Kansas lawmakers want these bills to horrify you and your friends

The cruelty is the point.

That’s the only impression left after seeing Senator Mike Thompson’s recent vicious attack on LGBTQ people.

His new bill would classify drag shows as obscenely promotional and bar children from watching them. Depending on the wording of the bill (text was conspicuously hard to find Wednesday), it could result in “Mrs. Doubt” is a criminal offence. Likewise, performances of the family musicals “Hairspray” or “Peter Pan” with crossdressing leading actors could be banned.

This is an absurd result. So what’s behind the bill? What is behind Thompson’s companion law criminalizing gender-affirming care for transgender youth?

He and like-minded lawmakers want to create a climate of fear and insecurity around LGBTQ Kansans. They don’t want the community to feel welcome. Maybe LGBTQ people will just walk away if Thompson and his ilk pursue them enough. If not, under these laws, the police can just throw gay people in jail.

The cruelty is the point.

You could hear such short-sighted, vengeful cases echoing around the Statehouse this week, ricocheting off the walls like unleashed grenades.

Officials didn’t just introduce a proposal for a flat tax that would benefit the rich at the expense of Kansans’ working class. They also doubt whether the state can afford to abolish its sales tax on food in view of the flat tax.

You could hear such short-sighted, vengeful cases echoing around the Statehouse this week, ricocheting off the walls like unleashed grenades.

That’s correct. These GOP leaders don’t even pretend to care for the poor. They bluntly state that we can afford to slump $1.5 billion a year in sales to line the pockets of the plutocrats, but we can’t scrape together the whereabouts for an accelerated food tax cut.

As one (non-drag) queen allegedly said, let her eat cake.

The cruelty doesn’t have to be obvious.

At a hearing of the electoral committee on Tuesday, conspiracy theories were repeatedly spread. The proposed legislation would limit access to Dropboxes and require voters casting their ballots to be observed by staff or videotaped. The implied message? Voters have something to hide and should be monitored.

Stacey Knoell, executive director of the Kansas African American Affairs Commission, testified at the hearing on these proposed and other limits.

“I think part of government’s job is to make the election as accessible and fair as possible for the people who have to vote,” she told lawmakers. “I want to reiterate what another conference attendee said: if we take this bill in conjunction with other bills, we’re just making it harder to vote for a variety of reasons. … I just reject them with the moral stance that we need to make it easier for people in this country to vote.”

Of course, whoever chooses makes the difference. Mailboxes, early voting and extended opening hours at polling stations have traditionally been used by poorer people, younger people and people in communities of color. They may work unusual hours or find it difficult to vote on Election Day.

Conspiracy theories about stolen elections are fueled by racist tropes. These bills and this hearing send the same message: your kind are not welcome here.

The cruelty is the point.

The list is painfully long. I could write about the House of Representatives’ new “welfare reform” committee, which appears to be sharpening its knives to restrict poor Kansanians’ access to public assistance programs.

I could write about the legislative leadership’s continued, staunch opposition to the expansion of the state’s Medicaid program (at the very time when thousands are being thrown off their health insurance).

I could write about efforts to smack environmentalists in the face by thwarting local plastic bag bans. Statehouse leadership pays lip service to local control until the Kansas Chamber rules otherwise.

I could write about restrictive abortion legislation that would contradict both the state constitution and the clearly stated wishes of Kansans.

In all of these situations, a group makes the laws. You are on the inside. Another group is feeling the effects of the laws. you are outside The people on the inside don’t have to worry about being on the outside thanks to their status and overwhelming privileges. They like to hold this privilege and they like to extend it.

They don’t even have to pass hateful laws. You just have to introduce it and convince the outsiders to calm down, quit or leave. You will have achieved the same goal.

The cruelty is the point.

Clay Wirestone is Opinion Editor for Kansas Reflector. Through its opinion section, the Reflector works to amplify the voices of people affected by public policy or excluded from public debate. Find information here, including how to submit your own comment.

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