Tag Archives: anti-Semitism

It’s Going To Get Uglier

Last weekend, my husband and I attended the Phoenix Theatre’s presentation of Sweat, a prize-winning play based upon an episode of union-busting and outsourcing that took place some years ago in Reading, Pennsylvania. As with all Phoenix productions, the acting was superb, and the set evocative. But it was the play’s message that really resonated.

As workers in the local factories lost their jobs, social bonds frayed. Self-esteem suffered. Longstanding interracial friendships surrendered to suspicions that promotions had been awarded on the basis of “diversity” rather than merit. As with all powerful art, the play illuminated a human truth: in times of economic and/or social uncertainty–especially when  livelihoods are threatened– people turn on each other.

Political scientists have varying explanations for the election of Donald Trump, but those explanations all include, to varying degrees, economic insecurity and racial resentment. A significant number of Americans are struggling to put food on the table. Automation is threatening the jobs of many others. The pace of social and technological change can seem dizzying. And rather than working to tackle these and other problems, the President and his henchmen are telling us to blame the Other: immigrants, Muslims, minorities.

A recent headline from the Guardian tells us that anti-Semitic incidents soared in 2017.

Antisemitic incidents in the US surged 57% in 2017, the Anti-Defamation League said on Tuesday, the largest year-on-year increase since the Jewish civil rights group began collecting data in 1979.

Close to 2,000 cases of harassment, vandalism and physical assault were recorded,

Another report tells us that we are in danger of reversing the civil rights advances of the last fifty years.

Civil rights gains of the past half-century have stalled or in some areas gone into reverse, according to a report marking the 50th anniversary of the landmark Kerner Commission.

Child poverty has increased, schools have become resegregated and white supremacists are becoming emboldened and more violent, the study says…..

Fred Harris, the last surviving member of the Kerner Commission, told Tuesday’s conference at George Washington University: “We made progress on virtually every aspect of race and poverty for nearly a decade after the Kerner report and then that progress slowed, then stopped and in many ways was reversed, so that today racial and ethnic discrimination is again worsening. We are resegregating our cities and our schools, condemning millions of kids to inferior education and taking away their real possibility of getting out of poverty.”

Harris, a former Democratic senator from Oklahoma and co-editor of the new report, added: “There are millions more poor people today than there were then. There’s greater child poverty; poverty’s harder to get out of. More poor people are in deep poverty than was true 50 years ago and income inequality is worse now and worsening.”

Last week, the Supreme Court heard a case that is very likely to eviscerate public-sector unions–the culmination of a decades-long, largely successful effort by the Koch brothers and their allies in the GOP to destroy workers’ ability to bargain. It is an effort that has gone hand-in-hand with their consistent and very effective attack on government programs that help needy Americans.

As Sweat vividly illustrated, poverty and powerlessness beget bigotry and social discord.

If voters don’t turn this country around in November, America will illustrate something else–Hobbes’ description of life outside society: solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.

 

 

 

 

 

We’ve Heard This Song Before

Trump’s bigoted diatribes against Latinos, Muslims and (nonwhite) immigrants received a considerable amount of attention during the campaign, as did his reprehensible attitudes  about and behavior toward women.

The torrents of anti-Semitism he unleashed received less coverage by mainstream media sources, but not because that anti-Semitism was less pronounced. Anti-Semitic posts surged on Twitter; and as the Atlantic reported,

This was the year that anti-Semitism went mainstream again. On Tuesday, American Jews will have a chance to register their vote about a presidential candidate whose campaign has trafficked in anti-Semitic rhetoric, symbols, and organizations unlike any other seen in recent years.

Reporters who are Jewish–or who just have Jewish-sounding names–were subjected to vile diatribes employing words that weren’t part of public conversations back in “political correctness” days.

Those of us who are Jewish tend to be sensitive to eruptions of this sort, and the extent of ancient “Jew hatred” tropes and the emergence of old anti-Semitic stereotypes was chilling.

This ugly reality is one reason I get so annoyed when naive and disappointed progressives insist that Bernie Sanders would have beaten Trump. They point to polls taken during the primaries, which any pollster will concede are so early as to be meaningless. (Actually, polls taken during the campaign weren’t so meaningful either–just ask Hillary Clinton.) Had Bernie emerged as the nominee, he would have been subjected to the full ferocity of Republican campaign attacks, and as a commenter on this blog previously noted, there was plenty to work with. (That’s not a slam on Bernie; most people who have been in public positions a long time, and actually done things, have baggage or a history that can be twisted and made to look like baggage.) Given his attacks on the 1%, and his economic positions, there would have been enormous amounts of money pouring in from the Koch brothers and their ilk to fuel those attacks.

But that’s not the only reason Bernie couldn’t have won, no matter how much his message might have resonated with voters who actually wanted change. And let’s be honest. The ugly truth is that the majority of Trump voters weren’t voting for change–at least, not in the sense most people mean.

They were voting to repudiate social change and (especially) a black President.

They were voting to take America back to the way things were when no one spoke Spanish, gays were in the closet, Muslim-Americans were rare or non-existent, Jews and blacks were just barely second-class citizens, and women knew their place. And in the pantheon of their hatreds, Jews rank high.

Bernie Sanders is Jewish. The voters who thrilled to Trump’s nativism and White nationalism were never, ever going to vote for Bernie.

There’s a lot of debate over whether Donald Trump is anti-Semitic himself, or whether he was simply willing to pander to David Duke and the rest of the KKK and Nazis who endorsed him, but it really doesn’t matter. He did pander to them, he did encourage their virulent anti-Semitism, and if he ever effectively disavowed the Klan’s support, they (and I) didn’t notice.

Instead of wasting time with fantasies of what might have been, all of us who oppose Trump need to resist his agenda as forcefully as we can; we also need to begin looking now for progressive candidates who can run for the House and Senate in 2018, and for a transformative candidate who is electable in 2020. (Assuming the country is still here and in one piece in 2020. But that’s a blog for another day…)

The Id Takes Over

This Presidential campaign has been like turning over a rock and seeing the cockroaches scamper out. I really didn’t think it could get any worse.

And I never, ever expected to agree with Charles Krauthammer about, well, anything. But even he was appropriately appalled by Trump’s “lock her up” descent into banana Republicanism–and the hypocrisy of denouncing him only when the “groping” tape emerged.

His views on women have been on open display for years. And he’d offered a dazzling array of other reasons for disqualification: habitual mendacity, pathological narcissism, profound ignorance and an astonishing dearth of basic human empathy.

All true. But everything we already know about the Orange One really does pale before his “unshackled” version, which is unabashedly embracing every white supremacist fever dream and unhinged conspiracy theory floating around the sewer of the “alt-right.”

Donald Trump has indulged in conspiracy theories about President Obama’s birthplace, the FBI’s “rigged” probe of Hillary Clinton, the Federal Reserve’s “political” agenda and whether Ted Cruz’s father was linked to the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

With his presidential campaign in full-blown crisis on Thursday, Trump was at it again, putting a new spin on a familiar tactic.

This time, there was a bigger, badder villain — “a global power structure” of corporate interests, the media and Clinton engaging in subterfuge.

As I read reports of his bizarre speech to a rally in West Palm Beach, I remembered a friend’s wry comment from our days in the Hudnut Administration. A neighborhood group had accused the administration of a conspiracy of some sort; after noting that we really weren’t capable of pulling off sophisticated plots, he remarked that simple incompetence explains so much more than complicated conspiracies.

Unless, of course, you are a bat-shit insane megalomaniac absolutely incapable of accepting responsibility for your own behavior.

“For those who control the levers of power in Washington, and for the global special interests, they partner with these people that don’t have your good in mind. Our campaign represents a true existential threat like they haven’t seen before,” Trump said…

A day earlier, Trump appeared to allege, without evidence, that House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.) and other GOP elected officials who distanced themselves from him were involved in a mass scheme to undermine him.

“There’s a whole deal going on — we’re going to figure it out. I always figure things out. But there’s a whole sinister deal going on,” he said.

Trump charged that Clinton “meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty in order to enrich these global financial powers, her special-interest friends and her donors.” As Martin Longman put it, at Washington Monthly,

Yesterday, he might as well have put the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in his teleprompter for all the subtlety he used in going after the media and international bankers. He will be the new Father Coughlin and he’ll make plenty of money.

“International bankers” thus joins the racism of Trump’s “birtherism,” the xenophobia of his rancid anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim rhetoric, and his “Alpha male” misogyny. His anti-Semitism–previously a bit more subtle–has now become more overt.

Donald Trump’s supporters in the white nationalist movement have found who is to blame for the tape in which the Republican nominee brags about sexually assaulting women: “The Jews.” Trump’s racist supporters are claiming that Republican consultant Dan Senor leaked the tape, and are responding with anti-Semitic attacks.

Members of the “alt-right” and white nationalist movement have been heavily supporting Trump’s campaign, and the candidate and his team have been courting members of the movement, including by appearing in white nationalist media, refusing to denounce them, and retweeting their messages.

The Daily Stormer is a virulently anti-Semitic website that celebrates Nazism, purports to document the “Jewish Problem,” and attacks “kikes.” Editor Andrew Anglin wrote an October 11 post claiming that “we knew whoever leaked the tape was a Jew. And a #NeverTrump Jew advisor to Paul Ryan is currently being pointed at as being responsible. Dan Senor.” He called Senor “a #NeverTrump kike” and concluded:

If we lose this election, it is going to be because of this pussy-grabbing tape. And having it be known that it was a Jew is extremely important. One of the GOP’s Jews being responsible makes it all the better.

Because if we lose, this country is going to enter a new age of anti-Semitism.

The 35% or so of the country that is hardcore pro-Trump is going to know that it wasn’t “liberals” that defeated Trump, but traitors within the party who abandoned him. And they are going to want to know why that happened.

And there is only one answer:

The Jews did it.

Yes, we Jews–in league with the Clintons, the banks, the Republican establishment, the media, the Kenyan Muslim in the White House (and probably the aliens who landed at Roswell)….all of whom are expertly and covertly co-ordinating a conspiracy to destroy America by defeating Donald Trump.

We do not have enough mental health professionals in this country.

The Party of Cultural Resentment

Among all of the thousands of words being penned and posted by observers of the GOP’s convention, the phrase that may have most aptly summed up the current character of the Grand Old Party was an observation that it had devolved into the “party of cultural resentment.” (I wish I remembered where I read that, so that I could properly recognize the author.)

Trump began this political cycle with his embrace of birtherism–a stance firmly grounded in the conviction that an African-American could not possibly be a legitimate occupant of the Oval Office.

Trump’s Presidential campaign has been upfront and unembarrassed about its anti-Mexican, anti-Muslim positions; it has been somewhat more covert in its appeal to white supremacists and anti-Semites, but not much. David Duke remains positively euphoric about Trump’s candidacy, as are a number of other avowed racists. The campaign has regularly tweeted out quotations and symbols first posted to white supremacist websites.

At the Convention, on day one, the party had to close down its online chat feature after it was swamped with what was characterized as an “anti-Jewish hatefest.”

You can live stream the Republican National Convention on the RNC’s official YouTube page, but you can’t chat about it live anymore.

Why, you ask? Because the Republicans have now disabled the live chat window on the page after it got overrun by anti-Semitic Trump supporters.

It is hard to avoid the impression that the major source of Trump’s support is cultural grievance–resentment at the perceived displacement of WASP Americans from their formerly privileged social status. That sense of displacement hits particularly hard in people who are otherwise dissatisfied with their lives or economic prospects; it is noteworthy that Trump currently trails Clinton in polls of college-educated whites, a demographic that has previously been a reliably Republican voting bloc.

Trump’s campaign has drawn comparisons to Nixon’s southern strategy, but his appeal to the dark side has actually been far more blatant. The question is: how will the American public respond?

The frightening possibility is that, win or lose, this campaign will normalize an ugly underside of American culture, an underside that “political correctness”–aka civility and humanity–had kept mostly contained.

The hopeful possibility is that voters will reject Trump et al by a margin crushing enough to send the clear message that he, his campaign, and increasingly, his party, are the antithesis of what America stands for.

At the end of the day, the Republican “team players”– the ones who Rick Wilson (a longtime GOP operative) calls “Vichy Republicans”–  will have been responsible for one of two results: furthering national division and tribalism, making the country even more ungovernable; or the destruction of the current iteration of the Republican party.

 

Why I Have Blocked “Gopper”

Regular readers of this blog’s comments sections know that it has attracted a regular troll who calls himself “Gopper.” Gopper’s comments suggest that he is an unhappy and angry individual (with, evidently, a great deal of time on his hands), and although he has frequently crossed the line into invective and incivility, I haven’t previously blocked him, for a couple of reasons: for one thing, I am a big believer in the widest possible exchange of perspectives; for another, it is much too easy in the age of the Internet to limit our interactions to those with whom we agree, and thus fail to recognize the extent to which others hold not just diverse but frequently disturbing and even dangerous beliefs.

In that sense, Gopper’s frequent bizarre rants were instructive (although to the extent others couldn’t resist taking the bait, he managed to derail several otherwise productive conversations).

Yesterday, however, the anti-Semitism that has been visible in previous comments was full-blown; his defense of Nazi atrocities exceeded any tolerance to which he might otherwise be entitled in a civilized society,  however useful he might be as a “case in point.”

In a very real sense, this blog is my virtual home, and those invited in will be expected to adhere to the rules of civilized behavior. Visitors are free–indeed, encouraged–to disagree with me or with anyone posting comments. As arguments heat up, I can tolerate–and I have tolerated–a certain degree of testiness and occasional incivility. But ad hominem attacks, personal nastiness and unrepentant bigotry are not welcome and cannot be tolerated.

Gopper’s presence here has served its purpose; he has demonstrated where the problem lies.

The raw vitriol–unleavened by any respect for evidence or reason or other people’s humanity–is undoubtedly not unique to him. Those of us who are trying to leave this world just a little bit better, a little bit kinder than we found it, need to realize that Americans aren’t just arguing about the best way to achieve the common good, or even about what the common good looks like. All too often, debates that are ostensibly about policy are really about power, fear, privilege, advantage–and deep-seated tribal hatreds.

People in the latter category simply cannot be allowed in polite company.

Forgive the detour; this blog will return to its regular obsessions tomorrow.