Friday Night Fun and Culture: Rhiannon Giddens

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We can’t define transgender people out of existence — and we shouldn’t want to

From The Daily Orange:

By Michael Sessa
Nov. 5, 2018

A now widely circulated and highly controversial memo from President Donald Trump administration’s Department of Health and Human services has proposed establishing a legal definition of gender as “male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth.” The move, a rebuke to a series of decisions by former President Barack Obama’s administration to loosen the concept of gender in federal programs, is as impractical as it is prejudicial.

Despite efforts to try, transgender Americans cannot be defined out of existence — nor should they be. In response to the memo, more than 40 students rallied on Syracuse University’s Quad on Wednesday to protest the federal proposal.

“Think about how we medicalize gender identity, reify gender dysphoria, and in the process delegitimize genders that involve far more than biology,” said Amery Sanders, a sophomore international relations major. “Think about how every time we say ‘being trans is not a mental illness,’ we reinforce the idea that being mentally ill makes you less of a valid person.”

Constrictive medical definitions of gender can just perpetuate stigmatization.

Scientifically, that narrow view of gender doesn’t even make sense. The American Psychological Association, the largest scientific and professional organization of psychologists in the United States, draws clear distinctions between sex and gender.

If the Trump administration’s standards were to be enacted, the federal government wouldn’t recognize nearly 1.4 million transgender Americans, according to The New York Times.

It’d simply be invalidating.

It’d open the floodgates of intense harassment and discrimination of an already targeted community. The FBI’s 2016 hate crime statistics showed a five percent increase in reported hate crime incidents from 2015.

The Trump administration’s efforts to squash the validity of gender identity isn’t just an abstract concept. It affects real people and real lives.

Though acknowledging the complexities of gender may be inconvenient for the government, we shouldn’t sort people into rigidly defined boxes. Hurdles like comfortability aren’t legitimate defenses against people’s humanity.

We, along with those in government, must recognize that the science of gender is complicated and evolving. We must also recognize that our actions — the words and the memos we write — have real repercussions on the way Americans treat their transgender counterparts.

We have to stand up to those who think they can challenge the reality of transgender people without thinking about the consequences of their objections. But we can also take solace, too, in the realization that no definition can erase people.

“There are some people in this world, in this government, who call us monsters, who think of our bodies and minds as freaks of nature,” Sanders said. “And I want to make all of them remember that monsters have teeth. And we run in packs. And we dig our dens deep. They can hunt us, root us out, take and take and take from us. They can take our skins, but they cannot take our souls.”

Two transgender women elected to N.H. House

From The Los Angeles Blade:

by Michael K. Lavers
November 6, 2018

Two openly transgender women were elected to the New Hampshire House of Representatives on Tuesday.

Gerri Cannon finished second in the Stafford County District 18, which includes the city of Somersworth, with 21 percent of the vote. Lisa Bunker will represent Rockingham County District 18, which includes the city of Exeter.

Cannon and Bunker will join Virginia state Del. Danica Roem as the only openly trans members of any state legislature in the country once they take office in January.

Meanwhile, Democrat Chris Pappas on Tuesday defeated Republican Eddie Edwards in the race to succeed retiring New Hampshire Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter.

Pappas, a member of New Hampshire’s Executive Council whose family owns a restaurant in Manchester, the state’s largest city, will be the first openly gay member of Congress from the Granite State.

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Trump Needs to Demilitarize His Rhetoric

From The Atlantic:

Anti-Semitism in the U.S. is nothing new. Still, it’s shocking to hear coded language—whatever the intention—come from the top.

Oct 29, 2018

Anti-Semitism reared its ugly head this Sabbath in the deadliest attack on Jews in American history. The 46-year-old Robert D. Bowers walked into Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue and opened fire on congregants as he yelled out, “All Jews must die!” Bowers is so far to the right and so addled by hatred that he has refused to support President Donald Trump on the grounds that he is “controlled by Jews.”

Speaking to reporters shortly after the shooting, Trump expressed his condolences and said, “You wouldn’t think this would be possible in this day and age, but we just don’t seem to learn from the past.”

But the president can’t really be so surprised. He has been warned repeatedly about the dangers of tolerating white nationalism even as he has borrowed language from anti-Semitic propaganda.

When the president has played in this sandbox for political purposes, he has been playing with fire. Although American Jews has never experienced the same level of virulent, state-sanctioned aggression as European Jews have, anti-Semitism has never been absent in this country. Like their analogues abroad, populist American leaders in the 19th century told their followers that Jewish bankers posed a threat to the security of hardworking Americans. Images of Jews with big noses and crooked faces were commonplace in political cartoons. When more than 1.7 million Eastern European Jews arrived in the country at the turn of the 20th century, they encountered nativist organizations that fought for federal restrictions on immigration.

In perhaps the most famous American anti-Semitic incident of the last century, a mob in 1915 stormed a Georgia prison to seize the Jewish businessman Leo Frank, who had been falsely accused of murdering a 13-year-old Christian girl. They lynched him.

The most famous American anti-Semite may have been the automobile giant Henry Ford, who published a newspaper in the 1920s, The Dearborn Independent, that served as an outlet for anti-Semitic propaganda. Ford once wrote that there was a “Jewish plan to control the world, not by territorial acquisition, not by military aggression, not by governmental subjugation, but by control of the machinery of commerce and exchange.” A close second to Ford was the aviator Charles Lindbergh, the spokesman for the America First Committee, which opposed U.S. entry into World War II. Another contender was the wildly popular “radio priest” Father Charles Coughlin, who railed against “world Jewish domination.”

Anti-Semitism manifested itself at every level of society and across the country. In the South, the Ku Klux Klan also targeted Jews as it went after African Americans. Jews “procured” young women to “enhance their own monetary interests,” the Klan stated in the 1920s. In Dorchester, Massachusetts, Irish Catholic gangs in the 1940s roved the streets in “Jew Hunts” that culminated in physical assaults. Even as Jews started to break into certain industries, such as entertainment, in the 1930s and ’40s, they confronted tight restrictions that kept them out of law firms, medical professions, universities and colleges, fraternities, hotels, country clubs, and more. One hotel boasted in an advertisement, “No Hebrews or tubercular guests received.” Elite institutions of higher learning such as Harvard, Yale, Columbia, and Princeton imposed strict quotas on how many Jews they would admit. The application for Sarah Lawrence College asked, “Has your daughter been brought up to strict Sunday observance?” Like African Americans, Jews were subject to restrictive real-estate covenants that prevented “Hebrews” from living in particular neighborhoods.

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U.S. Law Enforcement Failed to See the Threat of White Nationalism. Now They Don’t Know How to Stop It.

From The New York Times:

For two decades, domestic counterterrorism strategy has ignored the rising danger of far-right extremism. In the atmosphere of willful indifference, a virulent movement has grown and metastasized.

By Janet Reitmannov
Nov. 3, 2018

The first indication to Lt. Dan Stout that law enforcement’s handling of white supremacy was broken came in September 2017, as he was sitting in an emergency-operations center in Gainesville, Fla., preparing for the onslaught of Hurricane Irma and watching what felt like his thousandth YouTube video of the recent violence in Charlottesville, Va. Jesus Christ, he thought, studying the footage in which crowds of angry men, who had gathered to attend or protest the Unite the Right rally, set upon one another with sticks and flagpole spears and flame throwers and God knows what else. A black man held an aerosol can, igniting the spray, and in retaliation, a white man picked up his gun, pointed it toward the black man and fired it at the ground. The Virginia state troopers, inexplicably, stood by and watched. Stout fixated on this image, wondering what kind of organizational failure had led to the debacle. He had one month to ensure that the same thing didn’t happen in Gainesville.

Before that August, Stout, a 24-year veteran of the Gainesville police force, had never heard of Richard Spencer and knew next to nothing about his self-declared alt-right movement, or of their “anti-fascist” archnemesis known as Antifa. Then, on the Monday after deadly violence in Charlottesville, in which a protester was killed when a driver plowed his car into the crowd, Stout learned to his horror that Spencer was planning a speech at the University of Florida. He spent weeks frantically trying to get up to speed, scouring far-right and anti-fascist websites and videos, each click driving him further into despair. Aside from the few white nationalists who had been identified by the media or on Twitter, Stout had no clue who most of these people were, and neither, it seemed, did anyone else in law enforcement.

There were no current intelligence reports he could find on the alt-right, the sometimes-violent fringe movement that embraces white nationalism and a range of racist positions. The state police couldn’t offer much insight. Things were equally bleak at the federal level. Whatever the F.B.I. knew (which wasn’t a lot, Stout suspected), they weren’t sharing. The Department of Homeland Security, which produced regular intelligence and threat assessments for local law enforcement, had only scant material on white supremacists, all of it vague and ultimately not much help. Local politicians, including the governor, were also in the dark. This is like a Bermuda Triangle of intelligence, Stout thought, incredulous. He reached out to their state partners. “So you’re telling us that there’s nothing? No names we can plug into the automatic license-plate readers? No players with a propensity for violence? No one you have in the system? Nothing?’’

One of those coming to Gainesville was William Fears, a 31-year-old from Houston. Fears, who online went by variations of the handle Antagonizer, was one of the most dedicated foot soldiers of the alt-right. Countless YouTube videos had captured his progress over the past year as he made his way from protest to protest across several states, flinging Nazi salutes, setting off smoke bombs and, from time to time, attacking people. Fears was also a felon. He had spent six years in prison for aggravated kidnapping in a case involving his ex-girlfriend, and now he had an active warrant for his arrest, after his new girlfriend accused him of assault less than two weeks earlier. On Oct. 18, the night before the event, Fears and a few others from Houston’s white-nationalist scene got in Fears’s silver Jeep Patriot for the 14-hour drive. Fears’s friend Tyler TenBrink, who pleaded guilty to assault in 2014, posted video from their trip on his Facebook page. There were four men, two of them felons, and two nine-millimeter handguns. “Texans always carry,” Fears said later.

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Christine Hallquist’s Concession Speech

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