Ryan Lee

Ryan Lee: LGBT Americans facing the winds of Dixie

Opportunity and possibility are often associated with the future and what is to come, but the past is filled with just as many chances to achieve greatness or grow into a better person. A few years ago, Pizza Hut aired an ad campaign that audaciously declared the chain was celebrating 20 years of online orders, foreshadowing a coming storm of suspicious claims about who did what at the start of the internet.

There may have been a beta test order that was never delivered to a physical address in 1994, but anyone sophisticated enough to be engaging in e-commerce back then couldn’t be so dumb to wait the hours it must’ve taken to dial into the internet; load a website, menu and payment-processing system (for econo-linear context, debit cards were just fully coming into widespread use in the ’90s); then have a third-party phone the order into a local store that surely wasn’t connected to the internet. Sorry, Pizza Hut – like your greasy pan pizza, I ain’t buying it.

In a more serious instance of revisionist history, U.S. Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions recently spoke to a syndicate of anti-LGBT groups led by the Alliance Defending Freedom, where he promised his office would soon release “religious liberty” guidelines that will offer legal cover for anyone who wants to discriminate against LGBT Americans. Sessions’ speech was entirely predictable, except for two words that jumped out at me when he was tracing the role religion has played in the development of our nation’s character.

“And of course it was faith that inspired Martin Luther King Jr. to march and strive to make this country stronger yet,” Sessions said, according to a transcript of the speech that his office initially resisted making public. “His was a religious movement. The faith that truth would overcome.”

Of course. The biggest miss during Sessions’s confirmation hearings earlier this year was the failure of Democrats to ask the then-senator from Alabama an obvious question: When did you stop being a racist?

This is a man who was born in 1946 in the heart of Dixie, to parents who named him after two Confederate icons, suggesting his household was, um, unreconstructed on matters of race. How did someone whose introduction to our society and laws included Jim Crow and the extrajudicial killings of black people evolve into someone – into a white Southern conservative – who genuinely believes the law protects, and punishes, everyone equally.

I’ll bet the lil’ country boy who grew up in Selma, who was a teenager when George Wallace launched his holy war against racial equality, who attended University of Alabama’s law school during integration, never imagined that he would have to effusively praise the negro troublemaker from Atlanta. And I wonder how much spinning took place in the segregated graveyards of Selma when Sessions uttered the words “of course,” as if it were obvious to everybody and their mama that God was on King’s side.

But Sessions’ politically correct esteem for MLK hasn’t prevented him from trying to rescue the criminal justice system that replaced Jim Crow, namely by escalating the War on Drugs and reinstating policies that make incarceration obscenely profitable for private companies. He has likewise made statements that were puzzingly supportive of LGBT rights, right before he promised that “the federal government will actively find ways to accommodate people of all faiths.”

The irony of a son and descendant of two separate states’ rights uprisings vowing that Washington D.C., is dashing to the rescue. The ideas that Sessions promotes are as wrong as those of his namesakes and his childhood neighbors, and they will as surely be defeated.