Friday, November 16, 2018

Here we go again, Albany edition

The Bishop of Albany, who is remarkably named Love, refuses to accept the results of General Convention and the resolution B012. To remind you, this was widely viewed as a compromise on the issue of same sex marriages.  As the ENS described it,
The resolution provides for:
  • Giving rectors or clergy in charge of a congregation the ability to provide access to the trial use of the marriage rites for same-sex and opposite-sex couples. Resolution A054-2015 and the original version of B012 said that clergy could only use the rites under the direction of their bishop.
  • Requiring that, if a bishop “holds a theological position that does not embrace marriage for same-sex couples,” he or she may invite another bishop, if necessary, to provide “pastoral support” to any couple desiring to use the rites, as well as to the clergy member and congregation involved. In any case, an outside bishop must be asked to take requests for remarriage if either member of the couple is divorced to fulfill a canonical requirement that applies to opposite-sex couples.
  • Continuing trial use of the rites until the completion of the next comprehensive revision of the Book of Common Prayer
Of course, no priest or parish can be required to marry LGBT people,  or indeed anyone else.  But for those who want to , they will be able to.  Of the 100 dioceses in the US Episcopal Church, this really applies to the 8 holdouts, those few bishops who are opposed to same sex couples marrying in the church.  Seven of those bishops have indicated that they will live within these rules, and their choices range from a temporary and limited role for a fellow Bishop, to refusing to have anything to do with the inclusive parishes (except presumably accept their money).  But still, progress, particularly for gay people yearning to be recognized in their faith community, and cover for the bishops who don't have to have anything to do with them.

And then there's Bishop Love of Albany NY.  He released a letter refusing to allow ANY LGBT people marriage in his Diocese, resolution or no resolution.  As the Episcopal Cafe notes, this is a direct challenge to the authority of convention.

The letter is hard and hurtful.  He uses the term "same sex attracted" which is the conservative's current favorite in their attempt to deny our lived reality and make us into a sickness.  (I wrote years ago here about the effort to make us a pathology, rather than a normal human variant.)

Bishop Love writes,

The fact that some in today’s sexually confused society (to include 5 of the 9 U.S. Supreme Court Justices in2015) may have broadened their understanding of marriage to be more inclusive, allowing for same-sex marriages, doesn’t mean that God, “the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth”(BCP 96) has changed His mind.....B012 by its very intent of making liturgies available for same-sex marriages, (while perhaps well intended) is in fact doing a great disservice and injustice to our gay and lesbian Brothers and Sisters in Christ, by leading them to believe that God gives his blessing to the sharing of sexual intimacy within a same-sex relationship

There is the usual citation of Levitical and Pauline clobber passages, and he defines us as distorted and unnatural, struggling with this apparent illness of "same sex attraction". And there are threats:
There are many in the Diocese of Albany who have made it clear that they will not stand for such false teaching or actions and will leave – thus the blood bath and opening of the flood gates that have ravaged other dioceses will come to Albany if B012 is enacted in this Diocese.
Given that Albany and surrounding areas are not backwards or ignorant, I'm going to assume that there are just as many who are outraged at this letter.

And this:
To engage in sexual intimacy outside of marriage between a man and women, is against God’s will and therefore sinful andneeds to be repented of, NOT encouraged or told it is ok.
So, about all those straight couples who are having sex before or outside of marriage--what 's he doing about them?

But what I really want to do is focus on this attempt to minimize our marriages and our relationships.
the Bible does not forbid two people of the same sex from loving one another in the sense of caring deeply or having a strong sense of affection for one another. Strong friendships are a blessing and gift. As already mentioned, God commands us to love one anotherboth male and female. The Bible doesn’t forbid two people of the same sex from sharing a home or life together. It doesn’t forbid two people of the same sex from being legal guardians for oneanother or health care proxies for one another. All God has said through Holy Scripture regarding relations between two men or two women is that they should not enter into sexual relations with one another, and that marriage is reserved for the joining together of a man and woman. 
As we have gone over and over, marriage is not about sex.   Many married couples cannot or choose not to engage in genital behavior, for one thing.  For another, even a sexually active couple spends far more of their time out of bed than in it, and if they are sensible, always working on all the other aspects of relationship that make a marriage.

Moreover, we are not suddenly un-gay when we are not having sex.

Dear Bishop Gene Robinson addressed this lunacy a number of years ago, when the Church of  England decided that gay priests could have civil partnerships as long as they promised to be celibate:
I don't care whether any couple, gay or straight, has sexual intimacy or not. That's not my business. That's their business. But to require someone to give up this piece of one's life, which is so central to who each of us is as a human being, just seems, it seems cruel, and it also, it bespeaks something that I think is not talked about enough around the issue of gay sexuality, which is that gay is not something you do, it's something we are. 
I'm not just gay when I'm making love to my husband. I'm gay all the time. I'm gay right this minute talking to you. And it affects how I relate to the world, how I relate to people. And it comes out of this notion that, you know, it's OK to be gay as long as you don't act on it. 
Well first of all, I don't think that's - I think that statement is disingenuous because the people who say that don't act as all as if it's OK to be gay. But taking them at their word, you know, when do you become gay? I laughingly will say to a more conservative audience, you know, OK, so if it's OK to be gay but not act on it, could two men live together? Could we sleep in the same bedroom if we slept in twin beds? 
Well, could we sleep in the same bed if we didn't touch each other? Well, could we touch each other as long as we only held hands? I mean, at what point, at what point is it gay? Do you know what I mean? It just doesn't make any sense. And it comes out of what I think is a very male understanding of sexuality, which is you're only being sexual when you're making love. 
But the fact of the matter is we are sexual all the time, and this bifurcation of, you know, being gay versus acting on it just seems to me ludicrous at best and cruel at worst.
Indeed.  But here we are, again, with one last holdout.  Bishop Love has drawn a line in the sand, to the dismay of some, but not all, of his flock.  He stands defiant, waiting to see what will happen.  Bishops in neighboring Dioceses offer support to those affected. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry writes that he is considering the implications, and reminds us
As members of the Body of Christ (1 Cor 12), we also are committed to respecting the conscience of those who hold opinions that differ from the official policy of The Episcopal Church regarding the sacrament of marriage. It should be noted that the canons of The Episcopal Church give authority to all members of the clergy to decline to officiate a marriage for reasons of conscience, and Resolution B012 of the 79th General Convention does not change this fact. 
Indeed it is Bishop Love who does not respect the conscience of those who disagree.

PB Curry also says, “In all matters, those of us who have taken vows to obey the doctrine, discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church must act in ways that reflect and uphold the discernment and decisions of the General Convention of the Church.”

Discussions on the Episcopal Cafe suggest that due to differences in New York state law, we aren't going to see an attempt to walk away with the whole Diocese a la Mark Lawrence in South Carolina.  It appears that Bishop Love wants to martyr himself on Title IV, which will bring scandal and bad press on the church he presumes to love.  He should do the honorable thing, and resign.  But I'm betting he wants to be a martyr to the Big Bad Gay Agenda.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Internment camps: we've been here before.

The government is now planning to house immigrant families in "temporary and austere" camps on military bases, including San Diego's Camp Pendleton.  The language is chilling.

Last year, BP and I traveled down highway 395, which winds down the Eastern side of the Sierra Nevada.  We visited an actual temporary and austere internment camp:  Manzanar, one of the camps used to imprison Japanese-Americans, citizens and non-citizens alike, during the second world war.  They were rounded up from their homes and businesses, which they never recovered.  The US Census provided information to help locate them. With only a few possessions in hand, they were shipped to these remote places throughout the west.

Parts of Manzanar have been rebuilt and restored, as a National Historic Site run by the Park Service, so visitors can see exactly what it was like.  It's a grim, sere place, with the cold majesty of the mountains overlooking a plain that is swept by fierce winds. It is hot and dusty in the summer, and frigid cold in the winter.

The facility was hastily built, and the residents lived in humiliating conditions.  Thrown-together buildings with thin, gapped walls.   Shared toilets in an open-roomed latrine with no privacy panels. Barbed wire and guard towers.

Our Japanese compatriots endured this vile and illegal imprisonment for years, as their sons joined the Army to form a highly-decorated unit that suffered enormous losses, to "prove" their loyalty.

In one of its darker moments, the US Supreme Court in found in Korematsu v US that the exclusion orders were justified. This is now recognized to have been "bad law" but is still relied upon today by certain actors.

An investigation was opened by President Jimmy Carter in 1980, leading to the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 that was signed by President Ronald Reagan. The act provided reparations for the survivors, acknowledging  that "The Congress recognizes that, as described by the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Commission, and were motivated largely by racial prejudice, wartime hysteria, and a failure of political leadership...For these fundamental violations of the basic civil liberties and constitutional rights of these individuals of Japanese ancestry, the Congress apologizes on behalf of the Nation... " There was no security justification for the internments, and indeed the government was found to have lied to the Court about evidence of espionage.

The Manzanar Monument, in the cemetery at the camp, is surround by strings of faded paper cranes.  It is formally "Soul Consoling Tower" (that is the meaning of the characters in the front).  The wind whistles past it, sounding like the grieving whispers of history.

It is hard to get there, being quite distant from major centers, but that was the point:  out of sight, out of mind. The drive is worth it, though, because it's a vital part of our history.

I hope that we have not forgotten the lesson of Manzanar, but I fear otherwise.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Facts from the border

This post has been going around Facebook from Michelle Martin, PhD Cal State Fullerton, with actual facts and citations. 

All it takes for evil to win is for good people to do nothing, so raise your voice at what is happening!

There is so much misinformation out there about the Trump administration's new "zero tolerance" policy that requires criminal prosecution, which then warrants the separating of parents and children at the border. Before responding to a post defending this policy, please do your research...As a professor at a local Cal State, I research and write about these issues, so here, I'll make it easier for you:
John Moore/Getty Images
Myth: This is not a new policy and was practiced under Obama and Clinton - FALSE. The policy to separate parents and children is new and was instituted on 4/6/2018. It was the brainchild of John Kelly and Stephen Miller to serve as a deterrent for undocumented immigration, approved by Trump, and adopted by Sessions. Prior administrations detained migrant families, but didn’t have a practice of forcibly separating parents from their children unless the adults were deemed unfit.

Myth: This is the only way to deter undocumented immigration - FALSE. Annual trends show that arrests for undocumented entry are at a 46 year low, and undocumented crossings dropped in 2007, with a net loss (more people leaving than arriving). Deportations have increased steadily though (spiking in 1996 and more recently), because several laws that were passed since 1996 have made it legally more difficult to gain legal status for people already here, and thus increased their deportations (I address this later under the myth that it's the Democrats' fault). What we mostly have now are people crossing the border illegally because they've already been hired by a US company, or because they are seeking political asylum. Economic migrants come to this country because our country has kept the demand going. But again, many of these people impacted by Trump's "zero tolerance" policy appear to be political asylum-seekers.

Myth: Most of the people coming across the border are just trying to take advantage of our country by taking our jobs - FALSE. Most of the parents who have been impacted by Trump's "zero tolerance" policy have presented themselves as political asylum-seekers at a U.S. port-of-entry, from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Rather than processing their claims, they have been taken into custody on the spot and had their children ripped from their arms. The ACLU alleges that this practice violates the Asylum Act, and the UN asserts that it violates the UN Treaty on the State of Refugees, one of the few treaties the US has ratified. This is an illegal act on the part of the United States government, not to mention morally and ethically reprehensible.

Myth: We're a country that respects the Rule of Law, and if people break the law, this is what they get - FALSE. We are a country that has an above-ground system of immigration and an underground system. Our government (under both parties) has always been aware that US companies recruit workers in the poorest parts of Mexico for cheap labor, and ICE (and its predecessor INS) has looked the other way because this underground economy benefits our country to the tune of billions of dollars annually. Thus, even though the majority of people crossing the border now are asylum-seekers, those who are economic migrants (migrant workers) likely have been recruited here to do jobs Americans will not do.

Myth: The children have to be separated from their parents because there parents must be arrested and it would be cruel to put children in jail with their parents - FALSE. First, in the case of economic migrants crossing the border illegally, criminal prosecution has not been the legal norm, and families have been kept together at all cost. Also, crossing the border without documentation is a typically a misdemeanor not requiring arrest, but rather a civil proceeding. Additionally, parents who have been detained have historically been detained with their children in ICE "family residential centers," again, for civil processing. The Trump administration's shift in policy is for political purposes only, not legal ones. See p. 18:

Myth: We have rampant fraud in our asylum process the proof of which is the significant increase we have in the number of people applying for asylum. FALSE. The increase in asylum seekers is a direct result of the increase in civil conflict and violence across the globe. While some people may believe that we shouldn't allow any refugees into our country because "it's not our problem," neither our current asylum law, nor our ideological foundation as a country support such an isolationist approach. There is very little evidence to support Sessions' claim that abuse of our asylum-seeking policies is rampant. Also, what Sessions failed to mention is that the majority of asylum seekers are from China, not South of the border. Here is a very fair and balanced assessment of his statements:

Myth: The Democrats caused this, "it's their law." FALSE. Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats caused this, the Trump administration did (although the Republicans could fix this today, and have refused). I believe what this myth refers to is the passage of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, which were both passed under Clinton in 1996. These laws essentially made unauthorized entry into the US a crime (typically a misdemeanor for first-time offenders), but under both Republicans and Democrats, these cases were handled through civil deportation proceedings, not a criminal proceeding, which did not require separation. And again, even in cases where detainment was required, families were always kept together in family residential centers, unless the parents were deemed unfit (as mentioned above). Thus, Trump's assertion that he hates this policy but has no choice but to separate the parents from their children, because the Democrats "gave us this law" is false and nothing more than propaganda designed to compel negotiation on bad policy.

Myth: The parents and children will be reunited shortly, once the parents' court cases are finalized. FALSE. Criminal court is a vastly different beast than civil court proceedings. Also, the children are being processed as unaccompanied minors ("unaccompanied alien children"), which typically means they are sent into the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHS). Under normal circumstances when a child enters the country without his or her parent, ORR attempts to locate a family member within a few weeks, and the child is then released to a family member, or if a family member cannot be located, the child is placed in a residential center (anywhere in the country), or in some cases, foster care. Prior to Trump's new policy, ORR was operating at 95% capacity, and they simply cannot effectively manage the influx of 2000+ children, some as young as 4 months. Also, keep in mind, these are not unaccompanied minor children, they have parents. There is great legal ambiguity on how and even whether the parents will get their children back because we are in uncharted territory right now. According to the ACLU lawsuit (see below), there is currently no easy vehicle for reuniting parents with their children. Additionally, according to a May 2018 report, numerous cases of verbal, physical and sexual abuse were found to have occurred in these residential centers.

Myth: This policy is legal. LIKELY FALSE. The ACLU filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration on 5/6/18, and a recent court ruling denied the government's motion to dismiss the suit. The judge deciding the case stated that the Trump Administration policy is "brutal, offensive, and fails to comport with traditional notions of fair play and decency." The case is moving forward because it was deemed to have legal merit.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

New polling on Same Sex Marriage

Sometimes it's hard to remember that those yelling loudest aren't actually in the majority. 

PRRI reports that support for marriage equality is rising, even amongst conservatives.

Nevertheless, even those religious groups most opposed to same-sex marriage have become more accepting of it over the last five years. Since 2013, opposition to same-sex marriage has dropped 13 percentage points among white evangelical Protestants (from 71% in 2013 to 58% today).5 Over a similar time period, opposition among Mormons has dropped 15 percentage points (from 68% in 2014 to 53% today).
 And like so many changes, this is driven by a generational shift.
A majority (53%) of young white evangelical Protestants favor legalizing same-sex marriage, compared to just one-quarter (25%) of white evangelical seniors. A majority (52%) of young Mormons also believe same-sex marriage should be legal, while only about one-third (32%) of Mormon seniors agree.8 While only 37% of black Protestant seniors favor same-sex marriage, nearly two-thirds (65%) of young black Protestants support it.
This is also hopeful
Americans are broadly supportive of laws that would protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people against discrimination in jobs, public accommodations, and housing. Seven in ten (70%) Americans favor such laws, including more than one-third (35%) who strongly favor them. Fewer than one-quarter (23%) of Americans oppose legal nondiscrimination protections for LGBT Americans.
The journey is far from over but at least the road is getting easier to travel!

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Rest in Peace, dear Ann

I note with sorrow the passing of our own dear Ann Fontaine, Episcopal priest, fierce warrior for justice,  a Friend of Jake's, and founding member of this blog.  Ann died yesterday at home in Oregon, with family. 

Oh my, I can't remember a time when I was a part of the Episco-blogosphere and didn't know Ann.  And my participation extends back 15 years and more! We met IRL only once, at a 2009 meetup of this community at General Convention  but as a facebook friend in more recent years, she was a daily part of my life. She routinely added me to various Episcopal FB groups (which if you think about it, is pretty funny).  Her typical crisp comments and strong opinions always kept a vibrant conversation going!

I was sad when she told us about her lung disease, and awed and humbled by the open and grace-filled way she followed her journey to its conclusion.  Always teaching. What a blessing to us all.

There's a fine memoir at the Episcopal Cafe. 

Leave your memories in the comments. 

We all extend our deepest sympathies to her family.

Friday, February 23, 2018

QOTD: We must love one another or die

There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenseless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

                  WH Auden, Sept 1 1939

Friday, February 9, 2018

Is there a religious exemption for discrimination? Not what you'd think

That's the question, isn't it?  We all know the cake-baking story by now--there's a case before the Supreme Court in which a baker claims that he shouldn't have to make a wedding cake for a same sex couple, even though he happily makes wedding cakes for all  manner of other couples.

 Yet, in another case recently decided in a lower court in CA, the judge found that making a custom cake is an act of free speech.  It's the custom nature of the design that he protects.

Of course, we've seen across the Bible belt attempts to legislate and protect anti-gay discrimination, not just in bakeries but in other services--one of the more egregious was attempted under VP Mike Pence's tenure as Governor of Indiana.  LGBT people are routinely abused and denied services even in the absence of such legislation.

But here's a different example, that has nothing to do with Teh Gayz, from a resort town in Michigan.
In Bay View, only practicing Christians are allowed to buy houses, or even inherit them. 
Prospective homeowners, according to a bylaw introduced in 1947 and strengthened in 1986, are required to produce evidence of their faith by providing among other things a letter from a Christian minister testifying to their active participation in a church.

Last summer, a dozen current and former resident members filed a federal lawsuit against the town, its ruling Bay View Association and a real estate company, claiming the Christian litmus test was illegal and unconstitutional.
The real-world consequences of this seem clearly unjust.
Sheaffer, who defines himself as culturally Christian, is married to a Jewish woman who cannot inherit his home because of her religion. Under the existing rules, their two children, aged 11 and 14, themselves sixth-generation Bay Viewers, would also be barred from inheriting their father’s property because of their mixed religious makeup.
 Is it a church property?  Not really:
While the governing Bay View association enjoys 501(C)(3), or charity, status through an affiliation with the Methodist church, the homes on its land are sold at a profit by individuals on the marketplace. Four percent of all Bay View home sales are directed to association coffers, and current properties are listed between $120,000 and $1m.
I would think the Methodists would be a little concerned about being linked with this intolerance.  Heck, it would seem to be a no-brainer, right?  But it isn't.
Dick Crossland, a retired consultant who has been a leading voice for the preservation of membership rules, says he is saddened by the way in which the opposing group has portrayed the association and its board as bigoted. 
“We accept anyone that wants to join the same way that Christ accepts anyone as Christian. We don’t discriminate against anything that you can’t change,” he says. 
The debate has been hurting the community, says Crossland, who added he would have been willing to work on a “legacy solution” for Sheaffer’s family’s case – but not for the broader public.
Because once you let THOSE PEOPLE in, who knows what will happen?  It won't surprise you that this convenant was originally also linked to racial exclusion.  And, once that became illegal, Christianity could be a proxy.
much of the mid-century history of Bay View matches national trends, with racial segregation ending and white people doubling down on religious restrictions and creating private organizations in which they could control membership intake.
And of course, on the QT, these "good Christians" admit that most of them are not practicing the faith.

SO,  what do you think ?  Should Bay View HOA be able to impose a religious litmus test on home ownership?

Monday, February 5, 2018

Civility in the church, in the culture

Following up on my previous post regarding the attacks on Fr James Martin, SJ, I think we can view these as a microcosm of the ugly social media driven fracturing of our civil polis.  And it's not just in the US.

Writing in La Croix, an international Catholic daily, Massimo Faggioli comments
The cancellation does not only concern Fr Martin and the Church’s LGBT community. Actually, it should worry all Catholics. That is not only because this was the third time that the Jesuit was disinvited from giving a previously arranged lecture. More seriously, it was linked to a campaign of hatred and personal attacks against the priest. 
This sort of vitriol is profoundly changing the communion of the Catholic Church. And not just in its ethos, but also in the way it functions. It signals a new kind of censorship that uses verbal violence to intimidate individual Catholics, as well as institutions within the Church – institutions that exist (also) to protect the rights of Catholics.
These cyber militants are not alone. Rather, they are part of the “age of anger” from which the Catholic Church is not immune. 
I don't know if you venture into Twitter very often, but it's a hells cape of over reaction, lies, and on line attacks.  The recent "Memo" nothing-burger was driven by social media, and now those reacting are doxing the FISA judge (doxing means to post personal information of a target such as their address, as an attempt to threaten them).  The Catholic "cyber militants" at least don't seem to be driven by Russian bots.  It's perhaps more concerning that they are real people.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

The Most Dangerous Catholic Priest

I don't know if you follow Roman Catholic news much these days, but it is fascinating to see the same kinds of cultural divisions and battles occur in the American RC church as in our culture at large, particularly the vehemence of the hard right.  They are united in loathing the more merciful style of Pope Francis, after the hard culture warrior years of JPII and Benedict.

But their current bugbear is a thoughtful Jesuit named Fr James Martin.

And every time he is invited to speak somewhere, the hard right Catholics roll out the hate calls and hate mail, to try to silence him. Sadly it works, more often than not.  (Interesting irony that these people are probably the same ones complaining that conservatives are silenced on college campuses.)

Frank Bruni tells us more:
What’s Father Martin’s unconscionable sin? In his most recent book, “Building a Bridge,” which was published in June, he calls on Catholics to show L.G.B.T. people more respect and compassion than many of them have demonstrated in the past. 
That’s all. That’s it. He doesn’t say that the church should bless gay marriage or gay adoption. He doesn’t explicitly reject church teaching, which prescribes chastity for gay men and lesbians, though he questions the language — “intrinsically disordered” — with which it describes homosexuality.

Think about it. Simply asking people to be kinder is enough for this guy to be attacked and accused.

San Diego's RC Bishop Robert McElroy isn't having it.  Writing in  America, he says
[A]longside .... legitimate and substantive criticism of Father Martin’s book, there has arisen both in Catholic journals and on social media a campaign to vilify Father Martin, to distort his work, to label him heterodox, to assassinate his personal character and to annihilate both the ideas and the dialogue that he has initiated.

This campaign of distortion must be challenged and exposed for what it is—not primarily for Father Martin’s sake but because this cancer of vilification is seeping into the institutional life of the church....The coordinated attack on Building a Bridge must be a wake-up call for the Catholic community to look inward and purge itself of bigotry against the L.G.B.T. community. If we do not, we will build a gulf between the church and L.G.B.T. men and women and their families. Even more important, we will build an increasing gulf between the church and our God.
McElroy, like Cardinal Cupich in Chicago, is decidedly a "Francis Bishop": open to voices and relationship.  Since being appointed, he has made a point of reaching out to many communities, which is wonderfully ironic, given that the evils of proposition 8 (the anti-marriage equality campaign in California in 2008) was largely driven by a previous San Diego Bishop, now Archbishop of San Francisco Salvatore Cordileone.  I suspect Abp Cordileone won't be getting a red cardinal's hat from Pope Francis.  Wouldn't it be delicious if McElroy did?

But the sad fact is that the hard right Catholics, like their Evangelical brethren, think that any kindness to LGBT people is evil.  They truly hate us.

Friday, February 2, 2018

The end of our democracy: the triumph of racism

There's an important new article from Ezra Klein over at VOX, where he reviews a new book called "How Democracies Die".  And it makes clear that race (and its proxy, evangelical Christianity) remains the fracture of this country.
Our democracy was built atop racism and has been repeatedly shaken in eras of racial progress. The founding compromises that birthed the country included entrenching slavery and counting African Americans as three-fifths of a person. ...Then in the the Civil War’s aftermath, the pursuit of equality fell before the pursuit of stability — in Reconstruction and continuing up through the mid-20th century, the Democratic and Republican parties permitted the South to construct an apartheid state atop a foundation of legal discrimination and racial terrorism, and it was in this environment that American politics saw its so-called golden era, in which the two parties worked together smoothly and routinely..... 
The racial progress of the civil rights era led to a series of political assassinations and, shortly thereafter, to the election of Richard Nixon — who quickly caused a democratic and constitutional crisis of his own. In the aftermath of that period, little was done — and much was undone — on civil rights, and American democracy stabilized. 
That is, it stabilized until the election of President Barack Obama, which led to a hard turn toward confrontation in the Republican Party, and — perhaps predictably, given this history — to the election of Donald Trump, who pairs racial resentment with a deep skepticism of both democratic process and the legitimacy of his opponents.
So Republicans and Democrats are deeply divided by race and religion, to the extent where toleration and compromise aren't possible. survive, political systems need parties who place fundamental values above immediate political or policy gain. America’s democracy is currently operating without that protection. History shows that leaves us vulnerable....Democracies fend off challenges when participants value the preservation of the system — its norms and ideals and values — over short-term political gain....
Quoting from the book,
If the definition of “real Americans” is restricted to those who are native-born, English-speaking, white, and Christian, then it is easy to see how “real Americans” may view themselves as declining. As Ann Coulter chillingly put it, “The American electorate isn’t moving to the left — it’s shrinking.” The perception among many Tea Party Republicans that their America is disappearing helps us understand the appeal of such slogans as “Take Our Country Back” or “Make America Great Again.” The danger of such appeals is that casting Democrats as not real Americans is a frontal assault on mutual toleration.

This is not a new observation. Former Republican (and now Political Orphan) Chris Ladd has made the point before:
We are discovering that no one ever really cared much about abortion. No one cared about fiscal restraint, or tax cuts or nationalized health care. The Republican base we painstakingly assembled across fifty years is only really interested in one thing – preserving the dominant position of their white culture against a rising tide of pluralism. Other issues only mattered to the extent that they helped reinforce and preserve white supremacy.
In an interview, Ladd expands,
I grew up white trash in one of those forgotten hellholes in Trumplandia. Most of these places were hellholes decades ago in their imaginary prime. They were hellholes 80 years ago when writers like James Agee came to ogle their inhabitants and muse on their simple virtues. Now they many of them remain hellholes with fewer people and less going on. 
Nothing about these places has changed apart from the fact that the rest of the world got better, a lot better. And most importantly, the world has gotten better for people like African-Americans, Hispanics, and women; people whose suffering and enforced weakness used to give Trump voters some relative comfort. 
....Mealy sympathy-pieces about backwater towns in thrall to Trump offer a certain comfort to everyone else. We would all be relieved to discover that this national nightmare was just a big misunderstanding, another example of “elites” failing to listen to the common people. We could just hug it out. 
Sorry. I’ve been listening to these people my whole life. We are not facing some new problem born of globalization or capitalism or trade. We are facing America’s oldest problem.

When white people feel their hold on power slipping, they freak out. And it always starts with the folks lower down the economic ladder, because they have the highest relative investment in what it means to be white in this country. There’s not a damned thing we can do about it other than out-vote them and, over time, out-evolve them until this crippling and occasionally lethal national glitch is slowly worked out of our bloodstream. 

Klein concludes his review with a quote from the book:
The simple fact of the matter is that the world has never built a multiethnic democracy in which no particular ethnic group is in the majority and where political equality, social equality and economies that empower all have been achieved.
It is not clear that we will change that.