An Open Letter to the Senator Heinz @HistoryCenter Regarding Donald Trump

Dear History Center,

Frankly, I’m disgusted that you took money from the Trump Campaign to host an event last night with Vice-Presidential candidate Mike Pence.

Your institution is predicated upon the idea that we can learn from history. Trump’s campaign is predicated on the idea that facts, historical truths and alternative narratives are subject to his momentary whimsy or belief. He distorts history and blatantly lies about facts.

And we saw one culmination of his campaign’s approach yesterday when he called for the assassination of Hillary Clinton. I realize this happened just a few hours before your event, but who couldn’t see that coming? How on earth could you claim as an organization that studies history that you didn’t understand the trajectory of his narrative from distasteful fascist rhetoric to fascist calls for open violence targeting political opponents? That would suggest either you aren’t very good historians or you didn’t bother about it.

I’m ill at ease with the idea that you needed funding so very much that you would accept this campaign money. As a queer woman living with a disability in this region, I am concerned that my value in your eyes (and the history of my communities) is lessened. There’s no free speech argument involving a private non-profit organization. And there’s certainly no lack of private for-profit venues to host such an event. You should do better.

And I’ll be here when the Trump campaign is over. I’ll have to deal with the fallout. And I’ll have to make decisions about attending History Center events and touring Meadowcroft with this new information, this new evidence that you value Trump’s money more than you value me.  And that hurts. It makes me angry, a little frightened and terribly disappointed in you.

I can’t imagine how your staff felt knowing that a horde of people who support this terrible man and his terrible ideas were gathering outside their doors. I can’t imagine how it felt knowing that they had to walk through that crowd, either in the lobby or in the parking lot. I’d be scared to death – are there guns? are people looking for someone to hassle? signs that threaten their family or deny their dignity as human beings? Signs that deny historical facts or the veracity of science? Why would you do that to your staff and volunteers?

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For money?

If my employer required me to be in the presence of a large group of people who support the idea that Hillary Clinton should be assassinated, I don’t know what I would do.

I do know that I’ve lost respect for your organization. Just this month, I was planning a trip to Meadowcroft, planning to work with your team on a special event and to start the planning to eventually formally donate my #AMPLIFY archives to your institution. I’m working on three presentations, one to a national audience, where I would be discussing your institution. I spent the last several weeks encouraging people to attend your Pittsburgh’s Hidden Treasures day. That’s one of my favorite programs on KDKA.

Now, I won’t utter your name. There are other archives I can reference in my presentations as examples. There are other archives that will want to receive the AMPLIFY donation. There are certainly other event venues that would accept my money. While there is no other Meadowcroft, I guess I can be content to simply read about it. And that hurts me.

Heinz History Center Trump
Heinz History Center Board of Trustees. Photo via the History Center website.

Mr. Rogers famously told us that in times of crisis, we should look for the helpers. Our country is in multiple crises. Instead of helping us, you took the money. Instead of scheduling another society wedding or reunion or event that is banal and tacitly neutral in the grand scheme of things, you took Trump’s money. You let him use your name and the legacy of Senator John Heinz to support his campaign. For money.

I’m pretty sure both Mr. Rogers and Senator John Heinz would not consider Donald Trump a helper. I took a closer look at your board of directors and see many, many names there of people who also recognize that Donald Trump’s campaign is not helping anyone but him.  And your coffers, I suppose.

History urges us to remember that the Third Reich placed great emphasis on the synchronization of culture to prop up their ideology. We’d all be wise to brush up on how that worked out.

More than 170 LGBTQ residents of Western Pennsylvania have entrusted me and this blog with their story – with their piece of our collective history. Every single one of us would be living in peril under a Trump Administration. So I can’t just smile and pretend the Heinz History Center should be part of this effort, not under these circumstances.

You don’t deserve the financial support of the region’s communities targeted by Trump – women, queers, Latinos, disabled folks, people of color, poor people of every stripe, crying babies, survivors of gun violence.  None of us should give you a cent until Andy Masich apologizes and the History Center undoes the harm it has caused.




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