Friday, April 02, 2010

Of Anti-Semitism and "Collective Guilt"

Still reeling from sexual abuse allegations that have implicated the entire Church, up to and including the Pope, the Vatican is now claiming that public attacks against it are reminiscent of classic anti-Semitism:
As the pope listened, Cantalamessa read the congregation a part of a letter he received from a Jewish friend, who said he was "following with disgust the violent and concentric attacks against the Church, the pope..."

"The use of stereotypes, the shifting of personal responsibility and guilt to a collective guilt remind me of the most shameful aspects of anti-Semitism," he quoted from the letter.

Of course, it is true that the shift from personal to collective responsibility is a hallmark of anti-Semitism.* But that's not what's going on here. The allegations against the Catholic Church are that the body's institutional hierarchy, including then-Cardinal Ratzinger, has been complicit in the perpetuation of massive amounts of sexual abuse against children. It doesn't stop being "personal guilt" because lots of people are guilty. Many institutional actors in the Catholic Church were aware of this abuse, in a position to respond, but failed to do so. For that, they are guilty. And unlike Jews, who lack a formal corporate organization, Catholicism organizes itself as a unified hierarchy, which does mean that, insofar as the organization was aware of this behavior, the organization can rightfully be seen as carrying some measure of responsibility.

I don't apologize for saying that. And I think it neither anti-Catholic, nor reminiscent of anti-Semitism, to say so.

* Fun thought experiment: Here's a way to reveal how much you think anti-Semitism disappeared. Let's say a DA started getting pretty aggressive in subpoenaing Church officials (including potentially the Pope), and filing indictments against the guilty actor. Do you think it would be seen as relevant if the DA was Jewish? Because I certainly do -- and it's a fact that would not be presented in a benign way.

UPDATE: The pastor has apologized to both Jews and pedophilia victims.

You Can Be a Single Lady Too!

Ann Bartow calls it "gender construction right before your eyes".

I personally love the look the little girls give dad. It's all "you fucking idiot." He does, however, seem appropriately abashed.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Our "First Gay President"

Oooh, the FRC's Tom McCluskey thinks he can snark:
[I]f it was argued during his two terms in office that Bill Clinton was “our first black President” because of his supposed liberal policies that would benefit African-Americans (though I’m not quite sure what President Clinton did, that he wasn’t forced to do, that would benefit any minority except for Chinese monks with political donations to spend.) With that argument shouldn’t Barack Obama already be our “first gay President” due to his liberal policies pushing the homosexual agenda?

In a massive shocker, McCluskey actually has no idea why President Clinton was referred to as "our first Black President". It wasn't due to his policies, per se. Rather, the phrase originated via Toni Morrison, who commented during the Lewinsky scandal the following:
Years ago, in the middle of the Whitewater investigation, one heard the first murmurs: white skin notwithstanding, this is our first black President. Blacker than any actual black person who could ever be elected in our children's lifetime. After all, Clinton displays almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald's-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas. And when virtually all the African-American Clinton appointees began, one by one, to disappear, when the President's body, his privacy, his unpoliced sexuality became the focus of the persecution, when he was metaphorically seized and bodysearched, who could gainsay these black men who knew whereof they spoke? The message was clear "No matter how smart you are, how hard you work, how much coin you earn for us, we will put you in your place or put you out of the place you have somehow, albeit with our permission, achieved. You will be fired from your job, sent away in disgrace, and--who knows?--maybe sentenced and jailed to boot. In short, unless you do as we say (i.e., assimilate at once), your expletives belong to us."

Do you see a word about President Clinton's policies? No. It's about two things: one, his demeanor, and two, that Blacks identified with how he was hounded during his Presidency, how his enemies seemed intent on hyper-vigilance towards his sexuality and sexual misconduct, with a persistence that seemed mismatched both to the gravity of his offenses and to the treatment accorded to other public figures. The behavior seemed less about the pursuit of justice, and more about keeping a bright kid who had gotten a bit too uppity down, and that was an experience that Black people nationwide identified with. See also Paul Butler, Starr is to Clinton as Regular Prosecutors are to Blacks, 40 B.C. L. Rev. 705 (1999).

I don't think that Obama is known for having a gay demeanor. I also don't think that the method of opposition towards him is particularly reminiscent of the anti-gay bigotry propagated by, among others, the FRC. But alas, the FRC is little more than a partisan smear-factory with the veneer of religiosity. The odds that they've even had contact with substantial numbers of people outside the far-right's White Christian heterosexual base are rather low.

Hip Hop Hurray

Rosa DeLauro is a Fucking Hipster has officially made my life better.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Now You Want Our Help

The anti-government Christian militia accused terrorists have asked for public defenders. Of course, they ought to receive them, but still, lolz.

IACHR: Venezuela Complicit in Burgeoning Anti-Semitism

A new report out by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has found the state of Venezuela complicit in a surge in anti-Semitism in that country. Unfortunately, the JC article repeats the whole bit on Chavez's "those who crucified Christ" remark, which I'm told by credible sources is not understood to refer to Jews in Latin America the way that it would be understood in Europe. But there are plenty of other examples besides:
Since Hugo Chavez took power, antisemitic expression has grown exponentially: in government media; in the dissemination of the Protocols of Zion; in the accusation that "Semitic banks" are sabotaging the economy; in the fact that the Caracas Jewish school was raided twice by armed forces "searching for Mossad-supplied arms caches"; in the desecration of two synagogues; and in the closing of the Israeli Embassy. The Venezuelan ambassador to Moscow even alleged that Jewish citizens implicated in a 2002 anti-Chavez coup were "Mossad agents".

The origins of Mr Chavez's attitude can be traced to the influence wielded over him by his Argentine, pro-Nazi, Holocaust-denying school companion, the late Norberto Ceresole, who - in his 1998 book on Mr Chavez's election victory - warned of the Venezuelan "Jewish mafia".
Mr Chavez is undoubtedly obsessed with a world Jewish conspiracy represented by the less than 12,000 Jews remaining in Venezuela. They are becoming the scapegoat for his dysfunctional administration and the economic crisis that is engulfing a country blessed with oil, coffee and sugar.

One third of the Jewish community has fled, fearing Soviet-style state antisemitism. Indeed, such a policy has all the appearances of having already begun.

A pro-Chavez television show named Venezuelan Jewish leaders as anti-Venezuelan conspirators, and called on other Jews "not involved in the conspiracy" to publicly denounce their coreligionists. A Chavista newspaper editorial questioned whether "we will have to expel them from our country… as other nations have done."

I've previously blogged on emergent anti-Semitism in Venezuela here, here, and here. The world is beginning to take notice.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The New Oppression

Glenn Beck substitute host Doc Thompson finally understands the pain of racism:
For years I’ve suggested that racism was in decline and yeah, there are some, you know, incidents that still happen with regards to racism, but most of the claims I’ve said for years, well, they’re not really real. But I realize now that I was wrong. For I now too feel the pain of racism. Racism has been dropped at my front door and the front door of all lighter-skinned Americans. The health care bill the president just singed into law includes a 10 percent tax on all indoor tanning sessions starting July 1st, and I say, who uses tanning? Is it dark-skinned people? I don’t think so. I would guess that most tanning sessions are from light-skinned Americans. Why would the President of the United Stats of America — a man who says he understands racism, a man who has been confronted with racism — why would he sign such a racist law? Why would he agree to do that? Well now I feel the pain of racism.

And without tanning, how can the poor White man "pass" as Black, thus gaining access to all the benefits that accrue to dark-skinned persons in our society? It's just a way of locking in privilege, that's what it is!


Passing affordable health care: neither self-regarding nor an "indulgence".

Common Language

Some students at Trinity University are pressing to remove "In the Year of Our Lord" from their college diplomas, because, naturally, not everyone thinks Jesus is Lord. Eugene Volokh thinks this is silly:
They are apparently not trying to get the university to drop “Trinity” from the diploma, on the theory that “Trinity” directly references the Trinity, and not everyone believes in the Trinity (one of whose members is Jesus Christ).

But beyond this, the problem with this argument — and the flip side argument that the Constitution is a Christian document because it too mentions “the Year of our Lord” — is that it takes things far too literally. “The Year of our Lord” in a date is about as religious as Providence, Rhode Island, or Corpus Christi, Texas. The meaning no doubt stems from Christianity, as so much in our culture stems from Christianity. Yet all the terms have acquired secular meaning, and using them does not require belief in the theology from which the terms originally stemmed.

I think there are at least two problems with that analysis. First, unlike "Providence, Rhode Island" or "Trinity University", there is another well-known and commonly used term that fills the niche of "A.D.": "Common Era" (C.E.). I have no other clear way of getting someone to know I'm talking about Providence other than by saying "Providence". But while C.E. is certainly less commonly used than A.D., it is quite well-known and part of the English lexicon. Of course, sometimes college names do change (Carleton used to be Northfield College, Duke University used to be Trinity College until 1924), for a variety of reasons, and maybe at one point students will come up with a new name for Trinity that isn't religiously oriented. Which is, of course, their right -- think Phillip Morris to Altrea. If the constituent body of an institution wants to change its name -- for whatever reason -- I don't see why "because the current name might offend some stakeholders" is a particularly bad reason.

But I think the bigger issue is that unlike both Trinity and Providence, "In the Year of Our Lord" isn't just a reference to a religious history, it is a specific religious affirmation. It makes a statement of belief. A place can be named after any number of things, and the religious beliefs of its founders are as good a place to start as any. I don't think anybody reasonably interprets it as holding any normative reflection on the beliefs of its contemporary citizens. By contrast, "in the year of our Lord" has very specific doctrinal message behind it. It doesn't just point to some historical connection with religiosity, it makes a particular claim about the nature of religious truth. That puts it in a qualitatively different field. Even as a resident, it doesn't say anything about me that folks who believed in Christian Providence founded a town in Rhode Island. It does say something when the official documents I receive come with a contested religious claim on them.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Jews Barred from Cairo Synagogue

Usual caveats apply given the source, but it is consistent with recent Egyptian government actions, which have shown that it does not consider the country's Jewish community to be true Egyptians in any meaningful sense.

Voyeur RNC

I'd want to hear a little more about allegations that the RNC spent money on, among other things, trips to "a bondage-themed nightclub featuring topless women dancers imitating lesbian sex." But as it stands, it seems like homosexuality is good enough to titillate Republican leaders, but not good enough to actually secure equal American rights. Hurray, exploitation!


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Out of Sight, Out of My Mind

In the grand tradition of law school being a series of pyrrhic victories, I've just found out I've been appointed one of the Articles Editors for Volume 78 of the University of Chicago Law Review. As a friend of mine put it upon hearing the news: "congrats; see you at graduation." Unfortunately, I've had to deliver essentially the same message to Jill.

Nonetheless, for some irrational reason, I'm excited. I'm sure that will fade away shortly. But for now, I'll enjoy the feeling.