Safe Place

A recent report by the Southern Poverty Law Center says that hate groups are on the rise, and crimes against members of the LGBTQ community are up from last year.  In just the full week (ie, 7 days!) following President Trump’s election last November alone, 80 of the 701 reported incidents SPLC tracked were categorized as “anti-LGBT.”  80 incidents in 7 days!  That’s almost 12 per day!  And look at this chart...

Anti-LGBT hate incidents rank third, behind only anti-black and anti-immigrant incidents.  This is an epidemic of hate that demands a response, beginning with strong moral leadership from politicians and civic authorities.  Leadership that is woefully lacking, at this moment in time.

A lack of leadership is not an excuse for inaction.  Case in point:  when gay Seattle police officer Jim Ritter realized his city had a major problem with hate crimes against the LGBTQ community, he didn’t allow the enormity of the problem to overwhelm him, he didn’t hide behind the “what can one man do?” cop-out.  He started a program called "Safe Place,” a voluntary community-based program that designates local businesses as a place where victims of hate crimes and harassment can shelter while waiting for the police to arrive.

It's a simple enough idea based on something he remembered from his childhood — houses with stickers in the window that indicated to kids walking by that if something bad happened, if they were frightened, or felt threatened, they could knock on the door and expect safety.

spd-safe place sticker

So Officer Ritter designed a sticker — a police shield with the LGBTQ rainbow flag colors — to be displayed on the front of any business agreeing to call police if a victim of a hate crime comes inside looking for help.

opd-safe place

The idea is catching on — Cincinnati, Columbus, Louisville, Birmingham, Durham, Baltimore, and Honolulu have been calling.  Orlando Florida called; on the 6-month anniversary of the Pulse LGBTQ Night Club massacre, Orlando launched its Safe Place program.

President Kennedy quoting Edmund Burke noted, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”  Though New York Times language columnist William Safire challenges the attribution to Burke, the truth of the quote remains regardless of its author and its lesson for us is no less urgent because its provenance has been called into question.

We simply cannot and I will not wait for someone else to address the ugliness and vitriol President Trump, Vice President Pence, Attorney General Sessions, Chief of Staff Priebus, and so-called “Chief Strategist” Bannon have unleashed in the American people.  I do not believe every Trump supporter is racist, or xenophobic, or homophobic, or transphobic, or misogynistic, or just dumb.  Many are.  But just as many aren’t.

But this spike in hate is coming from somewhere!

Every horrible thing Donald Trump said during the campaign about Mexicans or women was validated for many by his election.  Every profanity-laced rally filled with narcissistic bravado, every call to bully protestors, and every ignorant diatribe has been endorsed.  Every piece of anti-LGBTQ legislation Mike Pence championed during his career in politics has been signed-off on.  A huge portion of our country has declared these things acceptable, noble, even American.  Donald Trump’s election, in spite of these things, canonizes the hate he stands for; the office he now holds confers legitimacy in the minds of many on his conduct unbecoming.

trump ballot box

You may not be a racist.  But if you voted for him and even if you didn’t but you just shrug your shoulders now and say “he won, what can we do?”,  you are complicit in his racism.  The same is true for every other vile and repulsive thing the man stands for.

While the LGBTQ community struggles to come to terms with an administration that wants to MAKE AMERICA    STRAIGHT      HATE    GREAT AGAIN, it’s incumbent on each of us to create safe places for those who are frightened, feel threatened, or are already suffering in this new climate of cynicism, mistrust, and fear created by the president and his team.  It is incumbent on each of us to do the things we can do — I can’t march but I can write, someone else can make phone calls, someone else can defend an immigrant in court.

Maybe you can ____________.  Because to do nothing is to hasten the triumph of evil.

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