Bard’s Kenneth Stern: “I drafted the definition of anti-Semitism. Rightwing Jews are weaponizing it.”

More good commentary from someone involved in the drafting:

Fifteen years ago, as the American Jewish Committee’s antisemitism expert, I was the lead drafter of what was then called the “working definition of antisemitism”. It was created primarily so that European data collectors could know what to include and exclude. That way antisemitism could be monitored better over time and across borders.

It was never intended to be a campus hate speech code, but that’s what Donald Trump’s executive order accomplished this week. This order is an attack on academic freedom and free speech, and will harm not only pro-Palestinian advocates, but also Jewish students and faculty, and the academy itself.

The problem isn’t that the executive order affords protection to Jewish students under title VI of the Civil Rights Act. The Department of Education made clear in 2010 that Jews, Sikhs and Muslims (as ethnicities) could complain about intimidation, harassment and discrimination under this provision. I supported this clarification and filed a successful complaint for Jewish high school students when they were bullied, even kicked (there was a “Kick a Jew Day”).

Source: Bard’s Kenneth Stern: “I drafted the definition of anti-Semitism. Rightwing Jews are weaponizing it.”

ICYMI: Trump’s Racist Ban on Anti-Semitism | by Ian Buruma

Good commentary:

US President Donald Trump thinks that anti-Semitism is a serious problem in America. But Trump is not so much concerned about neo-Nazis who scream that Jews and other minorities “will not replace us,” for he thinks that many white supremacists are “very fine people.” No, Trump is more worried about US college campuses, where students call for boycotts of Israel in support of the Palestinians.

Trump just signed an executive order requiring that federal money be withheld from educational institutions that fail to combat anti-Semitism. Since Jews are identified in this order as a discriminated group on the grounds of ethnic, racial, or national characteristics, an attack on Israel would be anti-Semitic by definition. This is indeed the position of Jared Kushner, Trump’s Jewish son-in-law, who believes that “anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism.”

There are, of course, as many forms of anti-Semitism as there are interpretations of what it means to be Jewish. When Trump and his supporters rant in campaign rallies about shadowy cabals of international financiers who undermine the interests of “ordinary, decent people,” some might interpret that as a common anti-Semitic trope, especially when an image of George Soros is brandished to underline this message. Trump even hinted at the possibility that the liberal Jewish human rights promoter and philanthropist was deliberately funding “caravans” of refugees and illegal aliens so that they could spread mayhem in the US. In Soros’s native Hungary, attacks on him as a cosmopolitan enemy of the people are unmistakably anti-Semitic.

Conspiracy theories about sinister Jewish power have a long history. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a Russian forgery published in 1903, popularized the notion that Jewish bankers and financiers were secretly pulling the strings to dominate the world. Henry Ford was one of the more prominent people who believed this nonsense.

The history of extreme anti-Zionism is not so long. In the first years of the Jewish state, Israel was popular among many leftists, because it was built on socialist ideas. Left-wing opinion in Europe and the United States began to turn against Israel after the Six-Day War in 1967, when Arab territories were occupied by Israeli troops. More and more, Israel came to be seen as a colonial power, or an apartheid state.

One may or may not agree with that view of Israel. But few would deny that occupation, as is usually the case when civilians are under the thumb of a foreign military power, has led to oppression. So, to be a strong advocate for Palestinian rights and a critic of Israeli policies, on college campuses or anywhere else, does not automatically make one an anti-Semite. But there are extreme forms of anti-Zionism that do. The question is when that line is crossed.

Some would claim that it is anti-Semitic to deny Jews the right to have their own homeland. This is indeed one of the premises of Trump’s presidential order. There are also elements on the radical left, certainly represented in educational institutions, who are so obsessed by the oppression of Palestinians that they see Israel as the world’s greatest evil. Just as anti-Semites in the past often linked Jews with the US, as the twin sources of rootless capitalist malevolence, some modern anti-Zionists combine their anti-Americanism with a loathing for Israel.

In the minds of certain leftists, Israel and its American big brother are not just the last bastions of racist Western imperialism. The idea of a hidden Jewish capitalist cabal can also enter left-wing demonology as readily as it infects the far right. This noxious prejudice has haunted the British Labour Party, something its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has consistently failed to recognize.1

In short, anti-Zionism can veer into anti-Semitism, but not all critics of Israel are anti-Zionist, and not all anti-Zionists are prejudiced against Jews.

Quite where people stand on this issue depends heavily on how they define a Jew – a source of endless vagueness and confusion. According to Halakha, or Jewish law, anyone with a Jewish mother, or who has converted to Judaism, is Jewish. That is the general Orthodox view. But more liberal Reform Jews allow Jewish identity to pass through the father as well.

On the other hand, while most Orthodox Jews consider a person to be Jewish even if they convert to another religion, Reform Jews do not. Israel’s Law of Return grants “every Jew” the right to immigrate, but refrains from defining Jewishness. Since 1970, even people with one Jewish grandparent have been eligible to become Israeli citizens. In the infamous Nuremberg laws, promulgated by the Nazis in 1935, people with only one Jewish parent could retain German citizenship, while “full” Jews could not.

The whole thing is so complicated that Amos Oz, the Israeli novelist, once sought to simplify the matter as follows: “Who is a Jew? Everyone who is mad enough to call himself or herself a Jew, is a Jew.”

There is, in any case, something ill-conceived about the stress on race and nationhood in Trump’s order on combating anti-Semitism. Israel is the only state claiming to represent all Jews, but not all Jews necessarily identify with Israel. Some even actively dislike it. Trump’s order might suggest that such people are renegades, or even traitors. This idea might please Israel’s current government, but it is far from the spirit of the Halakha, or even from the liberal idea of citizenship.

Defining Jews as a “race” is just as much of a problem. Jews come from many ethnic backgrounds: Yemenite, Ethiopian, Russian, Moroccan, and Swedish Jews are hard to pin down as a distinctive ethnic group. Hitler saw Jews as a race, but that is no reason to follow his example.

To combat racism, wherever it occurs, is a laudable aim. But singling out anti-Semitism in an executive order, especially when the concept is so intimately linked to views on the state of Israel, is a mistake. Extreme anti-Zionists may be a menace; all extremists are. But they should be tolerated, as long as their views are peacefully expressed. To stifle opinions on campuses by threatening to withhold funds runs counter to the freedom of speech guaranteed by the US Constitution. This is, alas, not the only sign that upholding the constitution is not the main basis of the current US administration’s claim to legitimacy.

Source: Trump’s Racist Ban on Anti-Semitism | by Ian Buruma

Trump Goes Full Anti-Semite in Room Full of Jewish People

Sigh….

Back in February 2017, Donald Trump was asked what the government planned to do about an uptick in anti-Semitism, to which he characteristically responded, “I am the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life.” That statement, like the ones he’s previously made about being “the least racist person there is anywhere in the world,” was, and is, obviously not true at all. Prior to being elected, Trump seemed to suggest to a room full of Jews that they buy off politicians; tweeted an image of Hillary Clinton’s face atop a pile of cash next to the Star of David and the phrase, “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!”; and releasedan ad featuring the faces of powerful Jewish people with a voiceover about them being part of a “global power structure” that has “robbed our working class” and “stripped our country of its wealth.” After moving into the White House, and just a few short months following his assertion that he is the least anti-Semitic person to walk the earth, Trump refused to condemn neo-Nazis and, just last August, accusedAmerican Jews of being “disloyal” to Israel by voting for Democrats. And if you thought the coming holiday season would inspire the president to pump the brakes on blatant anti-Semitism, boy, do we have a surprise for you!

Speaking at the Israeli American Council in Hollywood, Florida, on Saturday night, Trump hit all of his favorite anti-Semitic tropes before a room full of Jewish people. He started off by once again invoking the age-old cliché about “dual loyalty,” saying there are Jews who “don’t love Israel enough.” After that warm-up he dove right into the stereotype about Jews and money, telling the group: “A lot of you are in the real estate business, because I know you very well. You’re brutal killers, not nice people at all,” he said. “But you have to vote for me—you have no choice. You’re not gonna vote for Pocahontas, I can tell you that. You’re not gonna vote for the wealth tax. Yeah, let’s take 100% of your wealth away!” (It feels beside the point that neither Elizabeth Warren nor any other Democratic candidate has proposed a 100% wealth tax.) He continued: “Some of you don’t like me. Some of you I don’t like at all, actually. And you’re going to be my biggest supporters because you’re going to be out of business in about 15 minutes if they get it. So I don’t have to spend a lot of time on that.”

Source: Trump Goes Full Anti-Semite in Room Full of Jewish People

The “Debt” Immigrants Can Never Repay

Interesting read:

In July, Donald Trump told a story about how he coerced a wealthy businessman he didn’t like and who didn’t like him into praising him. The story focused on the pleasure Trump took in watching that man grovel and tell him he was “doing good.” In Trump’s hands, it was a parable about debt and gratitude. “You know,” Trump says he told this nameless enemy, “you don’t like me and I don’t like you. I never have liked you and you never have liked me—but you’re gonna support me because you’re a rich guy. And if you don’t support me, you’re going to be so goddamn poor you’re not going to believe it.” Trump describes the man as acquiescing and praising him, closing the story with: “And maybe we didn’t get along, but it’s not like he has a choice. He has no choice.”

To Trump, this is the story of an excellent “deal.” The best deal is one where the other party, who has something you want (like “a wealthy businessman’s grudging approval”), has no choice but to give it to you. It doesn’t matter if the praise is genuine as long as it costs the businessman something to give it. This calculus may seem pragmatic, but it ends up having a long-term price of its own: “You lose all your friends when you’re president,” Trump laments later in his monologue, one of his part-joke, part-confession asides. When the “deal” is your only framework, your universe shrinks and shuts out bonds over things like (for example) shared principles. It also makes nontransactional feedback—or any truly independent judgment untainted by bribes or threats—implausible. Some consequences of this approach are as old as they are obvious: Choosing to exert control through coercion, insincere praise, or veiled threats frays relations into the kind of exploitation on the one side and lying obsequiousness on the other that Shakespeare’s fools spent every play mocking. More worrying, for a democracy, is that there is no aspiration to anything resembling the ideal of equality here: Trump’s “deal” is about supremacy. He applies it to everything, and his most ardent support (and much of his administration) draws power by championing this worldview.

Trump’s story may have been apocryphal, but it’s also clarifying. Though no friend to the poor and marginalized, his priorities remain clear even with his ostensible equals; these priorities consist largely of making his deal partners lose. The story also offers one of the better examples of the gratitude tax he tries to exact from those with whom he interacts. This is a particular kind of American paternalism at its finest, a framework where the weaker party is not only forced into social or financial debt—they are humiliated and made to feel it. The paternalist values getting the better end of a deal over pretty much everything else. And that’s what a particular subset of Trump supporters—striving to “win” this way themselves—like about him.

Absent an arrangement where he profits financially, the paternalist deal-maker makes sure to profit socially. That’s crucial to understanding some of the less-obvious gears powering Trump’s worldview. Yes, he’s racist; yes, he’s classist. But he’ll make exceptions for poor people (or people from marginalized communities) if they’ll grovel and praise. Sen. Lindsey Graham argued that Trump’s dislike of Somali immigrants like Rep. Ilhan Omar is not based on race. The reason he’s demonizing her to his followers, Graham argued—as if this weren’t racist and above all slimy—was that she didn’t likehim. “I really do believe that if you’re a Somali refugee who likes Trump, he’s not going to say, ‘Go back to Somalia.’ ” You’ll recognize the currency Graham’s identifying here: The only nonwhite migrants worth tolerating, to this way of thinking, are those willing to pay—and they’d better give more than they got, whether in dollars or in gratitude.

This bleak standard is symptomatic of a larger pattern of American paternalism that has always existed but is now flourishing under Trump as other national ideals wither. The American paternalist in the Trumpian mold thinks he’s generous and even-keeled. In practice, he tends to be paranoid, erratic, and consumed by the pursuit of “deals” that put him ahead of the other party in an imaginary ledger he curates with obsessive care. People with less material wealth than him are suspect; as he cannot imagine other motives for them, they must be out to take advantage. He is therefore on guard with them and keen to maintain his advantage by any means. This has obvious consequences for immigration policy: Such a person sees nothing meritorious in courageous dreamers filled with human potential traveling to a foreign country to make a better life. In his ledger, their arrival (and indeed, their existence) appears as a debit.

Source: The “Debt” Immigrants Can Never Repay

Trump Again Says He’d End Birthright Citizenship

More identity politics:

President Donald Trump said Wednesday he was looking “very seriously” at ending the right to citizenship for babies born to non-U.S. citizens on American soil.

Trump spoke to reporters as he departed the White House for a speech in Louisville, Kentucky. He said birthright citizenship was “frankly ridiculous.”

“We’re looking at it very, very seriously,” he said.

This isn’t the first time Trump has claimed he’d do away with it — he said something similar in October.

But the citizenship proposal would inevitably spark a long-shot legal battle over whether the president can alter the long accepted understanding that the 14th Amendment grants citizenship to any child born on U.S. soil, regardless of a parent’s immigration status.

Hurdles in President Trump's executive order to end birthright citizenship
Hurdles in President Trump’s executive order to end birthright citizenship

Executive order

James Ho, a conservative Trump-appointed federal appeals court judge, wrote in 2006, before his appointment, that birthright citizenship “is protected no less for children of undocumented persons than for descendants of Mayflower passengers.”

But Trump has said he was assured by his lawyers that the change could be made “just with an executive order” — an argument he has been making since his early days as a candidate, when he dubbed birthright citizenship a “magnet for illegal immigration” and pledged to end it.

There are no figures on how many foreign women travel to the U.S. specifically to give birth. The Center for Immigration Studies, a group that advocates for stricter immigration laws, estimated that in 2012 about 36,000 foreign-born women gave birth in the U.S., then left the country.

Places like Florida have seen in a boom in so-called “birth tourism.” Every year, hundreds of pregnant Russian women travel to the United States to give birth, paying from $20,000 to more than $50,000 to brokers who arrange their travel documents, accommodations and hospital stays. Sizable numbers of women from China and Nigeria also come to the U.S. for the same reason.

Immigrant detention

Trump’s comments Wednesday came as the administration continued to make immigration changes pushed by his hard-line advisers that have been in the works for months. On Wednesday, the Department of Homeland Security announced it had moved to end a longstanding federal agreement that limits how long immigrant children can be kept in detention. The decision will almost certainly lead to a legal battle over the government’s desire to hold migrant families until their cases are decided.

The rule also follows moves last week to broaden the definition of a “public charge” — a burden to the U.S. — to include immigrants on public assistance, potentially denying green cards to more immigrants. There was also a recent effort to effectively end asylum altogether at the southern border.

Source: Trump Again Says He’d End Birthright Citizenship

Trump’s tweets about ‘disloyal’ Jews are laced with centuries of antisemitism

Situates the broader and historical contexts:

It was January in Paris – cold, gray – when a ceremony held on the Champ-de-Mars roiled the city’s elite. Military officials and civilians gathered to watch as a young Jewish artillery officer was punished for his alleged treason. Days earlier Alfred Dreyfus had been convicted of passing secrets to the Germans in a rushed court-martial. A French army officer stripped his insignia medals, took his sword and broke it over his knee. Dreyfus was marched around the courtyard of the École Militaire as crowds jeered and spat. Cries of “Jew!” and “Judas!” drowned out his muffled professions of loyalty to the French state.

The scene was striking – in the shadow of the newly built Eiffel Tower, a symbol of modernity, an almost primal witch-hunt unfolded. A once decorated army servant pleaded for pity as his neighbors called out “death to the Jew”. Dreyfus was exonerated two years later. The message of his trial was clear: even in a cosmopolitan city, in a country whose revolutionary myth called for liberty and equality, leaders could baselessly point their people’s animus toward the other in their midst.

There’s a sordid history to charges of Jewish dual loyalty in the US In the early years of the second world war, isolationists opposed to American involvement dismissed the war as little more than a “Jewish cause”. Charles Lindbergh berated Jewish leaders for “agitating for war”. Decades later, when the US senator Joe Lieberman ran on the Democratic ticket for vice-president, pundits questioned whether he was more loyal to Israel than to the US. During the democratic primaries in 2015, the Vermont senator Bernie Sanders was challenged on his “dual citizenship” with Israel.

Source: Trump’s tweets about ‘disloyal’ Jews are laced with centuries of antisemitism

Canada’s Populist Party Introduces Trumpian Immigration Plan

Strong endorsement by the American right. Not sure how this will help the Bernier in Canada:

Donald Trump’s influence has crossed the border into Canada. Last week, the populist People’s Party of Canada unveiled its immigration plan. The plan echoes the America First agenda and would provide a solid immigration model for American patriots to imitate.

The PPC’s plan would reduce immigration, combat multiculturalism, focus on high-skilled immigrants, and emphasize assimilation.

Maxime Bernier, a member of Parliament from Quebec and PPC’s leader, delivered the plan along with “Muslim dissident” and long-time critic of multiculturalism, Salim Mansur. Bernier is a former state minister who nearly became the leader of Canada’s more establishment right-wing party, the Conservative Party of Canada, two years ago. He left the Conservatives last year over their cowardice in addressing vital policies, such as immigration. Word is, he was pushed out by way of a rigged vote. He labelled the Conservatives “intellectually and morally corrupt” before leaving.

“For decades now, there has only been one acceptable position among our political and intellectual elites: more, and more, and more immigration,” Bernier said in a speech last week. “There is a taboo around this topic. As soon as you raise a concern about the level of immigration, someone will accuse you of harboring anti-immigrant views and being racist or xenophobic.”

Bernier singled out Conservatives for their weakness on immigration: “[Conservative Party leader] Andrew Scheer gave a speech on immigration a few weeks ago. He did not say anything relevant or significant. He did not mention any number. Instead, he spent half an hour pleading that he is not racist.”

Bernier said he needed only 30 seconds to dispel media smears his party is racist. He pointed to minority candidates in PPC and the party’s emphasis on “shared values, culture and identity,” not skin color. He told any journalist who may call them racists to “take a hike!”

The PPC’s plan to reduce immigration puts them on the side of most Canadians. Nearly 50 percent of Canadians want immigration reduced, while only 6 percent want it increased. “The Liberals are the extremists! We are the mainstream!” Bernier declared.

At the heart of the PPC’s plan is the extraordinary idea that “Canada’s immigration policy should be to economically benefit Canadians and Canada as a whole.”

Bernier says that “mass immigration, open borders, unvetted immigration, [and] extreme multiculturalism” fails to fulfill this obligation. “On the contrary, it’s a very dangerous type of social engineering. It amounts to large-scale government intervention in society and culture,” he said of Canada’s current policies. “It will bring increasing cultural balkanisation, distrust, social conflict, and potentially violence, as we are seeing in other countries where division has reached a critical level.”

Bernier also noted the economic costs of unrestricted mass immigration. He claims that nearly 74 percent of immigrants are subsidized by the government, which costs Canadian taxpayers between $16 billion and $24 billion every year. He also argues that immigrants, given their congestion in Canada’s major urban areas, cause housing prices and rents to skyrocket; a huge problem, especially in cities such as Vancouver and Toronto.

With these facts in mind, Bernier argues Canada should “stop being politically correct. We must recognize that not all values, not all social customs, not all cultures are equally valuable. Our distinct values are those of contemporary Western civilization.”

He accuses Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of being the “biggest peddler” of the lie “that all cultures are equal.” “[Trudeau] simply doesn’t care about Canada’s culture and identity, heritage and traditions. He sees himself as a citizen of the world.”

Trudeau drew outrage in 2017 when he told one interview he believed Canada had “no core identity” and was, he thought, the first “postnational state.”

Bernier says this “globalist” vision denies Canada’s identity and threatens to destroy it. The PPC plan aims to counter that threat.

The plan would address five key problems. The first is immigration levels: “A People’s Party government will substantially lower the total number of immigrants and refugees we accept every year, from 350,000 to between 100,000 and 150,000, depending on economic and other circumstances.”

The second is multiculturalism: “A People’s Party government will repeal the Multiculturalism Act and eliminate all funding to promote multiculturalism. We will instead emphasize the integration of immigrants into Canadian society.”

The third is economic immigration. The PPC wants to reform the country’s point system to favor skilled immigrants, limit the number of migrants accepted under family reunification, and eliminate birth tourism

The fourth area is assimilation. Bernier’s plan calls for a tougher screening process to ensure migrants “share mainstream Canadian values.” Those who are found to not have Western values will be rejected.

The final area is refugees. The PPC will put more barriers on the border, accept fewer refugees from the United States and abroad, reduce the government subsidization, and end Canada’s reliance on the United Nations for refugee selection.

Bernier promised that his party “will unite Canadians with an immigration policy designed to benefit all of us.”

The plan is similar to immigration proposals President Trump has touted. Both the RAISE Act and the immigration plan Trump announced in May would make America’s immigration system more merit-based and cut down chain migration. Both plans would make it tougher to gain asylum and strengthen border security. Both American plans favor English-speaking immigrants who can easily integrate and contribute.

However, the PPC’s plan goes much further than the two plans Trump proposes. It calls for a reduction in immigration from close to 400,000 under Trudeau to between 100,000 and 150,000, depending on the economy. Trump’s new plan does not reduce immigration in contrast to the RAISE Act.

And neither American plan addresses multiculturalism or the cultural effects of immigration. Then again, America does not have a Multiculturalism Act. Thanks to the efforts of Justin Trudeau’s father, Pierre, Canada made multiculturalism official federal policy, thus supplanting English and French bicultural nationalism.

Most American immigration hawks typically avoid the cultural effects of mass immigration in favor of focusing on its economic effects. There are notable exceptions, such as Tucker Carlson and U.S. Representative Steve King (R-Iowa). Bernier demonstrates a bolder path that attacks mass immigration on both cultural and economic grounds.

The PPC’s immigration plan is a brilliant set of policy proposals and would make Canada great again. Republicans should take notes.

Source: Canada’s Populist Party Introduces Trumpian Immigration Plan

Opinion: Report On Racism, But Ditch The Labels

Thoughtful commentary:

Editor’s note: NPR this week has described the language in President Trump’s tweets about a group of Democratic congresswomen as “racist.”

Keith Woods, NPR’s vice president for newsroom training and diversity, argues that journalists should not be using the term “racist” to describe the president’s tweets. He explains why below.


Once again, the president of the United States has used the sniper tower of Twitter to take aim at immigration, race relations and common decency. And once again, journalists are daring their profession to boldly call bigotry what it is: bigotry. Enough of the vacuous “racially charged,” “racially loaded,” “racially insensitive” evasions, they say. It’s racist, and we should just call it that.

I understand the moral outrage behind wanting to slap this particular label on this particular president and his many incendiary utterances, but I disagree. Journalism may not have come honorably to the conclusion that dispassionate distance is a virtue. But that’s the fragile line that separates the profession from the rancid, institution-debasing cesspool that is today’s politics.

It is precisely because journalism is given to warm-spit phrases like “racially insensitive” and “racially charged” that we should not be in the business of moral labeling in the first place. Who decides where the line is that the president crossed? The headline writer working today who thinks it’s “insensitive” or the one tomorrow who thinks it’s “racist?” Were we to use my moral standards, the line for calling people and words racist in this country would have been crossed decades ago. But that’s not what journalists do. We report and interview and attribute.

I am not a journalism purist. I came into the profession 40 years ago to tear down the spurious notion of objectivity used to protects a legacy of sexism, xenophobia and white supremacy. The better ideals of truth telling, accountability, fairness, etc., are what give journalism its power, while the notion of “objectivity” has been used to obscure and excuse the insidious biases we do battle with today.

I’ve been an informed consumer of the media since my days as a paperboy. I read the Times-Picayune as I delivered it, and the distorted view it offered of black and poor New Orleans told me all I needed to know about “objectivity.” We have come miles since then as a profession. But why should I trust that we’re all on the same page with our labels now? Weren’t last week’s tweets racist? Or last year’s? Weren’t some misogynistic? Vulgar? Homophobic? Sexist? The language of my judgment is generous, and they are my opinion, and they belong in the space reserved for opinions.

What’s at stake is journalism’s embattled claim to be the source of credible news grounded in the kind of deep, fair reporting that exposes injustice and holds powerful people to account. It may be satisfying to call the president’s words, or the president himself, racist, given the attacks tweeted from his bully app and so often aimed at our profession. But at what cost?

It’s already nearly impossible to separate actual journalism from the argumentative noise on the cable networks that dominate so much of public perception. There are already too many journalists dancing day and night on the line that once separated fact and judgment. When that line is finally obliterated and we sink into the cesspool beckoning us to its depths, this historically flawed, imperfect tool for revealing and routing racism will look and sound indistinguishable from the noise and become just as irrelevant.

On Sunday, the president wrote this:

“So interesting to see ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”

His words mirror those of avowed racists and xenophobes that date back to the birth of this country. Was that moral judgement, my last sentence? I would argue no. I’d call it context, and it doesn’t require my opinion, just a basic understanding of history. That’s an alternative to labels: Report. Quote people. Cite sources. Add context. Leave the moral labeling to the people affected; to the opinion writers, the editorial writers, the preachers and philosophers and to the public we serve.

We just have to do journalism.

Source: Opinion: Report On Racism, But Ditch The Labels

The Bible-Belt Preachers Standing Up to Trump’s Xenophobia

Far too few examples:

America’s political polarization is a pervasive fact of 21st-century life, but that doesn’t mean that everyone is taking it lying down—including, stunningly, in the heartland of the conservative Christian right.

American Heretics: The Politics of the Gospel, now playing in theaters, is a documentary about a handful of Oklahoma preachers who are taking a stand against what they see as the radicalization of their faith. That open-minded priests, and congregations, exist in the U.S.—championing more liberal interpretations of the gospel, and conceptions of the Almighty—is not breaking news. Yet Jeanine Isabel Butler’s film remains an eye-opening look at iconoclastic men and women who are going back to the biblical source in order to reclaim Christianity from extreme Evangelicals, who they argue have found, in President Trump, an ideal figurehead for their warped religious views.

The senior minister of Oklahoma City’s Mayflower Congregational United Church of Christ, which is dedicated to preaching the Bible’s foundational lessons of compassion and charity, Reverend Robin R. Meyers suggests early on in American Heretics that Donald Trump is beloved by Evangelicals because he embodies their idea of an Old Testament-style God who’s angry, unforgiving and vengeful. Moreover, Meyers maintains that the commander-in-chief’s popularity is wrapped up in white Christians’ belief that their time as a popular American majority is coming to a close—a notion that, coupled with their traditionalist cultural values, has pushed Christianity into ever-more-radical terrain. Especially when it comes to politics.

Meyers and his colleague Lori Walke contend that they’re not interested in promoting politics from the pulpit, insofar as that means directly advocating for Democratic or Republican platforms. Instead, per American Heretics’ subtitle, they’re all about preaching the politics of the gospel—i.e. returning to the Good Book and adopting what it says about how to treat one’s fellow man, and how to live a just and moral life. As Meyers avows, he has no interest in becoming a mouthpiece for a particular party ideology. He does, though, think it’s vital for preachers to use the Bible as a vehicle for investigating the pressing problems facing Americans today—a process that, by its very nature, is inherently political.

Located deep in the Bible Belt—Oklahoma didn’t have a single county go for President Obama during either of his two presidential campaigns, whereas all of its counties went for Trump in 2016—Mayflower is a liberal outpost behind enemy lines. Valuing people’s literal actions more than their convictions, it opposed the Iraq War back in the early-2000s, and began issuing gay marriage licenses (and performing ceremonies) before it was legal to do so. In its later passages, Butler’s film depicts a vote conducted by Meyers and Walke to determine whether Mayflower should become a sanctuary church for undocumented immigrants. By a 2-to-1 majority, its parishioners ratify that measure, deciding that the Bible’s principles command them to protect those in need (and suffering from persecution), no matter the potential legal ramifications.

Given that its purview is broader than this single topic, American Heretics isn’t capable of addressing the complications of the immigration debate. Consequently, its snapshot of a single mother struggling to care for her ill child while facing the threat of deportation—and Meyers and Walke’s efforts to help her—comes across as a cursory footnote. Nonetheless, Myers and Walke’s stance on this issue is emblematic of their forward-thinking approach to Christianity, which bucks the movement established by Jerry Falwell and Oral Roberts in the ‘60s and ‘70s that’s now spawned our present mega-church-dominated Evangelical environment.

The rise of the radical white Christian right is a concurrent focus of American Heretics, which alongside its concentration on Meyers and Walke’s philosophy, also spends considerable energy—via talking heads, and the usual collection of archival material—detailing the evolution of Southern religious dogma during the 20th century. That historical recap proves a handy, if somewhat hasty, primer designed to provide context for today, and the forces that Mayflower opposes. And it’s also complemented by commentary from Bernard Brandon Scott, a longstanding Darbeth Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Oklahoma’s Phillips Theological Seminary, who discusses the ancient origins of the Bible and how they run contrary to current Christian-right opinions—including with regards to immigration, which Scott says is supported by the Bible because Jesus, Joseph and Mary snuck into Egypt, and thus were illegal immigrants themselves.

American Heretics’ most fascinating figure turns out to be Carlton Pearson, who rose to Evangelical prominence during the ‘80s and ‘90s as an acolyte of, and chosen successor to, Oral Roberts. In old TV clips, Pearson is seen preaching the gospel with an intensity that’s infectious, commanding the stage in front of thousands. Now at 66 years old, however, Pearson is the affiliate minister of Tulsa’s All Souls Unitarian Church, where he counsels a far different congregation—one whose membership, per the sign on the door, includes “everyone.” That shift was the result of Pearson’s realization, in the mid-‘90s, that he didn’t agree with Christianity’s conception of a God that wanted to punish non-believers by dooming them to eternal torment in Hell. When, through research, he opted instead for a doctrine of inclusion, he was dubbed a heretic and ostracized from his flock—thus opening a new door on a more empathetic faith.

Pearson’s story is compelling proof of genuine religious transformation, and that by hewing closer to the Bible, fundamentalists can become more tolerant (and, dare one say, liberal). American Heretics, unfortunately, skimps a bit on Pearson’s journey, which is all the more frustrating in light of its final scenes regarding All Souls Unitarian Church, which play as runtime-padding filler. Even those minor missteps, though, can’t neuter the film’s inspiring advocacy for a devout Christianity that’s in tune with both scripture and modern attitudes about equality and kindness. For Meyers and company, the politics of fear—against any number of “others”—are in direct opposition to the teachings of Christ. And embracing His values, even in the center of red-state America, is not only possible but necessary if one covets a truly righteous future.

Trump Fans the Flames of a Racial Fire

Hard to disagree:

When it comes to race, Mr. Trump plays with fire like no other president in a century. While others who occupied the White House at times skirted close to or even over the line, finding ways to appeal to the resentments of white Americans with subtle and not-so-subtle appeals, none of them in modern times fanned the flames as overtly, relentlessly and even eagerly as Mr. Trump.

His attack on the Democratic congresswomen came on the same day his administration was threatening mass roundups of immigrants living in the country illegally. And it came just days after he hosted some of the most incendiary right-wing voices on the internet at the White House and vowed to find another way to count citizens separately from noncitizens despite a Supreme Court ruling that blocked him from adding a question to the once-a-decade census.

Republican lawmakers, by and large, did not rush to the president’s side on Sunday either, but neither did they jump forward to denounce him. Deeply uncomfortable as many Republicans are with Mr. Trump’s racially infused politics, they worry about offending the base voters who cheer on the president as a truth-teller taking on the tyranny of political correctness.

Only in the evening did Mr. Trump respond to the furor, saying that Democrats were standing up for colleagues who “speak so badly of our Country” and “whenever confronted” call adversaries “RACIST.”

At that point, Tim Murtaugh, a campaign spokesman for Mr. Trump, responded to a request for comment, saying, “The president pointed out that many Democrats say terrible things about this country, which in reality is the greatest nation on Earth.” He did not explain why Mr. Trump told American-born lawmakers to “go back” to countries they were not from.

Other presidents have played racial politics or indulged in stereotypes. Secret tapes of Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon show them routinely making virulently racist statements behind closed doors. Mr. Nixon’s Southern strategy was said to be aimed at disenchanted whites. Ronald Reagan was accused of coded racial appeals for talking so much about “welfare queens.” George Bush and his supporters highlighted the case of a furloughed African-American murderer named Willie Horton. Bill Clinton was accused of a racial play for criticizing a black hip-hop star.

But there were limits, even a generation ago, and most modern presidents preached racial unity over division. Mr. Johnson, of course, pushed through the most sweeping civil rights legislation in American history. Mr. Bush signed a civil-rights bill and denounced David Duke, the Ku Klux Klan leader, when he ran for governor of Louisiana as a Republican. His son, George W. Bush, made a point of visiting a mosque just days after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to emphasize that America was not at war with Muslims. Barack Obama invited an African-American Harvard professor and the white police officer who mistakenly arrested him for a “beer summit.”

Mr. Trump’s history on race has been well documented, from his days as a developer settling a Justice Department lawsuit over discrimination in renting apartments to his public agitation during the Central Park Five case in New York. Jack O’Donnell, the former president of Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, later wrote that Mr. Trump openly disparaged others based on race, complaining, for example, that he did not want black men managing his money.

“Trump has not only always been a racist, but anyone around him who denies it, is lying,” Mr. O’Donnell said on Sunday. “Donald Trump makes racist comments all the time. Once you know him, he speaks his mind about race very openly.”

Mr. Trump, he said, regularly trafficked in racial stereotypes — Jews were good with money, blacks were lazy, Puerto Ricans dressed badly. “White people are Americans to Trump; everyone else is from somewhere else,” Mr. O’Donnell said. “He simply denies the reality of how we all immigrated to the United States.”

Mr. Trump propelled his way to the White House in part by promoting the false “birther” conspiracy theory that Mr. Obama was actually born in Africa, not Hawaii. He opened his presidential bid in 2015 with an attack on Mexican “rapists” coming across the border (although “some, I assume, are good people”) and later called for a ban on all Muslims entering the United States. He said an American-born judge of Mexican heritage could not be fair to him because of his ethnic background.

As president, he complained during meetings that became public that Haitian immigrants “all have AIDS” and said African visitors would never “go back to their huts.” He disparaged Haiti and some African nations with a vulgarity and said instead of immigrants from there, the United States should accept more from Norway. He said there were “very fine people on both sides” of a rally to save a Confederate monument that turned deadly in Charlottesville, Va., although he also condemned the neo-Nazis there.

He is only saying what others believe but are too afraid to say, he insists. And each time the flames roar and Mr. Trump tosses a little more accelerant on top. The fire may be hot, but that’s the way he likes it.