Note: I’ve put up a second blog post on what’s become of the US in the wake of the Groper-in-Chief’s election, so I’ve renamed this post accordingly. Now then … on with the original post:
It’s no secret that, among supporters of the Groper-in-Chief-elect, there are a lot of unsavory types — “unsavory” being the most generous adjective I can apply to such folks. I say this at the risk of sounding a little like Hillary Clinton and her “basket of deplorables” (cached) … which is more correct than many wish is the case, even if her assertion that fully “half” of the Groper-in-Chief-elect’s supporters meet that description is too high a proportion.
While not quite as bad as the proverbial cross-burning Klan member or brawling neo-nazi skinhead, members of the alt-right definitely harbor a lot of vile notions, most of them predicated on white nationalism. Thrown in alongside that is a lot of paranoia and conspiratorialism, as well as misogyny and anti-semitism.
The Groper-in-Chief-elect’s connections with the alt-right are well-known. Perhaps the most important is that Steve Bannon, the chairman of his campaign and now his chief adviser, once ran the Web site Breitbart, which Bannon himself stated was “the platform of the alt-right” (cached). Really, it doesn’t get any clearer, or more definitive, than that.
That’s how Richard B. Spencer saluted more than 200 attendees on Saturday, gathered at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C., for the annual conference of the National Policy Institute, which describes itself as “an independent organization dedicated to the heritage, identity, and future of people of European descent in the United States, and around the world.”
Spencer has popularized the term “alt-right” to describe the movement he leads. Spencer has said his dream [cached] is “a new society, an ethno-state that would be a gathering point for all Europeans,” and has called for “peaceful ethnic cleansing.”
For most of the day, a parade of speakers discussed their ideology in relatively anodyne terms, putting a presentable face on their agenda. But after dinner, when most journalists had already departed, Spencer rose and delivered a speech to his followers dripping with anti-Semitism, and leaving no doubt as to what he actually seeks. He referred to the mainstream media as “Lügenpresse,” a term he said he was borrowing from “the original German”; the Nazis used the word [cached] to attack their critics in the press.
“America was until this past generation a white country designed for ourselves and our posterity,” Spencer said. “It is our creation, it is our inheritance, and it belongs to us.”
Nothing I’ve read about Spencer suggests he’s stupid or clueless (cached), so I can only assume he was consciously appealing to Nazism while he spoke. As for his audience “hailing” the Groper-in-Chief-elect with Nazi salutes … all I can say is, that’s chilling.
Late addition: As the New York Times reports via Bloomberg, the Groper-in-Chief-elect has said he “disavows” this conference (cached), and he also supposedly disavows the alt-right. Not that it matters much to those present who gave him a Hitler salute. After all, one of their standard-bearers, Steve Bannon, will soon have his own office in the White House. Again, due to Bannon’s own admission of having run “the platform of the alt-right”, the nascent White House cannot logically claim no alliance with the alt-right. It just can’t. Period.
Former Florida governor Jeb Bush has said the US should admit only Syrians who can demonstrate they’re Christian (cached). He hasn’t explained how they’re supposed to provide this proof. Plus, wouldn’t a committed Islamist terrorist be able to “fake” being a Christian in order to get into the US, assuming there’s a meaningful way to do so? (And no, don’t assume Islamists would never pass themselves off as belonging to some other religion; there are no safe assumptions one can make about them.)
I very much understand the fear these Neocrusaders exploit. It has a basis in reality … but the measures being promised are far too draconian, and won’t guarantee Americans’ safety in any event. What’s needed is better intelligence, and better action on that intelligence, to better pinpoint who the terrorists are, where they are, what they’re up to, and whom they’re in contact with. Broad policies, such as blocking Syrian immigration altogether or applying a specious religious test to it, really aren’t going to be much help, if we’re not willing to apply the intelligence we already have available (which, as Edward Snowden revealed, is extensive).
Halloween is one of those odd things that most Americans don’t think much about, but a small number obsess over. It’s become a vast economic boon, being one of the most profitable retail holidays. It’s a major driver of social events, with people holding Halloween parties all over the place, and businesses hosting Halloween events, too.
Halloween has been cancelled in the Milford Public Schools this year and that decision isn’t sitting well with numerous city parents.
In a note sent home to Milford parents last week the seemingly unpopular decision was announced.
“This year the Milford School District has decided the following: Halloween parades will not take place in any Milford elementary school. The decision arose out of numerous incidents of children being excluded from activities due to religious, cultural beliefs, etc. School-day activities must be inclusive. Halloween costumes are not permitted for students or staff during the day at school.”
The sanctimonious outrage as a result of this decision has been palpable. Online petitions have demanded Halloween be restored in Milford schools. The rage has been particularly loud amid the Right-wing media, such as on Daily Caller (cached) and National Review (cached). In the eyes of the Right, this is “political correctness” (aka Leftism) run amok. The curious part about this, of course, is that it’s religiously-conservative Christians who’re the ones who usually object to Halloween (as I noted above), and nearly all of those are politically conservative, just like the rest of the Right. So I have no idea how or why there could be any clear Leftist agenda behind a school system not having its Halloween parade.
Just before 5 p.m. Milford school officials released a statement to the media regarding Halloween in schools.
The statement was written by Superintendent of Schools Elizabeth Feser.…
We are writing to you in response to the accusations that have been made against the school system around how we celebrate Halloween in the schools.
The misinformation around the decisions the school made tied to celebrating Halloween is huge, and the spreading of untruths by parents and members of the community very disturbing.…
Ultimately, all eight principals, with my endorsement, chose to focus their energies on a family Halloween celebration, and forego the 20 minute parade in school. The thinking behind this decision was that a family event in the early evening would enable all who wanted to be a part of a Halloween celebration to do so.
Meanwhile, children who for religious or cultural reasons would not take part, could easily, and without stigmatization, not attend the event. In addition, in recognition of many working parents who have difficulty leaving work to come to school, an evening event would allow them to be present with their children.…
Sad to say, while careful and sensitive thought went into the decision to celebrate Halloween at a school/PTA-sponsored major event outside of the school day, there are those who unmercifully attacked the decision, falsely accusing the Milford Public Schools for banning Halloween.
We have been accused of being un-American, of denying children participation in an American tradition, and that we should be ashamed. We struggle to understand why we should be ashamed about the Halloween celebration that each school/PTA is sponsoring, wherein children are encouraged to wear costumes, will be given candy, will spend an hour or more in fun and games.…
There are those who feel a 20 minute parade is more important, however, and its elimination is contributing to the demise of Milford as a city and Milford as a community, as well as the demise of the Milford Public Schools.
Once again, then, we see America’s Right wing flipping out, going berserk, and mercilessly bullying people due to an outrage they’ve worked up among themselves over something they never understood in the first place. Way to go, guys. Way to go! You must be so proud of behaving with just as much immaturity as the young grammar-school kids whose Halloween parade you’ll tell yourselves you saved. Well done!
For the record — and to clear away any of the misconceptions associated with Halloween in the US — here’s the real scoop on it: Halloween as it’s celebrated in the United States, is more or less a modern holiday created by a culture which happens to be majority-Christian. Sure, it has elements of the old Celtic Samhain, as well as a few other pagan influences. But it also has more modern influences, e.g. Guy Fawkes Day. It is firmly pegged on the Christian calendar as the evening prior to All Saints’ Day (aka All Hallows’ Day, hence, Hallow E’en). Halloween is, in short, an amalgam of pre-Christian as well as Christian-era practices, contorted by American commercialism into something which has completely lost any tangible connection to anything the Druids were doing in ancient Europe on Samhain, or even to the Gunpowder Plot cooked up by Guy Fawkes.
Put another way … Halloween is not a religious holiday. It is also not entirely an areligious holiday. It has little to do with Christianity, except that it happens to be the evening before All Saints Day, which is a Christian holiday (although it’s one few Christians really “celebrate” any more).
So just go to your favorite Halloween celebration, and if you have kids, let them go out trick-or-treating, and enjoy the day. But without any of the religious or ideological baggage it seems to have kicked up.
I’ve just posted a static page on what I call the Great Neocrusade, a movement which comprises a large part of the Religious Right in the US and whose goal is to eradicate Islam from the country, and then the rest of the world. I first called attention to it — and gave it that name — some five years ago. Since then, this foolish and childish effort hasn’t abated one bit.
As a student of the Middle Ages, I know quite well how the original Crusades worked out. In short, they didn’t — at all! They were a sequence of expeditions that spanned two centuries, which collectively ended in dismal failure. Yes, I said a failure … in spite of the fact that the First Crusade had apparently succeeded, with the capture of Antioch in 1098, Jerusalem in 1099, and Tripoli in 1109. (The Crusaders also seized Edessa in 1098, but that had long been a Christian city under Armenian leadership, and they got it via betrayal rather than war. Woops!) Edessa had fallen by 1144, Jerusalem by 1187, Antioch in 1268, and Tripoli in 1289, and were at last driven from the Holy Land in 1303 with the fall of their last fort on the island of Arwad.
But clearly we’re not dealing with people who are altogether “sane.” They’ve been driven mad by their rage, and they’re not capable of thinking clearly. They naïvely think that getting rid of Islam will get rid of terrorism and thus make them safe; but this reasoning ignores the uncomfortable reality that there’s terrorism within the ranks of Christianity in the US, which will continue even if the Neocrusaders somehow manage to toss all Muslims out of the country.
At the CNN debate Wednesday night, the GOP frontrunner broadcasted [sic] anti-science vaccine conspiracy nonsense—unchallenged by moderators or fellow contenders—to an audience of millions.
“We’ve had so many instances…a child went to have the vaccine, got very, very sick, and now is autistic,” he blathered. “Autism has become an epidemic. It has gotten totally out of control.”
Trump has long peddled goofy, debunked theories about a causal link between vaccination and autism. As far back as 2012, he suggested the practice of giving numerous vaccines to healthy babies is “monstrous.”
One of the physicians onstage, Ben Carson, was asked about Trump’s claims. Unfortunately, he punted:
“We have extremely well documented proof that there’s no autism associated with vaccinations,” Carson said. “But it is true that we’re giving way too many in too short a period of time. And a lot of pediatricians now recognize that, and they’re cutting down on the number and the proximity.”
It’s nice, I suppose, that Carson did acknowledge there being no link between vaccines and autism. But his little bit about there being too many and too frequent vaccinations is a lie, as a report the Daily Beast linked to makes clear (cached). The other physician onstage, Rand Paul, idiotically echoed Carson:
“I’m all for vaccines, but I’m also for freedom,” the curly-haired ophthalmologist said. “I’m also more concerned about how they’re bunched up. My kids had all their vaccines, and even if the science doesn’t say bunching ’em up is a problem, I might have the right to spread my vaccines out at the very least.”
His whole thing about “freedom” is a fucking joke. No parent in his/her right mind should use “freedom” to justify risking his/her kids coming down with preventable childhood diseases — which can, in some cases, be deadly (even if a lot of antivaxxers irrationally dismiss that danger). So I find Paul’s “freedom” objection to be, essentially, a non sequitur.
Look, I get why all these guys hate vaccines. It’s because they’re largely government-mandated (in most places kids can’t get into school without them), ‘n’ y’all knows how horrbull dat dere gummint is! Dem vaccine thangs jus’ cain’t be good fer da chilluns! Dat secret Muslim Barack HUSSEIN Obama is prolly usin’ ’em fer mind control!
Of course, hating vaccines for political reasons isn’t appreciably worse than hating them because of a fraudulent study by a con-artist doctor who’d imagined a scheme to sell bogus autism treatments.
Forgive me, Dear Reader, for this blog post which deals entirely with politics and has nothing to do with belief or metaphysics of any kind. This is important, so please indulge me.
I’m sure you’ve heard about all the ridiculous and juvenile antics of real estate mogul and “reality TV” star Donald Trump, now that he’s joined the Republican presidential primary for 2016. That makes him King Bozo of the “clown car” (WebCite cached article). I won’t quote any of Trump’s comments or rationalizations for them here; their content — aside from their crass, insulting, and rude nature — is beside the point, as is his fierce and petulant refusal to apologize for any of it.
No, my point is something else entirely. And that is that — on the strength of his fiercely juvenile antics — he’s riding even higher than before among the Republican rank-&-file (cached). Most politicos will say this is because a lot of Republicans are tired of political “business as usual” and are gratified that a fresh and unorthodox voice is making itself heard. I’m sure this makes sense to a lot of folks … but it doesn’t fly with me. The reason is very simple: It’s possible to be both outspoken and unconventional, without being unduly insulting. Unacceptable, outrageous, and childish remarks and actions need not accompany a critique of the political establishment. A guy like Trump certainly is capable of taking on and eviscerating “the Establishment” without acting like a two-year-old.
I’ll digress here with a full disclosure: For a decade, through the 90s, I was a Republican activist in my home state of Connecticut. I was a delegate at several district and state party conventions. I assisted the campaigns of several GOP candidates. I’ve dealt with a lot of Republican officials, including some whose names are well-known to other residents of the Nutmeg State (if not to folks in other parts of the country or the world). I wasn’t exactly a “big wheel” in the machinery of Connecticut’s GOP, but I had a lot of contacts and through those years spoke with hundreds of active Republicans, as well as a lot of Republican voters, during the process of campaigning for candidates.
I chose to leave the party around the time George W. Bush was elected, because I didn’t like what I saw in it. There was a great deal of religious ferocity, as well as a rather virulent strain of intolerance for anyone who didn’t think “correctly.” Nasty, vile jokes at the expense of Democrats and minorities were common — and openly traded. Anger was palpable. I’d entered politics in order to make my town and my state better; but many of my fellow Republican activists had done so because they wanted to get “their way” all the time and to vent their rage at whatever they disliked; and they did so with the party’s approval. The GOP worked very hard to instill a certain amount of sanctimonious anger among conservatives beginning in the early 90s, and they’ve been milking it ever since as the chief fuel of the party. That particular aspect of the GOP has endured long after I left, as seen for example only last year.
(It’s possible much the same could be said of some Democrats. I really don’t know, because I didn’t join them and have never dealt directly with any Democratic activists. But even if so, that doesn’t excuse the childishly tasteless words and behavior I saw within the GOP, and it doesn’t make conservatism any less dysfunctional as a movement.)
At any rate, the Republican rank-&-file has embraced Trump, not because he’s unconventional, but because he’s saying things they like hearing. They’re every bit as crude and distasteful as he is, so they happily embrace his angry, juvenile verbal vomit. They see themselves in him — so they happily approve of his every childish move.
Even more than that, though … each time the mass media laugh at his latest juvenile maneuver and wonder aloud when his campaign will collapse, that only further encourages the Right to stick to him. Why? Because they goddamn fucking hate the mass media! Conservatives have despised the media since at least the Nixon administration, which for a while did a very good job of making it appear the Watergate scandal was just a figment of the imagination of the Washington Post and the rest of the “media elite.” Since then, the mantra that “the mass media are biased against the Right” has become part and parcel of conservative subculture. (They conveniently forget that major outlets like Fox News and the Wall Street Journal are decidedly biased in their favor but also very much a part of the mass media. Oh well.) Right-wing pundits like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Mark Levin, and the rest of that sanctimoniously-enraged crowd keep reiterating it to them by the moment, which only further reinforces this assumption. Many conservatives blame the mass media for Obama’s election (they were, after all, “in the tank” for him from the moment he announced his candidacy, you see). So the more the media ridicule Trump, the more convinced the Right becomes that he’s their man.
But beyond what’s already happened, the real problem for the Republican party is, it can only get worse. Trump has learned his poll numbers go up the more odious and vile he gets; so he’s sure to keep ramping it up. And the more he ramps it up, the more fiercely the GOP rank-&-file will attach themselves to him. He has no incentive to cool it, and the rank-&-file have no desire for him to do so. This is lethal for the party’s chances in the presidential election, though, because Trump’s disapproval ratings among the overall American population are high. Should he become the GOP nominee — which is quite possible, no matter how convinced many in the media are that it’s not — he’s guaranteed to throw the election to whoever the Democratic nominee is. The same fate will befall them if Trump doesn’t become the nominee and mounts a third-party campaign. So the GOP’s electoral fate may already be sealed.
In sum, Republicans created a monster when they decided to use anger, sanctimony and outrage as the glue that holds conservatives together to support their party. They now stand to reap a well-deserved reward for having done so! I suppose it’d sound nice if I could say I wished them luck, but quite honestly, I don’t. (This is in spite of the fact that I’m not really a fan of Democrats and/or liberals, either, and I’m by no means pleased with everything the current administration has done.) I want the Republican party to go down in flames — electorally speaking! — in 2016. Maybe that will encourage conservatives to fucking grow the hell up for the first time in their sniveling little lives and start acting like adults.
P.S. Ed. to add: Well, well, well! Buzzfeed reports that Donald Trump may have paid Breitbart News — an exceedingly popular Right-wing Web site — for glowing coverage (cached). This arrangement — which the site’s management vehemently denies — supposedly goes back to last year, so it predates Trump’s campaign by quite a while. It certainly doesn’t explain Trump’s staggeringly vast lead over his rivals, but if true, it means his candidacy is a lot less impromptu than it had appeared to be. Hmm.
Note: I have some additional news on this item; please see below for more information.
There are times when one can only be dumbfounded by the kind of idiocy and lunacy that people spew when they’re defending and/or promoting their religionism. It’s natural this can happen, because religions — all of which are forms of metaphysics — are inherently unsupportable using objective and rational standards. By definition, then, only standards that are subjective and irrational can fit the bill. It’s the irrationality that often gets out of hand.
Dr. Tony Evans, the first African American to earn a doctorate in Theology from Dallas Theological Seminary, chided black Americans recently for not taking responsibility for the breakdown of their families, declaring that “the white man is not making you do that.” He also charged that black families were a lot stronger and made more progress during slavery.
“The biggest problem in black America today is the breakdown of the family…the breakdown of the family is unraveling us as a community. When 70 percent plus of your children are being born out of wedlock and the fathers are not there to tend to them, you’ve got chaos in the community. That’s crime, that’s unemployment and most of these kids are going to be raised in poverty. And that’s something we control,” explained Evans.
He then made the reference to slavery to highlight the dire condition of the black family.
“The White man is not making you do that. He’s not forcing you into that position. That’s a convenient out. In slavery when we did not have laws on our side, the community on our side, the government on our side, the broader community on our side, our families were a lot stronger. We were a lot more unified and we made a lot more progress. We’re going through regression right now and a lot of that is because of decision-making we are responsible for,” said Evans.
As the article notes, is African-American himself, making this all the more astoundingly asinine. I have no idea where this clown learned his history, but slaves’ families weren’t really very stable or “unified”; their owners could buy and sell them freely. Parents and children were often separated, and for the most part, slaves weren’t allowed to marry, at least not in a full legal sense, so “spouses” could easily end up separated, too. “Unified”? That’s just a flat-out lie.
Now, as insane as Evans’s laughable spew sounds, it’s not really his own invention. The Religious Right has been kicking around the idea that America’s southern slaves lived paradisiacal lives with strong nuclear families for years. In fact, I found an article in the New York Times back in 2011 which addressed this very notion (cached). In spite of how counterfactual it is, though, this idea persists. It’s all part of the Right’s obsession with rolling the clock back, even to times in which customs now considered heinous were the norm. They just can’t handle modernity and want to destroy it, so they whip up their own false versions of history to justify how great things were back then. This is a recipe for delusion, of course, but none of them realize it, nor do they care to hear they’re wrong (because telling them they’re wrong, means you want to kill them or something).
If you needed any more help understanding how and why the Religious Right is downright fucking insane, the idea that African-Americans were better off as slaves ought to help make that crystal clear.
Update:This morning in my email I received this from Steve Yount of A. Larry Ross Communications:
A Statement by Dr. Tony Evans Senior Pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship Founder and President of The Urban Alternative May 9, 2015
“Slavery was ungodly, unrighteous and unbiblical. During slavery, the family was broken up by force by unspeakable atrocities even though African-Americans struggled to preserve it.
“To offer clarity on both my intention and meaning, the black population was largely unified in fighting against the breakup of the family being forced on them due to the evil system of slavery. Black unity was a powerful force, to the greatest degree possible within the limitations of slavery, in seeking to keep the family intact.
“My comparison to today is that we have lost some of our unity and the shared goal of keeping our family units together, and we are often making choices that are dismantling our own families and also hurting our own communities. We do not want to do to ourselves voluntarily what slavery did by force (i.e., destroy our families).
“I have always and will always stand on behalf of justice, and do not condone oppression in any form. I condemn racism on all levels, whether personal or systemic. I am saddened that my remarks were removed from the context of my entire discussion.”
This response sounds all well and good, but it doesn’t address Evans’s chief original contention that African Americans had been better off as slaves than they are now. I still submit that trope — which, as I pointed out, is not Evans’s own invention, being a rather common notion among the Right — remains absolutely not true. Even if Evans disapproves of African Americans “destroy[ing] their families” “voluntarily” rather than “by force,” and even if one assumes this is precisely what’s happening to them, there’s still a fundamental difference between then and now: Neither the slaves’ owners nor government can do so “by force,” at the moment.