Here, there and everywhere

A lesser known Beatles’ song penned by Lennon/ McCartney was on the Revolver album – “Here, there and everywhere.” Using this song as a title to a potpourri post seemed appropriate. In no particular order:

A stark difference in the reactions to briefings that Russia is continuing to meddle in our elections was provided this week. Senator Bernie Sanders told Putin to back off, while the president of the United States fired the acting director of the Department of National Intelligence. Former Senator John McCain said in an editorial after Trump’s kowtowing to Trump in Helsinki, that he never thought he would witness a US president taking the word of a Russian leader over that of his own intelligence people. He still is. I have shared with multiple senators for many months that we have a national security risk in the White House. His name is Donald Trump.

Wells Fargo was fined $3 billion for their actions that led to the fraudulent creation of accounts and the failure to address these issues. They had been fined hundreds of millions earlier, but they still did not realize the severity of their screw up. Something this big is traceable to the top, whether it is explicit or implicit. Implicit means they created an environment that tolerated such bad behavior.

After yet another hate inspired mass shooting, this time in Germany, it troubles me that our leaders here are not condemning this in the harshest terms as German Chancellor Angela Merkel has done. Bigotry has to be carefully taught, so the only way to teach its counterpart is to condemn bigotry again and again as wrong. Our president fails to understand this point.

On the good side, the Taliban, Afghani and US negotiators are headed for an agreement which may end hostilities and allow for the exit of more US troops. Mistrust on all sides abounds, but let’s wish for a tangible and sustainable agreement.

Finally, from mythology, people who got too close to Medusa were either shot by arrow or turned into stone. US Attorney General is realizing now he has gotten to close to Medusa damaging his reputation. So, unless he leaves the building, he will end up being shot by the proverbial arrow or turned to proverbial stone. I guess the snakes are hiding in the combover.

Have a great rest of your weekend.

Jo Jo Rabbit – a weirdly profound parody

After its Oscar nomination and attention, my wife and I watched “Jo Jo Rabbit” yesterday. While it is an unusual film, it is entertaining and will take you through a range of emotions. Did I say it was unusual?

Without giving too much away, the story is about a Nazi brainwashed boy of ten whose imaginary friend is his version of Adolph Hitler. The boy discovers his mother is hiding a Jewish teen girl in the attic who helps him pick away at what he has been erroneously taught to dehumanizs Jews.

The film is a parody, but is poignant and powerful as well. It is written by Taika Waititi who also plays the imaginery Hitler. It should be noted, Waititi won the Oscar for his screenwriting. Newcomer Rowan Griffin Davis stars Jo Jo with Thomasin McKenzie starring as Elsa, the Jewish girl. Scarlett Johansson plays Jo Jo’s mother Rosie with Sam Rockwell playing an odd mentor role. Rebel Wilson offers an over-zealous Nazi instructor. Johansson waa nominated for Best Supporting Actress in the role.

Strange as it sounds, the movie is worth watching. Its mission is to reveal how hatred is taught and how interaction with people can change even the most strident of beliefs. There are several poignant moments between mother/ son, Jo Jo/ Elsa and Elsa/ Rosie.

If you have seen it, please let me know what you think (caution to those who have not to beware of the comments for spoiler alerts).

The torch passes to us

Our friend Jill wrote an excellent post (see link below) called “Why do we need bigotry?” In the comments, she and I discussed the passing of Holocaust survivors, at a time when white nationalism is on the rise along with hate crimes.

The torch passes to new generations to speak the hard truths about history:

– the Nazi movement purposefully captured Jews, intellectuals, gypsies, homosexuals and expunged multiple millions of human beings calling them less than human. This is genocide.

– the American settlers committed genocide, as well, on Native Americans first claiming rights to land and killing the Native Americans when they rose up in protest.

– Slavery has never been right dating back to the bible. It matters not who is being enslaved. It is wrong. Watching the movie “Harriet” about Harriet Tubman, the cumulative asset value of the slaves could exceed the value of the land, which is why people wanted to maintain this sinful way of life.

– Then, there are the enslavements and genocides around the world and over history. Sometimes the enslavement is tying low wage jobs to people at risk. This is economic slavery. This occurs today in the US and other countries and is not restricted to the Jim Crow period. Whether it is sex trafficking or suppressed migrant workers, it is wrong.

– Finally, we had the Lavendar Scare in the US, where homosexuals were fired from government jobs, even if they were highly proficient and experienced. This is after Brit Alan Turing helped shorten WWII, but had to hide that he was gay. He was arrested and humiliated before he died after being outed after the war.

Bigotry is not right. It is also unwise. If people are treated as possessions or suppressed then their intellectual capital cannot be allowed to flourish. Countries that suppress women and girls are competing in a world with half of their talent.

Let me leave you with the key line from Oscar Hammerstein in “South Pacific.” “You have to be carefully taught, by the time you are seven or eight. You have to be carefully taught to hate the people your parents hate.” Bigotry is not DNA driven. It is taught.

Why Do We Need Bigotry?

Dog whistle racism

My wife suggested that when I use the term dog whistle racism it may not resonate with everyone. In short, it means implying racism without resorting to actual racist words.

“Send her back” is a prime example as countless minority groups of all colors have been told to go back where you came from. Defenders of the president have said he did not say racist remarks, but they did not hear the dog whistle. His remarks were directed at four women of color with non-WASP like names.

Variations of this are “we don’t need your kind around here” or the more innocent version of “where are you from?” It also applies to athletics where black and brown athletes are not defined as “heady athletes” as white athletes are. Even a famous sportscaster said a black quarterback could not be successful because they had to read and react to complex coverages implying blacks could not do so. Times have indeed changed.

Alabama Governor George Wallace was not the forerunner of racism in politics, but he was the face of white supremacy as he stood in the doorway trying to deny entry to young black students. He used dog whistle racism as well as the old fashioned racist rhetoric when he ran for president following the various civil rights movements.

He did not win, but Richard Nixon did using a southern strategy that reeked of dog whistle racism. His purpose was to take advantage of what LBJ feared. LBJ predicted the Democrats would lose the south following his push for the civil and voting rights laws. Ironically, these laws were passed with the help of several Republicans, but that did not matter. Nixon and his strategist Lee Atwater made sure of that.

Scrolling forward, Senator Jesse Helms routinely used dog whistle racism to get elected. But, one of his tougher races was against Harvey Gantt, the first black mayor of Charlotte and first black student at Clemson University. Helms ran commercials that implied racism, one in particular focusing on a pair of black hands as a negative message was spoken.

Dog whistle racism uses code words to imply inferiority or difference. Trump’s attacking four elected women of color denouncing their right to criticize our country is flat wrong. His using more code words to attack Congressman Elijah Cummings also is racist with references to rat infested areas. It should be noted the president had to settle two court cases over discriminatiory rental practices.

Dog whistle or not, we cannot condone and must condemn the president for his racist and xenophobic remarks. Racism is a part of our history, but it represents the worst of our nature. We must guard against it, especially when it comes out of the president’s mouth. We need to hold up our better angels.

That white privilege thing

Usually when Dr. Phil comes on, I leave the room. Seeing people yell at each other is not therapeutic for me. Yesterday, my wife said you need to see this one as it was an interesting group discussion on race relations and white privilege.

In one powerful, illustrating exercise, young adults of both genders and several races, religions, sexual preferences, and countries of origin stepped forward or backward based on answers to a series of questions. At the end of about thirty or so questions, white people tended to be at the front of the room, while other races tended to be at the back.

As a now 60 year-old white man, I can pretty much go anywhere I want without repercussions. And, I need not have to worry for my life when I am stopped by the police or state patrol. A black man in his Sunday best has to move very slowly and visibly when stopped, thinking if he does not it may be the last thing he does on earth.

The show’s panel was a mixture of various races and invited audience guests offered their input. Listening to each other is a key takeaway. Understanding more about micro aggressions is also important (unintended slights). A white police officer said we should not use our badge as a threat, but as a heart to reach out to others.

A few white audience members felt they are victims and ostracized for being white. One woman lost her job for doing her job, as a video went viral with commentary that here was another white woman judging others. One woman grew up in a blue collar neighborhood and she felt disenfranchised as the blacks got more opportunities.

Perspective and context mean everything. A good example is captured in the movie about Jackie Robinson called “42.” Pee Wee Reese, the white shortstop for the Dodgers, went to see the owner Branch Rickey when he received a death threat for playing with a black ballplayer. Rickey said you got one threat and then proceeded to pull out gobs and gobs of death threats toward Robinson to illustrate his point.

Is there unfair back lash on some whites, absolutely?  But, people of a different color, religion, sexual preference, etc. have received gobs and gobs of discrimination over the years. And, lately under the divisive leadership of a certain US President, white supremacists, bigots and racists feel more empowered. Their hatred has become more normalized – and that is not good.

I often cite the lines written by Oscar Hammerstein about bigotry in the movie “South Pacific.” “You have to be carefully taught, by the time your are seven or eight. You have to be carefully taught to hate the people your parents hate.” We are not born bigoted, it has to be taught. By listening to each other, maybe we can teach the opposite. It should be noted a black man, who has convinced over 200 KKK members to give up their robes, did so by listening and asking questions. He heard them, which allowed him to be heard.

We are a potpourri of different people, but inside we are all the same. Let’s relish in our differences, but know we have the same foundation.

More candid observations

In keeping with the theme of my previous post, the following are some diplomatic candid observations:

– Help me understand why the people in the White House seem surprised that North Korea is not going to give up its nuclear weapons? I applaud their and the the South Korean’s effort and energy, but we seemed to be a little naive that Kim would cave.

– Saying something under oath in front of a judge who will sentence you carries a lot more gravitas than tweeting or saying something to a favorable interviewer. Under oath, Michael Cohen said he committed illicit acts at the direction of the candidate. I realize Cohen is not a Boy Scout, but his words under oath should carry some weight.

– A man of character died Saturday on what would have been my parents’ 67th anniversary. Senator John McCain was an imperfect man with whom I did not always agree, but he was very honorable public servant. Character and honor are two words that are not top of mind when I look to define a certain man in a US leadership position. I think it speaks volumes that McCain asked such a man to be excluded from attendance at his funeral.

– It is nigh impossible to stop bigoted thoughts or the teaching of children about bigotry. But, we must shine spotlights on behaviors that strip away at other people’s rights or promote one group’s rights over that of another. We must share our disagreement with hate speech. The easiest thing to do is vote with your feet and avoid people and places that enable bigoted thoughts. Confrontation is difficult, but listening, questioning and commenting can be done civilly with some. Or, it can take the form of openly applauding the efforts and successes of people who seem to be targeted with hate speech more than others.

– Finally, one’s reputation is the dearest thing we own. Rob Roy said your honor is a gift you give to yourself. This is why it is puzzling so many Republican legislators are spending their dear reputation supporting a man who daily brings dishonor to the Presidency and would throw them under the bus if needed. Please note my intentional avoidance of the use of “leader” in my descriptions.

We Americans and others around the world are craving an honorable leader. And, as said in the movie “The American President,” being President is entirely about character.

Candid observations

It is possible to be candid without condemning. To me, if you want someone to think about your observation, you need to season your candor with a measure of diplomacy. Here are a few random examples to ponder.

As a Christian, I try to follow the advice and deeds of Jesus. But, a thought for my more evangelical friends, it is highly unlikely Jesus looked like a WASP. He would look more like someone from Israel or Palestine.  In fact, if Jesus ventured from town to town in the US, he may not be welcomed with open arms in some places, just like it was when he did walk the earth.

When I see new discoveries of dinosaur fossils or a new hybrid human fossil as was the case during the week, I usually have an additional thought. The new hybrid human resulted from the seed of two different human strains and the fossil was noted to be about 90,000 years old. The dinosaur fossils are dated in the hundreds of millions and billions of years. So, help me understand how some religious education systems can waste kids time with instruction that dinosaurs walked the earth with humans and that the earth is less than 10,000 years old. If I was taught that and found out later what I learned could be scientifically proven wrong, would you fault me if I questioned most everything that school taught me?

Speaking of what we teach children, I am a firm believer that people are not born bigoted. They have to be carefully taught by their parents and family to hate certain groups of people. Or, if hate is too strong a word, they have to be taught that others are beneath them. I am reminded how the Nazi youth were taught Jews were animals and subhuman (they forgot to mention Jesus was a Jew). This enabled the Holocaust to happen. The same held true during the Jim Crow era in America and toward Native Americans before then. So, my observation is to question anyone (even a President) who uses animal names to define other human beings. “Help me understand why you would feel that way?” is a reasonable question. Or, you might say, “I am sorry but I do not feel that way.”

Returning to Jesus, we should pay more attention to his words and deeds rather than how he looked. Treating others like we want to be treated is key. And, that includes if they look unlike you or I do. We can pose questions that make others think about their positions.

What are your thoughts? Am I off base?