July 22, 2019
It is part of human nature to want to belong, to be accepted, and even to have a purpose. We long for this from birth and strive for it even at an early age. Those desires lead us to seek out friends, join social activities were we believe we will find it and to work hard to gain acceptance from our peers. It is baked in to every culture and every society the world over. It can especially be seen in the rabid nationalism of our times.
Nationalism is a manifestation of our inherent need to belong. It gives us a community to which, we assume, we cannot be removed and will be accepted within. It fills that need we have as human beings. But it comes at a cost. Nationalism requires us to define the group in such a way that distinctions between who 'belongs' and who is presumed to not belong must be made. It is exclusionary and tribalistic. And in many cases, nationalism when defined by race and ethnicity, is flatout racist.
But nationalism works because it comes with a drug. It comes with the addition of patriotism. And patriotism is meant to make those who believe they belong in the group feel good about having gained that acceptance they crave. It fills the desire for a purpose as well since it becomes a necessity that must be maintained rather than a happy little byproduct of nationalistic fervor. It imposes upon the "patriot" a demand to show it, to exhibit it arrogantly, and to further exclude those who alledgedly don't belong.
As society rachets up nationalistic rhetoric the demand for obscene displays of patriotism goes up. To continue belonging to the crowd, the user has to up their dosage. In doing so, the user becomes less likely to focus on other issues, no matter how important they might seem, and begins to reject aspects of their daily life that contradict their ever growing desire to fit in with the crowd of their choosing. The rhetoric gets amped up again, the user repeats the cycle and focuses more and more on being a 'patriot'. No matter how detestable, or despicable even, the image of patriot becomes, that desire to belong remains and the drug they have found helps them feel accepted. The high is worth all the downright vile things that comes with it.
Our world currently has a host of strongmen and neo-fascists who are more than willing to sell their poison in a nice easy to swallow form. People like Trump are more than aware that the target of their rhetoric have already dabbled in it before and can easily be baited with just the right pitch. It is the hook that only needs to be set.
The "us vs them" narrative is an age old part of populist rhetoric. It is used to make the distinctions between those who belong and those the dealer wants removed. It works because those who think they are the in-crowd feel accepted by the message as well as having found a purpose within it. It bestows on them a sense of pride, a sense of selfworth that might have been otherwise missing, and a sense of superiority. All they have to do is maintain their place in the exclusive circle that their prejudices have carved out for them. And this is where the drug comes in.
Patriotism can be used as both a sedative and a stimulant... given you know how to use it. Dealers like Trump know how. And as was seen in his latest klan meeting, with the chants calling for an 'outsider' to be "sent back", it is clear how the stimulant portion works. This aspect of it just requires massive doses of patriotism, such as rallies. That creating of spaces where the dealer's targets can feed off each other's energy, creating a desire to one up the other, is exactly how Trump targets his cultish klan with the drug of their choosing.
For those not willing to attend Trump's narcissistic orgy fest, the sedative part comes through passive partaking of patriotism. That sparklers and cookouts on the Fourth sort of addiction to it. It is a form of patriotism that allows the user to pretend the group they belong to is fine, perhaps some rough patches here and there, but otherwise ok. It permits a placid acceptance of evident wrongs in society while still allowing the user to feel pride in belonging to it. It silences the people who are often the same ones repeating lines like "all evil needs to succeed is the silence of good men".
This will not be the part where I tell you something like "but wait, there is still a good form of a patriot". There simply is not. And frankly the world would be a far better place with far fewer patriots.
The problem with believing you can be patriotic while still dissenting from the notion that some people belong and others should be in cages is that patriotism is derived from nationalism. Nationalism is nothing more than our way of deciding who belong where. Therefore there can be no real reason that a patriot is any better simply because they might be more tolerant than the outright racists currently leading many of our countries.
April 30, 2019
We Don't Need Saviors
The American rightwing has frequently come to the defense of Jews after repeated shootings in American synagogues. The Evangelical conservatives see it as a part of their sacred duty to stand by Jewish people right up until the return of Jesus. And it is that savior complex, with all its opportunistic tendencies, that drives the conservative side of the debate on what is and what isn't antisemitic.
So what is antisemitism and what is not antisemitic? That question is very complex and yet can be readily answered in a way that keeps the conversation within guardrails. Antisemitism is the professed hatred, mistrust of Jewish people. It manifest in conspiracy theories of Jewish people holding disproportionate power, influence within society as well as darker myths of Jewish people conspiring for domination of the destruction of select other groups of people. It can also be as passive as any other form of racial discrimination in which assigned characteristics that are meant to otherize Jews and deem Jewish people as untrustworthy or unworthy of being considered equals. These are straightforward ways to define antisemitism that can, when reasonably applied to daily life, help Americans identify when somebody is displaying antisemitism. But even then this does not weed out the more insidious ways in which antisemitism has been baked into American society, as well as much of European and Middle Eastern societies, with influences ranging from religion to cultural differences.
In America the discussion on antisemitism is often far less concerned with the wellbeing of Jewish people as individuals, which runs counter to the American culture of individualism, but rather often aims to collectivize Jewish people in a manner that makes Jews easy to pigeonhole. This lends itself to more nefarious forms of antisemitism. The stripping of a Jewish person's individual identity and affixing a perceived view of Israel, for better or worse, is antisemitic. And this is where the savior complex mentioned above comes into play.
When Meghan McCain, with whatever good intentions she believes she might have, stands atop Jewish peoples' shoulders and speaks over us as she "defends" us - this is that savior complex. She routinely replaces our identity as American Jews with that of being members of a collective that is identified only by Israel. Israel being a nation means that it has citizens of its own, some of which happen to be Jewish, and obviously as American Jews, we are not part of it. But the Christian view that all Jews must be part of Israel, especially when approaching that final book, has been driven deep into the Christian American mindset. It forms a barrier that keeps American Jews from fully being part of American society and absolute equals in every single way that Christian Americans naturally see themselves as. It denies the same level of participation in the conversation by American Jews by leaning heavily on the notion that at some level we can't be as dedicated to the country we belong to because of the insinuation that we are also loyal to a country we do not belong to. The duel loyalty trope is ironically one that McCain has accused Rep. Omar of making, yet this savior complex that McCain so often engages in is founded on the belief that we, as Jews, do not truly belong to America.
While Christians in America have plenty other antisemitic stumbling blocks to work past, such as the routine deicide charges, the savior complex that conservative Christians so often exhibit is one that needs addressed. American Jews need true allies and support during times like these, as attacks on our communities increase in frequency and levels of violence. But we don't need saved. We don't need to be looked at as an opportunity to get on that pro-Israel Evangelical soapbox. We need people to simply recognize that antisemitism has deep roots in America and the only way to stop these attacks is to address each and every spring from which these roots are fed. It should be seen as the sacred duty of anyone who believes in Jesus to look at themselves, at their own communities first and reflect on how they themselves might very well be contributing to the hatred of any other people, be it Jews or immigrants or Muslims.
Several of the following posts will be addressing antisemitism and how it works. These will discuss what distinctions should be made between anti-Zionism and antisemitism, why Ilhan Omar is not the antisemitic hate preacher the Republicans are casting her as and the need for all extremists who peddle antisemitic views to be taken on without relent.
April 29, 2019
With a record number of hate groups in the United States, at 1,020 as of January, showing no signs of slowing down in their continual spread across America, the United States has a problem with hate. To be more specific, the United States has a problem with white supremacists and the hate groups that feed the white power movement in America. It is a problem that has spread across Europe, Australia and New Zealand, and over Canada and America as well. It is an international threat that the United States government is willfully turning a blind eye to. And in doing so, the Trump administration is creating a breeding ground for terrorists that can strike, and have, anywhere around the world at any time.
The Islamic State showed the West that terrorists can effectively exploit social media to incite and organize terror attacks around the world. World leaders and tech companies all rallied around calls to strip the ISIS accounts of their online platforms and limit the flow of propaganda and information sent out by the well organized terror group. Anonymous and Western countries found themselves working towards the same cause for a change. It has proven effective in countering the weaponizing of social media and online formats. But when it comes to white power terrorism, when it comes to a terrorist threat that has its origins in the West, suddenly those efforts are extremely limited to a few key players (such as Germany's government for example) while major ones (such as America) refuse to bring that same tenacity to the fight against white supremacist terror groups.
The inaction by the United States has led to a *30% increase in hate crimes against people of color, Muslims, Jews and other minority groups in the United States (*according to the FBI, measured over a three year time span ending in Dec. of 2017). In 2018 the hate crime rate rose by an additional *10% in the United States 30 largest cities, showing a continued upward trend (*FBI statistics for 2018). White supremacists showed the most desire to take normally non-deadly hate crimes to the next level in 2018 by killing *40 people in the United States and Canada, up from 17 people killed by white supremacists in 2017 (*Southern Poverty Law Center stats for 2018). Making the threat of being killed by a white supremacist far more likely in the United States than being killed by any other terrorist threat.
It is hard to imagine any other terrorist threat being allowed the room and comfort to operate within the United States, let alone abroad, and to claim lives each and every year, without serious and aggressive action being taken by the United States federal government. Both Republican and Democrat administrations have launched drone strikes, bombing runs, invasions and endless wars in the name of 'national security'. Countless war crimes have been committed in by the United States, in the name of each and every American, because Americans felt threatened by terrorism coming from abroad. Yet even hinting that white supremacists should be shutdown/deplatformed is taboo in America. We can't even hold an honest discussion about the threat to American lives because white power, a clear and present danger, is held in such regard, and shielded by exaggerated interpretations of the constitution, that one can only come to the conclusion that white supremacy is a sacred cow that America isn't willing to do away with.
For years now the country has been asked to at least take an honest look at the inequalities within the system that offer white supremacists support in their desire to retain influence as well as social and political power. The discussion gets side-railed by many things, ranging from a history of refusal to adequately address racism to outright denial of racism itself, but most often is shutdown by white supremacist spreading fear among white Americans that somehow any steps to address racism would make white people second class citizens. An outright lie. A lie that illustrates how the movement uses fear to fuel hate, hate to create fear and that entire cycle itself to create attacks on minorities.
This refusal to address racism, and bigotry of all forms, when talking about white Americans has only been exploited by politicians who, like Trump, often share the views that white supremacist hate groups thrive on. Which is exactly how America ended up with a White House riddled with white supremacists. The system starts at the ground level and rises from there. Trump's hate is not an anomaly - it is the direct result, and the most logical conclusion, of America's white supremacist roots.
Until the United States can be forced to truly address the issue, that being the inequality of its systems and society, white supremacist terrorism will proliferate. More lives will be lost and more "thought and prayers" will be offered over the graves of people that should have never had to die due to American indifference. The power structure, as it is today, favors the hate that America claims doesn't define it.