former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski about a girl with Down syndrome being taken from her parents.

Trump’s tribemates, as they imagine themselves, double down in his defense, even as people across the spectrum denounce his use of children as political hostages. Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Kansas) told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes on June 20, “The number of families that are posing as families has quadrupled trying to cross our borders. So you’re having people who are doing human trafficking, terrorists, and cartel members.” Hayes requested evidence; Marshall said it was for Hayes to investigate.

While we’re in the gutter, it is high time the media stopped facilitating the spread of fabrications.

On June 23, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee tweeted a purported photo of MS-13 gang members with the caption, “Nancy Pelosi introduces her campaign committee for the take back of the House.” Trump’s claim that Pelosi “came out in favor of MS-13” has been rated as false by PolitiFact.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who defended the right of bakers to refuse service to gay customers, tweeted of a Virginia restauranteur who asked her to leave, “Her actions say far more about her than about me. I always do my best to treat people, including those I disagree with, respectfully and will continue to do so.” As with her insults of reporters at White House press briefings?

Trump on June 22 used families of murder victims to slander immigrants, despite immigrants having a lower crime rate than native-born Americans. We should be focusing on home-grown terrorists like Dylann Roof, the racist who murdered nine African Americans at a Bible study class in Charleston in 2015. Instead, Trump cherry-picks crimes by brown people.

On the aforementioned audio, amid children crying for “Mami” and “Papá,” 6-year-old Alison Jimena Valencia Madrid is heard saying that she memorized her aunt’s phone number and insisting she be allowed to call her. The composure of this brave little girl should shame us into demanding answers regarding those who cannot provide such information.

The supremacists are not going to budge. The reason to report on their immigrant ancestors is to expose hypocrisy, not in hopes of an epiphany that will change their hearts and minds.

Conservative columnist Andrew Sullivan urges us to cave: “[G]ive him his fucking wall. He won the election. He is owed this.” Setting aside the likelihood of the wall being a $70 billion boondoggle, and evidence that the president was installed by vote suppression and Russian meddling, we owe him nothing. As long as our constitution guarantees due process, and a “mighty woman with a torch” stands in New York harbor, we owe liberty and justice to all – including Alejandra, a Salvadoran trans activist at the Cibola detention center in New Mexico.

Another conservative columnist, George F. Will, urges “independents and temperate Republicans” to vote against congressional Republicans in November. Will is right. Democratic majorities in Congress are needed to curb 45’s destructive impulses. If we fail to ensure a blue wave, we may not get another chance.

 

Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist. He can be reached at rrosendall@me.com.

Copyright © 2018 by Richard J. Rosendall. All rights reserved.

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Battling the despicable misuse of religion http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/06/13/opinion-misuse-religion-masterpiece-cakeshop/ Wed, 13 Jun 2018 10:00:50 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=43060818 Masterpiece Cakeshop's mixed ruling kicks the cake stand down the road

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Masterpiece Cakeshop, gay news, Washington Blade

Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop speaks to reporters in front of the United States Supreme Court on Dec. 5. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Even many believers have their doubts about heaven, hell, and the jealous tribal deities that provide pretexts for so much human cruelty.

As Satan says in Paradise Lost, “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.” The hell we make for ourselves and one another is exemplified by those who use their faith to justify anti-gay discrimination. Which brings us to the latest gay-related Supreme Court ruling, issued June 4.

James Esseks of ACLU offers a good summary: “In the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, the Supreme Court on Monday ruled for a bakery that had refused to sell a wedding cake to a same-sex couple. It did so on grounds that are specific to this particular case and will have little to no applicability to future cases. The opinion is full of reaffirmations of our country’s longstanding rule that states can bar businesses that are open to the public from turning customers away because of who they are.”

Justice Anthony Kennedy, in his opinion for the majority, writes that “any decision in favor of the baker would have to be sufficiently constrained, lest all purveyors of goods and services who object to gay marriages for moral and religious reasons in effect be allowed to put up signs saying ‘no goods or services will be sold if they will be used for gay marriages,’ something that would impose a serious stigma on gay persons.”

One Colorado civil rights commissioner is quoted saying, “[W]e can list hundreds of situations where freedom of religion has been used to justify discrimination. And to me it is one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use to—to use their religion to hurt others.”

This perfectly accurate statement has been characterized as an attack on religion. But decrying those who dress up their homophobia and transphobia in religious garb is no more an attack on faith itself than objecting to racist police methods constitutes a generalized attack on policing. LGBT people ourselves embrace a diversity of beliefs. Calling out faith-based discrimination does not turn the discriminators into victims.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg writes in dissent, “I see no reason why the comments of one or two Commissioners should be taken to overcome Phillips’ refusal to sell a wedding cake to Craig and Mullins. The proceedings involved several layers of independent decisionmaking, of which the Commission was but one.” Ginsburg notes, “Phillips declined to make a cake he found offensive where the offensiveness of the product was determined solely by the identity of the customer requesting it.”

I have defended the free speech rights of my religious foes, from marriage equality opponents advertising on Metrobuses to the homophobic owner of the Museum of the Bible to a Chick-fil-A outlet in the District. Equal rights are not only for those who agree with us. But for a business open to the public to deny service on religious grounds breaks the social contract whereby members of a diverse society put up with one another for the common good.

Imposing one group’s faith dictates in the public square is a threat to social cohesion. One-way respect is not respect at all but subjugation.

Masterpiece Cakeshop yielded fast fruit. The Arizona Court of Appeals on June 7 cited it in upholding a Phoenix ordinance barring anti-LGBT discrimination. Meanwhile, Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented baker Jack Phillips, wants to broaden it to bar the denial of government contracts to religious organizations that discriminate against gay couples in adoption services.

“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others,” proclaim the ruling pigs in George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Under America’s aspiring autocrat, an anti-gay baker’s free speech is championed, while NFL players protesting police brutality are denounced as unAmerican. Those who consider Trump’s posturing patriotic are putting the symbols of our freedoms before the freedoms themselves. In religious terms, that is idolatry.

The Trump regime may ultimately represent the last gasp of white Christian hetero male supremacy. But while it so furiously thrashes, and as the president quietly, steadily packs the federal courts, our struggle continues.

 

Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist. He can be reached at rrosendall@me.com.

Copyright © 2018 by Richard J. Rosendall. All rights reserved.

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Amid a regime’s mayhem, a Hallelujah http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/05/29/amid-a-regimes-mayhem-a-hallelujah/ Tue, 29 May 2018 15:40:46 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=42327404 Living truth defies the delirium around us

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Sheku Kanneh-Mason, gay news, Washington Blade

Cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason performs at the royal wedding. (Screen capture via BBC)

That great American legal mind, Rudolph Giuliani, explained last week why his client would be risking a “perjury trap” by talking to special counsel Robert Mueller: “Truth is relative. They may have a different version of the truth than we do.” I’m actually prepared to accept that after watching Rudy in recent weeks. The problem with this regime is not mere flights of fancy but attempts to palm off counterfeit reality on credulous voters.

This con artistry has worked better than anyone expected. Increasingly we see people who are not clear on their concepts: followers of Christ who oppose welcoming strangers; centrists who support authoritarian measures; legislators who obstruct justice in the name of oversight; and patriots who cannot tolerate a silent protest by black athletes during the national anthem.

Journalist Touré tweeted on May 25, “What if NFL players stand for the anthem with their arms crossed in the Wakanda salute? Is that ok or disrespectful? Or will rich, old, white men decide what’s disrespectful as we go along?”

The kneeling players are protesting racism and police brutality. In so doing they honor the values of justice and equality that our flag and anthem are supposed to represent. Anyone who refuses to respect them for what they are doing is no different from Christian supremacists who wave the Bible in the air but refuse to heed its wisdom on helping in Matthew 25. The America the team owners honor is neither great nor good but a petty, intolerant, hypocritical bully.

A government that separates immigrant parents from their children, and doesn’t know whether 1,475 missing migrant children have been taken off-grid by their families or are being trafficked, is not pro-life. An administration so obsessed with controlling women that it would decimate the Title X health care network is not committed to public health. An education secretary who attacks church-state separation is not true to her oath to defend the Constitution. A Department of Justice that rolls back protections for transgender prisoners is neither just nor humane. A president who woos a dictator one day and threatens nuclear war the next is no candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize, and no statesman when his foreign policy centers on lucrative business deals for himself.

Think of it: our own government is pulling small children away screaming from their mothers in order to categorize them as unaccompanied minors. John Kelly says this is not cruel, but a “tough deterrent.” Ask yourself, who are the animals here?

Resistance is not just about blocking noxious policies and registering voters. We must look past our struggles to see the world we want to build. Which brings me to Sheku Kanneh-Mason.

The teenage cellist from Nottingham moved millions on May 19 when he played three selections at the royal wedding at Windsor, including the Schubert “Ave Maria.” Like Episcopal Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s sermon on love, the Kingdom Choir singing “Stand By Me,” guests who blended old world and new, and the bride’s mother Doria Ragland, the soulful performance by Kanneh-Mason conveyed grace and dignity with an undercurrent of rebellion to the heirs of a bloody if faded empire.

No amount of progressive symbolism can make a powerless prince’s nuptials a weighty matter. Still, the interracial wedding in St. George’s Chapel felt redemptive. Similarly, Kanneh-Mason’s 2017 recording of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” is a balm in sordid times. Like newlyweds’ love, it celebrates our ability to endure despite our losses.

The recent resurgence of racial poison alone is long and disturbing. Murders by police who continue to act like slave patrols. The suggestion by our president that American athletes who protest injustice should be deported. The blend of privilege and contempt that prompts a white woman to call police on black barbecuers in a public park. Yet these heartless, hateful acts will not conquer a people who journeyed from slaves building the White House to a first lady and her daughters residing in it.

The young black virtuoso, his very skin against a classical instrument signifying defiance and generations nurtured to keep their sights raised, says: for all the sorrow you have brought us, we are not defeated. Hallelujah.

 

Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist. He can be reached at rrosendall@me.com.

Copyright © 2018 by Richard J. Rosendall. All rights reserved.

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Under the rule of spite http://www.washingtonblade.com/2018/05/16/opinion-tom-mcinerney-oliver-north/ Wed, 16 May 2018 16:43:38 +0000 http://www.washingtonblade.com/?p=41743453 Thuggish far-right politics must be defeated

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Ollie North, CPAC, Conservative Political Action Conference, gay news, Washington Blade

National Rifle Association President Oliver North (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The far right’s nastiness toward John McCain reminds me of William Faulkner’s 1930 novel As I Lay Dying, where Addie Bundren’s children argue over her coffin. The Bundrens’ cross-county trek to bury her could be titled, “Miserable People Making Bad Choices,” which might double as a description of present-day America.

White House special assistant Kelly Sadler last week said McCain’s opposition to CIA director nominee Gina Haspel for overseeing torture “doesn’t matter” because “he’s dying anyway.” As I write, Sadler still has a job; the White House is more upset about her remark leaking. They couldn’t handle jokes at the Correspondents Dinner, but they’re okay with mocking a dying veteran.

Retired general Tom McInerney (who backed the birther lie and speculated about embedded Islamist sleeper agents in Obama’s White House) told Fox Business Network that torture had worked on McCain when he was a prisoner of war in North Vietnam: “That’s why they call him ‘Songbird John.’ ” There is no evidence of this (and considerable evidence to the contrary), nor of anyone using that nickname before McInerney did.

This is shocking if unsurprising considering that our 45th president, despite having avoided serving in Vietnam by claiming he had bone spurs, said of McCain in 2015, “He’s a war hero ’cause he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.”

The slander of heroes by saber-rattling spectators like the president was also directed at Silver Star and Bronze Star veteran John Kerry for working behind the scenes to save the Iran nuclear accord. The president attacked him for his efforts, while uttering not a peep against the forty-seven Republican senators led by Tom Cotton who wrote to Iran’s mullahs in 2015 trying to scuttle the deal. Republicans have one standard for themselves and another for the rest of us.

White House Chief of Chaos John Kelly refused to apologize to Congresswoman Frederica Wilson for outright lying about her after she criticized 45’s crassness toward the widow of slain soldier La David Johnson. Last week he baselessly insulted undocumented immigrants’ assimilation abilities. His boss, who learned scorched earth tactics from Roy Cohn, talks of revoking press credentials while hiding like a tinpot dictator behind howling mobs at rallies.

Persons of low character are as much a malignancy at the National Rifle Association as at the White House. Oliver North’s appointment to the NRA presidency paid poisonous dividends as he called the Parkland, Florida high school gun control activists “civil terrorists.”

“This is the kind of thing that’s never been seen against a civil rights organization in America,” North said. “You go back to the terrible days of Jim Crow and … even there you didn’t have this kind of thing.” Perhaps not, if Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr. don’t count as civil rights activists and NRA leaders do. The terrorism to which North refers is use of social media.

North gained fame, or infamy, in the Iran-Contra hearings in 1987, where he portrayed his illegal sale of arms to Iran to raise money for right-wing Nicaraguan rebels as an act of patriotism. It was sobering to realize that millions were cheering him for the same performance that made me despise him. In 1994, his bid for the U.S. Senate was thwarted with help from Republican Senator John Warner, who denounced him as a fanatic. There are few John Warners now.

I recently wrote about the struggles of gay Ugandan refugees in Kenya. Helping can be hard on the soul because whatever you give, an ocean of suffering remains. It has to be enough that while you cannot help everyone, you can help someone. On a wider scale, contrary to Thanos in the latest Marvel movie, the world has enough to feed its children; but like him, it prefers war. We have no Infinity Stones nor superheroes, only human hearts within which decency and indecency battle each other. Meanwhile, our president separates families at the border.

We are given no guarantees. It is up to us to refute and reject the torrent of lies and bile, and honor the ancestors who by the lives they lived inspire and summon us to rise.

 

Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist. He can be reached at rrosendall@me.com.

Copyright © 2018 by Richard J. Rosendall. All rights reserved.

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