Rabbi blames wave of white supremacists on conservative talk radio, TV and politicians

From Raw Story:  http://www.rawstory.com/2017/08/rabbi-blames-wave-of-white-supremacists-on-conservative-talk-radio-tv-and-politicians/

Sarah K. Burris
30 Aug 2017

Wisconsin Rabbi David Cohen was horrified listening to the chants from white supremacists and neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Virginia just weeks ago.

Cohen began an op-ed for The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle by saying that the rallying cry “blood and soil” used by “khaki clad, torch carrying clean cut American youth was, in a word, chilling.” The phrase comes from Nazi Germany to define legitimacy of citizenship and race.

He explained that Americans should have seen this coming after “decades of conservative talk radio, television, and some conservative politicians, blaming immigrants, people of color, Muslims and Jews for society’s problems.” Those desperate for opportunity look for a scapegoat when they don’t get it. All of society’s ills are placed on those who’ve been able to pull themselves up.

Meanwhile, “the White House has taken deliberate steps that have amplified racist voices,” Cohen wrote, citing cuts in funding to focus on counter-terrorism and put them on the fight against ISIS. “Programs to encourage people to leave white supremacist groups were defunded. These are not coincidences,” he wrote.

He agreed that the adage “one step forward — two steps back” can too often be true, but the gains in civil rights cannot falter. But he’s not fearful they’ll have to refight battles from the 1960s, he’s worried about having to fight the policies of the 1930s again. The fights over monuments seem like Americans are being forced to relive the 1860s.

“As Jews, none of this is new; we’ve seen such discrimination before,” he wrote. “It’s only recently that we’ve been accepted in America as ‘white’ and, in some corners, are still considered ‘other.’ Witness the Charlottesville demonstrators shouting ‘Jews will not replace us.’ We know these anti-Semites; we’ve seen them before.”

“Having seen all this before, we Jews know what we have to do,” Cohen wrote, urging Jews not to allow this behavior to flourish. He goes on to beg people to hold policymakers, including President Donald Trump, accountable when they allow this racism and antisemitism to continue.

Similarly, “we have to make sure that Holocaust education is expanded and strengthened. As the survivors become fewer and fewer, we now have to speak for them,” he urged.

Continue reading at:  http://www.rawstory.com/2017/08/rabbi-blames-wave-of-white-supremacists-on-conservative-talk-radio-tv-and-politicians/

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Three Cheers for Cultural Appropriation

From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/30/opinion/cultural-appropriation.html?ref=opinion

I haven’t watched MTV’s annual Video Music Awards since Bill Clinton was president. I was wearing a plastic choker and Alanis Morissette won for “Ironic.” But I wish I had tuned in this Sunday night. The award show was a veritable orgy — not of sex, but of cultural appropriation.

First up was Kendrick Lamar, whose backup dancers wore ninja outfits as they scaled a wall of fire. While the popular rapper went home with an armload of trophies, he was criticized for borrowing Asian dress. Later, Katy Perry, who just recently finished an apology tour for her previous sins of cornrows and kimonos, “snatched” off her long blond wig — a bit that was torn apart for caricaturing African-American women. Luckily for Ms. Perry, the floodlights lingered longer on her nemesis, Taylor Swift, who unveiled a new video that was immediately blasted for appropriating Beyonce’s “Lemonade.” Speaking of Queen B, I’m just waiting for the charge that she’s exploited Persian culture by naming her new daughter Rumi after the 13th-century Sufi poet.

And that’s just the rap sheet from a single night in pop music. Charges of cultural appropriation are being hurled at every corner of American life: the art museum, the restaurant, the movie theater, the fashion show, the novel and, especially, the college campus. If there’s a safe space left, I’m not aware of it.

The logic of those casting the stones goes something like this: Stealing is bad. It’s especially terrible when those doing the stealing are “rich” — as in, they come from a dominant racial, religious, cultural or ethnic group — and those they are stealing from are “poor.”

Few of us doubt that stealing is wrong, especially from the poor. But the accusation of “cultural appropriation” is overwhelmingly being used as an objection to syncretism — the mixing of different thoughts, religions, cultures and ethnicities that often ends up creating entirely new ones. In other words: the most natural process in a melting-pot country like ours.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered some of the most sublime speeches of the 20th century. In them he used a mostly Latinate language to evoke the trials of the Israelites while quoting the writings of a slave-owning founding father. Irving Berlin, the songwriter who wrote “White Christmas” and “God Bless America,” was a Jew born in a Russian shtetl in a home with a dirt floor. Jessye Norman, one of the greatest opera singers of our time, is a black Southerner who is famous for her Wagner repertoire. Hamdi Ulukaya is a Kurd born in Turkey who now runs the most popular Greek yogurt company in America.

The point is that everything great and iconic about this country comes when seemingly disparate parts are blended in revelatory ways. That merging simply doesn’t happen in places where people are separated by race and ethnicity and class. And it’s not only what makes American culture so rich, but it is also a big part of the reason America is so successful. When we see a good idea, we steal it; when we have a good idea, the rest of the world is welcome to it as well.

Continue reading at:  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/30/opinion/cultural-appropriation.html?ref=opinion

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What trans soldier Albert Cashier can teach Trump about patriotism

From The Guardian UK:  https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/aug/22/donald-trump-transgender-military-ban-albert-cashier

When Trump moved to ban trans people from serving in the US military, he ignored the long history of trans soldiers fighting for their country – starting with Albert Cashier, born in 1843

Tuesday 22 August 2017

On 6 August 1862, a young man called Albert Cashier enlisted in the Union army in Belvidere, Illinois. He was short for a soldier, just 5ft 3in. His fellow privates noted that Cashier kept his collar buttoned high up his neck, above his Adam’s apple, and that he always slept apart from the other men.

Cashier’s size did not hold him back. Fighting with the 95th Illinois infantry, he was involved in some of the most important battles in the war.

Cashier’s bravery was noted in accounts from the time. On one occasion, he was captured and escaped by attacking his Confederate guard. In another battle, comrades remembered Cashier sweeping up a Union flag which had been felled from its post by Confederate gunfire. He climbed a tree and lashed the tattered stars and stripes to a branch, showing that the Union would not be cowed.

But what Cashier’s fellow soldiers did not know was that the diminutive private had a secret – one that would only be revealed decades later.

Albert Cashier was assigned female at birth.

His story, from immigrant to proud soldier, to eventually being “outed” by nefarious hospital workers, will be retold in Albert Cashier the Musical, which airs in Chicago this month.

The production’s six-week run is timely, given Donald Trump’s recent announcement that he will not allow transgender individuals to serve in the military in any capacity. There are up to 6,630 transgender people on active duty in the US military, according to a 2016 study, and up to 4,160 in the select reserve.

“The temperature Trump sets for our country, the mood he sets and the anger that he’s creating and the polarization that he’s building between people – it’s just terrible,” said Jay Deratany, who wrote the musical. “But I hope this play bridges some gap.”

Deratany, who also wrote the play Haram! Iran! – based on the true story of two gay Iranian teenagers who were executed in 2005 – said his own experiences as a gay man had attracted him to Cashier’s story.

“I was a lawyer and the idea in the legal field of coming out … I would have lost my career if people found out. I was terrified,” he said. “I had a girlfriend at one point and I hid all that. So I identified with Albert and the secret life he had to lead.”

Cashier was born Jennie Hodgers in Clogherhead, a fishing village 40 miles north of Dublin, on Christmas Day 1843. He moved to the US as a child, eventually settling in Illinois, and was presenting as a man by the time he enlisted in 1862.

There were just 16,000 men in the US army when the civil war broke out. Abraham Lincoln pleaded for volunteers, and was successful – of the more than 2.5 million people who served in the Union army, the majority did so voluntarily.

With the 95th regiment, Cashier fought in Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee and Louisiana, marching almost 10,000 miles over three years.

Continue reading at:  https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/aug/22/donald-trump-transgender-military-ban-albert-cashier

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