Saturday, June 29, 2024

Trump's attacks on Biden are no accident

According to the Washington Post fact-checkers, Donald Trump told over 30,000 lies during his presidency. During Thursday's ninety-minute presidential debate, CNN documented that he told over 30 lies. 

During a speech at the United Nations in 2018, heads of state and delegates laughed at Trump.

Trump has been found liable for fraud and rape. He's also been convicted of 34 felonies.

Over and over again Trump has promised to weaponize the federal government against his political opponents.

During his presidential term, some members of Trump's cabinet discussed the possibility of invoking the 25th Amendment. 

You might be wondering why I'm rehashing some of the sordid history of this country's 45th president. It's because this happened during/after Thursday's debate.

  • Trump said this about Biden "I’ve never seen anybody lie like this guy...everything he does is a lie.”
  • Trump said that around the world Biden isn't respected.
  • Trump called Biden’s actions “absolutely criminal” and falsely alleged that Biden “gets paid by China” and is a “Manchurian candidate.”
  • Trump launched a groundless claim that Biden is weaponizing American justice against him. He called it "a system that was rigged and disgusting." 
  • Immediately after the debate, Republicans began calling on Biden's cabinet to invoke the 25th amendment.
Trump and his MAGA enablers chose those particular attacks for two reasons. First of all, as Karl Rove discovered years ago, the best way to defend your candidate against an attack is to accuse your opponent of the same thing. That way, when Trump's lies are documented, he simply accuses Biden of being a liar. The whole thing devolves into an argument of he said/he said.

Mike Lofgren explained how that works for Republicans by destroying public trust in government and its institutions.
There are tens of millions of low-information voters who hardly know which party controls which branch of government, let alone which party is pursuing a particular legislative tactic. These voters' confusion over who did what allows them to form the conclusion that “they are all crooks,” and that “government is no good,” further leading them to think, “a plague on both your houses” and “the parties are like two kids in a school yard.” This ill-informed public cynicism, in its turn, further intensifies the long-term decline in public trust in government that has been taking place since the early 1960s – a distrust that has been stoked by Republican rhetoric at every turn.

Secondly, that kind of "he said/he said" leads to headlines like this one at The Hill: "Trump, Biden accuse each other of lying."Rather than fact-check which one was lying and which one was telling the truth, it's easier to just act as a stenographer and report that both candidates accused the other one of lying. In other words, projection lays the foundation for the media's obsession with bothsiderism. When one candidate has demonstrated that he's a serial liar, that's a win for him.

During a more sane time, you'd be reading this kind of analysis all over the media because Trump's projection of his own failures onto Biden is so obvious. But these are, indeed, crazy times. I'm hoping this helps shore up your sanity just a bit. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

The root of the problem is a theology that enables sexual abuse

As someone who was raised in a white evangelical Christian family and church, it deeply saddens me every time we hear that another leader of that community is guilty of sexual abuse. One of the latest is Robert Morris, pastor of Gateway Church in Southlake, TX. 

Thirty-five years ago Morris began sexually abusing Cindy Clemishire, who was only 12 years old at the time. The abuse continued for over four years. Once Clemishire spoke out against the abuse, Morris left the ministry for two years and received counseling. After that, he returned to the ministry and is now the pastor of a church that attracts an estimated 100,000 worshippers weekly. He also served on Trump’s Evangelical Executive Advisory Board during the 2016 campaign and has been a relentless MAGA cheerleader ever since.

From what I've seen, there are some individuals and churches attempting to document this kind of abuse in evangelical churches/organizations and develop ways to address the problem. But most of them focus on after-the-fact interventions designed to support the victim and hold the perpetrator accountable. No one seems to be willing to address the fact that sexual abuse is obviously rampant not only in Catholic Churches, but evangelical circles as well. 

In writing about Morris, Amanda Marcotte provided insight into the root of the problem.

As ex-evangelical therapist Jeremiah Gibson told Salon earlier this year, sex has never really been the issue with evangelicals. It's more about "the performance of gender" and maintaining a rigid gender hierarchy. While right-wing Christians talk a lot about "purity," that expectation only applies to women. Men, as the history of Christianity in America makes clear, largely get to do what they want, confident that the church will usually look the other way — even when the behavior is criminal or blatantly predatory...

The problem with expecting women — or in so many cases, underage girls — to bear the responsibility for maintaining "purity" is that it directly conflicts with another mandate placed on women in evangelical circles: total submission. Women were placed on earth by God, according to this theology, primarily if not exclusively to serve men...It's a lose-lose situation: Women are supposed to make themselves attractive and compliant, but if a man abuses or assaults her, that's her fault for not uttering the otherwise forbidden word "no." Furthermore, if she did say no but failed to fight him off, after a lifetime of being told that it's sinful "pride" to stand up for yourself, then that's her fault too.

That theology of "total submission" applies to children as well - which explains why young boys are also the victims of this kind of abuse. Once women and children have been properly schooled into a theology that tells them that men/fathers/pastors are at the top of a rigid hierarchy and that it is "sinful pride to stand up for yourself," the table has been set for sexual predators. 

In order to root out sexual abuse in the church, both Catholics and Protestants will have to grapple with a theology that actually enables the abuse. I have to say that I'm not optimistic that is going to happen any time soon. 

Thursday, June 6, 2024

Dear Byron Donalds: The terror of Jim Crow was NOT good for Black families

Apparently it's not enough for MAGA to ban books that teach American history, suggest that Black people benefited from their time as slaves, or claim that the passage of the Civil Rights Act was a "huge mistake." Now Rep. Byron Donalds says that "Black families were better off during Jim Crow." 

In response, Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries spoke some truth on the House floor.

Now Donalds claims that he never said that Black people were better off under Jim Crow, but wants to emphasize that he was suggesting that "Black families" were better off. I'll let you try to figure out how that's different. But a few lessons from actual American history are important to correct the record. 

First of all, Donalds wants us to forget what slavery did to Black families.

Roughly half of all enslaved people were separated from their spouses and parents; about one in four of those sold were children. Ads for the Thomas L. Frazer & Co. Slave Mart in Montgomery, Alabama, boasted that it had “constantly on hand a large and well selected stock” of Black boys and girls.

Slaveholders threatened separation to maintain control, forcing enslaved people to live with the constant fear of losing a loved one. Even those who were not traded across regions could be sold away from relatives at an owner’s whim, to divide an estate, settle a debt, or as punishment.

Secondly, a myth has developed in this country that Jim Crow was about separate lunch counters, water fountains, and schools. I'm going to let Hamden Rice bust that one.

It wasn't that black people had to use a separate drinking fountain or couldn't sit at lunch counters, or had to sit in the back of the bus.

You really must disabuse yourself of this idea. Lunch counters and buses were crucial symbolic planes of struggle that the civil rights movement decided to use to dramatize the issue, but the main suffering in the south did not come from our inability to drink from the same fountain, ride in the front of the bus or eat lunch at Woolworth's.

It was that white people, mostly white men, occasionally went berserk, and grabbed random black people, usually men, and lynched them. You all know about lynching. But you may forget or not know that white people also randomly beat black people, and the black people could not fight back, for fear of even worse punishment.

This constant low level dread of atavistic violence is what kept the system running. It made life miserable, stressful and terrifying for black people.

According to research by the Equal Justice Initiative, there were "more than 4400 racial terror lynchings in the United States during the period between Reconstruction and World War II." This also happened during Jim Crow: 

The lynchings, beatings, and massacres were all part of the terror campaign that led approximately 6 million Black Americans to flee the South (often leaving family behind) during the Great Migration of the Jim Crow era.

As is often the case, I have no idea if Byron Donalds was being completely ignorant or sadistically inflammatory. But it doesn't matter. He can't whitewash our history. 

"With fear for our democracy, I dissent."

My title is how Justice Sonia Sotomayor concluded her dissenting opinion to the Supreme Court case granting presidents criminal immunity for...