Why do Americans know so little about the world the U.S. has shaped?

Ishaan Tharoor writes: In a recent excerpt from her new book, American journalist Suzy Hansen described her bemusement when a friend in Istanbul suggested to her that the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, had been somehow planned by the U.S. government.

“Come on, you don’t believe that,” said Hansen.

“Why not?” snapped back her friend, identified as Emre. “I do.”

“But it’s a conspiracy theory.”

Emre laughed and said: “Americans always dismiss these things as conspiracy theories. It’s the rest of the world who have had to deal with your conspiracies.”

This pronouncement prompted Hansen, an accomplished storyteller and reporter who has written powerfully about recent political events in Turkey, to reflect on what may underlie her friend’s animus. Her much-acclaimed new book, “Notes from a Foreign Country: An American Abroad in a Post-American World,” is a memoir of a young American who moves abroad and slowly grapples with how the rest of the world sees her nation — and how little her nation really sees the world.

She looks in particular at the extent to which U.S. foreign policy has shaped politics, societies and the fates of ordinary people elsewhere. In one anecdote, when Hansen asks an Iraqi man what his country “was like in the 1980s and 1990s, when he was growing up,” he replies: “I am always amazed when Americans ask me this. How is it that you know nothing about us when you had so much to do with what became of our lives?” [Continue reading…]

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Requiem for the Sunshine State

Dexter Filkins writes: If you grow up in Florida, you watch the natural world around you disappear. It’s just a fact you live with. The verdant, miles-long stretch of dune and palm, rustling to the beat of the waves? Paved over. The brackish stream that flows from ocean to intercoastal, giving life to manatees, alligators, and tarpon? Turned into a parking lot. The swath of live oak trees, the Spanish moss clinging to their branches like the mists from a Faulkner novel? It’s an apartment complex called Whispering Pines.

It doesn’t matter when you moved to Florida. Ever since the nineteen-sixties, the stream of people pouring into the state has been relentless: an average of eight hundred newcomers a day. All of them need places to live. Where I grew up, in Cape Canaveral, the destruction of nature happened so fast that it was often disorienting; passing a stretch of woods for perhaps the eight-hundredth time, I would stare at the backhoes and cranes and wonder what had occupied that space only a week before. On a few occasions, my teen-age friends and I got so angry that we scaled the fences of construction sites and moved the survey points that were marking the spot for the next foundation—the next pour of cement. We failed, of course, to stop what the builders were building, or even to slow it down. The joke among us was that every housing development in Florida was named to memorialize the ecosystem it replaced: Crystal Cove, Mahogany Bay, The Bluffs. For about a year, I lived in an apartment complex, paved from end to end, called “In the Pines.”

It’s useful to remember this now, as Hurricane Irma lays waste to much of Florida: the destruction of the state has been unfolding for decades, and, for the most part, it wasn’t done by nature. It was done by us. [Continue reading…]

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Millennials in the U.S. are more welcoming of refugees than the global average

Quartz reports: Millennials in the US are more accepting of refugees than many of their peers elsewhere, according to a World Economic Forum (WEF) survey of people aged 18 to 35. A majority of young people around the globe would welcome refugees to their country, according to the report, although the strength of this feeling varies by place.

Nearly 90% of US of respondents to the WEF survey said they would welcome refugees to their country, compared with 72% globally, according to the survey of 15,990 respondents.

The findings come as the number of refugees admitted to the US was reduced by nearly half in the first three months of Donald Trump’s presidency, versus the final three months of the Obama administration, according to the Department of Homeland Security. Trump has sought to cap the number of refugees the US takes in at 50,000, although much has hinged on the Supreme Court’s view of the president’s “travel ban” executive order. [Continue reading…]

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America’s getting more tolerant and haters hate it

Albert Hunt writes: Sure, there were a lot of haters in Charlottesville. That shouldn’t obscure some better news, which is that the U.S. is becoming a more accepting and tolerant nation. Unlike President Donald Trump, most citizens don’t equivocate when asked their opinion of the hate groups that descended on Virginia two weeks ago.

One of the most interesting changes over the years is in attitudes toward interracial marriage. In 1968, a year after interracial marriage was given constitutional protection, 73 percent of the public opposed these unions, including one-third of African-Americans. Only 20 percent approved of them. By 2013, the last year Gallup’s pollsters asked the question, attitudes had dramatically reversed: 87 percent of poll respondents approved of interracial marriage and only 11 were opposed.

According to the Pew Research Center, 7 percent of Americans consider themselves multi-racial. This is an accelerating trend embraced by young people.

While most multi-racial people say they’ve been targets of racial slurs or jokes, almost none think their status is a liability. One in five, the Pew survey finds, say it’s an advantage, while three-quarters say it has made no difference in their daily lives or career.

The Pew Center’s conclusion: Multi-racial Americans “are at the cutting edge of social and demographic changes in the U.S. — young, proud, tolerant and growing at a rate three times as fast as the population as a whole.” [Continue reading…]

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Robert E Lee, George Washington and the trouble with the American pantheon

By Erik Mathisen, Queen Mary University of London

When the US president, Donald Trump, was asked to clarify his position on the violence that unfolded in Charlottesville, Virginia during a press conference at Trump Tower in New York, he poured gasoline on a raging fire.

In a comment about the historical monument to Confederate general Robert E Lee, which had become a flashpoint in the protests, Trump remarked:

This week it’s Robert E Lee … I wonder is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after?

For years, a debate about Confederate monuments has been growing in intensity, setting protesters and city counsellors around the country against activists who see the monuments to southern civil war heroes as a part of the region’s heritage – even though the majority of them were erected long after the war. Indeed, most were put up around the beginning of the 20th century, as African-American disfranchisement began to well and truly bite across the country and in the 1950s and 1960s, largely in reaction to the civil rights movement and desegregation. Though they might hold a civil war figure aloft, monuments to the Confederacy commemorate white supremacy in marble. This is the message. The rest is historical window dressing.

A few of these statues make this fact plain. Most do not. All of them trade in a historical bait and switch. The statues memorialising the Confederacy gave segregationists the historical justification they needed to act, while at the same time allowing them to cast their efforts in a regional history of lost causes rather than white supremacy and the perpetuation of slavery.

But Trump’s stance also raise questions about not so much whether monuments ought to be taken down, but the company that Robert E Lee keeps in the pantheon of the republic’s most important civic icons. Here too there are problems, but not only the ones you might think.

On the surface, the president’s remarks make no sense to anyone who has read in any depth about American history. Thomas Jefferson wrote the document that set the American colonies down the road to independence. He was a president, as was George Washington. Lee was a decorated soldier – but a founding father he was not. He renounced his citizenship, joined a cause to break up the Union and stood at the head of the Army of Northern Virginia which inflicted incredible damage on the United States and killed tens of thousands of American soldiers. Washington and Jefferson helped to build the republic. Lee was out to destroy it.

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What to do with Confederate monuments: Seven lessons from Germany

Yuliya Komska writes: The overdue momentum to remove various Confederate symbols, especially some 1,500 statues, from their perches has picked up across the country in the wake of right-wing violence in Charlottesville. In Gainesville, Fla., Durham, N.C., and Baltimore, the toppling has already begun. In some cases, state or local authorities have driven the process. In others, activists have seized the initiative to speed things up.

Yet despite the growing consensus that the “dangerous totems” (as Dallas mayor Mike Rawlings has dubbed them) must go, there is no agreement about the monuments’ fates. Ideas range from traceless destruction to warehouse storage to museum display. Some propose, to quieter applause, to keep the objects in place, accompanied by appropriate labeling.

In the cacophony of opinions, few observers and participants seem bothered by the lack of a coherent, thought-out strategy for disposing of the Confederacy’s visible traces while preserving evidence of this vitally important chapter of our past.

They should be. Not out of concern for the preposterous right-wing lament about the erasure of history, but because the task at hand is to purge the imagery in a way that guards against amnesia while also transforming the statues from celebratory monuments into objective evidence. [Continue reading…]

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The myth of the South’s devotion to liberty

In 2001, James M. McPherson wrote: When Abraham Lincoln delivered his second inaugural address on March 4, 1865, at the end of four years of civil war, few people in either the North or the South would have dissented from his statement that slavery “was, somehow, the cause of the war.” At the war’s outset in 1861 Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, had justified secession as an act of self-defense against the incoming Lincoln administration, whose policy of excluding slavery from the territories would make “property in slaves so insecure as to be comparatively worthless,…thereby annihilating in effect property worth thousands of millions of dollars.”

The Confederate vice-president, Alexander H. Stephens, had said in a speech at Savannah on March 21, 1861, that slavery was “the immediate cause of the late rupture and the present revolution” of Southern independence. The United States, said Stephens, had been founded in 1776 on the false idea that all men are created equal. The Confederacy, by contrast,

is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and moral condition. This, our new Government, is the first, in the history of the world, based on this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.

Unlike Lincoln, Davis and Stephens survived the war to write their memoirs. By then, slavery was gone with the wind. To salvage as much honor and respectability as they could from their lost cause, they set to work to purge it of any association with the now dead and discredited institution of human bondage. In their postwar views, both Davis and Stephens hewed to the same line: Southern states had seceded not to protect slavery, but to vindicate state sovereignty. This theme became the virgin birth theory of secession: the Confederacy was conceived not by any worldly cause, but by divine principle.

The South, Davis insisted, fought solely for “the inalienable right of a people to change their government…to withdraw from a Union into which they had, as sovereign communities, voluntarily entered.” The “existence of African servitude,” he maintained, “was in no wise the cause of the conflict, but only an incident.” Stephens likewise declared in his convoluted style that “the War had its origin in opposing principles” not concerning slavery but rather concerning “the organic Structure of the Government…. It was a strife between the principles of Federation, on the one side, and Centralism, or Consolidation, on the other…. Slavery, so called, was but the question on which these antagonistic principles…were finally brought into…collision with each other on the field of battle.”

Davis and Stephens set the tone for the Lost Cause interpretation of the Civil War during the next century and more: slavery was merely an incident; the real origin of the war that killed more than 620,000 people was a difference of opinion about the Constitution. Thus the Civil War was not a war to preserve the nation and, ultimately, to abolish slavery, but instead a war of Northern aggression against Southern constitutional rights. [Continue reading…]

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Overt racists are easy to spot. America’s insidious racism is a greater challenge

Natalie Y Moore writes: White supremacy is more than overt displays of racial hatred as seen in the last few days. It is a system in which white people dominate others and dominate society. They are the default setting, if you like. They hold the power, even if unwillingly. Institutional racism means that even if a white individual does not embrace a white supremacist view, it’s very likely that person benefits from the rigged system.

A swift social media response to the images out of Charlottesville was #thisisnotus. Oh yes it is. America’s original sin is racism. For black people need look no further than slavery, to Jim Crow laws, to segregation, to today’s not-so-invisible hands guiding housing and education policy, the wage gap, health disparities, how banks give loans. One could also add police brutality, food insecurity and disinvestment in black and brown communities.

White supremacy makes up the very fabric of the United States. Racial terror and violence are a central part of our story. An interesting exercise is to compare footage of last weekend’s racial attacks and that of the 1960s. At first glance, the only real difference is that the latter was filmed in black and white.

Beyond our wider, deeper, societal issues, what has been particularly odd is how surprised many have been in the past week by Trump’s response and his implicit nod to white supremacist groups. The idea that he was a blustery political neophyte, rough around the edges, who would clean up his racial language once in the White House has never made any sense. Up until Friday, ultra-rightwing media executive white nationalist Steve Bannon served as White House chief strategist.

But I’ll tell you who’s not surprised by Trump’s actions – black people, especially black women: 94% of black women voted for Hillary Clinton, the highest figure among any demographic.

Maya Angelou, the African American poet, memoirist and civil rights activist, once said: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” Trump hardly hid what kind of president he would be on racial matters – he publicly revealed to the nation his leanings for decades. Indeed, he jumped into the political fray via “birtherism”, the absurd conspiracy theory that questioned President Barack Obama’s citizenship. Trump swung from one media outlet to another declaring Obama’s birth certificate was fake, therefore disqualifying him for president. He gained traction, by disparaging the country’s first black president with a fanciful and noxious allegation. [Continue reading…]

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Are men seen as ‘more American’ than women?

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Protesters hold signs at the Chicago Women’s March in January 2017.
John W. Iwanski, CC BY-NC

By Laura Van Berkel, University of Cologne; Ludwin Molina, University of Kansas, and Sahana Mukherjee, Gettysburg College

Women make up 50.8 percent of the U.S. population and have equal voting rights, yet are politically underrepresented. The country has never had a female president or vice president. Only 3.5 percent of Supreme Court justices have been women, and women make up only 20 percent of Congress.

Studies have shown that within a country, groups with more power often feel greater ownership over it. Because they control actual resources, like money, and symbolic resources, like writing history, they’re better able to shape the culture in their image. For example, because Christianity is the most prominent religion in the United States, Christmas is a federal holiday.

Because men hold more power than women in the United States, we wanted to explore a simple question: Would people tend to think of men as “more American” than women? And, if so, how does this influence the way American women identify with their country?

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The alt-right stands at a crossroads

The Atlantic reports: Members of the alt-right like to depict their movement as an irreverent response to political correctness.

On Saturday, in Charlottesville, Virginia, James Alex Fields Jr. drove a car through that façade, in a terrorist attack that killed Heather Heyer and injured 19 others who had gathered in opposition to the white-nationalist movement.

It was a defining moment, but not a moment for a pause. More alt-right rallies are scheduled for the coming Saturday, in at least nine cities. These events will provide an important barometer for the future of this movement, depending on how many people turn out, who those people are, and how they conduct themselves. For the alt-right, the coming weekend represents a critical test—which may reveal it gathering force, dissipating, or changing in significant ways. By Saturday night, it may be clear where it’s headed.

The alt-right has become an umbrella community for the American far-right, a loosely defined movement with a strong center of gravity online and which encompasses a large number of subnetworks.

Some of these subgroups identify primarily as the alt-right, but many are affiliated with more specific strains of white-nationalist ideology—including the Ku Klux Klan, Odinists, Neo-Nazis, and more, many in full regalia lest anyone miss the point. [Continue reading…]

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Charlottesville and America’s long history of homegrown fascism

Joshua Zeitz writes: These people are not from here,” Rep. Thomas Garrett affirmed in the wake of an American Nazi and Klan rally that descended into smoke and violence in his Virginia congressional district on Saturday. “It blows my mind that this many racist bigots actually exist in this country.” White supremacists, he continued, do not reflect “who we are as Americans.”

It’s a little surprising that Garrett is surprised. Even as he spoke, a photograph circulated of the congressman meeting recently with Jason Kessler, a white supremacist from Charlottesville who organized the rally. The purpose of the meeting, Garrett’s office insisted, was unrelated to yesterday’s rally; the two men discussed a range of issues, including President Donald Trump’s anti-terrorism and immigration restriction initiatives.

To be fair, Garrett might not perceive the tight spectrum that runs between between racialist policies and white supremacist violence. He may also genuinely believe that aggrieved white men marching in lock step by torchlight do not reflect “who we are as Americans.” Indeed, many public figures on both the left and right—people like Sally Yates, Tim Kaine and Ana Navarro, whose anti-racist and anti-fascist credentials are unimpeachable—echoed this well-meaning sentiment.

But as the historian and New Yorker staff writer Jelani Cobb observed, “The biggest indictment of the way we teach American history is that people can look at #Charlottesville and say ‘This is not who we are.’” It is part of the myth of American Exceptionalism that blood and soil movements like Nazism are foreign to the United States—that jackbooted fascism of the variety that infects democratic institutions is an invasive weed that can be easily plucked out of our national garden.

To affirm that this is not who we are, one has to erase the history of American race relations from our very recent, collective past. [Continue reading…]

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Charlottesville and the effort to downplay racism in America

Jia Tolentino writes: In 2005, I moved to Charlottesville for college, and felt that I’d landed in paradise. Back in Texas, where I grew up, the captain of my cheerleading squad had a Confederate flag hanging in her bedroom; Virginia at first seemed very liberal to me. I had such low standards for moral decency that frat boys drawling about the “War of Northern Aggression” seemed innocuous, almost quaint. The University of Virginia fetishizes its past—people refer to Thomas Jefferson, the school’s founder, as “T.J.,” and a popular dress code for football games was “guys in ties, girls in pearls.” The official culture of the school positions American history and institutional convention as deeply and exclusively charming, and it relies on a mask of gentility to keep this story up. There were blatantly racist incidents at U.V.A. shortly before I arrived and while I was there: two of the richest frats had “blackface incidents” in 2002; the next year, a black woman running for student office was attacked near the Rotunda by a white man who reportedly said, “No one wants a nigger to be president.” In 2006, a local establishment instituted a dress code with the intended effect of keeping black people out of the bar. But these things were played down as impolite and anomalous, with the same sort of “This is not us” language that’s circulating today. Charlottesville was a beautiful town full of good white people who believed in political progress, and if people of color could just hold tight and respect that, we wouldn’t have to make anyone uncomfortable. Everything would be just fine.

We are seeing now what emerges from the American fetish for tradition, which is, in part, a fetish for the authority of the rich white male. While I was at U.V.A., the fact that slaves had built the school was hardly discussed, and the most prominent acknowledgment that Jefferson was a slave owner came on Valentine’s Day, when signs went up all over campus that said “TJ ♥s Sally.” The town has been repeatedly, publicly wracked with awful tragedies—murders, kidnappings—centering on white female victims, but when the same things happen to black women in town, it barely makes the news. (In the exhaustive aftermath that followed Rolling Stone’s discredited story of fraternity gang rape at the University of Virginia, hardly anyone thought to mention that the first rape known to have occurred on the campus was the gang rape of a seventeen-year-old slave.) There is a racial slant in Charlottesville’s policing: consider the department’s stop-and-frisk numbers, or the brutal assault by Alcohol and Beverage Control officers on a man named Martese Johnson, in 2015. And yet, for much of Saturday, as white men carried assault weapons and brandished symbols of catastrophic violence, the police stood by calmly; at one point, they retreated from the fray. In this respect, the spectacle succeeded in proving the ongoing reality of white supremacy in America. The message is sickening and unmistakable. Black demonstrators protesting the murder of teen-agers are met with tanks and riot gear; white demonstrators protesting the unpopularity of Nazi and Confederate ideology are met with politesse. [Continue reading…]

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The disastrous consequences of basing politics on what you are against, not what you are for

David Miliband writes: For many years Britons and Americans have been proud of the quality of their governance. Yet today our politics and government are setting new standards for dysfunction. Rather than stability and global leadership there is confusion.

The US is suffering from a serious inability to legislate. There is a genuine risk of the country defaulting on its debts. Jeb Bush called Donald Trump the “chaos candidate”, but as the American writer Jonathan Rauch has pointed out the Trump candidacy was the product of political chaos – in campaign finance, for example – not its cause.

Meanwhile, Britain is suffering its own governability crisis. Leaving the EU was mis-sold as a quick fix. Now it looks like a decade-long process of unscrambling the eggs of national and European legislation. Ministers cannot even agree among themselves the destination, the route map or the vehicles to get us there.

This transatlantic malaise has a common root: politics based on what you are against, not what you are for. Look at the campaigns against the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and against the EU. There is a common trope: the politics of grievance.

Complaints about individual policies became attacks against a whole institutional architecture. There were outright lies in both campaigns. And there was a complete (and effective) refusal to describe, never mind debate, what would replace the status quo. [Continue reading…]

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A majority of Americans favor deploying U.S. troops if North Korea attacks South Korea, poll finds

The Washington Post reports: A large majority of Americans consider North Korea’s nuclear weapons program a critical threat toward the United States, according to a new poll.

However, they remain divided on which policy would best contain that threat — and, for the first time in almost 30 years, a majority of Americans were found to support military action if North Korea attacked South Korea.

The poll, conducted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, offers a glimpse of how Americans are responding to the rapidly evolving tensions with Pyongyang. Just two years ago, 55 percent of Americans listed North Korea as a critical threat facing the United States. Now 75 percent do, making it among the greatest perceived threats in the poll. [Continue reading…]

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Double standard decried as Minnesota mosque bombed

Al Jazeera reports: Social media users have voiced frustration at what they described as a double standard after a mosque was bombed in the US.

The explosion at around 5am local time (09:00 GMT) at the Dar Al Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minnesota, caused damage but did not cause any casualties.

Worshippers had been preparing for the dawn prayer when the attack happened.

There were between 15 and 20 people inside the building at the time, according to Star Tribune, a local newspaper. [Continue reading…]

The Washington Post reports: Rick Thornton, the FBI’s special agent in charge of the investigation, told reporters Saturday afternoon that the blast was caused by an “improvised explosive device” but offered no further details about its composition or possible suspects. Neither the FBI nor the Bloomington Police Department, which initially responded to the explosion, speculated on a motive for the incident.

“At this point, our focus is to determine who and why,” Thornton said at a news conference. “Is it a hate crime? Is it an act of terror?…Again, that’s what the investigation is going to determine.”

The attack was quickly condemned by religious leaders and politicians. Hussein said a “standing opposition group” has regularly protested against the mosque — and sometimes its mere existence — since it opened in 2011.

“Hate is not okay,” Asad Zaman, executive director of the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, told reporters, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “We need an America where people are safe with their neighbors.”

If the attack was motivated by anti-Muslim bias, it would represent “another in a long list of hate incidents targeting Islamic institutions nationwide in recent months,” CAIR-MN civil rights director Amir Malik said. CAIR said in a report last month that anti-Muslim hate crimes in the United States nearly doubled in the first half of this year over the same period in 2016. At least 35 anti-mosque acts — including vandalism and arson — were reported during the first three months of this year, the organization has said. [Continue reading…]

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How American racism inspired Hitler

Jack Gross writes: Amidst a string of pat introductory reflections to his recent book, Hitler’s American Model, which tracks the influence of American race law on the drafting of the Nazi Nuremberg Laws, James Q. Whitman makes one that is revealing. The crimes of the Nazis, he writes, are the “nefandum,” a Latin word that denotes the unsayable, by which he means unfathomably evil. According to Whitman, the function of this unsayability is the maintenance of a “dark star”—his image, not mine—against which modern liberal democracies orient their own actions and histories. The point of Hitler’s American Model, then, is to bring the very often spoken horrors of the Holocaust—in this case the legal apparatus that enabled a genocidal state—into contact with the also unsayable, and surely less said, international influence of United States race laws.

Comparisons of things that aren’t fascist dictators to fascist dictators are made as commonly as they are condemned. When it comes to comparing people to Hitler, there is a rule of internet discourse that strongly discourages it. In liberal media outlets, with pseudo-earnest concern—Is Trump like Hitler?—the comparison is both energizing and reassuring: energizing because it denotes the clear radicality of Nazi evil, comforting because of the implicit anticipation of the triumph of liberal norms. The impulse to make the Nazi comparison is so common in part because it is understood almost invariably to be hyperbolic. (No, or at least not yet, is the most frequent response.) What is less common are claims to the messier truth of continuity, which fail to offer the sharp and spectacular relief that separates the horrors of the Nazi regime from the more common pace and texture of devastation by state violence. On one side of the comparison is generational immiseration, imprisonment, exile and death tempered by civility; on the other, the right-angled arm-band and the death camp.

Whitman’s history of influence contributes to a growing body of work that demonstrates links between America and Nazi ideology: most commonly cited are the prominent role of Americans in the global eugenics movement and Hitler’s admiration for the slaughter of indigenous people central to westward expansion. Before the Nazis had gripped complete control of Germany, America was receiving world-historical praise from German historians. Albrecht Writh, for example, understood the founding of the United States to be a key achievement in “the struggle of the Aryans for world domination”; in a volume titled The Supremacy of the White Race, Wahrhold Drascher wrote that, if not for America, “a conscious unity of the white race would have never emerged.” [Continue reading…]

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Is the noose, a symbol of racial terrorism, returning?

Kevin C. Peterson writes: According to the Huffington Post, the use of the noose is becoming a nauseating national trend: “Nooses were also found at a frat house at the University of Maryland, a middle school in Florida, and at two high schools in separate incidents in North Carolina. A Walker, Louisiana, police officer resigned in March after leaving a noose in the department’s squad room.” In May, less than a day after Taylor Dumpson because the first black student president, several bananas hanging from nooses appeared on the American University campus.

The lynching noose is a blatantly offensive artifice, especially to generations of African-Americans who are aware of its history. The noose is a symbol of an odious ideology of human hierarchy that denotes domination of one group of people over the other, namely whites over blacks.

Between 1882 and 1968, at least 3,446 black people were lynched in the United States, according to the NAACP. Stated more dramatically, blacks accounted for 72.7 percent of all recorded lynchings, even while they represented no more than 12 percent of the population during that period.

Called the “Negro holocaust,” the extended practice of lynching in America was a cultural policy performed through varying methods that included shooting, strangulation, stabbing, drowning and especially hanging. Few have captured the tragic dimensions of lynching in the broader popular culture than the jazz singer Billie Holiday, whose performance of the song “Strange Fruit” in the 1940s shocked the nation to its spiritual core and galvanized sentiment against the brutal practice.

Lynching represents white supremacy, which the theologian Drew Hart has described as a “sociopolitical collective that created [an] artificially constructed group … ” Yes, racism is a social construction and as such, it is also evil.

The irony of America under its first black president is that the country had seemed to reverse itself on matters of race. While many of us thought that the Obama presidency would bring about racial advances, it appears that the opposite has occurred. We have backslidden on race, reversing the slow, inexorable progress we seemed to make since the civil rights movement.

It seems that our racial healing is not quite at hand. In fact, on matters of race, things may get worse before they get better. The use of the lynching noose seems to indicate that racial resentment and animus still smolder on the periphery — if not the very center — of public life in America. Irrepressible and persistent, racism remains prominent in the public imagination of the country. It clings within the culture with undiminished tenacity. [Continue reading…]

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Going around Trump, governors embark on their own diplomatic missions

The New York Times reports: Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington, a Democrat, huddled with the leaders of Mexico and Canada in the space of 48 hours this spring, racing to Mexico City from Seattle for back-to-back discussions on climate change and trade.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, a Republican, toured Europe last month to deliver what he called a “reassuring” message to business leaders, declaring that Americans would not “retreat” from international commerce.

And Gov. Pete Ricketts, Republican of Nebraska, recently announced he would visit Canada this summer with a message of thanks — for the North American Free Trade Agreement, a pact that President Trump has harshly criticized and says he intends to renegotiate.

In ordinary times, most American governors tend to avoid international exploits, boasting of their consuming interest in balancing budgets and operating the machinery of state government. When they venture abroad, it is mainly to hawk products manufactured in their states.

But under the Trump administration, that has begun to change: Leadership at the state level has taken on an increasingly global dimension, as governors assert themselves in areas where they view Mr. Trump as abandoning the typical priorities of the federal government. They have forged partnerships across state and party lines to offset Trump administration policies they see as harmful to their constituencies. [Continue reading…]

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U.S. cities, states and businesses pledge to measure emissions

The New York Times reports: A coalition of American states, cities and businesses that have pledged to stick with the Paris climate pact will team up with experts to quantify their climate commitments and share their plans with the United Nations, vowing to act in spite of the Trump administration’s exit from the accord.

President Trump said last month that the United States would withdraw from the Paris deal, isolating the United States on the world stage. At a Group of 20 summit meeting last week, world leaders agreed to move forward collectively on climate change without the United States, declaring the landmark 2015 pact “irreversible.”

But the coalition, called America’s Pledge — which now includes 227 cities and counties, nine states and about 1,650 businesses and investors — is moving to uphold the United States’ commitments under the Paris deal. The country had committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent by 2025, compared with 2005 levels.

The group, led by Gov. Jerry Brown of California and Michael R. Bloomberg, a former New York mayor, plans to work with outside experts to measure the effects of their pledges, and to announce an early tally at a United Nations climate conference this year. The coalition is set to outline the new steps on Wednesday. [Continue reading…]

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