Chance Given


Less Hate. Photo by Callen Harty.


On election night I was devastated by the Presidential results. Though I voted for her I wasn’t as devastated by Hillary Clinton’s loss as I was by Donald Trump’s win. It made no sense to me. Every election people say they want “change” and because of that many of those people voted against the entrenched name of Clinton. Many voted not so much for Trump but against Clinton because they hated her so much they would have elected Mickey Mouse instead of her (and perhaps they did).

But Mickey Mouse is a harmless mouse. Trump appeared to be more of a rat–calling Mexicans rapists, women ugly, making fun of a disabled reporter, and bragging about conquests and sexual assaults of women. Unless you’re Vermin Supreme there should be a certain decorum in Presidential candidates, which Trump completely lacked. As a gay man I could not vote for him. As a sexual abuse survivor I could not vote for him. As a man who believes that all men and women are created equal I could not vote for him. I could not imagine that enough of my fellow Americans would hate Clinton so much that they would allow him to be elected. What happened to the #NeverTrump crowd? What happened to all the Republicans who initially said they could not back such a horrible person and then little by little (with the exception of maybe half a dozen with real morals) jumped back on the bandwagon because they cared more about their own political futures than about the political and real future of this country? Then, of course, there were the spineless politicos like Paul Ryan who tried to play both sides of the fence to try to protect themselves no matter which way the wind might blow on election day.

On election night I cried. For the first time in 40 years of voting I literally cried at the result, because it told me how far America has sunk as it gasps its last breaths of empire. The end of empire, expansionism, and interference in the affairs of other nations is not such a bad thing. The end of our morals and decency and the last vestiges of compassion and caring is a horrible thing to watch. Granted, Trump did not even win the popular vote, and a huge number of eligible voters just plain stayed home, so it’s not like Trump’s win is a mandate for anything. Still, a large percentage of my fellow Americans voted for a man who showed himself to be racist, misogynist, and more. I never thought I would see such a reprobate elected to the highest office of the land and so I cried for what we have become.

Because I believe in this country and have learned to accept hard-fought losses I understood Clinton, Obama, and others who congratulated Trump on his victory–as difficult as that must have been–and understood their desire for a peaceful transition of power and best wishes for his success. I understood the idea, as much as I disliked Trump as a candidate, that he would be the next President whether I liked it or not and that he should be given the same chance that any other incoming President has been given.

Less than three weeks as a President-elect have passed and I have already run out of chances to give Trump. If he says he wants to act as a President for all the people then he is either ignorant of the lives and careers of those with whom he is surrounding himself or he is outright lying about wanting to be the President for all of us.

Nobody has been named yet, but experts believe that it is currently a battle between Mitt Romney and Rudy Guiliani for Secretary of State. Guiliani has been one of Trump’s leading sycophants (psychophant?), which Trump surrounds himself with, so he probably stands a very good chance. His claim to fame, of course, is his willingness to erode every American right because–you know, 9/11. Romney, on the other hand, was no friend of Trump’s during the campaign. Trump is known more for getting even with people than with offering an olive branch. His only reason to select Romney would be to appease the Republican establishment, which would also be out of character. Democrat Tulsi Gabbard has also been mentioned after accepting a meeting with Trump to discuss Syria and our policies there, but it would be a surprise if he selected her and not one of his inner circle or some other conservative outside of the establishment. The scary thing is that either one of those choices seems like a godsend when compared to many of the other choices so far.

Who knows? Trump may surprise everyone with an even worse Secretary of State pick than either Giuliani or Romney. Just look at some of the horrible choices he has already made. A few are choices that would be acceptable offerings from any President. While Nikki Haley is not a politician I like, her selection as Ambassador to the United Nations is not one to raise a lot of eyebrows. Likewise with Donald McGahn as White House Counsel and a couple other choices. On the other hand some of the most high-profile selections are people I wouldn’t be comfortable welcoming into my house, let alone helping to lead the government. These are not people who can be supported.

If Trump wanted to separate himself from accusations of racism he did not do so with his first few selections. Worst of all was the selection of Steve Bannon as Chief Strategist and Senior Advisor to the President, the position held by Karl Rove under George W. Bush and held by David Axelrod, among others, under Barack Obama. If anyone remembers how much influence Karl Rove had over George W. Bush then you have to realize that Bannon will be in a position to wield a lot of influence. Bannon is the one who revived Trump’s campaign late in the election cycle. He did it with some pretty ugly antics, such as inviting women who claimed to have been assaulted by Bill Clinton to one of Trump’s debates with Hillary Clinton. Prior to coming onto the campaign he was the editor of Breitbart News, a conservative organ that promoted deeply conservative views under the leadership of its founder and editor, Andrew Breitbart. Breitbart himself had Libertarian and very conservative views, but when he passed away in 2012 Bannon took over and pushed Breitbart even further right and published article after article of anti-Semitic, homophobic, misogynist, and racist claptrap. Upon learning of Bannon’s appointment Democratic Senator from Oregon Jeff Merkley tweeted that Trump had just invited a white nationalist into the White House. While technically accurate, white nationalist (and alt.right) are simply polite terms for racist jerks. Bannon is a racist, pure and simple, and having a man like him at the President’s side is a scary prospect for anyone who believes in our foundational premise that all are created equal.

Attorney General selection Jeff Sessions has also been considered a racist. In the 1980s conservative President Ronald Reagan (who now feels like a crazy liberal in comparison to some of the wacked out right-wingers around today) appointed Sessions to a judgeship. A Republican-held Senate refused to confirm him because of racist remarks. He had joked that the KKK was okay with him until he found out they smoked pot. Not really a funny joke, or an okay kind of opinion. He was also accused of calling the NAACP and other black and civil rights organizations “un-American”. He also opposes same-sex marriage. If he doesn’t get rejected by the Senate again he will be the highest-ranking lawman in the nation, a scary thought for anyone who believes in civil rights.

Lieutenant-General Mike Flynn has been named National Security Adviser. He has shown himself to be an Islamophobe. In February of this year he tweeted “Fear of Muslims is RATIONAL . . .” and asked followers to forward that message with the closing statement, “The truth fears no questions.” So my question is why he didn’t specify that fear of terrorists is rational rather than classifying all the adherents of a particular religion as people to fear. That kind of irrational bigotry will not lead to better national security for anyone.

Mike Pompeo, a representative from Kansas, was chosen to lead the Central Intelligence Agency. His views on surveillance are scary enough that I fear writing something negative about him now could come back to haunt me later. He wants to expand the government’s ability to spy on citizens and collect information in order to better prevent terrorism and threats to the United States. He, too, has walked a tightrope of Islamophobia, pretty much always being careful to qualify his distaste for Muslims with coded terms and references to radical Islamists. At the same time he has depicted radical Islamists as being out to destroy Christianity and insists that believing in Jesus Christ is the only way to save us all, while not acknowledging or realizing that Christians like himself are out to evangelize the world into their way of thinking and to do that they must destroy other religions along the way.

A couple days ago Betsy DeVos was named as the Secretary of Education. DeVos is a woman who never went to public school (nor did her children), who has never taught, and whose only connection to education has been in fighting to expand school vouchers and charter schools. This is a person who does not believe in public education and would like to see it privatized. Republicans who profess to believe in less government have been using these tools to slowly erode local control of schools, providing opportunities for charter schools to teach a curriculum that espouses creationism and other non-scientific viewpoints as the truth. She is married to the heir to the Amway fortune. Amway was founded by two men who believed in the “American Way”, which is what Amway is short for, and who have used the profits from their pyramid sales scheme to fund ultra-conservative causes for decades. DeVos has been quoted as saying that she expects to get something in return for the money that she and her family give to candidates. She could easily be the poster child for Citizens United.

This is just a sampling of the selections for top positions so far. There are many more to come, including the likelihood of a 17-year employee of Goldman Sachs as Treasury Secretary, homophobe Tom Cotton as a potential Secretary of Defense (hopefully not the likeliest choice, but under consideration), a possible Secretary of Agriculture whose campaign account tweeted the “c” word about Hillary Clinton, and Secretary of the Interior possibilities such as venture capitalist Robert Grady, Lucas Oil co-founder Forrest Lucas, and environmental rights activist Sarah Palin (please note sarcasm on this one).

These choices tell me that Donald Trump does not want to be my President, and I know that I don’t want him to be my President either. I was willing to give him a chance. Within a few days he had already surrendered that chance. On election night I cried. Less than three weeks later I am no longer crying. I am angry, stubborn, resolute, and prepared to resist.

About Callen Harty

Originally from Shullsburg, Wisconsin Callen Harty is the author of four books and numerous published essays, poems, and articles. His most recent book is The Stronger Pull, a memoir about coming out in a small town in Wisconsin. His first book was My Queer Life, a compilation of over 30 years worth of writing on living life as a queer man. It includes essays, poems, speeches, monologues, and more. Empty Playground: A Survivor's Story, is a memoir about surviving childhood sex abuse. His play, Invisible Boy, is a narrative with poetic elements and is also an autobiographical look as surviving child sex abuse. All are available on (and three of them on Kindle) or can be ordered through local bookstores, He has written almost two dozen plays and 50 monologues that have been produced. Most of them have been produced at Broom Street Theater in Madison, Wisconsin where he started as an actor, writer, and director in 1983. He served as the Artistic Director of the theater from 2005-2010. Monologues he wrote for the Wisconsin Veterans’ Museum won him awards from the Wisconsin Historical Society and the American Association of State and Local History. He has also had essays, poems, and articles published in newspapers and magazines around the country and has taken the top prize in several photo contests. His writing has appeared in Out!, James White Review, Scott Stamp Monthly, Wisconsin State Journal, and elsewhere. He has had several essays published online for Forward Seeking, Life After Hate, and The Progressive. Callen has also been a community activist for many years. He was the co-founder of Young People Caring, UW-Madison’s 10% Society, and Proud Theater. He served as the first President of Young People Caring and as the Artistic Director for Proud Theater for its first five years. He is still an adult mentor for the group. In 2003 he won OutReach’s Man of the Year award for his queer community activism. OutReach is Madison, Wisconsin’s lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender community center. He also won a Community Shares of Wisconsin Backyard Hero award for his sex abuse survivor activism work. He has been invited to speak before many community groups, at a roundtable on queer community theater in New York City, and has emceed several events. In 2016, Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault named him their annual Courage Award winner for his activism, writing, and speaking on sexual assault.
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