“Pro-life” Trump is engineering an American Kristallnacht

SIMCHA FISHER

Here’s a ridiculous scenario: Imagine you drive a red car. One day, the mayor of your town says that, every week, he’s going to head over to the post office and pin up a list of people who have done bad things with red cars.

The list includes people who have bought red cars, people who have borrowed them, and people who have stolen red cars; and it includes everything from driving with a broken tail light to deliberately plowing through line of kindergarteners. The list doesn’t specify: It just has names of people driving red cars, and it says they’ve all done something bad.

This goes on week after week, and even though you’ve never so much as failed to use a turn signal, you start to notice that you’re getting dirty looks when you step out of your red car. You find yourself parking around the corner, just so no one…

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One Man’s Reasons for Supporting the Women’s March on Washington

I recently shared a WaPo article with my brother Paul on Facebook, which was entitled “Men are slow to show support for the Women’s March. Is it considered unmasculine?”

I wondered what he thought about this question. I asked him why he is supporting the Women’s March on Washington this coming Saturday, and why he felt he could or should participate in it even though it is the “Women’s” March. How would he explain his support to a man who felt that a women’s march excluded him and his concerns? I found his answer conscientious and thoughtful; and it reflected many of my own reasons for marching.

Here is his response (posted with his permission, links added by me): 

To be honest I usually don’t like to talk about these things over social media. Mostly because my views are nuanced and often, perhaps, incomplete. I think I would find it difficult to do them justice if I was writing a PhD dissertation, let alone a few sentences on facebook. But I think I can say a few things I feel relatively confident about.

I’ll first say: I get it. Calling it the “Women’s March” does not necessarily communicate the welcomed inclusion of everyone. But we should remember the context. This was a grassroots demonstration that started off as a simple facebook post to mobilize women and has erupted into an event of historical size. To the credit of the organizers, they recognized the size of their demonstration and have worked hard to make it as inclusive as possible (in a short period of time without losing its original identity; not a simple task).

Importantly, I would argue that the response is not unreasonable. If we assume the voting process is a fair one, then yes, we have voted to the presidency someone who objectifies women and condones violent sexual assault (among other things*). It seems reasonable to me that some women (and dare I say, some men) want to voice their dissent. In fact, I’m surprised so many men are okay staying silent on the subject.

In a few months I will graduate from medical school and start pediatric residency. During my training I have seen the emotional and physical scars left by abuse. It is, in fact, not okay. It is, in fact, horrible. As a new physician, I take the health of my patients seriously, male and female. So yes, when I hear a politician (now in our highest office) normalize sexual assault, it gets me upset. For me this issue is not particularly “liberal” (whatever that means). I march with women to add my voice to those saying it’s not okay. It not okay to abuse people.

It’s an individual’s choice whether the message of the march resonates with them. If a man does not feel comfortable going to a “women’s march”, I generally have no issue with that. I do, however, reject the idea that a man going to a women’s march is somehow “un-masculine.” The challenges that face women, face us all. We as men can choose to ignore that. Or we can engage in the conversation.

Besides I heard they’ll have punch and pie.

img_0952

My brother and I, at a Women’s March prep meeting in Philadelphia

 

* and this, and this, and this, and this, and this.

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The US elections (and their aftermath), covered as we do African elections

mohamed el dahshan. economist, writer, speaker, compulsive traveller.

Had to be done (actually surprised it hasn’t already):

Writing about the latest US elections like US media writes about African countries.

eddie-murphy

**COUNTRY CRISIS WATCH** [insert CNN “breaking news” type of jingle]

The US of A, a nation located in the center of the North American continent, is shaken by its latest electoral results, which threaten the weak racial equilibrium the nation has painstakingly built since the abolition of racial segregation, a mere half a century ago, thus heralding a fresh round of racial tensions and social instability.

Donald Trump, a local TV star and known megalomaniac who has repeatably admitted to sexual assault and is known for exotic hairdos and inexplicably poor vocabulary, has risen to unlikely prominence on the back of a populist wave, which saw him make unattainable promises to the large swathes of the population reeling from economic difficulties, blaming them on local minorities and foreign trade…

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Of Course Poppies are Political

The Disorder Of Things

As we approach Armistice Day, which comemmorates the end of World War One, the British media is awash with the usual froth about poppies: the badges sold by a veterans’ group, the Royal British Legion, to raise funds for veterans and their families. This year’s poppy-outrage story is that FIFA has banned British footballers from wearing poppy armbands at this weekend’s matches on the grounds that they are political symbols. The plucky English Football Association plans to defy the ban. FIFA is wrong to ban the armbands, but only because bans on freedom of expression should be opposed in whatever form. But they are, of course, entirely right that the poppy is a political symbol.

poppyappeal261002

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Against the New Phrenology: De-Pathologizing Trumpism

The Disorder Of Things

This is a guest post by Dan Boscov-Ellen. Dan is a Ph.Dprofile. student in Philosophy at the New School for Social Research and a Visiting Instructor in Social Science and Cultural Studies at Pratt Institute. His dissertation research involves exploring the political-philosophical implications of capitalist ecological crisis.


One of the most persistent refrains of the US Presidential election has been that of liberal incredulity at the idiocy of Trump voters. Depending on the current status of Nate Silver’s election forecasts, this tends to manifest either as amusement (perhaps chuckling at a Daily Show interview of deluded rally attendees or a screening of Idiocracy), or as disgust and horror (perhaps soberly staring into one’s craft IPA when the debate watch party gets too real). How, liberals wonder, could anyone vote for Cheeto™ Hitler?

But of course they do not wonder too hard – it is obvious to most…

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A Few Thoughts on Cultural Appropriation

I was just thinking about this “cultural appropriation” thing lately. It’s not something I know much about. I have used the verb “to appropriate” in my own writing to refer to Africans taking, borrowing, adapting, and altering cultural objects from Europe, the Middle East, and the Americas. The plastic beads worn by the Masaai are imported from Europe, and some of the foods we think of as African staples (bananas, for example) are New World crops.

But I don’t think that’s what people are talking about in more recent discussions of “cultural appropriation.” I was using the word to refer to a kind of organic evolution of cultures blending – with one taking something from another and “appropriating” it for their own uses, almost how languages appropriate and borrow words from each other.

In these newer conversations, I think people are talking either about stealing an idea from a particular community, usually one that has historically been disadvantaged or oppressed, or objectifying members of that community and treating their identity as a plaything. Personally, I view the latter as objectification rather than appropriation, but that’s probably just semantics.

I think “problematic” is a perfectly sensible word to use when describing said stealing or objectification.

But wait – why isn’t Mary Poppins singled out for cultural appropriation?

Well, this is probably a question of whether Dick Van Dyke, putting on an English accent, is racist. But I don’t think Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins is any more “cultural appropriation” than Laurence Olivier in Othello. Those are both problematic in different ways (IMHO). Personally I think they would have been better just letting Dick be American and Laurence be white.

The difference is, there is no history of Americans enslaving, colonizing, segregating, and otherwise telling British people that they are naturally inferior to white Americans. There is no history of British people in America being refused the right to vote and, in the same era, having to endure zillions of popular plays and movies where Americans put on phony British accents and pretended to be British people in order to make fun of how stupid and lazy and inferior they were. If such a history were to exist, then Mary Poppins would be extremely “problematic.” And racist.

But Mary Poppins is also different from Othello because of demographics. I’m sure there are plenty of Black actors that would have liked to play Othello. But even today, we can’t seem to bring ourselves to have black heroes be played by black actors. That is problematic. You wouldn’t have a sixteen year old girl play an elderly man in a movie, for example. Why would you do that? It doesn’t make sense.

Here’s John Oliver on the whitewashing of Hollywood.

The bottom line, I think, IMHO, is that it boils down to what’s behind it. Is it objectifying people? Is it taking a style that you did not invent and passing it off as your own? Or is it a fair creative exchange based on mutual respect? Is it a cartoon character you’re playing, or do you really deep down appreciate the art or style because you empathize with that community?

Let me leave you with three short videos and two articles to help you contemplate this. And then hopefully it will be a bit clearer why, for example, I think Dick Van Dyke and Miley Cyrus are not doing the same thing.

New York Fashion Week

Here’s what it looks like when cultural appropriation is done right

Cultural appropriation vs. appreciation

This article made it painfully clear what was wrong with Cyrus’ VMA performance in 2013, and I highly recommend this as well.

Happy reading!

C.

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So, Which Is It?

It's Fine.

I’m scared to post this. I’m afraid of alienating people I love, people I interact with on a daily basis, people whose friendships I value. I wouldn’t say this if it hadn’t been weighing heavy, like a 50 pound weight on my tongue every time I open my mouth to say something and stop before it comes out because I don’t want to stir the pot. I don’t want anyone to be mad at me. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. But I can’t, in good conscience, do that anymore.

I live with a certain degree of privilege. Monetary privilege? Not so much. But social privilege? Absolutely. I am part of a demographic that is perceived as the LEAST THREATENING to society. I’m a White Lady. Further, I’m a Southern White Lady. Still further, I’m a Heterosexual, Cis-Gender, Southern White Lady who Happens to be the Married Mother of Two…

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