Tag Archives: homophobia

The Idiocy Of The Isms…

Okay–I guess the time for mulling over relatively abstract issues of political philosophy has passed.

I really haven’t wanted to comment on the eruptions of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, or the wars currently raging in Ukraine or Gaza, because, after all, what can I add? That Russia’s incursion is inconsistent with global order and international law? That failure to help Ukraine would undermine democracy and stability around the world? That there are no unblemished “good guys” in the history of the Middle East? That there are deep divisions of opinion and politics within both the Israeli and Palestinian populations? That none of that is an excuse for the slaughter of innocent people attending a music festival?

That rain is wet…?

What I suppose I will never understand is the widespread tendency to believe that people who share a race or religion or ethnicity are all alike. (I think that’s the definition of bigotry.)

Like most members of the Indianapolis Jewish community, I get emails from our local Jewish organizations. I recently received one that began as follows:

Ruba Awni Almaghtheh drove her vehicle into a building in a residential neighborhood at 3500 N Keystone Av, Indianapolis. This building is identified as belonging to and representing a sect of the Black Hebrew Israelites (designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center), with a semblance of a star of David on the front door. Based on this signage and “Hebrew Israelite” wording, it is believed Almaghtheh thought the building to represent Israel in some way, specifically citing the Hebrew Israelite symbol on the door. The woman was immediately taken into custody. Coordination with local and federal law enforcement continues.

I can’t help thinking that this incident displays –indeed, highlights–everything that’s wrong with bigots. Stupidity, of course, (in this case amplified by the perpetrator’s evident inability to accurately identify her target) but especially the stupidity of blaming an entire group of people for actions of some of them with which you disagree.

The incident just underlines the idiocy of racism and bigotry.

If an Arab kid stole your bike when you were young, would you grow up assuming that all Arabs are thieves? If you saw one woman faint at the sight of blood, would you conclude that no women could be surgeons?

Questions like these ought to answer themselves.

What intellectual deficit or personality flaw causes someone to conclude that all members of a defined group are alike, that any misbehavior by any one of them reflects characteristics and behaviors common to all of them–and that animus toward the entire group is thus justifiable?

(That lack of uniformity works both ways: Jews have received a wildly disproportionate number of Nobel prizes, but believe me, that doesn’t mean all Jews are smart…)

My mother used to say that the only thing two Jews could agree on was what a third should be donating to charity. She wasn’t far wrong–we’re a disputatious lot. So are Black people. So are Muslims, women, LGBTQ folks…

Humans are individuals.

Anyone who has been following the political turmoil in Israel knows that Israelis are deeply divided over the policies of the Netanyahu government, and deeply conflicted over the proper approach to Gaza and to the Palestinians. Anyone who has been following the internal politics of the American Jewish community knows that those divisions are equally sharp here. (As recently as July, for example, the Guardian reported on Jewish groups demonstrating against the Israeli settlements policy.)

The current increases in anti-Semitic and Islamophobic incidents, along with the stubborn persistence of American racism, act as uncomfortable reminders that we humans are deeply and inappropriately tribal–that we apparently have a very dangerous need to see the world in shades of “us” and “them,” and to see “them” as a monolithic, undifferentiated whole.

I don’t know what deep-seated tribal hatred convinced Ruba Awni Almaghtheh that she should ram her car into a building she presumed was occupied by “them,” or what she thought such vandalism would accomplish (other than wrecking her car).  I do know that expressions of anti-Semitism, racism, homophobia and the like are the antithesis of civilized behavior, and that our current global unrest is largely due to politicians like Trump and Putin who encourage and legitimate the latent and not-so-latent bigotries of not-very-bright people.

One of the most laudable aspects of the American legal system is that it is a system that is intended to ignore the question of identity. In America, who you are isn’t supposed to matter–what does matter is how you behave. Not how your clan or tribe behaves, but how you, individually, behave.

Bigotry isn’t just stupid. It’s anti-American.



The More We Learn…

It’s a conundrum.

Any civilized society operates by creating and enforcing rules. Social tranquility depends upon choosing wise people to make the rules and fair-minded people to enforce them.Right now, America isn’t doing too well with either of those populations.

This blog spends an inordinate amount of time on the clown show that is the U.S. House of Representatives, but problems with enforcement–with policing–are equally thorny.

From the beating of Rodney King to the murder of George Floyd and the multitude of other unwarranted violent episodes, Americans have been inundated with video evidence of questionable police behavior.

And “questionable” is frequently the correct word. As public safety professionals will tell us, protecting the public often requires split-second decision-making in situations that are a lot more ambiguous than they appear after the fact. Given the difficulties they face, giving police the benefit of reasonable doubt is only fair.

But all doubt isn’t reasonable.

Reporters keep uncovering deeply disturbing evidence of a racist, anti-Semitic and thuggish culture that persists in a troubling number of police departments. A year or so ago, one such culture was exposed in Torrance ,California . Text messages that had circulated among current and former officers of the city’s Police Department “reveal a culture rife with racism, antisemitism, and homophobia going back at least a decade.”

The texts are extremely violent in nature and grotesquely racist, homophobic, and antisemitic.

According to reporting from the LA Times, one text shows a picture of a candy cane, a Christmas tree ornament, a star for the top of the tree, and an “enslaved person.”

“Which one doesn’t belong?” the caption asks.

“You don’t hang the star,” someone replies.

Another message reads “hanging with the homies,” attached was a photo of several Black men who had been lynched.

Another photo asks what someone would do if their girlfriend was having an affair with a Black man. The captioned response was to break “a tail light on his car so the police will stop him and shoot him.”

Prosecutors say the messages go back years and could jeopardize hundreds of criminal cases in which the officers either testified or made arrests.

The LA Times identified 13 current and former police officers and one Long Beach cop who are now under investigation. At least nine of the officers texted images or commentary advocating violence against Black people and LGBTQ community members and ridiculing racial profiling.

There was much more, and all horrific. Discovery of the texts was triggered by an investigation of two former Torrance police officers who had spray-painted a swastika inside a resident’s car.

If Torrance was an isolated instance, it would be troubling enough, but in the last few years, we’ve seen repeated evidence that these White Supremacy attitudes are widespread among both the police and the military.

As the linked article by an FBI agent now with the Brennan Center warns:

For decades, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has routinely warned its agents that the white supremacist and far-right militant groups it investigates often have links to law enforcement. Yet the justice department has no national strategy designed to protect the communities policed by these dangerously compromised law enforcers. As our nation grapples with how to reimagine public safety in the wake of the protests following the police killing of George Floyd, it is time to confront and resolve the persistent problem of explicit racism in law enforcement.

I know about these routine warnings because I received them as a young FBI agent preparing to accept an undercover assignment against neo-Nazi groups in Los Angeles, California, in 1992. But you don’t have to take my word for it. A redacted version of a 2006 FBI intelligence assessment, White Supremacist Infiltration of Law Enforcement, alerted agents to “both strategic infiltration by organized groups and self-initiated infiltration by law enforcement personnel sympathetic to white supremacist causes.”

As the officer who wrote the above article pointed out, If the U.S. government found out that al-Qaida or a similar foreign terrorist organization had infiltrated American law enforcement, it would immediately launch a nationwide effort to identify those individuals and neutralize the threat.

Yet white supremacists and far-right militants have committed far more attacks and killed more people in the U.S. over the last 10 years than any foreign terrorist movement. The FBI regards them as the most lethal domestic terror threat. The need for national action is even more critical.

We the People need the police. But we need the right kind of police. That requires hiring practices capable of weeding out thuggish, bigoted applicants, and training that emphasizes service to all parts of the communities they will be hired to protect.

We have a problem, and public safety requires that we fix it.

No More Dog Whistles…

Indiana contributes more than its share to the crazy caucus of the House of Representatives. Our state’s intrepid culture warriors not only close ranks with the far-Right “lawmakers” (note quotes) intent upon blocking  anything close to actual governance, they are also happy to advance their bigotries publicly.

No more “dog whistles.” Just good old Hoosier White Supremacy.

Take Jim Banks. (Please!) In addition to his vote to shut down the government and his efforts to form an “anti-woke” caucus, he and Greg Stuebe (R-Fl) are coming after the accreditation of colleges and universities.

And why, you might reasonably ask, would they be doing that?

Reps. Jim Banks (R-IN) and Greg Steube (R-FL) urged Congress to take action to reform the college accreditation process to combat diversity, equity, and inclusion requirements from accrediting agencies.

In a Washington Examiner op-ed Wednesday, the two Republican lawmakers, known to be among the most conservative members of Congress, argued that the college accreditation system has become politicized with diversity, equity, and inclusion requirements and that congressional action is needed to solve the issue….

Banks and Steube are both members of the House Anti-Woke Caucus, which they said was launched in part because of the state of higher education. The two lawmakers, along with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), introduced the Fairness In Higher Education Accreditation Act earlier this year, which would ban accrediting agencies from requiring commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion from institutions seeking to be accredited.

Well, yes, I suppose efforts to combat historic discrimination and bigotry could be considered “political”–at least, if you are one of the far-too-numerous Americans who are trying to take the country back to a time when only straight White Christian men were considered “real Americans.”

“Credit” where it’s due: Banks doesn’t limit his bigotry to racism. He’s also a rabid misogynist/forced birther– 100% anti-choice with zero exceptions. (Evidently, if a ten-year-old is impregnated during a vicious rape, it’s God’s will…) During his time in Congress, Banks has endorsed a federal abortion ban, called the overturning of Roe v. Wade a “joyful day,” and supported imposition of a travel ban that would criminalize women who leave a state to access an abortion.

In an interview with a conservative Fort Wayne radio host, Banks touted such a travel ban–and went on to say, “there’s much more that we must do, that we need to do, that I’m going to fight for in the House, and when I get to the Senate, I’m going to fight for there in a bigger way as well.”

That certainly tells Hoosier women what’s at stake in the upcoming campaign for U.S. Senate…(You can donate to his Democratic, pro-choice rival here.)

And we shouldn’t forget Banks’ homophobia, demonstrated by his despicable attacks on trans children. The far-Right “Family Policy Alliance” has praised him for his introduction of a mean-spirited bill that would effectively prevent doctors from assisting children diagnosed with gender dysphoria.

Senator Tom Cotton (AR) and Congressman Jim Banks (IN-3) have introduced federal legislation to protect vulnerable children from transgender interventions, the Protecting Minors from Medical Malpractice Act. The legislation provides minors a private right of action to sue the medical professionals who perform their “transition” procedures for 30 years after they turn 18…

Here at Family Policy Alliance, we firmly believe that hurting children deserve real help, not the harm of experimental hormones and irreversible surgeries. That’s why we authored our Help Not Harm legislation to protect children at the state level. Now, Congressman Banks and Senator Cotton are boldly taking that language to the federal level to protect children around the nation. We heartily support them in this effort.”

Rep. Banks noted of the legislation, “This is such a common-sense bill, and FPA’s been on the front lines advocating for this legislation at the state level, which is where we pulled ideas from to write the federal version of this bill.”

What kind of person considers it “common sense” to over-rule the considered and difficult decisions of medical professionals, their patients and patients’ families–to insert government into the doctor-patient relationship in order to ensure that vulnerable children abide by his Christian Nationalist beliefs?

The answer is: the same sort of ignoramus who would say–as Banks did in October of 2016, according to Wikipedia–“I believe that climate change in this country is largely leftist propaganda to change the way Americans live and create more government obstruction and intrusion in our lives.”

For a guy who opposes “government intrusion in our lives,” he’s sure willing to use government to limit women’s rights, interfere with health care for LGBTQ youngsters, and prevent colleges and universities from battling discrimination.

Georgia has Margery Taylor Green. We have Jim Banks.

What an embarrassment……

What Was Down Is Up (And Vice-Versa)

Too often, reading the news makes me ill.

One recent example: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott says he’ll pardon a White man who a jury had found guilty of murdering a Black Lives Matter protester–an announcement he made one day after the verdict and before sentencing.

No dog whistle there…

In 2016, I reluctantly concluded that the actions (and votes) of a significant minority of Americans could only be explained by racism. I’ve had no reason to modify that conclusion since.

We live in a time of unprecedented political polarization; it has brought reasonable policymaking to a halt  and transformed the Republican Party into a cult harboring White Christian Nationalists, QAnon adherents and a variety of disordered individuals nursing assorted grievances.

As a result, Republican party leaders have a problem.  To keep the malcontents who dominate their base happy, it becomes necessary to feed the beast they’ve created by framing everything as “us versus them.”  And in order to do that, the GOP has had to abandon virtually everything the GOP once stood for and reverse previous policy positions, no matter how awkward the result..

Remember when Republicans criticized the FDA for being too slow and risk-averse when it came to authorizing new vaccines?

So it’s sad or funny — or both — that Operation Warp Speed has already emerged as a vulnerability for Trump in the 2024 presidential campaign, with Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida moving to distinguish himself from Trump as a vaccine skeptic. And Trump, rather than touting his achievement, has been reduced to accusing DeSantis of only pretending to be anti-vaccine, noting (accurately) that DeSantis was enthusiastic about vaccinations when the program was first underway.

Watching Republicans compete to distance themselves from a major GOP policy success would be amusing if it weren’t so depressing.

Want depressing?

  •  The party of free trade enthusiastically endorsed Trump’s damaging tariffs on China.
  • The party that opposed government intrusion into corporate boardrooms has reacted ferociously–and legislatively–to corporations considering diversity and inclusion.
  • The party of  limited government and”individual liberty” has become highly selective about the individual liberties citizens are entitled to. Want to infect your neighbors and go mask-less? Fine. Want to control your own reproduction? Not so fast.
  • For the past several years, the party of fiscal responsibility has used the once-uncontroversial raising of the debt ceiling to blackmail Democratic administrations–threatening a default that would plunge the world into financial chaos by refusing to  pay existing financial obligations  for which many Republicans had voted.
  • The party that once opposed totalitarianism and autocracy and supported a strong and unified foreign policy now cozies up to Vladimir Putin and invites Victor Orban to speak at its events.
  • The party that trumpeted “law and order” now defends the “patriots” that  participated in the January 6th insurrection–and continues to support the ex-President who fomented that violence.

This list could go on and on. It’s instructive to read the party’s 1956 platform, to see just how dramatically today’s GOP differs from its former iteration. (For one thing, the party used to produce a platform…)

We are unlikely to be facing a “hot” civil war, although we are seeing increased domestic terrorism from the far Right, but the transformation of one of America’s two major parties into a White Christian Nationalist cult is enormously consequential. That transformation deprives reasonable Americans who differ on policy a mechanism for working out those differences, leaving genuine conservatives nowhere to go.

Indeed, few of the current GOP “stars” seem capable of discussing policies at all–what thoughtful analyses have we heard from the likes of Jim Jordan or Marjorie Taylor Greene?

Worse, the willingness of party members to publicly embrace racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic tropes encourages those who harbor those hatreds to express and act on them.

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of this situation is the fact that today’s GOP is a distinctly minority party. Today’s Republicans depend for their power on elements of American governance that have become obsolete and undemocratic.  Gerrymandering, the Electoral College and the Filibuster distort and obstruct government at both the state and federal levels; the composition of the Supreme Court facilitated its capture by political ideologues.

For the record, I believe that majority opinion will ultimately prevail. Demographics and culture change are inexorable. (For that matter, it’s recognition of those changes–and the fears they engender– that has triggered the GOP’s war on people of color, women, trans children–those who are in any way “other.”)

The question is: how much damage will we sustain in the interim?




Readers of this blog frequently send me articles I am unlikely to have seen; often, those are from their local papers (where such papers still exist). I keep the ones I find interesting in a file, and from time to time, I review them.  Often, the saved articles no longer seem relevant, but sometimes, the opinions expressed and predictions made are even more meaningful than when I first saw them.

That was the case with “Early Warning Signs,” an essay from the Madison, Wisconsin Capital Times. Published in March of 2021, the essay began

You’ve likely grown numb to daily outrages by the Republican Party of Donald Trump. You’ve given up hope that at some magical moment, when some line is crossed, masses of educated, intelligent people who identify as Republicans will gently slap their foreheads and say enough is enough.

Enough of the lies about stolen elections, the denial of facts and the rejection of expertise. Enough with a party that has morphed from being about personal responsibility and limited government to one primarily about grievance.

The author then looked back, to see whether incidents” that seemed innocuous at the time” might actually have been “harbingers of catastrophic dysfunction.” He identified three: the vast number of threats to the life of then-candidate Obama that required Secret Service protection much earlier than had been the case with previous Presidential candidates; John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate; and the rise of  Rush Limbaugh and “hate radio.”

The volume of threats against Obama–then a little-known Senator–was very clearly prompted by the racism and racial grievance that has become far more visible since his Presidency.

Here in 2021, one can see the direct line from there to a party whose white supremacist faction carries Confederate flags, including inside the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection. Is it any wonder that after eight years of fury about a Black man being president that those boiling with racial hatred would come to worship a racist like Trump?

The choice of Palin–and especially the GOP base’s response to that choice– was the moment when it “became OK for a politician to just exalt in ignorance.” The author quoted Obama’s recent book:

“What became abundantly clear as soon as Sarah Palin stepped into the spotlight was that on just about every subject relevant to governing the country she had absolutely no idea what the hell she was talking about,” he wrote.

“I noticed from the start that her incoherence didn’t seem to matter to the vast majority of Republicans; in fact, anytime she crumbled under questioning by a journalist, they seemed to view it as proof of a liberal conspiracy.”

Like they did with Ronald Reagan years earlier, Republicans said the self-described “hockey mom” had “good instincts” and would grow into the job, Obama wrote. “It was, of course, a sign of things to come, a larger, darker reality in which partisan affiliation and political expedience would threaten to blot out everything.”

As the essayist noted, it’s a straight line from Palin to Trump and to Marjorie Taylor Greene and her ilk.

With his choice of a third omen, the writer echoed my frequent lament about the sea-change in America’s media environment, a change foreshadowed by  the emergence of Rush Limbaugh. As he noted, Limbaugh  sounded “Trumpian 25 years before Trump became president.”

Limbaugh introduced a formula for ratings success that many others would ape: giving voice to the cultural grievances of older, uneducated White guys. After the creation of Fox News–which was specifically and very consciously aimed at the anger of that same demographic–it became acceptable to openly express, and defend, ignorance, racism, homophobia and misogyny.

And so here we are.

There may have been other signs, other omens we missed, but it’s hard to argue with the three chosen by this writer. That, of course, leads me to wonder what omens we are currently missing.

The overturning of Roe is clearly one of those–but will it trigger a return of respect for women’s autonomy, or a march toward Gilead?

The revelations of the January 6th Committee could prompt a return to serious, democratic governance–or fail to halt the next coup effort by proponents of the Big Lie.

The astonishing overreach of the Supreme Court’s hobbling of the EPA  (not to mention the ability of all executive branch agencies to issue regulations) could generate  environmental energy–or be a harbinger of planetary doom.

That’s the problem with omens–you can’t tell where they’re pointing until after the fact.