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Reclaiming Words: Niggas, Bitches, and Queers

May31

by: on May 31st, 2016 | 1 Comment »

WARNING: I will quote the original sources in this essay verbatim. Some people may find the words offensive. Reader discretion is advised.

At the 2016 White House Correspondent’s Dinner, the last during the administration of Barack Obama, the first African-American president, comedian Larry Wilmore ended his presentation referring to the president as “my nigga.” His use of the word “nigga” reignited the discussion about when and where and how and by whom the word ought to be used or whether it ought to be used at all. Civil rights leader Al Sharpton is among those critical of Wilmore’s use of the word. Sharpton rejects the argument that the word can have a positive connotation, that there is such a thing as reclamation of pejorative words, either for African-Americans or for anyone else.

I say that most words are fecund with meaning, that these multiplicities of meaning shift depending upon context and the human being using the word, that negative words have been turned upside down and inside out, and reclaiming words is a liberatory act of empowerment.

I will not rehearse the etymologies of the three words I will consider in this essay – nigga, bitch, and queer – except to say that they were and are sometimes still used to disrespect another human being. Once upon a time in America it was common to see the word “nigger” used to speak of African-Americans in respectable journals. There is no question that the word was used to represent black people as less than white people. There was a time that to call an African-American person black would be cause for consternation. Some white people past and present till spit the word “nigger” out with hate-filled venom.

James Weldon Johnson in his 1912 novel – “The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man” – wrote of a common rhyme: “Nigger, nigger never die. Black face and shiny eye.” However, Frank Horne, activist, physician, civil servant, poet, and uncle to the actress and singer Lena Horne, reclaimed the word in his poem “Nigger” when he turned the rhyme into a black history lesson. (https://hiddencause.wordpress.com/2011/03/02/poem-of-the-week-horne-2/)

The poem says in part:

Little Black boy,
Chased down the street
“nigger, nigger never die
Black face an shiny eye
Nigger. . . nigger. . . nigger. . .

Hannibal. . Hannibal
Bangin’ thru the Alps
Licked the proud Romans
Run home with their scalps
. . .
Toussant. . . Toussant
Made the French flee
Fought like a demon
Set his people free
. . .
Jesus. . . Jesus
Son of the Lord
Spit in his face
Nail him on a board
Nigger.. . nigger. . . nigger

Little Black boy
Runs down the street,
“Nigger nigger never die
Black face an’ shiny eye
Nigger. . . nigger. . . nigger
(http://www.poetrynook.com/poem/nigger-0)

Also, in “The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man”, Johnson describes the use of the word “nigger” among some black men:

“I noticed that among this class of colored men the word “nigger” was freely used in about the same sense as “fellow” and sometimes as a term of almost endearment; but I soon learned that its use was positively and absolutely prohibited to white men.”

This is not unusual. Most group have some expression that they may use to refer to themselves or that others in the group may use but is forbidden to outsiders. In the popular British Television show, “Downton Abbey”, the Irish chauffeur who has married into the English aristocracy says of himself:

“You won’t make a gentleman of me, you know. You can teach me to fish, to ride, to shoot, but I’ll still be an Irish mick in my heart.”
It would have been an insult for anyone else to say that to him.

And this is the rub. Some words are acceptable within groups, but are forbidden to those outside the group. In their use of the word “nigger” within the group, it is a word that connotes shared experience, but when the word “nigger” becomes “my nigga” it connotes a shared moral and communal location. African communal logic says that: Because I am we are, and because we are, I am. The moral space created between the individual and the community past, present, and future, makes a righteous claim on both individual and community. We all exist to uplift the individual, and the individual has a responsibility to do her or his best for the sake of the community. Thus “my nigga” is family and friend and sometime enemy, someone with whom I share past, present, and future moral responsibility.

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Sanders is Israel’s Best Friend in 2016

May27

by: on May 27th, 2016 | 7 Comments »

NOTE: As a non-profit, Tikkun magazine does NOT endorse any candidate or political party. Nor does Rabbi Lerner. This article is a response to distorted media coverage of Sanders’ appointment of prominent progressives to the Democratic Party’s Platform Committee whom the NY Times, the Jewish Forward and other media are describing as anti-Israel. Some of our readers support Bernie Sanders, some support Hillary Clinton, some support Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, and there may be other candidates that some of our readers support. This article is not meant to enter into that debate, but only to challenge the media coverage of Sanders on Israel.

(Source: Flickr/ Phil Roeder)

I wasn’t surprised when the NY Times on May 26th made a front page story out of the alleged damage Senator Bernie Sanders was doing to the Democratic Party by placing among his 5 representatives on the Democratic Party’s Platform committee a few people who might support Sanders’ view that the US needs to be “more even-handed” in the Israel/Palestine struggle.

The New York Times has consistently turned its news pages into the loudest cheerleader for Hillary Clinton’s bid for the nomination. If mentioned at all, they bury deep in their paper, Bernie Sanders’ primary wins and the many polls that indicate he’d be more likely to win against Trump than Hillary. So it’s no surprise that when Bernie won permission to appoint 5 of the 15 members of the Platform Committee of the Democratic Party Convention, the Times focused the story on the possibility that 2 of these appointees, James Zogby and Cornel West, would turn the convention into a debate about US policy towards Israel, and thereby weaken Hillary’s capacity to fight off Trump in the general election. There was nothing in the story to confirm that these appointees had any such intention, but that didn’t keep the N.Y. Times from making this front page story a way to once again stir worries that Bernie’s vigorous pursuit of the nomination (as Hillary Clinton herself had done in 2008 against Obama even after it was clear she would not win the nomination) was going to hurt Hillary’s chances in the Fall election–thus creating the story should Hillary lose that it was really all the fault of that socialist Jew from Vermont!

The Times ignored the important Bernie appointments of Congressman Keith Ellison, a leader of the Congress’ Progressive Caucus, a supporter of social justice for middle income people and the poor, universal healthcare and a $15 minimum wage, and an opponent of Obama’s use of drones, Rebecca Parker, vice chair of the Tulalip Tribes of Washington State, who is likely to emphasize rights for indigenous peoples and criminal justice reform, and Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org who is likely to push for a tax on carbons and other aggressive policies to save the planet’s life-support system. To turn the discussion solely to Israel, and suggest that somehow Sanders’ very mild call for an even-handed policy that took into account the needs of the Palestinian people is a threat to Israel’s existence is irresponsible and ludicrous.

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President Obama & Hiroshima: A Pathway to National Atonement

May27

by: on May 27th, 2016 | 1 Comment »

President Obama’s speech today in Hiroshima did not contain the word “atonement.” Nevertheless, the spirit of atonement was carried throughout. It was not only the most remarkable speech of Barack Obama’s presidency, it is arguably the most remarkable speech given by any U.S. president, ever.

In concluding his speech, President Obama said:

Those who died, they are like us. Ordinary people understand this, I think. They do not want more war. They would rather that the wonders of science be focused on improving life and not eliminating it. When the choices made by nations, when the choices made by leaders, reflect this simple wisdom, then the lesson of Hiroshima is done.

The world was forever changed here, but today the children of this city will go through their day in peace. What a precious thing that is. It is worth protecting, and then extending to every child. That is a future we can choose, a future in which Hiroshima and Nagasaki are known not as the dawn of atomic warfare but as the start of our own moral awakening.

There are so many areas in which to critique President Obama’s tenure in office, and yet there are times, like today, that I am grateful to have a sitting president whose core intention is to seek the greater good of all humankind.  Yes, it is disappointing that he has presided over a wholly corrupt military system and has done nothing to change it: namely, a military system that lures young men and women with financial and emotional enticements to fight the nation’s wars, all while the rest of the nation, whatever their politics, goes about the charade of “supporting the troops,” as if morally tolerating the corrupt military machine that has and is devouring their lives can remotely approximate the notion of loving fraternity.  We have a long way to go as a nation, from President Obama to the men and women of Mainstreet, to atone for our toleration of this ongoing assault on the sanctity of human life.

Yet I give President Obama credit for at least endeavoring throughout his presidency, and the last two years in particular, to create the emotional space for the American people to atone for our sins as a nation.  Politicians do not succeed at their primary craft – winning elections – by creating that emotional space, and that largely holds true for Barack Obama as well.  Yet that space, that space for genuine national atonement, has been carved by this president.  It may be a small space for now, but it is something that we can, I believe must, expand upon.


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Bernie Sanders and Comics Part 1: Memories of Eugene V. Debs

May17

by: Paul Buhle with art by Gary Dumm on May 17th, 2016 | 2 Comments »

(Managing Editor’s note: Paul Buhle is one of the foremost historians of American radicalism and the American Left. He has also edited 12 comic art books including Yiddishkeit and is the editor of the comic project at www.BernieSandersComics.com. This week we will be running a series of blog posts by Buhle on Tikkun Daily about Bernie Sanders, comics, and the 2016 presidential election. With each post we will also be publishing comic art from he and other artists involved in the www.BernieSandersComics.com project. Today’s comic is from Buhle and Gary Dumm. Tikkun does not, and cannot, endorse or oppose candidates or political parties. We have published a variety of perspectives about the 2016 election and are actively seeking articles, comics, and other publishable work in support of any and all candidates for the U.S. presidency and from any political party. The views expressed in the posts and comics are the author’s and/or artist’s alone.)

Debs, FDR, and Martin Luther King, Jr: these three, far more than any others, excited idealistic expectations of progress-minded Jewish Americans in the twentieth century. Norman Thomas could be added for that moment, of his Socialist Party campaign in the 1932 presidential election, when it looked like he would get a million votes and perhaps save a Depression-wracked nation. Roosevelt got most of the would-be socialistic votes instead, and with the Second New Deal, three years later, fostered the famous witticism on the three worlds of American Jews: Diese Velt (this world), Yene Velt (the next world) and …Roosevelt!

But for those old enough to remember, the memories of Debs remained. An ancient old-timer, recalling his most vivid memory growing up in the blue-collar Jewish neighborhood of the 1920s, told me he could still see in his mind’s eye, in 1980, the day Debs’ death was announced in the papers. “People were crying on the streets.” The next year, in Fontana, California, at a Slovenian old folks home, I interviewed a 98-year-old woman who was a former union organizer of hat makers. She was now in a bed, hardly moving, and mostly senile, but there was a memory that kept returning, in the repeated phrase, “GENE DEBS HELD MY BABY!” She grabbed my arm as she said this: the experience of a lifetime.

Indeed. In photos of crowds with Debs speaking, young parents typically held up their children so they could, later in life, remember that shining moment. This last summer, when a crowd of 10,000 in Madison, Wisconsin, broke the virtual press boycott on covering Bernie Sanders as more than a fringe candidate, I was stunned to see the same phenomenon. I’ve seen it again in photos of street events with Bernie making an appearance. A friend of mine, parent of an 11- year-old boy in New York, told me that his son had been watching Bernie on television for weeks, with mounting excitement. The two traveled to the South Bronx together and were disappointed, the boy bitterly disappointed, to be only part of the overflow. And then, as they were leaving for the subway, Bernie’s car came around the block, hesitated, and Bernie looked at them and waved (as he did to so many thousands of others that day). The day was made: a memory that would last, perhaps for a lifetime, recast also as something more personal, as we all do in our memories.

Whoever heard MLK in person, or for that matter on a television news segment, would be likely to say the same, of course, but let us focus a little on Debs and Bernie. Eugene Victor Debs, a locomotive engineer from Terre Haute, Indiana, son of free thinking French-born parents who named him after authors Eugene Sue and Victor Hugo, was already a legend in the 1890s when he led a solidarity strike, for the besieged workers in the company town of Pullman, Illinois, a strike that spread across the Western states with almost perfect nonviolence and the immense idealism of human as well as class solidarity. Imprisoned, he converted to socialism. By 1900, the first time he ran for president, his Terre Haute friend and leading American sentimental poet James Whitcomb Riley wrote a lyric for the campaign, with a Hoosier “Injiana” twang:

And there’s ‘Gene Debs – a man ‘at stands

And jest holds out in his two hands

As warm a heart as ever beat

Betwixt here and the Jedgement Seat.

Debs was often viewed as secular saint, a hundred or perhaps a thousand years ahead of his time. His martyrdom sealed the image in history: arrested after a speech in Ohio in 1917, opposing U.S. entry into the First World War, he was convicted and sent to prison by the ostensibly liberal but emphatically hawkish Woodrow Wilson administration. Nearly a million Americans gave the unjustly imprisoned Debs their vote for President in 1920, an action unknown before or since. Prison broke his health, as it was perhaps expected to do, and he died from heart problems he experienced there.

No American politician in office, for generations, so venerated Debs as did the young Bernie Sanders. Certainly none thought to put on a record, in the voice of a later socialist, i.e., Sanders himself, the words of Debs for listeners of younger generations to listen and understand.

Bernie’s presidential campaign, whatever its outcome, has done more to bring back the idea of “socialism,” by any definition at hand, than efforts over three quarters of a century. Despite his apparent (and avowed) secularism, there is a spiritual affect to his message and the way it is heard. The incident of a bird landing on his podium in Portland, and his evocation, “No more war!” had more than a touch of the Biblical Dove. Immediately, memes placed Bernie as a modern St. Francis of Assisi – in harmony with nature and all the deity’s creatures – with the Jewish candidate’s visage replacing the original.

It is no wonder that many thousands of young Jews, as well as young Gentiles, view him with something more than admiration. He has opened their hopes to an escape from the downward cycle that has marked so many ordinary younger Americans’ experiences for something like forty years.

Bernie the secular saint, like Debs before him? Perhaps not, but secular saints are created, in the popular mind for what they symbolize even more than for who they are personally or even for what they manage to do. Today’s Bernie Sanders, in his ongoing campaign, with “honesty” and “integrity” polling as the chief virtues separating him from other candidates, unmistakably evokes redemption, the possibility of redemption. This evocation is not so different from Gene Debs’ a century ago.

Or so it seems to this historian of the American Left.

_

Paul Buhle has been a contributor to Tikkun for more than twenty years.

Gary Dumm, a longtime collaborator with the late Harvey Pekar, has contributed to many anthologies, including Students for a Democratic Society (as principal artist), The Beats, A Graphic Adaptation of Studs Terkel’s Working, and Yiddishkeit.

Read More:

Our Dreams by Ilan Stavans

Unrighteous Anger – Queen Vashti and the Erasure of Transgender Women by Mischa Haider and Penina Weinberg

Professor Johanna Fernandez talks with Tikkun about Mumia, Bernie Sanders, Love, and the Power of Radical Empathy by Grace Mungovan

On Burning Out, Burning In

May16

by: on May 16th, 2016 | 2 Comments »

There’s been a big discussion about “burnout” among activists lately.The people I’ve been hearing from use that word to mean many different things: physical maladies of overwork; depression, a sense of futility – or at least a pervading doubt that one’s efforts matter. Exhaustion, emotional and intellectual.

Some of the discussants are immersed in high-pressure races to a finish line that may be elusive (think presidential campaign organizers). Others have been at their work for a very long time and fear they have little impact to show for it. Some start to fatigue at the relentlessness of it: always a crisis, always a deadline, always an urgent need to do something. They are young and old. They see their individual and collective challenges as amplified by the obstacles society places in their way: working long hours for a cause one holds dear can stress anyone; if you are also coping with the social injuries inflicted on account of race, gender, class, immigration status, sexual orientation – the stress amps up.

I wouldn’t say that burnout is my problem at the moment: I’m not forcing myself to keep on, rather pursuing aims I have chosen and choose still. I’m not exhausted, just a bit tired. But just under the surface of my days runs a red thread of desperation that sometimes loops up to catch my spirit.

What tugs on me? Most frequently, a constellation of feelings about aging. God willing, my health and strength will hold, my brain will stay sharp, and I will have many more years to explore the questions and experiment with the answers that draw me close. But more than at any prior time, I am aware that life is finite, that in choosing to devote myself to this, I may foreclose that, simply because there isn’t enough time to do both. I am not in burnout, but I can see that if I don’t find a way to hold this differently, I could eventually land there.

I think about it a lot. What are the moving pieces? Sometimes my brain holds its own little magical-thinking festival, where it rains money. If I won the lottery, I’d spend some if my winnings supporting other people to do the tasks that don’t engage my passion or pleasure. I would have time to write and do the parts of my activism that seem especially well-suited to my skills and desires. It’s not just me. If the movement – by which I mean the aggregate of all the people and organizations working in this country for social and environmental justice – were adequately funded, there would be more people to share the work and everyone would have at least the opportunity for balance. Instead, most of us constitute a force driven by imbalance: fueled by self-sacrifice, addicted to doing at all costs, living with the perpetual sense of having fallen short of what’s needed, what’s possible. If money equals time, my imagination tells me we’d be positively wallowing in all of those things I am craving: reflection without a deadline, listening without an agenda, belonging without a struggle. Rest.

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Why anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism – but criticising Israel isn’t

May12

by: Rabbi Elli Tikvah Sarah on May 12th, 2016 | 28 Comments »

The Labour Party has become embroiled in a row about anti-Semitism. Why the row? After all, the Labour Party is committed to challenging racism and anti-Semitism – which is a particular form of racism. It’s a row because the anti-Semitism in question concerns anti-Zionism – and not everybody in the Labour Party agrees that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism. At the heart of the current row, a tweet re-tweeted by Labour MP Naz Shah, which suggested that Israel be relocated to the United States. For those who shared the tweet, it seemed fair comment, given the support of the United States for Israel – and the fact that the second largest Jewish population in the world resides in the United States. Of the 14.2 million Jews living in the world today, six million live in Israel and over five million live in the US.

The tweet was anti-Semitic for at least two reasons. Within living memory, the Jewish communities of Europe were made Judenfrei, ‘Jew-free’, or Judenrein, ‘clean of Jews’, as the Jews who lived in them were systematically deported to ghettos, concentration camps and death camps in Eastern Europe. The ghettos themselves, where hundreds of thousands were penned into walled areas of cities, were simply holding places, from which the Jews were sent on to the death camps. After the defeat of Hitler, those who survived became displaced persons, the majority of whom were collected into camps – most notably on Cyprus – with nowhere to go. To suggest that Israel, which became the principal place of refuge for the Jews who survived the Sho’ah, should be relocated elsewhere suggests either an inane forgetfulness or a shocking indifference to the annihilation of six million Jews – at the time, one third of the world Jewish population – which took place in the space of just six years from the onset of the violent persecution of the Jews of Europe on Kristallnacht, November 9, 1938.

The tweet was also anti-Semitic in the context of the way in which, again and again, regardless of the oppression of peoples across the world by numberless nations, Israel is singled out for special condemnation because of its on-going oppression of the Palestinians. Where is the protest against the murder of the Tamils by the Sri Lankan regime? Where is the protest against China’s occupation of Tibet? Why is it that these nations and others like them have not been subject to boycott and disinvestment campaigns? Of course, the anti-Palestinian policies of the Israeli government must be challenged, and support must be given to the Palestinian people, in their struggle for self-determination, and the establishment of an independent state of Palestine. Equally, the regimes of China and Sri Lanka should also be challenged, and the Tibetans and Tamils should be supported in their struggles for self-determination.

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Dear Speaker Ryan

May11

by: on May 11th, 2016 | No Comments »

May 12, 2016

Dear Speaker Ryan,

On Thursday, May 12, you are scheduled to meet with Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president of the United States. According to reports in the media, the purpose of the meeting is for the two of you to get better acquainted so that you will feel comfortable enough with Mr. Trump that you will endorse his candidacy, unify the Republican Party, and win the presidency as well as down ballot races.

I am writing to encourage you to withhold your endorsement. Please do not put party unity and the will-to-win the next election ahead of the good of the nation.

You have put the party and the next election before the good of the people in the past. When you participated in the 2009 inauguration night conspiracy where you agreed with several GOP leaders in Congress that you would not work with President Obama on ANYTHING, you elevated the politics of obstruction to new heights. Your plan partially worked, and the GOP regained control of the House of Representatives in 2010 and the GOP took control of the senate in 2014. You failed, however, to make President Obama a one-term president.

Despite your efforts, the first two years of the Obama administration were two of the most productive since Franklin Roosevelt. Economic recovery, bank reform, the auto bail-out, and health-care reform passed without your help. Let us give your predecessor, Nancy Pelosi, her due. She was a historic speaker in more than one way. She was both the first woman speaker and one of the most effective.

You apologized for your remarks about poor people during the 2012 presidential campaign. I have been waiting for you to apologize for your participation in the conspiracy. Alas, I continue to live in hope.

Again, I encourage you to withhold your endorsement of Donald Trump. He has run a ridiculous, ignorant, sophomoric, racist, xenophobic, misogynistic, crass, no class, vulgar, fact-free campaign. You have had to speak against Trump’s policies on banning Muslims from entering the country and his maybe so, maybe not disavowal of racist support. To endorse him is to endorse his campaign, his style, and his positions.

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Professor Johanna Fernández talks with Tikkun about Mumia, Bernie Sanders, Love, and the Power of Radical Empathy

May11

by: Grace Mungovan on May 11th, 2016 | 3 Comments »

"Writing on the Wall: Selected Prison Writings of Mumia Abu-Jamal" by Mumia Abu-Jamal, edited by Johanna Fernandez (City Lights Publishers, 2015).

In honor of Mumia Abu-Jamal’s recent birthday, we here at Tikkun Daily thought we would mark the day by publishing an interview with Johanna Fernández, a professor of History at Baruch College (CUNY) who edited Writing on the Wall: Selected Prison Writings of Mumia Abu-Jamal that was published last year.

We caught up with Fernández in February after she, activist Angela Davis, and KPFA host Walter Turner held a public discussion about the book in Oakland. The talk was anchored by discussions of Abu-Jamal and his writing but also expanded on the themes of mass incarceration, systemic racism, class warfare, and the promise of modern social uprisings, through the lens of what they referred to as black radicalism and the black prophetic tradition.

Fernández and Davis describe Abu-Jamal’s work in Writing on the Wall as being measured and reasonable as well as honest, strong, and transparent. They read passages from the book that shared the voice of someone calling upon readers to engage with American history as a history of brutality – an America Abu-Jamal sees as accurately reflected by practices like the torture at Abu Ghraib.

“When will these dismal days of our mind-rending pain, our oppression, our accustomed place on the bottom rung of the human family, end? When will our tomorrows brighten? It will come from ourselves, not from this system. Our tomorrows will become brighter when we scrub the graffiti of lies from our minds, when we open our eyes to the truths that this very system is built not on ‘freedom, justice and brotherhood’ but on slavery, oppression and genocide,” Davis read from the book.

Davis, Fernández, and Abu-Jamal each assert that until the public grapples with this history, the history of oppression and violence that they see as at the core of all systems of power, there will be no meaningful change, and the dignity of all human beings will not be reflected by the governing powers.

Despite Abu-Jamal’s assertion that the only way to live in a just society is through “scrubbing the lies” of a dishonest history from the collective mind and grappling honestly with the violence and conquest at the heart of Western history, Davis and Fernández were clear that this was a man rooted in a deep and abiding sense of love, hope, and what Fernández dubbed “radical empathy.”

This “radical empathy” is Abu-Jamal’s community based counter to what he sees as neoliberal individualism. It is a call for radical global community that acknowledges the intersectionality of oppressions and the common struggle against elites.

Here is our interview with Professor Fernández:

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Two Events One Hope

May7

by: on May 7th, 2016 | 6 Comments »

Two political events happened this week that made deep connections in my mind, even though they happened continents apart. It’s funny how sometimes the most disparate things make us think philosophical thoughts that interconnect in the most important ways.

Event # 1: Donald Trump gets handed the Republican nominee on a silver platter. I know… who in the world expected this? I have a feeling that even Mr. Trump himself didn’t really think this would happen. Much has been written about the dangerous rhetoric spewed by him and his supporters, and who among us hasn’t wondered what type of people are actually voting for this person? But this current development raises serious questions about a potential change in the Republican party and the future of our country. A man who wins elections based on his promise to deport millions, bar millions more from entering the nation, and punishing innocent people abroad says something not just about himself but about some part of our national psyche. Event #1 has me worried about myself and my children in a very elementary way.


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Trump: The 2016 Election and the Rise of American Fascism

May5

by: Frederic C. Tubach on May 5th, 2016 | 6 Comments »

Editor’s Note: Tikkun does not and cannot endorse or oppose candidates or political parties. We are actively seeking articles in support of any candidate for the US presidency and from any political party.

“Willst Du nicht mein Bruder sein, so schlag’ ich Dir den Schädel ein (If you don’t want to be my brother, I’ll smash your skull in)”

This Brownshirt slogan reflected the mindset of fanatic Nazi supporters, the street thugs who played an important role in helping Hitler destroy democracy in Germany and replace it with absolute power over a disoriented population. This extraordinary transformation took place within a four-month period between November 1932 and March 5,1933, the date of he last free election in Germany. Anyone who has studied this fateful moment in German history cannot fail to notice the similarities with what is currently happening in the United States.

Presidental candidate Donald Trump. Source: Flickr (Gage Skidmore).

In November 1932 the Nazis did well in the elections, but the traditional democratic parties on the right and left believed Hitler’s effectiveness would be short. After all, they reckoned, people would soon unmask the slogans for what they were – empty phrase-mongering. However, and tragically, the insecurity of the populace increased dramatically after the parliament building was burned down on February 28, 1933. A week later the March 5th election swept the Nazis into power thus ending democracy in Germany. The Germans clamored for a strong man with simple ideas who would empower them and free them from the victimhood that would be forced upon them by Soviet communism from the outside and from ineffective party babble on the inside.

American fascism is on the rise under the Trump banner. At first glance this claim may seem exaggerated, because there are no visible swastikas and no head-bashing armed storm troopers, and Trump uses none of Hitler’s hyperventilating antics. But what Trump and Hitler have in common is their approach to politics, which is/was radically new and geared to contemporary problems and uncertainties. The newness in both cases gave these two fascist movements added power at the onset.

The similarity between the two movements is striking when it comes to dealing with those who do not agree with them: dissenters are not just wrong, they are unpatriotic. This kind of fascist patriotism is most effective when expressed through collective action. Three examples will illustrate what I mean.

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