Saturday, August 19, 2017

Law enforcement rally in Brooklyn for Colin Kaepernick

Controversial quarterback Colin Kaepernick received some unexpected support Saturday in Brooklyn. A local lawmaker was joined by 100 law enforcement officers, who took a stand in solidarity with Kaepernick.

"We support Kap! We support Kap!" the officers chanted, their fists raised in the air.
"All of the people behind me risk their lives, so to speak, to protect folks, and they are standing with Kaepernick because they understand how important it is to push back on the structure," City Councilman Jumaane Williams of Brooklyn said, with the officers standing behind him.
Kaepernick has been criticized for putting politics on the NFL playing field by sitting and kneeling during the national anthem before his games with the San Francisco 49ers last year. He was protesting police brutality.
No team has signed the now-free agent. Several players say teams are colluding to keep Kaepernick out of the NFL.
Some people have called Kaepernick's protests "un-American," but Saturday's speakers thought otherwise.
"The way he's being railroaded for speaking the obvious truth, this is not what America was founded on," NYPD Sergeant Edwin Raymond said at the rally. "Some may argue that what he's doing is more American, because this country was actually founded on challenging injustice.

"As members of law enforcement, we can confirm that the issues that he is saying exist in policing and throughout the criminal justice system."
Raymond is part of a group of officers that has said the NYPD needs to stop using quotas for arrests in minority communities.

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Joshua Dubois: What the President secretly did at Sandy Hook Elementary School

Below is an excerpt from The President's Devotional by Joshua Dubois, the former head of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. He's recounting events that occurred Sunday, December 16, 2012 — two days after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, when 20-year-old Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 children and 6 adult staff members. Dubois had gotten word the day before that the President wanted to meet with the families of the victims:

I left early to help the advance team—the hardworking folks who handle logistics for every event—set things up, and I arrived at the local high school where the meetings and memorial service would take place. We prepared seven or eight classrooms for the families of the slain children and teachers, two or three families to a classroom, placing water and tissues and snacks in each one. Honestly, we didn't know how to prepare; it was the best we could think of.

The families came in and gathered together, room by room. Many struggled to offer a weak smile when we whispered, "The president will be here soon." A few were visibly angry—so understandable that it barely needs to be said—and were looking for someone, anyone, to blame. Mostly they sat in silence.

I went downstairs to greet President Obama when he arrived, and I provided an overview of the situation. "Two families per classroom . . . The first is . . . and their child was . . . The second is . . . and their child was . . . We'll tell you the rest as you go."

The president took a deep breath and steeled himself, and went into the first classroom. And what happened next I'll never forget.

Person after person received an engulfing hug from our commander in chief. He'd say, "Tell me about your son. . . . Tell me about your daughter," and then hold pictures of the lost beloved as their parents described favorite foods, television shows, and the sound of their laughter. For the younger siblings of those who had passed away—many of them two, three, or four years old, too young to understand it all—the president would grab them and toss them, laughing, up into the air, and then hand them a box of White House M&M's, which were always kept close at hand. In each room, I saw his eyes water, but he did not break.

And then the entire scene would repeat—for hours. Over and over and over again, through well over a hundred relatives of the fallen, each one equally broken, wrecked by the loss. After each classroom, we would go back into those fluorescent hallways and walk through the names of the coming families, and then the president would dive back in, like a soldier returning to a tour of duty in a worthy but wearing war. We spent what felt like a lifetime in those classrooms, and every single person received the same tender treatment. The same hugs. The same looks, directly in their eyes. The same sincere offer of support and prayer.

The staff did the preparation work, but the comfort and healing were all on President Obama. I remember worrying about the toll it was taking on him. And of course, even a president's comfort was woefully inadequate for these families in the face of this particularly unspeakable loss. But it became some small measure of love, on a weekend when evil reigned.

From The President's Devotional. Copyright 2013 Joshua Dubois.

Children waiting outside the school after the shooting. [photo: Michelle McLoughlin]

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Living on the World's Most Crowded Island

Aug. 10, 2017 Aug. 10, 2017
Off Colombia's Caribbean coast, two hours from Cartagena, sits a dot of an island, just over two acres big and barely noted on maps. Until a few generations ago, it was uninhabited, a rest stop for fishermen lured to its shores by the simple promise of solid ground.

Then some decided to stay. A few more joined them. And so on until Santa Cruz del Islote became what it is today: the most densely-populated island on earth. That's what attracted Charlie Cordero, a documentary photographer from Barranquilla, just as it draws tourists from all over the world. Everyone wants to see what it's like for 1,200 people to live on a patch of land four times as dense as Manhattan, with no services – no running water, sewer system, police, hospital, trash pickup.

The setup sounds like a recipe for misery, but Mr. Cordero, who usually documents struggling communities, spent six months discovering otherwise. Mr. Cordero, who is 27 years old and teaches photography at the Universidad del Norte in Barranquilla, described the joy of documenting an island culture with no crime, no violence and no prejudice; one that upends all assumptions about living in a confined space in the middle of the sea. Evelyn Nieves spoke with him about his work. Their interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Describe what it looks and feels like to walk around the island.

Walking through this place is a unique experience, like I am in a totally different reality. Walking through its narrow streets, between the colorful houses, and to feel the energy of its people is contagious. It is a reality where there is no violence, no fear of being mugged, where there was never armed conflict. It is a population of survivors struggling constantly with the land, where in each and every corner, on each street, things are happening. Groups of children running everywhere playing traditional games; teenagers listening to trap in Spanish at full volume with their dreadlocks and tattoos while the adults sit in the shadow of their homes, talking about boxing while preparing meals. It is a magical place, like a story from Gabriel García Márquez.

One of the main sources of income for the island is tourism. There are young people and adults on the island who have trained themselves to be guides and to tell the visitors the stories of the place. The tour begins with how many people live there, how they survive in spite of the lack of water and electricity, their education. Also, A small pond has been adapted into what they call an aquarium, so visitors can jump in and swim with two real sharks and for 5,000 pesos.

Santa Cruz del Islote has no beaches, in the past and in its eagerness for growth, the natives have been reclaiming space from the sea using rubble, rubbish and shells, which is why it does not have a natural beach. However, anyone can dive into the sea. A transparent blue sea full of small fish and coral; at the same time, the transparency of the water shows one of its problems: the management of the wastes.

A child plays off of one of the island's shores.Credit Charlie Cordero

How is it photographing there? Do people know and understand what you are doing?
Santa Cruz del Islote looks like a poor neighborhood. Photographing there has been a great experience, because I have learned many things about tolerance and the importance of working together and living harmoniously without the need of laws or police. It has been a lesson about humanity. In addition, I have taken to the limit my abilities as a photographer, from the approach to a community that is not very open to this type of work to the creation of images that narrate the way I understand the place.

I've always been honest with the community about what I'm doing. Everyone is aware of my eagerness to capture the essence of their customs and lifestyle. I have been able to gain the confidence to be able to walk through any corner of the island with my camera. They see me as someone closer, someone who understands their problems, someone who is part of the community. They may not be aware of the scope of the work, but they appreciate that I am interested in their stories.

What do you hope to show by documenting this place?

I want to show their struggle for this land and how human beings adapt. We are creatures of custom. I also hope to capture the magic of this place — its colors, its characters and what happens there — and finally be able to witness and show people in a place where coexistence and common work is the most important thing. It is a reflection on the role of man as an inhabitant of a society, to make this island a metaphor for our world.

Did you find any occasions where police, hospital — or any of the services the island lacks — would have come in handy? Is is always self-policing and self-sufficient? Do residents have to leave the island for everything?

Santa Cruz del Islote's inhabitants mention there is no need for a police station, most of the issues are solved without any trouble in a peaceful way by the community.

However, there are some services that would solve most of the common issues. Having a hospital with more and better supplies would help sick or injured community members without having to travel all the way to Cartagena or Tolú. A better sanitation service, with prepared personnel handling waste and taking proper care of the environment would definitely improve life conditions. The most troubling is supplying drinking water and electricity for a community in the middle of the Caribbean.
Waiting for rain or buying high-priced water tanks are the most tedious and complicated tasks, and having those services would help. Today, electrical service works from 5 p.m. until 6 p.m., thanks to solar panels donated by the Japanese Government.

There are three stores in Santa Cruz del Islote which are supplied through boats coming from Tolú or Cartagena with the basic products, which means that the inhabitants can find food, toiletries, cigarettes, beer and alcohol.

All sorts of vendors come to this island, too, selling everything from ice cream to clothing. You can find almost everything for a relatively comfortable life, but in some cases it is necessary to go out to find some specific things like appliances, cellphones or electronics.

There is a school in the town which covers part of the Colombian educational program, which normally goes from first grade to 11th grade. Currently, students only reach 10th grade, however it is being worked on so they can finish their education.

Marcela Morales, 27, lying in her bed.Credit Charlie Cordero

What are the biggest problems on the island? Describe how people negotiate space for themselves. Is it possible to ever be alone on the island?

As a community, Santa Cruz del Islote is joyful, dynamic, constantly moving, vibrating and thriving. Despite that, they are aware of their issues and difficulties, and struggle every day to overcome and find solutions for everyone.

The island's biggest problems are the lack of drinking water, proper sewage disposal and electricity. They say they are forgotten by the Colombian state. They are currently fighting for a desalination plant to have drinking water.

The island is populated exclusively by natives. They and their families own the houses, which are passed from generation to generation. It is uncommon to see a non-native with a house in the island. Physical space is the biggest issue and the most precious treasure.
What do you intend to do with this project?

My goal is to finish the project by the end of the year or by the beginning of the next year with the sole purpose to tell the world about the magic of this place. García Márquez's magical realism lives in the streets and, as I have mentioned earlier, gives testimony of how humans adapt and can live together in what could be chaos. It's a great example of survival, tolerance and teamwork. Within a country preparing to deal with forgiveness and reconciliation. It is also an opportunity to tell the stories from the Caribbean, which are more than just sun, beach, breeze and sea.

Follow @charliecorderop and @nytimesphoto on Twitter. Charlie Cordero is on Instagram. You can also find Lens on Facebook and Instagram.

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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Tiki Torch White Nationalist Christopher Cantwell from Charlottesville Crying Like A Baby

Exclusive: Stonewall Jackson's Great-Great-Grandsons Call for Removal of Confederate Monuments

AMY GOODMAN: Momentum is growing across the country to remove Confederate statues in the wake of Saturday's deadly white supremacist, neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. At least 1,500 symbols of the Confederacy can be found in public spaces across the country. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, most of them were built during the early decades of Jim Crow or in reaction to the civil rights movement—not after the Civil War. But now a number of the monuments are coming down. In Baltimore, the city, under orders from the mayor, has just removed all four of its Confederate statues. In Durham, North Carolina, protesters toppled a Confederate statue after a college student named Takiyah Thompson climbed up a ladder and looped a rope around the top of the Confederate Soldiers Monument. She appeared on Democracy Now! just before going to court on Wednesday.
TAKIYAH THOMPSON: And I did this because the statue is a symbol of nationalism, and it's a symbol of white nationalism. And the type of white nationalism I'm talking about is the type of white nationalism that is sending me death threats on Facebook. I'm talking about the type of white nationalist that, you know, has killed a woman in a protest.
AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, on Wednesday, in Brooklyn, New York, the Episcopal Church removed two plaques honoring Robert E. Lee. On Monday, a monument to Confederate soldiers in Gainesville, Florida, was also removed. And several other Confederate monuments are slated to be removed across the country. On Wednesday, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe encouraged all local governments to remove Confederate monuments, saying they've become "flashpoints for hatred, division and violence," unquote.

And the calls for the removal of the statues are even coming from the descendants of the leaders of the Confederacy. Today, an exclusive interview with two of the great-great-grandsons of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson. Jack and Warren Christian have just written an open letter to the mayor of Richmond calling for the removal of the Stonewall Jackson statue in Richmond. They write, quote, "[O]ur sense of justice leads us to believe that removing the Stonewall statue and other monuments should be part of a larger project of actively mending the racial disparities that hundreds of years of white supremacy have wrought. We hope other descendants of Confederate generals will stand with us." Jack Christian joins us from western Massachusetts, from Chicopee, Mass. And Warren Christian is in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Jack and Warren, welcome to Democracy Now!

JACK CHRISTIAN: Thanks for having us.


AMY GOODMAN: It's great—it's great to have you both with us. Talk about why you've decided to speak out right now. Let's begin with Jack Christian.

JACK CHRISTIAN: Yeah, well, I think that [inaudible] wrote definitely is a product of something that we've been thinking about and feeling for a long while now, but was also very much catalyzed by what we saw in Charlottesville, and particularly in Durham, pulling down their Confederate monument. So that inspired Warren and I to kind of feel like this was the time to write this letter.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Warren Christian, in Baltimore, under cover of night, two nights ago, the mayor had four Confederate monuments pulled down. One of them was a monument of your great-great-grandfather, Stonewall Jackson. Your thoughts today and how you came, together with Jack, to call for the removal of not only monuments to your great-great-grandfather, but all other Confederate monuments?

WARREN CHRISTIAN: Yes. Well, this—like Jack said, this is something that we've felt for a long time. I think it's very clear, if you look at the context in which the monuments were put up, they weren't—they weren't celebrating kind of benign war heroes. They were very clearly meant to be things that would intimidate black people and further white supremacy in the U.S.

Where I work, at UNC, there's a prominent Confederate memorial, monument, statue right in the heart of campus. And since I've been at the University of North Carolina, I have wanted for that statue to be removed, and felt like speaking out about it, and now, finally, kind of got the courage to do so.

I think Jack and I, and along with our parents, it's kind of some mixed feelings, mixed emotions, about being direct descendants of Stonewall Jackson. It's not something that I, you know, widely share, outside of a very close group of friends. So this is really kind of a coming out, in a sort.
And also, the—I think the other thing is, in some ways, I don't feel like it should matter too much, you know, how we feel about the statues, but I do understand that it does—it is important to some folks how we feel about it. And, for example, this statue at the University of North Carolina, when it was put up, the speaker, Julian Carr, who is a prominent local businessman, talked a lot about how the Confederate soldiers were working to save the Anglo-Saxon race. And then, really kind of disgustingly, at the end of his speech, he bragged about having the—his quotes—"pleasant duty of horsewhipping a black woman in front of a hundred federal soldiers and leaving her clothes in tatters." So I think the racist and white supremacist intent of these monuments is clear. And I think it's past time that they're all removed from the public squares of our country.

AMY GOODMAN: You work at the University of North Carolina?

WARREN CHRISTIAN: Yeah, so I work at the University of North Carolina, and I am somewhat disgusted walking past that statue on campus. And I can only imagine how it feels to students of color, and particularly black students, who have to walk by that on their way to class.

AMY GOODMAN: Have you—

WARREN CHRISTIAN: And I know that—yes, sorry, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: Have you told the president of the university or other students? You said you've kept pretty quiet about this until now, but


AMY GOODMAN: —about your desires to have that monument to your great-great-grandfather removed?

WARREN CHRISTIAN: Not in a public forum, but I—you know, I'd say this is it. I'd like that statue, of course, removed. I think the University of North Carolina, there's a lot of great people doing great work to try to recruit, retain and support students of color and black students, and having this monument on campus just completely goes against that spirit.

AMY GOODMAN: Jack, can you tell us who Stonewall Jackson was?

JACK CHRISTIAN: Yeah, it's—I'll do my best. It's funny, serendipitous almost, that this summer, earlier in the summer, I had started reading the biography from a few years ago called Rebel Yell by S.C. Gwynne, that humanizes Stonewall in some new ways.
He is—he's famous, he got his nickname, for, you know, standing in battle and not being pushed back by federal forces, if I'm not mistaken, in the first Bull Run, and other Confederate generals observed him standing like that and said he's standing like a stone wall. So that's where his nickname comes from. His fame, after that, is for the Valley Campaign that he waged in the western part of Virginia, in the Shenandoah Valley, where he—you know, he, with a much smaller force, was able to hold off Union forces for a long time, which had the effect of greatly extending the Civil War, in all likelihood. So that's who he was as a soldier.

As a person, he was very complicated. He was an orphan who did well academically and graduated high in his class at VMI. He did, in his adult life, own slaves. He also was very religious. And as part of his religious calling, he taught—he taught Sunday school to enslaved peoples where he lived, in Lexington, Virginia, which was, in my understanding of it, at least controversial, if not an illegal thing to do. So, you know, this is sort of the person that we have, kind of all our lives, been thinking about, grappling with. That's my thumbnail sketch of him.

AMY GOODMAN: We're going to go to a break, then come back to this conversation. Then we're going to go to Fargo, North Dakota, to speak with the nephew of one of the white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville this past weekend. That white supremacist's father wrote an open letter on Facebook saying the family was disowning his son, was disowning his white supremacist son. And we're going to speak with a recovered white supremacist who is part of an organization called Life After Hate. This is Democracy Now!, our exclusive interview with the great-great-grandsons of Stonewall Jackson. We'll also hear, after break, them reading a part of the letter that they have written calling for monuments to their great-great-grandfather to be taken down around the country. Stay with us.


AMY GOODMAN: Inti-Illimani, here on Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman, as we bring you this exclusive interview with two of the great-great-grandsons of the Confederate General Stonewall Jackson. Let's go back to President Trump speaking at this fiery, unhinged news conference he had on Tuesday in Trump Tower here in New York.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: So, this week it's Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder: Is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you—you really have to ask yourself: Where does it stop?
AMY GOODMAN: So that was President Trump. We're joined by Jack and Warren Christian, two great-great-grandsons of the Confederate General Stonewall Jackson, who have written a letter calling for the removal of the Stonewall Jackson statue in Richmond, Virginia.
Warren and Jack, I was wondering if you could both read a part of this open letter that you have written.

JACK CHRISTIAN: Sure, I'd be glad to. I'm going to read the first couple paragraphs, and Warren's going to read the last couple paragraphs. So we write:
"Dear Mayor Levar Stoney"—that's the mayor of Richmond—"and members of the Monument Avenue Commission,

"We are native Richmonders and also the great-great-grandsons of Stonewall Jackson. As two of the closest living relatives to Stonewall, we are writing today to ask for the removal of his statue, as well as the removal of all Confederate statues from Monument Avenue. They are overt symbols of racism and white supremacy, and the time is long overdue for them to depart from public display. Overnight,"—two nights ago now—"Baltimore has seen fit to take this action. Richmond should, too.
"In making this request, we wish to express our respect and admiration for Mayor Stoney's leadership while also strongly disagreeing with his claim that 'removal of symbols does [nothing] for telling the actual truth [nor] changes the state and culture of racism in this country today.' In our view, the removal of the Jackson statue and others will necessarily further difficult conversations about racial justice. It will begin to tell the truth of all of us coming to our senses."
We go on in the letter to detail some of our rationale and family history. And then Warren is going to read the last few paragraphs.

WARREN CHRISTIAN: "Ongoing racial disparities in incarceration, educational attainment, police brutality, hiring practices, access to health care, and, perhaps most starkly, wealth, make it clear that these monuments do not stand somehow outside of history. Racism and white supremacy, which undoubtedly continue today, are neither natural nor inevitable. Rather, they were created in order to justify the unjustifiable, in particular slavery.

"One thing that bonds our extended family, besides our common ancestor, is that many have worked, often as clergy and as educators, for justice in their communities. While we do not purport to speak for all of Stonewall's kin, our sense of justice leads us to believe that removing the Stonewall statue and other monuments should be part of a larger project of actively mending the racial disparities that hundreds of years of white supremacy have wrought. We hope other descendants of Confederate generals will stand with us.

"As cities all over the South are realizing now, we are not in need of added context. We are in need of a new context—one in which the statues have been taken down."

AMY GOODMAN: Those, the words of Jack and Warren Christian, the great-great-grandsons of the Confederate General Stonewall Jackson, calling for the removal of his monument in Richmond. Are you calling for the removal of his monument around the country, Jack?

JACK CHRISTIAN: We're calling for the removal of his monument in Richmond firstly, but our argument is that all Confederate monuments and symbols should be removed from public display.

AMY GOODMAN: You take a different approach than Bertram Hayes-Davis, the great-great-grandson of the Confederate President Jefferson Davis, who talks about contextualizing monuments. He's not against moving them, perhaps into museums, but really emphasizes this issue of contextualizing. Warren, your response to that?

WARREN CHRISTIAN: I think the context is, is that they were put up in support of this myth of the Lost Cause, that the Confederate soldiers were fighting kind of a noble fight, and that that doesn't give the full weight to the fact that they were fighting to continue the institution of slavery. And the—

AMY GOODMAN: That's an interesting—

WARREN CHRISTIAN: I mean, I think, so that's—

AMY GOODMAN: That's an interesting point you raise, is that these Confederate monuments didn't go up right after the Civil War—


AMY GOODMAN: —but decades later, with the rise of the Klan and the introduction of Jim Crow laws.

WARREN CHRISTIAN: And that's why I think they shouldn't be—I don't think any American, and especially black Americans, should be forced to pass these symbols of white supremacy on their ways to work, church, school. I don't think that's—I don't think we can—I think, as part of our national healing—we're still, very clearly, in my eyes, dealing with the effects of slavery, of Jim Crow, of segregation, of racist policies like redlining. And I think this, removing the monuments, ultimately, in my eyes, is just a small step that's necessary for racial healing in the country, along with many other much larger steps that are necessary.

AMY GOODMAN: Speaking about a proposed Gettysburg memorial in 1869, Confederate General Robert E. Lee, quote, said, "I think it wiser ... not to keep open the sores of war, but to follow the example of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife, [and] to commit to oblivion the feelings [it] engendered." So, even the Confederate general, who has I don't know how many monuments of his likeness, of him, around the country, said there shouldn't be Confederate monuments, Jack. And I wanted to ask if you'd end by talking about whether you have your family's support, and, for example, your parents'.

JACK CHRISTIAN: Yeah, we have not talked directly to our parents, although we sent the letter to them. But we very much believe that we have their support and know that this works in—really in the spirit in which they brought us up, to work and to fight for justice. I've been—you know, this went up—this letter went up about midnight Eastern time last night, and I've been heartened to see others in our extended family have already reached out and said "thank you" and that they—that they appreciate, you know, what we've said. We certainly haven't heard from everyone, but the response from our family—and even I've gotten some response from other people who have Confederates in their ancestry, that have said—they have said that they feel similarly. So, we're very heartened by the response so far—


JACK CHRISTIAN: —both from our family—yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: As you watched what happened in Charlottesville, do you feel like there is a kind of new civil war in this country?

JACK CHRISTIAN: I certainly hope not. I was sickened by what we saw. I hadn't thought about it in quite so stark of terms. But I have thought about it that—where we definitely are at a incredibly tense and stratified moment. And I think that we need to—we need to all take steps to have these conversations and to heal ourselves. So, that's my hope.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to read—I wanted to read you a quote from Trump's chief strategist, Steve Bannon, who reportedly is under fire in the White House. Who knows if that's true? But he did an interview with Bob Kuttner of The American Prospect, the liberal magazine, and said, quote, "President Trump, by asking, 'Where does this all end'—Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln—connects with the American people about their history, culture and traditions. The race-identity politics of the left wants to say it's all racist. Just give me more. Tear down more statues. Say the revolution is coming. I can't get enough of it," Bannon said. Jack, your response?

JACK CHRISTIAN: I wondered if you were going to ask me about that, and I listened to this on the news on my way into the TV station this morning. I think that—I think that, ironically, part of Trump's statement has to do—I'm choosing my words carefully—part of Trump's statement has to do with a larger conversation that is taking place and that needs to take place, where we recognize that Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were also white supremacists and slave owners, and we think about that history. A writer on the online magazine The Root had a funny, but apt, take that I think sums it up, that said—the writer said, "Leave it to Trump to have a woke take on Thomas Jefferson." And I think there is—I think there's some truth or some pithiness there.


JACK CHRISTIAN: So, I—go ahead.

AMY GOODMAN: Jack and Warren, you're both teachers?




AMY GOODMAN: What will you be telling your students today?

JACK CHRISTIAN: I have until September 6 to think about what I'll tell them.



WARREN CHRISTIAN: I'm in the fortunate—yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: Yes, and Warren?

WARREN CHRISTIAN: I'm in the fortunate position of working with international students, so it's really great to—you know, when they come to the U.S., they very quickly, if they haven't before they got here, realize that race is a huge issue in the U.S., but they still haven't fully formed their decisions. So, what I try to do is always, in contextualizing what the situation surrounding race is in the U.S., is starting with slavery and segregation, and making sure they understand that history to see how it's led us where we are today. And then—and because they don't have so much kind of skin in the game, they're often very receptive to those messages, in a way that working with American students and having discussions about race can be much more difficult.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Warren and Jack, I want to thank you so much for being with us. I think you've taught this whole country a lot today. Jack and Warren Christian, the great-great-grandsons of the Confederate General Stonewall Jackson, written a joint letter calling for the removal of the Stonewall Jackson statue in Richmond, Virginia. We will link to your letter at
When we come back, we're going to be joined by a nephew of one of the white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville, Virginia. And we'll talk about his family's reaction to the extremist activism, disavowing him, disowning him. And we'll speak with the head of an organization that—of white supremacists who have changed their ways. It's called Life After Hate. Stay with us.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Do More! What Amazon Teaches Us About Robots and the “Jobless Future”

Founder and CEO, O'Reilly Media

Robots are going to take our jobs, they say. I say, "Only if that's what we ask them to do!" Technology is the solution to human problems, and we won't run out of work till we run out of problems. Entrepreneurs need to set their sights on how we can use big data, sensors, and AI to create amazing human experiences and the economy of the future, making us all richer in the same way the tools of the first industrial revolution did.

Yes, technology can eliminate labor and make things cheaper, but at its best, we use it to do things that were previously unimaginable! What is our poverty of imagination? What are the entrepreneurial leaps that will allow us to use the technology of today to build a better future, not just a more efficient one? Great entrepreneurs like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk are using technology to do more, not just to do the same thing more cheaply. That is the secret both to business success and to making the world more prosperous.

This piece was originally published on Medium in June 2017. I'm republishing it here because I want to get the message out: I've had my fill of the idea that technology will inevitably take most human jobs, leaving little for us to do. The future is up to us.

We hear again and again that AI and robots are going to take away human jobs. My broken kettle says otherwise.

Yesterday, I set my electric kettle down awkwardly on the edge of the sink. Crash! It toppled over and smashed. I searched Amazon for a replacement, found several that were highly rated, and within minutes had placed an order. As a Prime customer, I had the option for same day delivery, by 6 pm, and so I brewed this morning's tea without interruption or inconvenience.

Remember when it was amazing that Amazon offered free two-day shipping? Then free one-day shipping? Now for many products, it's a matter of hours before your order is on your doorstep.
Amazon is constantly upping the ante. It doesn't just cut costs. It uses technology to do more, delighting customers with better service and lower prices. And of course, Amazon's customers respond by buying more products. Amazon grows faster, invests more, and delights more customers, who buy more, in a virtuous circle.

This is an example of what Jeff Bezos calls "the Flywheel."

(Image via Ben Evans, who says it was based on a napkin sketch by Jeff Bezos. Ben's 2014 piece Why Amazon Has No Profits, and Why It Works is still very much worth reading. The flywheel has only accelerated since then.)

Far too many companies seem to miss the point that lower cost structure, lower prices, and a broader selection are only part of the flywheel. Unless it all adds up to better customer experience, the flywheel wobbles, and eventually loses its momentum.

What does all this have to do with AI and the jobless future? The chart at the head of this article shows the increase in employment at Amazon during the three years that it went from 1,400 robots in its warehouses to 45,000.

I spoke recently with a fulfillment and logistics executive at Amazon who told me that robots have allowed the company to pack more products into its warehouses, and to speed up picking, so that it can put more products into rapid fulfillment. Amazon expects to hire another 100,000 workers in the next eighteen months, many of them in its fulfillment centers.

And that doesn't include all the people working in actual delivery. Do you remember when the United States Post Office was seemingly on its last legs, cutting services and delivery hours? If you're like me, you're now getting multiple deliveries per day, and the postman might well show up in the evening, working overtime. Amazon Flex, Amazon's peer-to-peer delivery service (akin to Lyft or Uber, but for delivery only) is apparently growing so rapidly that it may overtake Lyft as the second largest source of employment for on-demand drivers.

Nor does it include employment at the more than 100,000 small companies that use Amazon's platform to sell and distribute their own goods. Many of these companies would have no access to the market without Amazon. (My brother is a good example. He runs a small distribution business out of a warehouse in Front Royal, VA, shipping used books, auto parts, and various imported products he thinks his customers might find interesting.)

Amazon reminds us again and again that it isn't technology that eliminates jobs, it is the short-sighted business decisions that use technology simply to cut costs and fatten corporate profits.
This is the master design pattern for applying technology: Do more. Do things that were previously unimaginable.
Now, you might think that same-day delivery is a slender reed on which to hang dreams of a better future, one more technology solution to a "first world problem." But the revolution in logistics will spread far beyond more quickly meeting the needs of people who already have everything. Zipline, the on-demand drone delivery startup, is a good example. They aren't delivering consumer goods, but vital blood supplies and medicine, leapfrogging the need for 20th century roads and hospital infrastructure, bringing life-saving blood to clinics and small local hospitals anywhere in Rwanda within 15 or 20 minutes. (Post-partum hemhorrage is one of the leading causes of death in Rwanda because keeping every blood type available within quick reach of everyone who needs it has been prohibitively expensive.)

Along with other signals, such as Uber's on-demand flu shot program, you can see the outline of a future healthcare system that brings care to the people who need it, wherever they are, employing not just robots but community health care workers upskilled with technology (including sensor-based telemedicine, augmented reality, and AI), providing better care at lower cost, putting to work vast numbers of people in the fastest-growing industry of the 21st century.

If, like Amazon, our healthcare system was laser focused on making life better for its customers, what might it do differently? Hospitals wouldn't be using technology to reduce costs, jack up prices for access to the latest high-tech wizardry, and limit the amount of time doctors can spend with patients. They'd be letting the machines do what they do best — increase efficiency — so that people could spend more time with each other, providing richer, better, more human care.

As logistics and delivery become more automated, and costs continue to fall, what other kinds of services might be completely rethought, putting people to work delighting each other with currently unimaginable products or levels of service?

There is an enormous failure of imagination among those who think that we face a jobless future. The weavers of the 1811 Luddite rebellion, who smashed the machine looms that were threatening their livelihood, couldn't imagine that their descendants would have more clothing than the kings and queens of Europe. Machines expanded the demand for the labor of weavers, augmented by machines, because it lowered the cost of fabric, and human creativity found new uses for that cheaper fabric, including decorating it with a constantly changing palette of color, cut, and design but also inventing entirely new kinds of uses, from surgical meshes to spacesuits.

Whenever one thing becomes commoditized, something else becomes valuable. As long as we use the productivity gains from technology to create value for society, and ensure that value is widely shared so that customers are able to afford the cornucopia of goods on offer, we will find new ways to put people to work.

Don't just cut costs. Do more!
 I discuss this and other design patterns for prosperity in my forthcoming book, WTF: What's the Future and Why It's Up to UsPre-order now.

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Monday, August 14, 2017

Guardian of Powerful Truth

Guardian of Powerful Truth

Elegy - Memories of George - Dread Central

Photo: Jonathan McPhail

"Did you hear the news?"
Fantasia's Mitch Davis asked me the question as I climbed over festivalgoers in the dark to take my seat at the premiere of the Richard Stanley-scripted Replace. "George Romero died." Shock and sadness overcame me as the film began, as memories of the zombie auteur and my long relationship with him came flooding into my head, trumping the images on the screen and preoccupying me for the next 90 minutes and in the days that followed in Montreal.
Even if he hadn't died, George A. Romero was on the minds of just about everyone attending the 21st edition of the Fantasia Film Festival this summer, as several of the horror movies that unspooled over those three weeks owe some kind of debt to him. The influence of the man could be felt in the subject matter of such feature films as Dead Shack and Punk Fu Zombie, as well as countless shorts, such as Paul's Bad Day and The Plague. In addition, his independent spirit has moved generation after generation of filmmakers. The Fantasia team worked through its collective sadness by honoring Romero at every opportunity; the Frontieres movie financing pitch market opened on July 20 with an on-screen "in memorium" acknowledgment to Romero, and the first prospective film being introduced turned out to be George A. Romero's Road of the Dead, which the Toronto transplant was poised to produce and co-write (the movie will move forward). Later, Davis scheduled a last-minute screening of Romero's The Crazies (in a new 4K restoration) as an honorary screening on July 28. As you could see, there was a lot of love for George Romero at Fantasia this summer. And across Dread Central. And across the whole wide world.

I first came across the name of George A. Romero as an impressionable 9-year-old. Night of the Living Dead debuted on late-night TV in March 1973. WABC broadcast it uncut (!) from 16mm and, fearing an Orson Welles War of the Worlds radio show-style panic, notoriously added "Dramatization" over the news anchor scenes! Weaned on tamer '50s movies like Invisible Invaders and The Last Man on Earth (both which Romero's film echoed), NOTLD traumatized me with its depiction of a world coming apart at the seams. Its social commentary elevated it above the usual Creature Features fare that I grew up with. Shortly thereafter, I tried to buy the NOTLD tie-in novel by co-writer John Russo. The store owner showed me the door! "It's too scary, too real," he warned. "It will give you nightmares. I won't sell it to you."

In 1978, at the Creation Thanksgiving convention in Manhattan, I stumbled across a vendor table with fliers advertising Dawn of the Dead, the long-promised color sequel to Night. "When is the movie coming out?" I asked the thin guy behind the booth, who turned out to be the film's producer, Richard P. Rubinstein.

"Why don't you ask the director?" the man in the suit replied. "He is standing right behind you."
I then turned and faced that towering bear of a man, who chuckled at this high school kid's enthusiasm for his film. That was the first time I met George A. Romero, the memory still etched in my mind like it was yesterday.

During my college days at NYU in 1984, I got wind that a press junket was being held to bus local journalists to the Pittsburgh set of Day of the Dead. Back then, I only read Fangoria (I joined the mag a year later), so I did not carry much clout when I asked the film's publicist, Barbara Pflughaupt, if I could attend on behalf of college paper The Courier. Breaking my heart, Barbara refused me on the grounds the school rag did not have a big enough circulation. When would I ever get another chance to see George in action and maybe even play a zombie like the rest of the press corps? (To this day, Barbara regrets disappointing me. "You never turn down a legitimate journalist," she says every time we run into each other. "Look where you wound up!")

Five years along, I did get to see a feast of zombies when I traveled to the Pittsburgh location for the Romero-produced and written Night of the Living Dead remake. I was there to interview the cast and crew as a producer for the two-hour syndicated special "The Horror Hall of Fame," which was inducting Romero's original movie into its pantheon. When I arrived at the farmhouse set, Romero was nowhere in sight. Evidently, the film's financiers at Cannon Films not only unexpectedly cut the film's budget, but the checks had stopped coming in to pay the filmmakers. As a sign of protest, Romero stayed away from the set that evening and wouldn't do any publicity. But to show you what a good guy he was, he made an exception and allowed my crew and me to interview him anyway. It would be the first of many on- and off-camera interviews between us over the years.

When I snagged another producing gig for Bravo's five-part 100 Scariest Movie Moments in 2003, I included NOTLD, Dawn of the Dead and Creepshow in the show's roster. By then, Romero had talked these movies to death, but again, he made an exception for me. "George gets paid for these sorts of things now," his then-wife Christine Forrest told me. But George didn't want a cent. Instead, he opened his Pittsburgh home to the freelance crew (see here for fun anecdotes on the shoot) and provided tons of informative interview footage.

When I began producing Fangoria's Weekend of Horrors conventions in 1986, George was on the top of my wish list as a guest. Having him at the cons are some of my most cherished reminiscences. He first took the stage at one of our Los Angeles events in 1988, appearing on a panel with Tobe Hooper, Howling author Gary Brandner and old friend John Russo.

Photo Credit: Tim Ferrante

The fans on the East Coast, however, were clamoring to see George too, but it would take 10 years before I could get him to make a return appearance. And in those less-jaded conventions times, when celebs didn't charge for autographs or the privilege to even look at you, George agreed to come to the Big Apple for just the price of a nice hotel room. He even drove up from Pittsburgh with the whole family! When I offered him a speaking fee, he refused. "Nah, that's OK, Tony," he said, much to Christine's chagrin. George's graciousness and charity extended to the fans all weekend long, signing and posing for free for hours. Even The Misfits lined up to meet him! George never disappointed his followers. When we had him at a winter 2006 Weekend of Horrors in Chicago, George was sick as a dog with a bladder infection. He looked terrible. But he still got on that plane to come and hobnob with the people who idolized him.

Photo Credit: Mike Manikowski

It seemed that Romero was never one to hold a grudge. For the 40th anniversary of NOTLD, he went on the Fango convention circuit tour once more, reuniting with many of his former (and some bitter) business partners. He'd also had something of a troublesome split with Dawn/Day producer Rubinstein. When Rubinstein learned that I was bringing George to NYC for that aforementioned 1996 convention, he asked for my help in putting together a party in his former director's honor as a way of breaking the ice. No sign of animosity ever appeared amongst the revelers that special night.
In 2000, Romero had just made Bruiser, a change-of-pace revenge tale. Producer Peter Grunwald was having trouble selling the film, so he decided to hold a screening in New York for buyers. "Tony," Grunwald asked me, "can you invite horror fans and your friends to the screening so that the buyers will see the target audience enjoying the film?" I accepted the mission, and on the night of the show, I walked over to 57th Street and Avenue of the Americas to the screening room. From at least a half a block away, I heard a familiar voice bellowing, "Tony!" It was George, greeting me like a long lost relative, then capping our reunion with a big warm hug.

Bruiser never earned much of a theatrical release, and Romero's next film, the long-awaited Land of the Dead, turned out to be a bit of a box-office disappointment as well in 2005. To boost DVD sales, studio Universal decided to give the film another shot in theaters for a one-night-only national engagement and hired Fangoria to host and market the event. As a bonus for attendees, an exclusive interview with Romero preceded the movie. For this, I flew to George's new home city of Toronto for a one-on-one camera interview once more.

George showed up at the hotel room having had a few drinks, which he tipsily acknowledged when I answered the door. Veering off topic, the discussion soon started getting a little emotional; George had recently left his wife of many years, and as he began talking about his breakup, both of us started tearing up with the cameras rolling. This is just one of many "human" moments I shared with this gentle soul. There were no airs or phoniness about him. George was never "business," unlike other celebs I've crossed paths with in the past. He was the real deal.
For 2007's underrated Diary of the Dead, I hosted George again, this time in Times Square and for another lively screening and Q&A. In his later years, George made himself increasingly accessible to his fans, appearing at countless conventions around the country. None of his other contemporary masters of horror ever put this kind of face time in. No more freebies, unfortunately, but look at how many kids' dreams came true getting to meet the creator of the modern zombie film.

The last time I interviewed George on-camera was for 2009's Survival of the Dead (see the special feature on the disc). He was back in NY doing press for Magnolia's marginal release of the movie. As usual, he was self-effacing, funny and revealing. He never exaggerated the "meaning" in his films, preferring for audiences to find the social relevance themselves. Most of all, Romero was a big kid. I also got the impression that, at age 69, he was kind of accepting of the fact that he could only get zombie films financed now (Survival was his third living dead film in four years!).
A week before he died, I emailed George to get a quote from him on the making of The Dark Half for an article I was writing on the best Stephen King movies. No reply ever came, but I never suspected he was sick. The amount of support and love shown George, and the outpouring of emotion, has been overwhelming in the last month, from professionals and fans alike. This humble man touched so many lives. His movies will of course stand the test of time. His influence on horror, likewise, can never be overestimated. But more than his ghouls, what I will remember most about George is his good nature, sense of humor and loyalty. That little B&W classic may have launched a thousand zombie movies, TV shows, video games, books and comics, but there was only one George A. Romero.

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Krishnamurti Explains Why Jobs Suck and You Should Quit

August 28, 2014 by Andrei Burke 1 Comment

Fed up with the 9-to-5? Spiritual teacher Jiddu Krishnamurti offers his sage advice on how the modern work week might actually be bad for you and society

In the video below, spiritual teacher Jiddu Krishnamurti responds to a question about how in the modern world can the teachings of a spiritual master reach people trapped in a 9-to-5 job.
It's a question that any modern spiritual seeker must pause to ask themselves or their teacher. The slog through the 9-to-5 workweek is spiritual imprisonment, but there are necessary jobs that need to be done. Does this mean that spiritual teachings are reserved for the elite few? We all need to pay the bills after all, so isn't a little arrogant to think that people can just give up their jobs because they had a spiritual awakening?

"Most of us accept this prison, this routine, right? We accept it," Krishnamurti says. "So what shall we do? Nobody, as far as one is capable of sufficient observation, nobody has questioned this. We say it is normal, it is the way of society, it is the way of our life, it is the way we must live."
The mind is capable of so much more than monotonous routine. It is capable of imagining, designing, and manifesting a society in which the 9-to-5 workweek is viewed as nothing short of imprisonment so intolerable that no criminal deserves it. We can build a society in which the office space and workweek are considered antithetical to the welfare of sentient beings. But will we?

"We are concerned with the whole of life, not just a career, 9-to-5," says Krishnamurti. "But we are so conditioned to this idea that we must work and create a structure of a society that demands that you work from morning until night… We are all so timid, we are all so nervous, frightened, anxious, we want security which we think we have, which we haven't got."

How much is your security worth if you slave away your entire life for a small piece of it and end up dying too soon of a heart attack? Is it worth it if you work to support your family, but all they have left of you at the end of the week is an empty husk?
However, if all you do is complain about your job but take no initiative to change your situation, then maybe you should consider the workweek of the child slaves who pick the cocoa that goes into the bowl of chocolates you keep on your desk. And then think about exactly why it is we need more great minds like yours envisioning a better society.

Jiddu Krishnamurti was one of the most beloved spiritual teacher of the 20th century. He was initially discovered and groomed by the Theosophical Society to become a World Teacher, but eventually broke off and followed his own path. He died in Ojai, CA in 1986.

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Dinner with a white nationalist, as seen on HUANG'S WORLD

Don't Be a Sucker - 1947

In this anti-fascist film produced by US Military in the wake of WWII, the producers deconstruct the politically motivated social engineering of Germany by the Nazi regime. 

Its argument is just as timely today.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Umberto Eco Makes a List of the 14 Common Features of Fascism

Creative Commons image by Rob Bogaerts, via the National Archives in Holland

One of the key questions facing both journalists and loyal oppositions these days is how do we stay honest as euphemisms and trivializations take over the discourse? Can we use words like "fascism," for example, with fidelity to the meaning of that word in world history? The term, after all, devolved decades after World War II into the trite expression fascist pig, writes Umberto Eco in his 1995 essay "Ur-Fascism," "used by American radicals thirty years later to refer to a cop who did not approve of their smoking habits." In the forties, on the other hand, the fight against fascism was a "moral duty for every good American." (And every good Englishman and French partisan, he might have added.)
Eco grew up under Mussolini's fascist regime, which "was certainly a dictatorship, but it was not totally totalitarian, not because of its mildness but rather because of the philosophical weakness of its ideology. Contrary to common opinion, fascism in Italy had no special philosophy." It did, however, have style, "a way of dressing—far more influential, with its black shirts, than Armani, Benetton, or Versace would ever be." The dark humor of the comment indicates a critical consensus about fascism. As a form of extreme nationalism, it ultimately takes on the contours of whatever national culture produces it.

It may seem to tax one word to make it account for so many different cultural manifestations of authoritarianism, across Europe and even South America. Italy may have been "the first right-wing dictatorship that took over a European country," and got to name  the political system. But Eco is perplexed "why the word fascism became a synecdoche, that is, a word that could be used for different totalitarian movements." For one thing, he writes, fascism was a fuzzy totalitarianism, a collage of different philosophical and political ideas, a beehive of contradictions."

While Eco is firm in claiming "There was only one Nazism," he says, "the fascist game can be played in many forms, and the name of the game does not change." Eco reduces the qualities of what he calls "Ur-Fascism, or Eternal Fascism" down to 14 "typical" features. "These features," writes the novelist and semiotician, "cannot be organized into a system; many of them contradict each other, and are also typical of other kinds of despotism or fanaticism. But it is enough that one of them be present to allow fascism to coagulate around it."
  1. The cult of tradition. "One has only to look at the syllabus of every fascist movement to find the major traditionalist thinkers. The Nazi gnosis was nourished by traditionalist, syncretistic, occult elements."
  2. The rejection of modernism. "The Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, is seen as the beginning of modern depravity. In this sense Ur-Fascism can be defined as irrationalism."
  3. The cult of action for action's sake. "Action being beautiful in itself, it must be taken before, or without, any previous reflection. Thinking is a form of emasculation."
  4. Disagreement is treason. "The critical spirit makes distinctions, and to distinguish is a sign of modernism. In modern culture the scientific community praises disagreement as a way to improve knowledge."
  5. Fear of difference. "The first appeal of a fascist or prematurely fascist movement is an appeal against the intruders. Thus Ur-Fascism is racist by definition."
  6. Appeal to social frustration. "One of the most typical features of the historical fascism was the appeal to a frustrated middle class, a class suffering from an economic crisis or feelings of political humiliation, and frightened by the pressure of lower social groups."
  7. The obsession with a plot. "The followers must feel besieged. The easiest way to solve the plot is the appeal to xenophobia."
  8. The enemy is both strong and weak. "By a continuous shifting of rhetorical focus, the enemies are at the same time too strong and too weak."
  9. Pacifism is trafficking with the enemy. "For Ur-Fascism there is no struggle for life but, rather, life is lived for struggle."
  10. Contempt for the weak. "Elitism is a typical aspect of any reactionary ideology."
  11. Everybody is educated to become a hero. "In Ur-Fascist ideology, heroism is the norm. This cult of heroism is strictly linked with the cult of death."
  12. Machismo and weaponry. "Machismo implies both disdain for women and intolerance and condemnation of nonstandard sexual habits, from chastity to homosexuality."
  13. Selective populism. "There is in our future a TV or Internet populism, in which the emotional response of a selected group of citizens can be presented and accepted as the Voice of the People."
  14. Ur-Fascism speaks Newspeak. "All the Nazi or Fascist schoolbooks made use of an impoverished vocabulary, and an elementary syntax, in order to limit the instruments for complex and critical reasoning."
This abridged list (available in full at The New York Review of Books) comes to us from Kottke, by way of blogger Paul Bausch, who writes "we have a strong history of opposing authoritarianism. I'd like to believe that opposition is like an immune system response that kicks in."

One detail of Eco's essay that often goes unremarked is his characterization of the Italian opposition movement's unlikely coalitions. The Resistance included Communists who "exploited the Resistance as if it were their personal property," and leaders like Eco's childhood hero Franchi, "so strongly anti-Communist that after the war he joined very right-wing groups." This itself may be a specific feature of an Italian resistance, one not observable across the number of nations that have resisted totalitarian governments. As for the seeming total lack of common interest between these parties, Eco simply says, "Who cares?... Liberation was a common deed for people of different colors."
Read Eco's essay at The New York Review of Books. There he elaborates on each element of fascism at greater length. And support NYRB by becoming a subscriber.
via Kottke

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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The Pettiness of Hate

There was a time, younger when I imagined the USA was on a path to peace, violence was on the wane, hate existed on other parts of the planet and the pettiness of hate was soon to be vanquished..

Who can imagine hate and why?

The Real Origins of the Religious Right

They'll tell you it was abortion. Sorry, the historical record's clear: It was segregation.

May 27, 2014

One of the most durable myths in recent history is that the religious right, the coalition of conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists, emerged as a political movement in response to the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion. The tale goes something like this: Evangelicals, who had been politically quiescent for decades, were so morally outraged by Roe that they resolved to organize in order to overturn it.

This myth of origins is oft repeated by the movement's leaders. In his 2005 book, Jerry Falwell, the firebrand fundamentalist preacher, recounts his distress upon reading about the ruling in the Jan. 23, 1973, edition of the Lynchburg News: "I sat there staring at the Roe v. Wade story," Falwell writes, "growing more and more fearful of the consequences of the Supreme Court's act and wondering why so few voices had been raised against it." Evangelicals, he decided, needed to organize.
Some of these anti- Roe crusaders even went so far as to call themselves "new abolitionists," invoking their antebellum predecessors who had fought to eradicate slavery.

But the abortion myth quickly collapses under historical scrutiny. In fact, it wasn't until 1979—a full six years after Roe—that evangelical leaders, at the behest of conservative activist Paul Weyrich, seized on abortion not for moral reasons, but as a rallying-cry to deny President Jimmy Carter a second term. Why? Because the anti-abortion crusade was more palatable than the religious right's real motive: protecting segregated schools. So much for the new abolitionism.


Today, evangelicals make up the backbone of the pro-life movement, but it hasn't always been so. Both before and for several years after Roe, evangelicals were overwhelmingly indifferent to the subject, which they considered a "Catholic issue." In 1968, for instance, a symposium sponsored by the Christian Medical Society and Christianity Today, the flagship magazine of evangelicalism, refused to characterize abortion as sinful, citing "individual health, family welfare, and social responsibility" as justifications for ending a pregnancy. In 1971, delegates to the Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis, Missouri, passed a resolution encouraging "Southern Baptists to work for legislation that will allow the possibility of abortion under such conditions as rape, incest, clear evidence of severe fetal deformity, and carefully ascertained evidence of the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother." The convention, hardly a redoubt of liberal values, reaffirmed that position in 1974, one year after Roe, and again in 1976.

When the Roe decision was handed down, W. A. Criswell, the Southern Baptist Convention's former president and pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas—also one of the most famous fundamentalists of the 20th century—was pleased: "I have always felt that it was only after a child was born and had a life separate from its mother that it became an individual person," he said, "and it has always, therefore, seemed to me that what is best for the mother and for the future should be allowed."

Although a few evangelical voices, including Christianity Today magazine, mildly criticized the ruling, the overwhelming response was silence, even approval. Baptists, in particular, applauded the decision as an appropriate articulation of the division between church and state, between personal morality and state regulation of individual behavior. "Religious liberty, human equality and justice are advanced by the Supreme Court abortion decision," wrote W. Barry Garrett of Baptist Press.


So what then were the real origins of the religious right? It turns out that the movement can trace its political roots back to a court ruling, but not Roe v. Wade.

In May 1969, a group of African-American parents in Holmes County, Mississippi, sued the Treasury Department to prevent three new whites-only K-12 private academies from securing full tax-exempt status, arguing that their discriminatory policies prevented them from being considered "charitable" institutions. The schools had been founded in the mid-1960s in response to the desegregation of public schools set in motion by the Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954. In 1969, the first year of desegregation, the number of white students enrolled in public schools in Holmes County dropped from 771 to 28; the following year, that number fell to zero.

In  Green v. Kennedy (David Kennedy was secretary of the treasury at the time), decided in January 1970, the plaintiffs won a preliminary injunction, which denied the "segregation academies" tax-exempt status until further review. In the meantime, the government was solidifying its position on such schools. Later that year, President Richard Nixon ordered the Internal Revenue Service to enact a new policy denying tax exemptions to all segregated schools in the United States. Under the provisions of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which forbade racial segregation and discrimination, discriminatory schools were not—by definition—"charitable" educational organizations, and therefore they had no claims to tax-exempt status; similarly, donations to such organizations would no longer qualify as tax-deductible contributions.

On June 30, 1971, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia issued its ruling in the case, now  Green v. Connally (John Connally had replaced David Kennedy as secretary of the Treasury). The decision upheld the new IRS policy: "Under the Internal Revenue Code, properly construed, racially discriminatory private schools are not entitled to the Federal tax exemption provided for charitable, educational institutions, and persons making gifts to such schools are not entitled to the deductions provided in case of gifts to charitable, educational institutions."


Paul Weyrich, the late religious conservative political activist and co-founder of the Heritage Foundation, saw his opening.

In the decades following World War II, evangelicals, especially white evangelicals in the North, had drifted toward the Republican Party—inclined in that direction by general Cold War anxieties, vestigial suspicions of Catholicism and well-known evangelist Billy Graham's very public friendship with Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon. Despite these predilections, though, evangelicals had largely stayed out of the political arena, at least in any organized way. If he could change that, Weyrich reasoned, their large numbers would constitute a formidable voting bloc—one that he could easily marshal behind conservative causes.

"The new political philosophy must be defined by us [conservatives] in moral terms, packaged in non-religious language, and propagated throughout the country by our new coalition," Weyrich wrote in the mid-1970s. "When political power is achieved, the moral majority will have the opportunity to re-create this great nation." Weyrich believed that the political possibilities of such a coalition were unlimited. "The leadership, moral philosophy, and workable vehicle are at hand just waiting to be blended and activated," he wrote. "If the moral majority acts, results could well exceed our wildest dreams."

But this hypothetical "moral majority" needed a catalyst—a standard around which to rally. For nearly two decades, Weyrich, by his own account, had been trying out different issues, hoping one might pique evangelical interest: pornography, prayer in schools, the proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution, even abortion. "I was trying to get these people interested in those issues and I utterly failed," Weyrich recalled at a conference in 1990.

The  Green v. Connally ruling provided a necessary first step: It captured the attention of evangelical leaders especially as the IRS began sending questionnaires to church-related "segregation academies," including Falwell's own Lynchburg Christian School, inquiring about their racial policies. Falwell was furious. "In some states," he famously complained, "It's easier to open a massage parlor than a Christian school."

One such school, Bob Jones University—a fundamentalist college in Greenville, South Carolina—was especially obdurate. The IRS had sent its first letter to Bob Jones University in November 1970 to ascertain whether or not it discriminated on the basis of race. The school responded defiantly: It did not admit African Americans.

Although Bob Jones Jr., the school's founder, argued that racial segregation was mandated by the Bible, Falwell and Weyrich quickly sought to shift the grounds of the debate, framing their opposition in terms of religious freedom rather than in defense of racial segregation. For decades, evangelical leaders had boasted that because their educational institutions accepted no federal money (except for, of course, not having to pay taxes) the government could not tell them how to run their shops—whom to hire or not, whom to admit or reject. The Civil Rights Act, however, changed that calculus.

Bob Jones University did, in fact, try to placate the IRS—in its own way. Following initial inquiries into the school's racial policies, Bob Jones admitted one African-American, a worker in its radio station, as a part-time student; he dropped out a month later. In 1975, again in an attempt to forestall IRS action, the school admitted blacks to the student body, but, out of fears of miscegenation, refused to admit  unmarried African-Americans. The school also stipulated that any students who engaged in interracial dating, or who were even associated with organizations that advocated interracial dating, would be expelled.

The IRS was not placated. On January 19, 1976, after years of warnings—integrate or pay taxes—the agency rescinded the school's tax exemption.

For many evangelical leaders, who had been following the issue since  Green v. Connally, Bob Jones University was the final straw. As Elmer L. Rumminger, longtime administrator at Bob Jones University, told me in an interview, the IRS actions against his school "alerted the Christian school community about what could happen with government interference" in the affairs of evangelical institutions. "That was really the major issue that got us all involved."


Weyrich saw that he had the beginnings of a conservative political movement, which is why, several years into President Jimmy Carter's term, he and other leaders of the nascent religious right blamed the Democratic president for the IRS actions against segregated schools—even though the policy was mandated by Nixon, and Bob Jones University had lost its tax exemption a year and a day before Carter was inaugurated as president. Falwell, Weyrich and others were undeterred by the niceties of facts. In their determination to elect a conservative, they would do anything to deny a Democrat, even a fellow evangelical like Carter, another term in the White House.

But Falwell and Weyrich, having tapped into the ire of evangelical leaders, were also savvy enough to recognize that organizing grassroots evangelicals to defend racial discrimination would be a challenge. It had worked to rally the leaders, but they needed a different issue if they wanted to mobilize evangelical voters on a large scale.

By the late 1970s, many Americans—not just Roman Catholics—were beginning to feel uneasy about the spike in legal abortions following the 1973  Roe decision. The 1978 Senate races demonstrated to Weyrich and others that abortion might motivate conservatives where it hadn't in the past. That year in Minnesota, pro-life Republicans captured both Senate seats (one for the unexpired term of Hubert Humphrey) as well as the governor's mansion. In Iowa, Sen. Dick Clark, the Democratic incumbent, was thought to be a shoo-in: Every poll heading into the election showed him ahead by at least 10 percentage points. On the final weekend of the campaign, however, pro-life activists, primarily Roman Catholics, leafleted church parking lots (as they did in Minnesota), and on Election Day Clark lost to his Republican pro-life challenger.

In the course of my research into Falwell's archives at Liberty University and Weyrich's papers at the University of Wyoming, it became very clear that the 1978 election represented a formative step toward galvanizing everyday evangelical voters. Correspondence between Weyrich and evangelical leaders fairly crackles with excitement. In a letter to fellow conservative Daniel B. Hales, Weyrich characterized the triumph of pro-life candidates as "true cause for celebration," and Robert Billings, a cobelligerent, predicted that opposition to abortion would "pull together many of our 'fringe' Christian friends."  Roe v. Wade had been law for more than five years.

Weyrich, Falwell and leaders of the emerging religious right enlisted an unlikely ally in their quest to advance abortion as a political issue: Francis A. Schaeffer—a goateed, knickers-wearing theologian who was warning about the eclipse of Christian values and the advance of something he called "secular humanism." Schaeffer, considered by many the intellectual godfather of the religious right, was not known for his political activism, but by the late 1970s he decided that legalized abortion would lead inevitably to infanticide and euthanasia, and he was eager to sound the alarm. Schaeffer teamed with a pediatric surgeon, C. Everett Koop, to produce a series of films entitled  Whatever Happened to the Human Race? In the early months of 1979, Schaeffer and Koop, targeting an evangelical audience, toured the country with these films, which depicted the scourge of abortion in graphic terms—most memorably with a scene of plastic baby dolls strewn along the shores of the Dead Sea. Schaeffer and Koop argued that any society that countenanced abortion was captive to "secular humanism" and therefore caught in a vortex of moral decay.

Between Weyrich's machinations and Schaeffer's jeremiad, evangelicals were slowly coming around on the abortion issue. At the conclusion of the film tour in March 1979, Schaeffer reported that Protestants, especially evangelicals, "have been so sluggish on this issue of human life, and  Whatever Happened to the Human Race? is causing real waves, among church people and governmental people too."

By 1980, even though Carter had sought, both as governor of Georgia and as president, to reduce the incidence of abortion, his refusal to seek a constitutional amendment outlawing it was viewed by politically conservative evangelicals as an unpardonable sin. Never mind the fact that his Republican opponent that year, Ronald Reagan, had signed into law, as governor of California in 1967, the most liberal abortion bill in the country. When Reagan addressed a rally of 10,000 evangelicals at Reunion Arena in Dallas in August 1980, he excoriated the "unconstitutional regulatory agenda" directed by the IRS "against independent schools," but he made no mention of abortion. Nevertheless, leaders of the religious right hammered away at the issue, persuading many evangelicals to make support for a constitutional amendment outlawing abortion a litmus test for their votes.

Carter lost the 1980 election for a variety of reasons, not merely the opposition of the religious right. He faced a spirited challenge from within his own party; Edward M. Kennedy's failed quest for the Democratic nomination undermined Carter's support among liberals. And because Election Day fell on the anniversary of the Iran Hostage Crisis, the media played up the story, highlighting Carter's inability to secure the hostages' freedom. The electorate, once enamored of Carter's evangelical probity, had tired of a sour economy, chronic energy shortages and the Soviet Union's renewed imperial ambitions.

After the election results came in, Falwell, never shy to claim credit, was fond of quoting a Harris poll that suggested Carter would have won the popular vote by a margin of 1 percent had it not been for the machinations of the religious right. "I knew that we would have some impact on the national elections," Falwell said, "but I had no idea that it would be this great."

Given Carter's political troubles, the defection of evangelicals may or may not have been decisive. But it is certainly true that evangelicals, having helped propel Carter to the White House four years earlier, turned dramatically against him, their fellow evangelical, during the course of his presidency. And the catalyst for their political activism was not, as often claimed, opposition to abortion. Although abortion had emerged as a rallying cry by 1980, the real roots of the religious right lie not the defense of a fetus but in the defense of racial segregation.


The Bob Jones University case merits a postscript. When the school's appeal finally reached the Supreme Court in 1982, the Reagan administration announced that it planned to argue in defense of Bob Jones University and its racial policies. A public outcry forced the administration to reconsider; Reagan backpedaled by saying that the legislature should determine such matters, not the courts. The Supreme Court's decision in the case, handed down on May 24, 1983, ruled against Bob Jones University in an 8-to-1 decision. Three years later Reagan elevated the sole dissenter, William Rehnquist, to chief justice of the Supreme Court.
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