What Comes After the Paint and Swastikas

(N.B. I originally wrote this for my congregation, but I figured some of the rest if you might benefit from the message, too.)

You almost certainly heard about the desecration of a Jewish cemetery in Grand Rapids shortly before the election,“TRUMP” and “MAGA” spray-painted over the names of the honored dead.

[source]

Maybe these pictures worried you.  Maybe they frightened you.  Maybe they embarrassed you—because, let’s be honest: it’s shameful to be bullied, to get the “Kick Me!” sign pasted to your back again and again, century after century.  

Or maybe you didn’t feel much of anything. Maybe you’ve grown numb; one more slap in the face at the tail end of four years of unprovoked suckerpunches, it can all sort of blur together. I get that.

I don’t exactly have words for how it made me feel.

I saw these pictures of the Jewish cemetery in Grand Rapids, and I immediately thought back to the swastikas spray painted on Temple Jacob last winter, way up in the Upper Peninsula town of Hancock.  And I thought about the dozens of swastikas and slurs defacing our local skatepark back in 2017.   

(I go to that skatepark a lot.  It was hard not to take it personally.)

And I thought about the increase in anti-Jewish hate-crimes here in America over the past four years.  I thought about the increasingly violent nature of those crimes.

I thought about the bomb threats. And the synagogue shootings.  And the stabbings.  And the rallies.  And the men with guns in the capitol.  

And so on.

And I felt hopeless. And I was afraid.

So I emailed the rabbi of Congregation Ahavas Israel (who maintain the cemetery in Grand Rapids that was desecrated on election’s eve). I wrote to voice our support and solidarity, and ask what they might need to restore the cemetery.  

Rabbi David J.B. Krishef replied almost immediately:

“Hi Dave — the cemetery was cleaned by a small group of people who live around the corner and took it upon themselves to clean the stones without even letting us know what they were doing, and a few other people, including one from Ann Arbor, who drove in and decided to wash the paint off. We are grateful for all of the love and support and positive notes we’ve received.” 

It dawned on me that this second half of the story is rarely reported, but often the case:

A lone jackass skulks around smearing his petty foulness in the dark; the whole community—not just Jews, but people from all over the community unwilling to let ugliness linger—return in the light to set things right.

That’s what happened in the cemetery in Grand Rapids.  And when I went back and checked, I discovered it’s what happened at Temple Jacob in Hancock.  

And that’s what happened here in Ann Arbor, too; I know, because I saw it:  I went to the skatepark the day after it was tagged. The city had already power-washed away the paint. And unknown members of the community at large had come through with colored chalk and, evey place where there’d been a symbol of hate, replaced it with a message of welcoming and love:

[source]

What I saw in Ann Arbor was not the exception; it was the rule, even now, in this time of widely reported “unprecedented division and unrest.” And maybe it feels like we’re mired in a time of unprecedented division and unrest because we only report the first half of the story—the smeared paint, the thrown punch, the shots fired—and then move on to the next catastrophe, without checking back to see what comes after the paint and the screaming: a nation of folks ready to take it upon themselves to fix whatever any single angry loner chooses to break.

Washtenaw County (Michigan) Voters: IF YOU SEE A GUN, CALL 911!

Given the recent arrest of White Power and anti-government terrorists in Michigan (and the fact that these groups had both been active in Washtenaw County), it is reasonable to worry about armed bullshit at the polls here. Although there is no known credible threat or planned actions, law enforcement here is vocally committed to protecting our free, fair, and open elections. I’m not just getting this from the letter: Over the last month I’ve been in meetings with Rep. Dingell, Sheriff Clayton, Police Chief Cox, etc. and the message has been clear and consistent: They are not playing around with any jackassery at the polls, esp. “open carry” or self-appointed “election protectors” or any other extra-legal shenanigans.

  • If you suspect VOTER INTIMIDATION on election day, immediately alert a poll worker and call 866-OUR-VOTE
  • SEE A GUN? CALL 911: If you see someone acting threatening, call 911.  The Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti Police Departments are very interested in any information about any sightings of suspicious activity or firearms near polling places.  AAPD is emphatic: it is not your job or responsibility to determine if someone is “exercising their rights” or “brandishing” or “harassing” or “intimidating” or “walking their emotional support gun” or anything else.  Dial 911 and report exactly what you’ve observed (i.e., number of individuals, number of guns, identifying physical characteristics, location, direction of movement) and indicate that YOU ARE CONCERNED FOR YOUR SAFETY AND THAT OF YOUR NEIGHBORS.
    • If you are outside of Arbor/Ypsi and have reason to believe your local PD might not take this seriously, call the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office directly 734-994-2911. Sheriff Clayton takes this seriously.

It’s extremely likely that nothing bad or weird or yucky will happen; high rates of early voting hint at a very boring in-person final voting day here in Washtenaw County. But you do not have to put up with any crap, and it’s fundamentally wrong for anyone to attempt to make you uncomfortable at the polls, let alone disrupt you submitting your ballot. WHATEVER YOUR FEELINGS ABOUT COPS IN GENERAL, HERE IN WASHTENAW COUNTY WE ARE ALL ALIGNED ON THIS ISSUE.

Well, I guess President Trump was right: Illegal immigrants *do* come here to hurt Americans…

… he was just 100% wrong about which border they crossed illegally, and what they looked like:

“Derail some fucking trains, kill some people, and poison some water supplies. You better be fucking ready to do those things.”

Patrik Jordan Mathews, December 1, 2019
Patrik Jordan Mathews: AWOL Canadian Demolitions Expert and neo-Nazi

Accused Neo-Nazis Arrested Ahead of Virginia Gun Rally

This is the age of war. This is the age of entire this is the age of strife, this is the century upon which this current civilizations rotting Jew infested country comes to a collapse. You were born in the wrong century for complacency. That’s all for now.

Patrik Jordan Mathews, on or before December 13, 2019

Feds: White supremacists hoped rally would start civil war

While residing in Georgia, Mathews stated that he “only exists for the White Revolution now.” Mathews further stated that he wanted to remain a “ghost” and oversee safe houses for Base members who need to disappear. Mathews stated that once there are a few “ghosts,” they could begin doing “jobs,” by which Mathews meant targeted violence or attacks.

excerpt from the legal motion requesting Mathews’ detention pending trial

Based on other statements in the legal motion, these targets were likely to be Jewish- or African-Americans. I’ve mentioned Mathews’ had been hiding out in Michigan, yeah? And I live in Michigan? And my family and I, we’re the kinds of Americans he came here to kill?

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Solid Facts, Reasonable Fears, Sensible Measures 🦠🧟‍♀️☣️

(This is a version of something I drafted for my local faith community, where I’m active in safety/security. Faith communities offer lots of programs for the very young, very old, and very vulnerable—and we tend to crowd lots of folks into one room; disease transmission is more of a concern than it might be for a workplace full of healthy young adults who can afford and access health care services.)

Folks are worried about Coronavirus (i.e., “COVID-19”)—and this isn’t unfounded (see the “REASONABLE COVID-19 CONCERNS” sub-section for details).

While there are good reasons for concern, there are also very basic steps we can all take to reduce both the risk of infection and the severity of any disruption to our lives should an outbreak hit nearby.  Please feel free to share any portion (or all) of the following info with your people.  Thanks!

REASONABLE COVID-19 CONCERNS

As of this morning (March 2), there have been two reported Coronavirus (i.e., “COVID-19”) deaths in Washington state.  Given

  • what we know about the disease (e.g., https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/ )
  • its gestation period (~2 weeks)
  • the currently understood mortality rate (~2%)
  • how it’s transmitted (airborne droplets from coughs and sneezes)
  • and our best guesses at it’s transmission rate (or “R0”; current estimate is that COVID-19 has an R0 of “2”, which means each infected person will infect ~2 others),

this all tends to imply that the disease has been spreading in WA for ~6-8 weeks, and there are hundreds of cases there now (I heard an estimate in the thousands on NPR this morning, but didn’t catch the source, and so take it with a grain of salt).

On the one hand, this is obviously concerning: COVID-19 is ~20x more deadly than the seasonal flu (which kills tens of thousands annually).  On the other hand, a 2% mortality rate implies a 98% (or higher) survival rate, and an R0 of 2 isn’t great, but it also isn’t a Stephen King story: COVID-19 is more contagious than seasonal flu (which has an R0 of ~1.3, I think) but much less so than measles (R0 ~15) or whooping cough (R0 ~5). (Incidentally, all of those are also primarily transmitted through airborne droplets). 

Usually, diseases like COVID-19 are most dangerous to the very young and very old.  Based on limited studies in China, it appears that even the very, very young have no trouble fending off COVID-19.  That’s great!  But that means the mortality rate for COVID-19 falls hardest on the elderly and those with existing health problems.

REASONABLE COVID-19 MEASURES

  • ENCOURAGE HAND WASHING! I know it seems silly to say, but that’s the Number One way we can protect ourselves and our community members (especially the infirm and our elders).  Make sure to review this with any kids you keep around; they chronically short-change hand washing. The young aren’t at very high risk of dying from COVID-19—but are excellent candidates for spreading it.  (Also, as someone who regularly uses public men’s room, I’ll level with you: Maybe also review this with adults you know.)
    1. Soap and water beats hand-sanitizer every time!  
    2. Wash hands with soap for at least 20 seconds (i.e., sing “Happy Birthday to Me” twice while washing hands).
    3. Make sure to scrub between fingers, down the backs of the hands, and focus on the finger tips.
    4. Dry vigorously with paper towel—the friction does a lot of the work of removing pathogens.
    5. Wash hands upon returning home from school/work, before and after meals, after you cough or sneeze, and any time you’ve been touching something folks likely coughed on (e.g., shared computers/tablets, ATMs, public handrails, etc.)
    6. Failing all else, hand sanitizer is better than nothing. Proper use us just like soap & water: Cover hands, scrub for 20 seconds, focus on getting between fingers/down backs/and rubbing fingertips.
  •  Cough into the elbow crook: At school my kids were taught that this was called the “vampire cough”; I love that!
  • Plan for school closures: It’s gonna happen, just like snow days. Be ready—and be ready for your day care to be closed, too.  Make advance plans with work to telecommute, have backup helpers in place, and so on.  Make sure your Netflix and Disney+ subscriptions are paid up. Invest in a game system.
  • Take care of yourself: Disease strikes the stressed, tired, and weary.  Drink plenty of water, get plenty of exercise (go on a walk before the ice returns!), and get plenty of sleep.

FURTHER COVID-19 RESOURCES

You Can Help Reduce the Hidden Costs of Being a Minority in America

UPDATE 2019-10-11: Yom Kippur was Wednesday, and a guy with homemade guns and bombs tried to kill a few dozen praying Jews in Germany. He was thwarted by his own poor craftsmanship and decent locked doors. I’d really like to know that Jewish congregations throughout America have good doors, good locks, and good trauma kits. All of this is expensive; a small trauma kit—one with supplies to slow the death of one or two gunshot victims—runs ~$50. It would be nice not to have to chose which of my friends, neighbors, or family members dies and which might live. YOU CAN HELP US BUY THESE THINGS.  Heck, here’s the shopping list for a minimal trauma kit.  Buy the parts yourself, and send it to the congregation of your choosing. Concerned they won’t know what to do with it? Have them contact me and I’ll walk them through how to use this trauma kit in an emergency.

It’s expensive to be in the minority: You need to take days off that aren’t excepted in the “secular” work calendar; you need to buy things (garments, food, etc.) for which there is lower demand (and thus are correspondingly more expensive to acquire); you need to spend time (often on a daily basis) explaining very simple things over and over and over again to often very well meaning people; you have to swallow your gall over a very large number of very small insults; you have to search around for food or facilities or services that are suitable for you, and don’t oblige you to debase yourself or become an unwilling spectacle (although both are frequently part of your life).

Muslims face this.  Immigrants face this.  Folks whose genders don’t match their sexes in the predominant fashion face this.

Right now, all over America, very small groups of Jews are scratching together very large sums of money in order to buy thicker doors, better locks, security cameras, and bullet-resistant glass.

I know that you don’t wish any of us harm.  And I know how awful it feels to not be able to do anything.

If you’re in the majority, then you never have to sit down in your pew and say “OK: The shooter will almost certainly come through those doors, so I need to clear people this direction.  We’ll designate Person X to sprint down to the childcare room and get the kids out through the fire exit…”

If you never attend religious services, then you aren’t shopping for trauma kits—and so maybe have some shekels to spare.

If you don’t need to be dedicated brain cycles to having a plan for keeping your friends and neighbors alive for the 5 to 7 minutes it takes the police to arrive, then you have bandwidth to spare for some other thoughts—and likely some of those are “How did we get here?  How the hell can we get back?

Me, I’ve got the High Holidays next week; I’m waiting for the supplies for my trauma kit to come in the mail.  I’m reviewing building schematics and Google satellite views and walking perimeters to figure how long it takes to get from a fire door to the tree line.

If you’re bummed about the surge in American anti-Semitism (and the corresponding new fad of shooting Jews in our houses of worship while we pray), there’s something concrete you can do:

Send money

This flyer is for my community, but you don’t have to send us money.  I absolutely guarantee that every Jewish Federation in every part of this country is running a similar drive.  We all are operating congregations and community centers in of old buildings with shoe-string budgets. Google the nearest major city to you and the word “JCC” (for “Jewish Community Center”).  You’ll either get the Jewish Federation for that region, the nearest Jewish Community Center in that town, or that town’s lone lil synagogue (example: I googled “jcc billings, MT” and found these cats Congregation Beth Aaron—who almost certainly need better doors).

Give them a call and say “I’d like to donate to help you increase safety and security in your community.”  Give an amount of money that’s a multiple of 18 (it’s sort of a lucky number; Jewish superstition associates 18 with life and longevity).

 half page ad_Jewish Federation

These Aren’t Concentration Camps (Yet)—But That Doesn’t Mean They’re Good

I strongly urge you to watch this video:

and read this article (“Inside the Former Walmart That Is Now a Shelter for Almost 1,500 Migrant Children” ) all the way through, then call your reps.

My point here: This is not a “concentration camp” by any modern conventional standard (in that “concentration camp” connotes harsh conditions, overcrowding, and general neglect if not outright abuse). Here’s a New York Times description at what they saw at this specific migrant internment center:

Most of the boys are from Central America. Many of them smiled, waved at or shook the hands of the reporters touring the site. They were asked by the reporters and Southwest Key executives, in Spanish, “How are you?”

The constant reply was “Bien, bien,” meaning “OK, OK.” The media was not allowed to interview the children.

Some were leaning back, getting a shampoo at the sinks in the shelter’s barbershop, where a striped lit-up barber’s pole spun outside the door. They lined up in the cafeteria for dinner — chicken, mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables. Some played pool, or joined a tai chi session in the rec room. One teenager sat at a cafeteria table with his head bowed and hands clasped, praying silently. Another told the cafeteria worker who served him dinner, “Gracias, Miss.”

Everywhere, some of the shelter’s more than 1,000 employees hovered nearby — they sat at the ends of the cafeteria tables while the boys ate dinner, watched “Moana” with the children in the old loading docks and escorted lines of boys in the hallways.

The vast majority, Southwest Key officials said, crossed the border unaccompanied.

That said, these certainly fit within the broad dictionary denotation of “concentration camp”—in that they are “a camp where persons (such as prisoners of war, political prisoners, or refugees) are detained or confined”.  (And we have no idea if other such centers are better, worse, or about the same).

Still, calling these “concentration camps” runs the risk of continuing to erode the general American understanding of the heinous magnitude of suffering endured by  the Jews and others interned and enslaved by the Third Reich, or the Americans of Japanese descent imprisoned by the U.S. government, or the countless others who have been confined, reeducated, absorbed, and exterminated by the smooth-grinding wheels of governments.

On top of that, calling these “concentration camps” is a disservice to progress and to these specific children.

That said, saying that “these aren’t concentration camps” is in no way meant to suggest that what’s happening here is good; it’s getting overcrowded, it’s unsustainable, they’re starting to set up tent villages (in Texas, in the summer—lack of rigid shelter and HVAC is a huge drop in livability outside El Paso). This is precariously close to starting the inevitable slide into what we all would recognize as concentration camps.

But, goddamit, right now we are very close to doing the Right Thing here: Most of these kids are showing up at the border without parents or guardians; it is right and good to shelter them, feed them, protect them, show them Moana. That’s what a country dedicated to the huddled masses yearning to be free should be doing.  With proper action, there is an opportunity here for these centers to level up to being well-run refugee centers.

We should call our reps, and say as much: I want unaccompanied minors to be sheltered and fed.  I want those who’ve been abused, or whose home places have been made unlivable by gangs or failed governments, to have access to asylum.  Kids who have braved the elements and the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, they’ve got True Grit; I want to know how they can become my neighbors and fellow citizens.🇺🇸

Beats per Week #09: “The Excitation of Sympathetic Song” (Russian monks? Aliens? Cthulhu cultists?)

Found this in a stack of unlabeled 78 rpm records I bought off eBay, like, a billion years ago.  No time to lay down a new track this week, so I just digitized this instead.  Mysteries within mysteries, etc.

We Have Entered the Zone of Maximum Mayhem

Listen: There is going to be a major attack on U.S. soil between now and, I dunno, probably the end of January 2018.  (I personally think it’ll be earlier—possibly by mid-October—but depending on who is attacking, I think they might wait as late as Xmas/New Year’s in order to maximize mayhem).

I’ve been saying this for months, but I think most folks thought I was kidding.  I’m not.

My Reasoning

A disorganized defender cannot defend.  When your opponent is disoriented, you strike.  It’s elementary, and holds in many fields: In business negotiations, in chess, in Go,in court, in bar fights and boxing matches, in battlefields and hardened bunkers.

Readers of a certain age will recall that the success of the 9/11 attacks was widely attributed to a “failure to connect the dots” within the Executive Branch (especially within intelligence and foreign affairs agencies).  Why did we fail to connect the dots?  Because there were empty seats throughout the administration, and the folks in many of the filled seats were still coming up to speed.

Rewind 11 months from 9/11, and you’ll recall we had an insanely close presidential election that ultimately needed to be decided by the Supreme Court.  As a result, when G.W.Bush took office, his team had significantly less time to pull together their nominations than was the modern norm.  100 days in, he was still behind, with only about 35 confirmed nominees (there are several thousand positions that need to be filled by any incoming president, of which about 577 are considered vital by experts).  200 days in GWB had 294 nominations confirmed, roughly half of the most vital positions.  In other words, on day 200 in office, G.W.Bush still had 283 empty seats in vital parts of the Executive Branch, and many of the seats that were filled had folks sitting in them who’d only had a couple months—maybe just weeks—to digest, consider, and route huge amounts of intel.  About a month after that we notably “failed to connect the dots” and 19 dudes crashed four airplanes with the net result of 3,000 humans being cooked and crushed in the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and a Pennsylvania farm field.

I was teaching school that day, back in my old life.  I stood in a room with a bunch of troubled teens and watched folks jump out of the World Trade Center towers rather than burn inside. I walked outside with a coworker.  Our school was under several flight paths, but the sky was perfectly clear above us, no clouds, no contrails, no planes, because every plane in the nation was grounded.

But, man, that sky, so blue.  So clear.

Within a year I was on a “selectee list.” For the next eight years every time I flew I was pulled out of line, searched, patted down, swabbed for explosives, questioned, stripped down to socks, pants, and undershirt. But, you know, whatevs, right?  Terror.  Safety.  Patriotism.  #America.

But my mind wanders.  All apologies.  More to the point:

How’s Trump Doing?

How’s Trump doing, in terms of getting the right folks in the right seats, and thus preventing another major attack and loss of life on U.S. soil?

art by DonkeyHotey https://www.flickr.com/photos/donkeyhotey/
(art by DonkeyHotey)

Not great.  In fact, he’s doing cataclysmically poorly.  He was behind Bush on Day 100, and he’s now even further behind:

As of August 4, when the Senate left town for its August recess, Trump has nominated 277 people for key posts, has had 124 confirmed, and has withdrawn eight of the nominations, according to CNN’s tracker.

The Partnership for Public Service has identified 577 executive branch positions as being particularly essential — and Trump has only successfully filled about a fifth of them.

We got smashed in the mouth in 2001 because we only had 294 folks in 577 vital seats.  Today we have about 124 folks on deck.  Among those seats that remain empty: Most of the undersecretaries of state, assistant secretaries of state, assistant secretaries of defense, an undersecretaries of defense, and most of our ambassadors.

FUBAR.

Nuclear_Blast_Animation_Blinding_Light

So Who is Coming to Hurt Us?

It’s a three-way coin toss, in my humble:

  1. North Korea
  2. Actual International Terrorists (like 9/11)
  3. Domestic Terrorists (I group someone like the Tsarnaev brothers or the Pulse Nightclub Shooter alongside Timothy McVeigh and Buford O. Furrow, Jr. as “domestic terrorists” for the reasons outlined in this very enlightening interview over on Slate: “Profiling White Supremacists Won’t Stop White Supremacist Terrorism)

If I were a gambling man (and we all are now, here in the Zone of Maximum Mayhem) I’d put my money on #3. 

Yeah, North Korea seems like an obvious choice: They can hit the U.S. mainland with any number of missiles, and they have a nuke small enough to mount on such an ICBM.  They probably don’t have the reentry ballistics quite right just yet, which means the nuclear device won’t detonate properly, but a goddamn intercontinental ballistic dirty bomb plowing into D.C. or NYC is 1) well within N.K.’s capabilities and 2) not something you walk off.

But launching such an attack is actual suicide for that country—especially with our current PotUS—and regardless of what we say about the Kim regime, he’s not an actual lunatic; he has a country to run and a dynasty to maintain.  Given how he’s behaving now, and in the absence of us launching a pre-emptive strike, I don’t see N.K. nuking us before Xmas.  (See also North Korea’s latest launch designed to cause maximum mayhem, minimal blowback

(All of that, of course, assumes the tests they’ve been firing have indeed been tests, and not a killdeer-like misdirection.  If N.K. can cripple us in a first strike—say, by nuking LA, NYC, and DC in a single salvo—well, then I imagine they will, and probably sometime this fall.)

As for actual International Terror, believe it or not that’s on the wane in the Western world.  When you stop calling everything involving a Muslim “international” and actually look at the facts of the recent attacks in the U.S. and Europe, you see that the last several “Islamist” terror events in the U.S. have a lot more in common with White Power hate crimes than 9/11.  (Pulse Nightclub is a solid example of this.)

-7ab6fc43f523b282So that leaves us with Domestic Terror.  I’m thinking it’ll be White Supremacists.  The PotUS has done a lot lately to make them feel empowered, and those among them with basic arithmetic and reading comprehension skills absolutely understand that there will never again be a White Majority in this country.  But that doesn’t mean it won’t be “Islamists” born in Newark or Peoria, or Antifa/Black Blocers looking to head off the impending pogroms, or good ole Militia/Sovereign Citizen folks (who despise the PotUS just as much as the Antifa folks do).  They’re all in the same gang, at heart. FullSizeRender (1)

But who fucking cares, right?  People are going to die—your friends and neighbors—at the hands of your other friends and neighbors, and a lot more are going to suffer, and we are locked in on those rails now, inextricable.  These are how these dots connect, and it is far too late to do anything about it before it happens.

(Alternately, listen to and consider this: Episode 790: Rough Translation in Ukraine  ’cause maybe I’m wrong, and we’ll go with a whimper, not a bang.  And maybe we’re already gone—or, hell, maybe I’m the misinformation that stumbles out of Bethlehem to be born. Your call.)

Jesus!  Dave, What Should I Do!?

I have no clue.  Stay safe.  Don’t hurt any one.

usa-american-flag-waving-animated-gif-26

What Can I Do About Hate?  Just Take a Baby Step, White People!

The "fine people" protesting in support of Confederate statuary—AND NOT AT ALL  RACIST!—in Charlottesville, VA, August 11, 2017
The “fine people” protesting in support of Confederate statuary—AND NOT AT ALL
RACIST!—in Charlottesville, VA, August 11, 2017

In the weeks since Charlottesville there’s been a fair bit of “What can we[*] do about hate?” talk—on social media, in NYT and WaPo and Slate op-eds and think pieces, out on the street and around supper tables.  As someone in a class of folks disproportionately on the receiving end of the most resent paroxysm of hate, I have a suggestion:

Take “Awesome Baby Steps”

EXAMPLE: Last week the skatepark in my town—the one my son and I go to, the one lots of kids in this area (and, notably, lots of brown kids) use—got hit with motor oil (intended to ruin the concrete for skating) and dozens of swastikas and slurs.

-7ab6fc43f523b282

Photo Aug 18, 3 22 26 PM Photo Aug 18, 3 22 34 PM

The city, of course, responded in no time, and had it all clean in hours—God bless ’em. 

I went to skate there the next and found two things:  1) that the park was uncharacteristically busy for an early Saturday morning, all happy families showing resolve; and 2) it was covered in this new chalk graffiti

Photo Aug 19, 9 18 13 AM

Photo Aug 19, 9 17 10 AM

Photo Aug 19, 9 16 52 AM

Photo Aug 19, 9 16 35 AM

It’ll sound dumb, but this made me feel better.  This, in fact, moved me to tears. Folks punching Nazis in Charlottesville did not move me to tears or make me feel safer.  Neither did folks tearing down statues (although I nonetheless applaud that, and more so applaud the many cities who have covered and removed statues in the meantime—because tearing down the participation trophies handed out to white supremacists, nominally honoring traitors, is what you should do after winning a war). 

But kids coming out with chalk to make sure I knew that they continued to welcome me in civil society did make me feel better.  In fact, it made me feel better in excess of the amount the defacement had made me feel awful—and that slap in the face had left me livid and enraged and absolutely nauseated with a dread so atavistic that I sorta imagine it’s more akin to what a mouse exposed in vacant stubble feels than to any un-fun emotion an employable White man might know.  (This isn’t to say that White men don’t know bad times; it’s to say that there is a very specific flavor to being history’s perpetual prey).

Those kids with their chalk, that was an Awesome Baby Step. It didn’t take much—not much money, not much time, not much risk—but it made me feel a great deal better.  The pay-off was totally disproportionate.

You're not helping, autocorrect!
You’re not helping, autocorrect!

Again, I know this likely sounds silly. “Dave,” you’re thinking, “You know us! We see you every day when you’re walking your dog; we nod at each other and wave.  You know we’re cool with you!”

Listen: You can never, ever presume that the folks targeted by hate can continue to feel confident that you are OK with them being Americans. Don’t argue with me about it being stupid or paranoid or insulting—it’s just a fact of life.  In fact, the ability to look at rank-and-file White people with confidence and feel that this person has your back is the first thing to slip.  After all, someone voted for Trump, despite all the things he said.  Someone buys those Confederate flag stickers, someone goes to those rallies, someone breaks out the spray-paint, someone dials in the bomb threats.  It’s just not a possible state of affairs that every White person I see is one of the “Good Guys” and all the bigots are magically somewhere else—but also close enough to trash my skatepark, flyer my streets, drive through my neighborhoods, vote in our elections, etc., etc., etc.

So, here’s one example of an Awesome Baby Step you can almost certainly do almost immediately:

Start being super friendly to people of color every day

Nothing crazy, just always make a point to smile and acknowledge and greet—like, constantly: When you pass on the sidewalk, walk into a building, at the checkout line, whatever. 

The best case scenario is that these folks—who may have taken some hateful shit recently—feel less on the outs with the country. The worst case scenario is people think you are just a super friendly person.  Either way, none of us think “This person is coming to hurt us.”  It’s either a win-win, or just a win.  The odds are with you.

(If this seems disjoint—what with me mostly talking about anti-Semitism to this point, and now I’m talking about people of color, and the Venn Diagram of “brown” and “Jewish” in America is frightfully close to just being a pair of tangent circles—just know this: My lived experience, and that of most Jews I know, is that White people who are shitty to people of color are fairly likely to be shitty to Jews, too.)

Another Baby Step in Being Awesome:

When folks get targeted with words of hate, take a moment to counteract that with words of support

EXAMPLE: Our local Jewish Family Services got a bomb threat last Monday.  (In case you don’t know JFS, they aren’t an agency specifically offering services to Jewish families, but rather a non-profit founded by Jewish families to offer services in general, sorta returning the favor for the support many of our families received as refugees in the 20th Century). Our local JFS is the primary agency handling refugee resettlement for Syrians here in Ann Arbor.  That particular building is also a food pantry for struggling families in general.  So, threatening to bomb them isn’t just an attack on Jews: It’s an attack on the poor in general, and immigrants of all sort.  It’s a mean, small-hearted, fucked-up thing to do.  (Not for nothing, but if you are a White person pissed off that White families are struggling, I can tell you for a fact that JFS is handing out food support to just those exact White families that you, as a White Supremacist, want to see helped.  So, really, what the fuck?! Let us feed your people, OK?)

You probably feel bad learning that some jackass felt the need to totally derail a day of JFS trying to help immigrants and poor people (people who, more so than most, can hardly afford to “come back tomorrow; we’re closed because of a bomb threat.”)  Maybe you want to bend the arc of the moral universe back toward justice—but don’t know what to do.  Try this:

Call JFS, tell them you support what they do, and make a donationeven a tiny one.  Multiples of $18 are a traditional sum among Jews (it’s symbolic of Life), but anything is fine—or just voicing your support: 734-769-0209

I see a lot of White people and gentiles crying because we don’t know the “content of their hearts,” or whatever.  But I’ve got to level with you:

As a Jew—as one of the JEWS that was told last week that his skatepark and his wife (a “white woman”) were not for him, that he should DIE—I don’t particularly care what is in any of your hearts, because your heart isn’t going to kill me.

It’s your hands that will kill me.  And so I’m watching your hands.  I am wary, because wariness is what got my grandfather (Z”L) out of Ukraine before he joined his father in a ditch.  Wariness is what got my Aunt Lola (Z”L) through Auschwitz and to these shining shores.

Right now, your fingers dialing the phone, your voice, your words, your eye contact and smile are THE MOST IMPORTANT THING.  Use them to take awesome baby steps.

It is 2017:  You can take baby steps toward white supremacy, or baby steps away.  There’s no standing still anymore—because there never really was.

Thank you.


[*] “We” in this case has disproprtionately—sometimes explicitely, more often implicitely—been White people (and nominally White people, like myself). So I’m addressing that crowd—but let’s be real: These baby steps work for all of us. See also MLK’s 8 Commandments.

Not for nothing, but I think the PotUS actually groks terrorists pretty well

Donald Trump: “I won’t call them monsters, because they would like that term.”

… ‘course, he goes on to say the exact wrong thing, in terms of reducing or eliminating acts of terror (which, fundamentally, are acts of the alienated—which is why I think he zeros in on the terrorist psyche with such clarity), but he starts strong, and says something that few GOPers have managed in the last 16 years:

Terrorists are humans, crappy, fallible, shitty humans, but humans all the same.  Not super villains to be grudgingly admired, certainly not desperate freedom fighters, jut numb-nuts shit-heels who are almost below contempt.