When they came for me

Now that the Massachusetts Legislature has sold out immigrants, it seemed like a good time to affirm our responsibilities for one another and to our own liberties. Several friends have mentioned this poem in recent weeks (I wonder why?). There have been many versions of this but the martin-niemoeller-stiftung.de identifies this as the first:

Als sie mich holten

Als die Nazis die Kommunisten holten,
habe ich geschwiegen,
ich war ja kein Kommunist.
When the Nazis came for the Communists,
I was silent,
I was not a Communist.
Als sie die Sozialdemokraten einsperrten,
habe ich geschwiegen,
ich war ja kein Sozialdemokrat.
When they locked up the Socialists,
I was silent,
I was not a Socialist.
Als sie die Gewerkschafter holten,
habe ich geschwiegen,
ich war ja kein Gewerkschafter.
When they came for the unionists,
I was silent,
I was not a trade unionist.
Als sie mich holten,
gab es keinen mehr,
der protestieren konnte.
When they came for me
there was no one left
who could protest.

— Martin Niemoller

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Dreaming of Dred Scott

A recent set of Gorsuch-weighted Supreme Court rulings have finally given Republicans something to crow about. The court’s approval of Trump’s Muslim Ban seemed like a blast from the German Vergangenheit but recent labor and reproductive rights rulings have been equally disturbing. Mitch McConnell and Neil Gorsuch met for a photo-op to troll Democrats. Their meeting demonstrated just how badly “checks and balances” work in this country and how shattered American democracy really is.

But while the extreme right exults in the belief that their Crusaders have finally pulled off a Reconquista, let’s remember the Dred Scott decision. Then, as now, the case reflected a Supreme Court that had totally lost its way — and the irreconcilable differences between Americans’ views of what sort of nation we want to be.

Dred Scott was a slave who sued for his and his family’s freedom in a state where slavery was illegal. In 1846 Scott filed suit from St. Louis, Missouri, where since 1824 there had been legal precedent for recognizing the freedom of escaped slaves: “Once free, always free.” Scott’s wife Harriet was friendly with Abolitionists who championed the family’s legal case. Scott lost the suit, re-filed and appealed, and lost again. In 1857 his case was again heard by the United States Supreme Court.

On March 6th, 1857 the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 against Scott. Chief Justice Roger Taney delivered the majority opinion, which was that Africans, free or not, could not be citizens of the United States. “The right of property in a slave is distinctly and expressly affirmed in the Constitution.” Furthermore, African-Americans had “no rights which the white man was bound to respect.” Consequently, freedom and citizenship could not be conferred upon non-whites and, since by the court’s criteria Scott was not a citizen, Scott had lacked “standing” to bring the suit in the first place.

The South did a victory lap. The Richmond Enquirer wrote, “A prize, for which the athletes of the nation have often wrestled in the halls of Congress, has been awarded at last, by the proper umpire, to those who have justly won it. The nation has achieved a triumph, sectionalism has been rebuked, and abolitionism has been staggered and stunned.”

But the Charleston, South Carolina Mercury speculated that this was just the beginning of a greater conflict between North and South: “In the final conflict between Slavery and Abolitionism, which this very decision will precipitate rather than retard, the principles of the judgment in the Dred Scott case may be of some avail to the South in giving an appearance of justice and moderation to its position.”

The Supreme Court had ruled in favor of White Supremacy and slavery but now it was the law. Abolitionists mocked the reckless, immoral ruling and doubled their efforts to end slavery. Ultimately Dred Scott, just as the Mercury had predicted, ignited a national conflagration that overturned slavery and destroyed the South.

Modern-day slavers and reconquistadores want to return us to 1857. America is as deeply divided now as it was then, and the prospects of a Trump Court for decades is deeply unsettling. But the fight for America’s soul is far from over. The arc of justice is frustratingly long but it will arrive. Whether in 2018, 2022, or later — Congress will pass into younger, browner, more progressive hands. Laws will be written to make legally explicit our liberties, protecting them from capricious, partisan rulings. The Trump Court will shuffle around in their robes, dreaming of Dred Scott.

Our answer to hate

This my last appeal for citizens to advocate for protections for immigrant families in the 2019 budget. Originally proposed as Budget Amendment #1147 by Senator James Eldridge, these protections have been incorporated into Senate Bill S.2530 and are now in conference with the House. Call your State House Representative to ask them to support immigrant family protections. What’s happening in Washington should terrify and motivate state House Democrats to support such protections. This should be our answer to hate.

Here’s why the protections are so important

The Supreme Court just ruled in favor of Trump’s Muslim Ban. An ACLU petition asks Congress to pass legislation to block racist exclusions like this. While a ban is not the same thing as a registry, we don’t yet know how Trump’s Muslim Ban will affect citizens of the Muslim-majority countries who live in Massachusetts, whether CPB, ICE, or DHS will ask the Commonwealth to help track these Muslim neighbors — or if the occasional law enforcement official might have personal motivations to share data with ICE without authorization.

  • Protections for immigrant families in the 2019 budget bar the Commonwealth from cooperating with such registries.

Trump’s deportation machine is abusing families and children in shockingly cruel ways. Elizabeth Warren has a lengthy report on her visit to a McAllen, Texas Border Patrol facility where she was horrified by the treatment of incarcerated children. A report issued recently describes racially-motivated abuses of detainees in ICE facilities, including the Bristol County House of Correction. Last week it was reported that the Boston Public Schools took it upon themselves to share data with ICE, and on the Cape high school students were reported to ICE by guidance counselors for supposed gang affiliations simply because they spoke Spanish. This insanity must end. Let police deal with real criminals and end vigilantism.

  • Protections for immigrant families in the 2019 budget prevent state officials from being used as federal agents. Only the Massachusetts Department of Corrections will be able to fulfill some of these federal immigration functions.

Customs and Border Patrol is stopping vehicles on parts of I-93 and demanding that passengers produce proof of citizenship. Warrantless stops with requests for “papers!” is creepy and totalitarian enough without state and local police being enlisted in violations of the Fourth Amendment. Even with the 100-mile border “loophole,” many of these stops are unconstitutional. Let’s affirm that, at least in Massachusetts, a “nation of laws” requires warrants and probable cause to stop people.

  • Protections for immigrant families in the 2019 budget define strict rules under which police officers can ask about immigration status and require training on the law for all officers.

Read about these provisions yourself. Despite malicious misinformation, these provisions do not prevent police from arresting real criminals. They do make Massachusetts a lot safer for everyone and strengthen Constitutional protections many of us can still remember once having.

Call your State House Representative to ask them to support protections for immigrant families in the 2019 budget.

Civility

As we rapidly slide into authoritarianism led by a racist vulgarian, the press has oddly become fixated on not the danger to our democracy but on civility and balance. To hear some tell it, we have too much democracy. No, we hear a lot lately, the threat to America is bad manners.

The mainstream media considers it “uncivil” to lob hardballs at a politician or shout “non-responsive!” at his evasive answers. Instead, it steers a safe, middle course, avoiding “controversial” phrases and judgments. The “split-screen” showing both sides of an issue is a fixture of the media, whether in the Op-Ed section of a newspaper or on your favorite cable news show.

Civility is why “nationalist” is the style guide’s choice for Richard Spencer — instead of the more accurate “white supremacist” or “neo-Nazi.” If a Congressman uses the N-word it will be reported as a “racially-charged remark” and not as a “racist” epithet. When reporting climate change there must be “balance” to the 99% of scientists who regard it as fact. Civility means fairness and fairness requires false balance. So readers are obliged to hear from petrochemical lobbyists to provide indispensable new insights into a nonexistent “debate.”

Recently the press began worrying that Sarah Huckabee Sanders was denied a cheeseburger at a Virginia restaurant. The liberal press fretted — is this the end of civility? The Washington Post warned in its best Mom voice, “Let the Trump team eat in peace.” Al Jazeera worried that liberal vexation at a mendacious fundamentalist White House spokeswoman reflected “growing concern about political tribalism” in the United States.

When U.S. Representative Maxine Waters suggested challenging Trump administration figures in public, Politico headed for the bomb shelter: “Waters scares Democrats with call for all-out war on Trump.” House minority leader Nancy Pelosi rebuked Waters, calling for “unity” — even though a recent CNN poll showed that 42 percent of Americans want Trump to be impeached — including a very unified 77 percent of Democrats.

The liberal reticence to vigorously challenge Trump seems based on fears of ridiculous things Trumpistas might say. In a piece entitled “The Left Loses its Cool,” Politico quoted Florida’s GOP Attorney General Pam Bondi: “When you’re violent and cursing and screaming and blocking me from walking into a movie, there’s something wrong,” she said. “The next people are going to come with guns. That’s what’s going to happen.” For Trump supporters having an unpleasant lunch is worse than ICE throwing children into cages or dying because somebody took your healthcare away. Nonsense like this often goes unchallenged.

While the president was busy signing, un-signing, and re-signing executive orders on family separations, the press seemed far less intererested in discovering why sitting U.S. Senators were denied entry to DHS detention facilities. When immigration attorney David Leopold appeared on CNN and pointed the finger for the White House’s inhuman family separation policies at “white nationalist, Stephen Miller,” host Kate Bolduan cut him off: “I don’t know if you want to go as far as to — I mean, let’s not — I just did an entire segment about civility here. I don’t know if you want to call Stephen Miller a white nationalist.”

Thus “civility” ended what could have shed some light on the issue of family separations. Leopold was on the right track: to really understand White House immigration policies you first have to understand its White Supremacists. Yet while the mainstream media pulls its punches, censors guests, and cuts off lines of inquiry, FOX and Sinclair, right-wing radio and conservative papers throughout the country dispense with such niceties and play hardball.

“When they go low, we go high,” Michelle Obama told Democrats shortly before the 2016 election. This was a sweet sentiment. But during that same campaign Donald Trump mocked a disabled journalist and called Mexicans rapists and criminals. This became the new standard of civility. Last March Trump tweeted that Maxine Waters was a “very low IQ individual.” The Tweet was reported but Waters largely had to defend herself in the press.

The stakes have never been higher. We ought to worry less about civility and more about democracy. If we really want to salvage what’s left of it we need to take the gloves off and aggressively confront injustice and untruth.

That goes for both liberals and for a very timid and diminished Fourth Estate.

Deplorable

It turns out that Hillary Clinton was right about one thing — Trump’s supporters are Deplorables.

It was a fleeting, and uncharacteristically harsh, judgment from a party now running its own right-to-lifers, gun-toters, and militarists, lip-syncing the GOP’s lyrics that White America was somehow “left behind.” Taking a cue from the GOP, the Clintons’ DNC and DCCC is now downplaying racial injustice in order to court Deplorables with their Better Deal — which Dems announced last Summer from the Heart of Dixie. But their midterm strategy — sending people of color to the back of the bus if not throwing them under it — neglects the stinking rot at the root of our so-called American “democracy.”

A new study by Diana Mutz from the Department of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania, debunks the theory that White America voted for Trump because they were afraid of losing their jobs. They were simply afraid of losing their privilege.

Mutz’s abstract:

“This study evaluates evidence pertaining to popular narratives explaining the American public’s support for Donald J. Trump in the 2016 presidential election. First, using unique representative probability samples of the American public, tracking the same individuals from 2012 to 2016, I examine the “left behind” thesis (that is, the theory that those who lost jobs or experienced stagnant wages due to the loss of manufacturing jobs punished the incumbent party for their economic misfortunes). Second, I consider the possibility that status threat felt by the dwindling proportion of traditionally high-status Americans (i.e., whites, Christians, and men) as well as by those who perceive America’s global dominance as threatened combined to increase support for the candidate who emphasized reestablishing status hierarchies of the past. Results do not support an interpretation of the election based on pocketbook economic concerns. Instead, the shorter relative distance of people’s own views from the Republican candidate on trade and China corresponded to greater mass support for Trump in 2016 relative to Mitt Romney in 2012. Candidate preferences in 2016 reflected increasing anxiety among high-status groups rather than complaints about past treatment among low-status groups. Both growing domestic racial diversity and globalization contributed to a sense that white Americans are under siege by these engines of change.”

Another study by Steven V. Miller at Clemson and Nicholas T. Davis at Texas A&M confirms Mutz’s “loss of privilege” theory, and also refutes the notion that democratic traditions inoculate Americans from fascist leanings. In “White Outgroup Intolerance and Declining Support for American Democracy,” Miller and Davis write:

“Democracy has been durable in the United States – so durable, in fact, that serious inquiry into Americans’ attitudes toward it has been uncommon. No more.”

Working from World Values Survey data from 1995 to 2011, Miller and Davis discovered that:

“White Americans who would not want an immigrant/foreign worker, someone who spoke a different language, or someone from a different race as a neighbor are more likely to support strongman rule in the United States, rule of the U.S. government by the army, and are more likely to outright reject having a democracy for the United States. These findings are robust across multiple model specifications we analyze and report in the appendix as well.”

Their study documents the strong correlation between White America’s bigotry and proto-fascist leanings. Once White America perceives that the benefits of democracy are being extended to “others” their commitment to democracy is quickly abandoned. Like a child playing a board game, if they can’t win, they won’t play.

But this hardly comes as a surprise to the rest of America:

“[White] American citizens have not historically exhibited the sort of lofty, normative commitments to things like equality and tolerance that we might expect from one of the richest and longest-running continuous electoral democracies in the world. As Sullivan and Transue (1999) note, most citizens were willing to apply double standards that afforded one set of rights to popular groups while denying rights to more extreme or less popular groups.”

Tinkering with Capitalism may sound like a plan, but Democrats need to do a better of job of defending democracy. The surest way to do this is by defending the rights of all citizens and opposing every institution of an authoritarian, surveillance, and police state America. Once Democrats are back in power — unless they roll back the Patriot Act, stop the endless wars, pare back the military budget, dismantle FISA courts and institute sweeping reforms of the criminal justice system and ensure police accountability — they will have done nothing to rescue what’s left of our shredded democracy.

Just a game?

This week the NFL capitulated to Donald Trump and banned "taking a knee" in protest to the many wrongs this country does to people of color. Players may remain in the locker room so as not to mar nationalistic military displays, massive American flags, and fly-overs equalling the handiwork of Leni Riefenstahl. This is another step in the transformation of the United States to an authoritarian police state, in which expressions of patriotism are no longer voluntary. I wrote this post last September when Trump was just making noise. But now the the Orange Mussolini has gone a step further and the list of capitulations of basic freedoms just keeps growing. Read on to see what two Republicans — Jeff Flake and John McCain — had to say about it.


September 28, 2017

Puerto Rico is rapidly turning into another Katrina, and North Korea may have justifiably construed Donald Trump’s reckless threats to “totally destroy” its 25 million citizens as an act of war. But as Rome burns the president is doubling down on his favorite pastime: race-baiting.

While chaos swirls all around, the White Supremacist-in-Chief seems unusually miffed this week by insufficient displays of patriotic fervor at NFL games. Actually, I should have been more precise — insufficient patriotism by black players.

Trump called NFL players who “take a knee” to protest systemic racism in the United States “sons of bitches” and wants them to be fired for exercising their First Amendment rights. Teresa Kaepernick, the mother of former San Francisco 49er Colin Kaepernick, who started taking the “knee,” quipped, “I guess that makes me a proud bitch.” But when pressed on why black athletes were protesting Trump denied it had anything to do with race; it was all about patriotism and respect, he said.

Meanwhile, Trump World echoed their Dear Leader. Any criticisms of the country were fireable and deportable offenses. Former NASCAR champion Richard Petty told the Associated Press that anyone on his team protesting during the national anthem would be fired. “Anybody that don’t stand up for the anthem oughta be out of the country. Period. What got ’em where they’re at? The United States.”

But regardless of how Trump chooses to frame the controversy, protests in the NFL — and now also basketball and baseball leagues — most certainly are about race. Especially under the presidency of a president ESPN anchor Jemele Hill unapologetically labeled a “white supremacist.” While approximately 75% of both NFL and NBA players are black, NASCAR fans are 80% white — and apparently unfamiliar with the First Amendment.

Politics: not for those with grievances

Former NFL player John Elway, now head of operations for the Denver Broncos and a Trump supporter, attempted a more conciliatory tone: “Hopefully as we go forward we can start concentrating on football a little bit more. Take the politics out of football. But I think that last week was a good show of unity by the NFL and hopefully this week we can move forward.”

Elway’s lament was widely echoed by many in White America: sports are sports and players have no business taking political positions on or off the field. Football is just a game.

But players lead lives off the field. Just ask Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett, who “just happens to be black.” Three weeks ago, in Las Vegas for the McGregor-Mayweather fight, Bennett was walking back to his hotel when he fled from the sounds of gunfire — along with a stampede of other pedestrians. But the Las Vegas police singled out Bennett, threatened to “blow [his] f*cking head off” and used excessive force. Bennett was lucky. He wasn’t killed.

And the sordid tale of Donald Sterling reminds basketball players and their fans how inseparable sports can be from real life.

CBS commentator Rob Long expressed a typical sentiment when he wrote: “Recently political topics have invaded sports. Athletes have used their celebrity to voice their political agendas. They’ve used the sports forum to speak out against political and social issues as well as race. This is a growing trend that isn’t losing momentum. The networks are looking for content and as long as athletes provide them with it, they will use it. It’s the gift and the curse.”

But Long (and Elway) are way off the mark. Since the Olympics were first celebrated 2600 years ago, sports have always been political. Ancient Sparta and Nazi Germany certainly approached competitions seriously. National pride and dominance is always at stake. And anything that drowns out the nationalist narrative — for example, a player making his own statement — is unacceptable. Recall the 1968 Summer Olympics, when Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists in black gloves, wearing black socks.

The two were ejected from the games for protesting institutional racism, and they were booed by American fans and fellow Olympians: “It is very discouraging to be in a team with white athletes. On the track you are Tommie Smith, the fastest man in the world, but once you are in the dressing rooms you are nothing more than a dirty Negro.”

Not much has changed since then.

The unforgivable sin that Smith and Carlos committed was eclipsing a nationalistic show of the Stars and Stripes and the playing of the American national anthem. And nationalism can’t tolerate even quiet criticism.

Sports, nationalism and militarism

We often talk about the police being militarized, but since 9/11, especially, professional sports teams and Hollywood have lined up as well to serve the U.S. military in unexpected ways.

Two years ago Arizona senators McCain and Flake published a report on how the Pentagon pays sports teams tens of millions of dollars for patriotic displays. Stadium-sized flags, military flyovers, parachuting into the stadium, color guards, anthems, and jumbotron reunions with servicemen have become the norm for the NFL.

You’d be hard-pressed to describe the difference between one of these hyper-patriotic events and a similar North Korean spectacle. But these are engineered by the Pentagon and not simple acts of patriotism by franchise owners. As Jeff Flake explained, “What we take issue with is the average fan thinking teams are doing this on behalf of the military.”

McCain’s and Flake’s 145-page report lists contributions to 18 NFL teams, 10 MLB teams, eight NBA teams, six NHL teams, eight soccer teams, as well as NASCAR, Iron Dog and several college football programs. The Atlanta Falcons pocketed $879,000, Trump Donor Robert Kraft’s New England Patriots received $700,000 and the Buffalo Bills $650,000. And all this represents only a fraction of the amount the DOD has spent on sports marketing. “In all, the military services reported $53 million in spending on marketing and advertising contracts with sports teams between 2012 and 2015.” The Army alone spends $10 million on the NFL.

Is it patriotism when you’ve been manipulated?

But NASCAR took in the biggest haul, $1,560,000 in 2015. This included personal appearances by Aric Almirola and [the aforementioned] Richard Petty, as well as 20 Richard Petty Driving Experience ride-alongs. In 2011 NASCAR presented the largest USO “Military Village” Expo ever in Dover, Delaware — incidentally (or perhaps appropriately) home to the largest military mortuary in the country.

Who says that the U.S. government can’t do anything right? When it comes to militarism and jingoistic propaganda, no one does it better. Andrew Bacevich describes how all the moving parts of an “authentic” patriotic experience come together — and it’s enough to make anyone take a knee:

Fenway Park, Boston, July 4, 2011. On this warm summer day, the Red Sox will play the Toronto Blue Jays. First come pre-game festivities, especially tailored for the occasion. The ensuing spectacle — a carefully scripted encounter between the armed forces and society — expresses the distilled essence of present-day American patriotism. A masterpiece of contrived spontaneity, the event leaves spectators feeling good about their baseball team, about their military, and not least of all about themselves — precisely as it was meant to do.

In this theatrical production, the Red Sox provide the stage, and the Pentagon the props. In military parlance, it is a joint operation. In front of a gigantic American flag draped over the left-field wall, an Air Force contingent, clad in blue, stands at attention. To carry a smaller version of the Stars and Stripes onto the playing field, the Navy provides a color guard in crisp summer whites. The United States Marine Corps kicks in with a choral ensemble that leads the singing of the national anthem. As the anthem’s final notes sound, four U. S. Air Force F-15C Eagles scream overhead. The sellout crowd roars its approval.

But there is more to come. “On this Independence Day,” the voice of the Red Sox booms over the public address system, “we pay a debt of gratitude to the families whose sons and daughters are serving our country.” On this particular occasion the designated recipients of that gratitude are members of the Lydon family, hailing from Squantum, Massachusetts. Young Bridget Lydon is a sailor — Aviation Ordnanceman Airman is her official title — serving aboard the carrier USS Ronald Reagan, currently deployed in support of the Afghanistan War, now in its 10th year.

Original Sin

American history is not simply the tales of presidents, generals and explorers — or of the many wars to which the U.S. has sent its children. History is not some abstract account of other people. Our own families and communities have created traces that demand to be viewed in the mirror of history. American history, then — our history — is both a personal story and a personal reckoning.

Almost twenty years ago I became interested in genealogy. My mother’s ancestors lived in the United States long before it became a republic. They can be traced back five or six centuries to little Welsh and English villages, and somebody somewhere has a book with all the dry details of begats, property transfers, and manumissions of slaves. Slave ownership among white families, even by Northerners, is a dirty little secret some would rather forget.

In among all the yellowing photo albums is a picture of my mother as a two month old, cradled in the arms of an old black woman. Below the photo, in my mother’s scrawl: Louisa was born a slave.

“Louisa was born a slave”

Of course, this was 1930, it was the South, and much has changed since then.

But, as Charlottesville reminded us not that long ago, a lot has not changed. Slavery may be gone, but it ended recently enough that we still find reminders in our family albums. For Louisa, the Jim Crow South kept her living in poverty, taking care of someone else’s children, her sons farming for someone else, and it placed incalculable obstacles before her grandchildren. For all the recent talk of flags and monuments and legacy, it is not so much Confederate (or Union) symbols but racist institutions that represent our true heritage. And like our family albums, these institutions persist to this day.

Many view white supremacy as dead and cold as Confederate statues. Yet the white supremacy on which slavery was based is hot and pulsing, alive and malign. White supremacy is such a major part of the national DNA that it has shaped our justice and economic systems, healthcare, immigration, foreign policy, policing, the prison system — every aspect of American life, North and South. It is the source of America’s great wealth, our expeditionary militarism, and a daily contributor to income inequality. White supremacy lies behind the doctrines of Manifest Destiny and American Exceptionalism. White supremacy has justified most of our wars of choice, not just the Civil War. And just like actual DNA, white supremacy seems to be transmitted across generations like a deadly gene.

My mother once told me an unflattering story about her own mother. It was 1940 and Franklin Delano Roosevelt had been president for eight years. Like Obama, Roosevelt was despised throughout the South and was accused of being a race traitor and a Communist. For all the epithets hurled at FDR by my grandmother and those like her, the New Deal had improved the lives of poor people of every race and America was changing — and for the better. On one particular day in April that year, a black census lady came to my grandmother’s front door. My grandmother told her crisply to go to the back. The census worker replied, “I can do it here, or not at all.”

She didn’t know it at the time, but my grandmother’s world had already changed — into something she would never accept. A genteel Sunday school teacher with Southern breeding, my grandmother would have despised today’s racists as so much “white trash” for mixing Southern “heritage” with the Nazism America was then fighting. But on matters of race my grandmother held exactly the same views as today’s white supremacists.

Tea Party Republicans now own the party and the presidency — and they warn us the gloves are off and the bare knuckles out. But so too are the white satin sheets and coarse brown shirts out of the closet. We now know exactly what these men and women are — and we shouldn’t hesitate to use the proper terms: fascists and white supremacists. A frighteningly large segment of white America no longer feels any shame about public expressions of their hate. Racism without consequence has become re-enshrined in law and Jim Crow is making a comeback. Worse, “mere” racism seems to be making the transition to fascism.

Adolf Hitler may never have been a member of the Confederacy but today’s white supremacists just as easily sieg Heil to a Nazi Hakenkreuz as they salute a Confederate flag or monument. Today it’s almost impossible to distinguish racism from fascism because, in the end, what’s the difference when dehumanization, deportation, ethnic cleansing and murder are shared objectives?

But the silver lining — if there is one — is that Charlottesville released a flood of essays, meditations and documentaries on our Original Sin, on the magnitude of our problem with white supremacy — and I must agree with Jamelle Bouie and others who identify it as a white problem.

Among the best pieces I read immediately after Charlottesville, in no particular order:

If all this is overwhelming and heartbreaking, it should be. We should be overwhelmed with shame and remorse and anger. We should be crying and we should be screaming. We can never fix what’s wrong with this country without acknowledging the deepest foundational injustice that almost every other injustice is based on.

And we can never change society without changing ourselves. It is not enough for Liberals to champion civil rights at home and deny them to others abroad. It is not enough for Liberals to ask for a minimum wage and family leave domestically, while ensuring that workers overseas work in horrific sweat shops to build iPhones and sew designer jeans. Besides white supremacy, liberal white America must firmly reject colonialism and militarism. Justice must be universal, equality must know no borders. No deity confers special blessings on the United States. We are simply one nation among two hundred and some others.

The baby in the picture was born into a narrow, racist world. Things she’d say would provoke tears and winces. Until the day she died it was obvious where she had grown up, and in what kind of world. But like all of us my mother was a work in progress and she ended up a kinder and more compassionate person than the generations that preceded her.

I must believe we all are works in progress — and so is the country each of us loves and hates with alternating passion and despondency. But if we really mean to repair it in earnest — it means not fearing to look squarely into that mirror of history.