Posts Tagged ‘Slavery’


(We ran an earlier, considerably shorter version of this post in September 2013. As you might have noticed, things have changed a bit since then.)

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REFERENCES TO FASCISM abound in American political discourse. Unfortunately, most of those using the term wouldn’t recognize fascism if it bit ’em on the butt, and use it as a catch-all pejorative for anything or anyone they dislike. But the term does have a specific meaning.

Very briefly, as exemplified in Nazi Germany and Mussolini’s Italy, fascism is an extreme right political-economic system (which Mussolini dubbed “the corporate state”), the key features of which are strident nationalism, militarism and military worship, a one-party state, a dictatorial leader with a personality cult, a capitalist economic system integrated with state institutions (to the mutual benefit of capitalists and fascist politicians), suppression of independent unions, suppression of civil liberties and all forms of political opposition, and an aggressive, expansionist foreign policy.

The racism, racial scapegoating, and racial persecution that permeated German fascism are not part of fascism per se, unless one wants to classify extreme nationalism as racism. There’s a case to be made for that, but for now let’s consider them as separate maladies. As well, since the topic of this post is the comparison of Nazi Germany to the U.S.A., we will consider racism as well as fascism in the comparisons.

Getting to the headline topic, just how similar is the present-day U.S. to Nazi Germany? Let’s look at specifics:

Nationalism

  • Nazi Germany: Deutschland Uber Alles
  • US.: “American exceptionalism,” “God Bless America,” “Manifest Destiny,” etc.

Corporate Capitalist Domination

  • Nazi Germany: The German industrialists (notably the Krup armaments company) were key Hitler backers, and benefited handsomely from his rule.
  • U.S.: Trump has filled his cabinet with people from the fossil fuel industries (Rex Tillerson, et al.) and big banks, notably Goldman Sachs (Steven Mnuchin, et al.); Obama’s primary 2008 backers were Wall Street firms and the pharmaceutical companies; Bush/Cheney’s were the energy companies’ boys, etc.

Militarism

  • Nazi Germany: The Nazis  constructed the world’s most powerful military in six years (1933-1939).
  • U.S.: U.S. military spending currently accounts for approximately 43% of the world’s military spending; the U.S. has hundreds of military bases overseas; and Trump wants to increase military spending.

Military Worship

  • Nazi Germany: Do I really need to cite examples?
  • U.S.: “Support our troops!” “Our heroes!” “Thank you for your service!” Military worship is almost a state religion in the United States. Tune in to almost any baseball broadcast for abundant examples; this worship even extends to those on what passes for the left in the United States: Michael Moore, Stephen Colbert, Rachel Maddow.

Military Aggression

  • Nazi Germany: “Lebensraum”–you know the rest.
  • U.S.: To cite only examples from the last half century where there were significant numbers of “boots on the ground,” Vietnam (1959-1973), the Dominican Republic (1965), Cambodia (1970), Grenada (1983), Panama (1988-1990), Kuwait/Iraq (1991), Afghanistan (2001-present), Iraq (2003-2011). And this doesn’t even include bombing campaigns and drone warfare.

Incarceration Rates

  • Nazi Germany: The Nazis built concentration camps holding (and exterminating) millions, and employing slave labor.
  • U.S.: In comparison, the U.S. has by far the highest incarceration rate in the industrialized world, far outstripping China, with only Russia’s incarceration rate being anywhere near that of the U.S. Slave labor is routine in America’s prisons.

Justice System

  • Nazi Germany: The Nazis had a three-tiered “justice” system: one for the rich and powerful (who could get away with virtually anything); a second for the average citizen; a third for despised minorities and political foes.
  • U.S.: There’s also a three-tiered “justice” system here: one for the rich and powerful (who can get away with virtually anything); a second for middle-class white people; and a third for everyone else. It’s no accident that America’s prisons are filled with poor people, especially blacks and hispanics. At the same time cops routinely get away with murder of blacks, hispanics, and poor whites. Obama’s “Justice” Department never even investigated the largest financial fraud in world history that led to the 2008 crash, let alone charged those responsible; prosecutors routinely pile on charges against average citizens to blackmail them into plea bargaining and pleading guilty to charges of which they’re not guilty; and the Obama Administration (and now the Trump Administration) viciously goes after whistleblowers and reporters, who have exposed its wrongdoing–Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, Thomas Drake, James Risen, et al.

Suppression of Unions

  • Nazi Germany: In Nazi Germany, the government tightly controlled the unions, and used them as arms of the state.
  • U.S.: In the U.S., the government merely suppresses strikes when “in the national interest” and allows corporations to crush union organizing drives through intimidation and by firing anyone who dares to attempt to organize. (Admittedly, the sell-out, visionless AFL-CIO unions bear considerable responsibility for this sad state of affairs.)

Free Speech

  • Nazi Germany: Total suppression of free speech; direct government control of the media.
  • U.S.: There’s near total corporate control of the media, and suppression of free speech when it shows the faintest sign of threatening, or even embarrassing, the government or the corporations that control the government. Obama’s war on whistleblowers and reporters — and now Trump’s — is only the latest example. Of late, Trump has upped the ante, routinely attacking journalists who report anything even slightly embarrassing to him, or who point out any of his almost innumerable lies.

Other Civil Liberties

  • Nazi Germany: Total suppression.
  • U.S.: Suppression when individuals exercising those liberties show the faintest sign of threatening the government or the corporations that control the government. The coordinated suppression (by the FBI, local governments, and corporate security agencies) of the Occupy Movement nationwide is the latest large-scale example.

Government Spying

  • Nazi Germany: The government had a massive eavesdropping operation. No citizen was safe from government scrutiny.
  • U.S.: The FBI, DHS, and NSA make the Nazis look like amateurs.

Free Elections

  • Nazi Germany: Total suppression
  • U.S.: U.S. citizens have the opportunity to vote for the millionaire representatives (over half of congress at last count) of the two wings of the property party: one wing being authoritarian, corporate-servant, crazy theofascists (yes, they meet the definition), the other wing being merely authoritarian corporate servants who routinely betray those who elect them. It’s also pertinent that the Republicans are doing their best to destroy what passes for American electoral democracy through egregious gerrymandering and voter suppression on an industrial scale.

Racism

  • Nazi Germany: Do I even need to cite details?
  • U.S.A.: (We’ll restrict ourselves here to the present.) The “justice” system imprisons blacks at a rate over five times that of whites, and hispanics at a rate about 30% higher than whites. Cops routinely get away with murdering poor people, a disproportionate number of them blacks and hispanics. Median household wealth for whites is 13 times that of blacks. And median household income for whites is 60% higher than that of blacks and hispanics. Donald Trump’s hateful rhetoric and racial scapegoating of Mexicans is merely the cherry atop this merde sundae.

Personality Cult

  • Nazi Germany: Again, do I even need to cite details?
  • U.S.A.: Trump worship is rampant on the evangelical right, who see this steaming pile of hypocrisy and narcissism as the means to their vicious ends. And Trump encourages sycophancy. The cringe-inducing filmed cabinet meeting a couple of months ago in which the cabinet secretaries heaped fulsome (in both senses of the word) praise and thanks on the dear leader is but one example. Another example: Yesterday, presidential aide and Trump toady Steven Miller said on Fox “News” that Trump — who would likely flunk a fourth-grade English test — was the “best orator to hold that office [president] in generations.”

Yes, there are very significant differences between Nazi Germany and the U.S. But they seem to grow smaller with every passing day.


(For the last few months we’ve been running the best posts from years past, posts that will be new to most of our subscribers. This one is from July 2013. We’ll be posting more blasts from the past for the next several months, and will intersperse them with new material.)

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A FEW QUESTIONS ABOUT THE BIBLE

1. Why do the Ten Commandments forbid worshipping false gods, graven images, and taking the lord’s name in vain, rather than slavery and torture?

2. Why doesn’t the Bible condemn slavery  or torture anywhere in its pages?

3. Why does the Bible command slaves to be obedient to their masters? (1 Timothy 6:1, 1 Peter 2:18, Ephesians 6:5)

4. Why does the Bible instruct slaveholders on how to treat (and mistreat) their slaves? (Exodus 21:20-21, Exodus 21:2-6)

5. Why does the Bible endorse slavery? (Leviticus 25:44-46)

6. Why does the Bible command female subservience? (Ephesians 5:22-23, Colossians 3:18, I Corinthians 11:3, I Corinthians 14:34, I Timothy 2:11-12, Genesis 3:16)

7. Why does the Bible treat women as “unclean” inferior beings? (Job 25:4, Revelation 14:4, Leviticus 12:2-5, Leviticus 15:17-24, 32-33)

8. Why are Christians fixated on the “abomination” of homosexuality, when the Bible also lists remarriage (Deuteronomy 24:4), “lying lips” (Proverbs 22:12), usury (Exodus 18:10-13), sex with an “unclean” woman (Leviticus 18:19, 27), short-weighting (Deuteronomy 25:13-16), and, of course, sacrificing a blemished ox (Deuteronomy 17:1) as abominations?

8. Why is the Bible filled with contradictions, such as “[F]or I am merciful, saith the Lord, and I will not keep anger forever” (Jeremiah 3:12) vs. “Ye have kindled a fire in mine anger, which shall burn forever” (Jeremiah 17:4)?

(See also Ezekiel 18:20 vs. Exodus 20:5; James 1:13 vs. Genesis 22:1; Matthew 6:19 vs. Proverbs 15:6; Exodus 21:23-25 vs. Matthew 5:39; Proverbs 3:13 vs. Ecclesiastes  1:18; Ecclesiastes 1:4 vs. 2 Peter 3:10; Matthew 10:34 vs. Matthew 26:52; John 5:31 vs. John 8:18; John 5:28-29 vs. Job 7:9; John 10:30 vs. John 14:28; and Genesis 32:30 vs. John 1:18 vs. Exodus 33:23).

10. If these blatant contradictions are the result of mistranslation, why should any other part of the Bible be more reliable?

11. Why does the Bible mention only plants and animals found in the region familiar to its authors?

12. Did the same god who created sunsets, hummingbirds, and butterflies also create cockroaches, scabies, Donald Trump, and Bill O’Reilly? (Helpful hint: google O’Reilly falafel.)

13. What happened to all of the water after the great flood? (If all of the ice on Earth melted, it would raise the sea level by less than a hundred meters.)

14. Why does the Bible command “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” (Exodus 22:18)? (See also Leviticus 20:27.)

15. Why does the Bible command the murder of EMTs, firemen, nurses, doctors, convenience store clerks, and everyone else who works on the sabbath? (Exodus 35:1-2, Exodus 31:14-15, Numbers 15:32-36)

16. Why does the Bible command the murder of rebellious children? (Deuteronomy 21:18-21, Leviticus 20:9)

17. Why does the Bible command parents to beat their children? (Proverbs 23:13-14)

18. Why does the Bible command mass murder and the taking of juvenile female sex slaves? (Numbers 31:17-18)

19. Why does the Bible command murder (burning alive) of those who have sex with their mothers-in-law? (Leviticus 20:14)

20. Why does the Bible command the killing of innocent beasts that are victims of sexual abuse? (Leviticus 20:15)

21. And while we’re on the topic, doesn’t the death penalty for bestiality seem a bit over the top? (Leviticus 20:15)

22. Why are your morals so much better than those of the god of the Bible?


QADIYA, Iraq — In the moments before he raped the 12-year-old girl, the Islamic State fighter took the time to explain that what he was about to do was not a sin. Because the preteen girl practiced a religion other than Islam, the Quran not only gave him the right to rape her — it condoned and encouraged it, he insisted.

He bound her hands and gagged her. Then he knelt beside the bed and prostrated himself in prayer before getting on top of her.

When it was over, he knelt to pray again, bookending the rape with acts of religious devotion.

“I kept telling him it hurts — please stop,” said the girl, whose body is so small an adult could circle her waist with two hands. “He told me that according to Islam he is allowed to rape an unbeliever. He said that by raping me, he is drawing closer to God,” she said in an interview alongside her family in a refugee camp here, to which she escaped after 11 months of captivity.

–Mauricio Lima, “ISIS Enshrines a Theology of Rape,” New York Times 8-13-15

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Before you begin spouting your canned response, “ISIS is a perversion of Islam” or it’s a “misinterpretation” of Islam,  please think about this: What kind of religious scriptures lend themselves to such “perversion” and “misinterpretation” on a mass scale?

And before you Christians start feeling too self-righteous about this, please consider that slavery flourished for over 1,500 years in Christian lands, with Christian scripture supporting the practice. Of course, Christian apologists use the same excuses as Muslim apologists: the practice of slavery resulted from “perversion” or “misinterpretation” of scripture (in this case Romans 13:1-2, Colossians 3:22, Titus 2:9-10, Exocus 21:2-6, Exodus 21:20-21, Leviticus 25:44-46, 1 Peter 2:18, 1 Timothy 6:1). Again, what kind of religious scriptures lend themselves to such “perversion” and “misinterpretation” on a mass scale?

Is this systemic “perversion” and “misinterpretation” evidence that Christian and Muslim scriptures “encourage morality,” or is it evidence that they encourage the worst types of immorality?

Is this mass “perversion” and “misinterpretation” evidence that Christian and Muslim scriptures were divinely inspired, or is it evidence that they were written by all-too-human savages?


 

fire on the mountain front cover(Fire on the Mountain, by Terry Bisson. PM Press, 1988/2009, 156 pp., $15.95)

reviewed by Zeke Teflon

A few years ago, PM Press reissued Fire on the Mountain, which first appeared in 1988. It’s one of the better alternative history novels, in that–unlike all too many–it has a lot to say about both politics and social issues, especially about race relations and racial attitudes in the U.S.

The novel’s takeoff point is John Brown’s raid on Harper’s ferry in 1859, which in Fire on the Mountain succeeds, and sparks a slave revolt in the South. The book’s main interest is in the description of the raid and subsequent revolt. Its narrator is “Dr. Abraham,” who vividly describes what he saw and took part in as a 12-year-old slave. Abraham’s first-person narrative is the strongest part of the book. It’s very believable, and the tone is spot on.

Another strong point is the narration, through “letters” to his beloved,  of “Thomas Hunter,” an anti-slavery white doctor who gets caught up in the revolt. Again, the tone is spot on; as well, Bisson does a remarkable job of portraying Hunter’s unconsciously racist attitudes, and how they change over time.

One frustrating aspect of this portion of the book is that Bisson goes into almost no detail about the course of the revolt. The reader learns very early on that it was successful, and not much beyond that. . . . which brings us to the other portion of the book, set in 1959.

At that date, there’s a successful black socialist republic, with wonders galore, in what was the U.S. South. Here, the narrative switches to third person, and follows Yasmin Odinga, a college professor and widow of a black astronaut hero, who’s traveling to Harper’s Ferry to research her husband’s ancestors.  Bisson switches back and forth between passages about the revolt, narrated by Abraham, and the passages about Odinga.

Unfortunately, this is where the flaws in the book become all too obvious. It’s difficult to buy Odinga’s character (she’s too idealized), and it’s difficult to care about her or any of the other 1959 characters. This is in part due to the difference between first-person and third-person narration, which is exacerbated by the “distance” in the third-person passages. This accounts for some of the problem; the rest is due to the characters existing seemingly for the sole purpose of making political points.

This section of the book does have its points, though. One is mention of an “alternative history novel,” John Brown’s Body, which exactly follows actual events in U.S. history–and is considered a macabre horror story.

As for the scientific and technological wonders of Bisson’s socialist republic, it appears that he didn’t even try for plausibility. Those marvels he mentions range from the far-fetched to the ludicrous, for instance:  zeppelins (of course) for long-distance travel;  a Mars program that succeeded in the early 1950s; Egyptian cars that have ceramic blocks with ceramic pistons controlled through magnetic fields(!); and “moon shoes” that change colors and actively adapt themselves to wearers’ feet. Why Bisson chose to prominently feature these absurdities is anybody’s guess.

And there’s essentially no description of the workings of Bisson’s socialist republic. There’s nothing on its political structure, and next to nothing on its economic structure; there’s not even a passage describing daily life in it.  It ends up being little more than a name.

If Bisson had omitted the weak, propagandistic portion of the book set in 1959 and had developed at length the section set in 1859 -1862, this could have been–probably would have been–a great book. But it isn’t. Instead, it’s a deeply flawed book that’s still well worth reading because of the gripping first-person sections and Bisson’s genuine insights into racial attitudes and race relations.

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Zeke Teflon is the author Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia.

Free Radicals front cover


“I still have the two volumes (1,700 quarto pages) from which, 60 years ago, I learned ‘moral theology,’ or all that the Roman Church has to say about virtues and vices. [The two volumes] deal extensively and vehemently with vice, while they devote only 10 temperate lines to cruelty and do not even mention torture. This moral obliquity explains why the Church never condemned torture just as it never condemned slavery.”

— (former priest) Joseph McCabe, The History of Torture. Quoted in The Heretic’s Handbook of Quotations.

Front cover of "The Heretic's Handbook of Quotations


There’s a truly loathsome, dishonest piece  by Sonali Kolhaktar on  Alternet accusing Bill Maher and Sam Harris of “islamophobia”; Kolhaktar then seamlessly conflates “islamophobia” with racism–a charge which she hurls at Maher. This is a truly vile accusation, and the author makes it citing no evidence whatsoever. This baseless accusation says a hell of a lot more about her than Maher.

The main thrust of the piece, other than slinging mud at leftists who recognize the menace of islam, is that muslims are decent people, just like everybody else. In one sense, Kolhaktar is right. Like christians, muslims are decent people–to the extent that they ignore the teachings in their “holy” book, which contains admonitions to murder heretics and nonbelievers and to enslave nonbelievers. (I’ll put up another post today or tomorrow citing specific passages from both the bible and the koran.)

Much as multiculturalists and religious apologists would pretend otherwise, religion IS the problem. Maher was absolutely right when he said that islam is “the mother lode of bad ideas.”

Believers are decent people only to the extent that they ignore the vicious, authoritarian passages in their “holy” books–only to the extent that they ignore the admonitions to murder, enslave, and impose their beliefs on others.

 


SLAVE OWNER, n. The world’s most effective job creator, and one still widely admired and pined over by certain segments of the U.S. popure consideration for the feeling of others, are reluctant to openly discuss their feelings in raw, historically accurate words. Hence their widespread adoption of the more mellifluous, soothing term, “job creator.”

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–from the revised and expanded edition of The American Heretic’s Dictionary, the best modern successor to Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary