Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Tag:

As Trump Reminds Us, We’ve Had WMSVD Disease For Ages

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

A very long time ago, a Zika type virus escaped from the human laboratory. Like Zika it deforms the human brain.  It assumes supremacy by human males over women and all other forms of life. Its most prominent manifestation is male monotheistic religion—the obligation that humans worship a lone male deity. No goddesses allowed.

The sickness has passed ever since from generation to generation.

About 500 years ago in England, Portugal and elsewhere, the Christian form of the disease mutated to add white supremacy to its genetic code. From its initially pacifist origins, Christianity had already evolved over several hundred years to sponsor crusades,  the killing of “witches,” inquisitions, and the dispatch of missionaries to convert heathens.

The necessity of moral justification for the slave-trade from Africa required a modification. This led to the creation of whiteness and its concomitant blackness, Negro-ness etc. It became a powerful, even an apex identity. Skin color came to be more important than national origin, religion or other variables. Males remained at the pinnacle of the hierarchy.

Once slavery reached the colony that became the United States, it mixed with an emerging hyper version of capitalism that generated enormous wealth and power. It was based on the color-coded displacement and slaughter of humans defined as “red” and the enslaving and breeding of humans defined as black. Race and economics combined like H20 to create the water in which we still swim. It now menaces all life on earth.

It incorporates an especially virulent, eugenic strain of belief that those with white skin are the modern, the superior, the civilized, and the God chosen variety of humans and that all others are generally backward, barbaric, and inferior. (It is important to note that from the beginning it has allowed for individual exceptions. Indeed they serve to “prove” the rule.)

This White Male Supremacy Violence Disease (WMSVD) insinuated itself deeply into the brains of successive generations of white humans in religious, government, educational, economic, media, and military institutions. It also, of course, impacted the identity of Blacks, North American Hispanics, Native Americans, and Asians. It provided the intellectual underpinnings for the Holocaust.

African-Americans, women, even some white men and others have worked on vaccines and cures for WMSVD. Breakthroughs have been made.  But WMSVD has proven consistently resistant to both prevention and treatment. Every effort to mitigate the disease is met with ferocious opposition.

Much attention is paid to racial progress. Too little to how white supremacy progresses as well. The end of slavery, for example, produced the backlash that came to be known as Jim Crow. After the civil rights movement ended Jim Crow, another backlash produced the Republican party’s Southern Strategy, Reagan Democrats and mass incarceration.

The election of Barack Obama, together with an expanded media portrayal of blacks, especially on television, fed into the perpetual suspicion of many whites that African Americans are getting things they don’t deserve. This sentiment has been expressed in terms like welfare queens, the 47 percent and so on since the dawn of race-based chattel slavery.

The shift in black visibility did not significantly change actual white advantages in income, wealth, health care, employment, racialized mass incarceration, or other metrics. In fact many racial disparities now benefit whites even more than had previously been the case. What did twist was the context of the 2016 Presidential election. An old pattern returned. White fear, entitlement, and resentment came home to roost with a vengeance.

So it is that WMSVD will soon give Donald Trump access to nuclear weapons capable of unimaginable destruction. That and other powers invested in Mr. Trump make US women, people of color, non-Christians, residents of foreign lands subject to US aggression and virtually every life form extremely vulnerable. Whether they perceive it or not, whites are at substantially greater peril as well.

At the risk of stating the obvious, Trump ran on an explicit WMSVD platform. His appeal was to the diseased thinking that has been a permanent component of the white body politic for nearly 400 years. His staff and Cabinet appointments thus far confirm that he has every intention of implementing a WMSVD platform. Do not be fooled by bobbing, weaving and other feints.The Trump team has a WMSVD agenda and they intend to execute it.

Early on in Trump’s candidacy some of us pointed to similarities with the campaign of Andrew Jackson. Now, Rudy Giuliani, Steve Bannon and others are themselves proudly drawing the same comparisons. The point is that President-elect Trump does not represent something new in US politics. Of course some aspects are unique to Trump himself and to how things are done in 2016 as opposed to 1916, 1816, or 1716. But at the root, Trump’s victory represents something as old as the nation itself.

Sadly, pundit after pundit is shocked, shocked, shocked. MSNBC is running a promo in which Chris Hayes is expounding with great passion to Rachel Maddow, “We’ve never seen anything like this before.” Rachel adds “totally unchartered waters,  in so many ways” for good measure.

An article here on AlterNet asked how a “Christian” could vote for Donald Trump. As though Christians didn’t vote repeatedly for slavery; or carry out witch trials in Salem; or elect brutal Indian remover Andrew Jackson in 1828; or impose Jim Crow segregation in the United States; or, in 1912, elect Woodrow Wilson whose first act as President was to fire all of the black employees of the Federal government; or poison Viet Nam,  Laos, and Cambodia with napalm and Agent Orange; or set up torture sites all over the world after 9/11; or create the biggest system of mass incarceration the world has ever known.

To be fair, some Christians opposed all of that. But their version of Christianity did not and does not usually prevail.

It may comfort some to imagine that tweaking the Democratic Party, or a constitutional amendment, improved get-out-the-vote software, eliminating the electoral college, being patient until “the demographics” turn more in our favor or some other fix, will make it all better. Not likely.  Ameliorating symptoms, even when possible, does not arrest the growth of the disease.

More importantly it misses the opportunity we now have. Humans created WMSVD and humans can and already are creating new systems that operate without it.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes, author of WOMEN WHO RUN WITH THE WOLVES, put it eloquently in a recent essay:

Yet, I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is that we were made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement.

I grew up on the Great Lakes and recognize a seaworthy vessel when I see one. Regarding awakened souls, there have never been more able vessels in the waters than there are right now across the world. And they are fully provisioned and able to signal one another as never before in the history of humankind.

Fifty years ago, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called for a radical revolution of values. The late Grace Lee Boggs counseled us to “grow our souls.” Lillian Genser urged us to “pledge allegiance to the world, to care for earth and sea and air, to cherish every living thing with peace and justice everywhere.”

Answering the call of this moment starts with ourselves and in our own communities. It begins and ends with love for all life on this earth.

Let the living memory of successful non-violent direct action and thinking by the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Rosa Parks, Dr. King, Vincent Harding, Mahatma Gandhi and others inspire and guide us.

Frank Joyce is a lifelong Detroit based writer and activist. He is co-editor with Karin Aguilar-San Juan of The People Make The Peace—Lessons From The Vietnam Antiwar Movement.

IMAGE: Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump greets supporters at his election night rally in Manhattan, New York, U.S., November 9, 2016.  REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Trump’s Conversation With God

By Carl Hiaasen, Tribune Content Agency

An absolutely true news item: In an interview with CNN, Donald Trump said, “I have a very great relationship with God.”

___

God responds: What relationship? I haven’t heard from you in, like, 40 years.

Trump: Look, I’ve been busy becoming fabulously successful. Making business deals, banking billions of dollars, hosting my top-rated reality show, buying and selling beauty pageants, marrying and divorcing amazingly gorgeous women.

My life’s fantastic, almost as good as Yours!

God: And now you’re running for president of the United States.

Trump: That’s right, and I’m totally killing it in the polls! Everybody loves me, especially the evangelicals.

God: You have got to be kidding.

Trump: Don’t act so shocked. Who else could these people vote for? Huckabee’s a total zero, Cruz is a nasty Canadian, Jeb is a low-energy loser, and Rubio’s a punk.

They’re pathetic, and I say that with all due respect.

God: And this is how you think a devout Christian talks?

Trump: Hey, I’m a great, great Christian. Got a Bible and everything!

God: Yeah, I heard. The one your mother supposedly gave you.

Trump: I carry it everywhere. Actually, somebody on my staff carries it for me. But it’s an unbelievably great, great Bible. I spend all my spare time on the jet reading it.

God: I saw the YouTube clip from Liberty University. ‘Two Corinthians’? Really?

Trump: Two Corinthians, Second Corinthians, what’s the big deal? Those kids knew what I meant.

God: They were laughing, Donald.

Trump: Sure, because they love me. Everybody loves me. Have you seen the crowds at my rallies? Unbelievable! Ten thousand people showed up in Pensacola!

God: Ten thousand white people. I was there.

Trump: Look, we ran out of tickets for the others. It happens.

That doesn’t mean African-Americans don’t love me. Hispanics love me, too. Even Muslims love me, and by that I mean the good Muslims, which I assume some of them are.

God: I’m just curious. Are you remotely familiar with the concept of tolerance? Compassion? Humility?

Trump: That’s the problem.

We’re too nice. Why do you think America is such a disaster? We’ve gotta stop being so nice. The rest of the world thinks we’re weak.

Your son Jesus, with all due respect — he was way too nice.

God: Excuse me?

Trump: In one of those gospel blogs, I forget which, they quote Jesus saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Seriously? Because, frankly, my neighbors in Palm Beach are a pain in the a–. And, even if they weren’t, I couldn’t love anybody as much as I love myself.

God: That was Matthew, FYI.

Trump: McConaughey? Where? He’s amazing. Did you see “The Dallas Buyer’s Club?”

God: No, I’m talking about the disciple Matthew. That’s the gospel you were citing. He was one of the original evangelicals.

Trump: I knew that. Everybody knows that. Matthew was a great, great disciple. He would have been absolutely fantastic on The Apprentice.

God: Know what? We’re done here.

Trump: What I was saying before? Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge, huge fan of Jesus. An incredible guy, and a helluva carpenter.

If he ever comes back, I’d hire him in a heartbeat. Tell him I said so.

God: I’m sure he’ll be thrilled.

Trump: But, frankly, all that stuff he preached about turning the other cheek, not hating your enemies — it didn’t work out so great for him, did it?

That’s my point. Being nice doesn’t cut it. Being nice gets you crucified.

God: Do me a favor, Donald — quit dropping my name in your speeches and interviews. Just knock it off.

Trump: I will, I will. Right after the South Carolina primary.

God: No, stop it right now.

Trump: But what about Iowa? And New Hampshire? Please, Lord — can I call you Lord? — I really need that Christian vote.

God: I still can’t believe they’re buying this lame act.

Trump: Oh, they’re totally eating it up. Amazing, right?

God: The Bible’s not supposed to be a political prop. Put it away.

Trump: Oh, come on. You know how long it took my staff to even find that thing? How many of my warehouses they had to search?

I’ll make you a deal. If You let me keep using the Bible in my campaign appearances, just for a few more weeks, I promise not to quote from it.

No more Corinthians. No more McConaugheys.

God (sighing): See you in church, Donald. You can Google the directions.

(Carl Hiaasen is a columnist for the Miami Herald. Readers may write to him at: 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132.)

Photo: Donald Trump trying to be pious. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

Do Republicans Really Have Happier Marriages? Probably Not

Widespread gloating erupted on the right last week when a paper by sociologists Brad Wilcox of the University of Virginia and Nicholas Wolfinger of the University of Utah showed that Republicans say they have happier marriages than Democrats. Predictably, that study richocheted around the Internet — but other researchers are raising hard questions about its validity,

Doubts arise because more extensive and reliable data have consistently showed that couples living in red states tend to have higher divorce rates than those in blue states  – and higher divorce rates, of course, indicate fewer, not more, happy marriages.

David Leonhardt’s conclusion in The Upshot, based on Wilcox and Wolfinger’s analysis of county and household data, was that the differences among self-reported Republicans and Democrats could be based on culture.

Conservatives stress traditional admonishments to remain married through thick and thin, but conservative policies – promoted in many red states – don’t necessarily support strong marriages and families. Abstinence-only education can leave teens and young adults ill prepared for an adult sexual relationship, and at worst, may pressure young people into marrying an unsuitable partner.

As Emma Green observes in The Atlantic, communities shape people’s lives in untold ways. “Kids who are raised in two-parent households, for example, and whose friends are mostly raised in two-parent households, tend to fare better. Plus, the civic life and institutions of a place really matter; this is the Robert Putnam theory of stability and happiness. It’s possible that the happily married couples Wilcox and Wolfinger have identified are just living in places that are more conducive to happiness.”

Moreover, as noted in Wilcox and Wolfinger’s conclusion, Republicans are largely white, meaning that “they are less likely to face the discrimination, segregation, and poverty that minority couples often experience in America, all of which can compromise the quality of married life.”

The database for the study is quite small — especially contrasted with the results gathered by sociologists Jennifer Glass of the University of Texas at Austin and Philip Levchak at the University of Iowa, who also studied marriage at the county level, using a larger sampling of government data.

Glass and Levchak found that counties with the highest proportions of conservative and evangelical Protestants were also the counties with the highest divorce rates. This finding isn’t just an artifact of regional poverty — although conservative religious groups are usually concentrated in areas with higher poverty rates and lower wages — because Glass and Levchak controlled the results for income and geography; nor does it result from rates of marriage overall (as compared to cohabitation, which they found no link for); or even a regional culture that in their words, promotes “factors that destabilize marriage.”

High divorce rates among religious conservatives, they found, correlate closely with earlier ages of first marriage and lower educational attainment, which often translates to lower incomes. But religion wasn’t a factor in predicting divorce; the best predictor was where a couple lived.

“Living in a cultural climate where most people expect to marry young and there is little support from schools or community institutions for young people to get more education and postpone marriage and children” encourages people to get married early, say the researchers:

“Abstinence-only education, restrictions on the availability of birth control and abortion, support for marriage as the resolution of unexpected pregnancies, and distrust of secular education (especially higher education) among the populace in religiously conservative counties work to create an environment where young people of every religious belief – or none – tend not to pursue higher education or job training, and instead to engage in early marriage and child-bearing.”

Their analysis doesn’t explicitly study political affiliation — and it further distinguishes among Christians by their level of church affiliation. Those most active in church are less likely to divorce, while those who are “nominal” Protestants – attending services fewer than twice a month — fare much worse than both the actively religious and those who aren’t religious at all.

Sociologist Philip N. Cohen of the University of Maryland, College Park, reminds readers that “Republican” and “conservative” aren’t interchangeable. Indeed, Wilcox tells The Atlantic that conservatives, of course, aren’t only in Southern red states and vice versa. His study, which breaks down and in some ways replicates Wilcox and Wolfinger’s data, shows that its conclusions, in his words, are “not supported.” When Cohen expands the data to seven categories of political affiliation, not just three, he finds the left-right conclusion unsupported, since those identifying as strong Democrats also exhibit a high percentage of respondents claiming they are in a happy marriage. He also notes that Wilcox and Wolfinger  don’t specify whether the Republican “advantage” is over Democrats or just everyone else.

In her Atlantic article, Green also acknowledges that the data are specious. “Most of all, pay attention to the warning labels all over Wilcox and Wolfinger’s research: ‘More research is needed to investigate the effect of ideology and region on family stability over the life course [italics hers].'” That line? Written by Wilcox and Wolfinger.

When analyzing marriage data, the truth isn’t always obvious – just like in marriage itself.

Photo: Is this something a Republican or Democrat would use? Does it matter? AForestFrolic/Flickr

In Iraq, Displaced Christians Gather For A Somber Christmas

By Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

BAGHDAD — The children awoke the day before Christmas behind blast walls and armed guards, in a dingy Syrian Catholic schoolhouse strung with clotheslines. Their families have been cooking on hot plates and sleeping on pallets there in recent months, forced from their homes in northern Iraq by Islamic State militants.

They took turns showering in the communal bathroom, dressed in donated clothes and prepared to meet Santa.

This year, there would be no big holiday parties at Our Lady of Salvation, a local landmark topped by a towering cross that’s visible for miles. Christians are leaving Iraq, the population down from more than 1 million a decade ago to about 350,000, many of them displaced.

In the north, Islamic State fighters have forced thousands to flee. In Baghdad, the security situation is still so tenuous that priests worried that celebrations could provoke an attack. Last Christmas, three bombings targeted Christians, including a Roman Catholic church, and killed 38 people.

Shortly before the 6 p.m. Christmas Eve service, the children and their families filed out of the school past concrete barriers topped with barbed wire and into the packed church for several hours of singing and prayer, the highlight of their day, hoping the strangers they met meant them no harm.

“The guards and blocks can’t do anything if something is about to happen,” the Rev. Nabil Yako said.

Four years ago, suicide bombers walked into the church and took the assembled hostage, ultimately killing 58 people, including two priests. The church remained open afterward, but many parishioners fled to other parts of Iraq and overseas. Fewer than half of the 500 members remain.

Only a few who survived the attack stayed, including the man who made the nativity scene and would play Santa after the service.

Samir Bassem, 9, wearing a donated blue track suit and a large metal cross, planned to ask Santa for a toy car — a Ferrari. Chaeen Bassem, 7, wanted a motorcycle. Fullah Falah, 9, her curly hair freshly washed and corralled into a bun, wanted a red dress.

Their parents had no gifts this year. They had fled the northern city of Mosul after their homes were marked with an Arabic “N” for nasrani, or Christian, and seized by Islamic State during the summer. Homeless and unemployed, they shared the same Christmas wish.

“We want to travel,” said Amil Noaman, 53, who hopes to immigrate to Turkey, Australia or the United States. “Even an animal lives better than us.”

Her 4-year-old niece still fears Islamic State, known in Arabic by the acronym Daesh.

“She says Daesh will come for us,” said her father, Falah Saaed, 50, “I can’t say anything; my heart breaks.”

The 94 families staying at the church don’t know whom to trust. “We used to be like brothers with the Muslims. Then when Daesh came, they turned against us,” Saaed said, “You don’t know who’s your friend or your enemy.”

Yako comes from the same village in northern Iraq, Qaraqosh, as many of the displaced. He has relatives who fled to Baghdad in recent months. In addition to those at the church, he ministers to 120 others in eastern Baghdad. The church is helping more than 700 people citywide, he said.

Each receives about $22 (it goes fast, since Baghdad is expensive — a gallon of milk costs a little over a dollar), plus rations including oil, rice, sugar, tomatoes, spaghetti and tea.

This is the first time the church has hosted displaced families. It’s a chance to give back, Yako said: Churches in Qaraqosh hosted Baghdadis who fled sectarian violence in 2006.

Those displaced now ask the priest the same question, over and over: “When can we go back to our towns, our government, our future?”

“I tell them I don’t know. The problem is, they lost everything,” the priest said, including their rights and faith in their fellow Iraqis.

There are stores in Baghdad devoted to Christmas decorations, and even corner markets hawk ornaments and lights. But the face of the holidays here is not Santa, it’s Imam Hussein. On Christmas Eve, much of the city still had flags and signs bearing the visage of the martyred 7th century imam honored recently by Muslims with 40 days of mourning.

Shema Karomi, 55, and her two adult sons are among those who left Baghdad for Qaraqosh years ago, only to flee again after Islamic State descended, leaving with only the clothes on their backs and a bag of vital documents.

They stayed first in tents in a displacement camp outside the northern city of Irbil, but the camp repeatedly flooded. A month and a half ago, they were offered space at the church.

Karomi’s husband died of cancer last year, and she is still in mourning, dressed in black.

On Christmas Eve, she was surrounded by more than 350 people in the pews. They sang “O Come All Ye Faithful” in Arabic, followed behind the archbishop as he carried a doll representing the baby Jesus from the altar to the nativity scene and listened intently as he addressed their concerns.

“This Christmas we are not happy because of the instability in Syria and Iraq,” he said, “People living in these countries are frightened for their future.”

The service ended without incident. Karomi smiled as she watched children rush to greet Santa, who offered candy and gifts, mostly clothes. Fullah, at least, got her wish: a dress, but purple instead of red.

Karomi has daughters in Lebanon, Sweden and the U.S. whom she would have liked to join this Christmas, and grandchildren in Detroit whom she has never met. She missed the clear air of Qaraqosh, the church’s Christmas decorations, the lights and holiday processions with drums and fireworks.

If she were home, she would be making traditional Iraqi dishes: boiled sheep’s head, vegetables stuffed with rice and meat, along with date cookies. Instead, she will take her turn cooking dinner on the communal hot plate in the hallway, with cats and rats underfoot.

After the church service, she returned to her temporary home, ducking under clotheslines and past the hot plate until she reached her room, a dark concrete box, the window covered with a tattered sheet.

“It’s like a grave,” she said.

Photo: Fullah Falah, 9, right, her curly hair freshly washed and corralled into a bun, wanted a red dress. She was one of several children who awoke on Christmas Eve day behind blast walls and armed guards, in a dingy Syrian Catholic schoolhouse where their families have been cooking on hot plates and sleeping on pallets there in recent months, forced from their homes in northern Iraq by Islamic State militants. (Molly Hennessy-Fiske/Los Angeles Times/TNS)