Casablanca screen capture: "I'm shocked, SHOCKED to find that gambling is going on in here"

Naïve liberals, please get out of the way

I can’t get over all these people who are shocked SHOCKED that right wing talking heads implored Trump to call off the insurrection but then immediately went on TV and blamed “antifa” for storming the Capitol.

No-one believed that garbage then unless they very badly wanted to. It was complete nonsense on its face.

The credulous media have blood on their hands. The vast majority of elected Republicans have been actively working to subvert democracy itself for over a decade. It’s right in front of our faces.

We cannot and MUST NOT consider “both sides” of civil rights and human dignity.If you didn’t know Republicans were trying to steal this country then you have been willfully ignoring the voices of Black people, women, the LGBTQ+ community, poor people, immigrants, and more.

Maybe you think we’re just less credible or respectable than white dudes in suits, but that’s YOUR bias. “Objectivity” is a lie.

Or as I said five years ago: No more innocent liberal surprise.

Casablanca screen capture: "Your winnings, sir." "Oh thank you very much."
Ruby getting arrested in Graham, NC

None of us are free until all of us are free

One year ago today, I and eight other lovely humans were arrested by the Graham Police Department as we attempted to walk to the Alamance County Detention Center and hold a Jewish-led ceremony to say #NeverAgain, to mourn the many who have suffered at the hands of ICE, and to protect the ICE detainees currently held by Alamance County’s racist sheriff Terry Johnson.

Half of the group is STILL being charged, but the nine of us are fortunate to have the freedom to not be detained while we await trials. Unfortunately others are not as lucky. With COVID the jail is even more inhumane than ever. Please donate to Down Home North Carolina’s bailout fund to free as many people as possible:

Crowd of protesters facing sheriffs deputies and riot police

Challenging racism and saving souls in Alamance County

Ten months ago, I joined hundreds of Jews, immigrants, and our friends in Graham, North Carolina to say “no more” to the the cruel, racist, and unnecessary practices of ICE and to call out Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson‘s enthusiastic enforcement of their white supremacist agenda. I was arrested at that demonstration, along with nine other lovely human beings.

In the months since then, two things have become even more clear than before. One, our government has no regard for civil rights, human dignity, or democracy and will stop at nothing to promote the interests of the rich, white, and powerful at the expense of everyone else. And two, there are some people in and around Alamance County that will happily and shamelessly attempt to shut down peaceful dissent if it in any way challenges their racist assumptions about the world. (Alamance County is the home base of neo-confederate ACTBAC.) But we’ve also learned that there are even more people in and around Alamance that believe that Black Lives Matter and that protest is patriotic, and they’ve been bravely showing up in the streets of Graham for the past several months.

When I drove to the Never Again protest on November 24, I wasn’t aware there was a Confederate statue in Graham. I learned later that the Sheriff had sent his troopers to the town square to protect it from the imagined threat. Meanwhile, we were four blocks away attempting to peacefully march to the Alamance Detention Center so that we could say the Mourner’s Kaddish, sit shiva, and observe other Jewish rituals in remembrance of the many people who have died in ICE custody. Unfortunately, the racist Sheriff Terry Johnson would not allow this to happen. Ironically, once we were arrested we were transported by the county directly to the same detention center that they prevented us from walking to!

Ruby getting arrested in Graham, NC
Photo of me (Ruby Sinreich) being arrested by Officer Ellis of the Haw River Police Department at a protest against ICE and Sheriff Terry Johnson in Graham, North Carolina on November 24, 2019. Photo by Anthony Crider https://www.flickr.com/photos/acrider/49118904508/

As Jews we have a special responsibility to remember the horrors of government-backed xenophobia, the dangers of draconian law enforcement, and the nightmare of illegal incarceration and family separation. When we say NEVER AGAIN, we must mean it. We cannot idly watch the actions of federal, state, and local government as they gradually but steadily march toward fascism. Those of us with privilege are called to spend it now in many forms of resistance large and small to stop the gears of authoritarianism, save people’s lives, and in doing so, save our own souls.

This summer, nonviolent protesters speaking out for Black lives and against the Confederate statue were arrested on a public sidewalk. (The ACLU of NC sued the town of Graham over their anti-protest ordinance and won.) And in recent weeks, as we have learned about a tragic and predictable COVID-19 outbreak at the Alamance detention center, people speaking out for health and human rights were arrested for such nonexistent offenses as swearing in the presence of a police officer.

It’s now undeniable that Alamance County officials have a racism problem, and that elected leaders are not concerned about the health or human rights of their residents. Alamance has the biggest prison COVID outbreak in the state of North Carolina with over 100 cases (out of just about 400 incarcerated people), far surpassing big cities like Charlotte and Raleigh. Thankfully the wonderful people of Down Home NC are working to free as many people from this nightmare as possible by raising bail funds.

In this new context of weekly demonstrations for and against racism in Alamance County, the town of Graham’s reactionary attempts to squelch free speech, and the increasingly grim reality of living in an uncontrolled pandemic stoked by racism, toxic masculinity, and ignorance, the nine of us arrested in Graham last November are scheduled to have our second appearance in court next week! You can show your support for us by donating to the Alamance Mass Bail Out.

Never Again Action in Graham (2019 Nov)
Enjoy scrolling through this album of Tony Crider’s excellent photos from November 24, 2019 in Graham.


Pence, McConnell, & Trump

It’s not incompetence

I cannot understand people’s insistence on believing that Republicans are failing because they are incompetent. They are extremely strategic, they just don’t have any intrinsic morality. They will grab all the money and power within reach, and they’ll believe it was right if they don’t get caught.

Even in the areas where they simply lack the skills or capacity needed to govern, that is a strategic choice. They don’t want there to be an effective safety net, schools, public health, transportation network, public safety, healthy environment, or anything that connects us socially or culturally.

People who are poor, sick, isolated, scared, and hopeless are easier to manipulate, especially by authoritarians that appeal to the worst parts of human nature, ie: Republicans.

Rant inspired by this Twitter thread:

Congressional Slut Shaming

The more I think about Congresswoman Katie Hill resigning the more pissed off I get. The fact is she could have stayed in Congress and served her district while admitting and atoning for her mistakes (like so many Republicans have made), except that her ex-husband is punishing her by illegally sharing private files.

It’s this dangerous SLUT SHAMING that made her resign, not her own actions. And as a result, women (especially those of us that are are also queer and ethically non-monogamous) get knocked back down a few pegs in society and lose an advocate in Congress.

unbalanced rocks

Halfway between moral and immoral = nowhere

In There’s Nothing Virtuous About Finding Common Ground, Tayari Jones asks “When we revisit our shameful past, ask yourself, Where was the middle? Rather than chattel slavery, perhaps we could agree on a nice program of indentured servitude? “

Or maybe we can “compromise” on abortion and just let rich people get them? Yeah, NO.

As a Buddhist I must tell you that the “middle” is rarely the place of balance.

I strive to see the Buddha nature (good potential) in every human. Even the cretin in the White House. In fact, it’s not hard for me to see how much he is suffering from his own delusions and fears. But that doesn’t mean I have to see things his way. Understanding his motivations can be useful, but there’s nothing I can do to make people like him listen to me without severely compromising my own values.

Which brings me to the point of this work, making the world a better place. One of the reasons that most Democrats have been unable to win is that for the past 25 years they have been trying to sell themselves as friendlier Republicans. To win long-term they need a compelling vision that energizes voters and emphasizes progressive values (a la Lakoff‘s Don’t Think of an Elephant). Instead they’ve been letting consultants lead them by the nose to eke out marginal victories based on big money tactics. They occasionally win the battle for votes but they lose the war for hearts and minds. The Overton Window shifts ever rightward and now we are debating whether trans people have rights and whether migrant children should be treated like human beings.

Which brings me back to the strategic futility (as well as moral failure) of trying to compromise with people who want to annihilate us. I’m not saying to write them off. They are people too, and frankly they need help to come back to a place of love and humanity. But validating their hateful and counterfactual ideas won’t do that.

(I edited this post to add some thoughts that I wrote in response to en e-mail discussion of Jones’s article.)

Das Andere Deutschland's final issue, announcing its own prohibition on the basis of the Reichstag fire decree.

How to get away with fascism

  1. Stoke paranoia. Deprive, dehumanize, physically weaken, and isolate people.
  2. Cause/provoke crisis. (Or at minimum, ensure government is not prepared to handle inevitable crisis. Hurricane, anyone?)
  3. Justify consolidation of power and suspension of human rights, civil society, and democracy.

Do you know about the politics of Weimar Germany when Hitler rose to power because the establishment thought they could use the Nazis and bend them to their own will? Do you know about the Reichstag Fire which Hitler leveraged just a month after becoming Chancellor to effectively end democracy and civil liberties in Germany? Can you tell me any reason that it couldn’t happen here? All the groundwork is already in place. 

Just some of the criminals of the GOP

Call Republicans what they are: criminals

I am not saying that every single registered Republican is a criminal. But I can state with confidence that their elected leadership especially in the North Carolina General Assembly, the Congress of the United States, and the White House are lawless, unethical, greedy, and yes, criminals. This isn’t speculation. These are facts.

Just in the case of gerrymandering alone the courts have struck down GOP actions again and again, and yet they have not corrected the districts. Mitch McConnell and many others in Congress actively worked to cover up foreign collusion in our election. Then in the White House there’s money laundering, selling influence, profiting from the office (ie: emoluments). And I haven’t even gotten into the absolutely unconstitutional treatment of migrants, and concentration camps for children!

These acts are against the laws of the United States of America. Just because hardly anyone has been convicted doesn’t make it any less illegal. It just shows how very deep the rot in our system actually is. Why not call it criminal?

I know these words sound shocking, but it’s our lack of stomach for looking this ugly truth in the eye that has let it advance as far as it has. Trump is the head of crime family and has been for many years. He also has no demonstrable understanding of lawmaking or governing. Why did the media treat him as some kind of normal candidate? Why do reporters continue to repeat his words when we know that he’s lying?

We cannot continue this polite business-as-usual or we will continue to ride this train straight into the next holocaust. History will not judge us kindly.

Start throwing rocks

I’ve been saying for almost 2 years that the only way to stop Republicans is to have a mass movement literally out in the streets (and in factories, and other strategic positions) shutting down business as usual. Unfortunately, there is currently no organization or leader that can mobilize people on a mass scale, and most people are comfortable enough with what they have that they aren’t willing to take confrontational direct action.

I was hopeful about the Parkland kids or Rev. Barber to be that catalyst, but they are too invested in the current system. They seem to think we can vote and sing our way out of this. If democracy was functioning, half the Republican leadership would be prison. But Democrats are still counting on laws and facts to influence greedy nihilists.

There are more of us that are outraged than there are of the greedy haters, but we let them control the media and the government because it would be too risky or inconvenient for us to actually stop them. I’m speaking of myself here too! I have a lot to lose.

Fascists win by making us all think we’re alone, we’re sick because we have no healthcare, we’re exhausted from working 3 jobs, we’re scared because we’re gay/trans/immigrant/Jewish/female/outspoken, we can’t think straight because the news makes no sense, we’re paranoid because our neighbor might be a nazi/narc, we’re poor because the 1% is stealing everything. None of this is an accident.

We can’t wait for the movement anymore. Just start throwing rocks whenever you can. But ALWAYS take care of yourself and your people first. We need to practice as much solidarity as possible just so that we can hope to survive this.

big fish chasing small fish, small fish getting together and chasing the big fish

There are more of us every day

The sickest thing about this whole episode (the latest being the sham Kavanaugh hearings) is that the vast majority of Americans don’t support these power-mad Republicans nor their draconian agendas, but they and the media have got us thinking that we are in the minority! They have taken our power away from us like taking candy from a baby.

There are less and less of them every day. And every day they will try new, more desperate tactics to cling to power. If the people only had a sense of our vast, collective energy, we would be unstoppable.

I’m still not sure whether we are going to make it through this. We have strayed so far from anything resembling democracy I can’t see the way back.