Smart people saying smart things (11.8.18)

Smart people saying smart things (11.8.18) November 8, 2018

Gershom Gorenberg, “Why Sodom Was Destroyed”

“Sodom” was the right title for this email from one observant Jew to another. If you’ve studied classic Jewish texts, “Sodom” calls up a tradition stretching back from Rashi through the midrash to Genesis that alludes to wider principles of public responsibility — what we now call politics — that are as basic to Judaism as Torah study, prayer and Shabbat. Those principles include a commitment to humanity. At this historical moment, they should translate into outrage over treatment of refugees, but not only over that issue.

… The difference between Sodom and Abraham is justice. Justice is the foundation of Judaism. And justice is absolutely a matter of politics.

Tara Isabella Burton, “The Bible says to welcome immigrants. So why don’t white evangelicals?”

This willingness to define seemingly straightforward passages in the Bible along politicized terms — reimagining what it means to be someone’s “neighbor” — speaks to a wider issue within white evangelicalism. The degree to which white evangelical identity is increasingly predicated on politicized whiteness — and on an insular and isolationist vision of community — reveals the extent to which white evangelicalism has become synonymous with Christian nationalism under the Trump administration. And, increasingly, white evangelicals are willing to selectively reinterpret the Bible to justify this.

Aleksandar Hemon, “Fascism is Not an Idea to Be Debated, It’s a Set of Actions to Fight”

The effects and consequences of fascism, however, are not equally distributed along that trajectory. Its ideas are enacted first and foremost upon the bodies and lives of the people whose presence within “our” national domain is prohibitive. In Bannon/Trump’s case, that domain is nativist and white. Presently, their ideas are inflicted upon people of color and immigrants, who do not experience them as ideas but as violence. The practice of fascism supersedes its ideas, which is why people affected and diminished by it are not all that interested in a marketplace of ideas in which fascists have prime purchasing power. …

To engage properly with Bannon and his ilk, the white nationalists and supremacists presently populating and energizing the American government, they must be identified as what they are: fascists. Much of American media and press on this side of the Fox News darkness does not dare to call out a fascist. That is partly out of knee-jerk complicity with the culture of leadership and celebrity worship. But I believe that it is also a matter of unbearable fear that the shape of American society, and the practices it has long depended on to maintain some semblance of democracy, are being destroyed, and no one quite knows what to do about it, save hoping to be saved by Mueller and/or impeachment.

James Baldwin, “A Letter to My Nephew”

There is no reason for you to try to become like white men and there is no basis whatever for their impertinent assumption that they must accept you. The really terrible thing, old buddy, is that you must accept them, and I mean that very seriously. You must accept them and accept them with love, for these innocent people have no other hope. They are in effect still trapped in a history which they do not understand and until they understand it, they cannot be released from it. They have had to believe for many years, and for innumerable reasons, that black men are inferior to white men.

Many of them indeed know better, but as you will discover, people find it very difficult to act on what they know. To act is to be committed and to be committed is to be in danger.

Gene Demby, “When Boys Can’t Be Boys”

If manhood was the precondition for the actualization of rights, “boy” denied that status even to other men who might lay claim to it. In a region steeped in manners and terms of deference, no black man was ever old enough to age out of “boy”; no white person was ever too young to toss it in his direction.

… Swirling around that legitimate concern about applying “boy” to describe fully grown black men is a growing body of evidence that lays out the ways that actual black boyshave been gerrymandered out of the very notion of boyhood. If childhood is a time of innocence that warrants protection, then that stage of life ends much earlier and more abruptly for black boys.

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