Foreshadowing Fascism: The Spike in Anti-Semitism is Bigger than Trump and Kanye

December 7, 2022

Every December 7th, we remember the 1941 attack on Japan by imperialist Japan. December 7th, 1941 is also the date that Hitler made his “Nacht und Nebel” (Night and Fog) decree, the order that instructed the Gestapo to round up all the enemies of Nazism in the lands controlled by Berlin, and send them to concentration camps. Sadly, many of those who supported Hitler’s anti-Semitic vision were political activists in the United States. That included aviation hero Charles Lindbergh, spokesperson of the America First Committee, founded in 1940. Four days after Pearl Harbor, Hitler declared war on the United States, declaring that Franklin Roosevelt was a spawn of the “eternal Jew.”

It’s important to remember that the Holocaust didn’t begin with gas chambers. It began with anti-Semitic hate speech. The fact that former president and current presidential candidate Donald Trump gleefully dines with anti-Semites like Kanye West and Nick Fuentes, tells Proud Boys to stand by, refers to the neo-Nazis of Charlottesville as “fine people,” and has routinely retweeted disinformation from white supremacist accounts should exclude him from any political credibility whatsoever. Instead, it places him in the center of right-wing politics that has always had its right foot in the mud of anti-Semitism. Blaming the Jews isn’t back. It never went away. It’s now just got a media platform so expansive it would make Father Coughlin drool on his frock.

First, let’s dispense with a crucial piece of bullcrap. Saying, “I can’t be anti-Semitic, I support Israel!” is like saying, “I can’t be racist, I support the Lakers!” Support for Israel is not the same as support for Jewish people (including Jews who are critical of the state of Israel). Evangelicals see Jews as “unsaved people,” who are just getting the Holy Land ready for the return of Jesus. MAGA support for Israel is inherently anti-Semitic. So it shouldn’t be surprising that the MAGA subculture has plenty of neo-Nazis, like Nick Fuentes, it its ranks.

This isn’t about Trump and “Ye.” There has been a dramatic increase in anti-Semitic hate crimes and incidents over the last few years. The ADL reported that 2021 was the highest year on record for anti-Semitic incidents and 2022 looks like it could end up worse. Oregon has already logged 257 bias crimes and incidents with Jewish victims this year. Just last month, New York City saw a 125% increase in hate attacks targeting Jews over the previous November. Trump and Kanye just make it more acceptable for those people to come out of the shadows.

While the Jewish people have a long history of oppression, the Adolph Hitler/Kanye West version of anti-Semitism has a fairly recent starting point. The 1789 French Revolution not only brought the promise of democracy to Europe, and the end of the divine right of kings, it emancipated French Jews, making them full French citizens. So when the defenders of church and monarchy needed a convenient scapegoat to blame the revolutionary chaos on, the “anti-Christian” Jews were an easy target. Aside from the fact that European Jews had a fairly good reason to not be fans of the Catholic Church, Jewish participation in the French Revolution was fairly minimal. And yet a new myth was born; the pro-democracy/anti-church rule movements around the globe were the work of secret cabal of Jewish rabbis. The puppet masters; controllers of banks, media outlet, competing political parties, and all things liberal.

This new belief that Jews “control the world” spread like wildfire as the old empires began to crumble. By the beginning of the twentieth century, the bizarre conspiracy theory was codified in a supposedly real (but fully fabricated) document, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. It was used to blame the Russian Revolution on Jews and used by Henry Ford to blame unionization efforts on the “international Jew” (the title of a series of booklets Ford wrote in the 1920s). The conspiracy theory became equally popular among jihadists and Neo-Nazis into the twenty-first century. We are almost a quarter of the way through the century and Trump acolyte Kanye West’s proclamation that “I like Hitler” on disgraced conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ show barely sparks a response from the Learned Elders of the Republican Party. That should make the world say, collectively, we’ve seen this movie before.

Volumes have been written on how the authoritarian tendencies of Donald Trump map on to other nations’ slide into fascist rule. American democracy is not guaranteed and Trump’s recent claim that the U.S. Constitution should be “terminated” is straight-up Germany 1933. All we need is an economic collapse to send the “stable middle” into a panicked blame-game and a charismatic figure to convince them that all their problems are because of George Soros/drag queens/woke bankers/deep state agents and we’ve got pogroms in the streets of America; the Proud Boys and their ilk, who have been on “standby,” leading the charge to “make America great again.”

This might seem like a lot of hysteria but let me conclude with two thoughts. Every single Jewish person has a deep personal connection to the violence of anti-Semitism. Every news story about a synagogue covered in swastika graffiti, or about Jewish people attacked just walking down the street, or another “crazy” claim about Jews by an popstar who has 16 million followers on Instagram is a reminder of the long history in the belief that the complete annihilation of the Jewish people is a good thing that is both dreamed about and acted upon. The trauma of living in that world must be immense and yet the Jewish people continue to contribute to a world that imagines destroying them.

Finally, as I’ve written, earlier this year, I spent a snowy April day at the Auschwitz and Birkenau death camps in Poland. After walking though the gates that still read, “Arbeit Macht Frei” (Work sets you free), I suffered my first panic attack, realizing that it was all very real. A population, motivated by fear, was willing to commit mass genocide. Children, like my daughter, were ripped from their parents arms and thrown into the fire pits of Birkenau. Why? Because they were “dirty Jews.” I stood on that spot and wept. Because, unlike what certain guests at Mar-a-Lago believe, the Holocaust happened. And, like certain guests at Mar-a-Lago hope, it could happen again.

We must stand together against this insanity or it will be our children who will be thrown into the fire pits.

I Was a Third Grader

November 15, 2022

I guess it’s a normal thing to compare yourself to your kids. “When I was your age I had to walk three miles to school, in the snow, and barefoot, and uphill, and backwards!” I remember when I was in high school we all took our shoes off on a snowy Georgia day and walked to school so we could foist that same flex on our kids.

I’ve been doing a lot of that lately. There seems to be some clear differences between 3rd grade Randy and 3rd grade Cozy. In 1972, I loved to play outside in the woods, she loves to be inside playing Minecraft. I had brain-numbing Saturday morning cartoons, she has brain-numbing YouTube videos on demand. But much of it is the same. Our aversion to any food that is good for us, or to going to sleep, or to getting up. I loved Elvis Presley (“Burning Love” era), and she loves Dua Lipa (“Levitating” era), but other than that, not that dissimilar.

So, as I drop her off at school each day, I’ve been trying to remember what I remember from my 3rd grade experience at Atherton Elementary.

My teacher was Mrs. Weldon and we were supposed to get candy bars for completing our times tables, but I never got mine. I did a presentation on Boston by building a version of the U.S.S. Constitution from a huge cardboard box. The teacher read us James and Giant Peach and we had discussions about the 1972 presidential election. (I supported Nixon because I liked his funny-looking face.) My best friend was Keith Harrison and we focused our arguments on Elvis, Hank Aaron, and how to make the best go-cart. And I definitely thought girls had cooties.

For me, third grade was my introduction to Southern culture. Like many Slavic-rooted Americans, I was born in Cleveland, Ohio. My family fled the rustbelt for the sunbelt after the steel industry crashed, and after year in Boca Raton, Florida, we ended up in Stone Mountain, Georgia (for reasons I still don’t understand). Red clay, black-eyed peas, thick accents, and one classmate who took a dead possum home for “supper” presented me with an alternate reality that was both dreamlike and hostile to a “damn Yankee” 8-year-old. A neighbor named Kenny called me “Polish monkey,” which I later figured out was because of my non-WASP name. Church was king in Stone Mountain, so that was the vehicle of assimilation, although it always felt unwelcoming.

So I wonder what my own 3rd grader is collecting to be reflected upon 50 years from now, in 2072. Will she remember the names of her friends and practicing make-up application, like I remember playing in the creek with Tico and Kip? Will she remember the insanity of MAGA, like I remember the madness of George Wallace and Lester Maddox? Will she remember binging on Takis, like I remember seeing how many Little Debbies I could shove into my mouth? Will she remember her parents living apart and then together again (but still apart), like I remember my father gone on extended sales trips?

Eight seems like such an in-between age. I see my daughter carry herself like she’s 5 minutes from college, but she’s still a child (who wants to set up a spy-cam to catch Santa in action this Christmas). Her peer culture has gained power. She just got her ears pierced and is starting to use slang, like “That’s suss, Dad.” She calls me, “bra” like I’m a bro. How do I tell her to eat her vegetables?  Was I that the age when I started separating myself from my parents? (I staged sit-ins in protest of their demand that I eat canned beets, I do remember that.)

If I could go do 8 again, there are certainly things I would do differently, besides buy stock in IBM. I would be kinder to my little brother, and pay more attention to the marginalized kids in my school. But much of 3rd grade seemed to not be about finding your direction, but finding that you could have a direction, any direction; that, at some point, you’d be able to do your own thing. I see that in Cozy, the potential to do really big things if she wants to.

What I needed from parents at 8 was a message of assurance, that they had my back even if I made mistakes. That they’d keep me safe but allow me to see how far I could walk across the ice. And I need encouragement to match the curiosity I had in myself with a curiosity in others. That’s the least I can do for my 3rd grader.

The Catch-22 of Trump 2024, or, How Donald Trump’s Comical Death is Democracy’s Great Hope

September 19, 2022

The good news is most Americans don’t want Donald Trump to run for president again. In a  recent PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll, 61 percent of Americans said they want the orange oaf off the ballot. Of course, another poll, from Harvard, found 67 percent of Americans don’t want Biden to run for re-election (citing his age, not his attempt to overthrow the government). But Trump has become the drunk uncle who won’t leave after the holidays. Based on the spotty attendance of Ultra MAGA weirdos at his recent rallies (“Huge!” pfft!), Trump’s cult of personality seems to be shrinking like his legal team.

But it only takes one Timothy McVeigh to ruin your whole day.

Just take one look at the people showing up at these MAGA rallies. On one hand, if you ever wondered were old white people go to die, it’s to a mostly empty arena dressed in red, white, and blue “Let’s Go Brandon” golf shirts. But on the other hand, these people are batshit crazy. That fascistic devotion to Trump is reflected in numerous polls that report the majority of Republicans still believe the Big Lie, that the Con Man from Queens won the 2020 election. As Joseph Goebbels is alleged to have said, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”

Behind the wack-a-doo attendees at Trump rallies are numerous “patriot” militia members who are heavily armed and waiting for the go from their dear leader to kick off their “boogaloo” with the promise that the rednecks will win this civil war. A recent ADL report found scores of Oath Keepers in the ranks of the military, police, first responders, and among elected officials. Like a page out of the racist playbook, The Turner Diaries, these Timothy McVeigh-wannabees hope to make January 6 look like a Beach Boys concert on the DC Mall.

Which brings up to the conundrum of 2024 and Trump’s concerning attempt to force his way back into the White House. There are three possible scenarios, and none of them end well for this great nation.

Scenario 1: Trump runs in 2024 and a crushing recession, endless memes about “black crime,” the harassment of poll workers, and a well-timed news story about an undocumented immigrant from Latin America savaging a white woman (whether true or not), and 45 becomes 47. Trump takes it as a mandate to further deconstruct American democracy. Can you imagine what the federal courts will be capable of doing after another four years of Trump appointments? Suddenly The Handmaid’s Tale will look like a utopia instead of a dystopia. As forces loyal to the Constitution try to prevent America from sliding into an authoritarian state, civll war becomes eminent.

Scenario 2: Trump runs in ’24 and loses to Biden (or Kamala Harris because Joe fell off his bike). It will be seen as evidence of another “stolen election.” Nearly every MAGA candidate that lost a primary this year claimed to be a victim of “voter fraud.” As funny as it’s been they are sitting up the expectation that if Trump loses in ’24, it will be because the unseen evil forces. (Spend some time on Trump’s Truth Social or Gab and you know it’s the “Jews.”) Since peaceful means will be seen as no longer effective, violence will be called for – Civil War 2: The MAGA Boogaloo.

Scenario 3: Merrick Garland indicts Trump for his role in the January 6 insurrection or handing over classified documents to Putin, or throwing ketchup at the wall. Whatever. Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits ANY politician who has taken the oath of office from holding future public office if they have “engaged in insurrection or rebellion.” Engaged in, not caused. You better believe the DOJ is mulling this one over with sweating brows. While this is probably the best option that demonstrates that our Constitution and the rule of law actually fucking mean something in this country, the “defund the FBI” crowd is still going to be triggered and urged to drag themselves out of their troll holes and shoot SOMEBODY.

This really sucks. It sucks for America and for those of us that just want to live in peace and not have to have to defend ourselves from roving gangs of MAGA militias looking for liberals, Black Live Matter activists, and drag queens to hang. I have weapons training but I’d rather spend my gun budget on some shrubbery and taking my kid to Disney World (if the DeSantis Army hasn’t nuked it). Plus, I suck at that Big Buck Hunter game. I don’t know how good I would be at mowing down marauding Proud Boys on my street.

So America’s hope seems to lie in Scenario 4: The death of Donald J. Trump. And it can’t be from the most likely cause, a massive heart attack. The QAnon loons will see conspiracy all over that outcome. You thought bunker dwellers had a field day with JFK’s (and JFK Jr.’s) death. They will see the hand of Fauci and/or Antifa in Trump’s “natural causes” bucket kicking. And then we’re back to the armed rebellion of the sub-moronic legions. No, it has to be in public and as mundane as possible.  He’s gotta trip over his feet and break his neck at a golf course, or fall off a stage at rally while doing that embarrassing white man dance. He could choke on an Egg McMuffin or maybe he could step out of a speeding limo after an argument with Eric. It’s gotta be Darwin Award-level stupid.

We know from research that cult-like movements tend to fade when the charismatic personality at the center expires. (Except for the Dead Head thing. That shit refuses to go away.) The MAGA faithful might rally around Junior, or the more frightening Ron DeSantis. But they can’t give them what Don gave them, the ability to be stupid but feel smart. And the Trump chapter closes, not with a bang, but with a briefly lingering oder.

This is where we are America. The threat of armed political violence is very real and the clock to 2024 is ticking. The great hope of America may just be Donald Trump driving his golf cart into a pool at Mar-a-Lago and getting his khakis caught in the pool drain or being hugged to death by Diamond and Silk and the My Pillow guy. But it’s gotta be spectacularly stupid, like the man himself.

PS. Scenario 5: Ukrainian victory drives Putin from power and the kompromat that Vladimir has on Trump falls into pro-democracy hands. Trump is told it will be released if he doesn’t permanently retire. Trump moves to Moscow where he spends his remaining days paying prostitutes to pee on pictures of Barack Obama.

My Jim Crow Marriage: MAGA Co-dependency

July 21, 2022

There’s so much going on in the world. The Earth is literally on fire. It’s a nice distraction from my personal problems. I can doom-scroll through some GoPro footage from the battlefields of Ukraine or watch endless hours of commentary on the January 6th hearings. I used to drink through the rough patches. Now I just mainline the outside world.

As a Pisces, I tend to be overdramatic. Things aren’t that bad. Just the summer doldrums of separation. I’ve been trying to learn more about co-dependent relationships and, man, did I have one. I’m not 100% sure that learning about it makes you any less co-dependent, or will help Andi end up back under the same roof, but it sure shines a light and why we were stuck and not making any progress. She was the fixer and I was he who perpetually needed be fixed.

I’ve been having some pretty good conversations about the topic with my therapist. Knowing I’m a Pisces, she’s liberal with the diagrams. She drew two overlapping equal sized circles on a piece of paper and explained that in a healthy relationship two people take up equal space and they overlap in the space of their relationship but they have a larger part of themselves that’s not defined by the relationship. And they can both bring in things to share in the overlap or keep them as part of themselves.

In a co-dependent relationship, one person is a bigger circle that completely envelopes the other circle. That enveloped person has a) a smaller space, b) has no self outside the relationship and c) is always struggling against the confines of the bigger circle. That was us. Even though I encouraged her life outside of our relationship (she got a master’s degree and was an elected officer in her union without my help), when we were together, I did a pretty good job of swallowing her back into what I was jokingly referred to as “Randyland” (a term she understandably loathed). Just like how a person of color is forced to define themselves in relation to “whiteland,” her existence was shaped by our relationship instead of the other way around.

My therapist asked me to conjure up a romantic image of us and I remembered our first trip to Andi’s home town of Morelia, Mexico in 2013. Instead of me being the tour guide in Portland, she led me through her beautiful city, holding my hand. I imagined myself as a balloon safely in her grasp, seeing the world through her eyes. But it was just a flip of our co-dependent dynamic. Now I was the small circle, encompassed by her. As wonderful as it felt, it still wasn’t balanced.

Then she asked me to remember another romantic moment that seemed more balanced and I immediately flashed to our trip to Oslo, Norway in 2018, a city that was new to both us. I was returning from a day at a conference and Andi was coming to find me because she had discovered the most amazing record store on earth and when we ran into each other on the sidewalk, we were those perfectly equal interlocking circles.

The reality is that we had those moments (our first week in a youth hostel on Isla Mujeres with sand in the bed and Macklemore playing every night), but there was a lot more suffocation in Randyland. I get why she needed to break free.

OK, this is the part where I link it to Trump. Hang with me.

You know the MAGA thing? That “Make America Great Again” implies that America’s not great but it was sometime in the mythical past. Trump picked 1950 when America was last great. 1950, the peak of Jim Crow segregation. 1950, before the modern feminist movement, the gay rights movement, and the disability rights movement. If you were a black transperson in a wheelchair, America was not great in 1950. Or a woman. And TVs sucked. Give me my 2022 Samsung flatscreen TV and my pronouns and leave 1950 to your back & white fantasy. Father knew best, or so we were told. The MAGA crowd wants that bullshit past back. They dream of the by-gone days of Jim Crow. Colin Kaepernick “knew his place” in 1950.

But that’s the thing. We over-nostalgize the past. It was always better back then. Music was better. Fashion was better. It was a “simpler” time, blah, blah, blah. In fact, the past was both great and shitty, just like the present. And it was plenty complex, but we were familiar with the complexity. The future is uncertain and the past is a cozy blanket. No wonder people want to go back to it. And that tendency just gets worse the older you get. The 2010s, ah those were the days. The past is a safe haven for the timid. The future is scary as hell. You saw what happened with Bitcoin. But you’ve really gotta embrace the unknown, as frightening as it is. It might kick you in the crotch, but it’s better than spending your life reminiscing about your baseball card collection.

We do the same damn thing when a relationship is ending. “But it was so great! Look at how happy we are in these pictures.” The reality, like America in 1950, is more complex. It was great and shitty. There were plenty of hard times. But I remember it more fondly because I was the planet she revolved around. I was white Father Knows Best guy. For her it was Jim Crow. She was the “colored girl” who needed to get the hell out of Mississippi.

Coming to terms with co-dependency means acknowledging the imbalance. I don’t know if Andi and I will have any more “Oslo moments.” I hope so. But I understand why she had to escape Randyland. I’m escaping it, too.

Seriously, What’s Wrong with Men? Lighting Fires in Post-Roe America

May 12, 2022

In the 1990s, I assigned a book entitled Men Are Not Cost Effective to my criminology students. June Stephen’s 1991 book makes the case that men commit the overwhelming majority of crimes and each of those crimes carries a financial burden represented in the costs of policing, courts, incarceration, parole, probation, rehabilitation, and crime prevention programs. Since half of the tax bill for funding all this falls on women who are not committing these crimes, Stephenson argues men should pay a “man tax” to pay for their bad behavior.

How little things have changed in 30 years. From shootings on New York subway trains to the genocidal violence being levied by Russians against the people of Ukraine, men’s bad behavior seems completely unrestrained and even facilitated by some women. After I returned from Ukraine, a story broke about a Russian soldier whose wife gave him permission to rape Ukrainian women. This was reported before and after numerous stories of Russian soldiers raping the victims of their invasion. What is wrong with men?

It should be of no surprise to anyone that Donald Trump’s Supreme Court is doing exactly what he said it would in snuffing out women’s bodily autonomy by reversing Roe v. Wade. In Trump’s misogynistic world, women’s and girl’s bodies belong to men. Their “pussies” are there to be grabbed by MAGA men and raped by Russian soldiers. Their duty is to look good to male eyes and not challenge male authority. And they will be rewarded for maintaining that status quo whether it’s the small college scholarships from Trump’s uber-creepy Miss Teen USA contest, or being handed “careers” while towing the big lies of the Trump administration (I’m looking at you, Kayleigh McEnany). When women play their “be a good girl” role, the rewards follow. Women and girls are to be looked at, not to offer opinions about their ownership of their bodies. A similar case was made a hundred years ago against “giving” women the right to vote. Why did they need to vote when they had husbands to do that for them? Seriously, what’s wrong with men?

The traditional way of defending the radical idea that female human beings are human beings ain’t working. The ballot box has failed us. Post-reproductive women in the Senate,  like Alaska’s Lisa Murkowksi (64) and Maine’s Susan Collins (69) just voted against codifying women’s reproductive rights into federal laws. And batshit crazy Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene and Colorado Congresswoman Lauren Boebert are chomping at the bit to force American women and teenage rape victims to give birth. They are only one or two degrees away from the Russian wives encouraging their husbands to rape Ukrainian women. So if putting our faith in Election Day and singing, “We shall overcome, someday” is playing out as moving us backwards in women’s rights, what’s the better strategy?

The murder of George Floyd in 2020 woke up a lot of white people. Folks of all races took to the streets. Shit got fucked up. There were fires this time. And even though 93 percent of Black Lives Matter protests were completely peaceful, the riots captured the news cycle. We now know that President Trump wanted federal troops to shoot BLM protestors in front of the White House. But like how the riots following the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. pushed Congress to pass the Fair Housing Act, the turmoil of 2020 worked. Research shows that cities that had BLM protests saw a reduction in police killings. There were countless policy reforms and, while some were merely cosmetic, they reflected the shift in America’s opinions on institutional racism in the justice process. Deep conversations about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) became normalized in private and the public sectors. (I can’t count how many workshops on implicit bias I conducted after the tear gas cleared.)

There are a lot more women and girls in America than black people. The summer of 2022 could make the summer of 2020 look like the summer of 1020. (I’m assuming the summer of 1020 was pretty chill, but Wikipedia just told be that Italy was on fire.) The patriarchal line is that women are more relational and less action oriented than men, but those people weren’t here in Portland to see women (and many teenage girls) on the front lines. The Wall of Moms, anarchists, high schoolers, and the founders of Black Lives Matters; everywhere in 2020 women were up in The Man’s face demanding change.

According to every Republican running for governor in Oregon, “violent protestors” were burning down cities in 2020. I live in Portland and was at the protests numerous nights. There were a couple of brief bonfires set in the middle of the street and a handful of trashcans set on fire. Portland was not “burned to the ground” or even burned. But those images sure got a lot attention because the fire next time was potentially real. In 2022, there may be a value in a few well placed dumpster fires, particularly from Alabama to Texas (what we can call the Gilead Belt), but there’s a larger question that needs to be addressed first, what’s wrong with men?

What is it in men’s psyche that keeps them thinking the oppression of others is in their long term interest? Whether it’s old white men, like Mitch McConnell and his boss Vladimir Putin, or younger sex-traffickers like Matt Gaetz, or just the average Joe Blow on the street, it seems like men as a whole are hell bent on doing jack shit to end their oppression of women and girls. From unequal pay to sexual assault to endless public commentary on Hilary Duff’s (airbrushed) body after birthing three kids (gasp!), patriarchy remains firmly in place, and no amount of elderly white ladies in Congress, or their younger white counterparts who are backed by the fanatics of MAGA (Make America Guys Again), will change that.

We need spies inside the halls of patriarchy to find answers. In 1963, feminist writer Gloria Steinem went undercover as a “bunny” at the Playboy Club in New York City. Her exposé, “A Bunny’s Tale,” revealed how adult women were treated and harassed in Hefner’s clubs that were the symbol of modern masculinity 60 years ago. Maybe a new generation of women can attach themselves to the arms of the captains of industry, hang out at gun shows, or get jobs at whatever strip club Samual Alito sneaks into, and find out why these men are so fragile. Why does the oppression of women, immigrants, the poor, and minorities make them feel powerful? Why does using young men to be rapist soldiers in their wars of choice make them feel like their penises still work?

Speaking of penises, we might get a little help from Freud here. Psychoanalytic feminists look to Freud’s idea that early childhood experiences subconsciously shape our adult personality. Judith Butler, author of Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (1990), argues that children are all initially intimately connected to their mothers as the primary sources of sustenance and nurturing. But then boy children are pulled away from their mothers and expected to attach to their fathers. This separation anxiety becomes a psychosis in which the mother is framed as the source of rejection and that anger is levied at all women. In addition, since the separation was not boys’ choice, the desire to control others choice becomes a subconscious mandate.

It’s not a stretch to guess that Trump has serious issues with regard to his Scottish mother, Mary Anne, as Putin likely does with his factory worker mom, Maria. On the other side, Joe Biden seems to have a long and loving relationship with his mother until her death in 2010 at 92. Is understanding why so many men are invested in patriarchal control (and why others seem less so) as simple as understanding the separation anxieties they feel toward their mothers? It would explain why the so many men take a dim view of therapy. If therapy can repair early childhood trauma, what’s left for the misogynist? Being a god is much more affirming than just being a human being.

Pyscho-babble aside, the old strategy of politely asking men not to oppress women and girls in every single aspect of society and phase of life, from the devaluing of female babies to the invisibility of older women, is not working. Until we can fix men’s fragile minds, there might have to be some shit that gets set on fire. It’s worked in the past.

Cancelling White Fragility: Can Progressives Get an Assist from Madison Avenue?

May 13, 2021

You gotta admit, “Make America Great Again” was a brilliant slogan. Besides doubling as a handy acronym (MAGA!), it was a “politically correct” way of masking the deep racism of Trump supporters who wanted to make America Jim Crow America again. Since Trump left office, Trump supporters in 47 states have introduced or passed voter suppression laws. (Shout out to my ass backwards home state, Georgia!) MAGA fit on hats, t-shirts, and hashtags and immediately conveyed where the supporter stood on transgender bathrooms, racial equity, and the 2020 election. Who came up with this perfect (if fascistic) slogan?

Speaking of “political correctness,” there’s a perfect example of how the left has a language problem. All political correctness is is an attempt to be mindful of the way words and practices marginalize and hurt people in our community. If African-Americans what to be referred to as people of color instead of “colored people,” show them the basic respect of doing it without whining. Those folks have been through some shit! But truth be told, nobody wants to be “corrected.” Ugh. And bothered about getting the he/she thing wrong? A recent study found that nearly 42% of non-binary and transgender youth attempted suicide. By just using a person’s preferred pronoun, you might save a life. Suck it up, snowflake! But there is a cottage industry dedicated to bitching about political correctness as if it was some grand conspiracy to suppress your first amendment right to be an asshole. Your constitutional right to be an asshole remains sacred and defended by both the Supreme Court and the liberal ACLU.

The progressive movement is full of terms, phrases, and slogans that get at the depth of inequity in our society and are intended to start conversations and affect change to transform America into a nation where there truly is liberty and justice for all. But these turns of phrase also trigger right wing trolls and news networks. Over 4 million people watch white supremacist Tucker Carlson each night. If something bothers him, it becomes an instant internet meme spread far and wide by the “proud” boys that want to make America 1950 again. Some of these slogans (and the responses by people who don’t take the time to understand them) include:

Black Lives Matter (“All lives matter!” – Or as my father tried to tell me, “Black Lives Matter means white lives don’t matter.” And yes, he’s a Trumpie.)

Defund the Police (“These anarchists just want criminals to run free!”)

Toxic Masculinity (“Masculinity built this nation!”)

Implicit Bias (“Don’t tell me I’m biased, I have a black cousin!”)

White Privilege (“I’m not privileged. I lived in a car!”)

Micro-aggression (“It’s MICRO! Get over it, libtard! Jeez, you can’t even make a joke anymore.)

And let’s not forget Hillary Clinton’s 2016 “basket of deplorables” line that became adopted by the not-too-bright Trump base as a badge of honor. If Clinton had tried to be less cutesy and just said, “You could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the cesspool of bigots,” you probably wouldn’t have seen an army of white people with “I’m a bigot!” T-shirts at Trump rallies. (Wait, I may have to rethink that.)

Sometimes the left’s slogans seem as if they were penned by right-wing agent provocateurs. Case in point, ACAB – “All Cops Are Bastards.” Now I understand that provocative slogan is meant to highlight the tendency in the policing world to prevent officers from addressing the systemic racism that has left countless George Floyd’s dead in the streets. (Police unions, I’m looking at you.) But I personally know many police officers, including BIPOC police officers, who desperately want to infuse policing with social justice values. Let’s not forget that several police officers testified for the prosecution in the trial of George Floyd’s uniformed killer. Are all black cops bastards? Are are all women cops bastards? The average woman who sees a cop carting off the man who assaulted her probably doesn’t spray paint ACAB on local businesses.

Anecdote: In 1987, my roommate and I called 911 in Atlanta. Yuppie ninjas had kicked in our apartment door and we’re going to attack us with num-chucks. Our call the the police scared them off but I had to turn off the music we were blasting before the cops arrived; NWA’s “Fuck the Police.” True story.

Perhaps the best example of this is the term, white fragility, which derives from Robin DiAngleo’s 2018 book, White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism. The book is simply about the defensiveness that white people express when you alert them to the reality of racism. They say silly things, like “I was raised to be colorblind” (You weren’t) and “I can’t be racist, I voted for Obama! (You can). The innovative text is required reading in my Diversity class and has sparked insightful discussions among both white and non-white students. It was a best seller among people who read books and rose back to the top of the charts during the churning summer of 2020.

However, bring up the concept of white fragility to white people who haven’t read the book or have no interest in reading any book about racism, and you get a lot of, well, fragility. For easy reference, watch the June 2020 interview DiAngelo did with Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show. A seemingly interested Fallon allows DiAngelo to explain that all she is trying to do is ask white people to act with humility and grace and address their own internalized white supremacy. The YouTube video’s 27,000 downvotes sets up the 14,000 comments by fragile white people, accusing DiAngleo of racism herself. “The left: Let’s solve racism with more racism” (John Spinelli) “If ‘self-hatred’ was a person, it’d be Robin DiAngelo” (Jack) “This is what happens when you make a career out of gaslighting.” (SWJobson) Each comment perfectly proves DiAngelo’s central thesis about white fragility. Since “fragility” is feminized in our culture, there’s a macho pushback against it. The term “fragility” literally causes men to become fragile.

The “anti-woke” crowd is pretty good with staying on point. From “Drain the swamp!” to “Stop the steal,” it feels like the right has a high-power Madison Avenue team coining their slogans. What if the left had their own progressive Don Draper, instead of the Antifa Darren Stevens is who pens confrontational taglines on cardboard signs? (How about MCAB? Many Cops Are Bastards! Or what about BLMT? Black Lives Matter, Too!) I mean, whatever intern came up with “Stop Asian Hate” should be run out of the slogan business. “What have you got on your resume? Stop Asian hate. So just who do Asians hate and why should they stop? Come back kid when you’ve got something that makes sense.”

I generally loathe advertising, but we’re in a rut here. It’s time to rebrand white fragility. Maybe “I’m Not A Racist Freak Out Syndrome.” Or how about, “I’m Not A Racist But Those People Scare Me Dysphoria.” I don’t know. I’m a sociologist, not a marketing director. We got close to it with “Pro Choice,” but they beat our pants off with “Pro Life.” There’s gotta be better verbiage that doesn’t drive every Karen and Tucker into a “That’s reverse racism!!” spasm-fest.

The reality is these issues are more complex than a handy slogan could capture. They are nuanced and contextual and all the things that scare superficial thinkers that still think “pro-black” means “anti-white.” In my trainings, we get into the weeds, but it takes me an hour just to define the terms. You can’t get all the bullet points of my training on internalized white supremacy on a street banner let alone a bumpersticker.

So let’s pass the beanie and take up a collection to hire a radical marketing genius to help make America not horrible again.

If you’d like to continue this conversation, you can find me here: www.randyblazak.com

The Wisdom of Double Nickels: On Turning 55

February 22, 2019

Sometimes I think the whole thing about the “wisdom of our elders” is a lot of poppycock to make the aged feel better about their bodies sputtering out. Maybe among native tribal people, the old lady who remembered what plants not to eat was a needed resource, but now there’s an app for that. Sometimes I feel completely clueless in this fast moving culture. (So I can’t call myself an “ally,” right?) And then I see these Generation Z kids from Parkland, or the ones marching for the environment in Europe today, who seem straight up on top of it. What wisdom do I have to offer them?

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I turned 55 this week. I was born in February 1964 as Beatlemania tried to heal the nation after the JFK assassination. (I was a 6 month old fetus on that dark day.) I was born into the light of the 60s, 1964 being a year when the world turned on a Roosevelt dime. I had a great birthday that started with my 4-year-old singing “Happy Birthday” to me, and included a rare sunny Portland winter day, two lectures on white collar crime, an interview with CNN about women escaping ISIS, an amazing concert by my old college friend Amy Ray (also born in 1964) and ending with a nightcap with my beautiful wife in our favorite local bar. What started in 1964 with “I Want to Hold Your Hand” ended with “Life is good but I want to go to bed.”

What kernel of wisdom should be gleaned from all that in-between? What have I learned in those over 20,000 days? Lots, especially about race, gender, and the privilege I hold. But there is a newer insight born of the news cycle that I think my younger friends don’t know yet.

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The Jussie Smollett story is heartbreaking. Lying about being a victim of hate crime to advance your career hurts every single legitimate victim of hate. The incident on the Washington mall with the Native American protestor and the MAGA-wearing hat boys was confusing. Those kids seemed like entitled little pricks. Here in Portland there is a scandal involving a police officer who was texting the leader of an alt-right group which has been frustrating. It sure seems like the cops were cozying up to the fascists.

Not so fast. Just not so fast to any news story. People were CONVINCED Smollett was an actual victim. They were convinced the MAGA kids were harassing the Native elder. Here in Portland they are convinced the police are in bed with Neo-Nazis. There is a rush to judgment when a news story fits our pre-existing narrative. It’s proof! We’re right! Just click this link!

So at 55, I’m pledging to reserving judgment until all the facts are in, even if it reduces the ammo for my side. My radical take on things will survive even if Smollett lied about his attack, the MAGA kids were not being malicious to that Native American, and the Portland officer was just conducting standard crowd control procedures. (He also texted an antifa protestor – gasp!) 

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Portland recently had another little drama with the city council deciding whether or not to stay on the Joint Terrorism Task Force. The JTTF emerged after 9/11 as a way for local and county law enforcement to have a relationship with the FBI on terrorism issues. The city has been on and off it depending on the political winds of the day. The task force doesn’t have a lot of success to boast about. There was a 2010 arrest of a Muslim kid who had been lured into a fake plot to blow up a downtown Christmas tree lighting. Last year a former FBI investigator testified to city council that the JTTF infringes on civil liberties, including of Muslim Americans. Seems like a mess.

A local paper called me for my opinion and I said I had no position on the matter, contrary to my left-wing and right-wing community members who definitely have an opinion. I just made the case that the “threat (of white extremism) is real and the Northwest has long been a center for that thinking. … There is a value in keeping the channels of communication open (between agencies) about what the real threat is.” But I was clear that I had no official position on Portland’s place on the JJTF. Well, that didn’t stop a city commissioner from claiming that I endorsed the city staying on the JTTF. So more kerfuffle for me! Yeah! There are already a host of left-wing activists who are convinced I’m a police collaborator. I had to laugh.

My seasoned perspective is now to resist the temptation to jump into the fight, even when it feels like I am being forced to pick a side. I’m a social scientist. We like as much data as possible before we decide there if is evidence to demonstrate support for a theory. Scientists never prove anything. Never. We know reality is complexity and the only certainty is chaos. The simplistic “us vs. them” narratives on the left and right make for great protest posters, but the truth is that we’re all in this mess together. It’s worth taking a beat to get all the facts. Anyone who is 100% cocksure of their position is a fool. I’m a radical agnostic. I defend my right to say that I don’t know.

Older and wiser but still radical. I still want to transform the misogynistic, ableist, white supremacist foundation of all reality as we know it. But I’m going to lay back a bit and let the fuller picture to come in to focus. I still have time for that. When I was younger I thought anyone who didn’t immediately man the barricades was an enemy. There is another route to the same goal. Take a breath.

 

Raising Honest Children in the Age of Trump

January 25, 2019

As a first-time parent it’s been quite the trip watching my daughter’s cognitive development. I started charting it here on this blog but, at almost four-and-a-half, it’s just accelerated to a rate that seems impossible to chart. Last week she appropriately used air quotes and I felt like I had completed my job as a sarcastic father. She’s on her own. I’m quite confident I could drop her off at a faculty cocktail party and she’d be fine. She recently told me, “We don’t say that we hate Donald Trump. We say we don’t like him very much.” Touché, Cozy. Touché.

Which is why part of this stage of development has a troubling facet. Lying. Nothing too big, but she’ll say she washed her hands after going potty and they are perfectly dry. (A tell-tale sign.) Or I’ll ask if she’s picked up her toys and she’ll say yes and I’ll point out all her toys on the floor and she’ll proclaim, “I was just kidding!”

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I’m well aware this is normal for a little kid but biography occurs in the context of history and at the moment the free world is being led by one of the biggest liars in history. The challenge of raising a good child in the era of the bad president will surely be the stuff of many child psychology books to come. How can we bring our children up as decent honest people in the shadow of one of the most loathsome, dishonest, and buffoonish bullies to ever wrap himself in a flag? Even MAGA hat wearing parents must have to tell their kids, “Now just because the president does/says that doesn’t mean you can.” (Although there are probably a few MAGA dads that have said, “Grab ‘em by the pussy, son.”)

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The lies of Donald J. Trump are too voluminous to count. He just makes stuff up on the spot because it sounds good. Just ask him how much his useless vanity wall will cost. It’s something we’ve all done occasionally. We’ve inflated details in a story or thrown out numbers we weren’t 100% sure were accurate. “Yeah, 75 percent of people who vote Republican have never eaten sushi.” Sounds right. But Trump does it every single day. Fact checkers have died of fatigue.

Which makes it harder to convey the importance of truth-telling to our children. In this post-factual world full of massive whoppers (“Global warming is a Chinese hoax!”), fibs and white lies seem almost cute. Truth is a sliding scale. Stephen Colbert coined the term “truthiness” in 2005, but to raise a child in a daily onslaught of “alternative facts” seems impossible. There’s an “If you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em”” devil on my shoulder that wants to tell my daughter, “Kid, lie your ass off if it gets you what you want. Every one else probably is doing it.”

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Trump is the absolute worst role model for anyone, especially children. He’s a spoiled rich kid who throws tantrums when he doesn’t get what he wants. He lies pathologically. He bullies relentlessly. And he lives on buckets of KFC and gallons of Diet Coke. I saw him when I was in DC last month in the back of his limo heading towards the White House. I swear he had an Egg McMuffin hanging from his gullet. I haven’t heard what he’s done with Michelle Obama’s vegetable garden but I’m willing to bet that when he’s dragged off the property by the FBI, the CSI team will be digging it up. 

The good news is outside his weird cult of MAGA loyalists, Trump is the perfect boogyman. If I catch Cozy in a lie, I whip out the Donald. “Cozy, you told me you turned off the TV and you didn’t. You know who lies like that? Donald Trump.” The look of horror on her face. It’s also good at dinner time. “You want ice cream for dinner? Do you want to look like Donald Trump?” She races for the carrots. There was a boy who pushed her in her pre-school. I told her to tell him to stop acting like Donald Trump. It shut that shit down.

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I have to wonder about this generation of youth growing up under the specter of the Orange Menace. Whether or not those MAGA hat wearing prep school pricks from Covington Catholic were harassing a Native American elder, they were at a rally to end reproductive choice for women and girls in America (and caught on camera making jokes about rape, and harassing girls, and appearing in blackface at an earlier basketball game). The white parents couldn’t defend them fast enough. (The lead prick’s mother blaming the whole thing on “black Muslims.”) Is this the fate of Generation Z? Or are they the kids from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School taking to the streets to end gun violence? I’ll send Cozy off with them.

Obviously,  Trump’s otherwise occupied parents never told him the story of The Little Boy Who Cried Wolf, but we tell it in our house. We might have a president than believes science is a hoax, journalism is “fake news,” and math is whatever numbers happen to fall out you mouth, but here the ideals of the Enlightenment still matter and this kid will value the truth. “Don’t be like Trump, kids!”

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