On the final night of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Peter Thiel, Co-Founder of PayPal and an openly gay man, endorsed Donald Trump for the Republican Presidential Nomination. Thiel is only the second openly gay man to speak at a Republican National Convention and the first to address issues related to the Queer community.
Thiel, whose net worth is $2.7 billion dollars, spoke of a need to “rebuild America”. He spoke of how his parents were immigrants and brought him to Cleveland at the tender age of 1. In his parents’ time America was a place “where opportunity was everywhere” and “all of America was high tech.” For his white, settler family it was a land of milk and honey.
He soon launched into a list of the defense based technological problems that plague the US. “Our nuclear bases still use floppy discs. Our latest fighter jets can’t even fly in the rain. And it would be kind to say the government software works poorly because much of the time it doesn’t even work at all.”
Thiel waxed nostalgic for a time ”when I was a kid the great debate was how to defeat the Soviet Union and we won. Now we are told the great debate is who gets to use which bathroom. This is a distraction from the real problems. Who cares? Of course every American has an unique identity. I am proud to be gay. I am proud to be a Republican.” Thiel then went on to say that the Republican’s “fake culture wars only distract us from our economic decline.” As his speech came to an end, Thiel received much applause from the red, white, and blue adorned and bedazzled audience. In the post speech commentary Van Jones stated that this was a “beautiful moment” essentially because the Republicans didn’t boo an openly gay man off the stage.
I was watching this speech waiting for Trump to take the stage for an article I was writing otherwise I would have saved myself the Tums and Maalox and read a book instead. I became so enraged from Jones’ response that I had to sit down and write this. I know not to expect much from CNN or any other major media outlet, but to have someone, a person of color no less, state that because a person from a marginalized community that has experienced violence and oppression wasn’t booed off a stage was a “beautiful moment” is just too much for me to stay silent. The fact that a gay man would get up on a Republican stage and sell out his Queer family in the way that Thiel did is too much for me to remain silent.
I won’t begin to speculate on what the circumstances were that brought Thiel and his family here or how hard they worked to achieve the “American dream.” I have no doubt that they, like many others, have struggled and put in countless hours of labor to gain what they have in life. However, they had this “America” to come to because my people had our land stolen, our lives taken, and were relegated to reservations. Our continual loss was their gain. The irony is not lost on me that the very city Thiel and his family immigrated to, and that this year’s RNC was held in, uses my people as a sports mascot-Chief Wahoo for the Cleveland Indians’ baseball team.
Much of Thiel’s speech extolled the virtues of capitalism at all costs, including those of bodies of color in the U.S. and across the globe. He bragged of the U.S. accomplishment in the Manhattan Project which was responsible for creating the first nuclear weapons during WWII. The American government later dropped those bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Much of the development and testing of these nuclear weapons occurred, and has continued to occur, on Native lands and in the Marshall Islands which has led to devastating rates of cancer, miscarriages, birth defects, sterility, a litany of other serious health ailments, and loss of water and food supplies which have only added to our high rates of food insecurity and starvation.
Sadly, I find none of this money at all cost attitude surprising from a Republican. Even out of the mouths of many Democrats they will still justify oppression if it benefits the bottom line of those in power. What I find the most egregious about Thiel’s speech is that he claimed the Republicans have been waging a “fake culture war.” I ask you what’s fake about the multiple atrocities that people throughout the U.S. face every day at the hands of the Republican Party? What’s fake about women’s bodies being policed to the point that they’re incarcerated for having a miscarriage? Purvi Patel was serving a 30 year sentence for the charge of feticide and felony child neglect in the state of Indiana for having a miscarriage. Trump’s Vice Presidential running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence (R), signed fetal rights laws into place which gave more rights to a fetus than a woman. The court of appeals overturned the feticide charge on July 22nd, but Patel is still in prison for “neglect of a dependent.” What’s fake about the epidemic proportions of violence that Native women face in the U.S. at the hands of non-Native men? More than 4 in 5 American Indian and Alaskan Native women will be a victim of violence in her lifetime and more than 1 in 3 will be a victim of violence in the last year. Meanwhile, Trump has repeatedly made racist and misogynistic comments about Native women that have done unmitigated harm to us. In 2013 72% of hate crime homicides were Transgendered women. 2016 is on the way to being a record year for highest rate of murders of Trans women who have been predominately Black. Despite this Republicans felt that the real danger lie in where Trans people use the bathroom.
I could go on and on about the horrifying brutalities and discrimination that Women, Immigrants, People of Color, Queer, Disabled, Poor, and Indigenous people experience every day in the U.S. I’ll never discount my voice and the power that it has, but I have no where near the kind of privilege and clout that Peter Thiel has. He has so much privilege that he was able to stand on the stage at a major U.S. political party’s convention to endorse a candidate, and only moments before the candidate took the stage no less. People with the privilege that Thiel has, have a responsibility to their community to use that privilege to fight like hell for those whose voices are trampled upon by the government, whether it be by the Republican or Democratic Parties, or Trump or Hillary. Thiel took a very clear stand when he took that stage. He told his fellow Republicans and Queer community members that his bank account was worth more than doing right by people. For that Thiel should hang his head in shame and for the rest of us, we have much more work to do.
*You can read this article and soon others here https://medium.com/@JenDeerinwater