I’m standing outside the state Capitol, attempting to ascertain what’s on the minds of Franklin Graham’s disciples as we approach Election Day, when an old man wearing a cowboy hat lets me know who’s in charge.
He calls me a “fucking sodomite” and tells me he hopes I “burn in the fires of hell.”
But wait. I’m married, I tell him. To a woman. I have kids.
“Well, then, you’re a sodomite lover,” he snarls.
Let me point out that of all the horrid ways homosexuals are characterized in this country, the word “sodomite”—and the aggressive way it’s used—makes my blood boil. But I try to let it go. I’m here to do a job. It’s business, not personal.
Fast-forward a few minutes. It gets personal.
I’m talking to a sweet-looking little old lady who is attending the rally with her forty-six-year-old son. When he heard my line of questioning, he grabbed his mother by the arm.
“Look at his nose,” he says. “He’s a fucking Jew-boy. Don’t waste your time with him.” (Technically, my dad is Jewish, but my mom isn’t, so, according to Jewish law, I’m not actually a Jew.) But, I digress.
Throughout my career in journalism, I have been in some tense situations. I was in Afghanistan in the summer of 2009 during the surge. I stood alongside protesters in Charlotte during the aftermath of the Keith Lamont Scott shooting. But that comment really gave me pause. This is not the America I want my kids to see.
It’s worth noting that when the INDY learned that the “Carolina Values Summit”—an event, sponsored by the N.C. Values Coalition, that promised speeches by Governor Pat McCrory and sidekick Dan Forest—was being held today
at the Marriott in downtown Raleigh, I attempted, using my personal email account, to register to attend. But not long after, despite my promise to pay the $50 registration fee, the group responded. “Thank you for your interest in attending the Carolina Value Summit however the event is closed to press.”
Not to be deterred, I realized that they couldn’t keep me from attending the post-summit rally outside the Capitol, featuring Franklin Graham, who recently equated Donald Trump’s “grab ’em by the pussy” remarks to “the godless progressive agenda of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.” There, I thought, I would be able to observe these people among their peers, and maybe figure out a little better what they were thinking. But if I’m being honest, the hate speech I encountered took me aback.
During the hour-plus I spent around the Capitol, I was informed that the INDY was “fag propaganda” (fact check: mostly true), told that “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve,” and informed that the freedom the group was fighting for was not intended for people like me, whatever that means. One guy prayed for me and told me, “You’ll thank me later.”
When, after I asked a question about HB 2, I told a guy who claimed to be a lawyer that I had no problem with using the same facilities as members of the transgender community, he called me a “damned liar."
"I don’t care what you say,” he said. “You would not be OK with a tranny in a bathroom with your daughter, sister, or wife.”
The anger—at least, the anger directed at me—seemed to die down a bit when Franklin Graham took the stage. And he did all the Franklin Graham-ing one might expect. He made condescending remarks about President Barack Obama and said, in a ringing quasi-endorsement, that people should “hold their nose” and vote to protect the sanctity of the Supreme Court—basically the same read-between-the-lines signal of support he’s been giving to other Christian audiences lately.
And he played to the crowd by telling them their religion was under attack—that schools don’t let kids pray and the Founding Fathers did not really believe in a separation of church and state.
He attacked the “gay and lesbian agenda,” which he said created fake outrage over HB 2 and put children at risk. And he thanked God for the man, the myth, the legend who enabled it all: “I thank God for the governor and the stand he took.”
As his speech wound down, his nauseating rhetoric was met with thunderous applause from the hundreds gathered at the Capitol. So I decided to leave, stopping only when Graham broke into a solid rendition of “God Bless America.”
Maybe somebody should remind his followers that America includes us “Jew-boys” and members of the LBGTQ community.