Hell in a Handbasket: Charlottesville Proves We Haven’t Learned History’s Lessons

I grew up in a state that many consider part of the Midwest, but most of my neighbors would argue that we are a Southern state. The US Census Bureau agrees only because Oklahoma, the reddest state in the union, is south of Mason-Dixon Line. But Indian Territory, as Oklahoma was known in the 1860s, wasn’t legally open to white settlers until 1889. Oklahoma Territory didn’t become the 46th state until 1907. Nevertheless, many Confederates settled in Oklahoma in the aftermath of the American Civil War. Some of those Confederates were my ancestors–moving from North Carolina through to Arkansas and on to Oklahoma. I’m not proud of this fact, but it is a fact with which I have to live and face. This knowledge is the context of my childhood.

With Confederates on both sides of my family and a paternal grandfather that openly used the “n” word while I was growing up in the Sooner State, I’ve long been amazed that I turned out as I did–a politically active progressive liberal who believes in social justice and fights for equity for minorities, for women, for all. I remember all the racist, sexist, ethnic “truly tasteless jokes” (that were eventually collected into a series of books in 1982) that we all told as grade schoolers as we giggled thinking we were getting one past the grown-ups around us. So much of what I grew up with in the 1970s would not pass in today’s society–rightly so or wrongly so, we have lost our ability as a nation to laugh at the expense of any group, much less ourselves. In many ways, this is indeed progress, but in other ways, we have become a nation at war with itself because we are constantly offended with each other. I have been searching my experiences in my mind trying to trace the path from growing up with tasteless jokes to being trolled by acquaintances and strangers alike in social media for being an intolerant snowflake libtard (among other names).

I considered the humor of Mel Brooks, for example. I can remember laughing at early scenes from Blazing Saddles as a youngster in the back seat of the car at the drive-in theater as my parents tried to enjoy a date night of sorts. My younger brother and I both hee-hawed at the bean farting scene. Then we started arguing over who got the red and blue M&Ms, ate some popcorn, and fell asleep (I was 5 1/2; my brother was 4) before the new sheriff came to town. But as adolescents, we were re-introduced to the entire film. And we both loved the brilliant satire. We still do. I often quote “Mongo only pawn in game of life” when people look to me to solve their problems for them (I’m a firm believer in the Alinsky’s Iron Rule of Organizing–Never do for others what they can do for themselves). Mel Brooks knew that even back in 1974 he was broaching taboo racial, ethnic, and sexist subjects as he parodied Hollywood Westerns, but he did so deftly and with such satiric skill and wit that the classic film still works today.

The closest a film has come to this level of line-crossing satiric genius in the past decade would have to be Ben Stiller’s 2008  Tropic Thunder, which also put Hollywood in the crosshairs while using taboo racist, ethnic, and sexist humor to fantastic effect just like his predecessor Brooks. Tropic Thunder opened the month before my 40th birthday, but I remember thinking as I sat virtually alone at a weekday matinee of the film that it was a brilliant piece of satire that actually pulled off the unthinkable in the post-millennial world–having an Academy Award nominee in blackface for virtually the entire film. I have to wonder if Stiller would have been able to get the green light for the film today, in a post-Trayvon Martin/Michael Brown/Eric Garner/Philando Castile/et al world. Part of me hopes yes, but another part of me hesitates to think so. We are a society that is hurting and not healing. The wounds of our Civil War and its resulting segregation are festering and poisoning the body of our nation. And our national “leaders” do not lead with the courage to do what is right, but instead look for expediency and to curry favor with a chosen few.

 

Today’s horrifying spectacle of the President of the United States openly defending alt-right protestors who were yelling Nazi chants at this last weekend’s “Unite the Right” rally, of him openly defending Confederate General Robert E. Lee by falsely equating him to President George Washington and President Thomas Jefferson (neither of whom betrayed this country to raise arms against it) while denouncing the alt-left as violent offenders was stunning to watch (here’s a guide to the terms). The simmering hatred against America’s first black president, Barack Obama, has in short order boiled over in a very public defiance and a rage egged on by DJT/45 (I still refuse to type his name). The alt-right men and women who descended upon Charlottesville this last weekend were open and proud to wear their White Nationalist symbols. Gone were the KKK face-hiding hoods. The brazen marchers knew the terrifying history behind carrying torches and marching at night–KKK rallies and lynch mobs. They knew that this action steeped in the traditions of the White Supremacists and Segregationists would bring these actions symbolic of the violent old into the now and the future. They also knew that counter protesters would show up–that those in opposition to their extremist views would not stand in fear in the shadows like in days past. America’s wounds are splitting open and bleeding for the world to see.

And all my acquaintances and friends in my birth state of Oklahoma can talk about is how libtards like me are writing a revisionist history erasing their heritage. That is what saddens me the most. How did we arrive at this point in time where extremism is ruling the day and the majority stands by acquiescing? Did we learn nothing from our fathers and grandfathers who fought in WW2? Did we learn nothing from Hitler’s Final Solution and Master Race rhetoric? I can’t help but think of Mark Antony’s stirring the Roman people: “O judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts,/ And men have lost their reason.”

 

 

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Democratic Women to Wear White to 45’s Joint Speech

Democratic women in the House are planning to wear white during President Donald Trump’s first major Congressional address on Tuesday evening. The heads of the Democratic Women’s Working Group, including Chair Lois Frankel, (D-Fla.), penned a letter to members Monday–asking them to where wear white to honor of the suffragette movement. However, their motive goes…

via Why Democratic Women Are Wearing White to Donald Trump’s Congressional Speech Tonight — Fortune

 

When Not to Work Together 

I didn’t write the message, but it expresses my sentiments pretty well:
This is where I stand. I feel that our 45th President, his Cabinet and administration, and the majority of Republicans in Congress are a real and active threat to me, my way of life, and all the people I love. Some people are saying that we should give Trump a chance, that we should “work together” with him because he won the election and he is “everyone’s president.” I am willing to do all of that if/when his policies seem reasonable. However:

•I will not “work together” to privatize Medicare, cut Social Security and Medicaid.

•I will not “work together” to build a wall.

•I will not “work together” to persecute Muslims.

•I will not “work together” to shut out refugees from other countries.

•I will not “work together” to lower taxes on the 1% and increase taxes on the middle class and poor.

•I will not “work together” to help Trump use the Presidency to line his pockets and those of his family and cronies.

•I will not “work together” to weaken and demolish environmental protection.

.I will not deny Climate Change even as a massive iceberg is melting and breaking as scientists around the world monitor its possible effects.

•I will not “work together” to sell American lands, especially National Parks, to companies which then despoil those lands.

•I will not “work together” to enable the killing of whole species of animals just because they are predators, or inconvenient for a few, or because some people want to get their thrills killing them.

•I will not “work together” to remove civil rights from anyone.

•I will not “work together” to alienate countries that have been our allies for as long as I have been alive.

•I will not “work together” to slash funding for education.

•I will not “work together” to reduce civil discourse to 144-character character assassinations.

•I will not “work together” to take basic assistance from people who are at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder.

•I will not “work together” to get rid of common sense regulations on guns.

•I will not “work together” to eliminate the minimum wage.

•I will not “work together” to support so-called “Right To Work” laws, or undermine, weaken or destroy Unions in any way.

•I will not “work together” to suppress scientific research, be it on climate change, fracking, or any other issue where a majority of scientists agree that Trump and his supporters are wrong on the facts.

•I will not “work together” to criminalize abortion or restrict health care for women.

•I will not “work together” to increase the number of nations that have nuclear weapons.

•I will not “work together” to put even more “big money” into politics.

•I will not “work together” to violate the Geneva Convention.

•I will not “work together” to give the Ku Klux Klan, the Nazi Party and white supremacists a seat at the table, or to normalize their hatred.

•I will not “work together” to deny health care to people who need it.

•I will not “work together” to deny medical coverage to people on the basis of a “pre-existing condition.”

•I will not “work together” to increase voter suppression.

•I will not “work together” to normalize tyranny.

I will not “work together” to eliminate or reduce ethical oversight at any level of government.

•I will not “work together” with anyone who is, or admires, tyrants and dictators.

•I will not support anyone that thinks its OK to put a pipeline to transport oil on Sacred Ground for Native Americans. And, it would run under the Missouri River, which provides drinking water for millions of people. An accident waiting to happen.This is my line, and I am drawing it.

•I will stand for honesty, love, respect for all living beings, and for the beating heart that is the center of Life itself.

•I will use my voice and my hands, to reach out to the uninformed, and to anyone who will LISTEN:

That “winning”, “being great again”, “rich” or even “beautiful” is nothing… When others are sacrificed to glorify its existence.

Jules’s Jukebox: Lady Gaga’s Subtle Protest Rocked Super Bowl LI

Tonight’s jukebox is dedicated to Mama Monster!

Lady Gaga took to heart the fact that she was performing for all of America in her halftime show for Super Bowl LI, but her message of support for immigrants and the LGBTQ community still rang loud and clear.

Her opening with “God Bless America” segueing into Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” spoke to all of us in organized labor, but it also spoke volumes to those who have spent the past week resisting the Muslim Ban. Guthrie’s lyrics highlight that our land and freedom to roam it belongs to all of us–even immigrants and those enslaved by poverty and hunger, not just those who are wealthy or have plenty.

“This Land Is Your Land”
Words and Music by Woody Guthrie

This land is your land This land is my land
From California to the New York island;
From the redwood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and Me.

As I was walking that ribbon of highway,
I saw above me that endless skyway:
I saw below me that golden valley:
This land was made for you and me.

I’ve roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts;
And all around me a voice was sounding:
This land was made for you and me.

When the sun came shining, and I was strolling,
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling,
As the fog was lifting a voice was chanting:
This land was made for you and me.

As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said “No Trespassing.”
But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.

Coupling the few lines from Guthrie with her own song, “Born This Way,” added a little gravitas to her set of dance favorites. Singing “Born This Way” in front of VP Mike Pence, a pro-conversion therapy politician, paid direct homage to the LGBTQ community along with the immigrant communities of our nation. (Here’s the official video:)

“Born This Way”
[Intro:]
It doesn’t matter if you love him, or capital H-I-M
Just put your paws up
’cause you were born this way, baby

[Verse:]
My mama told me when I was young
We are all born superstars
She rolled my hair and put my lipstick on
In the glass of her boudoir

“There’s nothing wrong with loving who you are”
She said, “‘Cause he made you perfect, babe”
“So hold your head up girl and you’ll go far,
Listen to me when I say”

[Chorus:]
I’m beautiful in my way
‘Cause God makes no mistakes
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way
Don’t hide yourself in regret
Just love yourself and you’re set
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way

[Post-chorus:]
Oh there ain’t no other way
Baby I was born this way
Baby I was born this way
Oh there ain’t no other way
Baby I was born this way
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way

Don’t be a drag ‒ just be a queen [x3]
Don’t be!

[Verse:]
Give yourself prudence
And love your friends
Subway kid, rejoice your truth
In the religion of the insecure
I must be myself, respect my youth

A different lover is not a sin
Believe capital H-I-M (Hey hey hey)
I love my life I love this record and
Mi amore vole fe yah (Love needs faith)

[Repeat chorus + post-chorus]

[Bridge:]
Don’t be a drag, just be a queen
Whether you’re broke or evergreen
You’re black, white, beige, chola descent
You’re Lebanese, you’re orient
Whether life’s disabilities
Left you outcast, bullied, or teased
Rejoice and love yourself today
’cause baby you were born this way

No matter gay, straight, or bi,
Lesbian, transgendered life,
I’m on the right track baby,
I was born to survive.
No matter black, white or beige
Chola or orient made,
I’m on the right track baby,
I was born to be brave.

[Repeat chorus + post-chorus]

[Outro/refrain:]
I was born this way hey!
I was born this way hey!
I’m on the right track baby
I was born this way hey!
I was born this way hey!
I was born this way hey!
I’m on the right track baby
I was born this way hey!

[Fade away:]
Same DNA, but born this way.
Same DNA, but born this way.

Lady Gaga managed to stage a mainstream, prime-time show for a wide audience while embedding a subtle, but clear message of acceptance in the face politicians who would work to strip rights from Americans. Her entertaining performance will long be remembered for its nonpolitical skin with a political heart.

Here’s her entire Super Bowl LI performance:

Braving the New World of Alternative Facts

In the NY Times Charles Sykes explains how he and others worked hard to ensure that people like Trump (and Sean Spicer and Kellyanne Conway and many others) can simply repeat outright lies with no real penalty: If President Trump’s first tumultuous weeks have done nothing else, at least they have again made us a […]

via Why Nobody Cares the President Is Lying — Later On

*Jules’s Note: At some point, facts must trump ideology if the U.S. Constitution is to survive this test. These “alternative facts”, propaganda, and ideological echo chambers supported with fake news do nothing but destroy the fabric of our American Dream.

I continue to resist by contacting my elected officials often on a variety of issues. I’m lucky enough to live in an area where my congressman is making nightly news with his anti-Trump resistance messages, but I have plugged all of my elected representatives’ phone numbers, addresses, and emails into my contacts list on my phone. They will continue to hear from me. 

I continue to resist by joining marches on issues of great importance. Two weekends ago I proudly marched in the Women’s March in downtown Las Vegas. Last weekend I joined in an educators press conference to denounce Betsy DeVos’s nomination as Secretary of Education (and I am still urging people to call their senators to vote in opposition to her this next Monday when her nomination will move to the floor of the senate–right now Pence is expected to cast the tie-breaking vote to approve her. We need just one more republican to oppose her nomination!). I’m closely monitoring the situation with the Muslim ban and the detentions at airports (LAX is about 10 miles from my house). I’m looking to participate in the Tax Day and/or Earth Day marches that are currently being planned (Tax Day march is a march to protest that DJT will not release his taxes while the Earth Day march is the Scientists March on Washington to denounce DJT’s anti-science stance and actions). 

A Lie is a Lie is a Lie…Resist DJT’s Alternative Facts

Since his inauguration, Donald Trump has been obsessed with two issues of fact. He asserted repeatedly that the crowd at his swearing-in was larger than the crowd for Obama in 2009, despite the fact that aerial photographs showed this was not true. At one point, he ordered the National Park Service to stop issuing estimates […]

via Trump’s Disregard for Truth “Threatens His Ability to Govern” — Diane Ravitch’s blog

*Jules’s Note: Our standing in the world is sinking every time DJT acts with such callous disregard for all but himself. The POTUS’s inability to admit he had a smaller inaugural crowd than Obama set up one of the most ridiculous exchanges ever between the White House press corps and the White House Press Secretary.  DJT and Sean Spicer tried to sell us their “alternative facts” (thank you, Kellyanne Conway, for the new entry for the Urban Dictionary)  because they know that just putting the lie out into the public, a third will believe the lie, a third will fall victim to the Orwellian propaganda.  Spicer was rightly raked over the coals by journalists and he spent Monday trying to make up for the disastrous weekend conference. But to add insult to injury, DJT’s mendacity doesn’t compare to every act he has taken so far as POTUS. He has done nothing but make me more nervous for the fragility of our democracy as DJT and top Republican lawmakers make grotesque power grabs with little regard for the rule of law, ethics, or basic human dignity. My only solace at this point is how galvanized the Indivisible Resistance groups have become. The actions are growing in strength–let’s keep organizing rather than agonizing.

The Women’s March this past weekend sent a loud and clear message. And our elected leaders need to understand that they ignore that message at their peril–we will primary you regardless of party if you do not represent your people. Even though I’m an Angeleno and would have loved to have joined 750,000 of my fellow citizens in the city’s largest march, I had already made travel plans to Las Vegas. So I enthusiastically joined nearly 5,000 in downtown Las Vegas to march and hear a group of speakers that included Congresswoman Dina Titus telling us to hold her accountable. It was such a reaffirming event that reminded me and my friends that less than a hundred years ago Silent Sentinels were beaten, imprisoned, and force-fed for protesting for the right to vote. It reminded me that I happen to work in an industry that is predominantly women, so teachers’ issues are women’s issues too. It reminded me that women have fought for and even died for me to have the right to vote, to have the right to own my house, to have my own bank account, to make my own choices about my health…and it reinforced to me just how close we are to losing so much of what has been gained in the past century. That is why I marched this past weekend.

I had many of my right wing friends and family ask why we “libtards” couldn’t just suck it up and be gracious losers. And I had to remind them that DJT taking the oval office is one thing, but the immediate work to repeal the ACA, the immediate work to defund women’s reproductive rights by reinstituting Ronald Reagan’s Global Gag Rule, the immediate work to silence federal agencies and blackout transparency, the immediate work to pollute our water and violate Native religious grounds for personal profit, the immediate work to shut down the EPA…the list is growing by the hour how DJT is working against the ability of Americans–particularly women–to have life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. So I encouraged my friends to look at the perspectives of many who marched and to educate themselves as to what the platform of the Women’s March is.

So in keeping with the Women’s March next steps (10 Actions, 100 Days): Let’s keep fighting the good fight. Tomorrow, the senate will vote on the confirmation of Betsy DeVos, the most underqualified person to ever be considered for Secretary of Education. Please call your senators and tell them to vote against her confirmation. Stand with your local students and teachers by wearing red tomorrow and taking just a few moments of action with your phone calls and to post your action on social media with the hashtag #DumpDeVos.

Let’s be Indivisible in the face of the POTUS’s lies. Let’s Resist the platform that hurts our neighbors or ourselves.

MLK Day: Remembering

Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the United States is a holiday to commemorate the leader of the Civil Rights Movement in 1960s America. To celebrate his legacy, Flickr has put together a collection of images from The Flickr Commons organizations documenting social conditions experienced by African-Americans in America during segregation and the rise of civil movements demanding an…

via Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2017 — Flickr Blog

Jules’s Jukebox: Songs for Social Justice

As I enter this bizarre week bookended by juxtaposing events, I can’t help but think of that long arc of history bending toward social justice–and popular music’s strong ties to helping spread the word on our society’s most pressing social issues. Tomorrow, our nation will honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his Stride toward Freedom while on Friday giving the oath of office to a man who maliciously called one of Dr. King’s civil rights brothers all talk and not action–for the very action of standing up to him. While searching for songs to properly encapsulate this week, I found some amazing lists that I would recommend to anyone for listening (maybe check out this one from Amnesty International). I looked and looked and selected the following two–one for MLK Day and the other for Inauguration Day.

“Strange Fruit” by Billie Holliday. This Jim Crowe era song from 1939 describing lynching is an appropriate choice for both occasions this week in reality. Rebecca Ferguson, an X Factor UK singer, offered to sing at DJT’s Inauguration under one condition–that she sing Holliday’s haunting “Strange Fruit.” At last check, she was not on the list featuring acts such as Toby Keith, Jackie Evancho, and 3 Doors Down. And now that DJT is no longer attending his MLK Day event at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, one would think a reach out to this key constituency would be in order. Instead, he doubles down on the insults to civil rights leaders.

To capture what all my right-wing friends think about where I live and what I believe, I chose to add a little dark irony to the mix. This song was originally written in 1979 as a piece of Juvenalian satire against California Governor Jerry Brown (yes, he is our governor again, hence my tongue is planted in my cheek). Since Governor Brown has vowed that California will work to protect the environment despite a DJT administration’s efforts to roll back environmental regulations, this seems like a perfect song highlight the dichotomy and divided nature of the right’s view of all of us flakey La La Land libs against the pervasive views of the progressives’ views of DJT and his incoming administration.

“California Über Alles” by The Dead Kennedys–a single in 1979, released in 1980 on the album Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables.

Dump DeVos, pt. 2

Mercedes Schneider has inexhaustible patience as a researcher. She tried to locate the “publications” that Betsy DeVos submitted to the Senate committee reviewing her qualifications. Some were letters to the editor. Some were press releases (did she write them?). Some were unavailable. Some were about her. It is not clear whether she or an aide […]

via Mercedes Schneider Searches for Betsy DeVos’s Writings — Diane Ravitch’s blog

*Jules’s Note: The rush to not vet our top leaders who will “lead” departments they are hell-bent on destroying not only smacks of lack of transparency–it smacks of destroying any vestiges of our Founders’ intentions on ethics, rule of law, and governance. Please contact your senators and tell them to oppose this crony who wants to do nothing more than destroy public education.

Stand Up for Academic Freedom!

BY BETH L. LUECK This is a guest post by Beth L. Lueck, a professor of English in the department of languages and literature at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. When my younger son came home from a ten-month deployment to Afghanistan in February 2015, he discovered his mother at the center of a right-wing maelstrom […]

via Bullseye on my Back: On Being Targeted by the Right-Wing Media — ACADEME BLOG

*Jules’s Note: This kind of thing is exactly why tenure exists to begin with–all those right-wingers who hate the concept of tenure need to understand that as teachers we often ask students to pursue topics they might not agree with because they need to understand how to argue, what all the sides may argue, and why they really believe what they do. Without the ability to encourage students to question and think, a teacher isn’t really a teacher. And “tenure” (aka due process rights) was initially instituted to protect teachers from political pressure influencing the classroom. Academic freedom must be protected. Join us in supporting Professor Lueck and others like her by signing the open letter regarding Professor Watchlist and its chilling and violent effects.