02.01.24 Editor’s Desk

As the nation spirals toward another showdown between President Joe Biden and his predecessor, barring any miracles from our judicial branch or Nikki Haley, I’ve been thinking a lot about Donald Trump.

More specifically, his first and hopefully sole term in office. I’m a political junkie, so if you know me that’s probably not surprising, but I’m convinced it’s a form of low-level PTSD. That was a very long and very dark four years for both our community and country.

I remember because I spent a lot of time dissecting Trump’s words as a journalist, a profession he attacked almost daily as president. Anyone paying attention knows they’ve rarely been worthy of the White House.

The weekend of Aug. 11, 2017, comes to mind as one example. That’s when a group of white nationalists donned red caps and brandished their Tiki torches for the infamous Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

I covered the news for a political website I edited before joining Watermark’s staff full time, reporting on their vitriol as they protested the removal of a Confederate monument. Ultimately 35 people were injured and one woman was murdered, all of whom were peaceful counter protesters.

Trump issued a statement from his golf course about the “egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.” The former president failed to condemn white nationalism, presumably for fear of losing a few votes.

It took two full days of bipartisan political pressure for him to address the matter further. He ultimately doubled down and blamed violence “on both sides.”

Whether it was that weekend, four years of his anti-American rhetoric or his incitement of an insurrection after losing the 2020 election, Trump showed our country who he was at every tweet and turn. It wasn’t a leader, something I believe every American knows.

The problem is that too many just don’t care. The 2024 results from the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary made that perfectly clear, when a majority of Republicans voted for him again.

That tragic weekend in Charlottesville has stayed with me over the years not just because of Trump’s inaction but because of the hate it cultivated. It’s something I experienced firsthand that I’ve never discussed publicly.

In the weeks after the rally, a portion of the internet banded together to publicly identify the white nationalists who participated. I wrote about this concentrated effort to dox them and went on with my life — at least for a few days.

It didn’t take long for a reader to alert me that I’d been doxxed myself. A white nationalist website deemed a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center published my name, cell phone number and last-known physical address, along with a photo of my husband and me.

I won’t share the website’s name but it has targeted minorities for nearly three decades. Its users were encouraged to harass journalists who covered Charlottesville in retaliation for doing so, myself included.

I was able to peruse the comments under my personal information, which included a litany of anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and more, along with suggestions of what kind of hate mail I could be sent. It was incredibly surreal; the news site I worked for had a sizeable following but it wasn’t CNN. I was just a freelance editor and had never experienced anything like it.

I wasn’t sure what to do so I consulted the Committee to Protect Journalists. The nonprofit defends our right to report the news safely and they advised me to file a report with the FBI, which I did. I didn’t hear from anyone after that.

I wasn’t terribly worried since we’d already moved to another address, but my husband was. That was the worst part, something I still hold against Trump and the army of bigots he’s emboldened.

His 2024 candidacy is a threat to this nation and I’m not certain our democracy could survive another four years with him in charge. I know that sounds dramatic, but it disturbs me that any American would want to try.

Every election has consequences, from our school boards to the presidency, and it’s important that we speak out against hatred at every level. One of the best ways to do that is at the ballot box, so please make sure you and your loved ones are registered and ready to vote at Vote.org.

Less stressful than presidential politics are love, sex and marriage — the focus of our new issue. Our annual coverage returns to detail a new photo series, local adult retailers and the results of our reader survey. We also highlight St Pete Pride’s new leadership and much more.

Watermark is proud to be your LGBTQ+ news source, so thanks for reading and supporting our advertisers. Please stay safe, stay informed and enjoy this latest issue.

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