Tag Archives: racism

The Projection of All Their Fears: Justice and the Commonwealth

Few things illustrate the issues for all those “economically anxious” Trump supporters quite as well as the chain e-mail forwarded by the President’s lawyer: “You cannot be against General Lee and be for General Washington,” the email reads, “there literally is no difference between the two men.”  To repeat the obvious — yes you can.  You can differentiate between slave owners who created an imperfect Constitution (containing safeguards for slave owners) but who had the intelligence and foresight to establish a framework for freedom which could be perfected — to create a “more perfect union,” — and the slave owners who rebelled against this perfectable union and led an insurrection that sought to enshrine slavery from sea to sea.   The hoary old, and utterly illogical, silly syllogism that if you object to Lee you must then object to Washington requires the believer to reduce everything to whether or not a person practiced chattel slavery — and to ignore all other elements.  The repetition of this canard says more about those who adopt it than it says about any 18th or 19th century slave owner.

It says they are afraid, very afraid of losing their “culture.”  If a person’s “culture” includes the veneration of icons of rebellion, white supremacy, and chattel slavery as a part of one’s “heritage,” then it’s time to rethink that “culture and heritage.” This exercise can be extremely difficult for some “fragile whites.”   One of the most fragile appears to be Virginia Senate Candidate Republican Corey Stewart who commented: “The left isn’t doing this to redecorate some parks. They are going after the Founders next, to undermine the Founding Documents.”   Fragile white people live on a perpetually slippery slope.

To question a person’s racial biases is to “attack,” an attack must be nefarious, the nefarious attack must be from some equally objectionable direction, even if this requires attributing motives which are not in evidence.  Thus Stewart can maintain that questioning his support for white supremacists is an assault from some universal cabal composed of opponents of The Founders and their Founding Documents.  Perhaps those who feel assaulted might want to consider that predicating one’s sense of self on the basis of the coloration of a layer of skin, skin so thin it can be cut with a piece of paper, is a very fragile thing indeed.

That fragility creates its own environment of fear — the fear that a white person might have to compete for a job with a person of color, without giving the paler person an automatic edge.  The fear that a white person may not automatically assume an advantage in commerce, education, and in the judicial system.  The following paragraph summarizes this sentiment:

“They see all of this talk about Black Lives Matter and the importance of diversity, including through policies like affirmative action. They see recent moves to tear down Confederate monuments in the South. And they themselves have likely been accused of racism at some point in their lives, making them defensive and angry.” [Vox]

Skin coloration is an extremely thin basis for self esteem; frustration and anger are an even more fragile basis for a successful political ideology — leading as they do to short term gains with practically guaranteed long term losses.   This perspective is unjust, and as St. Augustine advised: “Where there is no justice there is no commonwealth.”

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Meanwhile back at the local GOP offices

I’m just going to leave these here — for those who believe that this is some sort of inflection point for the Republican Party —

There’s this from Flagstaff, Arizona:

“Donald Young, a Flagstaff Trump supporter, said he thought Trump made an “outstanding statement” against the hatred and violence in Charlottesville.
Young said including “many sides” in the statement included the Black Lives Matter Movement and anti-conservative actions at Berkeley.
“He was talking about the ultra-left as well as the ultra-right,” Young said.
Young said “no rational person” would say Nazis and white supremacists have been empowered by Trump, and said he is not in favor of any group that tries to divide the country.”

And, another voice from Flagstaff:

“White supremacists might feel empowered by Trump in the same way the Black Lives Matter movement may have felt empowered by Barack Obama, Staveley said, calling Black Lives Matter a “hate group.” “Did either president do anything to empower these people?” Staveley asked. “Obama did not come out with any strong language against Black Lives Matter, and they were a violent, anarchistic group. I do see similarities between the two.”

From the Republican GOP Chairman in Virginia:

“The president’s statements were unequivocal in opposing hatred, and so his statements were in line with the Republican base on this,” said Virginia GOP Chairman John Whitbeck. “I don’t see any scenario where grassroots conservatives are sitting there picking apart the president’s every word and rethinking support for him.”

From North Carolina:

Carter Wrenn, a veteran North Carolina-based Republican strategist: “I’m not a Trump fan, but I didn’t see any problem with what he said. I thought he made it pretty clear he disapproved of what happened.”

From Iowa:

Steve Scheffler, the Iowa Republican national committeeman who also heads the state’s socially conservative Faith & Freedom Coalition, said he was troubled by the criticism leveled at Trump by members of his own party in Washington, specifically U.S. senators.

“Why don’t these senators go and have a private conversation with him instead of making a public statement,” said Scheffler, who stressed that he supported condemning the white supremacist groups themselves “in the strongest terms.” “I suspect that a lot of it has to do with politics.”

“I’m getting fed up to the top of my head with some of these pontificating Republican senators in particular, who seem to try and find every opportunity just to take a dig at the president,” he said.”

Lancaster, Pennsylvania:

County Commission member: “Our president, and that’s what we need to call Donald Trump, is ‘our president,’ ” he said. “He’s everybody’s president and so I respect that office. There’s some comments he’s made that I don’t necessarily agree with. But all in all, he’s surrounded himself with some awfully good people. So in that regard, I think he’s doing a lot of good.”

Meanwhile in Connecticut:

A state GOP leader says she’s sorry for a Facebook rant — posted in the wake of the deadly melee in Charlottesville, Va., incited by white supremacists— referring to immigrants who commit crimes as “junk people” who “deserve what they get.”

“As for xenophobia, what a bunch of crock. I’m tired for paying for every foreigner showing up, some of whom are here just to make trouble instead of settling and making something of themselves,” Patricia Fers, a Republican State Central Committee member from Ansonia, posted early Sunday morning. “Those junk people who won’t support themselves and who do by crime deserve what they get.”

If a person can’t tell the difference between a Black Lives Matter member advocating for increased respect by law enforcement personnel for members of minority communities and a Neo-Nazi, there’s probably not much we can say to help the individual.

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And then he spoke, wrecking the message in three words

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides,” Trump said, then repeating, “On many sides.” [Trump]

It would have been a stronger statement had the President left off those last three little words, “On many sides.”  There was only one side meriting condemnation today — the Neo-Nazi White Supremacists who descended on Charlottesville like so many locusts.  There is NO moral equivalence between the racists and the counter-protesters.  There never has been such and equivalence, and there never will be.

“He called on “swift restoration of law and order and the protection of innocent lives,” and said that, “No child should ever be afraid to go outside and play or be with their parents and have a good time.”

This isn’t a matter of law and order.  It’s a problem of what to do with white nationalist (Neo-Nazi/White Supremacist) terrorists who insist they are  “exercising their rights” while intimidating, bullying, and terrorizing their fellow citizens.  He continued:

“No matter our color, creed, religion or political party,” he said, “we are all Americans first. We love our country, we love our God, we love our flag, we’re proud of our country, we’re proud of who we are, so we want to get the situation straightened out in Charlottesville and want to study it and see what we’re doing wrong in this country.”

It was a good start for the paragraph, and then it got mushy.  We want to “study it?” IT has, as the occupant of the Oval Office proclaimed, been around a long time.  It’s called racism. It’s purveyors are white supremacists.  The general category is “domestic terrorism.”

Perhaps the President thinks there is something more that needs examination? However, his anti-Islamic views have administrative results, as we discovered last February:

 “The Trump administration wants to revamp and rename a U.S. government program designed to counter all violent ideologies so that it focuses solely on Islamist extremism, five people briefed on the matter told Reuters.

The program, “Countering Violent Extremism,” or CVE, would be changed to “Countering Islamic Extremism” or “Countering Radical Islamic Extremism,” the sources said, and would no longer target groups such as white supremacists who have also carried out bombings and shootings in the United States.”

So, no “racist domestic terror attack” in Portland?  No domestic terrorism at the Minnesota mosque?  Perhaps IT does need more study by this administration, given that the President’s notion that most US terrorism convictions after 2001 were handed down to foreigners, an obvious falsehood .

A statement which should have revealed moral clarity, managed instead to muddle itself into “both sides do it,” and “violence” in highly generalized terms complicating what should have been a simple matter.

Mr. Trump was very clear that words matter, as in “radical Islamic terrorism,” but he has a baffling tendency to muffle and mix his own message when he can’t seem to pronounce the words, “Neo-Nazi, white supremacist, domestic terrorism.”

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Reasons to Write and Call: Horrible House Bills and other Monday

The House Republicans keep coming up with yet more reasons to put their phone numbers on speed dial, a brief list:

HR 370 — A bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, sponsored by Rep. Bill Flores (TX17) bill sent to committee January 9, 2017. Flores’ district includes Waco and College Station.

HR 354 — A bill to defund Planned Parenthood, sponsored by Rep. Diane Black (TN6), a district covering north central Tennessee.

HR 147 — A bill to criminalize abortion, sponsored by Rep. Trent Franks, (AZ8), northern suburbs of Maricopa County.

Then there are HR 861 to eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency and HR 610 to voucherize public education. Add HR 899 to eliminate the Department of Education, and HR 785 to enact a “right to work” act at the national level.


Representative Devin Nunes (R-CA22) chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence is now officially the water-carrier for the Trumpster administration telling the press that his committee will investigate the unsubstantiated tweet rant concerning the Obama Administration authorizing a tap (that’s tap with one p) on Trump Tower.  This appears to be a somewhat desperate attempt to validate a right wing conspiracy theory seeking to legitimize the twitterer in chief, and play “You Did It Too.”  The problem with this ‘investigation’ is that (1) there was no There There; and, (2) if there was a tap (with one p) there must have been a reason presented to a FISA court, and that might not be something Agent Orange wants out in public view?  This is yet another reason for an independent commission.


Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2) wanted us to know that as of February 15, 2017 his faith in the president is not lessened by reports of administration connections with Russia. This would presumably include the purchase of Russian steel to construct the Keystone Pipeline?  The president’s comments about ‘Buy American’ are now not supposed to be pertinent to purchases contracted before he told the public (twice) that American steel would be used… Then there’s the explanation from the White House that “the steel is there it would be hard to go back (on the contracts).” This would be fine if it weren’t that there are pictures of the first shipment of Russian steel being unloaded at the Paulsboro, New Jersey dock on March 3, 2017.


Meanwhile the empowered white supremacists are using the moments since November 2016 to increase their recruiting on college campuses according to the ADL.

“White supremacists have consciously made the decision to focus their recruitment efforts on students and have in some cases openly boasted of efforts to establish a physical presence on campus,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement. “While there have been recruitment efforts in the past, never have we seen anti-Semites and white supremacists so focused on outreach to students on campus.”

And the attacks on Sikh Americans continue.


Recommended reading:

“ICE isn’t just detaining ‘bad hombres’ they’re scooping up everyone in their path,” Vox March 3, 2017.

“White House wants it both ways on travel ban,” Politico March 6, 2017.

 

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Unfortunate Similarities

Scapegoating is never positive and never without antecedents. Why does this keep happening?  Perhaps because it’s convenient, and pen-ultimately selfish.

“Scapegoating removes us from one of our central ethical constructs, which is to see everything as part of a whole. When someone is scapegoated, we are denying this conceptualization in the service of identifying an easy target. Further, scapegoating can only occur when we turn a blind eye to complex power dynamics.” [TSW]

Thus, it’s likely no accident that divisive leadership both encourages and utilizes scapegoating as a means to its own ends.  The end, of course, is power.  A divided office, a divided state, a divided nation, is all the more susceptible to control if there is a degeneration of the ability to see “everything as part of a whole.” Those who use or accept scapegoating are loath to see a diverse American population as a positive amalgam of ethnic and gender groups, but as a collection of different populations some of which are not part of a common identity.  The results of group on group scapegoating in this context  are particularly pernicious:

“Groups chosen for scapegoating are also often in low-status positions due to the socio-economic structure of society, and also lack power and the ability to fight back against the scapegoating. It is common for scapegoating to grow out of common, widespread prejudices against and practices of stereotyping minority groups. Scapegoating of minority groups often leads to violence against the targeted groups, and in the most extreme cases, to genocide. All of which is to say, group-on-group scapegoating is a dangerous practice.” [Soc.]

We’re watching stereotyping, and scapegoating in the current administration.  If it’s the current administration’s intent to be transparent about their racism and bigotry they’re doing a fine job.  Two paragraphs from a highly recommended article by Heather Digby Parton provide a description of the parallels between the current administration and its antecedents:

“There are parallels to be found in U.S. history, with the marginalization of earlier waves of immigrants and our horrific scapegoating of African-Americans and Native Americans for crimes they didn’t commit. But the drawing up of lists of criminals of a certain ethnicity to publish for public consumption brings to mind the most famous scapegoating of a population in history. That would of course be the systematic persecution of the Jewish population of Europe during the Nazi era.

From the early 1930s onward, the pro-Nazi newspaper Der Sturmer published lists of crimes allegedly committed by Jews. When Adolf Hitler came to power the government took over the job in order to further stoke anti-Semitism. The point of Trump’s order is to stoke anti-immigrant paranoia, almost entirely directed at Latinos and Muslims. The parallel is ugly but it’s accurate.” [Salon]

Der Sturmer, a tabloid newspaper published by Julius Streicher beginning in 1923 carried a tag line at the bottom: “The Jews are our misfortune.”  The message was endlessly repeated by a newspaper which relied on rumor for its sources; readers were invited to fill out and send in cards in which the ‘crimes of the Jews’ were described, and the paper printed these tales with little or no investigation. It was enough to have fodder to feed the columns of print for antisemitic readers.  Therefore, those who find parallels in the administration’s desire to create an office of Victims of Immigrant Crime Engagement (VOICE, which could as easily be VICE) aren’t far from the mark.  The collection of ‘crime’ stories, and their compilation without regard to the citizenship status of “aliens,” is an open invitation to corrupt the commonality of American civic society.

Someone in this proposed office must be charged with defining an ‘alien,’ is it a first generation immigrant?  A permanent resident, a person with a green card, a person with a temporary visa? A naturalized citizen?  The definition is crucial, one of those devil in the details items warranting our scrutiny.

How will the ‘crime reports’ be compiled? From databases kept by local law enforcement personnel? From reports in local, regional, or national media?  From cards sent in by ‘concerned citizens?’  It’s interesting to note that while it’s a fact that immigrants commit fewer crimes (pdf) than native born citizens, our government prevents the compilation of gun violence statistics as a public health issue, a real national security and health problem, we are invited to compile ‘evidence’ of crimes committed by immigrants.

And, what is a ‘crime?’  Will the databases be filled with those who have entered the country without documents? Or, those who have overstayed visas? Those who have committed traffic offenses? Those who have sold items without collecting sales taxes? Those who have violated local sanitation ordinances?  If the practices of ICE and CBP of late are any indication, there’s little reason for confidence in their capacity to differentiate the serious from the quotidian from the downright ludicrous. How will violations of their enforcement operations be recorded. And, what determines inclusion in the database — must there be a conviction for a crime, or will a simple arrest suffice to include the individuals in the database, even if the charges are dropped or the individuals found innocent?

If the intent is merely to collect and publish anecdotal information about the “misfortune in our midst,” then there is precious little difference between what Der Sturmer was doing in the 1930s and what the VOICE office will be doing in the 21st century?

Lest we not take ‘Digby’s’ warning seriously it’s instructive to note that in 1927 Streicher’s ugly little paper had a readership of 14,000 which increased to 486,000 by 1935. By 1938 the paper shifted from calling out the evils of the ‘misfortune among us’ to actively advocating the annihilation of Jews. On January 20, 1942 the Nazis held their infamous Wannsee Conference.

More disturbing still is the current administration’s emphasis on stereotyping and Muslims, to the detriment of the consideration of crimes committed by white nationalist domestic terrorists.  [ Reuters]  The former serves as a convenient scapegoat, the latter is an actual source of serious criminal behaviors. [HuffPo]  Evidently contemporary Republicans are incapable of saying “Radical White Supremacist Terrorism.”

So long as we have White Nationalists and racists like Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller holding forth in the White House, with the ear of the chief executive, there is ample cause for concern.  More than enough reason to say Never Again. More than enough to read ‘Digby’s’ article a second time.

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Now DO Something

So, the incumbent in the Oval Office spoke to the wave of antisemitic actions…

“Recent threats targeting Jewish community centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week’s shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all of its very ugly forms.” [WH]

What’s in here?  We “condemn hate and evil,” who doesn’t? The point is not that we don’t like antisemitism, the point is that we should be doing something to stop it.

It might be helpful IF the administration would drop the plan to shift the focus of the Countering Violent Extremism program in the Department of Justice to  Countering Radical Islamic Extremism. This was like announcing the to roaches that you’re about to shut the lights off and put the insecticide can back in the cupboard.

Another helpful action would be acknowledging the rise of antisemitic and other hate groups, and the hate is spreading:

“According to the SPLC report, the number of hate groups rose to 917 in 2016 — up from 892 in 2015 — and just shy of the all-time record set in 2011. But “by far the most dramatic change was the enormous leap in anti-Muslim hate groups,” which tripled from 34 organizations in 2015, to 101 in 2016.” [DInc]

The attacks on the cemeteries, the vandalism and arson attacks on mosques, are, indeed, worthy of contempt, but they are also worthy of investigation and prosecution to the fullest extent of the law.  There are some bits of old fashioned wisdom which are important to this topic, long on currency for their inherent truth.

Remember Granny saying “You are known by the company you keep?” Or, “Birds of a feather flock together?”  It’s applicable.  If the White House doesn’t wish to appear antisemitic and hateful, then why are the likes of Bannon and Miller in important offices?

Granted that the hate is expanding toward Muslims and Mexicans at present in presidential commentary — however, Jews are right to assume that while discrimination and violence may begin with other groups it will always end with them.

When Granny added, “Actions speak louder than words,” it’s time for the administration to do more than offer “thoughts and prayers,” more than words empty of substantive action, more than an opening comment without a steel fist inside the velvet phrases.

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Monday Morning and The Press

There are several things of note this morning, probably the least important of which is the Blunder at the Oscars, although that’s one of the more entertaining.  Added to this is the current administration’s rather bombastic squabble with the press, however, this too is of more interest to the media itself than an actual matter of national interest.  In fact, some of the best political reporting is that which is done outside the confines of news conference spin sessions.   For example, in 1902-03 Ida Tarbell didn’t need to attend press conferences to expose the machinations of John D. Rockefeller and Standard Oil. Nor did Upton Sinclair need a gaggle to write about the meatpacking industry in 1906.  In 1953 reporter Murrey Marder followed the serpentine trail of Senator Joe McCarthy and helped expose the duplicity of the Senator’s charges against the Army. Surely, the administration wasn’t applauding David Halberstam’s coverage of the war in Vietnam. Woodward and Bernstein weren’t following White House press gaggle threads to uncover the Watergate story, nor was Dana Priest relying on press releases about black sites in eastern European countries, or when she revealed conditions at Walter Reed Hospital.

In short, some of the very best reporting has resulted from investigations outside the walls of various and sundry executive offices.  There are stories still unfolding which may have an extraordinary effect on American politics and governance, and the information essential to their explication won’t come from anyone’s gaggle, no matter who is invited.

Suggestions?

#1. The Trump Russian connections.  As the Boston Globe opined:

“The issues raised by Trump’s Russia connection are some of the most serious that this country has ever confronted. We could have a president who is vulnerable to blackmail from Moscow and even worse, one who has committed treasonous offenses. As long as these questions go unanswered there will be a permanent black cloud over the White House — and the country.”

We could have a president subject to blackmail? We could have a president whose financial ties to Russian interests impact his decision making? We could have an administration so entangled with Russian financial and political entities that we have allowed an infringement on our own sovereignty?  Investigative journalism is necessary if we are to avoid that “permanent black cloud.”

#2. The rise of white nationalism/supremacism and the nature of Antisemitic acts and the assaults on Muslims and their mosques. If anything tears at the fabric of American civic life it’s the demonization of ethnic and religious minorities, and the tacit support for the demeaning and desecration of religious institutions.  No, the conservative white Christian establishment is not under “attack.” However, synagogues, mosques, and cemeteries  definitely and physically are.  Does the current administration bear some responsibility for emboldening the hateful people who commit these acts?  What steps must the federal government take to discredit and diminish the organizations which seek to perpetrate them?  We know a great deal about the membership, publications, and activities of these organizations, however we’re missing more essential writing on the impact these groups have in terms of radicalizing white nationalists. What motivated the current administration to shift law enforcement focus away from domestic terrorists and pay almost exclusive attention to foreign sources?  We may think we know the answers, but more reporting would be extremely useful.

#3. The impact of anti-immigrant fervor on American economic growth.  As noted in a previous post, the anti-immigrant plus anti-Muslim posture of the current administration could have significant effects on the tourism, agriculture, housing, and food service sectors. It’s going to take some research and analysis from business reporters to fully understand the impact of this posture on our economy.

#4. The assault on the institutions of democracy by those who promote vote suppression and gerrymandering.  Again, we have had more than enough examples of the blatant attempts to restrict the Right To Vote. The story is NOT about vote fraud, it’s about the fraudulent attempts to prevent people from voting.  The story is about a nationwide attempt, to deliberately freeze out qualified voters, eliminate them from the rolls, and prevent them from voting in convenient polling places, by a national political party and its myrmidons.

I need to immediately acknowledge that my list may not be everyone else’s list, and that I’ve left out topics like women’s reproductive health issues, health care access. and climate change, but there’s always room for MORE investigative journalism and more topics of national and international interest. Indeed, investigative journalists could turn the “tennis ball machine” back on the White House, and give the Oval Office a daily dose of its own distraction.  After all, a good offense is often a good defense.  Every session in which the administration has to justify its ties to Putin, has to explain the rise of white supremacists, has to speak to the economic impact of anti-immigrant policies, has to find ways to excuse vote suppression, is a session in which it has less opportunity to promote the Trickle Down Hoax and its embrace of Wall Street.  For that matter, why not add in more reporting about the administration’s efforts to promote Wall Street interests at the expense of Main Street?

Politics is, indeed, a contact sport and the sooner this administration finds out the truth of that old saw the better.

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