I remember the first sign I ever made. The Pittsburgh Pirates had a contest, and participants who made signs were allowed to parade with them on the field at Three Rivers Stadium. It was a momentous experience for this young boy. My handcrafted sign read, “Tanner’s Manner Brings Home the Banner,” which was meant to convey that Pirates manager Chuck Tanner's tutelage would hopefully bring home the World Series banner for the Buccos. The sign was a symbol of love toward my favorite baseball team.
I’ve been thinking a lot about that sign lately, as a way to try and balance its message of love and hope against all the hate signs being paraded, created, and misstated by the Republican Party. What is it about Republicans and their ignorant fights with signs — and flags — lately? So far, they are fighting a losing battle.
Republican senator and QAnon ambassador Ron Johnson falsely claimed last week at a hearing about the capitol insurrection that left-wing “provocateurs” and “fake” Trump supporters were responsible for the destruction. He had the gall to say that the real Trump supporters were peaceful and “didn’t litter.”
I’m assuming that Johnson is blatantly ignoring the plethora of pictures, videos, and news stories that vividly depicted Trump, Three Percenters, Proud Boys, and Confederate flags used to bash law enforcement officers, break windows, and knock down the doors of the U.S. Capitol? Did he miss the images of signs that urged the murder of Mike Pence, blared "Stop the Steal," and that declared “Civil War on January 6, 2021?"
The flags and signs were neither fake nor environmentally friendly, and Johnson’s comments were flogged and flagged by social media, news outlets, and Republicans and Democrats alike as unashamedly false.
I wrote recently about the Republicans in the Pennsylvania state legislature who were so agitated at rainbow flags outside the office of Lt. Gov. John Fetterman that they passed a resolution outlawing the presence of Pride flags in the capitol. Fetterman hung the flags to show his support for adding a state constitutional amendment that would outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The Republicans thoughtlessly voted down that amendment and ridiculously tore down Fetterman’s flags.
Fetterman put those flags back up. The Republicans took them down again, and Fetterman will keep putting them back up until that equality provision to the state’s constitution is amended.
And while the U.S. House debated and eventually passed a national Equality Act last week, congressional disgrace Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene manufactured yet another grotesque media moment that featured her own hateful sign. She hung a horrendous homemade placard outside her office that ignorantly said, “There are TWO genders MALE & FEMALE. ‘Trust the science!’” She also sent out a tweet invoking the transgender daughter of Illinois Democratic Rep. Marie Newman.
Greene, whose office is directly across the hall from Newman’s in the Longworth House Office Building, posted her pathetic poster in protest of a transgender flag that hangs outside of Newman’s office that encourages passage of the Equality Act and shows support for Newman’s trans daughter.
I spoke to Newman about Greene's appalling behavior and asked her what she thought when she saw that repulsive sign. “What was more infuriating, loathsome, and despicable was bringing a child into it,” Newman explained during a phone call from her Longworth office. “And misgendering my daughter was absolutely, positively not acceptable.”
Newman feels that Greene knows that what she did, and how she feels, is iniquitous. “Look, she knows she’s in the wrong; 100 percent she knows it. And when bullies know that they are wrong, they dig in, then they act like the victim, and then they dig in even further, and they end up getting to the point where they can no longer discern the truth.”
Newman’s anger was rightly palpable during our call. Any one of us would be beyond furious if our children were used in a malevolent way. Greene has three children, so I wonder how her kids would feel if they were called out in a destructive manner. I asked Newman how her daughter felt about maliciously being dragged into the fray.
“Before I do anything that involves her, I always ask her first, because she’s definitely shy, and when I called her about this episode, she said, ‘Oh no, Mom, go get her!’ And then my daughter told me, ‘Don’t worry, we’re gonna be better for this, but you do need to stand up to her and all of the other bullies.’ I always take my cues from my daughter.”
To Newman, the Equality Act was personally important and something she fiercely believes in. “This should have been done decades ago,” she said emphatically. “My daughter transitioned four and half years ago, and she came out five years ago, and we went through a couple of rough patches. But I’m happy to say she’s come out stronger and better during the last year, and she’s the strongest she’s ever been. She’s going to school, has a job, lots of friends, so we’re thriving. This bill comes down to the fact that, with its passage, I feel my daughter will be safer and happier.”
Newman is optimistic the Equality Act will eventually be passed by the Senate and signed into law by President Biden. Given that hopeful scenario, I wondered if Newman would take down the trans flag outside her office.
“I’m going to leave it up along with the state flag and the country flag. [Greene] can’t touch those flags. She can keep her sign up, and she can do whatever she wants with that. I have no interest in having a tit for tat with her. My only hope is that every time she leaves her office, she looks across the hall and sees that flag as a symbol of love and equality.”
John Casey is editor at large for The Advocate.