Saturday, August 18, 2007

Weekend browsing

While I'm working on a couple of longer posts, I thought I'd toss some must-reads your way ...

What Kathy G. says.

Kyle de Beausset at Immigration Orange takes down Michelle Malkin's running smear of Latinos as criminals.

Man Egee similarly demolishes an Associated Press report on border crossings that furthers the poisonous notion that militarizing the border is the solution.

At Sadly, No!, HTML Mencken has a comprehensive -- and I do mean comprehensive -- takedown of that consummate right-wing hack, Rich Lowry. And while you're there, be sure to show them some love and hit their tip jar.

Shawn Struck of 411 media wrote and asked me some interview questions last week about the potential dangers involved in eliminationist video games and religious recruitment within the military. Here's the result.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Friday orca blogging

-- by Dave

Because we here at Orcinus are dedicated to all things killer whalish, be aware that, as the scientists have been warning, we're now seeing a downturn (albeit minor) in population for the Puget Sound's southern resident orcas:
This summer’s annual count of endangered southern resident killer whales indicates that the net population has dropped from 87 to 86, the first downturn in the orca subspecies in six years.

Although two new baby orcas were born this spring — designated L-109 and J-42 — those births were not enough to offset the loss of other orcas, according to The Center for Whale Research in Friday Harbor.

Last fall, scientists feared that two calves and three adult orcas were dead. Those apparent deaths were confirmed this spring, along with the discovery that a third youngster, whose mother was among the missing, hadn’t returned with her pod.

“The summer’s not over,” said Kelley Balcomb-Bartok, a research associate at the center. “It’s not unusual for calves to be born in August or September. This is by no means a final number.”

Also, while we're on the subject, you all remember the sonar issues for these whales, particularly from the U.S. Navy. Well, the Canadian Navy says that it's much more sensitive than the bloody Yanks when it comes to this, but somehow their reassurances fall short of the mark.

I'll close with a shot of the K pod in Haro Strait, with the Olympic Mountains in the background:

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Migrant murder on video

-- by Dave

The recent video of a Minuteman taking potshots at illegal crossers somewhere on the Mexico borderlands was disturbing not so much for the gunfire -- the man operating the camera hadn't seemed to hit anyone -- as for the running narration he provided: he positively wanted one of the men to come within his range so he could shoot them. He wanted to kill them.

Now, more video from the same gunman has surfaced, and as Casey Sanchez at HateWatch reports, it appears on this video that he did, in fact, shoot someone crossing the border and kill them:
The footage starts by showing a single figure wearing a backpack sneaking along a rugged desert trail. A male voice, off-camera, says: “I got him. He’s low crawling. Guy with a backpack. I betcha it’s probably full of dope.”

As the figure crests a hill, the man shouts out loud: “Hey, puto [“faggot”]!” The backpack-wearer ducks behind the far side of a rocky outcropping, then pops up and peers over it a few times. “I got him,” the off-camera voice says. “He’s prairie doggin’ now. He heard me.”

A walkie-talkie crackles and a second male voice that sounds like it’s coming from an off-camera walkie-talkie says: “All right, where you at? What’s your 20?”

“He’s up there on the, uh, smuggler’s trail,” the first voice responds.

The second male voice says, “I don’t have a visual.”

At this point in the video, the backpack-wearing figure begins to slowly emerge from behind the rock outcropping. “You know what? I’m going to take a fucking shot,” the first voice says. There are two flashes of light and the sound of two semi-automatic rifle shots in quick succession. The figure wearing the backpack appears to fly backward and drop from view.

“Oh fuck, I got him dude!’ the first voice says. “I fuckin’ got him!” There is a pause, then the first voice says, “Dude, what are we gonna do?” The voice on the walkie-talkie replies, “Get the shovel, get some lime, and hey, grab me a 12-pack, too, while you’re up there.”

“Roger that,” the first voice answers between chortles. “We fuckin’ nailed him, dude! We fuckin’ nailed him!” That’s where the video ends.

Actually, it now continues on with a shot of a stone-covered grave, and our narrator saying, "Adios, asshole!"

As Sanchez notes, there is no indication whether the video is authentic or not, though it appears to be (while the coda is completely over the top and probably not credible). It does appear that his target was hit.

The SPLC has contacted authorities about the video. Clearly, there needs to be a serious investigation into this -- first to determine who is responsible for the video, and second whether or not the killing in it is authentic.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

American Fatwa

-- by Sara

I've argued before that we need to be keeping a weather eye on the Southern Baptist Church. With 16.6 million members in 43,000 congregations around the country, the SBC is far and away the largest Protestant denomination in America. And that wouldn't be a bad thing, necessarily -- if only its leaders would stop coming out in favor of things like torture, bigamy, hate crime, fetal experimentation on gay fetuses, and bombing family planning clinics. Even more alarming is their focus on pressing this agenda under the banner of "spiritual warfare," which is increasingly expressed in rhetoric more appropriate to a shooting war.

This week, we have Dr. Wiley S. Drake, pastor of the Southern Baptist Church in Buena Park, CA (right next to Disneyland), and the second vice president of the national SBC. Drake's mini-empire also includes a regional morning radio show, "Crusader Radio," that broadcasts out of his church; and he proudly serves as the official chaplain of the Minuteman border patrol group as well. He's also announced his intention to pursue the national SBC presidency over the next few years.

Last October, Drake got in big trouble with the national SBC for printing up church letterhead identifying himself as the SBC's 2nd VP -- which he subsequently used to announce his endorsement of Republican Dick Mountjoy in his bid for the U.S. Senate. "Looking back, I shouldn't have done it," Drake told the AP. "But no one told me what I should or shouldn't do."

Apparently, SBC seminaries no longer teach their candidates for ministry how to keep themselves, their congregations, and the national church out of major legal trouble. Either that, or Drake knows where the church-state separation line is -- but just doesn't care. (High-social dominance authoritarians typically don't care about other people's rules or consequences. I'm not saying Wiley's a high-SDO; but, as you'll see, he does fit the pattern.) Either way, the SBC's top lawyer acted quickly to ensure that Drake got a fast, clear education on where that line falls. Ostensibly, he now knows -- very clearly -- what he "should or shouldn't do." And that should have been the end of the story.

But, of course, it wasn't.

Last week, Drake got out his church letterhead again, and announced his endorsement of Mike Huckabee for the GOP presidential nomination -- an endorsement he repeated on his radio show, just in case anyone missed it. “I announce,” wrote the pastor, “that I am going to personally endorse Mike Huckabee. I ask all of my Southern Baptist brothers and sisters to consider getting behind Mike and helping him all you can. First of all pray and then ask God, what should I do to put feet to my prayers.

“Do what God tells you to do,” Drake continued. “I believe God has chosen Mike for such an hour, and I believe of all those running Mike Huckabee will listen to God." On his radio show, Wiley elaborated on the theme: "Mike Huckabee is a son of God; he loves the Lord, and I believe, no matter what the constituents say or the Party says, he is a man of integrity who fears God, and in the finality of things will say, ‘Okay, God, what do you want me to do?’ And I believe he will listen to God."

Americans United for Separation of Church and State struck back quickly. Yesterday, they filed a formal complaint with the IRS, documenting Wiley's actions as a clear breach of tax laws that prevent churches and ministers from endorsing political candidates.

And this is where the story turns strange -- the unique kind of strange you only get to see when you've got SBC theocrats hanging on the ropes.

Wiley's retort to AU was swift, ferocious -- and bizarre. Caught dead to rights, he didn't even try to respond to particulars of AU's IRS complaint. Instead, he immediately launched into the kind of wild-eyed, paranoid magical thinking you'd expect from any embattled cult leader. Which is to say: In a press release issued yesterday, he ordered his flock to petition God, who in turn would avenge this attack by smiting AU's staff with poverty, starvation, scattered familes, and death.

Today, AU put forth a second press release describing the language he used:
Instead of responding to Americans United’s concern of illegal activity, Drake issued yesterday afternoon a plea to his supporters to join in “imprecatory prayers” (curses) every morning for Americans United and its staff.

“In light of the recent attack from the ememies (sic) of God I ask the children of God to go into action with Imprecatory Prayer,” Drake said, in an Aug. 14 press statement issued from the First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Park. “Especially against Americans United for Seperation (sic) of Church and State.”

Drake singled out two Americans United staff members whose names appeared as contacts on the press release. The pastor’s missive said the imprecatory prayers should “specifically target” Americans United Communications Director Joe Conn or Communications Associate Jeremy Leaming.

In a section of his press release called “How To Pray,” Drake includes a long list of biblical citations that call on God to smite enemies. For example, the alleged enemies of God “shall be judged,” “condemned,” and “his days be few….” Additionally, supporters should pray that the enemy’s “children be fatherless, and his wife a widow,” and “his children be continually vagabonds, and beg; let them seek bread also out of their desolate places.”

“Let there be none to extend mercy unto him,” Drake quoted, “Neither let there be any to favour his fatherless children.”
Quite a curse to bring down on a couple of underpaid political staffers who simply pointed out that you were breaking the law.

It would tempting to just write this off as more five-year-old logic -- this kid is furious at being caught red-handed; and because AU dared to tattle on him to the grownups at the IRS, he's gonna get Big Daddy to beat them up and show them who's really the Boss of Everything. But to those who've actually read the scriptures Drake purports to teach, his behavior is inexplicable. Jesus was very clear that his followers should "render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's" -- that is, give civil authority its due, even as they focused on the life of the spirit. Today's would-be theocrats, of course, would rather abolish the civil government entirely and put God in its place.

Beyond that: the murderous anger and hatred Drake encourages toward those who would challenge his right to break the law is just over the top, even for the SBC -- and that's saying something. If Wiley really believes that God answers prayer, then he has publicly called for the execution of AU's staff, as well as the persecution of their families. (When Muslim ayatollahs do this, we call it a "fatwa.") And if, in hindsight, he tries to claim that he was just shooting off his mouth -- after all, every reasonable person knows that God doesn't really do that kind of thing -- then that, too, will speak volumes about the authenticity of the faith he professes.

As we've seen so many times before, being an authoritarian theocrat means that the laws of this country don't apply to you. The Constitution doesn't matter in the least to people who recognize only a higher authority. Wiley and his brethren in the SBC clergy are Dominionists who want us to hand over our liberties and give them our complete obedience and trust so that they can govern us according to Biblical principle.

This episode, once again, shows why no patriot would (or should) ever grant these people that kind of absolute trust. We've just had (another) clear preview of what their brand of "moral authority" looks like in practice -- vindictive, angry, petulant, out of touch with the real world, and far more given to fascist fury than anything resembling Christian love and humility. America is, if nothing else, a "no-fatwa" zone. If people like Drake are God's idea of what his handpicked regents should be, we're clearly better off continuing to rely on our own imperfect judgment in choosing our leaders instead.

Update: David Dayen at Calitics points out that Drake's fatwa got one of the staffers' names wrong:
Here's the rub: Drake asked his followers to "target Joe Conn or Jeremy Learing." Except, Jeremy's last name is "Leaming."

So, here's the theological question of the day: if a bunch of people pray for God to punish some guy named "Jeremy Learing," who had nothing to do with this incident, does it still count? What, if anything, happens to Jeremy Leaming?
Good question. Will Drake's God still deliver mis-directed hate mail?

Our newest war

[Our newest Patton.]

-- by Dave

According to Newt Gingrich, we're now not just at war in Iraq, and at war against terrorists, but now we're also at war with illegal immigrants:
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Tuesday he is "sickened" that President Bush and Congress went on vacation "while young Americans in our cities are massacred" by illegal immigrants.

Gingrich, who is considering a run for the White House, was referring to a recent crime in Newark, N.J., where three college students were murdered execution style in a school playground.

One of the suspects -- Jose Lachira Carranza -- is an illegal immigrant from Peru who was on bail on charges of raping a child when the murders occurred.

Gingrich said another suspect is an illegal immigrant from Nicaragua with a long record of arrests who was ordered deported in 1993 but never left.

However, The (Newark) Star Ledger reported Tuesday that the man -- Rodolfo Godinez -- obtained permanent legal residency in 2001.

The Newark Police Department did not return requests for comment.

Gingrich said that the "war here at home" against illegal immigrants is "even more deadly than the war in Iraq and Afghanistan."

"The federal government's incompetence, timidity and uncoordinated efforts to identify and deport criminal illegal aliens have had devastating consequences for innocent Americans," Gingrich said, in a newsletter.

Gingrich is obviously trying, as have so many nativists before him, to blame immigrants for bringing crime to our shores. Nevermind that it's clear that the crime rate among Latino immigrants is lower than that of the general population, and most other ethnic groups as well, including whites. What matters, for Gingrich, is exploiting sensational cases for political gain, as always at the expense of people who are essentially powerless.

This kind of ugly eliminationist rhetoric is the logical outcome of the rhetoric that has preceded it, declaring the current wave of immigration an "invasion" -- everyone from Lou Dobbs to Pat Buchanan to Michelle Malkin to Tom Tancredo to American Border Patrol have declared it such. Couched in military terms, the immigrants thus become an "invading army" -- so of course we are now at war with them.

Well, as Cliff Schechter has observed, Gingrich has a long history of blaming liberals for a number of travesties -- most notably the Susan Smith incident, which of course turned out to have an ugly Republican stamp on it instead. Gingrich, of course, is a true past master of the right-wing art of projection.

But as for the current rise in violence against Latinos, well, I'm sure that Gingrich would assure us it has nothing to do with rhetoric declaring "war" against them.

[Hat tip to Kevin Hayden.]

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

When hate wears a badge

[According to ABC 11-TV in Raleigh, this is a photo of Anthony Finch in Klan regalia.]

-- by Dave

I recently came across a case in Henderson, North Carolina that illustrates one of the dangers of right-wing racist fanaticism: It's adherents are known to seek out or even already hold positions of authority, particularly in the ranks of police. The result is what Ann Coulter likes to call "a little local fascism":
The 9th District Court took the necessary steps Monday to consolidate all hearings related to the Anthony Finch case when Judge John W. Davis ordered Dionne Hensley and James Maye to appear in Vance County Court on Aug. 13.

The two have been charged separately with ethnic intimi­dation and making a harass­ing phone call following a reported workplace confronta­tion with Finch’s stepson, Robert “Rudy” Orr on June 8. Aug. 13 is also the date set for Finch’s hearing on charges of ethnic intimidation and pointing a gun.

After Hensley and Maye’s confrontation with Orr, Finch allegedly chased the couple by car at high speed from Henderson to the Oxford Police Department parking lot, where he was arrested with two firearms in his truck on June 8.

... The confrontations of June 8 have set off a chain of events that has led to an escalation of racially charged rhetoric and Internet com­munications that have taken on state and national proportions in the weeks since its occurrence.

The NAACP has pledged its support to Hensley and Maye. Curtis Gatewood, second vice president of the North Carolina NAACP, has said that their situation exemplifies the kind of “terrorism” against African-Americans and decent people of all colors that Finch’s alleged acts exemplify.

NAACP press releases have linked Finch, a 23-year retired Henderson police officer, to the Ku Klux Klan, a connection that Finch has denied, and Finch has received support from a nationally prominent neo­Nazi organization led by Bill White, whose American National Socialist Workers Party is based in Virginia.

You wonder if this might not just be one of those small-town incidents that got out of hand -- old rivalries and grudges having little to do with race do come bubbling up there -- especially if you were to take Finch's adamant denials at face value:
Finch was also present at Monday’s hearing, and repeated his claim that the case is not about race.

“I totally blame the Oxford Police Department for this entire mess. They brought those false charges of ethnic intimidation against me with no evidence whatsoever. I served this community and the African-American commu­nity in this town...I’m not a racist person,” Finch proclaimed.

Ah, then how does Officer Finch explain the video that turned up the next day on a Raleigh news station, showing him participating in a Klan talk show:
Police say the incident brings to attention whether Finch is a member or has been a member of the Klan.

"I've been a member of the Henderson Police Department and that's it for 23 and a half years, till I got sick and now I'm disabled," Finch claims.

Nevertheless, audio from a radio talk show, a man identifying himself as Anthony Finch of Henderson North Carolina spoke with a member of the [National Socialist Movement].

"What about your local Klan, the radio host said.

"What the Klan is doing here is pretty much inviting, trying to get people to help me here. I'm trying to get activists to help me here," Finch responded. "Everybody sees that because it's a white on black affair they don't want to get involved. Really I feel like a t shirt on a clothes line. Hung out to dry."

This guy was an officer for 23 years. Must have been fun being black when he was on patrol.

The court case has been pushed back because the judge's last name was also Finch.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Gunning for Mexicans

-- by Dave

You hear a lot of talk among border-watch types about shooting Mexicans. They talk about it around campfires, tell filmmakers that the way to stop the flow over the border is that "we ought to be able to shoot the Mexicans on sight", and even make crude video games about it. Recently we read about the Gaede twins' grandfather claiming he had himself shot six Mexican border crossers.

So far, it's all sounded like so much bellicose fantasy, the kind right-wing yahoos specialize in. But as is inevitable with this kind of talk, it's becoming evident that some of them are taking shots in reality as well. Enough talk, they wanna shoot somethin'.

Casey Sanchez at the SPLC's Hatewatch blog has a report on a video showing some anonymous vigilante on night patrol somewhere on the border, taking potshots at Lord knows what (he only fires off one round from his shotgun, and it sounds like it hit nothing), but it's chilling in the sheer inhuman ugliness on display:
“This video shows how to keep a ‘Home Depot’ parking lot empty,” Crooks (right) wrote in his sneering July 26 E-mail, titled “Homeland Defence.” Gilchrist, whose organization had earlier provided Crooks’ group with supplies, responded by banning Crooks from contact with his own group.

Filmed through a night-vision scope, the four-minute video shows two or three men standing on a hill that appears to be on the Mexican side of the border, beyond a barbed-wire fence. “All right, come on across, motherfuckers,” a man says off camera in a quiet voice. “Yeah, go that way. I dare you to go that way. That’s my fucking trail, bitch!”

Then, after muttering about the distant figures being “cockroaches,” the man shouts out loud, “Hey putos [“faggots”], one, two, three!” Next comes the distinct sound of a shotgun shell being chambered, followed by a sudden flash of light and the sound of a shotgun blast. The direction of the gunfire is unclear.

Note that the creators of the video are Minuteman spinoffs. This is how far-right "Patriot" groups organize: one or two organizations introduce and mainstream the concept by playing the straight man, while dozens of independent offspring go about wreaking havoc on their own agendas. We've seen this with groups like Laine Lawless' Minuteman spinoff, which strategized with neo-Nazis on the kinds of brownshirt tactics they could apply against Latinos; and with Minuteman support groups like California's Save Our State, which coddled neo-Nazis and neo-Confederates at their rallies and within their ranks. More to the point, the Minutemen themselves have been infiltrated since their inception by white supremacists, though they have announced their efforts to drive out such elements with much fanfare (without, exactly, being very convincing on the matter).

More recently, another report by Sanchez in the most recent Intelligence Report details some of the thuggish tactics of intimidation being employed by another Minutemen spinoff, the San Diego Minutemen:
Halloween or not, the San Diego Minutemen take year-round pleasure in scaring immigrants. On Saturday mornings, when they travel to the sleepy suburban gas stations where immigrant day laborers go to find work, they create scenes that would play well in a show called "Nativists Gone Wild." They call immigrants "wetbacks" and "Julios." They pull out Mace and threaten passing motorists who disagree with them. Calling those who hire day laborers "slavemasters," they've been known to slap flashing amber police lights on their SUVs and chase the would-be employers down. When they're not busy physically intimidating migrants, they take to the airwaves and the Internet to accuse them, without a shred of evidence, of running child prostitution rings and practicing "voodoo Santeria rituals."

Wonder if Lou Dobbs and Michelle Malkin still want to claim that the Minutemen are just a big neighborhood watch. And I wonder if anyone will remember them when someone gets hurt.

Sali sallies forth

As we noted when he made his "clarification," Rep. Bill Sali's view of the appropriateness of Muslims in Congress really hasn't shifted. He's just tried to couch it in ways that don't seem quite so hateful. And not all that successfully, either.

That became painfully self-evident (via Ridenbaugh Press) this weekend when he continued to pour gasoline on the fire in an interview with the Nampa Press Tribune. As we noted before, Sali has a bone to pick with multiculturalism:
Friday, Sali said multiculturalism is in conflict with the national motto “E Pluribus Unum,” or “out of many, one.” He said multiculturalism would mean “out of the many, the many.”

“The question is, is multiculturalism good or not?” Sali said. “I don’t think the Founding Fathers were multicultural. Multiculturalism is the antithesis of (the motto).” Sali said the United States was founded on principles derived primarily from the Scriptures. And he said drifting away from those principles could put the country in danger.

“If we’re going to move away from those principles ... we better consider the blessings of God that have been bestowed on this country and the protective hand of God that’s been over this country,” Sali said.

Actually, E Pluribus Unum is in fact a clear expression of multiculturalism, which is predicated on the idea that our democratic institutions and the values around them are what bind together all Americans from their many diverse walks of life. Simultaneously, it celebrates those differences as part of what makes us great.

More to the point: It's true, in fact, that the system devised by the Founding Fathers was, at its inception, the opposite of multiculturalism. They created a system of rule by white male Christians -- white-supremacist rule, if you will. The country, on the other hand, has been breaking away from that system and replacing it with a multicultural one that is consonant with its democratic and egalitarian values for the better part of a century now.

If Bill Sali is opposed to multiculturalism, he is opposed to citizenship for African Americans, which was not part of the Founders' design. He is opposed to suffrage for women. He's opposed to voting and civil rights for blacks and other minorities. He's opposed to citizenship for Asians and a host of other nonwhites.

Because that's what multiculturalism is about. It is in fact the antithesis of white supremacy. And a good thing, that.

If Bill Sali wants to end multiculturalism, he ought to tell us what he would replace it with. Oh wait -- I guess he has:
... In response to his concerns about the Hindu prayer offered in the Senate in July, Sali said it is Christianity that drives many good causes in the United States. “Christian principles work, and they show up in a lot of different areas,” Sali said. “Most of the hospitals in this country have Christian names. If you think Hindu prayer is great, where are the Hindu hospitals in this country? Go down the list. Where are the atheist hospitals in this country? They’re not equal.”

White, male Christian rule: The new Republican ideal.

The measure of loyalty

[Even Dr. Seuss -- real name Theodore Geisel -- got in on the Japanese-bashing in 1942, penning this cartoon that reflected the larger national sensibility about their loyalty. Seuss later apologized for his wartime caricatures of Asians.]

-- by Dave

The other day Rick Perlstein had a question for David Frum after the latter wrote the following about the future of the Republican Party, as drawn by a survey of young Americans:
Read the report in full, however, and you come across an interesting nugget on page 6: White young people continue to favor Republicans by a thin but real margin of 2 points. The Democrats owe their advantage among youth to a huge lead among young African-Americans (78 points) -- and a very large lead (43 points) among Hispanics.

If Republicans face an inhospitable future after 2008, we will hear much of the dreadful legacy of George W. Bush on social issues, the war, the environment, etc. But Greenberg's own work makes clear that these issues matter relatively little.... No, the legacy that will damage his party is the legacy of immigration non-enforcement. This has imported a large new community of people who are both economically struggling (and thus open to Democratic arguments) but who lack deep attachment to the American nation (and who are thus immune to the most potent of Republican appeals). It is these voters who will sway elections in future. And thanks to this president's immigration policies, there are going to be a lot more of them than there might otherwise have been.

So Rick, quite naturally, had to ask this:
Is he saying that Mexicans who go through a period of naturalization of nearly a decade ("Currently, the median number of years of U.S. residence between legal immigration and naturalization is around eight years") [UPDATE: or, as digby points out, who were born here] "lack deep attachment to the American nation"? I invite Frum, with whom I've had friendly exchanges in the past, to answer me this question: how is your argument different from that of the 1920s nativists, including the Ku Klux Klan, who argued that my Jewish ancestors who became naturalized citizens–as well as Catholics from Eastern Europe—likewise couldn't possibly develop a deep attachment to the American nation.

Well, Frum did answer (though it's worth noting that in answering Perlstein, he neglects to link to him):
Of all the brilliant quips of PJ O'Rourke's brilliant career, my favorite has always been:

"Just as some things are too strange for fiction, others are too true for journalism."

The line keeps coming to mind as I read the outraged lefty-blogosphere responses to my July 30 post on young voters.

I did not suggest, obviously, that only white people count as Americans. Indeed, I cannot imagine how anybody could possibly construe my words in so far-fetched a way.

I should have thought my words plain enough to be understood by all. But let's expand them a little bit in direct answer to Rick's question.

I did not say or imply that the children and grandchildren of Mexican migrants "couldn't possibly develop a deep attachment to the American nation." I trust and hope that they can and will. But it would be blind and unwise to ignore the evidence that these hopes are coming to fruition far more slowly than one would wish.

Well, it might be useful to point out that characterizing the current wave of immigrants as people "who lack deep attachment to the American nation (and who are thus immune to the most potent of Republican appeals)" is something quite different than saying that "these hopes are coming to fruition far more slowly than one would wish." The former is a stark characterization of Latino voters as being of dubious loyalty; the latter is simply wishing they'd get along with it and be more loyal.

The question of loyalty and Americanness, of course, has been the primary charge raised by Nativists in this country since the day they began agitating against immigrants, dating back to the 1850s, when they accused Catholics (and Irish and Italian Catholics especially) of being "Papists" more loyal to the Church than to America; to the 1870s, when they accused Chinese of being more loyal to the Emperor than to America, leading to the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882; to the early 1900s, when they did the same to the Japanese, resulting in the Asian Exclusion Act of 1924 (this is the law that first created "illegal immigrants" in this country, and remains a significant part of the foundation of our current immigration law).

The latter was especially illustrative of the Nativists' certainty that the Japanese could never become fully American because their innate loyalties would always lie with Japan. A prime example is the career of Sen. James Phelan of California, who spearheaded many of the anti-Japanese campaigns in that state. I describe him in Chapter 1 of my book, Strawberry Days: How Internment Destroyed a Japanese American Community:
A banker and native son, born in San Francisco in 1861, Phelan was elected mayor in 1896 as a Democrat and his tenure was largely undistinguished. But in 1900, he caught national attention when the city’s Board of Health “discovered” an ostensible victim of bubonic plague in the Chinatown district. Phelan declared a quarantine and blamed conditions among the Japanese and Chinese. The “plague scare” was widely reported in the nation’s press, and Phelan had to scramble as local businessmen descended on him to protest that the scare was ruining their trade. The mayor quickly backed down and blamed the health board’s overzealousness. In fact, the only problem a health board inspector had been able to observe among the Japanese was that he found three Japanese men in a single tub in a local bathhouse; evidently, the inspectors were unaware that this style of washing was common in the men’s homeland.

Phelan also was the featured speaker at a mass rally against the Japanese, organized on May 7, 1900, in San Francisco largely by local unions. He sounded a note that would continue to ring for nearly half a century:

The Japanese are starting the same tide of immigration which we thought we had checked twenty years ago. . . . The Chinese and the Japanese are not bona fide citizens. They are not the stuff of which American citizens can be made. . . . Personally we have nothing against the Japanese, but as they will not assimilate with us and their social life is so different from ours, let them keep at a respectful distance.

I also describe the popularity of eugenics in the period, particularly the bestselling works of two supposed experts in the field:
Among the most popular of the time were Lothrop Stoddard and Madison Grant, who boasted credentials from Harvard and Yale universities, respectively. They approached the matter of race ostensibly from anthropological and biological perspectives, but in fact did little more than clothe white supremacism in pseudo-scientific language. Wrote Grant, in his 1916 tome The Passing of the Great Race:

We Americans must realize that the altruistic ideals which have controlled our social development during the past century, and the maudlin sentimentalism that has made America "an asylum for the oppressed," are sweeping the nation toward a racial abyss. If the Melting Pot is allowed to boil without control, and we continue to follow our national motto and deliberately blind ourselves to all "distinctions of race, creed, or color," the type of native American of Colonial descent will become as extinct as the Athenian of the age of Pericles, and the Viking of the days of Rollo.

And as Stoddard would later write in The Rising Tide of Color Against White World Supremacy -- a 1922 work complete with admiring introduction from Grant -- the real threat was not blacks in the South, but Asians: “There is no immediate danger of the world being swamped by black blood. But there is a very imminent danger that the white stocks may be swamped by Asiatic blood.”

Likewise, in Washington state, the bloody shirt of the supposed disloyalty of Japanese immigrants -- who were forbidden by law from naturalizing anyway -- was waved about for several decades, notably by a wealthy publisher named Miller Freeman, whose activities I describe in some detail in Strawberry Days. An excerpt:
Despite his contentions that he had no prejudice against the Japanese, this racial separatism was a cornerstone of Freeman's argument as he presented it in the pages of the Star. He voiced it largely by sprinkling his writing and speeches with popular aphorisms: "The Japanese cannot be assimilated. Once a Japanese, always a Japanese. Our mixed marriages -- failures all -- prove this." "East is East, and West is West, and ne'er the twain shall meet." "Oil and water do not mix."

And his conclusion became a political benchmark: "It is my personal view, as a citizen, that the time has arrived for plain speech on this question. I am for a white man's Pacific coast. I am for the Japanese on their own side of the fence. I not only favor stopping all further immigration, but believe this government should approach Japan with the view to working out a gradual system of deportation of old Japanese now here."

As you can see, the rhetoric regarding the Japanese gradually escalated, beginning with attacks on their loyalty and fitness as Americans, moving on to charges that they were stealing work from whites, and finally culminating in demands for their removal.

It's worth remembering that this rhetoric in fact eventually reached real fruition in the form of the mass incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II, fueled largely by the widespread certainty that even citizen children of the Japanese were likely to be disloyal. Recall some of the rhetoric of the time from the highest echelons of power:
A Jap is a Jap. They are a dangerous element. There is no way to determine their loyalty. It makes no difference whether he is an American citizen; theoretically he is still a Japanese, and you can't change him. You can't change him by giving him a piece of paper.

-- Lt. Gen. John L. DeWitt, chief of the Western Command, in congressional testimony

The Japanese are among our worst enemies. They are cowardly and immoral. They are different from Americans in every conceivable way, and no Japanese who ever lived anywhere should have a right to claim American citizenship. A Jap is a Jap anywhere you find him, and his taking an oath of allegiance to this country would not help, even if he should be permitted to do so. They do not believe in God and have no respect for an oath. They have been plotting for years against the Americas and their democracies.

-- Sen. Tom Stewart, D-Tennessee, on the Senate floor

It took the blood sacrifice of several thousand Nisei soldiers in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team to persuade the nation, finally, that Japanese could and would make perfectly loyal Americans. Now the idea that they could never fit into American society seems laughable and strange.

Not so, it seems, with the latest wave of immigration, primarily Hispanics not just from Mexico but from throughout the Latin Americas. As with earlier waves, the early arrivals are having difficulty learning the language (being often poorly educated to begin with, as were the Issei) and resort to insular communities not just for comfort and ease of language, but as a defense against lingering bigotry. Nonetheless, we seem not to have learned from our previous experience that these things are always overcome with time; the old questions about their loyalty linger in the air like a poisonous vapor.

It is difficult to read Frum's original post and not hear the echoes of these old voices -- as well as Hitler's attacking the Jews for their supposed disloyalty to the Fatherland, or the Ku Klux Klan attacking blacks as unfit for civil society -- and it was to this, I assume, that Perlstein was reacting. It is worth noting that in his followup, Frum pays lip service to the "hope that they can and will" (develop a deep loyalty to American values), which is at least an improvement from the eugenicists and anti-Asian Nativists of the early 20th century, who were certain these immigrants could never Americanize.

Nonetheless, he cannot refrain from adding:
But it would be blind and unwise to ignore the evidence that these hopes are coming to fruition far more slowly than one would wish.

Well, this was a common complaint inveighed against Asians too, and that too evaporated over time. No doubt the sheer mass of this wave immigration -- at 12 million illegal immigrants, it's the largest in American history -- is contributing to the insularity of Latino communities and the ability of new immigrants to get by without learning English. Their continuing status as "showdow citizens," and the continuing intransigence of the Nativist wing of the Republican Party on amnesty, also contributes mightily, along with overt anti-Latino hostility from organized groups like the Minutemen. This slowness of assimilation is a legitimate concern in many regards, and warrants a thoughtful discussion about how to overcome it.

But you won't be able to have that discussion if one of the starting points is an assumption that these new immigrants' loyalty is suspect. And what are Frum's criteria for making that judgment -- as he clearly does in both posts? In his second post he offers some basis, as it were, for this assertion:
See for example this set of polls by

* Mexican immigrants are significantly less likely than other immigrants to cite "freedom" as something they value in the United States - or as a reason for their desire to migrate.

* They are significantly less likely than other immigrants to agree that immigrants should learn English or to favor English as the language of instruction in public schools.

* Mexican migrants are much less likely to seek citizenship than other immigrants.

What Frum neglects to mention is that "work" is the main reason Mexican immigrants give for why they come to the United States -- and in that regard, they differ very little from previous massive waves of immigrants, for whom "freedom" was a secondary consideration as well. Nonetheless, this did not affect their loyalty or their ability to become fully American. Neither, for that matter, did their reluctance to learn English.

As for the third criterion, well ... if these people do not become citizens, then they can't vote, can they? So the question of their supposed loyalty to American values is moot, isn't it? This point is a pure non-sequitur.

We probably get a better idea of what Frum means by "loyalty" by noting that he qualifies the issue originally within the context of people who might vote Republican, namely, those "who lack deep attachment to the American nation (and who are thus immune to the most potent of Republican appeals)". He expands on this a bit in the response to Perlstein:
To ruffle the lefty blogosphere some more - let me here anticipate an argument I develop at length in my next book, which will be released by Doubleday in December. ...

People who feel in some way disaffected from or alienated from the American mainstream are the people most likely to vote Democratic.

Democratic voters are substantially less likely than Republicans to describe themselves as "very patriotic." Democratic voters express less confidence than Republicans in America's ability to solve problems as a nation. Democratic voters feel less personally optimistic. Democratic voters, of all colors, are more likely to blame others for their troubles. For what it's worth, Democratic votes are less likely to fly an American flag.

Mind you, Frum's data, as it were, sounds dubious at best. But even if it's accurate in every regard, it reminds me of one of Al Franken's favorite schticks about conservatives -- namely, that their approach to America is like a dependent five-year-old's conception of his parents, always right about everything, and anyone who thinks differently is an enemy; liberals, in contrast, tend to have a relationship with America closer to that of a mature adult, willing to admit complexity and to recognize that criticism is not a measure of one's love or loyalty.

Frum is clearly suggesting that because Democrats tend not to have a blind, fawning admiration of the wonderfulness that is America -- because they recognize its faults, including a longstanding bigotry toward newcomers, and work to overcome them -- that they are somehow less loyal. I would argue the opposite: That a desire to admit our faults, to overcome them, and in doing so to make ourselves a better nation, is a higher loyalty to the true American ideal.

If Republicans are going to have electoral difficulties over the coming years, especially among young voters, I believe it's because many more of these young people have that higher loyalty, and find little appealing in the juvenile approach to patriotism of which the right is so enamored. As long as the Republican appeal is built around panegyrics extolling the virtues of America Right or Wrong, they're going to be falling short. Young people, I think, understand that listening to the Professor Panglosses of the right, assuring us that everything from the Iraq war to immigration is going to be all right if we just clap louder, is a dead-end street.

That doesn't make them less loyal. It just makes them more realistic. Which in turn makes them more capable.

One of the things fresh waves of immigrants do bring -- we know from experience -- is new blood, a fresh energy, a creativity and work ethic that drives the economy forward and makes us better as a nation. One of the real ways these new immigrants, especially the younger generation, can make a difference now is by waking us up from our slumbers, and helping us shed the old assumptions about them built on ancient and poisonous bigotry.

If conservatives like David Frum were smart, they would listen instead of attacking their Americanness. But they aren't, so they won't. One hopes that Democrats, at least, can do better.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Great Commission

-- by Sara

In the comments to my post, Some Are More Equal Than Others, just below, commenter John Benson senses a shift in fundamentalist conversion strategies. He writes:
To be honest I’ve always viewed an invocation of “the great commission” [Jesus' commandment to take his message to all the nations of the world] as the evangelical equivalent of “f**k you, Christ said I could.” That doesn’t mean there aren’t theological arguments to be made, simply that they probably won’t make any difference to a person who invokes “the great commission.” The customary translation is to “make disciples of all nations,” there is no method specified, but Christians are frequently enjoined to avoid load and ostentatious protestations of faith (Mat 6:5-9). Since no method was specified, and yet you should avoid ostentatious display, aren’t you forced to convince people by the exemplary nature of the life you lead?
John's comment reflects the dominant attitude that the American Evangelical movement has brought to its conversion efforts since the Revolution. For the past 200 years, they've done their level best to lead and convert by the good example of their own lives, believing that honesty, kindness, sobriety, thrift, and other virtues would give them the social capital that would make their way attractive to others. (And, to their credit, many Evangelicals still do believe this is the approach most consistent with Jesus' teachings.)

Unfortunately, as I noted in my post, this attitude has, in recent decades, been replaced with a far more militant and aggressive posture among the more fundamentalist Evangelicals. It's fair to ask: how did we get from there to here? Where did these people jump the track?

The fundamentalists themselves -- along with every blogger who's ever pondered the origins of the "dirty fucking hippie" meme -- will blame it on the 1960s. The conservative culture warriors can trace every modern evil straight back to that decade. And it's arguable that one of the biggest casualties of that era was the demise of Righteous Example as a useful and attractive means of fulfilling the Great Commission.

In that fateful decade, religious conservatives were finally forced to reckon with the fact that this was a losing strategy. Rectitude, chastity, and obedience just didn't attract followers like it used to. Their critics pointed out (rightly, which really hurt) that the bloodless righteousness of "traditional morality" too often closed a blind eye to greater sins like sexism, racism, classism, domestic and child abuse, and larger social injustices and inequalities. Everything in the culture -- the media, the universities, their own children -- actively rejected their cherished virtues as "square." Shattered and bruised by this -- and wholly unwilling to engage the validity of the critique and consider changes -- they soon became convinced that other, more overt, tactics were now required.

So, in the 70s, they got into politics. Which, of course, they also misunderstood. They thought that controlling the government would give them the tools to control the runaway culture, and restore things to the state where their pious example of virtue once again had persuasive value. (Notably, this is also the decade in which the idea of "spiritual warfare" -- seen at first as cultural warfare -- first surfaced.) Unfortunately, the refused to accept that democratic governments merely reflect the culture they serve -- and this makes them very limited tools when it comes to creating deep changes in the values of that culture. You can't use a democracy to change things from the top down, because the system is designed to channel power from the bottom up. Still, emboldened by their electoral victories (financed by their increasing ties to the corporate power structure, which gave them a counterweight against the system's inherent power flows), they were quite sure they could legislate morality. That delusion lasted right up until the Clinton impeachment debacle, which they believed would be a moment of moral triumph. Instead, it taught them, once and for all, that their "values" were not, and would never be, shared by the majority.

That went down hard. Bush's victory two years later only softened the sting a little. God's own handpicked miracle president was, in a real sense, their very last hope. He and his GOP Congress would, finally, create the Christian paradise that the Great Commission promised. That much, they were sure of.

And then 9/11 happened. Which -- for them, and for everyone else -- changed everything.

That was a shattering moment, because it laid bare the true magnitude of their failure to fulfill the Great Commission. In spite of all their centuries of effort, positive examples hadn't worked. Working within the political system hadn't worked. America was as secular and sinful as ever; and the blame was wholly, entirely, their own. For the fundamentalists, 9/11 was seen as God's stern warning that continued failure was not an option -- they'd better figure out how to get the country converted, now, or else his wrath would fall even more heavily on the nation. And it would fall most heavily of all on those who had been given a job to do, and failed to get it done.

Convicted by God, who had loosed Satan on them in retribution for their indolence, the fundies began to accept what Rushdooney and Robertson had been telling them for 20 years: the only option left to them was to seize the entire government -- by force, if necessary -- and turn the whole damned thing into a theocracy, governed under Biblical law. A furious God would be appeased by nothing less. It's notable that, up to this point, Dominionist theology had long been dismissed, even by most fundamentalists, as a far fringe movement secretly clung to by only a few authoritarian crazies. But 9/11 moved it quickly to the center of their public theology. And that's how treasonous ideas that were once only discussed by ambitious demagogues in secret came to be preached to millions over the airwaves and from the pulpits of megachurches today.

If you doubt their intentions, just look at where they're putting their energies. Bitterly disappointed by the limits of government power, they are now focusing intently on accruing military power instead. Dave wrote about the OSU's officially-sanctioned efforts to proselytize to our soldiers in Iraq. Other groups are targeting these soldiers after they come home, seeking to fill the hole left by the paucity of VA counseling and transition services. Mikey Weinstein has made the case that they've deeply infiltrated both the faculties and the cadet corps of our military academies. They've also made specific appeals to the military leadership: Jerry Boykin is far from the only general who puts his duty to God ahead of his duty to country, and being "born-again" is increasingly viewed as a requirement for promotion in certain areas of the service. And, through Ron Luce's "Battle Cry" rallies, millions of teenagers are being schooled in the logic and aesthetics of spiritual (and real-life) warfare, priming the pipeline with another generation of Christian soldiers. Across the fundamentalist world, there's a new militance. They're mad as hell, and they're not going to take it any more.

This is the will to action that underlies the "we have more rights than you do" rhetoric of my previous post. It's not just a misguided attitude toward their fellow Americans. These people are taking concrete steps to turn that attitude into action -- to enforce their greater rights in what ever way is required. If the Great Commission must be fulfilled by force, so be it.

At the same time, they're also bunkering down, retreating ever farther into a hermetically-sealed subculture that virtually eliminates all interaction with Americans who'd don't agree with their worldview. And this should concern us, too. The ever-yawning cultural distance they're fostering makes it much easier for them to objectify those of us outside that bubble -- to regard us as evil subhumans who live outside of mercy, and who can be saddled with the full measure of blame for the fear they feel. It is, after all, all our fault: if we'd only bought what they were selling back when they asked us nicely, none of this -- not 9/11, not the 60s, not any of it -- would have had to happen. But we didn't listen-- and so now, we've made it necessary for them to fulfill their unholy Commission the hard way.

We know that the best way to bring someone out of any extremist movement is to give them positive exposure to people and ideas that challenge their rigid beliefs. But, according to Barna Research, about 12% of the country has successfully barricaded itself away from the possibility of any mediating interaction with other Americans. This isolation allows them to live, unchallenged, in their own reality -- a reality in which those of us who resist their coming takeover are easily assigned the blame, stripped of our rights, dehumanized as tools of the Devil.

In the echoes provided by that bubble, their sense of justification is growing, too. They're convincing each other that they are doing what's best for everyone -- even for those who resist them. People who disagree with their plans simply don't understand what's at stake. They've got their orders directly from God, and are under no obligation to listen to any Constitutionalist whining from those who don't. If we merely question their motives, we're tolerated as pathetically deluded, and perhaps redeemable. If we take action to stop them, we expose ourselves as being outright enemies of the coming regime. Any overt opposition is an admission that we're in willful cahoots with Satan -- a belief that contains within it the seeds of eventual eliminationism.

It's a long, long way from fulfilling the Great Commission by gentle, generous, positive example to fulfilling it at the point of the gun. But for too many Christian fundamentalists, they no longer feel they have any choice. They are torn between the diabolical intransigence of their fellow Americans, and their duty to an increasingly impatient and angry God. And there is no question in their minds where their first allegiance lies.