By Bryan Fulwider
I don’t consider myself a paragon of virtue or sensitivity. But I have spent a lot of time with hurting people. You can’t tally up 33 years of working as a congregational pastor without encountering an amazing amount of pain.
And you don’t need extraordinary powers of observation to develop a fair idea of how people will respond when they’re hit with life-altering news.
President Donald J. Trump’s July 26 tweet declaring that “the United States Government will not accept or allow … Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military” hit me like the kick of a mule. His pronouncement didn’t impact me — well, not directly — but I knew there would be extreme pain for thousands of transgender service personnel.
A transgender person experiences a unique set of hurdles and heartbreaks. Unsought, but part of the terrain in the transgender identity and experience. And though some onlookers have difficulty grasping the reality, transgender folks, being human — like the rest of us — have the same emotions of love, anger, sorrow and bitter disappointment. They shed tears. They bleed and suffer.
Their love of country leads them to risk their lives in its service, and when their commander-in-chief declares each of them to be persona non grata, as far as the military is concerned, it cuts to the core.
Indescribable pain. Additionally, there’s panic over how they’ll survive when their relatively meager paychecks cease.
Will their exit from the military be declared honorable? Will they be entitled to veterans benefits? Will they get any credit for the time they agreed to serve their nation but won’t be allowed to serve? Will they have to surrender awards they’ve received because of meritorious service?
So many questions. So much pain. So impersonal. “Fired by tweet!” Disrespectful and cruel.
On reflection, Trump’s actions do greatly affect me and every citizen of the United States. His actions, more than those of any other, determine how people around the world will view our nation. “All men are created equal … endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights … among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
The U.S. president should be the greatest promoter and protector of our unique brand, which is, after all, what makes America truly great. When the president or any other leader fails in that mission, we the governed must withhold our consent. We must make our displeasure known.
Some will argue that Trump’s tweet was merely a trial balloon. But that makes it no less reprehensible. No Americans deserve to be subjected to such emotional cruelty — particularly by the commander-in-chief for whom they would honorably and willingly lay down their life.
The Rev. Bryan Fulwider is one of The Three Wise Guys on the radio program Friends Talking Faith and chair of of the Executive Committee of the Interfaith Council of Central Florida.