Achieving change requires focusing on the actions of the presidency

March 8, 2019

A recent update from the Trump administration on new plans to enforce human rights worldwide took much of the country aback. In an article entitled “A U.S. Ambassador Promises a Global Push to Decriminalize Homosexuality,” the New York Times reported on Richard Grenell’s announcement that the Trump administration would be starting an international campaign to decriminalize homosexuality.

Grenell is the American ambassador to Germany, but is more prominently the highest ranking openly gay representative in the Trump administration. It is worth mentioning that this decision is very unlike the other decisions we have seen from the Trump administration, leaving many skeptical as to the nature of the intention behind this campaign. While it has been speculated that the campaign was just a means to crack down harder on Iran, Grenell assured the New York Times that “This is not just about Iran. This is about 71 countries, and Iran is one of them.”

This explanation was not sufficient for many critics of the Trump administration. A guest writer for GLAAD, an LGBTQ media organization, composed a piece with a rightfully distrustful tone regarding the new information. Jeremy Hooper wrote that one of the oddities surrounding the campaign was how sparingly it was referenced or elaborated on outside of Ambassador Grenell. But the main crux of his piece was about the fact that Trump was not aware of the plans for this campaign and how that half-heartedness, along with the air of subtlety amidst the administration, should keep LGBTQ Americans vigilant.

Another prominent thinkpiece regarding the recent developments was an article in Out magazine entitled “Trump’s Plan to Decriminalize Homosexuality Is an Old Racist Tactic” written by Mathew Rodriguez. Rodriguez highlights how the Trump administration has failed and even actively harmed the LGBTQ community with the way they dealt with issues like HIV/AIDS and LGBTQ members of the military.

Rodriguez takes this a step further by offering that perhaps the entire campaign is merely another use of LGBTQ people by the right as a “pawn to amass power and enact its own agenda.” Specifically, Rodriguez believes the plan has racist undertones in the way that white people in power are “protecting” a minority group from another minority group to justify their oppression of the “aggressors.”

As open-minded, yet skeptical liberals, the questions we are left with are: What are the true intentions of the Trump administration in this new campaign? And to what degree should we be wary of Trump regarding these efforts?

I worry that both these questions have the same disappointing answer. The true intentions of the campaign are likely both multi-faceted and difficult to determine. We can speculate and, while I am inclined to believe some of the speculations, I am not sure that the intention of the campaign is what is of import.

Trump’s administration has been the root of numerous problems for many underrepresented groups. So in trying to evaluate the president, it can be easy to get wrapped up in exactly what motivates the president when he seemingly deviates from his socially unjust ways. I would argue that we must treat this phenomenon just as we would treat the other inexplicable features of Trump’s presidency. In evaluating Trump and his administration we must attempt to focus primarily on his actions.

It is true that this campaign might have racist undertones, but if Ambassador Grenell’s assurances are true, then this campaign will be truly impactful regardless of intention. The history of American politics has taught Americans that almost no decision is made, or piece of legislation is passed, without its purpose being partly to appease the ulterior desires of politicians. This is not to say that we should not keep an eye on the intentions of government officials. Rather, I am suggesting more of a focus on the concrete actions as that is where I believe we can truly change what needs changing.

It is important to remember that while Trump is very different from many politicians of memory, he is still a politician and should be evaluated in the same manner. It is in part his unconventionality that has caused many of the shortcomings of the modern liberal movement.

This is why it is so important that we keep in mind the Trump administration’s promise to promote and enforce the decriminalization of homosexuality worldwide, not only in Iran, but also in the many other nations that have actively neglected those human rights. It is a promise that they may very well follow through on for the wrong reasons, but by looking at the outcome we can hone our criticism or our satisfaction in a time when the liberal movement needs clarity more than anything else.

Hooper had written that the LGBTQ community should remain wary and vigilant, and this is a point with which I could not agree more. While neglecting intentions might be the best way to find clarity, it is the case in our society that some groups will lose their voices if they are not screaming.

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