Inconvenient Murders

From The New York Times:

The global surge in Jew-hatred barely registers in the West.

By Bari Weiss
Dec. 5, 2019

Two years ago, a 27-year-old man named Kobili Traoré walked into the Paris apartment of a 65-year-old kindergarten teacher named Sarah Halimi. Mr. Traoré beat Ms. Halimi and stabbed her. According to witnesses, he called her a demon and a dirty Jew. He shouted, “Allahu akbar,” then threw Ms. Halimi’s battered body out of her third-story apartment window.

This is what Mr. Traoré told prosecutors: “I felt persecuted. When I saw the Torah and a chandelier in her home I felt oppressed. I saw her face transforming.”

One would think that this would be an open-and-shut hate crime. It was the coldblooded murder of a woman in her own home for the sin of being a Jew. But French prosecutors decided to drop murder charges against Mr. Traoré because he … had smoked cannabis.

If France’s betrayal of Sarah Halimi is shocking to you, perhaps you haven’t being paying much attention to what by now can be described as a moral calamity sweeping the West of which her story is only the clearest example. A crisis, I hasten to add, that’s perhaps less known because it has been largely overlooked by the mainstream press.

The most generous read of this enormous blind spot is that the story is not always straightforward; there have been some laudable steps to fight back. On Tuesday, for example, the French Parliament formally adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism when it passed a motion declaring anti-Zionism a form of Jew-hatred. Yet on the same day, more than 100 Jewish gravestones were found spray-painted with swastikas in a cemetery near Strasbourg — a potent reminder that governments are only as good as the culture and the people upholding them.

So allow me to put it plainly: We are suffering from a widespread social health epidemic and it is rooted in the cheapening of Jewish blood. If hatred of Jews can be justified as a misunderstanding or ignored as a mistake or played down as a slip of the tongue or waved away as “just anti-Zionism,” you can all but guarantee it will be.

Yet beneath the finger-pointing and the victim-blaming and the accusations of panic lobbed against a people that know a little something about persecution, there is the same old bigotry — the hatred of Jews that has presaged the death of so many seemingly civilized societies. A hatred that still, after centuries, exerts its powerful allure during periods of political and economic unrest, when the angry, the confused, the shortchanged and the scared look for simple explanations and a scapegoat. And even those who seek to uplift the marginalized can’t seem to find their voice when it comes to Jews facing anti-Semitism.

Take a look at some of the events around the Thanksgiving holiday, incidents that have kept Jews all over the world glued to their phones, and which have driven some to update their and their children’s passports.

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Brenda Lana Smith (1934-2019)

I only met Brenda through the Internet and yet she was a friend.  When we grow old our annual list of remembrance is composed of friends we lost over the last year.

From The Royal Gazette:

Jonathan Bell
Nov 16, 2019

A transsexual Bermudian human rights activist who said she had been driven from the island by discrimination has died in Britain, where she spent the last years of her life.

Brenda Smith died, aged 85, last month.

Ms Smith campaigned for Bermuda’s human rights legislation to include gender identity as well as sexual orientation and took her case to the House of Commons in Britain in 2008.

She made a submission on human rights in Bermuda and said she was “an abused septuagenarian male-to-female 23-years post-operative transsexual Bermudian”.

In the submission, which is available online, Ms Smith said she spoke out to “respectfully to draw to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee’s attention the lack of human rights legislation to protect transsexual persons in Bermuda”.

She also called for LGBTQ people internationally to put pressure on Bermuda and threaten to boycott the island.

The Bermuda Government approved amendments to the Human Rights Act to prevent discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in 2013.

But for Ms Smith, the move did not go far enough.

She criticised the Government in an interview with The Royal Gazette for its failure to include gender identity in the legislation.

Fellow human rights activist Mark Anderson, a gay rights campaigner and entertainer whose alter ego is Sybil Barrington, Queen of Bermuda, said Ms Smith was a “trailblazer within the gay community”.

Mr Anderson added: “The light has gone dim with the news of her passing.”

He said Ms Smith had contacted him in 2006, when the Government banned him from taking part in the Bermuda Day Parade as Sybil, to give her support to his cause.

Mr Anderson added: “She was one of Bermuda’s first transsexuals, who had to leave Bermuda because of the abuse. She was instrumental in fighting for recognition for transsexuals as a group.”

He said he had visited Ms Smith at her home in Bodmin, Cornwall, in April and that Ms Smith commended him for his activism.

Mr Anderson added: “In her day, she didn’t have the support that we have today.

“She told me there were Bermudians who actually took their own lives in her day because there was no outlet — these differences were something you couldn’t talk about.”

Ms Smith’s Facebook page said Lana, Ms Smith’s middle name, was an anagram for her birth first name of Alan.

Ms Smith’s background was part Danish and she was appointed the Honorary Consul for Denmark when she lived on the island.

But she spent much of her life overseas, at first in the United States, and settled in Britain in 1989.

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Social support may reduce heart, stroke effects of discrimination in transgender and gender conforming

From Medical X Press:

November 11, 2019

Higher levels of social support may help offset increased heart disease and stroke risk factors triggered by discrimination and gender expectations among transgender and gender non-conforming adults, according to preliminary research to be presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2019—November 16-18 in Philadelphia.

Researchers examined the link to discrimination in day-to-day life, such as job discrimination, difficulty finding housing and being threatened or harassed—and internalized transphobia (internalizing societal gender expectations and/or feeling shame towards one’s own gender identity) and behaviors known to influence risk, such as , drinking, low levels of physical activity, sleeping too little and being overweight or obese.

Participants included 288 adults (half assigned as female at birth, average age 34) taking part in Project AFFIRM, a three-city, long-term study of health in people who identify as transgender and gender non-conforming (those with outside the conventional notion of male or female).

Researchers found:

  • Higher levels of discrimination and internalized transphobia were linked with higher rates of risky drinking and lower sleep duration.
  • However, greater levels of social support raised the odds of getting enough sleep by half, increased odds of getting adequate exercise by almost a third and weakened the link between discrimination and sleep duration.

Hormone use did not influence heart disease and in this study. While previous studies have found hormone use to be associated with higher rates of clot-caused strokes in transgender women than in non-, this study analyzed risk factors rather than the occurrence of heart attacks or strokes.

“Our findings are important because they suggest that social support might protect against the negative heart disease and stroke effects of discrimination among transgender and gender-nonconforming persons,” said Billy A. Caceres, Ph.D., R.N., lead author of the study and assistant professor in the Program for the Study of LGBT Health at the Columbia University School of Nursing in New York. “It’s important for to ask these patients about their exposure to these types of stressors, hormone use and whether they have adequate social support.”

Because participants in Project AFFIRM lived in New York, San Francisco and Atlanta, these findings may not be generalizable to people in rural or suburban areas of the United States or to transgender and gender non-conforming people living in other countries.

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The Real Problem With Cancel Culture

From The Tablet:

It’s not about celebrities. It’s about us losing trust in each other.

By Kat Rosenfield
October 16, 2019

Of all the terms to gain prominence in 2019, few have provoked more pontification, more pearl-clutching, or more caustic dismissal than “cancel culture.” Depending on where you get your discourse, you’ve probably already seen the phenomenon blamed on any of several culprits: technology (social media and the internet), pathology (the growing cachet of “victimhood” and its attendant incentives to claims of harm), or even one political tribe in particular (“So much for the tolerant left!”). Or, alternatively, you’ve heard that it’s not a phenomenon at all, and that all this talk of cancellation is just the world’s-tiniest-violin lament of a bunch of cultural dinosaurs, whining as they’re rightly crushed into irrelevance under the wheels of progress.

But the entire cancel culture conversation, including the debate over whether or not it exists at all, has largely missed a crucial point. While celebrities, successful artists, and other too-big-to-fail types can survive a cancellation (or even seek one out as a means of drumming up publicity), the rest of us are trapped in an increasingly deranged surveillance state fueled by the disappearance of our most essential resource: trust.

In a large, diverse country, trust is the thing that keeps us living in harmony and content to let other people live as they wish, but its erosion is an institutional problem as much as an interpersonal one. Three years after Donald Trump won the presidency with promises to “drain the swamp” of untrustworthy, corrupt D.C., Americans have very little faith in the systems that keep the country running, including government, business, and media. Between 2017 and 2018, trust in media, for example, dropped from 47% to 42%. Trust in government declined even more precipitously, with a 14-percentage-point drop in the number of people who said they trusted the U.S. to “do what is right.” While those numbers rebounded by a few points in 2019, Americans’ overall faith in the country remained dismal: A mere 20% of Americans agreed that the system was working for them.

Meanwhile, the proliferation of fake news, along with political polarization, makes it difficult even to establish an agreed-upon set of facts from which to draw conclusions when we talk about this trust problem. We aren’t sure what’s real or true; we don’t know who’s wrong. But increasingly, we suspect that everyone is.

And that’s the insidious thing about a culture where trust is eroding: A majority of people don’t even have to support or participate in cancel culture for it to wreak havoc on society at large. In a recent New York Times article about political polarization, psychologist Jonathan Haidt explained how small pockets of concentrated outrage can produce immense destructive force: “You can tell me that 70 percent of Americans don’t participate in the culture war, but it doesn’t really matter,” he wrote. “Events today are driven by small numbers that can shame and intimidate large numbers. Social media has changed the dynamic.”

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