Tag Archive | wingnuts

That monument doesn’t belong here

This isn’t what I thought I’d be writing about today, but here we are! I missed this piece of local news over the weekend: Confederate memorial toppled at Seattle’s Lake View Cemetery in Capitol Hill. The first time I wrote about Confederate monuments and why I thought most of them should be torn down was in 2017 (a post which I republished recently with a little bit of additional commentary). In that post I talked about one of those monuments here in my local community:

Washington territory was never a part of the Confederacy, and the few inhabitants of the state who served in the [civil] war did so as part of the Union Army and Navy. A local family, some years after the war, donated land in what would one day become the Capitol Hill neighborhood to the Grand Army of the Republic (which was an organization made up mostly of Union side Civil War Veterans) for a cemetery for Union soldiers. And that’s who was buried there. But decades later, during one of those surges of monument building, the Daughters of the Confederacy paid to have a monument to soldiers of the Confederacy erected in the cemetery. There are no Confederate soldiers buried there. Not one. And there are no soldiers’ names engraved on the massive monument. But there it is, erected in a cemetery full of Union soldiers, a monument to the so-called noble cause of the Confederacy.

I have since learned that some of facts in the above paragraph are an over simplification. Some of the land in the cemetery was donated to the Grand Army of the Republic, and at least 11 Union veterans are buried there. But the cemetery holds a bunch of other people (included actor Bruce Lee). But one fact that is still not in dispute: there are no Confederate soldiers buried in the cemetery.

The Confederate Monument was erected near the graves of the 11 Union soldiers, though. It makes as much sense to have a Confederate monument in that cemetery as it would to erect a monument to the army of Nazi Germany in a military cemetery full of U.S. World War II veterans.

Each time that organizations like the Daughters of the Confederacy have gone on these binges of raising money for monuments and then bullying local governments into letting them be erected, has been a time where racist groups have felt a need to terrorize black people. The purpose of those monuments is not to teach history. They are meant as both propaganda and a threat.

A local news blog I read all the time posted a story today which only partially answers the question it poses in its headline: Wait, Why the Hell Does Seattle Have a Confederate Monument?

Yes, the Daughters of the Confederacy got the monument placed in the cemetery, in part by not just paying for the monument’s construction, but by making a donation to the non-profit that owns and manages the cemetery. A non-profit which has, by the way, ofter struggled with raising enough funds to adequately maintain the grounds. I think it is very interesting to note that no one at the non-profit wants to talk publicly about the monument.

In response to the news of this toppled monument, I’ve seen a couple people on social media try to put forward a “what-about-ism” argument because there is another monument in the cemetery which honors people who aren’t buried there. This is the Nisei War Memorial Monument, which was originally raised to honor 47 local Japanese Americans who served and died in World War II. In many cases the bodies were never returned to the U.S. I haven’t found a list of how many of those soldiers whose bodies were returned wound up in this cemetery, but apparently more than one did. Additionally, local Japanese American soldiers who served in the U.S. military and were killed in action in subsequent wars have had their names added to the monument

There is a very big difference between a memorial that lists actual names of local people who died in a war (at least a couple of whom are buried in the same cemetery), and one that lists no local names (and for that matter, no names at all!).

The local Japanese American community has been an important part of the history of Seattle and the surrounding area for about 140 years. The Confederacy—which barely existed for five years!—has absolutely no connection to Seattle. There is no good reason for a Confederate monument to be here, only a lot of bad reasons.

Weekend Update on the Fifth of July

I meant to do a Weekend Update on the morning of Independence Day before logging in to play a roleplaying game with friends, but Saturday was one of the “there’s not enough caffeine in the world” mornings. I kept falling back to sleep, and then had trouble making coffee because I couldn’t think straight, et cetera. On the other hand, I only had one news story I found after posting the Friday Five. Whereas today, well, I ran across a few stories of people behaving badly on the Fourth, so, maybe not getting to it until today was for the best.

First, though, that one link: 36 Years Later, Conservatives Finally Read The Lyrics To ‘Born In The USA’. This one both cracked me up and made me very sad at the same time…

The chorus of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” gets included in the musical accompaniment of civic fireworks all the time. And people put the song in playlists for parties around Independence Day. And it’s a good song! I have it in several of my playlists for this time of year, myself.

The problem that has occurred for the person who is being mocked in the above story, is that he finally listened to the whole song, and realized the story of the song is told from the point of view of a Vietnam Veteran who served his country, came home to a recession, had difficulty finding work, didn’t find the Veteran’s Administration terribly helpful, and so on. Which he thinks means it isn’t a patriotic song.

I really, really get tired of conservatives defining “patriotic” as blind obedience and unearned praise and denial of history. Because I love the ideals of the country and try to hold my elected representatives to those ideals, they view me as disloyal. Not understanding the loving someone in spite of their flaws, and hoping to help them become a better person is a more authentic love.

The Vietnam War was something that happened. Our less than stellar treatment of veterans, particularly of that war, is something that has and continues to happen. Despite my personal belief that the Vietnam War was a mistake (and generally wars are bad ideas), I also believe that as a citizen, I owe a debt to the people who served in the U.S. military and especially those who were wounded or otherwise harmed in war under the auspices of the U.S. Which means acknowledging that we failed many of them. We can’t fix what’s wrong with the Veterans Administration and so forth without admitting that those wrong things exist.

Springsteen’s song has all that, and it absolutely belongs in any patriotic playlist.

Let’s move on!

Mississippi Election Official Concerned Blacks Are Registering To Vote, ‘People Should Too’. “The blacks are having lots (of) events for voter registration. People in Mississippi have to get involved, too,” Welch posted on Facebook. If you read the article, notice that the only thing she is apologizing for is accidentally posting her comment publicly. She is refusing to admit that her statement means that she doesn’t think of Black people as actual people. Even her clarifying comments still categorize Black people living in Mississippi as a completely separate category as “citizens of Mississippi.” I mean, we all knew that’s how folks like her think already, she’s just said it out loud. At least twice.

Minister goes to Gettysburg on the Fourth of July to visit the grave of an ancestor, and then: Right-Wing Militias Found No Antifa Event at Gettysburg—So Harassed a Man in Cemetery Instead. Why, exactly, did police escort the victim out of the cemetery and leave the people who attacked him there to keep roving looking for the imaginary antifa?

Here’s another: Black Family Escorted Off Oregon Beach After 7 Men Launched Racist July 4 Attack

Again, instead of arresting the seven men, the police escorted the victims of the hate crime away from the beach. I can’t be the only one who thinks that’s not right, am I? Edited to Add: turns out the men were arrested (The version of the story I read Saturday night didn’t mention that, and then I missed the update) ‘Highly intoxicated’ white men arrested after harassing Black family with Nazi salutes.

And one more: Cashier loses job after allegedly being battered, subjected to gay slurs at work. Again, why did he get fired?!

Let’s go full circle and end it on a musical note:

Bruce Springsteen – Born in the U.S.A.:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Midweek Update 7/1/2020: Time for more words and images

I save memes and infographs and similar images all the time in hopes of using them to illustrate a blog post sometime I alwasy gather far more than I actually use. So here are a bunch that really need sharing:

Weekend Update 6/13/2020: Black Lives Matter, Trans Lives Matter, Immigrant Lives Matter, and Dang it Wear a Mask!

Time once again for a post in which I link to stories that either didn’t make the cut for this week’s Friday Five, or broke after I composed the Friday Five, or are an update to a story I’ve linked to and ranted commented upon in a previous post. There was a whole lot of news that broke yesterday (in addition to the stuff I wrote about in the evening) so it’s taken me longer than I liked to figure out which ones to talk about.

First, some very sad news: Two Black Transgender Women Murdered Amid Nationwide Racial Justice Protests. In case you forgot what the protests are about: society far too often treat black lives as disposal. And here we are again.

Speaking of: Police body camera footage shows black man pleading ‘I can’t breathe’ during 2019 Oklahoma arrest. As the headline says, this is a case from over a year ago. A case the the officers have largely thus far escaped any consequences. The body cam footage is pretty damning. Will there actually be consequences now? I guess we can hope.

Immigrants stage a hunger strike for Black lives inside ICE detention facility. Remember that almost all of the immigrants are being illegally detained by the U.S. And all of them are being held in conditions that violate not just our laws, but also internal law. And the reason this is happening is because our current federal administration values people of color even less than the existing systemic racism of our society as a whole. These immigrants understand that their plight is intimately tied to all the forces that make the Black Lives Matter movement necessary.

Meanwhile, there is still a pandemic going on: Eastern Washington COVID-19 case counts continue to climb, especially in young people. And of course the communities that have been most resistant to any measures to limit transmission of the disease are where cases are spiking, now.

I’m only including this next article because it is an excellent example of writing a news story with absolutely no useful information: Why are Washington state’s coronavirus cases on the rise again?

On the other hand, apparently sometimes the Times remembers it’s a newspaper… Fox News runs digitally altered images in coverage of Seattle’s protests, Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone. It’s not just Fox News that is doing this. Local station, KOMO, has run fake pictures and false stories. It seems local stations in other markets that all happen to be owned by Sinclair (which in many ways is worse than Fox) are running this fake stories about what’s happened in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood once the state police, national guard, and riot cops were pulled out. The police have not abandoned the neighborhood. They’ve reduced their presence to the number necessary to respond to 911 calls, that’s it. And people in the neighborhood are not locking people out or extorting people or even walking around armed.

What is happening? People have planted community vegetable gardens. They have set up a food coop. They are (at save social distances) singing, and playing music and just chilling. You know, being a neighborhood rather than a war zone. One former co-worker of mine who happens to live up there posted elsewhere, “It’s basically a street festival.”

There was one other topic I was going to include, but my rant on the single link got long enough that I think it needs a separate post. So I’m going to close this here.

Four years after the Pulse massacre, the White House kicks us again

49 people were murdered that night. Don’t forget them! https://people.com/crime/orlando-pulse-shooting-tributes-to-49-victims/

Because I almost always compose my Friday Five on Thursday evening, I debated whether to just find a story related to today’s fourth anniversary of that massacre to include, or do a separate post. I decided that I would have time to finish a post during my lunch break, and that there might be one or two stories posted this morning that would be worth linking to.

Well, that worked out a bit differently than I expected.

Before I jump into the cruelty, let’s start with a reminder of what the Pulse massacre was: Democrats Mark Fourth Anniversary Of Pulse Massacre:

“Four years ago today, 49 people were murdered in the single deadliest attack on the LGBTQ+ and Latinx communities in U.S. history. What should have been a night of celebration was overtaken by hatred and bigotry.”

Four years ago today, a guy armed with assault rifles shot up a gay nightclub in Orlando, taking people hostage and taunting authorities online and over the phone, engaged in a barricaded stand-off (with hostages), until he was finally killed by the police. There were so many bodies on the floor, that EMTs and cops had to ask people who were still alive to raise their hands. Four years later there is still some debate about the motives of the shooter, I’ll get to that later. Whatever the motives, victims were at a queer nightclub celebrating Latinx Night during Pride when the shooting started. As noted in the article above, the single deadliest attack on the queer and Latinx communities in U.S. history.

So what is the current occupant of the White House doing to mark this solemn occasion on this, the second Friday of Pride Month. Well:

Transgender Health Protections Reversed By Trump Administration.

Trump Admin Erases Protections For LGBTQ Patients.

As a large number of people have already noted, the cruelty is the point. The alleged president of the United States was elected on the most homophobic election platform ever adopted by any political party in U.S. history, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise. But just because we expect this sort of hateful cruelty doesn’t make it any less painful or infuriating.

The sooner we get these evil goons out of office, the better.

The last few years when I have mentioned or linked or reblogged news stories on the anniversary, some randos have felt the need to slide into my mentions or try to post a comment explaining that this wasn’t actually a hate crime against queer people. And I want to talk about that.

While in the immediate aftermath of the shooting there was a lot of reporting that pointed to all kinds of motives, there was also an immediate push from Fox news and Republicans to insist that it wasn’t a hate crime. It took more than a few months for the FBI to interview witnesses and to investigate the mountain of tips that came in. Most of the evidence pointed to in those first days trying to tie the shooter to Islamic terrorist groups and so forth were debunked by the following fall. Just as all but one of the people who claimed to have proof that he was a closeted gay man were also proven to be cases of mistaken identity. Which shouldn’t be a surprise, because the pictures of the shooter that were circulated to the public were of a frankly very generic dark-skinned man.

More than a year after the shooting, federal agents arrested the shooter’s widow and charged her with conspiracy, claiming she had been part of the planning of the crime. In statements made to obtain the warrant, and during the bail hearing, the feds argued that it was definitely an Islamic anti-American plot and had nothing to do with queer people. However, during her trial, the prosecution slowly was forced to admit that all of those things they had asserted were false.

It’s hardly surprising that the jury acquitted her.

The case was so ludicrously weak that lots of news people were asking why the administration pursued it at all. My personal (admittedly cynical) theory is that then Attorney General Sessions, and Vice President Pence, and other vehemently anti-gay members of the administration needed to get that story out there to overshadow the fact that a gay club was the target of the attack.

Since that case collapsed, there are two pieces of evidence left to support the claim that homophobia had little if anything to do with the choice of the target. One is that based on his internet searches and the tracking of his cell phone that night, it appears that three different nightclubs (including Pulse) were under consideration for attack, and the other two weren’t specifically gay clubs. The other piece is that the statements he made on social media and to police were all generic anti-American statements and references to places America has bombed.

Let’s look at a different hate crime altogether to get a little perspective. In the mid-90s federal agents sent in an undercover agent to one of the White Supremacist compounds in Idaho because they had evidence indicating some people there had purchased illegal weapons. The undercover agent discovered that the White Supremacists were plotting to bomb some targets in Seattle. He got himself put onto the team. Groups left the compounds and traveled by different routes, each carrying only some of the ingredients necessary to make three bombs. The checked into a motel, and while some members of the group went out to investigate their chosen targets, others assembled the bombs.

The three targets were: a Jewish synagogue, a gay nightclub, and a Korean Baptist Church. The plan was to plant all three bombs, each with a timer set to go off at times when each of the three places were expected to be very crowded (Friday evening shabbat service, Saturday night at the night club, and Sunday morning church service). Federal agents arrested them all a couple of days before the bombs were to be planted.

Two of the three targets the White Supremacists chose for that (thankfully) foiled operation were not a gay nightclub. Does that mean that homophobia had nothing to do with their choices of targets? Of course not!

There’s more. At the trials of the White Supremacists, one of the pieces of evidence introduced was a statement that they had intended to release to the press after the last bomb went off, taking responsibility for the crime. The statement was filled with anti-American sentiments and referenced a couple of infamous shoot-outs between federal agents and anti-government groups. The statement didn’t have specific anti-Semitic, racist, nor homophobic language—just generic slurs against undesirables. Does that mean that racism, homophobia, and anti-Semitism had nothing do do with their choices of targets? Again, of course not!

Maybe the shooter really was so stupid that he didn’t realize it was a gay club. Even with all the rainbow flags and other things on display inside and outside the club. Maybe it is an insanely improbable coincidence that he had been ranting about the evils of gay people to his father, other family members, and acquaintances in the days before the shooting. It’s possible.

But more likely: he was a man filled with a lot of hate for a lot of things he saw as wrong with America. And one of those things was clearly the existence of queer people and the fact that we were allowed at least some rights. Just because he happened to also hate a bunch of other groups and ideas that didn’t happen to be clearly connected to that gay nightclub that night doesn’t mean that it wasn’t still a hate crime directed at queer and latinx people.

None of those statues mean what you think they mean—bless your heart

“Those who don't study history are doomed to repeat it. Those that do study history are doomed to stand by helplessly while everyone else repeats it.”

(click to embiggen)

Studying history means actually studying it—not looking at statues that were put up for non-historical reasons with misleading if not outright false plaques on their bases. When we remove symbols of racism, colonialism, and genocide, we aren’t erasing history, we are removing propaganda. As I tried to explain when I posted the following on August 22, 2017:

The official declaration of the State of Mississippi when they seceded from the Union at the beginning of the Civil War: “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery—the greatest material interest of the world.”

The official declaration of the State of Mississippi when they seceded from the Union at the beginning of the Civil War: “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery—the greatest material interest of the world.” (click to embiggen)

I wasn’t born in the South, but because of economic factors too complicated to go into at this juncture, the small town in Colorado where I was born was inhabited almost completely by recently transplanted southerners. All of my grandparents had been born in former Confederate states, as had most of the teachers at the public school, and the parents and/or grandparents of 95+ percent of my classmates. And even though my father’s job had us moving around to other parts of the central Rockies through most of grade school, because our family attended Southern Baptists churches, I continued to be exposed to certain myths about the Civil War that descendants of Confederate families tell themselves. I was taught that slavery wasn’t the primary issue of the war, for one. I was taught that most soldiers on the Confederate side had been involved for economic reasons, and certainly not because they believed that whites were superior to blacks, for another. And I was taught that just because the Southern Baptist church and many other institutions still advocated for the segregation of that races, that it wasn’t because they still believed that one race was superior to the other.

Each of those statements was a lie.

I was a teen-ager in the 70s when the Southern Baptist Convention finally endorsed desegregation of its churches. And it was as a teen that I learned most of what I’d been taught about the history of our denomination and the Civil War was untrue.

Historically, every state that seceded to form the Confederacy (not just Mississippi a portion of whose declaration is pictured above), explicitly listed either slavery or the superiority of the white race (and some mentioned both), as their reasons for seceding. The infamous cornerstone speech delivered by Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens explained that the foundation of the new Confederate government was “the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”

It can’t be any clearer than that: the primary mission of the Confederacy was the perpetuation of slavery of black people and the entrenchment (nay, glorification) of white supremacy. And Confederate soldiers did not volunteer, fight, and die by the thousands because of some need to preserve the mythical idyllic pastoral culture of the Southern plantation—most of them were too poor to own plantations, for one thing! No, the typical Confederate grunt believed that if slaves were freed, working class whites would surely lose their livelihoods. The collective self-esteem of the white working class was shored up by the explicit statement that at least they weren’t slaves, so while they might have worked hard in exchange for less than their fair share of societal prosperity, at least they were better off than those black folks! The abolition of slavery was then perceived as an existential threat to the white working class. Of course they were willing to take up arms to protect slavery!

In the immediate aftermath of the war, symbols of the Confederacy weren’t displayed publicly. There were memorials erected in a few places to those who died in one battle or another, and certainly individual tombstones were occasionally emblazoned with Confederate symbols, but there wasn’t a stampede to erect statues to the leaders of the Confederacy afterward. For one thing, there wasn’t a lot of pride in having been on the losing side.

The first big rush of Confederate monuments was years after the war ended as Reconstruction officially ended and Federal troops were withdrawn in 1877. Across the former Confederacy, state legislatures started enacting Jim Crow laws, designed to make it difficult or nearly impossible for black people to exercise their right to vote and to enforce segregation of the races. And statues and monuments went up all over the South. The plaques usually talked about the bravery of the person depicted, but there were also language about the nobility of the cause for which they fought. Blacks living in those states, most of whom were former slaves, knew exactly what that cause had been, and the message the statues and monuments was clearly: “white people are in charge again, and don’t you forget it!”

A portion of the Southern Poverty Law Center's graph showing when Confederate monuments and statues were erected across the country.

A portion of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s graph showing when Confederate monuments and statues were erected across the country.

Most of the Confederate monuments were put up in the 1910s and 1920s, coinciding with an increase in activity of the KKK and similar organizations terrorizing blacks. And the next big surge was in the 50s and 60s when civil rights organizations began having successes against some of the Jim Crow laws. The purpose of those monuments was not to honor the culture of the South; the message was still “stay in your place, black people, or else!” A great example of this resides not many miles from my home. Washington territory was never a part of the Confederacy, and the few inhabitants of the state who served in the war did so as part of the Union Army and Navy. A local family, some years after the war, donated land in what would one day become the Capitol Hill neighborhood to the Grand Army of the Republic (which was an organization made up mostly of Union side Civil War Veterans) for a cemetery for Union soldiers. And that’s who was buried there. But decades later, during one of those surges of monument building, the Daughters of the Confederacy paid to have a monument to soldiers of the Confederacy erected in the cemetery.

There are no Confederate soldiers buried there. Not one.

And there are no soldiers’ names engraved on the massive monument. But there it is, erected in a cemetery full of Union soldiers—a monument to the so-called noble cause of the Confederacy.

Now that some communities are rethinking these monuments—many of them extremely cheap bronze statues erected during times of civil rights tensions—other people are claiming taking them down is erasing history. No, taking down these post-dated monuments in public parks and so forth isn’t erasing history, it’s erasing anti-historical propaganda. The other argument that is put forward in defense of the monuments is that “both sides deserve to be heard.” That’s BS in this case, because there aren’t two sides to racism. There aren’t two sides to bigotry. There aren’t two sides to genocide. White supremacy is not a legitimate side to any argument.

When we defeated Hitler’s armies, we didn’t turn around and erect monuments to the government that murdered millions of people in concentration camps. We destroyed their symbols. When we liberated Iraq, we tore down the statues of Saddam Hussein, we didn’t enshrine his image in an attempt to give both sides equal time. Those few Confederate monuments that list off names of people who died are fine (even if a lot of them have cringeworthy language about the cause they were fighting for). Cemeteries where actual Confederate veterans are buried of course can have symbols of the Confederacy on the tombstones and the like. But the other monuments, the ones erected years later? They don’t belong in the public square.

They belong in the dustbin of history.

A white homo devil reflects on years of so-called free speech

Not the only time that the hateful Uncle Sam sign denigrated gay people...

Not the only time that the hateful Uncle Sam sign denigrated gay people…

Let’s talk about the hateful Uncle Sam sign near Interstate 5 in Washington state, in a community called Napavine (which is just south of the larger town of Chehalis). The sign went up near the interstate a few years before my family moved to southwest Washington in the mid seventies. For just a bit over 10 years I lived about 40 miles from this sign. Additionally, for just short of 35 years, I have had to drive past this racist, sexist, sectarian, homophobic billboard whenever I travel across the state.

There are NO billboards in Russia!

From The Daily Chronicle of Lewis County.

It began when the Washington state legislature amended the existing Highway Advertising Control Act in the late 1960s, which placed several restrictions on what sorts of signs/billboard/et cetera could be placed within the line of sight of people traveling on roads funded at least in part by state tax payer money. That prompted Alfred Hamilton, the owner of a turkey farm, to put up his first political billboard. The billboard proclaimed that there are no billboards in Russia. When Hamilton was interviewed about his billboard, he ranted about both state and federal law limiting billboards and how unAmerican he thought the laws were. For various reasons, it wasn’t until 1971 that the state Attorney General’s office started enforcing the amended act, notifying owners of billboards that their signs were in violation of law, and outlining options for resolving it.

You’ll notice on that archive image the phrase “A R Hamilton 7 Turkeys.” At any given time, Hamilton owned a lot more than 7 turkeys, of course. The number 7 was something he used in the branding for his business for years. I don’t know if anyone knows what it’s supposed to mean.

Right…

Anyway, he began posting various anti-communist slogans on the billboard, adding the creepy Uncle Sam, while he and the attorney general’s office fought it out in court. He reached a settlement with the state, agreeing to take down the sign, with the state compensating him for the cost of deconstruction. And then, shortly afterward, he put the billboard back up, on a different part of his property. The state law allowed signs of a certain size on the premises of a business so long as the sign advertised the business. He’s tried to qualify for that exemption before, but the court had ruled that while he owned the plot of land where he had initially put the sign up, it wasn’t a spot the public could drive to and make a purchase.

You see the level of discourse, here…

So he moved the sign closer to the building where he had the office. The state came back, arguing that the sign wasn’t advertising his business, in part because he didn’t always mention the farm. So he added the name of the business in white letters on the bottom frame of the sign. And for a few years the top to the sign mentioned which road to take of the exit to get to the business office. Eventually the court decided that while the political slogans were much larger and so prominent that many people driving by would never notice the advertising part of the sign, that it did technically qualify for the exemption.

Because the sign often had racist and homophobic messages in addition to the knee-jerk anti-government screeds, from time to time over the years people living in nearby communities would petition to have the sign removed. There were a streak of years where the guy was really obsessed with gay people, so it seemed that half the time the sign had various homophobic proclamations.

I was trying to find a particular image, because one time, when he found out that the Evergreen State College was hosted a queer film festival, he put up what he thought of as a sarcastic criticism of the festival? But apparently people driving from Portland, Oregon to come of the festival saw the sign and thought it was advertising for the festival.

Because of course he’s also a birther…

In the mid-nineties Hamilton sold his farm to a large agro-business and prepared to retire to Alaska. The sign was deconstructed again, and people living nearby thought it was finally going away. But, nope, the billboard went back up nearby. Hamilton’s son still owned some adjacent land where he was running some sort of RV business, and he put the sign up, there. Still quite visible from the freeway. Apparently the messages stopped getting changed out weekly for a number of years. According to one of the articles I found while I was looking for representative pictures, Hamilton was still composing the messages up in Alaska and sending them to his son until his death in 2004. Now the son is carrying on the hateful tradition on his own.

The state has gotten involved a couple of times since, because for quite a while the sign no longer had any advertising on it at all. But eventually the names of the businesses the son was running got added back.

There was at least one point where a group of protestors show up to picket the business and cover the sign with a tarp that had a pro-gay message: 2014: TWACtion: Environmental and Gender Rights Groups Occupy I-5 Billboard.

I’m writing about this today because there’s a new petition calling for the sign to come down: 73,000 signature petition calls for takedown of landmark Uncle Sam billboard.

And I have a few quibbles with some of the people quoted in the various stories about the sign. The first thing is, no slogan that I’ve ever seen on the sign has made me think anything other than, “What an ignorant a-hole!” I mean, I realize if you are as ill-informed as Hamilton was and his son seems to be, I guess some of the signs would make you do something that resembles thinking.

Which isn’t to say that I think ignorant, hateful people don’t have the right to hold those opinions and even express them.

I hate seeing that billboard every time I drive down to visit family (and on the trip back). It usually puts me in a bad mood.

But do I want it banned?

Free speech is a topic a lot of people misunderstand. The Supreme Court has long held that certain categories of speech enjoy less protection (obscenity, fraud, defamation, incitement), but not necessarily no protection. For instance, if the billboard referred to me by name and asserted that I was a pedophile, that would be defamation and actionable. Because it is false and harmful to my reputation. But when/if the billboard said that all queers are pedophiles? While it is false, it’s a bit harder to argue that the statement harms any particular person’s reputation. At least that’s what the courts have said so far. Similarly, the courts have held that public figures have to meet more stringent criteria to sue for defamation than private citizens do.

Hamilton’s original billboard was trying to argue that any regulation of billboards by government was censorship. The government argued that because taxpayers fund highways, that the areas immediately adjacent to highways is public property, and therefore the government has a right to regulate signage to a degree. When they amended the law (after some court cases), they argued further that some regulation of signage in view from designated highways was also permitted. The amended law carved out exemptions, one of which I mentioned above about on premises signage for business purposes.

So, as odious as I think the Hamiltons are, it’s their property, and if they want to advertise their business with racist, homophobic, and similar slogans, they’re within their rights.

I do think that they have intentionally pushed the limits of the law, particularly during the times when there is no mention of the business on the billboard at all. And I think they have done so more out of spite than any noble desire to test constitutional limits. Because of that spiteful nature, I don’t think they will ever succumb to community pressure to quit posting their hate.

I also think that not only are most (if not all) of the things posted on the billboard reprehensible, bigoted, and ignorant—they are also false. Not all lies constitute legal fraud or defamation, but there is a difference between whether something is legal and whether it is moral.

One of my college professors, who was also my debate coach and a mentor, always looked forward to seeing what lunacy was on the sign whenever we were traveling to a tournament that required us to drive past it. And that’s what he called it, lunacy. It so happened that he had grown up in Chehalis, just up the road, and he said for him, the sign was a reminder of why he was glad he wasn’t raising his own kids in that area. “Ignorance is funny, as long as you keep it at arm’s length,” he once said.

Sometimes I wish I could laugh at the sign like he did. Because while I understand his sentiment, I think he’s wrong. As long as some people believe (and vote based on those beliefs) that sort of ignorance and hate, it’s impossible to keep it all at arm’s length.


For some more information, if you’re interested:

Take down this racist Uncle Sam billboard.

Slade Gorton and the Infamous Hamilton Uncle Sam Billboard.

Tuesday Tidbits 6/2/2020: Pride begins in an actual police state

Trump delivers horrifying White House address as police unleash on protesters nearby.

President Donald Trump on Monday evening called for law enforcement across the country to dominate the ongoing protests and riots in response to the killing of George Floyd at the hands of police. The dark and authoritarian message delivered from Rose Garden was sharply juxtaposed on cable news with images of peaceful protesters just outside the White House gates who were fired on by police with tear gas.

The president threatened to send the military into the streets if the unrest could not be quelled by other means.

Between the alleged president’s fascist proclamations and the curfews and related emergency orders from mayors and governors everyone who isn’t a diehard trump supporter/neo-nazi (as if there is a difference) has lost the legal right to protest. I am not exaggerating.

Trump needed photo op. Peaceful protesters at White House paid the price in tear gas, rubber bullets.

The real reason Trump went to St. John’s Church.

“Sources are telling my colleague Kevin Liptak that, in part, the reason the president made this trip outside the gates of the White House — a really rare trip, where you do not often see the president walk out of the front door of the White House, walk across Lafayette Square, to St. John’s — was driven, in part, that he was upset by coverage of the fact that he had been rushed to the underground bunker on Friday night during the protests that you saw breaking out here, in front of the White House,” CNN’s Kaitlan Collins said.

Trump Tells Governors They’ll Look Like ‘Jerks’ and ‘Fools’, Says He’ll Arrest ‘Thousands of People’, Suggests Jailing Protesters for 10 Years: ‘You Have to Dominate’.

Ivanka sends Pride tweet as Trump gasses peaceful protesters for publicity photo at church- Responses to the tweet from the LGBTQ community and celebrities ranged from outrage to disgust. Um, happy Pride month??

For as long as I can remember, columnist/pundit George Will has been an arch-conservative who argued against my own rights and against everything I believe. The last couple of years as he slowly came out as a never-trumper I have occasionally found myself at least partially agreeing with him. I am more than a little bit dizzy to read this piece from him where he finally comes up fully anti-trump, anti-neo-nazi and recognizing that that means become anti-republican: George Will: There is no such thing as rock bottom for Trump. Assume the worst is yet to come.

The Protests for George Floyd’s Killing Turned Into a Police Riot. This is not, by any means, the first time that riots have turned out to have been caused by the cops, rather than the protestors.

“You only gave us rights because we gave you riots. Queer Power”

“You only gave us rights because we gave you riots. Queer Power” (Click to embiggen)

Most of this last weekend’s update was concerned with the protests. But not all. I posted a link about the death of an infamous homophobe who shaped anti-gay attitudes and legislation for several decades. Another blogger was even more blunt that I was: Lou Sheldon was an evil, homophobic SOB and I hated his guts.

Alvin McEwen of Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters has spent many years exposing the lies and distortions of various anti-gay hate groups. And his take on Sheldon’s death did not disappoint:

Lou Sheldon was an evil homophobic son of a bitch. His rhetoric mutilated our minds while encouraging others to mutilate our bodies. With him, there was no nonsense about wanting to save our souls or loving the sinner while hating the sin. Lou Sheldon HATED LGBTQ people. And he made it his life’s work to disrupt our lives and cause us as much turmoil as he possibly could.

I kind of wish I had been this blunt on Saturday.

Meanwhile, we passed that horrific milestone of 100,000 dead due to the corona virus some days ago. It’s difficult to know how to wrap our minds around such a thing. The New York Times approached it this way:

The New York Times has gathered 100 obituaries of people who have died from Covid-19 as an attempt to wrestle with the magnitude of 100,000 Americans dead.

The New York Times has gathered 100 obituaries of people who have died from Covid-19 as an attempt to wrestle with the magnitude of 100,000 Americans dead. Click on the image to be taken to the page. The Times is making all their Covid-19 coverage available free.

Back to the protests and what they mean:

‘America’s moment of reckoning’: Cornel West calls nationwide uprising a sign of ’empire imploding’.

I Was the Mayor of Minneapolis and I Know Our Cops Have a Problem – Racism permeated the culture of the department. But there are ways to change that culture that other cities can copy.

Biden: Trump ‘consumed’ by ego, not leading during crisis.

“‘I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.’ George Floyd’s last words. But they didn’t die with him. They’re still being heard. They’re echoing across this nation,” Biden said.

“They speak to a nation where too often just the color of your skin puts your life at risk. They speak to a nation where more than 100,000 people have lost their lives to a virus and 40 million Americans have filed for unemployment — with a disproportionate number of these deaths and job losses concentrated in the black and minority communities. And they speak to a nation where every day millions of people — not at the moment of losing their life — but in the course of living their life — are saying to themselves, ‘I can’t breathe.'”
—presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden

Tuesday Tidbits 5/26/2020: Willing to kill…?

I had a fairly busy weekend, so no time to do a Weekend Update post. So here are some news links to stories that either broke after I made this week’s Friday Five, or are further developments on stories previously commented upon, or didn’t make the cut for the Friday Five but I wanted to make some comments…

Mugshots of two of the men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery, “Remember, they weren't arrested because cops saw the tapes. The were arrested because we saw the tapes.”

Click to embiggen

 
The shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery: A timeline of a case that’s gripping the nation: it took over two months for the white men who killed him — Gregory McMichael, and his son, Travis McMichael — to be arrested.

Man who recorded the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery has been arrested, GBI says.

FBI investigating Ahmaud Arbery shooting as possible hate crime, lawyer says – Attorney for family of black jogger shot by white men says federal authorities are looking into prosecutors and police in case.

Justice delayed is justice denied. Was Ahmaud Arbery killed for ‘jogging while black’? The answer is an emphatic yes.

I’m not sure what else to say. That it took the leaked video of one the murderers’ co-conspirator being seen by the public to get a prosecutor to look at the case? Right. Anyone who thinks America is a post-racist society has their head stuck up something…

Not protestors, Domestic Terrorists - Vanilla ISIS.

Click to embiggen.

 
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear hanged in effigy as Second Amendment supporters protest coronavirus restrictions.

Husband Of Reopen NC Leader Says He’s ‘Willing To Kill’ To Stop ‘New World Order’. Also, insists he’s not a terrorist.

Threatening to kill people if they don’t do as you say—threatening to kill anyone you perceive has not doing as you say—is the very definition of terrorism. Y’all aren’t heroes. You’re not patriots. You’re certainly not Christian…

NC Coronavirus Hospitalizations At New High On Memorial Day – On the same day, a group demanding an end to pandemic restrictions planned protests throughout the state.

How many times do we have to say it: the restrictions aren’t what tanked the economy. It’s the fact that we’ve built the economy on a need for a lot of people to work themselves to the bone to keep things going, and that as soon as a significant fraction of the population cuts back on certain types of spending, everything collapses.

And saying, “People who are afraid of getting infected can just stay home. The rest of us want to be able to go to a restaurant or get our hair cut.” Just proves that you don’t think service industry workers are people. Because if there isn’t a shut down and there isn’t unemployment to cover them, then they have no choice but to risk their lives and the lives of their loved ones just so you can have your dang hot wings.

Conspiracy theorists, far-right extremists around the world seize on the pandemic- Civil rights advocates have warned for months that the coronavirus could aid recruiting for the most extreme white-supremacist and neo-Nazi groups.

Child looking incredulous, “So, me wearing a bulletproof backpack to school with metal detectors, armed guards, and routine mass-shooter drills is 'the price of freedom'... but you wearing a mask in Walmart fo 10 minutes is 'tyranny'? ”

Click to embiggen.

 
CDC: Arkansas coronavirus outbreak linked to church services .

Georgia church closes two weeks after reopening as families come down with coronavirus.

More COVID-19 cases linked to California church services.

I can’t even…

In fairness, I want to point out that it isn’t just Americans who are capable of this level of stupidity: 107 COVID Cases Have Been Traced Back to One Church Service in Germany.

“Too many headlines begin with the phrases, 'Pastor Arrested...' 'Youth Pastor Charged with...', 'Pastor Pleads Guilty...'”

 
Youth pastor claims he was kidnapped by black men to avoid admitting why he was in a hotel room – After his wild claim made it to social media, local news investigated the racist tale and the now-unemployed pastor admitted the truth.

Former Abilene youth pastor wanted by U.S. Marshals arrested in Mexico.

Inola Pastor Arrested, Accused Of Sexually Assaulting 3 Young Girls.

This is an old, old topic I’ve written about many times. Human institutions of all kinds have a terrible habit of protecting people in power and enabling abusing behavior. But there is something particularly insidious about how that manifests in churches. Particularly in how often the pastor or other leader who has abused other people is embraced and offered forgiveness almost before they ask for it, and how their victims are treated as if they are the offenders. And this next story illustrates that:

One Youth Pastor After Another Sexually Abused Kids at This California Church. It’s in the news because civil lawsuits have been filed. But the killer detail is how in 1983, when a 13-year-old boy explained how the youth pastor had sexually assaulted him, it wasn’t just that the church leadership decided not to punish the youth pastor, but they contacted the police and reported the boy for making a false accusation! And the first reaction of the police was to grill the boy about his own sexual desires…

That’s the fucked up world many of us grew up in.

Tuesday Tidbits 5/19/2020: That’s not faith, that’s stupidity

“Then: Taking a knew during the anthem is an irresponsible way to protest! NOW: Gathering in groups during a pandemic is my god-given right!”

(click to embiggen)

Some days you really can’t do more than roll your eyes or yell “WTF!?” Just skim the headlines to see what I mean (you can also go read the articles for all the grim details

Rockingham North Carolina’s 16 COVID-19 cases connected to single church.

For Salem, Oregon congregation, a stunning concentration of COVID.

180 Exposed To Coronavirus During Mother’s Day Service At Defiant NorCal Church.

Texas church cancels masses following death of priest possibly from coronavirus – Five other members of the religious order also tested positive for COVID-19.

CDC: Arkansas fatal coronavirus outbreak linked to church services.

Catholic church in Houston closes again after 3 priests test positive for COVID-19.

Conservative Church Network Launches Plan to Defy California Social Distancing Orders.

Coronavirus Continues To Move Into Previously Insulated Red Counties In Battleground States.

I’ve been seeing people refer to rightwing dominionist so-called christians as a death cult, and I used to think that was a (very) slight exaggeration, but now I’m rethinking that.

Let’s shift gears a bit. The following headline and the opening of the article would appear to contradict one of the articles I linked to on Friday, but that actually don’t:

The Coronavirus Class War.

The problem is that the phrase “class war” is being used to mean very different things. The article I link to today shows that poor other working class people overwhelmingly support continuing shelter in place/stay home orders. While only a slightly smaller percentage of middle class people also support it. Opposition to quarantines comes not just from a very small minority, but almost entirely from the very well-to-do and the stinking rich.

Folks like the executives and highest-paid pundits at Fox News, for instance, while they all continue to work from home, are egging governors to “reopen” the economy, by which they mean, stop the unemployment payments and force people who aren’t well off enough to quarantine voluntarily to go out and work and expose themselves and their families to the pandemic.

The polls in the above article clearly indicate that it is the rich who want to reap the benefits of social distancing, while making the working poor shoulder most of the risk of the pandemic.

Friday’s headline, which claimed that was no evidence of a class war was using the class war phrase much differently. And, IMHO, poorly. They were using it not to refer to actual economic strata within society, but instead to refer to a mostly mythical division. Fox News and their ilk have been trying to portray the protestors as representing the working class, while saying the only people who want the quarantine orders to continue are leftwing elites. The article then quoted virtually identical findings as the one above: the overwhelming majority of the country favor the quarantine measures, and the lower income the people are, the more likely they are to support it.

By adopting the disingenuous definitions of class, they wind up writing a headline that says the opposite of what the article showed.

Because the so-called “left elite” isn’t an economic class. It mostly is a myth, because inherent in the way the phrase is usually used is the notion that no one in the working class support any liberal policies, at all.

Isn’t language fun?

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