Tag Archives: hatred

GOP presidential candidates and Confederate flags

When the Third Reich fell, Allied Forces immediately banned the swastika from public display. They knew that letting it remain would give Nazi sympathizers a rallying symbol and provide a measure of acceptance to the subhuman atrocities committed under Adolf Hitler.

That’s exactly the effect that the flag of the Confederate States of America had on the South. One hundred and fifty years after Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to the Union, his flag continues to fly over public buildings and monuments throughout the Bible Belt. The long-dead Confederate leaders who ripped the nation apart in their quest to continue enslaving an entire race of people continue to be honored with plaques, honorary highway signs and local holidays. 

Despite the unspeakable horrors of slavery, millions of Southerners have fabricated a revision of the Old South that’s all moonlight and magnolias. They say the Confederate flag uplifts them by honoring their unique cultural traditions and heritage. They speak as if flaunting a symbol that represents the lowest depths of hell to millions of African-Americans is no more harmful than a chicken-fried steak served with a side of grits.

Post-Civil War leaders failed to foresee the perils of ignoring the Confederate flag. It would become an emblem of the racist culture that nurtured the Ku Klux Klan and the John Birch Society; that inspired thousands of rapes, tortures and lynchings of African-Americans; that propelled the apartheid society of Jim Crow; that institutionalized discrimination and racist violence; and that ultimately gave rise to the neo-Nazi and anti-government militia movements threatening our nation today.

To watchdog groups that track hate activity, it was shocking but not surprising when Confederate glorifier Dylann Roof walked into a Charleston, South Carolina, church and massacred three African-American men and six women attending a Bible study class. In reaction, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley called for the Confederate flag near her state’s capitol to be removed. Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley on June 24 ordered a Confederate battle flag and three other symbols of the Confederacy removed from the Capitol grounds in Montgomery. Wal-Mart, eBay, and other retailers announced they were removing products with the symbol from sale.

It’s a rare moment in history when enlightenment suddenly casts so many beams, creating an opportunity for positive change. The unthinkable killings in Charleston provided just such a moment. 

It was an especially ripe moment for the Republican presidential candidates to stand up and affirm their opposition to racism. After all the political work they’ve done to eliminate civil rights laws and make it more difficult for African-Americans to vote, they could have risen and called for an end to flying the Confederate flag on public buildings — just as every Democratic candidate has.

But most of them said nothing until Haley first cleared the way. And even then, most of them attenuated their support for Haley by saying that banning the flag was not a moral imperative but rather something that each state must decide on its own.

Out of the 15 Republican candidates we tracked, only four — Jeb Bush, Paul Rand, George Pataki and Donald Trump — made and stuck with definitive calls for removal of the flags.

Many of the same GOP candidates who seemed to be competing to issue the strongest condemnation of the Supreme Court’s decision in favor of marriage equality lacked either the backbone or conviction — or both — to condemn the nation’s most enduring symbol of slavery.

It’s difficult to imagine how such a field of candidates plans to carry the electorate in 2016, when they still can’t honestly confront the issues of 1860. We already knew that the current Republican Party would take the nation backward, but until now we failed to realize how far.

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Confederate flag supporters rally in Alabama

Confederate flags returned to the cradle of the Confederacy yesterday as hundreds of flag supporters arrived at Alabama’s Capitol to protest the removal of four rebel flags from a Confederate monument next to the building where the Confederacy was formed.

Standing at the bottom of the Capitol’s steps, where 50 years ago Martin Luther King Jr. led a march for civil rights, Tim Steadman said it wasn’t right to remove the flags.

“Right now, this past week with everything that is going on, I feel very much like the Jews must have felt in the very beginning of the Nazi Germany takeover,” he said. “I mean I do feel that way, like there is a concerted effort to wipe people like me out, to wipe out my heritage and to erase the truths of history.”

Days earlier, Gov. Robert Bentley had ordered the flags taken down from the 1898 monument amid national controversy about whether Confederate symbols should be displayed on state grounds.

Standing next to Steadman was Ronnie Simmons, who wore a T-shirt with the face of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Davis, who was elected as the first and only Confederate president inside the historic Alabama Senate chamber inside the Capitol in 1861, once lived a block away in the First White House of the Confederacy while Montgomery was briefly the capital.

Simmons said Bentley was a “scallywag,” referring to a term used in the years after the Civil War during the Reconstruction period to describe white southerners who collaborated with northerners.

“It’s alienating the white people in the state of Alabama when you take something down in a historic setting,” Simmons said. “If scallywag Bentley thinks he’s improved race relations in this state, he’s as crazy as a bed bug.”

Some attendees dressed in Civil War attire while others arrived in motorcycle apparel with Confederate flag patches sewn into vests. Flags flew on motorcycles playing “Sweet Home Alabama” and rested on the shoulders of men in Civil War uniforms. One woman held a sign that said “Southern Lives Matter,” a variation of the “Black Lives Matter” phrase that became a rallying call after the shootings of unarmed black men in multiple states.

Many in the white audience said they feared their heritage was being taken away.

Sherry Butler Clayton said the flag is a way to honor her relatives tied to the Confederacy.

“I have many, many ancestors,” she said. “A lot of them are in unknown graves up North where they died on the battlefield. A lot of them came back maimed. And it’s just a way. I don’t hate anyone. I love all people. My daughter-in-law is black and I love her and I love her family. So it’s not a black/white issue. It’s a heritage issue.”

Bentley has received broad support for his decision to remove the flags. In an open letter to the governor, state Sen. Vivian Figures praised him for his action. Figures, who is black, said supporters of the Confederate battle flag “have used the guise of ‘heritage’ to mask the true meaning of the flag.”

“That flag is a message of hatred, bigotry, negativity, white supremacy, shackles, whips, segregation, church bombings, beatings, lynchings, and assassinations,” she wrote.

Event organizer Mike Williams said he was pleased with the turnout. Williams, who was one of the first protesters to arrive at the monument after the flags were removed, said he hopes anyone organizing similar events in southern states will keep rallies “about heritage and not hate.”

Children of Holocaust survivors inherit the role of witness

When David Hershkoviz was a child, he used to wake up in the middle of the night to the sound of his mother screaming in her sleep, knowing that she was reliving the horrors of the Holocaust.

In time, he learned of the traumatic wartime experience that haunted her most — being torn away from her own mother at the Auschwitz concentration camp’s selection line, where at 21 she was forced into work and her mother dispatched to death.

“That separation never left her,” said Hershkoviz, 54, his voice quivering as he choked back tears. “She said, `I think my mother is angry at me because I left her. … My mother never comes to me in my dreams. I haven’t dreamed about her since we parted. How is that possible?'”

When his mother, Mindel, died two years ago, he wanted to carry on her legacy by bearing witness to the Holocaust. He found help in a first-of-its-kind course teaching the children of Holocaust survivors how to ensure their parents’ stories live on.

Hershkoviz is one of 18 graduates of the Shem Olam Institute’s inaugural four-month “second-generation” course, where children of survivors study the history of the horrors their parents endured and how best to pass it on. The program in Israel aims to usher in a new stage of Holocaust commemoration in a post-survivor era.

The German Nazis and their collaborators murdered 6 million Jews during World War II, wiping out a third of world Jewry. Only a few hundred thousand elderly survivors remain, and the day is fast approaching when there will be no one left to provide a coherent first-person account of the ghettos and death camps.

With Israel marking its annual Holocaust remembrance day this week, that has become the central challenge for Holocaust institutes around the world as they rush to collect as many records and belongings as possible before the live testimony of survivors is a thing of the past.

Shem Olam looks to take this trend one step further, by not only recording survivors’ biographies but also the emotional experiences that can be relayed through their children.

“We are here to give a different narrative of the Holocaust. We’ve heard the story of tragedy, we want to give the story of how people coped inside this living hell,” said Avraham Krieger, the institute’s director.

Krieger, himself a child of survivors, said the second generation grew up in homes that were haunted by the past and where the concept of a grandparent was nonexistent.

He believes that in 100 years, when people recall the Holocaust, they will be most interested in how people lived rather than how they died. He says it is his generation’s responsibility to counter the myth of Jews meekly marching to their deaths.

“The story of the Holocaust is how a person copes in such an environment,” he said. “An extreme reality, which has no parallel in modern history, of people who are in the most dire human situation and are still maintaining their humanity, still maintaining something from their values.”

Deborah Dwork, director of the Strassler Family Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, welcomed the initiative, saying it would be very meaningful for future generations to have live contact with people who had personal relationships with survivors. She said there are still some Americans old enough to remember the powerful experience of meeting someone who was the child of a slave.

“That physical presence of a second generation person will lend authenticity to the history and will give it another dimension,” she said, before adding a warning. “I am a historian so what I want to say to them though is, `You inherited the legacy of trauma but it is not your history. … The history your parents lived is their history, not yours.'”

Established in 1996, Shem Olam says it looks to provide an alternative to the more established Holocaust museums by providing the “story behind the story” and getting beyond the victimization to focus on issues of faith and resilience. Krieger said “Shem Olam” derives its name from the same passage in the book of Isaiah that mentions “Yad Vashem” – the name of Israel’s official Holocaust memorial. Yad Vashem is Hebrew for “a memorial and a name,” while Shem Olam roughly translates into “everlasting name.”

Located in a modest three-story building inside a Jewish seminary in this small central Israeli village, it features Holocaust-inspired artwork and artifacts collected from the destruction, such as a charred Torah scroll.

Shem Olam, which receives minimal state funding and mostly exists off contributions, focuses on documenting religious life in the Holocaust. It holds public lectures and arranges delegations to former Jewish communities in Europe. But its flagship project of late has been the second-generation outreach program.

“Today we, as second generation, know which camp my mother and father were in, and how much bread they got is an important story. But it is more important to find out what kind of person they were,” said Krieger, 53. “We never really asked the tough questions of how our parents coped emotionally.”

Besides finding a kinship with others who shared a similar background, Hershkoviz said the course helped him understand his mother better. She died at the age of 90 with 13 great-grandchildren, and though her biography is well chronicled, Hershkoviz is determined to keep her “emotional experience” alive as well.

“The most significant thing I have to pass on from my mom is survival and how she built a new family,” he said. “I feel a responsibility to tell her story. There is no one else to do it.”

Wisconsin congressman makes ‘faces of inequality’ list

U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman, R-Wis., is among the six new members of the 114th Congress to be named to the “Faces of Inequality” list.

The list is compiled by the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights group.

HRC said the former state senator “doesn’t shy away from opportunities to spread his message of hate toward LGBT people.”

Grothman believes U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry upset God by trying to stop anti-LGBT legislation in Uganda.

Also, Grothman criticized officials in Wisconsin for processing marriage certificates for gay and lesbian couples, saying the state was “legitimizing illegal and immoral marriages.”

Grothman has said same-sex couples shouldn’t have the right to family and medical leave “any more than if you had a friend, a girlfriend, a college roommate or something.”

And Grothman promised to be “an outspoken” opponent of federal legislation to ban discrimination against LGBT people in employment, saying the bill would give “preferences” to LGBT employees.

Others making the list: U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, R-Georgia; Tom Emmer, R-Minn.; Cresent Hardy, R-Nev.; Mike Bost, R-Ill.; and Thom Tillis, R-N.C.

Mother convicted of murdering 4-year-old she thought was gay

Oregon jurors took a little more than an hour to convict a 25-year-old woman of murder in the death of her 4-year-old son. A prosecutor who emphasized that the boy’s sister had witnessed the fatal beating said earlier that a motive behind the violence was the woman’s belief that the boy was gay.

Sentencing for Jessica Dutro was set for April 18 in Washington County Circuit Court.

Little Zachary Dutro-Boggess died of intestinal tears caused by abdominal trauma, The Oregonian reported. He collapsed at the homeless shelter where his family was living southwest of Portland.

Jurors were told that Zachary’s then-7-year-old sister watched her mother and her mother’s boyfriend beat the boy on Aug. 12, 2012.

“They beat up my brother, then he died,” the girl told her counselor. “I seen them.”

The boyfriend, Brian Canady, earlier pleaded guilty to manslaughter and assault for his role in the boy’s death.

The case drew widespread attention after prosecutors asked the court to allow Facebook messages from Dutro into evidence.

In one message to her boyfriend, Dutro wrote using a slur that Zachary would be gay. “He walks like it and talks like it ugh,” she wrote. That made her angry, she added, and directed Canady to “work on” Zachary “big time.”

Prosecutor Megan Johnson told the court the message showed Dutro’s motive for subjecting Zachary to a pattern of abuse. Judge Don Letourneau deemed the message admissible.

Defense lawyer Chris Colburn said the message did not prove any motive on Dutro’s part. Colburn argued none of the evidence tied Dutro to the crime.

In her closing argument, Johnson focused on the little girl’s words, rather than on the Facebook messages.

In his closing, Colburn addressed the Facebook comments and Dutro’s use of a slur.

What she wrote was meant as a joke, he said. While it was offensive, he said it would be ridiculous to draw a connection between the message and the little boy’s death.

Defendant: Distributing anti-gay leaflet was a duty

One of the five men on trial in the U.K. for distributing leaflets calling for the execution of gays has said that he was duty-bound to share the information.

The men – Ihjaz Ali, 42, Mehboob Hussain, 45, Umar Javed, 38, Razwan Javed, 27, and Kabir Ahmed, 28 – are charged under a new law that makes distributing hate material a hate crime.

The flyers they distributed were titled “The Death Penalty,” depicted a noose and said gay people would be punished. Two other leaflets were used to publicize a protest against a gay pride march in the central English city of Derby in 2010.

Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service has said the trial is the first prosecution for stirring up hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation since the law that took effect in March 2010.

Ahmed this week said he distributed the leaflets not to spread hatred but to do his duty:

“My intention was to do my duty as a Muslim, to inform people of God’s word and to give the message on what God says about homosexuality.

“My duty is not just to better myself but to try and better the society I live in.

“We believe we can’t just stand by and watch somebody commit a sin. We must try and advise them to stay away from sin.”

If convicted, the maximum penalty for the five men would be seven years in jail.