Trying to Make Sense of it all While Standing Up for What I Believe In

I’m an autodidact, which is a fancy way of saying a self educated intellectual.  Having a non-mediated educational path has left me free to explore whatever subjects interest me as deeply as I care to explore them.  It has left me free to go in different directions when boredom sets in.  That often means leaving a bookmark holding my place in a book and perhaps coming back years later when I am ready to continue studying that subject.

I was born an outlaw simply by having been born trans.  Later I became an outlaw by choice by choosing the life of a hippie also known as a bohemian. Being part of LGBT.

But I have done something else.  I have stood up to bullies, to fascists and spoken truth to power.  When people have come to me for advice or answers I have given them honest answers within my frame of knowledge.

One field that fascinated me from my early childhood has been history.  Another has been religions, there I have been a spiritual explorer having studied Christianity, Buddhism, Daoism and Judaism.

I’ve read of the persecution and genocide of various minority groups and the ways bigotry is used to dehumanize.

I have been appalled by the rise of Trump and his amalgam of Nazism and Fascism.

As a woman who was born transsexual and came out a life time ago, I have lived in a time of having no legal status.  I used what they describe in spy novels as “tradecraft” to cobble together ID papers, my appearance and ability to live within the structure of subcultures as a way of surviving in a world where the dominant culture has treated me as a non-citizen.

I was elated in 2008 when we, as a nation, elected Barrack Obama as President of the United States.  I was shocked and appalled by the immediate onset of the most vicious abuse and racism directed at him and his family.

As an outsider, I have witnessed over 70 years of vicious lies, slander and abuse directed at LGBT people, liberals, racial and religious minorities.  I have seen the damage wrought by that abuse, how it kills the souls of those abused.

Last week my faith in my country, my love of my nation and its often flawed history, was severely shaken by a combination of events which are eerily reminiscent of another historical moment, one that will live forever in infamy.  I speak of Kristallnacht, the night/morning of November 9/November 10, 1938.

We started off the week with our would be Fuhrer declaring war on transfolks, proposing striping us of or right to live our lives according to our core being.  He proposed removing our having legal identification, the right to use public facilities etc.

Then one of his followers sent pipe bombs to two former Presidents as well as a well know Jewish philanthropist, major news outlets and other government and former government officials.

Yet the alleged perpetrator has not been called a terrorist even though his actions are terrorism by any definition of the word.

Then another of his right wing followers engaged in the racist murder of two African American people.

Yet the alleged perpetrator has not been called a terrorist even though his actions are terrorism by any definition of the word.

Then, last Saturday morning, a white nationalist walked in to the Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, and killed 11 people.

Yet the alleged perpetrator has not been called a terrorist even though his actions are terrorism by any definition of the word.

After World War II people asked how could the Holocaust happen?  William Shirer gives the details of Hitler’s rise to power in “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” but gives scant attention the history of the Shoah.  For that one should read Hannah Arendt’s “The Origins of Totalitarianism”.

The Holocaust did not start with Death Camps and the murder of millions of Jews.  Roma, Poles, LGBT people, Communists and any who opposed them.

It started when the good Germans acquiesced to every new and ever more extreme act of hatred and bigotry.  When they went along with the othering of people and once they accepted that people were the other then treating them less and less like human beings became more and more acceptable.

I have seen how Liberals, Jews, Black and Brown people and LGBT people are being othered by the right wing and I am very frightened.  This hatred combined with dehumanizing leads us down the same path that Germany went down.

Hitler’s early followers were the Deplorables of Germany, then came those who wanted to be part of the Party because of the advantages gained.  His financial support came from German industrialists.

Now we have Trump’s Deplorables, Proud Boys, Aryan Brotherhood, Nazis, 3%ers, Oath Keepers and a myriad of “Christians” who haven’t the slightest clue regarding the actual tenets of Christianity.

Can we stop the march down this road to full blown Nazism/Fascism before it is too late? I don’t know…

At 71 I did the one thing I knew for sure I could do.  Last Friday I voted in early voting.  Before the Right Wing Terrorist murdered eleven Jewish people in the Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, I voted.

I voted a straight Democratic Party ticket.

I am asking any American Readers of my humble words to do the same.

Vote as Though Your Life Depends Upon Your Vote

Because Your Life May Well Depend Upon Your Vote

Vote Because I Beg You to Vote for Your Own Interests

Vote a Straight Blue Ticket

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A Week Of American Hate: Bombs Mailed, Black People Executed, Jews Slaughtered

Forgotten in all the violent horror is Trump’s stated goal of removing all human rights from trans-folks and forcibly denying us even the right to live our lives.

From Huffington Post:

Hate showed what it is truly capable of in America this week.

By Andy Campbell and Sebastian Murdock

A man executed two black people at a grocery store, but didn’t engage a white man outside because “whites don’t shoot whites.” A Donald Trump supporter and apparent anti-Semite who looked up to white supremacists sent bombs in the mail to the president’s opposition. An avowed anti-Semite walked into a synagogue and killed 11 people after screaming, “All Jews must die!”

This was one week in American hate.

Some of the bloodiest and most excruciatingly tense news stories in recent memory felt painfully similar to one another, unified under the same banner of racism, violent rhetoric and anger. The only difference between this week and the last is that a few of the angry, hateful people under that banner decided to go out and act on their hate.

On Monday, packages containing apparent pipe bombs began to arrive at the doorsteps and offices of high-profile Democrats, including Bill and Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and former CIA Director John Brennan.

The first showed up at a home owned by George Soros, the billionaire philanthropist who has been the right’s favorite punching bag, conspiracy catchall and boogeyman for decades. Five days passed, and more packages arrived. The news media pointed out that all of the victims were Trump’s public enemies, and that he’d prodded his followers to commit violence against some of them in the past. Conservatives ― including the president himself ― implied or outright stated that the bombs were a so-called false-flag operation committed by the Democrats.

That, of course, turned out to be untrue. On Friday, police arrested Cesar Sayoc, 56, who was revealed to be a staunch Trump supporter and wild conspiracy theorist. His sticker-covered van suggests he committed his alleged crimes in the president’s name; some of the stickers on his van featured targets on the faces of his victims, while others were loving homages to Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. Trump, meanwhile, would go back to making fun of Soros by Friday night.

But Sayoc also had plain old hate in his heart. His former boss revealed to HuffPost on Saturday that he looked up to the white supremacists of old ― despite flaunting his claimed Native American heritage, which the Seminole Tribe has denied ― and wished “to go back to the Hitler days.”

Initially lost in that news cycle was a shooting at a Kroger in Kentucky on Wednesday. That two people died in a shooting at a grocery store wasn’t a huge surprise ― 96 people are killed by guns every day in America and hundreds more are shot ― but later it became clear that this particular shooting was a little different.

Gregory Alan Bush allegedly shot a black man in the back of the head at the grocery store, shot him several more times as he lay on the ground, and then walked outside, where he shot and killed a black woman. There wasn’t an official motive on the books as of Saturday, but a witness who was armed at the time told the Louisville Courier-Journal that Bush uttered “whites don’t kill whites” as he passed by “nonchalantly.” Later it was revealed that he’d tried and failed to enter a predominantly black church minutes earlier.

Suddenly, this regular American shooting story became a regular American hate story too.

And then on Saturday, American hate came full circle.

An anti-Semite named Robert Bowers allegedly walked into a synagogue in Pittsburgh, screamed “All Jews must die!” and then shot and killed at least 11 people and wounded more.

Scans of Bowers’ social media activity ― mostly on Gab, a hub for the likes of violent neo-Nazis ― reveal that he despised Jews and subscribed to various conspiracy theories about a migrant caravan in Mexico. His anger and anxiety, fueled by the idea that Jews were bringing immigrants into the country to displace white people, ended in what’s being called the “deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the history of the United States.”

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‘This is life or death’: trans people threatened by Massachusetts vote

From The Guardian UK:

On the ballot is a question that could repeal a 2016 law prohibiting discrimination against transgender people in public places

in Boston, Massachusetts
Wed 31 Oct 2018

Amid continued attempts by the Trump administration to roll back transgender rights in the United States, Massachusetts voters are set to decide whether or not to eliminate a 2016 state law protecting transgender individuals from discrimination in public spaces like restaurants and shops.

The 6 November ballot question will mark the first statewide referendum in the country that threatens to revoke previously guaranteed transgender rights. If the law is successfully repealed, transgender rights activists worry that it could trigger similar campaigns elsewhere in the country.

“Question 3 poses significant consequences for transgender people across Massachusetts, but it also would have significant consequences for transgender people across the country,” said Sarah McBride, the national press secretary of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT rights group.

“If opponents of equality can win here they’re going to take those strategies, they’re going to take those tactics and they’re going to try to replicate them in other places,” she added.

Ballot question 3 asks voters if they want to keep or repeal a 2016 law that prohibits discrimination against transgender people in public spaces and allows them to use bathrooms consistent with their gender identity.

The group behind the ballot question is Keep MA Safe. They charge that with the current law in place, women and children are endangered as men can enter women’s locker rooms and restrooms at will by simply stating that they identify as a woman. The group’s logo features a man standing on a toilet to peep on a woman in the next stall. And their campaign ads portray a man lying in wait in a bathroom stall before spying on an unsuspecting woman. As she unbuttons her blouse, the stall door begins to open and a deep grunt is heard.

“We believe everyone deserves to feel comfortable and safe when they’re using the locker room, bathroom, changing area or public shower. And that everyone includes women who don’t want men in their private spaces,” said Andrew Beckwith, the president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, one of the key backers of the No on 3 campaign that aims to repeal the law.

Beckwith maintains the purpose of the efforts to repeal the anti-discrimination law is to keep women safe. But activists on the other side say it was born out of simple anti-trans bigotry and prejudice.

But while Beckwith argues safety is at the core of the repeal efforts, the views of the Massachusetts Family Institute appear consistent with those of the Christian right. The group says it is committed to “strengthening the family” and Judeo-Christian values. They say marriage can only be between a man and a woman, promote sexual abstinence outside of marriage and oppose euthanasia and abortion as well as the legalization of recreational drugs.

Mason Dunn is the co-chair of Freedom for All Massachusetts, the campaign to keep the anti-discrimination law in place. He says he is cautiously optimistic that efforts to keep the law will succeed.

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‘Dripping with poison of antisemitism’: the demonization of George Soros

From The Guardian UK:

The billionaire was the first target in a series of mail bombs sent this week, an attack that comes as vilification of Soros has reached new heights

Fri 26 Oct 2018

As investigators seek answers in the case of mail bombs sent to Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and others, there will be no shortage of evidence regarding the first target, the billionaire philanthropist George Soros.

The bomb maker’s motivations remain unknown. What is clear is that the attempted attack comes as the demonization of Soros in the US, previously limited to fringe groups on the far right, has reached new heights. More recently it has been taken up by the most senior Republican politicians in the country, up to and including the president.

Experts worry it is a sign that taboos on public antisemitism have all but disappeared. Indeed Soros’s son, Alexander Soros, said in an op-ed on Wednesday that many attacks on his father over the years have been “dripping with the poison of anti-semitism”.

Earlier this month, Donald Trump repeated the familiar accusation that Soros pays for protesters, when he said that the “elevator screamers”– protesters who were confronting senators over their votes for Brett Kavanaugh, the then-nominee to the supreme court – had their signs “paid for by Soros and others”.

And in Minnesota last week, a TV ad in support of the Republican congressional candidate Jim Hagedorn described Soros as a “connoisseur of chaos” and a “funder of the left”. It implied that Hagedorn’s Democratic opponent, Dan Feehan, a combat veteran, was “owned” by Soros due to his employment by a centrist foreign policy thinktank, the Center for a New American Security.

The condemnation of Soros – a Hungarian-born Jew whose very open and public giving favors progressive causes – has been a constant drumbeat in countries where he works. This is particularly true of former Soviet bloc states like Russia, Hungary and Poland, where Soros initiatives have been banned and politically attacked. It surfaced in US rightwing media during the Bush administration, when Soros became more active in opposition to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

From the racist white nationalist site the Daily Stormer to major conservative media stars, the right has been increasingly united over the last decade in seeing the hidden hand of Soros, whom they frequently describe as a “globalist”, in all manner of events.

He has been falsely accused by the right of orchestrating alleged violence from so-called “antifa” groups, manipulating the world economy, being a wartime Nazi collaborator and sponsoring the entirely fictional project of “white genocide”.

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If the Mail Bomber Had Worn an ISIS Hat

From The Atlantic:

The government rarely charges domestic extremists as terrorists.

Oct 27, 2018

Cesar Sayoc Jr., a registered Republican with a long criminal history, was arrested on Friday in connection with more than 10 mail bombs sent to prominent Democrats and critics of President Donald Trump. He was charged with five federal crimes, including threats against former presidents, but he was not charged with terrorism. And it’s a safe bet that unless it turns out that Sayoc was inspired by a foreign terrorist organization as opposed to domestic politics—which appears to be the case—terrorism won’t be added to the bill.

A perpetrator’s ideology should not dictate the nature of justice that he or she receives, but that is precisely what happens under today’s laws.

Although the secretary of state has designated almost 70 foreign terrorist organizations, the federal government does not officially designate domestic terrorist organizations or individuals. The U.S. legal code does define domestic terrorism: acts meant to intimidate a civilian population or influence government policy through coercion. It does not, however, identify penalties associated with it. As a result, individuals responsible for attacks that federal law enforcement would consider domestic terrorism often are not charged as terrorists.

The Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh, was convicted of murder, and the Charleston church shooter, Dylann Roof, was convicted of federal hate crimes, despite the fact that both men’s actions clearly met the U.S. definition of terrorism. Ted Kaczynski, a.k.a. the Unabomber—one of the most famous American terrorists, who earned his sobriquet sending bombs through the mail—pleaded guilty to illegally transporting, mailing, and using bombs, and to three counts of murder, but not to terrorism. And now the suspect responsible for the recent spate of mail bombs is unlikely to be charged with terrorism. But if he’d waved an ISIS flag instead of a MAGA hat, the story would be quite different.

The same violent crime is labeled and tried differently depending on what inspired it. This may seem like semantics, and thus inconsequential, but the terrorism label matters in part because it carries a powerful stigma. Describing domestic terrorists as terrorists can help to discredit them among potential supporters and isolate them from the wider public.

The United States has devoted immense resources to combating jihadist ideology over the past 17 years. Soon after 9/11, the newly appointed U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia pressed the government there to rein in the religious establishment from promoting the radical Wahhabi doctrine that inspires many jihadists. “What you teach in your schools and preach in your mosques now is not an internal matter,” the ambassador told his Saudi counterparts. “It affects our national security.” Many homegrown terrorists are inspired by foreign jihadist ideology, but others are inspired by U.S. extremist movements. The government has not made a similar effort to hold this latter set of actors accountable.

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Hate Is on the Ballot Next Week

From The New York Times:

Don’t let the whataboutists and bothsiders tell you it isn’t.

By Paul Krugman
Oct. 29, 2018

In America 2018, whataboutism is the last refuge of scoundrels, and bothsidesism is the last refuge of cowards.

In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re in the midst of a wave of hate crimes. Just in the past few days, bombs were mailed to a number of prominent Democrats, plus CNN. Then, a gunman massacred 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue. Meanwhile, another gunman killed two African-Americans at a Louisville supermarket, after first trying unsuccessfully to break into a black church — if he had gotten there an hour earlier, we would probably have had another mass murder.

All of these hate crimes seem clearly linked to the climate of paranoia and racism deliberately fostered by Donald Trump and his allies in Congress and the media.

Killing black people is an old American tradition, but it is experiencing a revival in the Trump era.

When the bombs were discovered, many on the right immediately claimed that they were fake news or a false flag operation by liberals. But the F.B.I. quickly tracked down the apparent source of the explosive devices: A fanatical Trump supporter, whom many are already calling the MAGABomber. His targets were people and a news organization Trump has attacked in many speeches. (Since the bombings, Trump has continued to attack the news media as the “enemy of the people.”)

The man arrested at the Tree of Life synagogue has been critical of Trump, who he apparently believes isn’t anti-Semitic enough. But his rage seems to have been fueled by a conspiracy theory being systematically spread by Trump supporters — the claim that Jewish financiers are bringing brown people into America to displace whites.

This conspiracy theory is, it turns out, a staple of neo-Nazis in Europe. It’s what our own neo-Nazis — whom Trump calls “very fine people” — were talking about in Charlottesville last year, when they chanted, “Jews will not replace us.”

It’s also the barely veiled subtext of the manufactured hysteria over the caravan of would-be migrants from Central America. The fearmongers aren’t just portraying a small group of frightened, hungry people still far from the United States border as a looming invasion. They have also been systematically implying that Jews are somehow behind the whole thing. There’s a straight line from Fox News coverage of the caravan to the Tree of Life massacre.

So how are Trump apologists dealing with this ugly picture? Partly through denial, pretending not to see any link between hateful rhetoric and hate crimes. But also through attempts to spread the blame by claiming that Democrats are just as bad if not worse. Trump supporters try to kill his critics? Well, some Trump opponents have yelled at politicians in restaurants!

This whataboutism doesn’t stop with equating protests with violence. It also relies on outright lying.

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The ADL warned of antisemitic harassment. Then Pittsburgh happened

From The Guardian UK:

The far right has entered the mainstream but when it attacks and people die, the media still won’t use the word ‘terrorism’

Sun 28 Oct 2018

On Saturday morning, I woke up to an article about a new report by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which concludes that “far-right extremists have ramped up an intimidating wave of anti-Semitic harassment against Jewish journalists, political candidates and others ahead of next month’s US midterm elections”.

The ADL had found a vast number of antisemitic messages on Twitter. About a third were from bots but the most “worrisome and harmful” were from accounts of “real-life humans”, including leaders of neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups.

This should come as no surprise to anyone with even a casual knowledge of contemporary US politics. Obviously, the first amendment protects antisemitic messages, as it should. But this does not take away from the fact that the recent spike in open and virulent far-right rhetoric will inevitably have real-world consequences.

In just one week, no less than three far-right terrorist attacks have made the news. I won’t name the various suspected terrorists, as this only increases their importance and could encourage copycats. But on Friday, the man suspected of sending more than a dozen pipe bombs to prominent critics of Donald Trump was arrested in Florida. The suspect had been driving around in a “Maga van” for months, the vehicle plastered with pictures of Donald Trump and Mike Pence, with the faces of some of their critics, including George Soros, in crosshairs.

Two days earlier, a white man had shot two black people in a Kroger grocery store in Kentucky. You probably haven’t even heard of this attack, which is being investigated as a possible hate crime. The man first tried to enter the First Baptist church of Jeffersontown, a predominantly African American church, police said, but was thankfully unsuccessful because the church was locked down. According to a witness, after he succeeded in shooting black people the gunman told a white bystander: “Whites don’t kill whites.”

And then, on Saturday, another white man wreaked havoc in a Pittsburgh synagogue, killing 11 people and injuring six, including four police officers. According to law enforcement agents, he shouted antisemitic abuse during the attack. The suspect was taken into custody.

Responses to the three attacks have been predictable. Far-right pundits and websites claimed the pipe bombings were a “false flag” operation, continuing to spread bizarre conspiracy theories even after the suspect was arrested. Conservatives pulled out their usual “crazy person” defense, calling attack after attack an “incident”. Trump functioned, as always, as the amplifier-in-chief, initially suggesting a false flag operation with regard to the pipe bomber and calling the Pittsburgh shooter “a maniac”, before using the tragedy to call upon houses of worship to arm themselves and to openly muse about the importance of reinstating the death penalty – nationwide, I assume.

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