THOMPSON: The religious right in America is closer to fascism than ever | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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THOMPSON: The religious right in America is closer to fascism than ever



I moved to Washington, D.C. in July of 1983. I was 33 years old and the managing partner of Stellar Communications, a new advertising and public relations firm. My office - 1315 F Street - was the top floor of the International Office Building, two blocks from The White House, three blocks from Ford’s Theatre, and across the street from the National Press Building. It was an exciting time in an exciting city, and I had a front-row seat.

I wanted to live near my work, and being married with no children, school considerations played no part in my decision. However, my disdain for commuting meant my choice of a home was between expensive, and really expensive.

I chose a place on Capitol Hill - two miles from my office and on the new Metro line - because it entailed just a two-block walk and a ten-minute Metro ride, and at about $4,500 a month in today’s dollars, it was only expensive.

Capitol Hill was in the midst of gentrification that started in the mid-1970s. It was mostly the home for black folks for four decades…and the first wave of white folks to move back was mostly gay and lesbian…singles and couples.

I settled on a new condo on the site of Washington’s first Ford automotive dealership. Most of the original brick exterior walls were kept…and the 18 residences were three-levels…with spiral staircases, colourful modern kitchens, fireplaces and roof-top decks. I moved into the last available condo. All my neighbours were - as it happened - gay or lesbian to use terms of the times…17 of the 18 condos.

There was a new disease in America and little was known about the mysterious ailment. But it was starting to claim lives…and seemed to focus mainly on the gay community. It was, of course, Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome…AIDS…a virus.

The first case of AIDS was reported just a year and a half earlier…and facts that we now know were then unknown. In the coming years we would find that AIDS was transmitted through unprotected sex, contaminated blood transfusions, hypodermic needles, and from mother to child during pregnancy, delivery and breastfeeding.

It turned out that some bodily fluids - saliva, sweat and tears - did not transmit the virus and oral sex had little to no risk of transmitting the virus. But none of this was widely known in 1983.

So, like polio in the 1950s, people were suspect of “others”…and as AIDS started to ravage the gay community…suspicion quickly turned to fear and outright discrimination. I remember as a child communities closing public swimming pools during the polio epidemic…without evidence but blaming poor people. Parents told children not to play with friends who were poor…who didn’t bathe as often…or wear clothes that were as clean.

Of course, much like when the COVID-19 virus started to spread almost three years ago…people were extremely wary and did some things that made little difference in lowering the chances of catching the virus…like wiping down with alcohol grocery items they bought.

I remember the hysteria over AIDS and the behaviour afforded gay folks in 1983. A straight couple - friends - were my dinner guests one night…and when a gay neighbour knocked on my door to return a Champagne ice bucket I had loaned him…my friends were incredulous.

“You’re not going to keep that?” the wife questioned. “You don’t know what they did with it!”

I remember looking at her quizzically…what did she think they did with it?

“Chill Champagne?” I suggested.

The remainder of the evening bordered on the bizarre…I noticed both of my guests carefully and repeatedly wiping their forks, knives and spoons with their napkins. Barely eating, they left early…and were never in my home again.

Old biases die hard. Otherwise, millions of LGBTQ+ folks could move freely about the world…not suffer discrimination in getting mortgages…not worry about their safety simply walking down a public thoroughfare…or have their love and devotion questioned as some perverse sexuality…an attack on “real” marriages.

What is perverse is the erosion of rights and freedoms in America. Despite 50 years of legal precedent and protection of individual rights, Republicans - bowing to religious fundamentalists - loaded courts including the Supreme Court with Conservative judges who for the first time in American history took rights from half its citizens by reversing Roe v. Wade.

All the while religious fundamentalists - mostly Right-Wing Conservatives and Republicans - are planning their continued attack on civil liberties. Next up…another reproductive right these good folks want to deny people…contraception.

Despite well-documented benefits of deliberate family planning, nearly half of U.S. pregnancies are unplanned. But families’ contraceptive realities differ greatly across the U.S. Many states restricting access to abortion already have high rates of unplanned pregnancies. In Louisiana, one of the thirteen states that immediately outlawed abortion, 43 percent of pregnancies are unplanned.

These Right-Wing efforts are not about saving lives…it’s about control. There is nothing remotely Christian or religious about taking away the basic right of a woman to control her own body. There is nothing Christian or religious about wanting to criminalize female equality.

After trying to control who gets pregnant and how, the Right-Wing extremists will get to one of their favourite perversities…same-sex marriages. These folks quote the Bible - which can be used to justify about anything - to prevent millions of Americans from living lives they’re entitled to…simply by being Americans.

Good friends of mine live in Massachusetts. They are gay and have been in a loving, devoted relationship for 41 years. Their state was the first - in 2004, a year before Canada enacted the Civil Marriage Act - to allow same-sex marriages. I would use their names, but as one friend said, “…just a precaution in these fraught times of hyper partisanship and, ya know, guns.”

Sadly, there are states my friends no longer even feel good about visiting…and in fact, I will likely never see them in Florida. I understand their feelings…they are weary of narrow-minded people who not only claim it their religious right to metaphorically stone them - or any LBGTQ+ member - but they despise most the politicians who codified those beliefs.

Again, this isn’t about religion or certainly religious freedom…it’s about control…it’s about cruelty and punishment from a narrow-minded, holier-than-thou minority. It’s about that minority dictating to the majority what America should be. That’s not how democracy works.

The religious Right is closer to fascism than ever because they believe people not like them are trying to replace them, like Jews, like people of colour, like LGBTQ+ folks. Americans need to register and vote - not to control others - but merely to live in peace in every sense as equal Americans.

Beyond that, when you hear the dangerous words of oppression, of racism, of sexism, of hate, you must speak up.

— Don Thompson, an American awaiting Canadian citizenship, lives in Vernon and in Florida. In a career that spans more than 40 years, Don has been a working journalist, a speechwriter and the CEO of an advertising and public relations firm. A passionate and compassionate man, he loves the written word as much as fine dinners with great wines.

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