First They Came for the Transgender People…

From Forward:  http://forward.com/opinion/341188/first-they-came-for-the-transgender-people/

Ari Paul
May 22, 2016

The hysteria over transgender bathrooms is reaching such a fever pitch that even Americans who aren’t transgender are getting hurt by it.

A Connecticut woman alleged earlier this month that she was harassed by Wal-Mart shoppers because, with her boyish appearance, she was mistaken for a transgender person headed for the women’s bathroom. “You are not supposed to be here!” she was told. “You need to leave!”

The incident is haunting for a few reasons. One is that the woman was not even part of the transgender community, the group usually thought to be the victims of the so-called bathroom bills that force trans people, in states like North Carolina, to use a restroom that doesn’t correspondent to the gender with which they identify. Another is that this happened in a state where such a law doesn’t exist. That brings us to the biggest problem: Regular citizens deputized themselves to enforce an invented standard of what a woman is supposed to look like in public.

This incident, coupled with the troubling trends of anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic and sexist outbursts from the supporters of the possible next American president, Donald Trump, is a window into the political mood our country is headed toward. That mood should be deeply worrisome not only to transgender Americans or to transgender American Jews, but to the American Jewish community writ large.

Martin Niemöller’s famous “First they came…” statement remains a powerful testament to the ability of people to let tyranny happen. But while it gives a nod to the persecution of socialists, labor activists and Jews, it omits the fact that sexual minorities — LGBT people and those who don’t conform to the gender binary — were among the first groups to be rounded up by the Nazis.

Let’s remember that Berlin’s Institute for Sexual Studies was shut down in 1933, two years before the Nuremburg Laws came into being. Headed by the German Jewish doctor Magnus Hirschfeld, the pioneering sexology research institute saw its books burned in the streets while Joseph Goebbels delivered a political speech to 40,000 people. The nightmare of fascism often starts with sexual minorities and then works its way toward other minorities. This history of the intersection of anti-Semitism, homophobia and transphobia in Nazi Germany is now being explored to wonderful effect in the Amazon studios series “Transparent.”

Sexual and gender minorities are particularly vulnerable, because unlike members of racial and religious communities, they are often estranged from family networks. If you were a Jew in Germany, everyone in your family was Jewish, too, but even today, throughout the world, LGBT people flee their families to make new lives for themselves.

In Nazi Germany, acceptance of what the fascists were doing to LGBT people is what gave way to the eventual acceptance of the “cleansing” of everyone else. And, like in the case of the Connecticut woman getting harassed at Wal-Mart, tyranny is at its most dangerous when it’s not only state agents who are enforcing codes, but also average citizens who are volunteering to turn on their non-compliant neighbors.

The optimistic view of these “bathroom bills” is that they are the last gasp of a dying conservatism that can’t accept the growing tide of LGBT rights. Marriage equality, once thought to be a pipe dream, is now constitutionally cemented, and resisters like Kentucky country clerk Kim Davis are considered comical extremists.

Continue reading at:  http://forward.com/opinion/341188/first-they-came-for-the-transgender-people/

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‘There Should Be a March on Washington for All of Us Over 60 Who Will Never Get a Job Again’

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/books/raising-minimum-wage-just-starting-point-building-serious-labor-movement

The demise of unions, the miserly minimum wage and the absence of an economic fairness movement add up to a dark future for many.

By Thomas Geoghegan
May 25, 2016

The following is an excerpt from the new book Only One Thing Can Save Us by Thomas Geoghegan (The New Press, 2016): 

“So, do you think ‘labor’ will ever come back?”

As a union-side lawyer I hate when people ask that question as if it’s my problem and not theirs. You’d think with tears in our eyes we’d embrace each other and say: “My God, what should we do?” It’s a question now not of bringing back “labor” but of bringing back the middle class. And neither you nor I have done enough on that.

In 40 years as a labor lawyer, I’ve yet to figure it out—and now? “You and I are done,” said Ed, who’s my age. “It’s up to younger people to figure it out.”

Well, I’m not done. With my 401(k), I have to keep going.

The other day I spoke to the guy at T. Rowe Price: “What do you think? Should I be in bonds? Maybe I should preserve capital?”

He seemed astonished. “You—preserve capital? You still need growth.”

I’m 65 and I still need growth. That’s why at this point in my life the collapse of labor is something personal. When I was younger, I thought of it as a problem for other people. But as I get older, I realize: I should have either saved more or made sure there was a labor movement to protect me. As it is, even Barack Obama seems ready to cut my Social Security.

It scares me how many of my friends are scrambling harder than ever. Here’s what one told me: “I thought when the kids were gone, my wife and I would have it easy. But somehow both of us seem to be working harder than ever. Those violin lessons I imagined I’d be taking in the morning? Forget it. It’s as if someone shows up and shouts in your ear: ‘Fine, your kids are gone, they’re all through college, great—NOW GET TO WORK!’ ”

With no labor movement, no pension, what’s to become of us? And we’re, relatively, well off!

At Starbucks I wince when the little old white-haired lady behind the counter says, “Can I start something for you?”

Start an IRA, for both of us. Only she and I know it’s too late. At least she’s working. I have friends my age who have no pension, nothing, and know they will never work again. They hope so, but …

“There should be a March on Washington,” said my friend Tony, “for all us guys, over 60, who know we’ll never find a real job again.”

It’s the last act for us: old guys, marching, like the Bonus Army in the Depression. Perhaps, as in the 1930s, General MacArthur will send in horse soldiers to sweep us away—all of us tottering baby boomers who were never in a war.

Of course it’s for the young I feel sorry: after all, it was on our watch that a labor movement disappeared. Am I wrong or do they seem intimidated? So far as I can tell, at least on the El, they seem to shrink from one another. They stare pitifully down at their iPhones, which stare up pitilessly at them. Their own gadgetry sits in judgment of them.

But why pick on them? Everyone seems demoralized. In my practice, I long ago came to accept that when labor disappeared, I’d stop seeing union members. But now they are not even “employees.” More and more I have clients who have signed away their rights to be considered “employees” at all—which means there’s no minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, no Social Security, nothing. Years ago they should have said something when the HR people said: “You’re no longer employees here—but cheer up, you’ll go on working for us as independent contractors.” In one case we have, the boss even made the guys set up their own personal “corporations,” as in “John Smith, Incorporated.” Then HR says: “We don’t pay you, John Smith, but John Smith, Incorporated.” My friends ask: “How can people live on the minimum wage?” But as an independent contractor, John Smith, Incorporated, doesn’t even make the minimum wage. Sometimes I think: one day, every American worker will be a John Smith, Incorporated, every cleaning lady, every janitor, every one of us—it will be a nation of CEOs in chains. “How did I let this happen?”

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/books/raising-minimum-wage-just-starting-point-building-serious-labor-movement

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Women Are Leaving Church, And the Reason Seems Clear

From Religion Dispatches:  http://religiondispatches.org/women-are-leaving-church-and-the-reason-seems-clear/

By
May 25, 2016

A new Pew Research Center analysis of General Social Survey data confirms a long-simmering trend in U.S. religious observance: While attendance at religious services has declined for all Americans, it has declined more among women then men.

In the early 1970s, 36 percent of women and 26 percent of men reported attending church services weekly, a ten-point gap that reflected the long-standing trend of women being more religiously committed than men.

The gap reached its widest point in 1982, when it hit 13 percent, but then it began to shrink. By 2012, 22 percent of men reported attending church weekly, as did 28 percent of women, reflecting a “worship gap” of only six percent, an historic low.

Pew’s David McClendon gives several possible reasons for women’s declining levels of religiosity as measured by church attendance. One is the increase in the number of women in the workforce, which could theoretically decrease their leisure time and force them to cut back on activities like church. But as McClendon himself notes, “the fastest increase in women’s full-time employment” actually “occurred in the late 1970s and early 1980s, during which time the gender gap on religious service attendance actually widened somewhat.”

If women aren’t too busy with work to go to church, maybe it’s because they’re becoming too well educated. Higher rates of educational attainment are correlated to less church going, except McClendon notes that both more educated and less educated women are going to church less.

Finally, McClendon notes that the growth of the “nones” appears to having contributed to women’s declining church attendance, as “the rate of growth in the unaffiliated has been slightly more rapid for women than men,” which has “helped narrow the gender gap in weekly attendance.”

But it seems likely that more women becoming unaffiliated is part and parcel of the same trend of more women staying away from church. It still doesn’t explain why this is happening.

What McClendon overlooks is that the years that women’s church attendance began to decline are the very years when religious leaders in the Catholic Church and the evangelical movement fused religion with the culture wars, with overall attendance for women taking it’s first steep drop in the 1980s.

This drop in church attendance for women coincided with the period when the Catholic bishops began making abortion a litmus test for Catholic politicians, as in the 1984 election when Vice Presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro was attacked for being pro-choice.

And Pew’s own numbers appear to back this up. According to Pew, women are slightly more likely than men to say that churches should keep out of politics (55 percent vs. 53 percent), and overall 60 percent of Catholics say church should keep out of politics.

Women’s church attendance did recover somewhat in the early 1990s, but then began a long slide in the mid-1990s that continued to 2012, when the GSS data end. While the GSS numbers don’t break out attendance by religion, church attendance for both men and women appears to have bottomed out around the time the sex scandals broke in the Catholic Church in 2001. Other studies have a found “a significant decline in religious participation as a result of the scandals,” and it’s possible this decline was large enough to affect overall church attendance.

Continue reading at:  http://religiondispatches.org/women-are-leaving-church-and-the-reason-seems-clear/

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