Sunday, July 24, 2016

Sunday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

The Myth of "White" Christianity

As white supremacists rally to Donald Trump - including those masquerading under the smoke screen of "Christian" family values organizations such as Focus on the Family, Family Research Council and American Family Foundation - one myth being peddled is the myth of "White Christianity" that ignores the historical roots of Christianity.  Likewise, it ignores the reality that wherever white Europeans took Christianity, it more often than not coincided with the elimination or enslavement and exploitation of native populations and the sometimes ruthless suppression of indigenous religions. Indeed, even papal declarations supported slavery.  A piece in The Daily Beast looks at this myth that ignores the death and destruction that went hand in hand with the spread of Christianity by European missionaries and conquerors.   Here are excerpts: 
On the first day of the Republican National Convention congressman Steve King suggested that white people had been responsible for humanity’s greatest achievements including, among other things, the spread of Christianity.
King argued: “I’d ask you to go back through history and figure out, where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people that you’re talking about? Where did any other sub-group of people contribute more to civilization?” When he was pushed about whether or not he meant Caucasians, King responded, “Than western civilization itself that’s rooted in Western Europe, Eastern Europe, and the United States of America, and any place where the footprint of Christianity settled the world.”
King is woefully underinformed about the contributions to human knowledge made by non-Caucasians. He seems to think that “Western Civilization” is monolithic and white. He is willfully blind to the way that the accomplishments he is focused on were often achieved using non-white slave labor or financed using natural resources stolen from colonized peoples. Is it really a “white accomplishment” if it is financed and earned by non-whites? 
Perhaps the most egregious error here is the assumption that Christianity was spread by white people. Because if Christianity is the linchpin in his view of history and accomplishment, I have some bad news for him.
Jesus and the twelve disciples were all Jews who lived in ancient Palestine. The majority of Jesus’ first followers were fishermen from the Galilee region. In movies and in European artwork Jesus is regularly portrayed as Northern European, but this doesn’t make it so. No matter how hard Megyn Kelly argues this point. On the basis of skeletal remains, physical anthropologists estimate that the average first-century Galilean male was around 5’ 4” and 136 pounds. If we take ancient style as our guide they are likely to have sported dark hair and a beard, and possessed deeply tanned skin.
 Paul, the self-appointed “apostle to the Gentiles,” was originally from Tarsus, an ancient university town in what is now south-central Turkey. He was a Roman citizen, which more than his race guaranteed him higher social status in the world of Jesus’ day. But like the other apostles he was likely to be a darker-skinned Mediterranean Jew. 
Augustine, Catholic saint and arguably one of the most influential thinkers in human history (to say nothing of Christian theology), was also not white. He was born and lived the majority of his life in North Africa. A more accurate (albeit extremely flattering) portrait of him can be found on the John Nava tapestries in Los Angeles. He looks a lot more like Denzel Washington than you probably imagined.
The truth is that if what King means by white and western is European and pale (put otherwise, people Donald Trump might allow to immigrate here), none of the first followers of Jesus or many of the key figures in the first four hundred years of the Christian Era would qualify. These are the people without whom Christianity wouldn’t exist.

Donald Trump’s Caesar Moment

If one is a student of history, one recognizes that the worse despots - and mass murderers - of the 20th Century all shared a common traits: overweening ego, narcissism, and paranoia toward those who opposed them.  Think Adolph Hitler, Benito Mussolini, and Josef Stalin.  There are others lesser known, but these traits defined them, as well as a ruthlessness directed at opponents, both real and imagined. Fast forward to 2016 and we see an individual with similar traits wrapped in the mantle of the presidential nominee of the Republican Party.  A column in Politico looks at this frightening moment in America's history.  Here are excerpts:
It was a speech perfectly suited to the nominee. It was a speech utterly unconnected to anything we have ever heard from any previous nominee.
Most American presidential nominees—indeed, most convention speakers—pay homage to outsized figures of the nation's past, even some from the other side of the spectrum.
And Donald Trump? In his speech, there was no thread of any kind linking him to past American greats, no sense that he is following any tradition. Indeed, in one of the best-received lines of the speech, he told us, of our “rigged” system: “I alone can fix it.” Fix it with his own party’s leadership in Congress, or with an aroused populace? No. “I alone can fix it.”
In so many other ways, Trump presented himself as a man alone, imbued with the power to do what no other person or institution can do.
In this declaration—repeated at the end of the speech—Trump defined himself as a bedrock figure in American culture: the figure who faces danger alone, who follows his own code of conduct.
Nor is there any room for a cautionary note about the limits of presidential power. John Kennedy’s 1961 inaugural address, for instance, ends by saying of his: “all this will not be finished in the 100 days. Nor will it be finished in the first 1000 days, nor in the life of this Administration.”
What does Trump say?
“..the crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon come to an end.”
“On the economy, I will outline reforms to add millions of new jobs and trillions in new wealth that can be used to rebuild America.”
“On January 21st of 2017, the day after I take the oath of office, Americans will finally wake up in a country where the laws of the United States are enforced.” 
In this speech, we have finally seen the answer to the perplexing question of just what political philosophy Donald Trump embraces. It is Caesarism: belief in a leader of great strength who, by force of personality, imposes order on a land plagued by danger. If you want to know why Trump laid such emphasis on “law and order”—using Richard Nixon’s 1968 rhetoric in a country where violent crime is at a 40-year low—it is because nations fall under the sway of a Caesar only when they are engulfed by fear. And the subtext of this acceptance speech was: be afraid; be very afraid.
It is impossible to imagine anyone else giving an acceptance speech so disconnected from anything in the American political tradition. Whether voters see that departure as a cause for celebration or worry may help decide what happens in November.

Sunday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 1

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Washington Post: Trump is a Unique Threat to American democracy

Yesterday, the Washington Post ran an unprecedented full page editorial focusing on the dangers of a Donald Trump presidency.  The editorial echoes many of my own fears and concerns - fears and concerns to which the Republican base seems oblivious as it clamors for a ruler much as Germans clamored for a dictator in the form of Adolph Hitler.  I find it frightening that so many Americans are blind to the threat that Trump and his movement represent.  Here are some excerpts from the editorial:
DONALD J. TRUMP, until now a Republican problem, this week became a challenge the nation must confront and overcome. The real estate tycoon is uniquely unqualified to serve as president, in experience and temperament. He is mounting a campaign of snarl and sneer, not substance. To the extent he has views, they are wrong in their diagnosis of America’s problems and dangerous in their proposed solutions.
Mr. Trump’s politics of denigration and division could strain the bonds that have held a diverse nation together. His contempt for constitutional norms might reveal the nation’s two-century-old experiment in checks and balances to be more fragile than we knew.
Any one of these characteristics would be disqualifying; together, they make Mr. Trump a peril.  . . . we cannot salute the Republican nominee or pretend that we might endorse him this fall. A Trump presidency would be dangerous for the nation and the world.
Why are we so sure? Start with experience. It has been 64 years since a major party nominated anyone for president who did not have electoral experience. That experiment turned out pretty well — but Mr. Trump, to put it mildly, is no Dwight David Eisenhower. Leading the Allied campaign to liberate Europe from the Nazis required strategic and political skills of the first order, and Eisenhower — though he liked to emphasize his common touch as he faced the intellectual Democrat Adlai Stevenson — was shrewd, diligent, humble and thoughtful.
Given his continuing refusal to release his tax returns, breaking with a long bipartisan tradition, it is only reasonable to assume there are aspects of his record even more discreditable than what we know.
The lack of experience might be overcome if Mr. Trump saw it as a handicap worth overcoming. But he displays no curiosity, reads no books and appears to believe he needs no advice. In fact, what makes Mr. Trump so unusual is his combination of extreme neediness and unbridled arrogance.  . . . . He also is contemptuous of fact. Throughout the campaign, he has unspooled one lie after another. . . . It is impossible to know whether he convinces himself of his own untruths or knows that he is wrong and does not care. It is also difficult to know which trait would be more frightening in a commander in chief.
 Given his ignorance, it is perhaps not surprising that Mr. Trump offers no coherence when it comes to policy. . . . Worse than the flip-flops is the absence of any substance in his agenda. 
What the candidate does offer is a series of prejudices and gut feelings, most of them erroneous. Allies are taking advantage of the United States. Immigrants are committing crimes and stealing jobs. Muslims hate America. In fact, Japan and South Korea are major contributors to an alliance that has preserved a peace of enormous benefit to Americans. Immigrants commit fewer crimes than native-born Americans and take jobs that no one else will. 
The Trump litany of victimization has resonated with many Americans whose economic prospects have stagnated. They deserve a serious champion, and the challenges of inequality and slow wage growth deserve a serious response. But Mr. Trump has nothing positive to offer, only scapegoats and dark conspiracy theories.  In a dangerous world, Mr. Trump speaks blithely of abandoning NATO, encouraging more nations to obtain nuclear weapons and cozying up to dictators who in fact wish the United States nothing but harm. For eight years, Republicans have criticized President Obama for “apologizing” for America and for weakening alliances. Now they put forward a candidate who mimics the vilest propaganda of authoritarian adversaries about how terrible the United States is and how unfit it is to lecture others. He has made clear that he would drop allies without a second thought. The consequences to global security could be disastrous.
Most alarming is Mr. Trump’s contempt for the Constitution and the unwritten democratic norms upon which our system depends. He doesn’t know what is in the nation’s founding document.  . . . Worse, he doesn’t seem to care about its limitations on executive power. He has threatened that those who criticize him will suffer when he is president. 
Mr. Trump has encouraged and celebrated violence at his rallies. The U.S. democratic system is strong and has proved resilient when it has been tested before. We have faith in it. But to elect Mr. Trump would be to knowingly subject it to threat.
Mr. Trump campaigns by insult and denigration, insinuation and wild accusation . . . The Republican Party has moved the lunatic fringe onto center stage, with discourse that renders impossible the kind of substantive debate upon which any civil democracy depends.
Many Americans do not like either candidate this year . We have criticized the presumptive Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, in the past and will do so again when warranted. But we do not believe that she (or the Libertarian and Green party candidates, for that matter) represents a threat to the Constitution. Mr. Trump is a unique and present danger. 

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 3

Trump’s Proposed First Move Eerily Like Hitler’s

I and many others who have a knowledge of accurate history, unlike Republicans who swallow the revisionist history pumped out by Fox News and faux historians like David Barton, continue to see frightening parallels between Donald Trump and Adolph Hitler.  Some say that focusing of these parallels goes too far, but I beg to differ, Words and actions matter, especially when words point to dangerous possibilities.  A column in Huffington Post looks at how one of Trump's first proposed moves is eerily like what Adolph Hitler did in his rise to power.  Here are highlights:
As a Jew, I don’t like people making Hitler comparisons. I don’t like when they do it to President Obama. I didn’t like when people did it to President Bush. There was only one Hitler, and we have not had a politician who rose to that level — yet.
That said, a chill went down my spine when I saw private remarks from Chris Christie, regarding one of Donald Trump’s first moves, if he is elected. Reuters reports:
If he wins the presidency, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump would seek to purge the federal government of officials appointed by Democratic President Barack Obama and could ask Congress to pass legislation making it easier to fire public workers, Trump ally, Chris Christie, said on Tuesday.
Why is this scary? It is literally one of the first moves made by Adolf Hitler, upon democratically attaining power.
The Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service was passed just two months after Hitler became Chancellor of Germany.
It was such a major piece of his plan to ultimately become dictator, that the Holocaust Museum notes it on their timeline of events:
The German government issues the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service (Gesetz zur Wiederherstellung des Berufsbeamtentums), which excludes Jews and other political opponents of the Nazis from all civil service positions.
Gutting government of any civil service officers who are not completely and blindly loyal to the new leader usually is one of the first moves of someone looking to become a dictator. Another act is one Trump previously voiced support for - tighter control over a free press. . . . 
Whether dictatorship is the overt intent of Donald Trump or not, what cannot be denied is that a move like this runs completely counter to the very idea of our Republic, whose very Constitution goes to very, very great lengths to prevent usurping of that kind of power.
Whether it is Saddam, or Stalin, going after the bureaucracy, purging it, and installing loyalists is almost always a first step for a rising dictator.  Apparently, that has not gone unnoticed by Trump, who openly admires Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-un and Saddam Hussein.
This is not hyperbole.  This is not a joke.  This is real.
Donald Trump’s man in charge of putting together a government seriously just said that one of Donald Trump’s first moves will be the same as one of Hitler’s.

The Media's Complicity in Allowing Trump to Falsely Appear LGBT Friendly

Trump and hate group leaders James Dobson and Tony Perkins

I often criticize the media for its laziness when it comes to doing little more than unquestioningly mouthing whatever is handed to it by the right wing and, worse yet Christofascists, that allows frightening candidates like Donald Trump to get away with a false narrative.  Nowhere is this complicity in furthering lies more pronounced that the media myth that Donald trump is LGBT friendly.  The narrative flies in the face of reality given the GOP's adoption of the most anti-LGBT platform ever.  It flies in the face of Trumps meeting with and promises to 400 anti-gay extremists last month.  Michelangelo Signorile has a column that rightly takes the lazy media to task.  Here are excerpts:
Indiana governor Mike Pence is of course among the most extreme governors in the country on abortion and LGBT rights. And we’ve seen reports that in fact Donald Trump will hand the actual running of the country to his vice president, making him the most powerful vice president in history.
But Trump can count on much of the media falling for stock phrases, engaging in superficial coverage and often running with a false narrative that the Trump campaign hands to journalists on Trump and LGBT issues rather than doing the most basic reporting and offering up an accurate narrative. Throughout the campaign, Trump has often been treated to a different standard than other political candidates.
So, from the stage last night in Cleveland, Donald Trump said, “As your president, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology, believe me,” in the context of his fear-mongering about foreign terrorism and how the country was supposedly in chaos and inadequately responding to the threat. And ABC News, in coverage similar to other news organizations, focused on the “historic” use of the term “LGBTQ” by a GOP presidential candidate without including the context of the “historic,” extreme anti-LGBT GOP platform, and Trump’s own extreme positions, including promising religious conservatives – on the Christian Broadcasting Network, on Fox News, in a town hall with Pat Robertson ― that he would overturn the historic Obergefell ruling, which he’d called “shocking.”
CNN this morning characterized the comments in the speech as an example of Trump “embracing” the LGBT community. The report did acknowledge the anti-LGBT platform, but only to note that it is – supposedly – in sharp “contrast” to Trump’s own positions on LGBT rights. But it is not: The platform and Trump both are opposed to marriage equality and both promote the autonomy of states to pass heinous laws regulating what restrooms transgender people use.
I asked Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council about both Trump’s positions on LGBT rights and the platform, which he is very actively involved in hammering out every four years. Perkins was among hundreds of anti-LGBT activists who met with Trump in May, and last night, from the stage, Perkins finally endorsed Trump and told Christian conservatives to vote for him.
“He has said that these issues should be dealt with at the state level and he has not been for the government forcing it on people,” Perkins told me of LGBT rights. “And thats kind of the way things work out: we allow the people to work through these issues.”
We’re in a different time, when LGBT rights have become more accepted by Americans after enormous progress. So people like Perkins understand that they have to make some accommodations in how they speak about the issues, a relatively minor concession. In return for his endorsement, surely Perkins was assured certain things would and wouldn’t be done, and that perhaps new language and tone might have to be incorporated even if it doesn’t amount to anything.
It’s one thing of course to pledge to protect LGBT people from terrorist violence perceived to be from ISIS, which threatens all Americans. But it’s quite another thing to protect our rights from being thwarted by Christian conservatives like Perkins and Family Research Council, which has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center and whose rhetoric has certainly been used by those who have perpetrated violence against LGBT people in the name of extremist Christian ideology.
The narrative handed to the media by the Trump campaign for months has been completely bought. Back in May, I wrote about the bizarre portrayal of Trump by The New York Times –- political reporter Maggie Haberman, in particular ― as “More Accepting on Gay Issues” as the headline noted, something that, “Sets Him Apart” from other Republicans. This was based on superficial things like Trump having congratulated Elton John on his civil union in 2005, while the issue of marriage equality –- the major LGBT rights issue of our time – and Trump’s opposition to it were downplayed, almost portrayed as a side issue. It clearly was a narrative the Trump campaign, with the help of the desperate Log Cabin Republicans, had been feeding, trying to play both sides.
I thought one of the jobs of journalists is to tell us what the candidate is promising to constituencies under the radar or in private meetings. Certainly the Times does this with regard to Trump on other issues. But LGBT issues don’t seem worthy of this deeper reporting and analysis.
As we now move into the general election, the media must be challenged on this kind of shallow, irresponsible reporting that allows Trump to write his own narrative instead of being exposed as a dangerous fraud who is making promises with the LGBT community’s staunchest enemies.

Saturday Morning Male Beauty - Pt 2

Hillary Makes Unannounced Visit to Pulse

Everything Donald Trump does is about self promotion and grabbing media attention - all to satiate his overweening narcissism.  Yesterday, Hillary Clinton demonstrated that sometimes she simply does what's right and decent without looking for media fanfare.  While many waited for her announcement of who would be here VP pick, Clinton without ceremony visited Pulse, the site of the Orlando massacre last week.  The New Civil Rights Movement looks at Clinton's visit.  Here are excerpts: 
While many across the nation have been anxiously or curiously awaiting the announcement of who Hillary Clinton will choose as her vice presidential running mate, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee spent the afternoon in an unannounced private meeting with family members and friends of the victims of the Orlando Pulse nightclub hate crime mass shooting terror attack. Clinton then spent the next hour holding a roundtable discussion with community leaders, including members of Equality Florida, and, as one reporter noted, "listening." 
Orlando commissioner Patty Sheehan, according to Buzzfeed's Ruby Cramer, told Clinton, "I want to thank you for not politicizing this, and for waiting until we were ready." 
Rather than playing politics, Clinton is now visiting the Pulse nightclub, to pay her respects and meet with first responders. In fact, this tweet from NBC News' Alex Seitz-Wald appears to show Clinton prioritized spending time with victims' loved ones and meeting with community leaders then visiting Pulse, rather than focus on her VP announcement.  Clinton laid white roses at the site.
Hillary may have her negatives, but the choice is clear that she must be elected in November to defeat the fascism and authoritarianism that that a Trump victory would unleash on America.  What continues to shock me is the manner in which some Sanders supporters still cannot get their heads out of their asses and realize the existential threat posed by Trump.   Really, you want to stay home and by default elect a man that might become America's Hitler?  Get over yourselves!!