Friday, December 2, 2016

A "Turning Point" for a Witch Hunt: The TPUSA Professor Watchlist and Trump's America, Inc.

  

While much and excellent analysis of Turning Point's recently launched foray into the repression of academic freedom is already available, Id like to make a few observations that I haven't seen so far.

What we know is that this 23 year old brain-child of the Alt-Right's Breitbart and Fox News contributor Charlie Kirk follows in the ugly footsteps of earlier efforts like David Horowitz' "101 Most Dangerous Professors." 

Professor Watchlist seeks to reincarnate the same objectives: the repression of academic freedom

Yet unlike earlier such witch hunts, for example, avowed Communist hunter Joseph McCarthy's, Kirk's objectives seem both bigger and narrower.

Bigger in that Kirk's the Executive Director of Turning Point USA and thus the self-identified guru of a movement to "promote the principles of free markets and limited government" to this generation of college students. Indeed, his motives are even bigger, as we'll see shortly.

But Kirk's aims are also narrower in that, however despicably misguided, McCarthy appears to have actually thought he was acting on behalf of his country, Kirk's aims are to promote not a country, but a brand: America, Inc.

McCarthy, in other words, believed something--however warped.

Kirk, however, wants to sell us a this shiny babble called "America." And he doesn't want it getting tarnished by these inconvenient things called facts. His isn't patriotism--however distorted. It's marketing--and among the obstacles in his way are those pesky professors who might dare to critique capitalism, or call out bigotry--or (god forbid) insist that climate change is real.

To call Kirk a "conservative boy wonder," as does Julie Bykowicz of Bloomberg news is, in fact, something of an misfire.  

(http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2015-05-07/conservative-boy-wonder)

He's more like an up-and-coming poster child for the Alt-Right whose connections to the dark side of the hard right blogosphere is well-documented by Pam Vogel of Media Matters.
 
(http://mediamatters.org/people/charlie-kirk)

That Kirk's cynically transparent attempt at repression is cast in the rhetoric of protecting naive and impressionable youngsters from the indoctrination of "Leftist" professors is, of course, the effort to clamp down on the critical evaluation of ideas, arguments, theories, or worldviews. 

It's not the repression, in other words, that's new.

What is perhaps different about Kirk's brand of trying to silence academics who don't conform to his free-market, anti-regulation, just say no to government ideology is that its underbelly is crawling with the "alt-right." As we know, thanks to Trump, they're that new breed of white supremacist that can brook neither science nor literature, neither the truly civic nor the philosophical because knowledge undermines their claim to authority.

Professor Watchlist isn't then just the latest bit of right-wing buffoonery to intimidate academics. Once you browse through its selection 0f 200 professors, it becomes clear that it's an attempt to remake the academy into a marketing tool for an entire worldview--one that's white, patriarchal, heterosexual, fundamentalist Christian, and very very wealthy.

McCarthy likely couldn't have dreamed such a big white dream.

And nothing could be more terrifying to these America, Inc. marketers than what a "liberal" professor does--what I do--everyday in class: demand that my students think. On their own. Equipped with respect for facts, attuned to a wide range of ideas and arguments, ready to examine their assumptions and convictions, and humbled by the recognition that what we want to believe doesn't necessarily cohere with what the evidence supports. 

That's called "education," and neither Charlie Kirk nor his Trumpster backers have the least bit interest in anything so potentially transformative or radical.

After all, that might let in the ideas of other people.


Indeed, it's precisely critical thinking that the Turning Pointers seek to stamp out, and hence it's no wonder that an academic witch hunt would find new life in the incoming Trump regime.

Perhaps young Kirk is just trying to find his own way onto the Trumpster Gravy Train of "free market" fascism. If so, what better way to make a name for himself among the millennial voters of 2020 than something splashy like making students into spies on their professors?

No time like the present, what Charlie Kirk has figured out is that among the last best bastions of critical inquiry, real science, and that dissent that comes in the form of art, music, theater is the academy. 

Hence it's precisely universities and colleges that must be conquered, subdued, and made to conform to the worldview of a president-elect whose own disposition is not "merely" racist, homophobic, and misogynist--but profoundly and perversely anti-intellectual.

Trump's world cannot brook dissent. And we academics are a dissident lot. 

Think: Socrates.

What better avenue for the transformation of citizens into technocrats for the corporatist state than to fear-monger and harass their teachers into a curriculum (if we can call it that) devoted to insuring that the Trumpsters who've extorted and hate-mongered their way into power get to stay there, making ready for Mr. Kirk's run for national office.

Kirk wants to make it as easy as possible to participate in the alt-right regime. Turning Point will sell you t-shirts and buttons with catchy smart slogans like "Socialism Sucks" and "Taxation is Theft" right on the website replete with photographs of a virtually all white sea of smiling college students apparently ready to turn in their brains for "Make America Great, Again!" baseball caps.

Hell's Bells, you can turn in your professor right on the "Professor Watchlist" website. There's a form waiting just for you.

And that's what brings me to the addition I'd like to make to the growing defense of not merely of the academy--but of the value we must preserve for truth, for facts, for science, for that capacity for critical thinking no decent polity can survive without.

Then again, the Trumpsters aren't interested in  the country, the public good, or human decency.

This is all and ultimately about money, and in whose bank accounts it accrues interest.

I took a good look at the sources Professor Watchlist utilizes to determine whether a professor merits inclusion on the list.

No surprise, it's Breitbart. The homeland of the Alt-right, or far more honestly, the one-stop shop for the resurgence of the white supremacism of the likes of Richard Spencer.

 
Consider Abdul-Malik Ryanm, Director of Religious Diversity, DePaul University. He's accused of having "publicly criticized supporters of Israel" and "supporting the idea of a Caliphate before the rise of Isis."

Two things must be said about Ryanm's inclusion on the list.

First, the only source offered is Breitbart (http://www.breitbart.com/), a fake conspiracy-driven news site devoted to nurturing a deeply bigoted and violent worldview, and the home of Trump's choice for chief council, the bombastic, antisemitic Steve Bannon.

Second, as John Stewart Mill warned long ago, even speech that's false, distorted, and offensive must be protected in any republic that offers the promise of civil liberty. For none of us can say with certainly that we are definitively right, that others are definitively wrong, or that new evidence might alter our disposition towards the world.

Free speech must be free

It's that bulwark of democracy that is becoming an endangered species as we near the Dark Ages heralded by the Trump inauguration.

Charlie Kirk, however, seems quite comfortable with preserving the rights of fake news reporting that is Breitbart--but more than happy to stifle the rights of Professor Ryanm--and anyone who'd dare to evince a view anathema to Mr. Kirk's ideological-own.

That's called calculated hypocrisy. 

It's the standard operating procedure of the ideologue who pretends to the sober task of ferreting out those who'd dare question the authority a worldview he "knows" is right and true, all the while insisting he values documents like the Constitution and the Bill of Rights--so long as they favor him and his.

Much the same story can be told about virtually every professor on the watchlist. We dare to discuss socialism, racism, feminism, Islamophobia, Homophobia, climate change.

Even more threatening, we're doing science and performing scholarship. We're writing novels and making art. We actually make the world better.

The heralded bioethicist Arthur Caplan (NYU) is singled out for allegedly daring to compare Trump's plan to mass deport millions of undocumented immigrants to "the repugnant tradition of Hitler." 

That the only source we have for confirmation of this claim is the far-right whose reason for being is to "expose liberal bias on college campuses." The source itself is certainly enough to make us suspicious,  but that's beside the point. Whether or not Caplan made any such comparison, it's his to make. And if we're going to respect academic freedom, it's ours to consider, accept or reject.


College students are not children.

But, of course, they must be if professors are to be demonized as scary indoctrinators.

And on the list goes, a lazy mutual masturbation of self-confirming references: Breitbart, Campus Reform, David Horowitz' particularly vicious Discover the Networks (http://www.discoverthenetworks.org/default.asp), and Project Veritas.

It's hardly surprising, of course, that a disproportionate number of the names on the list are women and/or persons of color and/or Muslims. 

Indeed, it seems that simply having a "Middle Eastern" or "African American" sounding name is probably sufficient for inclusion, or god-forbid identifying as feminist or queer.

George Yancy writes that the watchlist is a "new species of McCarthyism." 

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/30/opinion/i-am-a-dangerous-professor.html?mwrsm=Facebook&_r=0

That's right--with one caveat: Kirk's ultimate aim isn't merely to ferret out alleged "Communists," it's to make way for the Trumpian Century of America, Inc--a Free Marketer's Big Dream made for fellas just--and only--like him.

Here's what I think Professor Watchlist richly deserves: ridicule

Raucous loud ridicule for its slovenly self-confirming research, it's transparent racism, heterosexism, and white supremacist objectives.

Incredulous laughter at its idiotic, if dangerous, pretense to a movement to train students to believe the world is storehouse of endless resources awaiting their entrepreneurial brilliance and exploitation. 

To be clear, my advocacy of ridicule isn't because there's anything funny about this menacing volley at surveillance and repression.

There isn't.

It's because it's ridicule that makes abundantly clear that we in the academy who are intrepid enough to teach, to write, to think during the coming Dark Age of Trump, aren't going anywhere.

In fact, we're the frontline of resistance.

Every day. Every class.

Perhaps young Mr. Kirk would have been interested in my course this term on the question whether Just War Theory can any longer speak to contemporary war, terrorism (including state and corporate sponsored terrorism), or the uses of secret torture prisons in direct violation of the Geneva Conventions. 

Perhaps he'd like to sign up for my course next Fall where we'll consider what constitutes institutionalized violence such as slavery, internment, racism in imprisonment, or compulsory heterosexuality.

Or just maybe he'd like to wait for my course on Critical Theory and contemporary applications of the Communist Manifesto.

Your choice, Mr. Kirk.

Your move.







Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Burn the Flag

Photo, Wendy Lynne Lee


As he just can't seem to help himself, the Trumpster twitters: "Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag - if they do, there must be consequences - perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!"

Here's my response: There is no right more fundamental to freedom of expression than flag-burning. 

Burn the flag.


It is the symbol of refusal to bow before this infant who would be king.
It is the rejection of Trumps racist, misogynist, money-soaked worldview.
It is the rejection of his terrifying cabinet appointments. 
It is the repudiation of his corporatist fascism.
It is the single most powerful recognition that America has become America, Inc.
It is an action in defense of the country.

That Trump is already wondering aloud--on Twitter--about whether he can criminalize this most essential right tells us everything we need to know about his character, his motives, his assault on the Bill of Rights.

And it's irrelevant whether or not he can outlaw flag-burning.

He can't. At least not alone.

That we should be burdened with a president so completely cavalier about the protections of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights is precisely why we must burn the flag.

The first amendment doesn't exist merely to protect safe, conciliatory, or banal speech. 

As John Stewart Mill rightly argues, it exists to protect unpopular, offensive, vulgar, and woefully wrong speech.

It protects Trump's insane climate change denial.

It protects his references to Mexicans as "drug-dealers and rapists."

It protects Trump's vulgar references to women as pigs and pussies.

It protects Attorney General Nominee, and "career racist" Jeff Sessions' reference to black men as "boys." (https://theintercept.com/2016/11/18/career-racist-jeff-sessions-is-donald-trumps-pick-for-attorney-general/).

It protects Chief Council Steve Bannon's antisemitic sentiments, and his "alt-right, "fake news, conspiracy theory driven, white suppremacist website, Brietbart.

The first amendment protects all kinds of speech that is false, brutal, and divisive--even the completely off the rails ranting of Alex Jones' "Info-Wars," (http://www.infowars.com/).

Burning the flag--that is an act that can and should bring us together against a fear-mongering white nationalist regime who will dispatch soldiers to die for a country that represents nothing more than Trump's latest scheme to fill his own coffers.

Burn the flag.

And let's be very clear: we have every right to be protected from harm. There are important questions to be considered about whether hate speech constitutes harm. But these are far too sophisticated for either Trump or his entourage of sycophants to contemplate--especially as they jockey for greatest advantage to see out the narrow gauge that is the president's arse.

We do not have the right to be protected from being offended, even disgusted.

Burning the Americans flag is thus radically unlike the commission of hate speech.

In fact, it's among the most important acts we can perform in the defense of the country. 

Burn the flag.

That Trump has no comprehension of this fact bespeaks a willful ignorance so profound that we should all shudder at the very idea that he could be president. 

He personifies not merely hate speech but a repugnant worldview now celebrated by the likes of the Ku Klux Klan, white nationalists, sexual assailants, and the willfully ignorant everywhere.

That Trump apparently thinks he has the power to expel citizens from the country on the grounds of his infantile rants should leave us embarrassed and ashamed for our horn-swaggled neighbors who voted for him.

They have no excuse.

Possibly the only thing more frightening than a Trump presidency are the emboldened bigots for whom hate speech has now been given a new lease on life, but who'd condemn the real patriot--the one who burns the flag in mourning over the death of the promise of democracy.

What besides setting the flag to flames could more eloquently express this catastrophic threat to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights?

What better way to recognize the preeminent importance of free speech?


Burn the flag.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Putting a bullet to the head of "America": November 8th, 2016




It is as gray and rainy in Northeast Pennsylvania this morning as befits the desolation of my mood. 

I ricochet between slack-jawed paralysis and an outrage that makes bloodless white-knuckled balls of my fists. 

The latter is better.

I reached out my front door to pick up my newspaper, and it occurred to me that I am now afraid of my neighbors. 

I'm afraid, and anyone who values reason should be, of anyone--everyone--who voted for Donald Trump.

They have elected the darling of the white supremacist, the Ku Klux Klan--the idolator of the lynch mob.

They have chosen a war-loving fascist whose "America First!" betokens an country with no place for civil discourse, for dissent, for self-reflection, or for humility.

They have deemed fit for the most powerful office of the land a man who regards half the human population as disposable fuckable toys.

They have chosen to condemn women who'd seek abortions to "some form of punishment" or hemorrhage.
 
They have authorized to speak for us a man who thinks reckless bravado signifies strength, that flag-wrapped warheads demonstrate patriotism, and who dog-whistles the "law and order" of the loaded gun.

They have chosen torture as a legitimate form of negotiation.

They have chosen surveillance, repression, paranoia, and that bitter flavor of institutionalized violence that would as soon eat its own entrails as acknowledge the humanity of "the other."

They have chosen the xenophobic white patriarchy of the "America" of the Commerce Clause, Citizens United, and the Panama Papers.

They have elected to privatize and commodify everything.

They have chosen that polite euphemism called a "trade war," you know--that "deal-making" that will make us nostalgic for the Transpacific Partnership's gentler kinder rape of the developing world.  

They have embraced that stinking religious bigotry that burns down the "other's" place of worship in the name of their vengeful god.

Ironic, they bill themselves as "Constitutionalists," but personify bottomless civic illiteracy.

More ironic, they'll burn down the house that is their own country to "Make America Great, again." 

They cannot tell the difference between a tabloid story about alien abduction and the science of anything-at-all, and they choose the former because it's more salacious. 

Their country is an episode of Jerry Springer: blowing it up is a reasonable solution to boredom.

We'll wring our hands about how this election reflects the "discontent of the hard-working white laboring classes," how the collapse of the manufacturing base has blighted this silent majority, compelling them to vote for change.

Bull shit to that. 

Economic hardship needn't seek scapegoats. It can unionize. It had heroes in decent human beings like Bernie Sanders. And they chose hatred instead.

And this time these folks didn't have to go looking for others to blame: Trump gave to every white man regardless his fortunes license to  invert the facts of history and see himself as a victim--a newly recruited soldier in the Great White Army ready to build The Wall.

Truth is--Trump has grabbed every white male sucker who voted for him by the pussy. But that warm little squeeze will quickly become a stone-cold vice once the euphoria starts to wear off. 

All but the whitest and wealthiest will be fucked. For Donald Trump is a liar of the most cancerous sort. He lies to himself. And then he lies to you. And then you wait for things to get better. They won't. 

That white nationalist may be patting himself on the back this morning,  smacking his wife on the ass and telling her to like it. 

But thinking he's won the lottery isn't going to bring back even one manufacturing job.

It's not going to put more coal in the ground.

It's not going to bring a single multinational corporation to heal. 

Nope. And the turgid greasy resentment he already feels is just going to fester once he figures that out.

Morning in America:

Hate. Crimes.

Rape.

Homophobia.

The militarization of everything.

The celebration of willful ignorance.

The gutting of public education in the name of "choice."

The deterioration of the last thin threads of civil public discourse.

Emergency room healthcare for those who cannot afford to be rimmed by health insurance profiteers.

Elderly folks who die held hostage by pharmaceutical companies.

Indigenous peoples whose lands and artifacts are ground-up by the backhoes of the fossil fuel behemoths.

Photo Wendy Lynne Lee
The continuation of a two-party system that makes a mockery of democracy.  

The debauchery of the United State's Supreme Court.

Global disbelief.


And worst of all:

To elect a megalomaniacal Troglodyte like Donald J. Trump is like hurling a Molotov Cocktail at the planet.

Global warming needs no accelerant.


Wendy Lynne Lee






Friday, October 28, 2016

Chasing Squirrels: Disney


Disney, 2002-2016, Photo Wendy Lynne Lee
An unchallenged leader of both dog and cat, Disney was a squirrel chaser. Not that she ever actually caught any of the speedsters. But that, of course is irrelevant. The excitement she could generate was palpable--every morning, every day of her long doggy life.

Dashing out the door, rain or snow or fog, Disney was ever on-the-job, conducting her perimeter check with the fervor of a soldier charged with guarding the gates of the queendom. Three dogs in tow, Mr. Luv-Lyte, Ella Mae, and Jenny, the fact that Disney was the smallest of her motley crew made not one whit of difference. The squirrels must be banished! The sacred yard must be protected!

And protect she did. Indeed, even as my precious baby got a bit older, even after she had to see the loss of nearly all her teeth, even as she began to develop the first shadows of cataract, she retained that special dignity reserved to dogs--that stately demeanor that informs us that their companionship makes us the luckiest critters on the planet.

And strikes fear into the hearts of squirrels.

Among the few who've come to this "forever home" as a pup, Disney was a puppy mill replacement dog. Not that any dog, or for that matter, any animal can ever be a "replacement." Indeed, that idea is as noxious as the people who'd see such lovely creatures as dinner or a coat.

Disney was no "replacement." She was magnificent.

Disney was the queen of her world--a house, a quarter of an acre, four dogs, two cats, and three birds. Disney was my beautiful huntress, the protector of hearth and home, my smiling and ever-wise companion.  My constant reminder that some love is unconditional--embraced for just that reason.

Cancer, on the other hand, is a fiend, a robber, and a homicidal maniac. How dare it take my dog from me. How dare it bend the world to its own distorted and desolate physiognomy.

Even love cannot conquer this fiend. But what it can do is remind us that where we are lucky enough to enter upon each day through the smiling faces of a beautiful creature like Disney, we are lucky beyond measure.

Good night my precious baby, my protector, my squirrel chaser.

Good night, my "Dis."

I love you.

Wendy Lynne Lee



Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Pennsylvania System of Higher Education--and the Fairness Center--its Union-Busting Friend

In a desperate and cynical attempt to divide and conquer APSCUF, the State University Faculty Union, the "Fairness Center"--an organization that exists for one purpose only, UNION-BUSTING, sent this letter to a large number of faculty members:


Professors and coaches:
While APSCUF has a right to call a strike, many have reservations—and rightly so—about leaving their students to join the picket line. The good news is, you don’t have to. While you have the legal right to remain in the union, you also have the right to resign your union membership.
If you want to remain in the classroom or stay home instead of joining the picket line, you must first properly resign your union membership. If you don’t properly resign before refusing to strike, you can be subject to union discipline—which could affect your career and/or your finances.
I’m an attorney with the Fairness Center, a nonprofit, public interest law firm, and I work with public employees and union members. The Fairness Center can serve as a free resource to help you exercise your rights and to protect you should the union try to penalize you for following your conscience. Please email info@fairnesscenter.org or call (844) 293-1001. 
Sincerely,
David R. Osborne
President & General Counsel
The Fairness Center

Here is my response:
Dear Mr. Osborne,
Thank you for your missive. It is unfortunate to be sure that it contains patent falsehoods and misrepresentations. 
First, since the vast majority of the voting faculty across PASSHE voted to authorize our union leadership to call a strike, it is plainly false that “many have reservations” about joining a picket line. Indeed, quite the opposite is true. 
We do have serious reservations—but it’s not about whether or not a strike is the right and necessary action to take. It’s about the unfairness of a contract that, if enacted, will undermine the high quality of education we currently provide our students, further entrench the second class citizen status of temporary faculty, and continue the ideologically motivated effort to stamp out public sector unions. Make no mistake, my colleagues and I fully understand the objective of this cynical effort to manipulate PASSHE professors and coaches. But truth be told, your missive betrays the fact that you recognize the strength of our resolve to achieve a genuinely fair contract. You’d otherwise surely not have resorted to claims so demonstrably false.
Second, it is a patent falsehood to suggest that APSCUF or any APSCUF member would behave in any retaliatory fashion should a professor cross a picket line. To suggest this is little more than a very thinly veiled strategy to coerce or tacitly threaten APSCUF members into resigning, an effort to manipulate that is, well, shameful—but hardly surprising given the Fairness Center’s ideological goals. Few if any faculty across the fourteen schools will cross that line. But this isn’t because we're afraid of our fellows; it’s because we all know what a fair contract looks like. We all care deeply about our students and the missions of our universities to contribute to the educations of thinking citizens across the Commonwealth. We also recognize a divide and conquer strategy when we see one.
The Fairness Center is neither a public interest law firm nor is it interested in fairness. It is an organization devoted to public sector union-busting, plain and simple, a fact that makes the appeal to conscience all the more ironic. After all, it’s very clear wherein the appeal to conscience lay—and it’s not with those who’d seek to manipulate and coerce union members into resigning from the very organization that defends our best interests and those of the students we serve.  
So—thanks for the “no strike” offer—but I think I’ll stand with my colleagues and my students.
In solidarity with APSCUF,
Wendy Lynne Lee, Professor
Philosophy
Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania
wlee@bloomu.edu

To be very clear, the major issues preventing a resolution of the APSCUF contract dispute are not--as no doubt Mr. Osborne would have us think--about salary and benefits.

They're ideological--and would have an enormous and damaging effect on the quality and breadth of educational opportunities for PASSHE (Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education) students.

These are the main issues:


  • Substantially increase the use of temporary faculty in lieu of permanent faculty
  • Make use of students with few graduate credits to teach courses
  • Stop funding faculty research and professional development
  • Force on-campus students into distance education sections
  • Give university presidents unilateral authority to transfer faculty members to other departments
  • Cut the lowest-paid faculty members’ salaries by 20 percent. 
For more see the fine coverage at Raging Chicken Press:
http://ragingchickenpress.org/2016/09/22/negotiations-breakdown-passhe-sets-stage-for-first-ever-faculty-strike/.

It takes no degree in nuclear physics to see how damaging these proposals would be if they became enacted--especially across the entire 14 universities of the PASSHE system. 

As someone put it to me long ago, the PASSHE mission foresees Pennsylvania's private universities as the playgrounds of the children of the wealthy--and the PASSHE schools as the training centers and public relations firms for their future employees.


Here's the academically sanitized translation of what I, and I'm sure all of my excellent colleagues, think about that:

No.

Wendy Lynne Lee

PS: Where DID Mr. Osborne of the Fairness Center get the names of APSCUF faculty members?

Friday, July 1, 2016

Some Thoughts on Violence, Nationalism, and Bigotry: 4th of July, 2016

-->

Photo Wendy Lynne Lee, 2015


To the editor:



It’s telling that the vote in the UK to leave the European Union is followed by calls for referenda elsewhere by nationalist, unfailingly far-right parties like France's National Front. Like our own "America First" pathology incarnated as Donald Trump, these “movements” pretend to be populist uprisings in defense of the working classes, but are in fact opportunistic exploitations of racist and xenophobic hornswaggle that, wrapped in the flag, suckers folks into voting not only against their own best interests but for a world that better resembles Game of Thrones than anything we’d want to leave to our kids. 
 
Then again, it’s not the Trumpster’s kids who’ll get their legs blown off in the next war—it’s yours.



In the face of unprecedented human migration, 65.3 million women, men, and children in 2015, decisions like BREXIT and the emergence of the ugly face of nationalist bigotry in the U.S., make it clear that the geopolitics of the planet are driven not by thoughtful deliberation, but by exploitable fear. 

To think that closing borders and building walls will protect us from terrorism is daft.  Indeed, quite the opposite is likely to be true in virtue of the fact that a world characterized by divided and competing fiefdoms, turf devoted only to their own version of “My country right or wrong!” is a world made very brittle by its own arrogant medieval territorialism.

 

The tremendous and sad irony of BREXIT, Trumpster-mania, and all forms of xenophobia is that none will have the slightest mitigating effect on the threat that endangers human life, indeed, all life, the most: climate change. We wring our hands over ISIS, all the while failing to see its biggest driver isn’t the religion that smug born-agains like Mr. Trump love to demonize; it’s the drought, flooding, loss of arable land, and lack of potable water caused by a human hubris that pours greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere as if the planet’s capacity to recover is limitless. It’s the desperation that makes young men ripe for recruitment to their own religion’s version of self-righteous hatred. 

It’s the same staggering callousness to the lives of others that excuses the moral depravity of four Southern Columbia football jocks who beat animals to death for fun. Indeed, if we think that these upstanding young men are any different that the young bucks recruited by ISIS, we’re both blind and stupid. Both have been taught the appalling lesson that some life has value, and other does not.


 

Is it apples and oranges to compare a local story with international events? Hardly. What torturing nonhuman animals, demonizing “others,” sealing borders, and building moronic walls all have in common is a human chauvinism whose psychotic sense of unearned entitlement is going to burn the planet down—or, well, not the planet—just the ecological and existential conditions that make living worth the struggle. Laughable it is that we’ll risk even speedier dissent into 500 PPB just to drill the hydrocarbons we need to fuel the weapons of “the war on terror,” and in so doing create the conditions of more terrorism. 

Make no mistake about it: that lethal combination of arrogance and willful ignorance that excuses beating animals to death is not one whit different manifest as racism, misogyny, homophobia, religious intolerance, and bigoted nationalism. Exploited by those like Donald Trump or Boris Johnson to advance their own egomaniacal agendas, the ends are all the same: violence, suffering, and oppression meted out by those who think they have the right to make of “others” objects for their own use.  


Wendy Lynne Lee
Lightstreet, PA

590 words.