Martin Luther King Would’ve Been Resisting the Shit Out of the New Regime

It’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the day on which far too many people vigorously whitewash a great social justice warrior’s legacy. See, we all know he was a good man, even a great man. We all know that opposing him shows you’re a disgusting, bigoted asshole. But he’s no good for the status quo warriors unless he’s been cherry-picked to oblivion.

They try to pull his fangs, folks, and then they demand we be more like their false idol of him. Fuck that.

Firstly, read the entirety of his Letter from a Birmingham Jail to see how he dealt with the don’t-let’s-rock-the-boat allies and the status quo warriors. If you don’t think he’d have been out there blocking freeways with Black Lives Matter activists and making the comfortable very uncomfortable indeed, you haven’t heard a word this man has actually said.

Secondly, here’s a selection of quotes that should leave you in no doubt that non-violent didn’t mean non-confrontational. His insistence on love didn’t mean asking the oppressors quietly and respectfully to please if it isn’t too much trouble to maybe consider stop oppressing people. He was out there making the comfortable damned uncomfortable. He was there to confront, not conciliate. He demanded justice. And he kept demanding, even though many people wanted him to just STFU. Listen: Continue reading “Martin Luther King Would’ve Been Resisting the Shit Out of the New Regime”

Martin Luther King Would’ve Been Resisting the Shit Out of the New Regime
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One Simple Sentence Could Help Save America’s Schools

The Senate will be holding confirmation hearings for Betsy DeVos on January 17th. If you care about America’s public schools, if you think all of our kids should have a solid education, and if you want to prevent religious indoctrination from being subsidized by the federal government, now is the time to call your senator and make your voice heard.

Look up the number here. All you’ll need is one simple sentence:

I’m calling to ask [Senator’s name] to block Betsy DeVos from the position of education secretary.

That’s it. That’s all you have to say. Easy-peasy.

If you want to include a little bit about why you oppose her, you can let them know the following: Continue reading “One Simple Sentence Could Help Save America’s Schools”

One Simple Sentence Could Help Save America’s Schools

Part 1: The Nazi Conscience Chapter 2: The Politics of Virtue

I call Trump Cheeto Hitler (Chitler for short), but the first paragraph of Chapter 2 shows what a cheap imitation of Hitler he really is. The original Hitler, at least, presented himself and his vision of the German volk as something of virtue: “the epitome of selfless devotion, humble origins, and abstemious tastes.” Trump is just a crass flim-flam man appealing to base greed, xenophobia, and bigotry.

But both of them know how to work their audience. Both enjoy preaching to crowds. Hitler thought highly of his own ability to influence an audience, bragging that he could bring his naysayers around within just a few hours. He sold them Nazi ideology by figuring out what they wanted to hear. Like Trump, he was a huckster.

Hitler seized upon technological advances to get his message out. “Without the loud speaker,” he said, “we never would have conquered Germany.” I’m reminded of Trump using his reality shows and Twitter to conquer America.

Of course, neither of them win over as many people as they claim. Most listeners aren’t swayed: they hear the vitriol, and know it’s dangerous. But both men give their followers something to convince themselves they’re good, sensible people, not bigoted assholes.

Opponents of Nazism heard only hatred as Hitler ranted against the Treaty of Versailles, Communists, rival politicians, and democracy. But they overlooked the pattern of Hitler’s speeches in which he counterpointed every outburst of fury with the exalted rhetoric of a higher purpose.

I think Koonz isn’t giving hatred enough credit. Spite is a powerful motivator, as we’ve so recently seen. Many Germans, like many Americans today, felt hard done by. I don’t doubt they were all too ready to lash out. And folks looking for scapegoats are quite happy to grab the most wilted fig leaf of “higher purpose” offered to incompletely cover up the fact that hatred is driving them: hatred of the religious minorities, the people of color, the women, and the queer folk who have the audacity to demand a place at the table. They’re only too happy to blame their disappointments on those uppity others. They’re only too willing to follow a leader who promises to put those others in their place.

Next, we’ll see how Hitler and Trump diverge. For all their similarities, I do believe they differ in important ways. And we’ll see that those differences won’t prevent Trump from doing things as bad as or worse than Hitler. Whether you end up trying to exterminate an entire ethnic group because you truly believe they’re evil, or start a nuclear war because your feelings got bruised, you’re still responsible for immense suffering.

The terrifying thing is, Hitler appears to have had more self-restraint.

Image is the cover of The Nazi Conscience. It shows a brown-uniformed man digging while a man in traditional German folk costume holds a pole that has a swastika banner on it.
We’re studying The Nazi Conscience as a way to prepare for what’s happening now. If you want to read along, you can pick up an inexpensive used copy at Amazon. Buying through that link also supports my blogging, so thank you!

Intro • Prologue1.1 1.21.3

Part 1: The Nazi Conscience Chapter 2: The Politics of Virtue

Republicans Are Trying to Ram Through Crooked Nominees. Here’s How to Fight Them

The Republican party is wasting no time fucking over the country. And they want to make sure they have assholes in place to facilitate their pillaging. They have no interest in governing this country. They have no patience for democratic norms. They don’t give a single shit about ethics.

The Office of Government Ethics is raising alarm over the pace of confirmation hearings for President-elect Donald Trump’s nominees, saying Saturday that they have yet to receive required financial disclosures for some picks set to come before Congress next week.

In a letter to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., released Saturday, OGE Director Walter Shaub wrote that “the announced hearing schedule for several nominees who have not completed the ethics review process is of great concern to me” and that the current schedule “has created undue pressure on OGE’s staff and agency ethics officials to rush through these important reviews.

“More significantly, it has left some of the nominees with potentially unknown or unresolved ethics issues shortly before their scheduled hearings,” Shaub continued. “I am not aware of any occasion in the four decades since OGE was established when the Senate held a confirmation hearing before the nominee had completed the ethics review process.”

This is the time when we have to resist. They need us to be quiet and compliant. When we rise up en masse, they learn they don’t have the consent of the governed – and sometimes, it makes them change course.

Here’s a handy spreadsheet showing who’s up for confirmation, why they’re terrible, the date of their hearings, and who to pester about it. Get on the phone and make your voice heard. This is our job this week. We sort of have a democracy still, broken and dysfunctional as it is. Let’s remind our elected officials what their job is. Continue reading “Republicans Are Trying to Ram Through Crooked Nominees. Here’s How to Fight Them”

Republicans Are Trying to Ram Through Crooked Nominees. Here’s How to Fight Them

Rebellion Against Fascism is Not Optional. It’s Necessity

In just a couple of weeks, Cheeto Hitler takes over the Oval Office. He and his fellow Republicans are already busy undermining our democracy, trying to gut ethics committees, pissing off China, and starting nuclear fights on Twitter. We don’t need to wait to see how much damage they will do. The signs are already there.

This is a regime bolstered by white supremacists, fascists, and other assorted scum. This is a regime that will do serious and lasting harm to America and the world. There’s no question.

We don’t acquiesce. We don’t accept. We don’t reach across aisles and attempt to heal divides. The only thing to do in a situation like this is rebel.

Step one: get fired up and ready to fight. To that end, I’ll be sharing some of the best posts on the necessity of rebellion that I’ve found. Here’s our first installment.

Steven Olsen

Taking the high road right now means taking the path of most resistance. We do not capitulate to fascists. We are the goddamn immune system.

Rebellions Are Built on Hope: Why Rogue One Matters Now More Than Ever Continue reading “Rebellion Against Fascism is Not Optional. It’s Necessity”

Rebellion Against Fascism is Not Optional. It’s Necessity

Part 3: The Nazi Conscience Chapter 1 “An Ethnic Conscience”

We’ve seen that the Nazi’s antisemitism was not a deal-breaker for the German people, although the voters themselves were largely not antisemitic. They were interested in “the Nazi’s promise of a radically new order under Hitler’s control.”

If we take Trump voters at their word, they’re not anti-Muslim bigots. They’re not misogynists or racists. They just want change. Okay: if that’s so, they need to be aware of how easily they can be persuaded to cross the line. If bigotry is not something that bothers you enough to reject the people spouting it, you are perilously close to being caught up in their hate.

The Nazis, after coming to power, expended quite a bit of effort to bring people around to their views on “unwanted” people. Anti-Jewish bigotry was the big one, but they also included Romani, gays, disabled people, and prisoners of war in their campaign to eradicate impurities from their volk. And they convinced alarming numbers of their fellow citizens, whether those citizens had voted for the Nazis or not, to go along.

And the folks who went along weren’t just the blatant bigots. Continue reading “Part 3: The Nazi Conscience Chapter 1 “An Ethnic Conscience””

Part 3: The Nazi Conscience Chapter 1 “An Ethnic Conscience”

Lamech’s Children

My friend and ordained rabbi Gershon Blackmore posted this musing on the Torah to Facebook. It’s one of those stories that has human power, human value, and tells us a little something about the people we must deal with today. And at the end, I think, is exactly what we need to hear as power passes from capable, measured hands into the hands of a thin-skinned, hot-headed, sticky-fingered ego tripper.

There are always men like him. But there are always people like us. And that gives me hope.

Way back in the early days of Scriptural “history,” before Abraham or even Noah, there was a fellow named Lamech. We know nothing of him except the following literary tidbit:

Lamech said to his wives
Adah and Zillah
Hear my voice
You wives of Lamech
Listen to my speech
For I have slain a man for wounding me
And a boy for hurting me.
If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold
Truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold.

And that is what we know of Lamech. A man who sang, in literary Hebrew, of his exceptional powers of revenge. His song bursts out of the ancient cloud of time and event, and tells us of the power of being known as vengeful, visiting a hurt from a boy on the poor lad seventy seven fold. The Hebrew doesn’t say “young man” (na’ar). It says “Yeled,” or “child.”

Lamech would destroy a child for “hurting” him. This was an adult who could be hurt by a child. One can imagine the world within his mind–in which one takes savage retribution on children. He was the archetypal abuser of all. Continue reading “Lamech’s Children”

Lamech’s Children

Part 2: The Nazi Conscience Chapter 1 “An Ethnic Conscience”

So. America. Beacon of freedom and example to the world. Nazis must’ve hated us, amirite?

When responding to critics, Nazi racial experts muted the distinctiveness of their aims by noting analogues elsewhere…. While rabid antisemites praised the lynch mobs that kept African American’s “in their place,” more sober but equally determined racial policy makers expressed the hope that one day Nazi racial codes would be as widely accepted as U.S. immigration quotas, anti-miscegenation laws, involuntary sterilization programs in twenty-eight states, and segregation in the Jim Crow South.

We inspired the very monster we later fought. And we as a nation have a terrible time admitting our faults, much less fixing them. We see the outcome of that denial. Nazis do as we do, not what we say. A toxic stew of racism and bigotry simmers as we play the great white knights. And now we find tens of millions of our fellow citizens looking fascism in the face and deciding to hand the keys to the country over to it. We were never as good as we claimed. We never lived up to our aspirations. We never really tried. And now we’re perilously close to repeating a part of Western history that never should have been allowed to repeat.

We knew better. We refused to do better. We refuse to be better. Continue reading “Part 2: The Nazi Conscience Chapter 1 “An Ethnic Conscience””

Part 2: The Nazi Conscience Chapter 1 “An Ethnic Conscience”

Part 1: The Nazi Conscience Chapter 1 “An Ethnic Conscience”

This chapter begins with a brief history of conscience. Perhaps the most important line is this:

But, although every major culture honors the injunction to treat others as you hope they will treat you, the ideal often collapses in practice because the meaning of “others” is not always clear.

Who are the others we should treat as we wish to be treated? Koonz quotes Freud on the difficulty of loving strangers. And then she points out that “who deserves moral consideration” is defined either by religion or experts. In Nazi Germany, experts did the shaping.

The story of a Hitler Youth member is a klaxon, warning us what happens when those experts place a specific subset of others as enemies of the rest. He’d had the belief that the Jews were an immediate threat to Germany drummed into him. When his Jewish best friend was taken by the Gestapo, he didn’t protest. Despite knowing his friend was a good person and no threat to anyone, he “accepted deportation as just.”

And before we say it could never happen here, we must remember that it already has. We identified an enemy “other” (the Japanese citizens of our nation) and placed them into camps. Had we begun losing the war, had our experts stressed their supposed threat to us just a fraction more, we may have thought killing them would also be just. Continue reading “Part 1: The Nazi Conscience Chapter 1 “An Ethnic Conscience””

Part 1: The Nazi Conscience Chapter 1 “An Ethnic Conscience”

It’s Up to Us Now

The electoral college has abdicated its responsibility and elected a fascist who is appointing the worst cabinet in history, and has already begun destroying America’s standing in the world. By the end of this – and there will be an end – countless people will be dead, our democracy damaged possibly beyond repair, our rights set back by 50 years or more, racists empowered as they haven’t been since the KKK ruled, the Supreme Court will be ruined for at least a generation, and we may never earn back the esteem we lose in the international community.

It’s not going to be an easy time. Not by any measure.

The next several years, probably the next several decades, are going to be tough, people. We have a hell of a fight ahead. We didn’t ask for this. We didn’t want it, and we tried to stop it, and all we can do now is deal with it.

Image is a screenshot of Gandalf from Lord of the Rings. He is facing the camera, but looking somberly off to one side. Beside him is the caption, "All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us."
So I need you to do some things with the last days of this year. Continue reading “It’s Up to Us Now”

It’s Up to Us Now