Many of the policies enacted by former President Donald Trump as a sop to his Christian nationalist base were cruel and capricious, and they did real harm by taking rights away from LGBTQ people, non-Christians, women and others.
But there were some policies that were just daft. Consider, for example, Trump’s executive order from July 2020 mandating the creation of a “Garden of American Heroes.”
The garden was supposed to include statues of “historically significant Americans.” Coming as it did during a time when many communities were reassessing the wisdom of statues and monuments honoring Confederate figures – and given Trump’s stated desire to keep those statues in place – Americans had good reason to be suspicious of Trump’s motivations. And while the list of proposed honorees for the garden did include some genuine heroes, the Trump gang slipped in at least two names that simply did not qualify: evangelist Billy Graham and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
As we noted on this blog at the time, neither of those men deserved such an honor. Graham spent his career proselytizing for his brand of conservative Christianity. While many people undoubtedly enjoyed his preaching, Graham’s work served a private religious interest. It didn’t lift up the rights of the downtrodden. (In fact, Graham’s career was marked by unfortunate instances of anti-Semitism and troubling statements about LGBTQ people, and he was also more or less missing in action during the civil rights struggle.)
Scalia’s track record on human rights was even worse. His time on the high court was marked by hostility toward separation of church and state and a callous indifference toward the rights of religious minorities, women, LGBTQ Americans and others.
As it turns out, towering statues of Graham and Scalia don’t loom in our future because this Garden of Christian Nationalists Delights won’t be coming to pass after all. Last week, President Joe Biden revoked Trump’s order and ditched the whole idea.
That’s good news. There are plenty of genuine heroes in American history, but no sensible person would trust Trump and his minions to identify them.