‘INFEST’ — The Ugly Nazi History of Trump’s Chosen Verb About Immigrants

From The Forward:  https://forward.com/culture/403526/infest-the-ugly-nazi-history-of-trumps-chosen-verb-about-immigrants/

Aviya Kushner
June 19, 2018

When President Trump characterized immigrants as “animals,” some people waved it away, claiming he was only referring to gang members. But today’s use of “infest” in connection to human beings is impossible to ignore. The President’s tweet that immigrants will “infest our Country” includes an alarming verb choice for anyone with knowledge of history.

Characterizing people as vermin has historically been a precursor to murder and genocide. The Nazis built on centuries-old hatred of Jews as carriers of disease in a film titled “Der Ewige Jude,” or “The Eternal Jew.” As the U.S. Holocaust Museum notes on its website, in a section helpfully titled “Defining the Enemy”:

One of the film’s most notorious sequences compares Jews to rats that carry contagion, flood the continent, and devour precious resources.

What is happening now is “defining the enemy. Substitute “continent” for “Country,” capitalized, and you get the picture. The roots of the particular word “infest” are also telling. The English word comes from the French infester or Latin infestare ‘assail’, from infestus ‘hostile’. So yes, it’s a word rooted in hostility.

“Infest” also appears in Late Middle English, meaning “torment, harass.”

Many dictionaries confirm what we all know: that infest is used to indicate in contemporary American conversation to mean insects or animals taking over a space.

The use of the word “infest” by an American President was immediately noticed by reporters.

The Washington Post’s White House correspondent, Seung Min Kim, was quick to point out “infest” in a tweet. Maggie Haberman, the White House correspondent for The New York Times, tweeted some additional context:

“Also — insects infest. This public language about immigrants from a US president after, say, 1970, is remarkable.”

For anyone familiar with Nazi history — the exhibit of “Degenerate Art,” the film “The Eternal Jew” and the persistent campaign to paint Jews as vermin or animals, and certainly not human—the word “infest” is not only remarkable, but terrifying.

Scholars of Jewish literature and history have been sounding alarms over what is happening at the border and the language surrounding immigration. Ilan Stavans, the linguist, translator, Amherst College professor, and publisher of Restless Books, was born into a Jewish family in Mexico, and is the author of “Spanglish: The Making of a New American Language as well as Resurrecting Hebrew.” Earlier this week, Stavans tweeted:

The Trump Administration’s policy of separating children of their asylum-seeking Hispanic parents is spiteful. It is reminiscent of the Nazi strategy to divide Jewish families. Racism at its clearest. For how long will we remain silent? Are some families more sacred than others?

The last two questions posed by Stavans are especially important now; the verb “infest” is, indeed, to borrow a bit from Stavans, language at its clearest.


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Fall of the American Empire

From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/18/opinion/immigration-trump-children-american-empire.html

By Paul Krugman
June 18, 2018

The U.S. government is, as a matter of policy, literally ripping children from the arms of their parents and putting them in fenced enclosures (which officials insist aren’t cages, oh no). The U.S. president is demanding that law enforcement stop investigating his associates and go after his political enemies instead. He has been insulting democratic allies while praising murderous dictators. And a global trade war seems increasingly likely.

What do these stories have in common? Obviously they’re all tied to the character of the man occupying the White House, surely the worst human being ever to hold his position. But there’s also a larger context, and it’s not just about Donald Trump. What we’re witnessing is a systematic rejection of longstanding American values — the values that actually made America great.

America has long been a powerful nation. In particular, we emerged from World War II with a level of both economic and military dominance not seen since the heyday of ancient Rome. But our role in the world was always about more than money and guns. It was also about ideals: America stood for something larger than itself — for freedom, human rights and the rule of law as universal principles.

Of course, we often fell short of those ideals. But the ideals were real, and mattered. Many nations have pursued racist policies; but when the Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal wrote his 1944 book about our “Negro problem,” he called it “An American Dilemma,” because he viewed us as a nation whose civilization had a “flavor of enlightenment” and whose citizens were aware at some level that our treatment of blacks was at odds with our principles.

And his belief that there was a core of decency — maybe even goodness — to America was eventually vindicated by the rise and success, incomplete as it was, of the civil rights movement.

But what does American goodness — all too often honored in the breach, but still real — have to do with American power, let alone world trade? The answer is that for 70 years, American goodness and American greatness went hand in hand. Our ideals, and the fact that other countries knew we held those ideals, made us a different kind of great power, one that inspired trust.

Think about it. By the end of World War II, we and our British allies had in effect conquered a large part of the world. We could have become permanent occupiers, and/or installed subservient puppet governments, the way the Soviet Union did in Eastern Europe. And yes, we did do that in some developing countries; our history with, say, Iran is not at all pretty.

But what we mainly did instead was help defeated enemies get back on their feet, establishing democratic regimes that shared our core values and became allies in protecting those values.

The Pax Americana was a sort of empire; certainly America was for a long time very much first among equals. But it was by historical standards a remarkably benign empire, held together by soft power and respect rather than force. (There are actually some parallels with the ancient Pax Romana, but that’s another story.)

And while you might be tempted to view international trade deals, which Trump says have turned us into a “piggy bank that everyone else is robbing,” as a completely separate story, they are anything but. Trade agreements were meant to (and did) make America richer, but they were also, from the beginning, about more than dollars and cents.

In fact, the modern world trading system was largely the brainchild not of economists or business interests, but of Cordell Hull, F.D.R.’s long-serving secretary of state, who believed that “prosperous trade among nations” was an essential element in building an “enduring peace.” So you want to think of the postwar creation of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade as part of the same strategy that more or less simultaneously gave rise to the Marshall Plan and the creation of NATO.

Continue reading at:  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/18/opinion/immigration-trump-children-american-empire.html



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Pop star Kim Petras: ‘I just write about emotions – nothing to do with being transgender’

I’ve long wondered if the transkids raised as the gender they identify with would buy into the transgender party line.

From The Guardian UK:  https://www.theguardian.com/music/2018/jun/08/pop-star-kim-petras-i-just-write-about-emotions-nothing-to-do-with-being-transgender

Her defiantly hedonistic music has put her on the map, and she wants to make people forget their problems with songs about ‘love, superficiality and rich dudes who broke my heart’

Fri June 8, 2018

In an era of “woke pop” – in which Beyoncé’s dancers are raising black power fists, Katy Perry is flogging “political liberation” anthems and Lana Del Rey singles allude to tensions in North Korea – Kim Petras’s music is almost defiantly apolitical. As the world burns, she sings through her thrillingly garish electropop of spending sprees, weed-smoking and unrequited crushes, while lounging on her pink bubble-wrap throne. On her debut single, I Don’t Want It at All – the video for which sees her worship at the altar of Paris Hilton – Petras is a millennial Veruca Salt, demanding she be given designer clothes she can’t afford.

In a way, such wilful hedonism is a statement in itself, particularly given that Petras’ very identity is politicised every day. “Sometimes, it’s hard not to get completely reduced to being transgender,” she says. Having moved from Cologne to Los Angeles aged 19, after a YouTube cover of a Chris Brown song got her noticed by a producer there, the German musician worked as a songwriter for more than half a decade, penning tracks for the likes of JoJo and Fergie. Last year, she broke out as a solo artist when I Don’t Want It at All topped the Spotify global viral 50 chart. A few months later, she collaborated with Charli XCX on the track Unlock It, before releasing more singles: the low-riding pop-rap of Faded, the strutting Heart to Break and the newly released Can’t Do Better, a lung-busting, bombastic power ballad. But on a recent trip back to Germany for a week of press, she wasn’t asked about any of that.

“I got asked: ‘Do you miss your dick?’” she recalls, incredulous. “I’ve worked for five years to become good at something, writing three songs a day, moving to a different country and making it there – and that’s the first thing you want to bring up? The first big headline I saw was, like: ‘Successful pop star in America – here’s what she looked like as a boy.’ They won’t let it go.”

Petras has been putting up with intrusive headlines like this since she was 16, when she became one of the youngest people ever to have gender-affirming surgery. Before that, she says, “I had to go to school in neutral clothing and cut my hair short because a doctor was like: ‘Your kid should go to school as a boy.’ As soon as I didn’t have to suppress myself, I was out there in dresses and heels, just living my life.” The subsequent media interest was overwhelming. She was invited on to TV shows and asked demeaning questions. “I was just really young and they would tell me to say stuff like: ‘Hi, my name is Kim and I used to be Tim and I was born a boy,’” she sighs. “Now, I won’t do any shit that anybody tells me to do, but I feel like my whole life I’ve had to explain it to people.”

It’s hardly surprising then, that Petras’ “unapologetic pop” revels in escapism. Blending 80s European disco with 00s pop, her music is bright and brassy, with insistent beats and synths that blare out like a melodic traffic jam. “I don’t have songs that are like, ‘I aaam transgender,’” she says with a laugh. “I’m just writing about my emotions; things that have nothing to do with being transgender.”

Recently, though, her apolitical position has been shaken by her decision to work with Dr Luke – the producer accused by Kesha of sexual and psychological abuse, allegations which he denies – and her subsequent assertion that “I wouldn’t work with somebody I believe to be an abuser of women”. I am told by Petras’s publicist that there will be nothing further from her on the matter, but after we speak, the news that she will be supporting the Australian singer Troye Sivan on tour pushed the controversy into the headlines again, with some of his fans objecting. “While I’ve been open and honest about my positive experience with Dr Luke,” she said in a statement on Twitter, “that does not negate or dismiss the experience of others or suggest that multiple perspectives cannot exist at once.”

Continue reading at:  https://www.theguardian.com/music/2018/jun/08/pop-star-kim-petras-i-just-write-about-emotions-nothing-to-do-with-being-transgender