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Dear Jonathan of Queer Eye: Our human rights aren’t up for debate

Dear Jonathan of Queer Eye: Our human rights aren’t up for debate

Jonathan from Queer Eye

Queer Eye’s styling expert Jonathan Van Ness recently came under scrutiny when he shared his opinion that US politics shouldn’t go ‘too far left’.

In a series of tweets, he wrote: ‘Luckily a lot to extreme right people won yesterday, meaning that if we can come up w center left candidates we can take back the house & senate, not to mention many state legislatures.’

People quickly began to criticize Van Ness, questioning finding ‘mutual understanding’ with racists.

He responded that people who don’t like his tweets can leave, before adding: ‘Being able to compromise is what’s missing from both sides of the American political situation & the sooner we all get to a place of mutual understanding the sooner we will get out of this mess.’

Here’s the thing, though — there’s a time and place for compromise and this isn’t it.

We don’t compromise on human rights, JVN.

Our lives are at stake

Sure, we can compromise on budgets and infrastructure all day long. That’s not what’s currently at stake in the United States, though.

One Twitter user, @hannahmosk, tweeted to Van Ness about the Republican candidate Steve West. West recently won the Republican primary in Missouri. He’s now set to face off against the Democratic candidate in November’s midterm elections.

West also once said: ‘Hitler was right.’

Van Ness’ point is that the general population won’t want to elect these far-right candidates, and will instead lean towards center-left candidates. Therefore, far-right candidates winning primaries is ‘good’ because it will make the Democratic candidate more appealing in comparison.

People marching with Confederate and Nazi flags at the Unite the Right rally
People marching with Confederate and Nazi flags at the Unite the Right rally | Photo: Flickr/Anthony Crider

But that’s playing fast-and-loose with a fundamentally flawed political system where the very lives of marginalized people are at stake.

Hillary Clinton may have won the popular vote, but Donald Trump — a white supremacist — won the presidency due to very real and very active factions of people who view anyone who’s not straight, cisgender, white, or Christian as less than human.

We’re currently living in a country where immigrant children are separated from their families and kept in cages. Where there is an Islamophobic ban on Muslims disguised as national security. Where transgender women of color are murdered at disproportionately high rates.

There’s no compromising on this.

Not all Republicans…

Van Ness posted another tweet, this time a video of himself. In it, he says that ‘all Democrats are not necessarily inherently evil and all Republicans are not necessarily inherently evil’.

Well, yes, true, but this is like the backwards All Lives Matter campaign that bubbled up in response to Black Lives Matter.

No one that’s part of the BLM movement is saying only black lives matter, they’re saying: ‘Pay attention to what’s happening in this country and why innocent black people are victims of police brutality at high rates.’

Similarly, we know there are some reasonable Republicans who will meet in the middle and discuss certain issues.

The United States currently has a political system that is broken and dangerous. It allows room for things like white supremacy and bigoted ideals.

Donald Trump
Donald Trump | Photo: Flickr/Gage Skidmore

Anyone who condones this — implictly or explicitly — is part of the problem.

There was no compromising on Nazi Germany. There was no compromising on slavery, despite what some politicians from the South at the time might have said. Yeah, remember that famous US compromise known as the three-fifths compromise?

When a system is so wholly shattered that it does not protect its people, prioritize human rights, and speak up against injustices without hesitation, the fight to gain them back is without compromise.

Lead with love

All five of the new Queer Eye men have done an incredible thing promoting conversations about love, acceptance, and diversity. The Netflix show has brought a lot of joy to people, as well as needed media representation..

It’s needed in today’s current maelstrom.

There is a difference, however, in that series, done on an individual, microscopic level, and what is happening at this country’s foundation.

Van Ness’ comments are also more than a little confusing when he’s willing to criticize Nicki Minaj and the baker from Masterpiece Cakeshop.

In response to whether or not he’d have the baker on Queer Eye, Van Ness said: ‘To have this platform and have these followers, to be taking interviews and to say lightly that you’d take [on the baker], I don’t know. … By legitimizing them, especially the person that has stoked such an intense case against marriage equality, that also presents such a big bone in the side of furthering marriage equality.’

There is a bigger picture here. When members of a harmful party don’t stand up to condemn them, they legitimize them.

When we finally give in enough to compromise on our own basic rights, we lose.

History books will show the right side, and we’ll be on it.