The Protocols of the Elders of Blah Blah Blah

One often hears a meta-debate about whether it is wise or warranted to compare this event or that event to the massive event from 1941 to 1945 referred to as The Holocaust, or Shoah. There is “Godwin’s Law” to consider, concerns of resorting to reductio ad Hitlerum, and therefore having one’s points rendered as moot due to such reliance on an obviously accepted logical fallacy. One could even register a moral concern over comparing anything in contemporary experience with the unique horrors that event unleashed.

It is problematic.

I had the privilege of studying Holocaust history under Saul Friedman in my college days at Kent State. Professor Friedman was a tall man, perpetually in a sports coat, a serious face, and more gravitas than most people anyone has ever met. His challenge was to teach the iceberg to people who grew up shown the tip and thought it was all there was. You remember. From middle school forward, the teachers would show us the pictures of emaciated people stacked up in rickety wood bunks, they would drill those incomprehensible numbers into our heads, six million Jews, six million others; the higher-skilled teachers would even perhaps note the grappling irony of “arbeit macht frei.”

But those lessons did not even try a bit to explain the origins of these hideous ideas. I think that most people whose Holocaust study occurred merely through high school graduation got the impression that the hateful ideas that led to the “Final Solution” began and ended in Hitler’s warped brain, and that is by far not the truth. Professor Friedman’s greatest impression upon me was to pull back the curtain to reveal how ancient, how matted into the soil, how far back the ugly tendency of humans to massively scapegoat goes.

Russia in the late 1700s forcibly restricted the movement of Jewish people, who were made to live in the “Pale of Settlement,” and yes, this is from where the phrase “beyond the pale” comes. But the practice of ghetto-izing Jewish people goes back to the 11th and 12th centuries. Indeed, the practice of murdering Jews en masse is nearly as time-honored: Pogroms in Ukraine and Belarus killed some 150,000 from 1918 to 1922.

Russia is of course the origin point for a book called “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” which first raised its horrible head in 1903. This book purports to detail a Jewish plan toward world domination, which they would achieve by subverting the morals of non-Jews, by taking over the banks and the press, and, ultimately, by destroying civilization.

You can buy yourself a copy at Amazon right now!

Egyptian scholar Dr. Samir Taqi Al-Din has a well-thumbed copy, apparently. He recommended it as a source of truth in April 2018. Dr. Muhammad Ali Al-Malla of Damascus is a fan, too. He thinks the World Cup is part of the plot outlined therein. He said this just last week.

The practice of and the notions behind mass scapegoating are deeply engrained over centuries and as modern and current as Cardi B.

During the 2016 campaign, I expressed alarm to friends I knew were going to vote for D.J. Trump, who essentially campaigned saying that this group of people and that group of people are causing the problems, so we’re going to get rid of those groups of people. That is an argument that cannot help but engage the worst tendencies and the worst practices of people.

And now we have toddlers appearing alone before immigration judges and a Muslim ban with the Supreme Court’s stamp of approval.

Nope, I see no similarities whatsoever. Nope.

I’ve Seen The Future and It Will Be

So news reports across the land today are saying that President Trump has been saying that the infamous “Access Hollywood” video may have been faked. And everyone is clutching their pearls and are all like Wow! The Trump is nuts! He’s lost his mind! He is bereft of reality!

Lucky for us it is likely that President Trump does not ever listen to public radio.

Because, in fact, faking such a video is now officially not beyond the realm of possibility. I recommend taking some time to listen to the following podcast from RadioLab:

Breaking News from RadioLab

Here’s the video regarding Adobe VoCo.

The RadioLab piece actually discusses the “Access Hollywood” video. And it raises some of the questions that such developments ultimately must lead to: How can a democracy survive a world where anything in media can be utterly accurately faked?

Knowing VoCo exists is to understand that, indeed, the “Access Hollywood” video could have been faked. Indeed. Easily.

Get ready. The next few decades are going to be interesting.

Get Used To It

On Dec. 14, 2012, a gunman murdered 20 children and six faculty at an elementary school in Connecticut. This was after he had murdered his own mother.

All that was proposed at the federal level to answer to this heinous crime was to make background checks more universal in scope. And they couldn’t even manage to do that.

Let’s review once again (copy pasta’d from the wiki):

Charlotte Bacon, 6
Daniel Barden, 7
Olivia Engel, 6
Josephine Gay, 7
Dylan Hockley, 6
Madeleine Hsu, 6
Catherine Hubbard, 6
Chase Kowalski, 7
Jesse Lewis, 6
Ana Márquez-Greene, 6
James Mattioli, 6
Grace McDonnell, 7
Emilie Parker, 6
Jack Pinto, 6
Noah Pozner, 6
Caroline Previdi, 6
Jessica Rekos, 6
Avielle Richman, 6
Benjamin Wheeler, 6
Allison Wyatt, 6

That’s 20 babies. Slaughtered. And Congress didn’t do anything.

Since then, there have been at least 1,518 mass shootings, with at least 1,715 people killed and 6,089 wounded.

Muddy the waters all you like with defenses of the Second Amendment and paranoid proclamations of government raids on their way to confiscate your trusty huntin’ rifle. But the problem is clear. Guns are too easy to procure in the United States.

Until Congress can buck its way up from the amazon position the NRA has it in currently and act upon that problem, even in the most modest of ways, get used to waking up to stories like what we woke up to on Monday.

That shit is here to stay.

Charlottesville

Good morning. Anything going on in the news lately?

You don’t say. White supremacists? And “counter-protesters,” as the news readers were calling them (I thought this was an interesting style choice, especially given how instantly universal it was)? Beating each other up with baseball bats and cans of sprayable weaponry? The biggots showed up wearing helmets and other military gear?

Some were brandishing guns?

And someone killed a person with a car?

Well. I hope the President of the United States had some strong words to say about this!

Ah. Yes:

“I have a message to all of the white supremacists and the Nazis who came into Charlottesville today. Our message is plain and simple. Go home. You are not wanted in this great commonwealth. Shame on you. You pretend that you’re patriots, but you are anything but a patriot. My message is clear. We are stronger than you. You will not succeed. There is no place for you here, there is no place for you in America.”

No. Wait. That was Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe.

Oh, yes. Here is what the Preznit said:

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides. On many sides. It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. This has been going on for a long, long time.”

What I can’t tell is if Trump thinks that hatred, bigotry, and violence occur on many sides, or just violence. But many people sure did notice what wasn’t said by our pretty, pretty Preznit.

*

When I was growing up, every couple of years they decided to teach us about the Holocaust again.

They’d drag out the black-and-white pictures of emaciated men stacked up in bunks, the gates of Auschwitz bearing the not at all ironic phrase, “Arbeit macht frei,” they’d tell us the astonishing numbers of humans who were extinguished via this horrible effort, six million, 12 million, wow, you’d think as a kid trying to take all this in, that sure is evil.

In college, I spent a semester studying the Shoah under one of the most brilliant professors in the world, Sol Friedman. Friedman’s approach to teaching this history was to have his students understand the truly murky depths of anti-Semitism in the world and how it has essentially fused itself into the marrow of human beings.

At least, that’s what I took from it.

I mean, they trace anti-Semitism to back before the Middle Ages. But going back that far is a little in the weeds. A few key and fairly recent historical events, though, might make you think.

  • In 1492, Columus sailed the ocean blue. Also, Jews were being driven out of Spain.
  • In 1791, Catherine the Great creates the Pale of Settlement in an effort to bounce Jews out of Russia
  • In 1850, composer Richard Wagner–yes, “Ride of the Valkyries” Richard Wagner–publishes the essay Das Judenthum in der Musik. Among the notions discussed is the harmful myth that Jews actually rule the world.
  • In 1903, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion is first published. The book is a forgery, meant to reflect the Jewish plot for world domination. Many regimes in the Middle East proclaim it as fact to this day.
  • In 1913, Menahem Mendel Beilis is acquitted of murder in Kiev, but only after his trial elicited charges that he conducted ritual murder because, you know, that’s what Jews do.

Now. I understand that the main point of contention between the “idiots” and the “counter-protestors” was more racial than it was regarding folks with crooked noses. But I know more about this than that. And I speak of it today because of a larger point:

This idea that this group of people is better than that group of people, and that that group of people is a problem and must be mitigated somehow, this is an idea so ancient that it lives within our DNA. It lives in the dirt. Adolf Hitler did not invent it. Nor did David Duke. This disease has been with us as long as cancer has.

And we now have a Preznit who cannot even remotely speak harshly of it because it is a part of what he is and how he came to power.

Those people you saw with the helmets and the shields yesterday on the CNN?

Those people are this Preznit’s base.

This is why he had to punt to false equivalence yesterday rather than to call out this festering illness and its horrifying breakout yesterday for what it is.

Way to go, America!

Leelah Alcorn

There was the day that my transgender friend blew my straight little mind.

The guy had had top surgery and had a nicer beard than mine, and a lower voice. He was a bit taller than me, too. Then there was the conversation one day in the car when he said he still thought boys were cute.

Mind blown.

I mean, if he was bisexual, wouldn’t it have been easier or better to have remained female and lived as a straight broad?

I sat with this for a long time before I came to understand it. My blown mind, I’ve concluded, was the result of the false causality that straight people experience personally.

Three things I knew about myself really early on: I was in possession of boy parts. I was a boy. And, I liked girls. For straight people, we assume that one of these things leads to the other leads to the other.

Except that it doesn’t. Now, I don’t have the science on this, mind you. But my own anecdotal experience convinces me that these three areas of human development are independent; that just because I identify as a fella doesn’t mean I’m gonna seek out the company of broads, and vice versa. More important, it means a guy like my friend there, he didn’t take the T shots and get his top done specifically to better get to know women.

He did it because he was a guy and wanted his body to match. It’s really that simple.

And more and more people are growing to understand this. The year 2014 was a heck of a year for transgender people. It began with Laverne Cox on the cover of Time and ended with reports that Brad and Angelina honor their transgender son’s wishes and with President Obama challenging traditional gender roles when he was sorting Christmas toys.

So it’s heartbreaking to have ended it with the story of Leelah Alcorn.

Alcorn was a transgender girl, a fact that was lost on her parents. She was offered “counseling,” which from the story seems probably more along the lines of the “pray away the gay” variety. Leelah left a heartbreaking note on Tumblr, then went out and jumped in front of a truck.

What she wanted to do was to receive treatment to stop the inevitable onslaught of testosterone, as there is no medical method to reverse a man’s changed voice and other characteristics. And you can say hey, this person was only 16, no way “he” could have known for sure. I don’t think so. People know.

I mean, my cis brothers and sisters, let’s do a thought experiment. Imagine that your parents perceived the incorrect gender of you when you were growing up, say if with me they kept trying to put me in dresses and bought me Barbies and such. How infuriating would that life be?

That is how Leelah Alcorn grew up. Even posthumously, Leelah’s mother couldn’t bring herself to respect the pronouns.

I know it’s difficult. It really is. It’s a brain-building experience. But, like it or not, it is happening. People who do not feel that they have been gendered correctly are choosing to stop living the lie. And one day, someone you love and have known your whole entire life is going to start coming out to you as transgender, just as my then-Aunt Janet did with me many years ago in a shiny diner in Cary, N.C. He didn’t come out and say it then, but Jay was certainly planting the seeds.

And you’re going to have to either commit to growing those extra brain folds or you’re going to have to lose that person forever.

Leelah’s folks just couldn’t do the first part.

What a shame.

Also: Your Sympathies Are Misplaced

Cuba: Jeux Sans Frontieres

First of all, it just looks good. Congress just concluded its 113th session yesterday (with a slew of nominations approved), then today President Obama gets to announce that we’re welcoming an American home from captivity and that he intends to normalize relations with Cuba, a historic policy shift. At the very least, the president won the press cycle.

This president seems to have a chronic talent for properly leveraging good policy with good politics, and this may be the finest example of it. Policy-wise, warming things up with Cuba is a win win win win win. And the only people who will hate it are Cubans in Miami, dead-set Obama-obstructers, and/or Marco “Polo” Rubio and Jebidiah Bush. Who else thinks that reforming this vestigial policy is a bad thing?


In other news, Pat Robertson has expressed belief in one of the most ignoramus things that can be said regarding my LGBTQCZSPUXT brothers and sisters and other-genders.

“Those who are homosexual will die out because they don’t reproduce.”

Um, Pat? I know many gay people who HAVE PROCREATED.

And the ghey? It ain’t hereditary.

And also, Pat? YOU JUST ADMITTED IT ISN’T A CHOICE.

And a church that won’t let its parishioners co-mingle? Who are these people?