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‘I was a stranger, and you did not welcome me’

Dreamers and LGBT folk face cold-hearted hypocrisy from the far right

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DACA, gay news, Washington Blade

DACA supporters protest outside the White House on Sept. 5, 2017. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

It is time to step up the fight against the multi-pronged intolerance resurgent in America, which cloaks itself in piety and patriotism as it attacks LGBT people, immigrants, and others. Here I focus on the anti-gay, anti-trans Nashville Statement and on President Trump’s despicable decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, created by President Obama in 2012.

The Nashville Statement was issued August 29 by evangelical ministers hosted by the Southern Baptist Convention. It calls marriage a divinely ordained “union of one man and one woman” and denies “that marriage is a mere human contract.” It invokes “biological sex” as a rule to be imposed rather than a lived reality to be studied. It states, “We affirm that it is sinful to approve of homosexual immorality or transgenderism….” That’s an affirmation? It reminds me of the old song lyric, “Yes we have no bananas.” It could have been written by Vladimir Putin.

We have battled religious intolerance for a long time. I will restate points I made in 2012 for DC’s Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance:

Right-wing claims about ‘traditional marriage’ are astoundingly false. A true Bible-based marriage law would include polygamy, concubines, executing non-virginal brides, banning mixed-faith marriages and divorce, and requiring a man to marry his dead brother’s widow. The scriptures supporting those practices are mostly from the Old Testament, which the bullies prefer to Christ’s law of love. If they were not cherry-picking verses to suit their prejudices, they might notice the alternate gloss on Sodom in Ezekiel 16:49. Using religion to justify prejudice or to control others is not acceptable in a free society. We must rebuke the predators and opportunists who presume to sermonize against us when their own moral authority is in shreds. We must also thank clergy who affirm us.

The bigots who gathered in Nashville might be laughed off except for the harm they inspire, including subjecting youth to the dangerous and discredited fraud of conversion therapy. Their ally, Vice President Mike Pence, stated on his 2000 congressional campaign website, “Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.”

Pardon me, but no. Low self-esteem has to be taught. Studies show that family rejection and unsupportive environments are associated with greater risk of attempted suicide among lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth. It is especially wicked to use the bad fruit of harsh environments to justify mistreatment disguised as healthcare.

No one need choose between faith and self-respect. The Nashville signatories insist on seeing difference as a threat. A better vision for America is all around us, just beyond our comfort zones.

Trump equivocated on DACA, touting his big heart. Business leaders clamored to save the program while nativist hardliners including Attorney General Jeff Sessions, dead-eyed Stephen Miller, and Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who called it illegal “amnesty,” demanded he keep his campaign pledge to end it. But as former Solicitor General Walter Dellinger notes, “6 U.S.C. 202 already says DHS can set ‘national immigration enforcement policies and priorities.'” Immigration reform has stalled in Congress. Tossing DACA to Capitol Hill to resolve in six months is another Trump evasion.

23-year-old Houston paramedic Jesus Contreras, who worked for six straight days rescuing people after Hurricane Harvey, is among 800,000 Dreamers who face deportation. America has been his home since age six. Nine red state attorneys general threatened to sue Trump if he did not revoke DACA, others if he did.

At the Gospel’s heart is a rebuke in Matthew 25: “I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.”

Pope Francis said in October 2016, “You cannot be a Christian without doing what Jesus teaches us in Matthew 25. It’s hypocrisy to call yourself a Christian and chase away a refugee or someone seeking help, someone who is hungry or thirsty, toss out someone who is in need of my help.”

Trump is not the wall, but the breach. His rhetorical grenades have rolled back into his own tent.

God made us differently. People can issue all the statements they want against LGBT people; that will not change who we are. Immigrants commit less crime; punishing people who were brought here as children is gratuitous, damnable cruelty. We must defeat the haters and hypocrites who are taking sledgehammers to American principles. Those principles must be at the core of our message or we will lose, and see Lady Liberty’s beacon of hope snuffed out. No greatness there.

 

Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist. He can be reached at [email protected].

Copyright © 2017 by Richard J. Rosendall. All rights reserved.

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13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. thorntme

    September 7, 2017 at 11:05 am

    The sign at the top of this article say “Sanctuary for All.” Are we Americans really meant to provide sanctuary for all, or is the protester indulging himself with a bit self-serving hyperbole? Are we meant to provide sanctuary to murderers? Rapists? No? Then at what level of felony do we stop saying “You need to leave?” Immigrants may commit less crime, but does that statistic, taken in isolation, provide a rationale for giving sanctuary to illegal aliens who also happen to be violent felons?

    • Rick Rosendall

      September 7, 2017 at 4:59 pm

      Since nothing I wrote can reasonably prompt such questions, I’ll leave you to find the maker of that sign. When the protest was happening, I was finalizing this article. If you’re concerned about rapists, I hope you didn’t vote for a candidate who boasted about being able to get away with sexual assault.

      • Mark Hatchett

        September 9, 2017 at 9:27 am

        Let’s see some quotes from Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton when they both spoke about the necessity of securing our borders and keeping out illegal aliens.

        • Rick Rosendall

          September 10, 2017 at 4:53 pm

          Stop the deflection. Obama’s action to *help* Dreamers is what Trump has acted to rescind. AG Sessions called DACA lawless, but that is false and hypocritical because (1) Republican presidents have similarly used prosecutorial discretion, and (2) Sessions defended Trump’s travel ban.

          • Mark Hatchett

            September 10, 2017 at 4:57 pm

            Talk about deflection! I knew you would ignore all the Clinton/Obama statements that illegal aliens had to go back! You liberals crack me up!

          • Rick Rosendall

            September 11, 2017 at 1:18 pm

            I have been critical of both Obama and Clinton. But I will not play a game of moral equivalence with you. Trump is at least an order of magnitude worse, and the refusal by some people to recognize that or care is one reason we are in the mess we are in.

          • Mark Hatchett

            September 11, 2017 at 3:09 pm

            Now what mess would that be? The only messes we are in are leftovers from previous administrations. Obamacare, Iraq, Syria, North Korea, illegal aliens, muslim terrorism, unemployment, massive debt, and civil strife were all bequeathed to President Trump.

          • Mark Hatchett

            September 11, 2017 at 3:15 pm

            I left out Iran.

          • Mark Hatchett

            September 11, 2017 at 3:21 pm

            I left out Lybia.

          • Rick Rosendall

            September 12, 2017 at 7:56 am

            I have written plenty about Trump in past columns. I will not recount it all here. Just one point: the notion that the current situation with North Korea is entirely inherited from Obama is bizarre indeed, in light of Trump’s reckless behavior. We face many ongoing challenges; there is no basis for confidence in 45 to address any of them well. He is good at inflaming white supremacists, though.

  2. Jude Rene Montarsi

    September 12, 2017 at 8:35 am

    Great essay!

    • Rick Rosendall

      September 13, 2017 at 4:56 pm

      Thanks.

  3. EastCoastJ

    September 21, 2017 at 2:22 am

    Trump has raised the standard of the U.S., from a dive bar any lowlife can walk into to a more exclusive club.

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Opinions

Should we be scared of Omicron?

A reminder to stay vigilant against latest mutation

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It’s Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend when I sit down to write this column. The craziness in the world continues but other than the scare of the new COVID mutation, which has been named Omicron, there isn’t one headline to grab attention. Instead, there are many, including some manufactured by the news media to gain viewers or sell papers. Some like the car rampaging through the Christmas parade is frightening but incidents like this seem to be happening all too often.  

The stock market went down 1,000 points on Friday because market players freaked out about the new COVID mutation coming out of South Africa. However that didn’t seem to stop people from spending their money on Black Friday. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) was again on the attack this time against fellow Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) accusing her of being a Muslim terrorist. She apologized, or pretended to, but again the Republican leadership wouldn’t condemn her statements. These things seemed to be grist for the news media with no one else unfortunately really voicing concern. 

Boebert’s comments were taken as old hat. They are disgusting, offensive, and dangerous, but as long as her constituents reelect her we will have to live with them. She is joined by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.),  Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.), and Paul Gosar  (R-Wyo.) who represent the worst in Congress and the worst of the American people. Yet again until their constituents throw them out we have to live with their stupidity and the absurdity of their being where they are. 

The new COVID mutation out of South Africa is potentially a game changer. But it will be important for scientists to look at this carefully to determine how quickly it spreads and whether or not the current vaccines will offer any protection against it. Countries around the world, including the United States, have quickly instituted travel bans for South Africans and those in countries surrounding it. The World Health Organization at this time has suggested this should not be done as it will have limited impact on its spreading and could have severe and detrimental economic impact on countries whose people are being banned. One thing we must learn from this is how important it is to ensure everyone all over the world has access to vaccines as we know the more people who are inoculated the harder it is for the virus to mutate. It is not time to panic yet and by Sunday there was some reporting this new mutation may not be any more difficult to deal with than the current ones and not lead to any more severe illness. The takeaway from all this is we need to keep vigilant, get vaccinated and get booster shots, and make sure we vaccinate our children. Continue to wear masks indoors and wash our hands. 

Now the other interesting stories last weekend were about what will happen in the Senate in the weeks leading up to the Christmas holidays. Remember the House of Representatives passed President Biden’s Build Back Better bill as a reconciliation measure, which means it can pass the Senate with a simple majority. That would mean every Democratic senator and the vice president. The focus is on two senators: Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Sinema (D-Ariz.). In reality we need to look at a number of others who will fight to either take out or put something into the bill the House passed. It is clear it will not pass in the current form and then it has to go back to the House again. 

Another issue that will be taken up is the debt ceiling. It may be a little easier than thought because as recently reported, “After taking a hard line and refusing to negotiate with Democrats during the last standoff over the debt limit, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is quietly looking for a way to get the issue resolved without another high-profile battle.” Then there is the budget and since none is passed Congress will have to pass another continuing resolution since the one they passed in September expires on Dec. 3. 

So for the next few weeks there will be a focus on the Senate to see what they do and how obstructionist Republicans want to be. Seems while things change, they somehow remain the same.

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

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It doesn’t take a miracle

Hanukkah a time for LGBTQ Jews to celebrate full identity

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(Public domain photo)

For Jews around the world, Sunday night marked the beginning of Hanukkah. The story of Hanukkah celebrates the liberation of Jerusalem by the Maccabees, a small and poorly armed group of Jews who took on, and defeated, one of the world’s most powerful armies. 

Upon entering Jerusalem, the Maccabees saw that there was only enough oil to light the Temple’s eternal flame for one night. But the oil lasted eight nights — enough time for new oil to be prepared. The eternal flame remained lit, and light triumphed over darkness.

The story of Hanukkah was a miracle. While we celebrate and commemorate that miracle, we should also remember that it doesn’t take a miracle for one person to make a difference. 

The entire world is shaking beneath our feet. The climate is in crisis and our planet is in danger. A viral contagion has claimed the lives of millions, and there’s no clear end in sight. Creeping authoritarianism threatens the entire world, including here at home.

Sometimes it seems like it will take a miracle to solve even one of these problems. The reason these problems seem so overwhelming is because they are — no one person can fix it themselves.

Here in the LGBTQ community, we have made enormous strides, and we ought to be proud of them. But there is so much more work to be done.

Not everyone in our community is treated equally, and not everyone has the same access to opportunity. Black, brown and trans LGBTQ people face systemic and structural disadvantages and discrimination and are at increased risk of violence and suicide. It must stop.

These are big problems too, and the LGBTQ people as a collective can help make the changes we need so that light triumphs over darkness. But it doesn’t take a miracle for individuals to light the spark.

Our movement is being held back by the creeping and dangerous narrative that insists that we choose between our identities instead of embracing all of them. 

The presentation of this false choice has fallen especially hard on LGBTQ Jews, many of whom feel a genuine connection to and support for Israel. They feel marginalized when asked to sideline their identity by being told that the world’s only Jewish state shouldn’t even have a place on the map. And they feel attacked when asked about the Israeli government’s policies during a conflict, as if they have some obligation to condemn them and take a stand simply because of their faith.

One of the ways we can shine our light is to fight for an LGBTQ community that is truly inclusive.

This holiday season, pledge to celebrate all aspects of your identity and the rights of LGBTQ people to define their own identities and choose their own paths. If you feel the pressure to keep any part of your identity in the closet, stand up to it and refuse to choose. 

In the face of enormous challenges that require collective action, we must not give up on our power as individuals to do what’s right. It doesn’t take a miracle to do that.

The tradition of lighting the menorah each night represents ensuring the continuity of that eternal flame. One of the reasons the Hanukkah menorah is displayed prominently in the windows of homes and in public squares is because the light isn’t meant to be confined to the Jewish home. The light is for everyone — and a reminder that we can share it with the world every day to try to make it better.

As long as we keep fighting for justice, we don’t need to perform miracles. But we do need to do our part so that light triumphs over darkness.

It is up to each of us to map out what we can contribute to create a truly inclusive LGBTQ community. This holiday season, be the light. If you can, donate to a group that helps lift LGBTQ youth in crisis. Volunteer your time to fight for the rights and the lives of trans people. And be kind to one another.

Whether you are Jewish, Christian, Muslim, or of no faith at all, take this opportunity to share your light with the world. It doesn’t take a miracle to do that.

Ethan Felson is the executive director of A Wider Bridge.

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Trend of banning books threatens our freedom

‘History has taught you nothing if you think you can kill ideas’

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National Book Festival, gay news, Washington Blade

I knew Helen Keller was a DeafBlind activist. But, until recently, I didn’t know that some of her books were torched.

Nearly 90 years ago, in 1933 Germany, the Nazis added “How I Became a Socialist,” by Keller to a list of “degenerate” books. Keller’s book, along with works by authors from H.G. Wells to Einstein were burned. 

The Nazi book burnings were horrific, you might think, but what does this have to do with the queer community now?

I speak of this because a nano-sec of the news tells us that book censorship, if not from literal fires, but from the removal from school libraries, is alive and well. Nationwide, in small towns and suburbs, school boards, reacting to pressure from parents and politicians, are removing books from school libraries. Many of these books are by queer authors and feature LGBTQ+ characters.

Until recently, I didn’t worry that much about books being banned. My ears have pricked up, every year, in September when Banned Books Week is observed. Growing up, my parents instilled in me their belief that reading was one of life’s great pleasures as well as a chance to learn about new ideas – especially, those we disagreed with. The freedom to read what we choose is vital to democracy, my folks taught me. 

“I don’t care if it’s ‘Mein Kampf,’” my Dad who was Jewish told me, “I’ll defend to my death against its being banned.”

“Teachers should be allowed to teach it,” he added, “so kids can learn what a monster Hitler was.”

In this country, there have always been people who wanted to ban books from “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by writer and abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe to gay poet Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl.”

In the 1920s, in the Scopes trial, a Tennessee science teacher was fined $100 for teaching evolution. (The law against teaching evolution in Tennessee was later repealed.)

But, these folks, generally, seemed to be on “the fringe” of society. We didn’t expect that book banning would be endorsed by mainstream politicians.

Until lately.

Take just one example of the uptake in book-banning: In September, the Blade reported, Fairfax County, Virginia public school officials said at a school board meeting that two books had been removed from school libraries to “reassess their suitability for high school students.”

Both books – “Lawn Boy” a novel by Jonathan Evison and “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by non-binary author Maia Koabe feature queer characters and themes, along with graphic descriptions of sex.

Opponents of the books say the books contain descriptions of pedophilia. But, many book reviewers and LGBTQ students as well as the American Library Association dispute this false claim.

The American Library Association honored both books with its Alex Award, the Associated Press reported. The award recognizes the year’s “10 books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults ages 12 through 18.”

Given how things have changed for us queers in recent years – from marriage equality to Pete Buttigieg running for president – it’s not surprising that there’s been a backlash. As part of the blowback, books by queer authors with LGBTQ+ characters have become a flashpoint in the culture wars.

As a writer, it’s easy for me to joke that book banning is fabulous for writers. Nothing improves sales more than censorship.

Yet, there’s nothing funny about this for queer youth. My friend Penny has a queer son. “LGBTQ kids need to read about people like themselves,” she told me. “It’s horrible if queer kids can’t find these books. They could become depressed or even suicidal.”

If we allow books to be banned, our freedom to think and learn will be erased.

“History has taught you nothing if you think you can kill ideas,” Keller wrote in a letter to students in Nazi Germany.

Anti-queer officials may remove LGBTQ books from school libraries. But, our thoughts will not be unshelved.

Kathi Wolfe, a writer and a poet, is a regular contributor to the Blade.

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