Over twenty years ago, I wrote a review on William F. Buckley Jr’s book, “In Search of Anti-Semitism”. The late Mr. Buckley analyzed instances of anti-Semitic language perpetrated by both conservatives and liberals. During those times, my teenage years, I was the product of a rural Georgia Evangelical upbringing. Though I was conservative by temperament, I’ve always been possessed of an intellectual curiosity that branded me “liberal” in the eyes of my classmates and neighbors. Moreover, my commitment to spiritual growth and study of scriptures led me to an awakened passion for racial justice and ethnic inclusiveness.
Today, in 2016, my heart hurts. The Republican Party, an institution I grew up respecting, has been hijacked by a corrupt real-estate mogul who advances a political agenda bearing the characteristics of Neo-Fascism. I loathe to mention this presidential candidate’s name, for he does not deserve any additional media accolades. I refer to him merely as “Pumpkinhead”. I have felt deep revulsion at this candidate’s intolerant contempt for women, African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, and Muslims. Yet, only this past week, when I read reports from the Anti-Defamation League, did I fully realize the threat Pumpkinhead poses to American Democracy. Though Pumpkinhead himself has so far refrained from uttering anti-Semitic vitriol, many of his followers embrace White-Supremacist ideologies and target Jewish journalists for harassment. Many Jewish Millennials, students and professionals, now fear anti-Semitism for the first time in their young lives, all because of Pumpkinhead’s popularity.
One particularly worrisome camp among Pumpkinhead’s supporters is the Alt Right. Since 2010, the Anti-Defamation League has tracked the emergence an ultra-conservative group of white supremacists, the Alt Right, who reject mainstream Christian conservatism and its goodwill towards Jewish people. Alt Right activists make slick, anti-immigration, populist appeals through social media to try to win over young people. For example, the Traditionalist Youth Network follows the teachings of David Duke while attempting to redefine diversity as the segregation of all races and ethnic groups. Within the course of the last 9 months, as Pumpkinhead seized control of the Republican Party, the Alt Right has created two new racist, anti-Semitic symbols: the triple parentheses symbol and Pepe the Frog. The triple parentheses, (((echo))), is used by Alt Right hackers and cyberbullies to target Jewish social media users, bloggers, and journalists for online harassment. Pepe the Frog started out as a harmless cartoon, but has been used by Alt Right cyberbullies by adding Ku Klux Klan hoods or Hitler mustaches to the frog character’s face.
When I wrote my book review on anti-Semitic speech years ago, I was convinced such bigotry against the Jewish people was passing away from the United States. The terrifying developments of this year’s presidential campaign show that anti-Semitism in word and violent deed has grown like a cancer. The extraordinary disregard Pumpkinhead shows for women, immigrants, and people of color only serves to embolden overtly violent bigots among his followers. The Anti-Defamation League illustrates this phenomenon of cumulative bigotry as the “Pyramid of Hate”. The pyramid shows how small instances of bigotry, if widespread and unmasked, can build upon more overt and more violent expressions of bigotry.
Despite the fearful political developments in my country, I am daily encouraged to see the voices of diversity and social justice increasing in strength. Although I do not agree with all of the protest tactics of Black Lives Matter, my heart hurts whenever an African-American is shot dead by law enforcement. I also despair at the mass incarceration of Black and Hispanic men. Black Lives Matter assures me there are many young people in the United States nurturing a passion for racial equality and justice. In any case, it is essential that all Americans of goodwill, all races, all religions, both conservative and liberal, cast their votes against Pumpkinhead, preferably for Hillary Clinton. Hillary and Bill Clinton possess qualifications which have already been proven to bring prosperity to our country.
As a Transgender activist, I hope to find common cause with the Anti-Defamation League and other anti-racism groups. Recently, it has been found that Americans self-identifying as Transgender comprise nearly 1% of the population in several states, Hawaii, California, Texas, and Georgia. In addition to the District of Columbia, Georgia, Florida, and California have large Jewish populations. I believe that tolerance and acceptance of Jewish communities is essential for acceptance and diversity for everyone. States with large Jewish populations tend to be safe for Trans and LGB people. Conversely, increasing acceptance of Trans and LGB people should contribute to a safe society for Jewish people. The Amazon series, Transparent, beautifully illustrates how Jewish family and faith create a supportive environment for the heroine, Maura, in discovery of her transgender identity. It seems apparent that Transgender and Jewish activists should seek every opportunity to work together. Even if Pumpkinhead somehow fades from the limelight, his neo-Fascist wolf packs will remain a threat to tolerance, goodwill, and democracy itself.