Sentimental Racism

The wheels of justice are spinning themselves silly for the South Carolina shooter.  The state court can't lock him up and send him away fast enough. The speed at which the justice system is moving suggests an injection of crystal meth.

Media reports say he has already confessed - which indicates no attorney is representing him.  The extradition hearing has been held within 24 hours of the shooter's arrest.  Usually, legal representation is required for an extradition hearing.

They can't get this guy out of the headlines fast enough.

For a longer, more careful process would reveal uncomfortable truths about the racism behind this attack on people praying to G-d.  It would highlight that the Confederate flag really does mean racism, and that honor and respect for racist institutions through street names and court house names has moral weight.

That's a little too much to deal with for the modern South Carolina state.

If the death of praying, upstanding citizens is the price for their sentimental racism, then by G-d those Southern states are willing to pay it.  Because recognizing their passive role in this tragedy is still too much, it seems.


CNN Promotes Terrorism #SCShooter

What's in a name?

So we are horrified once again about another angry white man killing innocent people.  It is finally being called what it is - a terrorist act.

Previous mass shootings have had the media response of glorifying the killer.  Buckets of ink were slobbered in national publications on the life story of the killer, the family of the killer, the educational history of the killer, the childhood friends of the killer, and people who would have been friends with the killer except they lived on the other side of the country and never met him.

The media enters this mastabatory frenzy about the mass killing and its perpetrator.  The killer's face is shown on television and graces the front page of news websites and magazines and newspapers.  The chattering bobbleheads do not stop steering the conversation away from the word "terror" and "institutional racism."

The terrorist's name is repeated and the lobbyists sharpen their swords.  Before the blood dries on the sidewalk, or in the church, the terrorist is labeled "a loner" and "an outcast" so everyone can get the "let's make a change" feeling out of their system.

Putting a mass killer's picture on the front page of your publication promotes what he did.  It's like making the promo photo for a play larger than the bad review.  People will see the photo and not really look at the evaluation.  The mass media will not take responsibility for their unthinking promotion of killing many people at once with guns.  Reporters deflect responsibility for the results of their actions and frame the debate in commercially reasonable ways.

So here we are again.

Finally, this young white man is starting to be termed "a terrorist."  And people who support him are "terrorist sympathizers."  And groups that espouse the killer's methods are "terrorist organizers."  And the media who glorify these mass killers are "terrorist promoters."  I'm looking at you, CNN.


Rachel Dolezal and Racial Identification

Kareem Abdul Jabbar wrote in TIME magazine that Rachel Dolezal "can be as black as she wants."  His argument is that she has been an asset to the Afincan American community through teaching classes, advocating, etc.  It's a good point.  I mean I don't care, it doesn't bother me.
My opinion isn't solid, though.  About twenty years ago, two blonde white men standing at a card table called out to me on the street.  The greeted me nicely, were friendly and chatty.  "Don't be an anti-Semite," they said with a smile.  Odd.  It seems these cheerful gentlemen were standing at their temporary table in Foggy Bottom, DC with pamphlets claiming that G-d's "Real Jews" were in the United States Midwest.  Not the Native Americans, mind you.  The Swedish and Norwegian immigrants and their descendants are the "Real Jews" and the people killed by Hitler were "fake Jews."
So how do I feel about this self-identification?  Offended.  Of the two men had claimed to be Jews from one of the lost tribes, I wouldn't believe it, but it wouldn't offend me.  If they claimed to be Jewish and started protesting soldiers' funerals, I would be angry and denounce them as poseurs.
Of course, I am open to the same criticisms myself:  I identify as Jewish - but it was a journey starting at my grandmothers funeral, where the chaplain referenced Grandma's Jewish prayers of her childhood.  My sisters and I were flabbergasted.  We had never heard of this idea, and we were all in our 40s.  We asked, immediately, our father and he just shrugged and said "I'm a Unitarian."  Nothing else.
Since then has been an exploration of my religious identity.  At first, I walked around randomly saying, "I'm Jewish."  "I just found out I am Jewish."  At home, to friends and at work.  It was hard to get my head around.  Added to that were the sparse written records for my Grandmother and her mysterious first eight years in Michigan that no one knows anything about.  And her last name was different than her eleven brothers and sisters.
Of course, Grandma was my father's mother and so only Reformed Judaism  consider me Jewish.  But I wasn't really thinking of that.
Slowly - out of curiousity and with the prompting of a friend - I attended classes and services.  The messages resonated.  Friday rituals were started lighting candles and blessing the cat and the dog.  Eating habits changed to exclude pork, shellfish.  Still a weakness for cheeseburgers, though.
My family's reactions was mixed.  Justin, my husband, was very supportive.  So were other family members.  Nieces and nephews raised their hands in class when asked if anyone had someone Jewish in their family.  That makes me smile.  Other family members were not so supportive, and I get it.  They share my history and don't consider themselves Jewish at all.
The problem with this late awakening is all the information I missed about my heritage.  the average six-year-old in shul knows more about being Jewish than I do.  A synagogue looks different than a church and that homey, comfortable feeling is just missing.  Prior to this, the emotional attachment to architectural styles and décor was not there.
Then there was the whole exploration of faith.  Culturally, the Reformed congregations appealed the most for the openness to all of the community, including gays.  In terms of deep connection to G-d, the Orthodox provided the deepest experience, but the warning to wear a long skirt and a long-sleeved shirt was a little off-putting at a minimum.  "You don't have to wear a long skirt and a long-sleeved shirt, but you might feel uncomfortable if you don't."  Uh, great.
So far, the experiences that have best suited me are associated with Rabbi Avis Miller and the Sixth & I synagogue.  I like a place that "meets you where you are at" as my friend Lisette says.  Because, quite frankly, I am all over the place.
So going back to identifying as black by Rachel Dolezal it must have started young and taken root strongly.  As Larry Wilmore of the Nightly Report pointed out, "Her parents must hate her."  She must have little fondness for them either if her wholesale rejection of her ethnic heritage encompassed a rejection of them , too.  Later reports of custody fights, homeschooling and Christian fundamentalism fill in the background on that story, and makes it more believable.
So we can agree - there's a whole lot of animosity in that family.  Rachel Dolezal's reaction to it was living life as a black woman.
Maybe the only people who can judge her are black women.  It's not like she was doing something offensive or scandalous.  But then that's just my perspective.


Princess Diana & Beau Biden

I woke my parents up at one a.m., crying and sobbing when it was confirmed that Princess Diana was dead.  And I never phone my parents after 10 p.m.  Ever.

My father listened to the news with taciturn silence, while I went on and on about the tragedy, the injustice, the paparazzi.  Dad is a no-nonsense guy.  He is tough, and raised tough daughters.  He takes pride in that.

In the years prior to Princess Diana's death, he tried to develop his empathetic side.  And it was a visible struggle.  So I took his silence to mean sympathy and agreement.  Wrong.

"It's not like you knew her," he said.

Accurate.  True.  Rational. Reasonable.  But so not helpful.

Mom grabbed the phone at this point and made the appropriate noises to comfort me.

Dad was puzzled enough about my emotional outburst that he asked my sister Trisch about it, and expressed concern that I might be coming unglued.

Of course, strictly speaking, Dad was right.  Princess Diana was someone I never met. But I related to her.  She was everywhere, with media saturation for years.  We all watched her transition from shy and awkward girl who was punked by photographers, to a princess in a fairy tale, to a neglected wife, to a jazzy divorcee.

Her life was photographed and judged by us all.  She is arguably the most photographed woman that ever lived.

So while watching Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks become very emotional about Beau Biden's death, I thought "It's not like you knew him."


Beau Biden survived a tragic car accident that killed his mother and sister.  He dedicated his life after that to public service, only to die before his time from cancer.  Beau Biden had a tragic start to a shortened life.  His father was a U.S. Senator, and then Vice President.  He could have cashed in on those connections, but did not.  He chose to serve.

And that's where I see the real parallel between Beau Biden and Princess Diana.  Both were dealt a rotten hand and chose public service.  Princess Diana was sucked into her royal role while still a teenager as baby-making machine for the royal family. All the attention was turned to holding AIDS babies in hospitals and clearing land mines.

Vice President Biden deserves our sympathy and respect at this sad time, where he chooses to continue to help other people despite his grief and loss.

Sorry you are going through this, Joe.