Tuesday 14 March 2017
After the collapse of Occupy Wall Street, my wife and I fled the progressive groupthink of Berkeley, California and resettled out here in Nehalem, in rural Oregon, close to unpoliced forests and far from the nearest university, airport or anarchist infoshop.
All was reasonably well until I ran for mayor of my tiny town, provoking a backlash. When I received a racist death threat shortly after Donald Trump was elected president, I was forced to see my rural community and my diverse country in a newly sinister light.
The ugly truth is that many, if not most, of my neighbors voted for Trump’s authoritarian bigotry. And then – like the Brits upset by Brexit, the French disturbed by Marine Le Pen, and Filipinos furious about Rodrigo Duterte – I found myself torn by a civil war fought between the side of me that hates what my country has become, and the patriotic part of my spirit that loves what my country could be.
After weeks of inner struggle, the patriotic side has won and I glimpse the path upward: we must seize patriotism from those who are destroying our democracies.
Oftentimes, progressives are all too quick to abandon patriotism when their country strays dangerously from its ideals. The tenor of this anti-patriotism was most eloquently captured by Frederick Douglass, the escaped slave who Donald Trump recently praised for doing an “amazing job”.
Shortly before the Europe-wide revolution of 1848 that violently dethroned France’s King Louis Philippe, Douglass returned to the US from Britain where he had fled to escape the slave-catchers sent by his former master. In a powerful speech delivered in New York, Douglass called for a revolution, declaring:
I have no love for America, as such; I have no patriotism … I desire to see [America] overthrown as speedily as possible and its Constitution shivered in a thousand fragments, rather than that this foul curse should continue to remain as now.
His words presaged the coming American civil war, a notoriously bloody conflict that revised the constitution to include the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments to overturn slavery.
Douglass rejected patriotism – narrowly defined as love of one’s country – in favor of a greater, universalist sentiment. “I love Humanity all over the globe. I am anxious to see Righteousness prevail in all directions,” he said in the same speech.
While noble, this now common conceptual move of pitting love of country against love of humanity is a strategic revolutionary blunder. If the people wish to attain sovereignty, we must merge the particular love of our country with the universal love of humanity. This means celebrating what is best and eradicating what is worst in each nation until all people are free.
It is not difficult to understand Douglass’s deep antipathy for America: a white supremacist nation where slavery was legal and socially acceptable while he was considered to be both chattel and a traitor. Similarly, it is perfectly understandable why cosmopolitan Americans today might see Trump’s travel ban against six Muslim countries, and the populace who support it, as justification for openly hating their American homeland.
In late November, Marna Street, a violist with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, was walking to her car after a rehearsal. Street was shocked by what she discovered: Someone had painted a swastika, about 14 inches across, on the trunk of her car.
The vandals, Street said, had probably targeted her vehicle, which was parked in a garage not far from the University of Cincinnati, because she’d placed a magnet on it indicating that she is Jewish. Street eventually managed scrub off the graffiti. She put the magnet in the glovebox of her car.
Working with a coalition of organizations, ProPublica late last year launched “Documenting Hate,” an attempt to gather evidence of hate crimes and episodes of bigotry from a divided America. The account from Cincinnati is one of the anti-Semitic incidents the project has chronicled. But there are scores more.
Indeed, “Documenting Hate” recorded more than 330 reports of anti-Semitic incidents during a three-month span from early November to early February. The accounts — our list is by no means comprehensive — come via personal submissions, police documents and news articles. The majority, though not all, have been authenticated through either news reports, interviews or other evidence, like photos.
The incidents have taken place in big cities and small towns, along the country’s liberal coasts and in deep red states. Some of the episodes — swastikas and threatening messages spray-painted at schools and colleges around the nation — have been worrisome, though relatively minor. Others have been more serious, such as the 65 bomb threats targeting Jewish organizations across the country during the period we examined (there have been nearly 70 more since then). In many cases, the culprits singled out specific individuals for abuse, defacing their homes and autos with swastikas and menacing comments.
President Trump, after weeks of criticism for being slow to condemn the incidents, last week called them “horrible” and “painful” and “a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil.”
The remarks, however, came after a number of confounding comments about the issue. During a Feb. 16 news conference, Trump castigated Jake Turx, a reporter for Ami, a Jewish magazine, for asking what the government was doing to address the increase in anti-Semitic events. Trump accused Turx of lying about the question he wanted to ask, and instructed him to sit down. And without citing any evidence, Trump has wondered whether some of the recent anti-Semitic incidents were carried out by liberals, or Jews themselves, intent on discrediting him.
“There’s a push on the left to conflate anti-Semitism with Trump, while at the same time criticizing him for having Jared Kushner, who wears his Jewishness as proudly as anyone, as his most trusted confidant and in the highest echelons of the White House staff,” said Joe Borelli, a Trump supporter who represents Staten Island on the New York city council, according to Breitbart News. “It is mind-boggling.”
From Bill Moyers: http://billmoyers.com/story/system-got-broken-cant-fixed/
By Neal Gabler
March 13, 2017
The system wasn’t supposed to work this way. The Founding Fathers deliberately devised a structure in which someone like Donald Trump — a vain, self-centered, mendacious demagogue — could never become chief executive, and in which the legislature could never be captured by a reckless, ideologically obsessed minority bent on overriding the majority interests of Americans. Those Founders labored to create an independent judiciary that was not captive to any single ideology or party. They carefully crafted a set of checks and balances in which no single branch of government could overpower another, and in which each held its own prerogatives dearly. In doing so, they thought they had provided posterity with a wise, cautious and magnanimous governmental operation that would serve the larger public weal rather than advantage any particular group or party, and that could withstand the gusts of any given historical moment.
It actually worked surprisingly well for 250 years, which is not to say that it didn’t have plenty of hiccups or that special interests weren’t often privileged. But it doesn’t work anymore, and though I am optimistic enough to believe that we will have a new president and Congress someday who will change policies and perhaps set us back on the road to rationality and common decency (“Make America Good Again”), the Trump presidency and the Republican Congress have nevertheless exposed the flaws in the system itself.
The prognosis isn’t good: These flaws are embedded in the Constitution and cannot be repaired without wholesale change, which isn’t coming. These defects are now openly visible for the next demagogue and the next gaggle of political hypocrites and power mongers to exploit. You can forget all the alleged fail-safes. The Constitution was supposed to protect us from this. It was expressly designed to do so. It didn’t.
The system failed because the Founding Fathers did not anticipate anything like the modern Republican Party. On the contrary, they believed that extremism and overweening self-interest of the sort Republicans routinely display could always be quarantined. Were they wrong! Instead of the Constitution circumscribing reactionary populism, reactionary populism has circumscribed the Constitution. That is where we are now. And there is no way out.
The Founding Fathers weren’t naive idealists. They understood the deficiencies of human nature, which is why they felt the need to devise structural defenses against them. “If men were angels,” wrote James Madison in Federalist No. 51, “no government would be necessary.” But men weren’t, so it was. Still, our forebears were comforted by four assumptions that would underpin American democracy — four assumptions that let them believe their Constitution would sustain the new nation.
First, they believed that a national government would attract what John Jay described as the “best men,” men “whose wisdom,” Madison would concur in Federalist #10, “may best discern the true interests of their country, and whose patriotism and love of justice will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial considerations.” In short, they envisioned a government of sagacious men of good will who set aside their own interests for the country’s: the “best and brightest.” Instead, we seem to have gotten the “worst and dumbest.” Examples abound, and this week’s rollout of the new Republican health care plan, which is likely to deprive at least 10 million Americans of health insurance while further enriching the rich is just another vivid demonstration of how the Founders overestimated the quality of future representation as well as our representatives’ dedication to the larger public good. Paul Ryan, the Republicans’ much-vaunted intellectual, doesn’t even know how insurance works!
Continue reading at: http://billmoyers.com/story/system-got-broken-cant-fixed/
By Nick Morrow
March 15, 2017
Today, HRC blasted the Texas Senate for advancing SB 6 — dishonestly titled the “Privacy Protection Act” — a bill expressly intended to discriminate against and block facility access for transgender Texans. The full Senate voted to advance the legislation by a vote of 21-10. The bill would overturn non-discrimination ordinances currently providing critical protections in several major Texas cities; further, it would force state agencies, municipalities, public schools and public universities to discriminate against transgender people. SB 6 will now move to the Texas House of Representatives.
Since its introduction, the anti-LGBTQ bill has been condemned by hundreds of businesses and several Texas chambers of commerce, celebrities and performers, tourism groups and events and sports organizations including the NBA, the NFL and the NCAA, which yesterday reaffirmed its commitment to “maintaining a college sports experience that is inclusive and fair for all individuals, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”
“After hearing an outpouring of opposition to this bill during nearly 20 hours of citizen testimony last week, it’s outrageous that the Texas Senate would advance SB 6 to the House,” said JoDee Winterhof, Senior Vice President of Policy and Political Affairs of the Human Rights Campaign. “This measure is another product of Dan Patrick’s anti-LGBTQ agenda, and it’s troubling that lawmakers in the Senate cannot see it for what it truly is: an attack on their transgender neighbors, coworkers and friends who deserve the same dignity and rights as anyone else. We hope the House members recognize this and stop SB 6 in its tracks.”
SB 6 is a discriminatory, anti-transgender bill, and one of the many egregious anti-LGBTQ bills introduced in Texas this legislative session. By making it illegal for transgender people in Texas to be afforded access to facilities consistent with their identity, it opens them up to increased discrimination and harassment as they simply live their everyday lives. It also exposes Texas to tremendous risk of the kind of financial, legal, and political blowback that North Carolina has continued to reckon with after the passage of HB2.
Dan Patrick has made a career out of his anti-LGBTQ animus, including opposing marriage equality in Texas, advocating to strip Texas cities of equal rights ordinances and supporting anti-LGBTQ reality star Phil Robertson.
HRC has five field organizers in four offices across Texas who work to mobilize opposition to any anti-LGBTQ legislation. HRC continues to work alongside Equality Texas, ACLU of Texas, Texas Freedom Network, the Transgender Education Network of Texas and others on the ground to battle against dangerous or harmful bills that attack the dignity of LGBTQ Texans. As a coalition, we will stand together; we will support and comfort one another; and we will continue to work together until we defeat every bill this session that discriminates against LGBTQ Texans.