May 22, 2017

I don't think I will ever be able to get the image out of my head of Trump bowing and curtsying to Saudi Arabia's King Salman. Sure other presidents, both Republican and Democrat, have visited the Saudis and even kissed and held hands with their leaders. This is not uncommon among men in Arabic countries, and I do not care one way or another. To argue about such expressions of respect serves no one.

The hypocrisy of it all doesn't even frustrate me that much. Trump specifically targeted Muslims during his campaign and continues to do so. From Muslim bans and registries to lying about seeing Muslims celebrating the 9/11 terrorist attack, there has been no doubt left in my mind that he does not like them. But I've grown used to his hypocrisy and expect nothing less. The man proves on a daily basis that he cannot tell the truth. It would actually shock me were he to be sincere and honest.

The problem I have with Trump visiting Saudi Arabia is the same I have had for any other president: women's and gay rights violations. It is beyond abhorrent that an American president, Democrat or Republican, would ever visit this country without at least commenting on these crimes. I'm not talking about something they did 20 years ago. I'm talking about current laws and customs that contribute to outright violence, imprisonment and even death.

The Saudis practice an extreme version of Islam known as Wahhabism. Women in Saudi Arabia, unless you're a Trump, are required to be covered head to toe at all times and must always be in the presence of a male guardian. This means a woman cannot go grocery shopping without a male relative chaperoning her. Though they gained the right to vote in 2015, women are still not allowed to drive, swim, participate in sports, enter cemeteries, divorce or marry, open a bank account, work or go to school without a male relative giving them permission to do so. Many businesses still maintain separate entrances for men and women like the "whites only" and "colored" distinctions American southern states used to mandate.

And if you think being a woman in Saudi Arabia is oppressive, just try being gay. Gay men are routinely beheaded, imprisoned and lashed for crimes such as posting their sexuality online. To come out as gay can get you killed as it is legally punishable by death. Let me repeat that: the words "I am gay" can get you beheaded in Saudi Arabia.

It pains me to say this, but in Trump's defense, he's no different than past presidents regarding the Saudis. I'm not naive about this. We need their oil and we need them as an ally. I understand that circumstances in the world can make for strange allies.

No, I'm not naive about Trump either. I recognize that this is about money for him. Instead of arms for hostages, Trump appears to be trading weapons for money to build his stupid wall. And I know he doesn't care about human rights. His attitude and behavior towards women has been well documented. Though he's expressed support for gay rights in the past, he seems more than willing to allow states to take away their rights should they choose.

But if we are willing to bomb a country over chemical weapons, should we also not be willing at the very least to simply say that such laws are inhumane? That's all I'm asking from any president; a simple statement that we support the rights of women and gays.

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