This latest shooting, in which at least five people in Colorado were killed late Saturday night when a gunman once again opened fire inside an LGBTQ nightclub, follows six years in which far-right leaders have led American politics down a fearful blame spiral fueled by homophobia, xenophobia and racism.
This past election, Republican candidates ran on a platform that characterized queer and transgender people as “groomers.” They targeted the families that support them as criminals. And many of the candidates talking like this won their races. In less than a decade, the right has managed to breathe new life into an old, dangerous narrative — queer and transgender people are threats to children and to the health of the nation. This strategic scapegoating is by design. It galvanizes white, conservative GOP voters by stoking the basest of emotions — fear of erasure.
Lofty American ideals like tolerance, justice and individual freedom are incompatible with the right’s demonizing narrative. There is no longer room for difference when difference is deemed a threat, especially to children. In a school board meeting in suburban Portland last week, parents railed against LGBTQ-related targeting, harassment and intimidation. But these weren’t the parents of queer or transgender youth. Instead, as one parent summed up later, the school district’s adoption of LGBTQ-inclusive materials and anti-bullying policies promoted “discrimination against people who are white, straight, Christian.” The parent asked: “Where is the equity for them?”
Morality-based fear-mongering and the characterization of minorities as dangerous enemies from within are predictable moves from an old playbook. It persists because it works. It fosters a breach from our shared humanity and incites bloodshed. Violent, fearful words breed — and sanction — action.
Within days of Trump’s election in 2016, reported hate crimes skyrocketed. State attorneys general in Massachusetts, Maryland and New York created emergency hotlines to manage the flood of reports. Studies now show that Trump rallies cast a long shadow of hate-based violence, with host cities reporting a 226% increase in violence. [Continue reading…]