Monday, August 21, 2017
The previous post looked at the manner in which many Americans allow themselves to be come white supremacists by default., often as the live their lives in all white neighborhoods and send their children to mostly lily white private schools. They pretend to themselves that they are liberal and open minded, yet go to the polls and vote Republican election cycle after election cycle even as the Republican party pushes an agenda that seeks to disenfranchise minorities and slash the social safety net for the lest fortunate whom they often equate with those with darker skin colors. Donald Trump had an opportunity after Charlottesville to reject racism and Nazism, but failed the test. A column in the New York Times looks at Trump's failure and what it says about both Trump and those who continue to support him. It's a short step from quietly accepting racism and homophobia to Nazism. Here are highlights:
“No. 1, I am the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life. No. 2, racism, the least racist person.” So the president said at a news conference in February. These words left me uneasy. A moment ago, as I was looking at photographs of young men in Charlottesville, Va., who were from my home state, Ohio, and thinking about the message “Heil Hitler” on the T-shirt that one wore, it dawned on me why.
I spent years studying the testimonies of Jewish survivors of the Holocaust and the recollections of their rescuers. When the rescuers were asked why they did what they did, they usually avoided the question. If they ventured a reply, it was simply to say that they did what anyone would have done. Historians who read sources develop intuitions about the material. The intuition I developed was that people who bragged about rescuing Jews had generally not done so; they were, in fact, more likely to be anti-Semites and racists. Rescuers almost never boast.
I write these lines in Poland, where the Holocaust is present in every absence, in a house where the Polish Nobel Prize-winning poet Czeslaw Milosz spent his summers when he was the same age as the young men I see in those photographs.
“We know ourselves,” . . . . “only insofar as we have been tested.”
Until we have been tested, there is no sense in boasting of our goodness; afterward, there is no need. After Charlottesville, President Trump faced an easy test, and failed. When presented with an obvious opportunity to condemn the evil that was and is Nazism, he first waited, then equivocated, then read from a teleprompter, then relativized. He spoke of “very fine people on both sides.”
The Nazi groups that marched in Charlottesville cannot be considered a “side.” When they carry torches, they imitate Nazi rituals. When they perform the call and response of “Trump! Hail” and “Victory! Hail!” they are translating Nazi performances that we know better in German: “Hitler! Heil!” and “Sieg! Heil!” In Charlottesville, American Nazis shouted “Sieg! Heil!” as they passed a synagogue. When the supporters of the alt-right chant that “Jews will not replace us,” they recapitulate the Nazi idea of a world Jewry that stifles the master race and must therefore be removed from the planet. When they shout “Blood and soil,” they repeat a Nazi slogan signifying that races will murder races for land without mercy and forever. These views do not define a “side,” but rather a worldview in which the United States of America, with its Constitution and laws, and with its hard-won daily understandings of rights and responsibilities, would no longer exist.
Hitler and his henchmen strategically defined themselves, from the outset, as a “side,” as the defenders of the system against the other “side,” the left. . . . . In power, Hitler assimilated all opponents to the other “side” and had them sent to camps or killed. When Germany’s parliament, the Reichstag, burned, Hitler had already established in his rhetoric that the other “side” was violent, and he used the (false) claim that the other “side” had committed terrorism to bring the German republic to an end.
The president has failed when no failure can be innocent. He has provided American Nazis with three services, for which they have thanked him: He has normalized their ideology; he has excused their actions; and he has given them hope that he will blame his opponents the next time America is struck by terrorism.
A writer for The Daily Stormer (a website that takes its name from the most anti-Semitic newspaper of the Nazi period) called Charlottesville a “Beer Hall Putsch,” referring to an early attempt by Hitler to seize power. The writer’s meaning was that the events in Virginia were an early failure that promises later victory. American Nazis dream of another Reichstag fire, a moment of terror in which the president will show his true colors and his opposition can be crushed.
We might choose to forget these slogans and these events from the years before World War II, but American Nazis remember the history in their own way, and so does President Trump. The Confederate statues he admires are mostly artifacts of the early years of the 20th century, when Hitler admired the United States for its Jim Crow laws, when Mr. Trump’s father was arrested at a Klan rally, before America passed its test. The presidential slogan “America First” is a summons to an alternative America, one that might have been real, one that did not fight the Nazis, one that stayed home when the world was aflame, one that failed its test.
That America might yet become our country. Whether or not it does now depends upon us. We are being tested, and so we will come to know ourselves.
Each of us who supports liberty for all and equality under the law must resist daily the forces that Trump has chosen to embrace. If we fail to do so, we are little better than the "good Germans" who turned a blind eye to Hitler's horrors and genocide.
I truly cannot grasp the mindset where one believes that simply because someone has a differing skin color or religious faith that person is immediately deemed to be "other," if you will, and not entitled to the same civil lights and rights to life. liberty and the pursuit of happiness as oneself. Perhaps I cannot grasp the mindset because my parents were not prejudicial and I went to school at a small school division where we had both African American and American Indian (Onondaga Indians to be specific) who fully participated in school life: band, cheer-leading, sports. I slow danced with a black girl when I was probably around 13 years old (I still recall her name). And while even then I knew in my heart that I was attracted to boys who were "my type" - even though I was in deep denial - I never thought of those who were different as somehow lesser, or not fully human. I do not say any of this to sound self-congratulatory. I simply do not understand the mindset. Perhaps being gay and often targeted by bigots makes one think more of the plight of others. I simply do not know.
All of this said, sadly, such is not the case with white supremacist and Neo-Nazis. Worse yet, by failing to openly condemn those who are racists and bigots, many become white supremacists by default. They allow the hate to spread and continue. A piece in CNN looks at the way in which too many allow themselves to be white supremacists by default. Here are article excerpts (Note: Edward Ball, cited in the article, is the cousin of two of my college fraternity brothers):
Blame President Trump for his tepid moral response. Call the neo-Nazis and white nationalists thugs. Fill your Facebook and Twitter accounts with moral outrage.
But the tragedy that took place in Charlottesville last weekend could not have occurred without the tacit acceptance of millions of ordinary, law-abiding Americans who helped create such a racially explosive climate, some activists, historians and victims of extremism say.
It's easy to focus on the angry white men in paramilitary gear who looked like they were mobilizing for a race war in the Virginia college town last Saturday. But it's the ordinary people -- the voters who elected a reality TV star with a record of making racially insensitive comments, the people who move out of the neighborhood when people of color move in, the family members who ignore a relative's anti-Semitism -- who give these type of men room to operate, they say.
That was the twisted formula that made the Holocaust and Rwanda possible and allowed Jim Crow segregation to survive: Nice people looked the other way while those with an appetite for violence did the dirty work, says Mark Naison, a political activist and history professor at Fordham University in New York City.
''You have to have millions of people who are willing to be bystanders, who push aside evidence of racism, Islamophobia or sexism. You can't have one without the other,'' Naison says.
"We are a country with a few million passionate white supremacists -- and tens of millions of white supremacists by default," he says.
four types of ordinary people who also play a part in the country's racial divisions, Naison and others say:
No. 1: The 'down-low' segregationists
Many of the white racists who marched in Charlottesville were condemned because they openly said they don't believe in integration or racial equality.
But millions of ordinary white Americans have been sending that message to black and brown people for at least a half a century.
They send it with their actions: They don't want to live next to or send their children to school with black or brown people, historians say.
This isn't the Jim Crow segregation that one reads about in the history books. It's the covert or "down-low" segregationist movement that has shaped much of contemporary America since overt racism became taboo in the 1960s, says David Billings, who wrote about growing up white in the segregated South in his memoir, "Deep Denial: The Persistence of White Supremacy in United States History and Life."
"Across the country, white people withdrew from the 'public' sphere and migrated to 'whites only' suburbs to evade racial integration," Billings wrote. "The word 'public' preceding words like 'housing,' 'hospital,' 'health care,' 'transportation,' 'defender,' 'schools,' and even 'swimming pool' in some parts of the country became code words that meant poor and most often black and Latino. The word 'private' began to mean 'better.'''
This white separatism continues today. . . . "White people in the past century and a half have made a conscious effort to resegregate themselves," says Edward Ball, author of "Slaves in the Family," a memoir about coming to terms with learning his family owned slaves.
"We have to work hard to make our social lives reflect our values, because white people do not choose the company of people of color generally," he says.
The angry white men in Charlottesville were just being open about their white supremacy. Ball says he wasn't surprised by their boldness.
No. 2: Those who say 'yes, but...'
President Trump's critics blasted him for not coming out strong enough against the white racists who marched in Charlottesville. Trump initially denounced the "egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides." It was the "many sides" qualifier that infuriated some people. They wanted an unequivocal denunciation of racism from a leader.
Trump's "many sides" response, though, wasn't that abnormal in the context of US history. It used to be the norm for white political leaders to draw a moral equivalence between racists and those who suffered from their acts of brutality, historians say.
That "yes, but" approach is often used today to discredit the grievances of the Black Lives Matter movement, another professor says. Whenever an unarmed black or brown person is shot by police, some deflect the issue by saying, "Yes, but all lives matter."
No. 3: Those who choose chaos
There's a famous line from the classic film, "Casablanca." A police officer is closing down a casino, declaring, "I'm shocked -- shocked -- to find that gambling is going on in here!" -- all while pocketing his casino winnings as they're being handed to him on the sly.
That line could apply to Trump supporters who say they're frustrated by the President's statements on race since Charlottesville erupted.
How could you be shocked?
"This is who he is, this is what he does," says Anderson, the Emory University professor. "'Mexicans are rapists and criminals.' That's what he said in his first speech. Their complicity comes in the form of self-denial instead of owning it." For those who say they voted for Trump despite his intolerance, Anderson offers this analogy: Minister Louis Farrakhan.
Farrakhan is a leader in some parts of the black community because of his message of self-help and black empowerment. He reached peak popularity in the 1990s, but he also preached anti-Semitic, anti-white, anti-Catholic and anti-homosexual rhetoric. And the organization he leads, the Nation of Islam, has taught that white people are inherently evil.
No. 4: Those who look the other way
Ari Kohen knows something about the cost of hate. When he looked at images of neo-Nazis chanting "Jews will not replace us!" in Charlottesville, he thought of his grandfather, Zalman Kohen. He was living in rural Romania in 1944 when the Nazis rounded him up with the help of his neighbors and sent him to a death camp.
His grandfather survived, moved to the United States and lived until he was 90. But he never returned to Romania, says Kohen, an associate professor of political science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
"He could never forgive his neighbors," he says. "These were people who, maybe they didn't love Jews, but these were people who lived next to each other. They knew his family and he knew their family. The idea that they could all stand by while life was completely and forever changed for large portions of their community -- he could never understand it."
Never underestimate the ability of ordinary people to look away.
Some do it with family members. Kohen says the hundreds of white racists who descended on Charlottesville must have family or friends who noticed their behavior beforehand. He suspects that some refused to confront them.
"There's this wink and nod, everyone knows that this person is going down a dangerous path and people passively go along with it," he says. "They don't want to rock the boat. This is family or a friend. It's hard to distance yourself from people you care about."
This passivity extends to how people react when their country's leaders become intolerant, others say. Once you see it coming, you have a duty to act, says Naison, the activist and Fordham professor.
"If you don't speak up when this sort of ideology is being promoted at the highest level, you end up being complicit in the actions taken by its more extreme adherents," Naison says. "Once the demons are unleashed, you've become a co-conspirator."
There's also evidence, though, that millions of ordinary Americans from all walks of life don't want that kind of America. Heather Heyer, the demonstrator who lost her life in Charlottesville, was a young white woman who marched in solidarity with black protesters. Millions of Americans have since taken to the streets or social media to stand against what happened there.
If you want to know why those white racists now feel so emboldened, it may help to look at all the ordinary people around you, your neighbors, your family members, your leaders. But first, start by looking at yourself.
For my "friends" who voted for Trump, if you are not loudly condemning his actions and refusing to look the other way, then you are complicit. You betrayed your LGBT friends when you voted for Trump and it will be your actions that determine whether or not you are a white supremacist by default.
Sunday, August 20, 2017
Back during the 2016 presidential campaign, a number of clues pointing to Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenführer's racist beliefs came to light. One was a lawsuit Trump settled with the Department of Justice over discrimination against blacks in apartment facilities in Norfolk, Virginia. The, of course there was the arrest of Trump's father at a KKK rally in the 1920's, suggesting that racism is a family tradition. Last Tuesday, Trump put all of the venom he holds towards minorities on open display when he more or less supported the "fine people" with the KKK members and Neo-Nazi thugs in Charlottesville, which prompted The Economist to feature Trump on its cover using a Klan hood as a megaphone. All of this in turn raises the question of the morality of Trump's advisers who seemingly know his real animus towards blacks and other racial minorities. What kind of person works to support a malignant person like Trump? A piece New York Magazine ponders this question. Here are excerpts:
Donald Trump’s aides have been angry with him frequently — indeed, usually — since the beginning of his presidential campaign. But they have rarely registered their dismay as nakedly as they did Tuesday night, when he spontaneously altered a plan to deliver remarks on infrastructure without taking questions into a free-form defense of white supremacists. One official told NBC News that Trump had “gone rogue.” Mike Allen reports that chief economic adviser Gary Cohn is “between appalled and furious,” and that there is a danger one or more high-level officials could resign. Chief of Staff John Kelly’s disgust was registered on his face. . . . It is impossible to recall a presidential aide contemporaneously broadcasting his disgust with his own president.
But it is important to understand the precise nature of their distress. It is emphatically not because they are shocked to learn their boss is a racist, a fact that has been established through numerous episodes, such as Trump’s insistence a Mexican-American judge was inherently biased against him, his call for a Muslim immigration ban, his slander of Ghazala Khan, and so on. They are angry that Trump revealed beliefs they wish to keep hidden. “Members of the president’s staff, stunned and disheartened, said they never expected to hear such a voluble articulation of opinions that the president had long expressed in private,” reports the New York Times.
This raises the question once again of why they are working for Trump at all. A legitimate public rationale can be made for serving the administration in certain roles. The federal government plays a vital role in domestic and global security, Trump is a dangerous and erratic figure, and somebody needs to try to steer him away from decisions that would provoke unalterable tragedy. That justification covers serving Trump as a foreign-policy adviser, or as homeland security and disaster-response officials.
But what justification can the domestic and political advisers offer? Any benefit they can get by helping produce what they regard as better policies is surely offset by the cover they (and their policy successes, should they produce any) provide him.
Trump certainly has revived certain aspects of the political excitement of the 1930s: Nazi torchlight parades, presidential attacks on the media as enemies of the people, and street battles between armed extremist factions. He has not yet revived the infrastructure build-up that supplied a great deal of the Nazi party’s political capital. The apparent objective Trump’s domestic advisers hope to achieve is to create a political constituency for a president they consider racist, while concealing his racism as best as they can.
A West Wing official tells the Times that Trump has “expressed sympathy with nonviolent protesters who he said were defending their ‘heritage.’” (This is a rally that began with chants like “Jews will not replace us.”) Preventing Trump from doing something damaging is a legitimate and even noble calling. But that admirable motivation can easily mutate into rationalization. Are Trump aides really working to protect the country from him? Or are they working to keep the country from seeing his real nature?
Last week I wrote about Ed Gillespie's effort to hoodwink Virginia voters into believing that a vote for him would not be a vote for the Trump/Republican Party extremist, white supremacist agenda. The reality is that between the need to court Corey Stewart supporters (see below) and swear obedience to The Family Foundation, Gillespie's agenda if elected would be far different than what his plain vanilla, specifics free campaign effort offers.
In contrast, Ralph Northam who I have known for over 10 years is the real deal. When Northam says something, it is after thoughtful consideration and it is genuine rather than what seems expedient at the moment. The contrast between Northam and Gillespie could not be more stark. Gillespie is basically a would be slick used car salesman, while Northam is a thoughtful veteran and physician.
Thankfully, the horrors that unfolded in Charlottesville, Trump's embrace of white supremacists and the rantings of Corey Stewart - a Minnesota transplant running on a pro-Confederate, white supremacist platform who almost defeated Gillespie in the GOP gubernatorial primary and who says he will challenge Senator Tim Kaine - will continue to make life difficult for Gillespie. Moreover, as he continues to refuse to condemn Trump (who is VERY unpopular in Virginia's urban crescent), Gillespie unwittingly assists Democrat candidate Ralph Northam. A piece in the New York Times looks at the disingenuous balancing act that Gillespie is trying to maintain.
The bloody white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., has thrust race and history to the forefront of this year’s campaign for governor in Virginia, a tradition-bound state whose identity has always been rooted in a past that is as proud for some residents as it is painful for others.
The gubernatorial race in this swing state was already set to be the next big test of the nation’s politics, its results inevitably to be read as a harbinger for the 2018 midterm elections and President Trump’s fate. But the events last weekend in one of its historical centers — in the city that Thomas Jefferson called home and on the university campus that he designed and founded — ensure that the nation’s highest-profile campaign this fall will also be fought in part along the highly combustible lines of racial politics.
With Mr. Trump defending Confederate statues and his former top strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, openly inviting Democrats to continue focusing on the issue of removing monuments, the president will loom large over the commonwealth in November.
In the aftermath of last weekend’s violence, Lt. Gov. Ralph S. Northam, the Democratic nominee for governor, has firmed up his call to take down Confederate monuments in the state where much of the Civil War was fought and where so many Confederate leaders, now memorialized in marble, emerged. We have to be sensitive to all people’s feelings and represent all Virginians,” he said, criticizing his Republican opponent, Ed Gillespie, for not “denouncing the president” by name after Mr. Trump asserted that there were good people marching alongside Nazi sympathizers and Klansmen last weekend.
Yet Mr. Northam has little appetite to make Virginia’s counties and cities uproot their memorials to the Confederacy and says the decision should remain up to the localities.
Mr. Gillespie also believes local communities should make that decision. . . . . “Rather than glorifying their objects, the statues should be instructional,” Mr. Gillespie said in a lengthy written statement earlier in the week.
In an illustration of this state’s complicated politics, and the expectations of each party’s base, it is Mr. Northam, the descendant of slaveholders and a product of Virginia’s rural eastern shore, who is calling for the statues to come down, while Mr. Gillespie, a New Jersey native who moved to Northern Virginia after establishing a political career in Washington, is more closely aligned with the old guard.
Democrats, while encouraged about having a tool to mobilize black voters in an off-year election, are cognizant of national polling that shows opposition to removing Confederate monuments is bipartisan. They also fear that conservative whites may come out in higher numbers to register their opposition.
Yet many Republicans are equally wary about running a gubernatorial campaign with race as a centerpiece. Virginia is an increasingly progressive state, and in an election that is bound to become nationalized, evading Mr. Trump, a deeply unpopular figure in the most vote-rich regions here, would be all but impossible for Mr. Gillespie under those circumstances.
“It puts Ed in a tough spot,” said State Delegate David Albo, a veteran Republican legislator, alluding to the pressure Mr. Gillespie is under to distance himself from the president. Or as Representative A. Donald McEachin, Democrat of Virginia, put it: “We have the gift that keeps on giving in Donald Trump.
Compounding Mr. Gillespie’s challenge, Mr. Trump is not the only incendiary Republican looming over this campaign.
Corey Stewart, who in June narrowly lost the nomination for governor after making the statues a central part of his platform, has already started his 2018 bid for the seat held by Senator Tim Kaine, a Democrat. Mr. Stewart, a Minnesotan by birth, is using that bullhorn to complain that Mr. Gillespie is being overly timid on the matter of Virginia’s Confederate history.
“He’s like some dainty old lady who doesn’t want to get her hands dirty,” said Mr. Stewart of his former rival, adding: “If he continues to try to stay above the monuments’ debate he will lose the election.”
The searing images of torches and mayhem on the University of Virginia’s iconic lawn and murder in the community that Mr. Jefferson made his home have left many in this state reeling, furious that a group of bigots from beyond the state’s borders have stained a place they revere.
Yet many African-Americans have long since grown tired of such prominent Confederate iconography as the horse-bound generals on pedestals who loom over Monument Avenue in Richmond, the state capital and former capital of the Confederacy.
Virginia effectively contains the political and social equivalent of Alabama and New Jersey within its borders, and its politics reflect this dichotomy. The affluent and educated urban crescent that stretches from the Washington suburbs down to Richmond and on to Virginia Beach votes differently from the poorer and more rural areas in much of the state’s south and west.
And this Balkanization increasingly shapes state politics as much as Virginia’s presidential preferences (it has supported the Democratic nominee in each of the last three elections). There are increasingly few Northern Virginia Republicans elected and rural Democrats such as Mr. Deeds, have become just as scarce.
Many in the political middle here fault Mr. Trump for effectively weaponizing the conversation.
“We need a rational debate, but I’m afraid the emotion of the moment after what Trump did just destroyed the opportunity for that discussion,” said Mr. Deeds, who did not criticize Mr. Northam but made clear he thinks localities should be free to decide the monument issue.
Yet much like the aftermath of the 2015 rampage by a white supremacist in a South Carolina black church, there is an impulse in Virginia to take a tangible step toward healing.
“This state is no longer a history lesson suspended in animation,” Mr. Sabato said. “This was a disaster for Virginia, and people want to put a period on it.”
Saturday, August 19, 2017
For the record, I find Steve Bannon to be a foul and toxic individual whose view are often frightening. Some have tried to argue that Bannon is responsible for unleashing the nastiest elements of Donald Trump's disturbed psyche. I'd argue instead that Trump has been foul and disturbed for decades. In Bannon Trump simply found a kindred spirit. Having fired Bannon, some now predict that Bannon is going to "go nuclear" and that the number one casualty will be the Trump administration. My only hope is that, if this occurs, that Mike Pence is among those mowed down by Bannon's quest for revenge. Both Trump and Pence need to be removed from office and I suspects that Bannon knows where the bodies are buried as the saying goes. The Atlantic has this on Bannon's suspected counterattack:
In firing Steve Bannon, President Trump has lost his chief ideologue, the man who channeled his base and advocated for the populist-nationalist policies that helped propel Trump to victory.
But he has gained an unpredictable and potentially troublesome outside ally who has long experience running a media organization, and an even longer list of enemies with whom he has scores to settle both outside the administration and inside. “Steve is now unchained,” said a source close to Bannon. “Fully unchained.”
“He’s going nuclear,” said another friend. “You have no idea. This is gonna be really fucking bad.”
Bannon had in recent days mused about leaving, according to people who have spoken with him; he has expressed to friends that he feels the administration is failing and is a sinking ship. And last week, he told people in a meeting that he would have 10 times more influence outside the White House than inside it.
Already, Breitbart is on a war footing. “It may turn out to be the beginning of the end for the Trump administration, the moment Donald Trump became Arnold Schwarzenegger,” editor Joel Pollak wrote on Friday, referring to the actor-turned-California governor, who won office as a populist outsider and exited with a 23 percent approval rating. Another friend of Bannon’s doubted this: “Why would he help them from the outside at this point? Run the outside group and then Jared Kushner takes credit?” Two sources close to Bannon said that he has for some time complained about Kushner being an issue in the Russia investigation; one of the sources said Bannon regards Kushner as “the weak link” in the White House when it comes to the investigation.
Bannon’s animus towards the “globalists” in the administration is well known. Now, from the outside, he no longer has any reason to play nice. . . . “when Steve feels the Trump administration is wrong, will he point to the people he has the inside knowledge about who are pushing for certain policies? I assume he will.”
Bannon’s exit will be extremely consequential to the inner workings of the White House, which has been marked by infighting between his nationalist faction and the more moderate influences who have been brought in. In his departure, the nationalists lose their leader while some of Trump’s key campaign promises—the border wall, for example—still go unfulfilled. Bannon famously kept a whiteboard full of those promises in his office, checking them off as they were fulfilled.
I suspect that Bannon will satisfy his love of blood sport and the already dysfunctional Trump administration will be further rocked by incoming fire from Bannon and his white nationalist followers. That said, the sooner the Trump administration is destroyed and driven from office, the better for America.
While there has been an exodus of corporate CEO's from Der Trumpenführer's advisory boards and charities and organizations have been cancelling conferences at Trump's Florida estate, one group - with one exception - has remained true to Trump: members of his evangelical advisory board. (The Guardian has a piece that provides a who's who of this group, a number of whom have a long documented history of religious extremism). While a majority of Americans have been appalled by Trump's embrace of white supremacy and Neo-Nazism (and rightfully so), the evangelical crowd seemingly has no problem with open racism. Why? I would argue it is because if you look at the Southern Baptist Convention and certainly the Southern evangelical groups, they ARE racists and long standing proponents of white supremacy and unchallenged white privilege. The Southern Baptist Convention was indeed formed to continue church support f slavery. In March of 1861, the Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens in his so-called Cornerstone Speech summed up this agenda well:
"The new Constitution has put at rest forever all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institutions—African slavery as it exists among us—the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution." he continued: "... the great truth [is] that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth."
The take away is that one should not expect to see many defections by evangelicals from the Trump white supremacist/Neo-Nazi train. Here in Virginia, The Family Foundation - a Christofascists hate group - traces it roots to segregationists who supported "Massive Resistance" and the closure of public schools rather than desegregate. Indeed, the only refugee today from Trump's evangelical advisory board is not surprisingly from the North. The Washington Post looks at this lone defection:
Most of President Trump’s evangelical advisers have stood by him this week following much criticism over his response to violent clashes in Charlottesville, even as several CEOs left business advisory councils and members of his Committee on the Arts and Humanities have announced they are leaving the panel.
In a first for his evangelical advisory council, New York City megachurch pastor A.R. Bernard announced Friday that he had stepped down from the unofficial board of evangelical advisers to Trump.
Bernard’s Brooklyn-based Christian Cultural Center, which claims 37,000 in membership, has been described by the New York Times as the largest evangelical church in New York City. He said he submitted a formal letter on Tuesday, the same day Trump made controversial remarks about the events that took place in Charlottesville. Bernard was part of Trump’s advisory council during the campaign, but he told the Times last year that he had stepped away from that election role because he felt more like “window dressing” than a genuine adviser. The Times also reported that Bernard is a registered Republican, though he voted twice for Bill Clinton and twice for President Obama. Other leaders, including Southern Baptist pastors Jack Graham and Robert Jeffress, Tony Suarez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference and televangelist Mark Burns, doubled down in their support of the president. A rising number of Americans wants Trump to resign a Public Religion Research Institute poll conducted in early August found, but white evangelicals remain most opposed to the idea. Among white evangelicals, 79 percent oppose the calls to impeach Trump compared with half of Americans who say Trump does not deserve to be impeached. On Sunday, Jonathan Falwell, who leads the megachurch Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va., denounced racism from his pulpit. His brother Jerry Falwell Jr., who leads Liberty University, remained silent for several days until he tweeted support for Trump on Wednesday. Franklin Graham, son of famed evangelist Billy Graham, defended Trump earlier this week.
I have long argued that few elements in American society are more morally bankrupt than evangelical Christians who ignore the Gospel message and have turned Christianity into a cult of hate. They are utterly self-centered, see themselves as above the law, and celebrate their embrace of ignorance and hatred of others. Their continued support of Trump underscores their moral bankruptcy.
Friday, August 18, 2017
Slowly some Republicans are condemning Donald Trump's defense of white supremacists and Neo-Nazis who perpetrated domestic terrorism in Charlottesville as "fine people." But for the most part, Republican elected officials are dancing around the issue and refusing to condemn Trump even as they make spineless remarks about opposing racism and Nazis. One radio host raised the question this way: what does it say about the GOP base that GOP senators, congressman and others are seemingly afraid to condemn such people because they fear it could hurt them at the ballot box. The sad truth is that for decades now - ever since Richard Nixon launched the "Southern Strategy" - the Republican Party has pandered to the people that Trump describes as "fine people." This pandering was once discrete and utilized dog whistle calls to racists. Trump - and here in Virginia, GOP gubernatorial primary candidate Corey Stewart - have made the calls explicit. The only thing that has changed is the willingness of more Republicans to explicitly pander to hate-filled people. A column in the New York Times looks at the phenomenon:
Donald Trump chose Trump Tower, the place where he began his presidential campaign, as the place to plunge a dagger into his presidency.Trump’s jaw-dropping defense of white supremacists, white nationalists and Nazis in Charlottesville, Va., exposed once more what many of us have been howling into the wind since he emerged as a viable candidate: That he is a bigot, a buffoon and a bully.
He has done nothing since his election to disabuse us of this notion and everything to confirm it. Anyone expressing surprise is luxuriating in a self-crafted shell of ignorance.
And yet, it seems too simplistic, too convenient, to castigate only Trump for elevating these vile racists. To do so would be historical fallacy. Yes, Trump’s comments give them a boost, grant them permission, provide them validation, but it is also the Republican Party through which Trump burst that has been courting, coddling and accommodating these people for decades. Trump is an articulation of the racists in Charlottesville and they are an articulation of him, and both are a logical extension of a party that has too often refused to rebuke them. [I]n the modern age one party has operated with the ethos of racial inclusion and with an eye on celebrating varied forms of diversity, and the other has at times appealed directly to the racially intolerant by providing quiet sufferance.
It is possible to trace this devil’s dance back to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the emergence of Richard Nixon. After the passage of the act, the Republican Party, the party of Lincoln to which black people felt considerable fealty, turned on those people and stabbed them in the back.
In 1994 John Ehrlichman, Nixon’s domestic-policy adviser and a Watergate co-conspirator, confessed this to the author Dan Baum:
“The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or blacks, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. . . . Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
The era Ehrlichman referred to was the beginning of the War on Drugs. . . . . The object of disrupting communities worked all too well — more than 40 million arrests have been conducted for drug-related offenses since 1971, with African-Americans being incarcerated in state prisons for these offenses at a rate that is 10 times greater than that for whites, according to Human Rights Watch.
In 1970, Nixon’s political strategist Kevin Phillips told The New York Times, “The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans.”
The Republican Party wanted the racists. It was strategy, the “Southern Strategy,” and it too has proved wildly successful. From there this cancer took hold. . . . . the white supremacy still survives and even thrives in policy. The stated goals of the Republican Party are not completely dissimilar from many of the white nationalist positions.
If you advance policies like a return to more aggressive drug policies and voter suppression — things that you know without question will have a disproportionate and negative impact on people of color, what does that say about you?
People think that they avoid the appellation because they do not openly hate. But hate is not a requirement of white supremacy. Just because one abhors violence and cruelty doesn’t mean that one truly believes that all people are equal — culturally, intellectually, creatively, morally. Entertaining the notion of imbalance — that white people are inherently better than others in any way — is also white supremacy.
This is passive white supremacy, soft white supremacy, the kind divorced from hatred. It is permissible because it’s inconspicuous. But this soft white supremacy is more deadly, exponentially, than Nazis with tiki torches.
This soft white supremacy is the very thing on which the open racists build. The white nationalists and the Nazis simply take the next step (not an altogether illogical one when wandering down the crooked path of racial hostility) and they overlay open animus.
White supremacy, all across the spectrum, is what lights the way to the final step as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. articulated in his “The Other America” speech in 1967:
“In the final analysis, racism is evil because its ultimate logic is genocide. Hitler was a sick and tragic man who carried racism to its logical conclusion. And he ended up leading a nation to the point of killing about six million Jews. This is the tragedy of racism because its ultimate logic is genocide. If one says that I am not good enough to live next door to him, if one says that I am not good enough to eat at a lunch counter, or to have a good, decent job, or to go to school with him merely because of my race, he is saying consciously or unconsciously that I do not deserve to exist.”
Republicans, these people and this “president” are your progeny. That is the other inconvenient truth.
Perhaps as a gay man I am more conscious of the reality of what King said: Christofascists for years - and still - say that I and millions of others in the LGBT community do not deserve to exist. When one lives with this ever present atmosphere of hate lingering in the background, you become much more sensitive to all forms of hate and bigotry. Decent Republicans need to decide whether they will embrace white supremacy or leave the GOP. The GOP will not change from within, so do not delude yourselves.
Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie has been working hard to dupe Virginia voters into believing that he is a moderate who will not follow in the policy footsteps of Donald Trump, head of the Republican Party nationally. To accomplish this message of trickery and deceit, Gillespie has adopted a campaign website that is little more than vague generalities and a tired rehashing of GOP from 30 years ago. He offers nothing new. Worse yet, he is striving to hide the reality that, if elected, he will (i) slavishly follow the culture war dictates of The Family Foundation, Virginia's leading hate group with strong historical ties to white supremacy, and (ii) pander to the near 50% of the GOP electorate that voted for Corey Stewart who campaigned on a racist/pro-Confederacy platform. A piece in the Washington Post looks at how Der Trumpenführer is making things more difficult for Gillespie to hide the toxicity he would bring to the governor's mansion. Here are highlights:
Republican Ed Gillespie has been fighting to keep the focus of his campaign for Virginia governor on state issues and away from President Trump.
That task grew more challenging this week after Trump defended some of the white nationalists who marched in Charlottesville and bashed efforts to remove Confederate statues — directly injecting national politics into the Virginia governor’s race.
Gillespie, a longtime GOP operative and former Republican National Committee chairman, repeatedly said this week there’s no moral equivalence between white nationalists and the counterprotesters who clashed with them in Charlottesville.
The GOP candidate tweeted that the views of the white supremacists and neo-Nazis in Charlottesville “have no redeeming value whatsoever. Simple as that” — without ever mentioning the president.
While Trump is highly unpopular in Virginia, and lost the state by five points to Hillary Clinton last year, Gillespie needs support from some Trump voters in November if he is to beat Democrat Ralph Northam, who has a slight lead on Gillespie in recent polls.
“Gillespie seems to be faced with one hurdle after another that Trump is actually placing in front of him in Virginia,” said Bob Holsworth, a retired Virginia Commonwealth University professor and longtime observer of state politics. “In each of these hurdles, he is trying not to directly criticize Trump, but to significantly distance himself in some fashion from Trump. That’s quite a tightrope to walk.”
Northam, and groups supporting him, have seized on Gillespie’s “silence” about Trump. “It’s disappointing to see that my opponent won’t stand up to the president when he’s so clearly been wrong,” said Northam, the state’s lieutenant governor, in an interview. “The leader of our country needs to stand up to the white supremacists and say, ‘No more, stop it, go home and go back.’ Ed Gillespie needs to tell President Trump the same thing.” Vice President Pence abruptly canceled two political appearances he was scheduled to make in Virginia with Gillespie on Saturday; aides said he needed to keep his weekend flexible.
Those cancellations may ease optics for Gillespie, whose campaign declined to comment Thursday about Trump but indirectly criticized the president’s remark that there were “fine people” in the white nationalist rally.
One Republican operative unaffiliated with the Gillespie campaign said it would be a mistake for the candidate to talk about Trump. “I don’t think Ed is going to play the game of commenting on what Trump says or doesn’t say because if he does, my God, that’s the only thing he’ll answer for between now and the election,” said the operative, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk freely about strategy. Gillespie is trying to stake out a middle ground: He opposes the removal of Confederate statues but says historical context should be added.
His efforts are complicated by Corey A. Stewart, who came within one percentage point of beating Gillespie for the GOP nomination in June by making the preservation of Virginia’s Confederate heritage a signature issue.
Stewart, who has launched a campaign to challenge U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D) with a similar strategy, appeared in a combative interview Thursday on CNN in which he repeatedly denounced the “violent left” and criticized Republicans for being too apologetic after Charlottesville for fear of being branded racists.
“I can only imagine Gillespie’s people would love to pay Corey Stewart to go away, have a vacation on a Caribbean island,” Kidd said.
Again, voters should not be fooled by Gillespie's mealy mouthed dance shuffles. The Virginia GOP nowadays stands for white supremacy, the disenfranchisement of minorities and the Christofascists agenda of The Family Foundation. This reality needs to be exposed and Gillespie needs to be forced to take a stand. He does not get to have it both ways.
Thursday, August 17, 2017
As noted during my recent visit to Great Britain, most Britons view Donald Trump with revulsion and rightly so. Indeed, it was an embarrassment to be American and have to repeatedly stress that the majority of voters had voted AGAINST him and continued to oppose his toxic regime. I have also noted - many times - my impatience with what I call "good Christians" who fail to take on and directly challenge and condemn their supposed coreligionists who traffic in hate and bigotry and seemingly utterly ignore the Gospel message. Their cowardice and refusal to call evangelical and fundamentalists out as hate merchants and modern day Pharisees parallel's those who sought to appease Adolph Hitler in the late 1920's and into the 1930's. Bad people and bad ideologies need to be strongly confronted and condemned. Politeness and attempts at quiet and calm reasoning gets nowhere with such people. Yet too many liberal/progressive Christians do nothing more that occasionally write letters or hold prayer services that do nothing to openly and vigorously confront the hate merchants of the "Christian Right." Anglican Bishop, Nicholas Baines, Bishop of Leeds, shows us how "good Christians" should be acting. Here are highlights from a piece in Christian Today:
An Anglican Bishop has launched a scathing attack on the 'narcissistic amorality' of 'lying' Donald Trump, along with the American 'Christian Right' for failing to recognise the president's traits before he was elected last November.
Nicholas Baines, the liberal-leaning Bishop of Leeds, launched his comprehensive assault on 'shameless' Trump and his evangelical backers in a blog post written in the wake of the violence carried out by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, which Trump initially failed specifically to condemn.
Bishop Baines issues blame on what he calls the 'Christian Right' for failing to see the disastrous presidency coming.
'His misogyny, amorality, financial track record, sexual behaviour, narcissism and nepotism (to name but a few of the obvious challenges) would have ruled out the candidacy of any other semi-reputable politician for the Presidency of the United States of America. His subsequent lying, shamelessness, vindictiveness and inhabiting of some "alternative reality" (in which things that happened didn't happen and things that didn't happen did happen; in which things he said he didn't say and things he didn't say he did say) cannot have come as a disappointing revelation to anyone with half a brain or ears to hear.
His espousal of the alt-right has not come as news. His condemnation of anyone and anything he sees as a challenge to himself ([former President Barack] Obama, for instance) is weighed against his silence in the face of inconvenient truth or facts.
'Yet, none of this is a surprise. It was all there to be seen before he was elected. How on earth did the Christian Right even conceive of the possibility of backing a man who can't put a sentence together and who epitomises narcissistic amorality? If Hillary Clinton couldn't be trusted because of her handling of an email server (or because Americans had had enough of political dynasties), by what stretch of moral imagination could Trump have been thought of as a cleaner, brighter alternative? To which base values did he appeal?'
Turning to Charlottesville, Baines says that the 'brazen impunity' of the white supremacists there 'is only possible because the fascists believe they can get away with it – or might even get approval from the top'.
Baines adds that 'there are moments in history where a tipping point is reached and it matters that people stand up and challenge the danger. This is one of them. Charlottesville is only one (relatively small) town in an enormous country, and most of the USA will have been as horrified as the rest of us at what they witnessed this weekend; but, the images coming out of this one place become iconic of a deeper malaise. People are right to look for consistency in the rampant condemnations and criticisms of their President in his favoured medium Twitter. If he damns Islamic terrorists and wet liberals for their actions, we can expect him to damn right-wing militias and neo-Nazi criminals when they walk his streets and drive cars into ordinary people. Silence.'
I remain incredulous that evangelical Christian leaders, Bible in hand, can remain supportive of the President and administration that is corrupting their country. When will the Republican Party take responsibility, stop wringing their hands, and stand against this regime that will be able to do little without their support?'
Before I continue, let me disclose for the record, that I have my own Confederate ancestors through my maternal grandmother, a New Orleans belle in her youth. Not only were some of these family members of the past in the Confederate army (I would qualify for membership in the sons of Confederate Veterans if I were ever to apply, which I won't), but one was even a prisoner held in a Union prison camp in Michigan for a period of time. No one still living can comment on whether any of these ancestors were slave owners, but there is a good chance that they were.
I have read a great deal about the Civil War and the Southern effort to undo Reconstruction's empowerment of former slaves. Sadly, Virginia - which has so often been on the wrong side of history- was a leader in this effort. Thus, I am well aware of the horrible things done after Reconstruction ended and whites regained virtual total political, social, and economic control. Knowing the "real history" of the Old South and the Jim Crow era, there is no way I can support the Trump/Pence and alt-right effort to bring back the Jim Crow era and to exalt white privilege (no moral person can). I am also cognizant of the fact that the Confederate monuments now embroiled in controversy in Charlottesville and elsewhere were for the most part erected when Jim Crow laws were reaching their pinnacle. Their purpose? To intimidate blacks and to send the message that white privilege was untouchable. A piece in Mother Jones looks at this reality. Here are highlights:
[A]ll the way to 1890 there were very few statues or monuments dedicated to Confederate leaders.
[Here's an] oversimplified summary:
1861-1865: Civil War.
1865-1875: Reconstruction Era.
1875-1895: Reconstruction Era ends. Blacks are steadily disenfranchised, allowing Southern whites to enact Jim Crow laws. In 1896, Jim Crow is cemented into place when the Supreme Court rules it constitutional.
1895-1915: With blacks disenfranchised and Jim Crow laws safely in place, Southern whites begin a campaign of terror against blacks. Lynchings skyrocket, the KKK becomes resurgent, and whites begin building Confederate statues and monuments in large numbers.
1915-1955: Jim Crow reigns safely throughout the South.
1955-1970: The Civil Rights era starts after the Supreme Court rules in Brown v. Board of Education that Jim Crow laws are unconstitutional. Southern whites mount massive and violent resistance, and start putting up Confederate monuments again.
Yes, these monuments were put up to honor Confederate leaders. But the timing of the monument building makes it pretty clear what the real motivation was: to physically symbolize white terror against blacks. They were mostly built during times when Southern whites were engaged in vicious campaigns of subjugation against blacks, and during those campaigns the message sent by a statue of Robert E. Lee in front of a courthouse was loud and clear.
No one should think that these statues were meant to be somber postbellum reminders of a brutal war. They were built much later, and most of them were explicitly created to accompany organized and violent efforts to subdue blacks and maintain white supremacy in the South. I wouldn’t be surprised if even a lot of Southerners don’t really understand this, but they should learn. There’s a reason blacks consider these statues to be symbols of bigotry and terror. It’s because they are.
Too many have said "let the monuments remain, they are part of history." Sadly, they typically do not know all of the real history. The Old South was not the pretty picture of Gone With the Wind. Behind the beautiful plantation homes there was much suffering and brutality - some inflicted by falsely labeled "pragons of virtue" like Robert E. Lee. Even Lee's great grandson has said he id OK with the removal of the monuments.