It was just abut one year ago, at the conclusion of both the Republican and Democratic Conventions when I wa asked by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) – Foundation for Social Democracy, to offer a contribution to their Spotlight Series on the American elections. I was excited to be invited and wrote the following article that I titled, The End of Civility. At that time I was both scared and hopeful, but did not believe that we would be where we are less then one year later. In the end FES did not print the article, and although a bit disappointed, I let it go as I struggled through the past six months with the events and actions of the new administration. With the events this week occurring I remembered this article and went back to my files to see what I had written. I am saddened to say, it was not that hard to see what was coming, and the sorry state we are now in. I thought that I would release the article here, so I could share the thoughts I wrote on 8/1/16.
In the United States of America, the conventions of the two major political parties have now completed their week-long media campaigns; the nominees selected; and the respective “platforms” for which they stand were adopted and published.
I am honored to have been asked to provide my view of our 2016 Presidential election through the lens of the LGBT community; one that I joined a short five years ago, when I transitioned my gender at the age of sixty-four.
Five years ago, I knew there would be political battles waging to explicitly support the rights of transgender people as well as those of the LGB community, in various states and at the federal level. I knew these fights would be long and difficult as our numbers were thought to be small, and insignificant, which would lead people to not even bother with the issue of acceptance let alone trying to understand who we are. As our visibility increased over the past two years, with both positive and negative stories of success and violence, there was the beginning of some sense of hope that things might change for the better.
However, along with the small sense of hope there were other parallel events going on. In different areas and states across the USA, there were cities and states creating laws, under the guise of religious freedom that would make it legal for people with “deeply held beliefs” to discriminate against those who those who are called out in their beliefs as the “other.”
Even long before I joined the community of the “other,” the “different,” I knew that this specious argument was the antithesis of what my country stood for.
There was once again a shadow of darkness starting to cover the America I grew up in and mistakenly had taking for granted all of my life.
In the early spring of 2015, Governor Mike Pence of Indiana signed one of the first religious freedom bills to allow discrimination against the LGBT community. He succeeded in waking up corporate America to threaten a form of economic warfare against his state. This is the man who is now the Republican Party’s nominee for Vice President. In his heart is the fact that discrimination and separation is more than OK. In fact, the party’s platform includes the concepts that this very method of discrimination is desired, desirable, and what they stand for. Divide and Discriminate is what I see when I look through any possible lens I have. The platform is generally regarded as the most anti-LGBT platform created.
It is a platform of darkness and fear; of separation and isolation. It is not a platform that engenders hope for “We The People,” as was the desire stated in the preamble to our Constitution.
We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
There has been so much said about the Republican nominee, Donald Trump, who seems to lack any notion of “we the people,” as he announced that “I alone can fix” what is wrong with the United States.
We are experiencing an eclipse of civility here as the shadows within the umbra of Trump and the penumbra of the GOP platform spread wider and wider throughout our country.
1 .courtesy; politeness.
2. a polite action or expression: an exchange of civilities.
3. Archaic. civilization; culture; good breeding.
Synonyms: affability, manners, tact
It was striking to me how the light of inclusion shone brightly at the Democratic Party Convention. There were people of all races, religions, sexual orientation and gender identity and a platform that promises to support the inclusion of all. There were testimonials of such support for the chosen candidate, Hillary Clinton, and her selection for Vice President Tim Kaine. Their biographies were shared how each of their personal histories of hand-on work throughout their lives supported their messages of inclusion. Yes, we know that the business of politics is not easy, as it takes reason and compromise and the ability to stay the course with patience, and the resolve to deal with blistering attacks from many directions.
The Democrats platform adds inclusion to my community. For the first time at any convention there was a transgender speaker present. There is a statistic that there were more transgender delegates (28) at the Democratic Convention than Black delegates (18) at the Republican Convention. I’ll let you determine what you think this means.
In the US Declaration of Independence it states:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the governed
In Animal Farm, George Orwell wrote:
All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.
Orwell’s words were a commentary on the hypocrisy of governments that proclaim the absolute equality of their citizens but give power and privileges to a small elite.
Through the lens I am looking through I see the 2016 election as a choice between which philosophies of government we want to give our consent to be governed by. The Democrats are preaching the sanctity of inclusiveness and equality to and for all. The Republicans are not even pretending to make this claim.
We can feel a lack of trust and a fear of hypocrisy if we choose the apparent light that is being offered. Or we can choose the dark and perhaps think we know what we will get from that, although history has shown that the dark shadows usually get darker and last longer than we expected.
I look through the LGBT lens and I am afraid of the dark. I am sixty-nine years old and have not witnessed the lack of civility in my country as an adult. (I was too young during the days of Joe McCarthy to remember.)
This does not seem real to me. There are so many fantasy worlds where the forces of light are able to beat back the creeping darkness and shadows that return time and again.
From the world of Star Wars, Yoda reminds us, “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
Many political analysts tell us that the American people are angry. Some will argue that the present government is not providing the promises listed above, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare.
It seems one party wants to feed the anger. When this occurs, civility is easily the first think that is being lost. From what Yoda said, if this anger continues, and the darkness spreads more, it well could be that civilization too can be lost.
However, I have hope that we can and will push back the darkness and the eclipse will end. However, as we learn from stories both in fantasy and in reality, it will take many people to make this our reality. There is not a single person, a single “I” that can make the USA and the world a better place. It will take “We the people” working together to lift us all up to that better place and allow the light to shine through.
Grace Anne Stevens inspires people to find their truth and live their authentic life!
Her website is www.liveurtruth,net