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Thursday, February 06, 2020

The Debasement of a Medal

Melania Trump places medal around the neck of Rush Limbaugh
Photo: LGBTQ Nation

It is obvious Donald Trump is profoundly ignorant of the significance of sacred medals. Back in 2016 while running for president, after a soldier received the Purple Heart, he commented that he always wanted one as if it were a souvenir.  This comes from a five-time draft dodger feigning bone spurs that kept him out of combat where such a medal could have been issued to him upon injury. Dumb as that comment was, how any veteran or service member would have voted for him is beyond me. Alas, he became the Commander-in-Chief.

At Tuesday night’s heavily divisive State of the Union address, Trump pulled one of his reality TV stunts and announced the awarding of the Presidential Medal of Freedom—the highest award to be bestowed to a civilian—to none other than  right-wing talk-show flamethrower Rush Limbaugh in the middle of the speech. Trump praised Limbaugh for “decades of tireless devotion to our country.”

He asked the First Lady place the medal around “shocked” Limbaugh’s neck in the gallery of the House of Representatives to the howls and cheers of Republican lawmakers in the chamber and millions more at home. Limbaugh had announced the previous day that he has been diagnosed with advanced lung cancer.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom as described in the executive order that created it is for “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.” 

Recipients over the years have included the likes of Rosa Parks, Harvey Milk, Walt Disney, Jackie Robinson, Elvis Presley, Jonas Salk, Loretta Lynn and Walter Cronkite, to name a few. A wider list is shown here.

Overwhelmingly, the previous recipients’ records of accomplishments did not include dividing Americans against one another.  For Limbaugh to receive such a weighty award given that he has made a potent living condemning minorities and marginalized populations is an utter disgrace and a debasement of the honor the medal represents.

Says Ilyse Hogue, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, Limbaugh spent a “lifetime of racism, homophobia and misogyny.”

Over the course of decades, Limbaugh has had a field day deriding the LGBTQ community and those with HIV/AIDS. In 1989, he said that the best way to stop HIV was “do not ask another man to bend over and make love at the exit point. That’s what you don’t do.”

During the 1990’s he advocated against funding to fight the AIDS epidemic. Writes Alex Bollinger on LGBTQNation.com, “Limbaugh referred to the disease as ‘the only federally-protected virus.’ He denounced spending money on ‘education, and condoms, and cucumbers and all that’ because there was no ‘evidence that [HIV] was spreading to the heterosexual community, not sexually anyway.’”

In the 2000’s Limbaugh turned his ire on marriage equality.
Bollinger quotes Limbaugh:

“They seek to impose their perverted views, their depraved views on family and marriage,” he said, talking about marriage equality activists in 2010. “Marriage is a union of a man and a woman… This is about destroying an institution.”

He later said “we lost” the issue when the word marriage was “bastardized and redefined by simply adding words to it” like “gay marriage” or “straight marriage.”

“We allowed the argument to be made that the definition needed to change, on the basis that we’re dealing with something discriminatory, bigoted, and all of these mystical things that it’s not and never has been,” he said in 2013.

Limbaugh didn’t just oppose LGBTQ equality – he actually believed that gay people were out to get straight people.

Says Bollinger, Limbaugh “claimed in 2014, before marriage equality was even a reality in all of the U.S., that straight people were the real marginalized group: “They’re under assault. You say, ‘Heterosexuality may be 95, 98 percent of the population.’ They’re under assault by the two to five percent that are homosexual.”

He also said that there was a “movement on to normalize pedophilia” that was related to the movement for marriage equality. “The same things that were said about gay marriage,” he said in 2013, implying that there was a comparison between child molestation and two consenting adults of the same sex getting married.

Adds Bollinger, “Limbaugh is also well known for his demeaning comments about Black people – from calling former President Barack Obama ‘Barack the Magic Negro’ to saying that the NBA was filled with “thugs” like “the Crips and the Bloods” to literally calling Michelle Obama “uppity” – and women – like when he called then 12-year-old Chelsea Clinton a ‘dog’ and when he repeatedly attacked Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke as a ‘slut’ because she used birth control – as well as other groups – like when he made fun of Michael J. Fox, who has Parkinson’s Disease, for shaking.

This is who President Trump deems to be a person worthy of this honor for “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.” 

Placing a hateful, divisive person as Rush Limbaugh alongside the extraordinary Americans who were trailblazers, heroes and devoted a lifetime of work for the better good who had previously received this honor, it debases the medal pure and simple.

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