Equity is another word for fairness (image credit: King County)

What is a liberal? Fairness is my core value

Liberals should talk about our values. And we should start with fairness.

Equity is another word for fairness (image credit: King County)

Equity is another word for fairness (image credit: King County)

Over the last few years, I’ve read liberals saying that we need to talk about our values more openly, to own them, to assert that they are just as much American values as conservative values are. But I’ve never been comfortable talking about my values. Partly that’s because I’m an introvert. Partly because sharing such important stuff about myself feels a bit like everyone’s nightmare of showing up to give a presentation and realizing you’re naked before the crowd. And partly it’s because some of my values have shifted over the years as I’ve matured and experienced more of life, and I’m sure that some of them will shift again in the future.

But since Donald’s election I’ve been thinking about my values a lot. I’ve already chosen to fight for my values via my writing, and I’m prepared to fight for my values by putting my personal safety on the line if need be. So I figured that, if I’m going to be willing to risk my career or my physical well-being, I’d better be damned sure I know what my values are.

After a great deal of thought, I’ve finally realized what my core value is. The one value that matters more to me than any other. The one value against which all my other values are weighed, and from which most of my values spring. The one value with which I weigh the character of everyone I encounter.

Fairness. Continue reading

Not merely with or beside you, but for you.

I wore a safety pin on my shirt today

Wearing a safety pin is a mark of “I will protect you with my own body if necessary.” Wearing one is a responsibility, not a symbol of solidarity.

Not merely with or beside you, but for you.

Not merely with or beside you, but for you.

I wore a safety pin on my shirt today.

I thought long and deep about whether that was a good idea or not.

Wearing a safety pin on my shirt means that I’m self-identifying as a safe person – someone whom anyone can approach, for any reason, and expect help, without question or judgement. It means that, if I see bullying or bigotry or abuse, I’m obligating myself to step in if asked, to get involved on behalf of the victim or victims.

But it also means that I have to give anyone I’m with fair notice that I might have to put our plans on hold to help a stranger. And it means that I might get threatened or even seriously injured in the process of assisting someone who needed help. Continue reading

Image Credit: Chicago Tribune

You have to be OK with a lot of awful stuff to vote for Donald Trump

You don’t have to believe everything Donald Trump does to vote for him, but you do have to be OK with everything he believes and everything he’s done.

Image Credit: DiversityInc.com

Image Credit: DiversityInc.com

You don’t have to be a liar to vote for Donald Trump, you just have to be ok with lying.

You don’t have to be a hypocrite to vote for Donald Trump, you just have to be ok with hypocrisy.

You don’t have to enjoy mocking the disabled to vote for Donald Trump, you just have to be ok with other people mocking the disabled.

You don’t have to be a narcissist to vote for Donald Trump, you just have to be ok with narcissism.

You don’t have to be an adulterer to vote for Donald Trump, you just have to be ok with adultery.

You don’t have to be a misogynist to vote for Donald Trump, you just have to be ok with misogyny.

You don’t have to be a sexual assaulter to vote for Donald Trump, you just have to be ok with sexual assault. Continue reading

Never forget…what, exactly?

Yesterday, Big Think posted an interesting collection of Gallup Poll results, along with some commentary: Obama Actually Made America Great Again. Here’s the Data. To hear the rabidly irrational Obama opposition on today, of all days, I can only say that these are funny numbers to describe how Obama has ruined America in eight years.

What’s truly deplorable is that, of all the ways Bush (with a boost from Dems) ruined America Continue reading

Image Credit:Nigel Parry for CNN

Donald Trump is a fascist, Part Eight

Whether Donald Trump is a full-fledged fascist or “merely” a proto-fascist depends on which historian’s definition of fascism you prefer. Part eight of a series.

Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention.

Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention.

Click here for all the other parts of this series

In conclusion – why Donald Trump is a fascist

This analysis has examined seven different definitions of fascism and how Trump’s statements match the various characteristics of each. And the conclusions have varied significantly depending on the specifics of the definition. If we look at each definition, here’s how the conclusions ranged:

  1. Derived from “The History of Fascism and Nazism” class, spring 1994. Conclusion: Trump is almost certainly a full fascist
  2. Fascism according to Stanley G. Payne’s 13 characteristics. Conclusion: Trump is probably not a proto-fascist
  3. Fascism according to Roger Griffin’s “fascist minimum” definition. Conclusion: Trump is almost certainly a proto-fascist and probably a full fascist
  4. Fascism according to Kevin Passmore’s definition. Conclusion: Trump is probably a proto-fascist
  5. Fascism according to Emilio Gentile’s ten characteristics. Conclusion: Trump is probably not a proto-fascist
  6. Fascism according to Robert Paxton’s definition. Conclusion: Trump is almost certainly a proto-fascist and is on a path to become a full fascist if he can take power and retain it
  7. Fascism according to Umberto Eco’s 14 characteristics of Ur-Fascism. Conclusion: Trump is very likely a fascist

Of the seven definitions, two result in a strong conclusion that Trump is a full fascist, two more conclude that Trump is most likely a proto-fascist and may be a full fascist, one concludes that Trump is probably a proto-fascist, and two that Trump is probably not even a proto-fascist, never mind a full fascist.

So why have I concluded so strongly that Trump is a fascist when the experts’ own definitions vary so much? Continue reading

Trump-Brownshirts

Donald Trump is a fascist, Part Seven

Whether Donald Trump is a full-fledged fascist or “merely” a proto-fascist depends on which historian’s definition of fascism you prefer. Part seven of a series.

Trump-BrownshirtsClick here for all the other parts of this series

Fascism according to Umberto Eco

Umberto Eco was an Italian novelist and public intellectual who, in the June 22, 1995 issue of the New York Review of Books, wrote an essay titled “Ur-fascism” (eternal fascism) in which he discussed fascism in general and identified fascism’s characteristics.

In his essay, he writes that it would be difficult for “the totalitarian governments that ruled Europe” prior to World War II to “reappear in the same form in different historical circumstances.” In this way Eco agrees with the many historians who have claimed that fascism was essentially unique to the period between World Wars I and II. But Eco thinks that “behind a regime and its ideology there is always a way of thinking and feeling, a group of cultural habits, of obscure instincts and unfathomable drives.” He calls fascism a “fuzzy totalitarianism, a collage of different philosophical and political ideas, a beehive of contradictions” that was the result of “political and ideological discombobulation.” To Eco, “fascism was philosophically out of joint, but emotionally it was firmly fastened to some archetypal foundations.” Continue reading

Donald Trump, Public Idiot

Donald Trump is a fascist, Part Six

Whether Donald Trump is a full-fledged fascist or “merely” a proto-fascist depends on which historian’s definition of fascism you prefer. Part six of a series.

trump-fists-upClick here for all the other parts of this series

Fascism according to Robert Paxton

In his 2004 book, “The Anatomy of Fascism,” historian Robert Paxton defines fascism as follows:

A form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion. (from Wikipedia)

Trump has tapped into a “preoccupation with community decline, humiliation or victimhood” in the American middle class, especially white, blue-collar workers. Trump and his vice-presidential candidate, Mike Pence, are building a movement of purity that rolls back gay marriage and claims to promote “traditional” American and Christian values, but it’s as yet unclear whether this “compensatory cult” will be one of unity and energy as described by Paxton. Continue reading

Image Credit: Getty

Donald Trump is a fascist, Part Five

Whether Donald Trump is a full-fledged fascist or “merely” a proto-fascist depends on which historian’s definition of fascism you prefer. Part five of a series.

trump-praise-the-lordClick here for all the other parts of this series

Fascism according to Emilio Gentile

Gentile is an Italian historian who considers fascism to be a form of political religion. The ten characteristics of fascism that he has identified apply to movements rather than individuals, so it’s difficult to apply them to any single individual like Donald Trump. In addition, most of Gentile’s characteristics have multiple sub-elements, making a determination of whether or not an individual qualifies as a fascist even more complicated. And several of his characteristics only apply after a fascist movement has taken power.

Given these complications, it’s reasonable to expect that comparing Trump to Gentile’s list of characteristics will result in fewer strong matches to Trump’s policy statements and a lower confidence in any conclusions we draw from Gentile’s characteristics. Continue reading

trump-fists-up

Donald Trump is a fascist, Part Four

Whether Donald Trump is a full-fledged fascist or “merely” a proto-fascist depends on which historian’s definition of fascism you prefer. Part four of a series.

FORT WORTH, TX - FEBRUARY 26:  Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a rally at the Fort Worth Convention Center on February 26, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas. Trump is campaigning in Texas, days ahead of the Super Tuesday primary.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

FORT WORTH, TX – FEBRUARY 26: (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Click here for all the other parts of this series

Fascism according to Kevin Passmore

Cardiff University’s Kevin Passmore developed another definition of fascism for his book “Fascism: A Very Short Introduction.” The entire definition is available in Passmore’s book and at Wikipedia, but the most important parts are addressed below.

Fascism is a set of ideologies and practices that seeks to place the nation, defined in exclusive biological, cultural, and/or historical terms, above all other sources of loyalty, and to create a mobilized national community.

Trump’s rhetoric is intended to appeal to a definition of national identity that is white and racist. In his speech at the Republican National Convention, Trump said that “We will rescue kids from failing schools by helping their parents send them to a safe school of their choice,” which is coded racist rhetoric as well. Note that Trump didn’t contrast “failing” with succeeding, but rather “safe.” The implication is that failing schools are dangerous and that safe schools are succeeding. And where are most “failing” and dangerous schools located? In minority neighborhoods and in urban areas. His anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim positions are similarly coded to appeal to whites who are afraid of brown people moving into their neighborhoods. Continue reading

Image Credit:Nigel Parry for CNN

Donald Trump is a fascist, Part Three

Whether Donald Trump is a full-fledged fascist or “merely” a proto-fascist depends on which historian’s definition of fascism you prefer. Part three of a series.

trump-sloganClick here for all the other parts of this series

Fascism according to Roger Griffin

Roger Griffin, historian and author of “The Nature of Fascism” and numerous other fascism-related books in the 1990s and 2000s, has defined fascism as follows:

Fascism is a political ideology whose mythic core in its various permutations is a palingenetic form of populist ultra nationalism.(from “The Palingenetic Core of Fascist Ideology,” a chapter in A. Campi (Ed.), Che cos’è il fascismo? Interpretazioni e prospecttive di richerche (pp. 97-122). Rome: Ideazione editrice, 2003., via libraryofsocialscience.com)

This statement is Griffin’s attempt to create an objective definition of a “fascist minimum,” the minimum criteria that all fascisms share. Unfortunately, this single sentence is so nuanced and uses enough academic language that it takes Griffin several pages to explain what it means. Continue reading

Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention.

Donald Trump is a fascist, Part Two

Whether Donald Trump is a full-fledged fascist or “merely” a proto-fascist depends on which historian’s definition of fascism you prefer. Part two of a series.

Donald Trump, Public IdiotClick here for all the other parts of this series

Fascism according to Stanley G. Payne

Stanley Payne is a historian from the University of Wisconsin and the author of “Fascism: Comparison and Definition.” He has generated a list of 13 characteristics that he thinks are necessary for a political movement or ideology to be fascist, and he classified them into three groups – ideology and goals, negations, and style/organization.

  • Espousal of an idealist, vitalist, and voluntaristic philosophy, normally involving the attempt to realize a new modern, self-determined, and secular culture
  • Creation of a new nationalist authoritarian state not based on traditional principles or models
  • Organization of a new highly regulated, multiclass, integrated national economic structure, whether called national corporatist, national socialist, or national syndicalist
  • Positive evaluation and use of, or willingness to use violence and war
  • The goal of empire, expansion, or a radical change in the nation’s relationship with other powers

Trump shows aspects of the first characteristic in that he supports an idealistic philosophy in pursuit of a new modern and self-determined culture that is rooted in the idea of American exceptionalism. Voluntarism is “a theory that conceives will to be the dominant factor in experience or in the world,” and while Trump’s language has echos of the national and personal ambition and aggression that comes with the concept of Will to Power as described by Nietzche, Trump hasn’t explicitly called for his supporters to exert their will upon the nation to change it. Continue reading

Donald Trump

Donald Trump is a fascist, Part One

Whether Donald Trump is a full-fledged fascist or “merely” a proto-fascist depends on which historian’s definition of fascism you prefer. Part one of a series.

Donald Trump announces his candidacy for  president during a rally at his Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, New York, on Tuesday June 16, 2015. Mr. Trump also announced the release of a financial statement that he says denotes a personal net worth of over 8 billion dollars.

Donald Trump announces his candidacy for president during a rally at his Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, New York, on Tuesday June 16, 2015.

Click here for all the other parts of this series

In 1994, I took a class titled “The History of Fascism and Nazism.” It remains one of the most profound educational experiences of my life, and ever since then I have been extremely careful about referring to someone as a Nazi. In a 2010 post about my experiences in this class, I wrote

This class taught me that some things are just so bad, so legitimately evil, that making bullshit comparisons cheapens that evil. And I cannot stand by and let true, legitimate evil be cheapened. As a result, if I ever use the word “Nazi,” you know I mean it and I’m not joking.

And as my record here at S&R has shown, I have taken many people to task for misusing references to the Nazis (and, more recently, to fascism in general).

The class also taught me to be on the lookout for the rise of fascism in the United States, and impressed upon me an ethical responsibility to identify fascism if I ever saw it. I see fascism in the candidacy and person of Donald Trump.

Let me be perfectly clear, so there is no possibility of confusion about where I stand on this point: Donald Trump is a fascist.

This eight part essay explains how I have reached this conclusion, based first on what I learned from my “History of Fascism and Nazism” class in 1994, followed by an investigation of historians’ more recent expert opinions on what characteristics define fascism. Continue reading

atlanta march bernie

Do the right thing: Hillary’s “southern firewall” is about to vanish

atlanta march bernie

photo courtesy of demotix.com

Dear Ta-Nehisi Coates: Senator Bernie Sanders is an honest man.

If you ask him a direct question, he will answer. If he doesn’t know, he will admit that he doesn’t know. He will tell you he wants to raise taxes. He will tell you he does not want to fight a war in the middle east. These are things other politicians will never admit, even if they are true, because in modern American political culture, the prevailing wisdom is that it is better to lie to the voters and win under false pretenses than to speak an unpopular truth and lose. Continue reading

black lives matter

Racism: Update for white Christians

black lives matterDuring the epidemic of denial regarding the Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, accurately described as PTSD-like by my friend Sam, the genius editorialist Ta-Nahisi Coates published an open letter to his son, in which he struggles with the violent and psychologically disturbed position of so-called “white” people regarding “non-white” people, and the consequences of that position. It reads like a letter he wishes someone had sent him during his youth, surviving the streets of Baltimore.

His letter is an apology, both for his personal inability to protect his son from the violence which his son will surely endure solely because of his “non-white” status, and for his failure as a man and a leader to bring about the change necessary to give “non-white” people a level playing field. He lays out the reasons for his failure in painfully accurate terms. The primary culprit is the insular nature of white privilege, the illusion of normalcy which allows “white” people to pretend that “non-white” people do not exist, thereby rendering their suffering invisible. Continue reading

PTSD-Confederate-Flag

Confederate PTSD: Curing the South

PTSD-Confederate-FlagWhen I was in graduate school at Iowa State in the late 1980s I hit a period, during my second year, where a little homesickness set in. So I did something to remind myself of the place and people I was missing: I bought a Confederate flag and affixed it to my desk in the office, which I shared with 10-15 other MA students.

Some of my colleagues were, I think, appalled, and it was suggested that this was a symbol of slavery and racism. No, I said. I’m not a racist – it’s simply a reminder of home. I don’t think I used the word “heritage,” but from the outside what I was saying probably sounded exactly like what defenders of the flag are saying today.

As irony would have it, at the time I was dating a black woman. Continue reading

Racism

Racism: death of a nation

RacismWhite people: Don’t get defensive. I was brought up in the South. I know what it’s like. A bunch of grown men, pillars of the community, get together around the grill, maybe at the volunteer fire station, maybe at church. These are your neighbors, people you know and respect. You want them to like you. Then one of them tells a racist joke and they all laugh. So you laugh too. What’s the matter, boy, can’t you take a joke?

My public elementary school was 100% white. The Baptist Church where I was baptized was 99.9% white. One time a local boy married a negress (CRINGE) and it was a big scandal. They don’t come around much anymore. Everyone is happier this way I suppose, although his folks are a mite touchy about it, so it’s best if you don’t mention it. They can’t help what their boy did I reckon. Kids these days got no moral fiber. Continue reading

Racist thugs on Paris subway platform do not represent Chelsea FC supporters: #ktbffh

Pick a football site, any football site. Right now the raging topic of discussion is the abominably racist behavior of some Chelsea fans on a Paris subway platform in advance of the club’s Champions League Round of 16 match vs. Paris St. Germaine yesterday. What the heck, try The Guardian.

Many of you know that I’m a Chelsea supporter. And if you know football, you know that the Blues have a history. Their legendary hooligans, the Headhunters, rated their own chapter in How Soccer Explains the World, and if you go back a few decades you’ll learn that once upon a time the racism infesting the club’s fan culture was so vile that they abused their own black player. Continue reading

CATEGORY: CrimeCorruption

The US prison system: America’s contemporary shame

by David Lambert

For over 300 years, slavery was a banality in America, blending into everyday life seamlessly and uneventfully. Despite how difficult it is for us to imagine a society in which owning, torturing, and exploiting other humans based on skin color was condoned, the truth is that for millions of decent Americans, slavery was simply not something to get worked up over. This should disturb us. It is easy to judge the past for its callousness. What’s harder is coming to term with our present travesties.

So with that in mind, what is it about contemporary America that will cause future generations to shake their heads in disgust? Outlandish military spending? Factory farming animals? These are possibilities, but there is one issue that stands out in its absurdity and cruelty: America’s prison system. Here is why. Continue reading

Journalism

Washington Post ed board to stop using racist NFL team nickname. FINALLY. But what about the sports dept?

Two decades ago the WaPo condemned the use of “Redskins.” A generation later, by god they’re doing something about it. Sorta.

Way back in 1992 the Washington Post concluded that “the time-hallowed name bestowed upon the local National Football League champions — the Redskins — is really pretty offensive.” (Emphasis mine.)

A rough estimate based on occurrences of “redskin” in a WaPo site search going back to 2005 suggests that they have since deployed the offensive term ~83,000 times.

Today they announced they will no longer use the term. By “they,” I mean the editorial board. The news and sports divisions will carry on being pretty offensive.

Small victories are better than none at all, huh?

On the one hand, it’s nice to see someone as influential as the Post ed board doing the right thing. On the other hand, well, how many of you take 22 years – more than a goddamned generation – to stop doing something once you conclude that it’s wrong? They wrote that piece when George Bush – the Elder – was still president. Continue reading