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American Carnage

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I’m in Europe this summer, though not in exile. I have not been driven to find sanctuary, much less thrown into a cage awaiting deportation, or forcibly separated from my child. When I fly home to New York, I will not be told that my name has ‘randomly’ appeared on a list, and taken aside to answer questions about the country of my ancestors, or my religious and political convictions. But for the first time in my life I’m not certain that this privilege, which ought to be simply a right, will last.

By a strange twist of historical fate, people like me, Jews whose families fled to the US from Eastern Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, became insiders, ‘white ethnics’, but the racism, intolerance and sheer vindictiveness that Donald Trump has helped bring into the mainstream are volatile forces, in constant search of new targets. For Muslims, Latinos, immigrants and black people, this has been the Summer of Hatred. Now we can add journalists to the list. Trump, the inciter-in-chief, called them ‘enemies of the American people’. Five were killed in Maryland last week; they are unlikely to be the last.

Any American abroad has had the experience of reading the news from home and experiencing the peculiar shock that others must feel when they learn of another school shooting, another police killing of a young black person. Is it possible, you wonder, that such atrocities fail to provoke a national emergency? But it is, and they do not. Instead, they are followed by similar atrocities, which occur with such numbing regularity that they begin to blur in your mind. This is the real ‘American carnage’, and it is permeating the country’s most powerful institutions, from the presidency to the Supreme Court.

The brutalisation of American life is nowhere more apparent than at the border with Mexico, where children were wrenched from their mothers’ arms by immigration officials and moved to detention centres in 17 states. (The Trump administration asked the Pentagon to prepare 20,000 beds for undocumented immigrants in military bases.) And though Trump rescinded the order, more than 2000 children – some as young as a few months old – have yet to be reunited with their families. Obama sang the praises of American multiculturalism but deported more undocumented immigrants than any previous president. Now Trump has stripped Obama’s policy of its already threadbare human face.

Whether American institutions would be resilient enough to resist Trump was one of the questions raised by his victory. We received a bleak answer last week from the Supreme Court, which voted by 5-4 both to weaken the collective bargaining power of public unions and to uphold the Muslim travel ban. Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees was a striking example of the topsy-turvy logic of Trump world, invoking the First Amendment right to free speech against the right of public unions to collect dues from non-members.

Some commentators argued that the Muslim ban, an obvious case of animus against members of a religious minority, contradicted the Court’s recent decision in support of an Evangelical baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple. But the upholding of the ban was consistent in spirit, if not in logic, with the Court’s decisions in favour of the strong against the weak. In its judgment, the court took the opportunity to overturn the 1944 decision that authorised the Japanese-American internment camps. Like Trump’s pardon of the black boxer Jack Johnson, the decision used the victims of an earlier injustice as cover for new injustices.

Noam Chomsky used to surprise interviewers by saying that he continued to live in America, in spite of his opposition to its foreign policy, because it was the ‘greatest country on earth’. An exaggeration, to be sure, but for many years a case could be made that the United States remained a comparatively free and open society, welcoming of immigrants, more accepting of hyphenated identities and cultural difference than most Western European societies. Even black Americans, who had the least reason to have hope in America (and nowhere else to go), could draw inspiration from its promise. As Langston Hughes put it, ‘America never was America to me,/and yet I swear this oath!/America will be!’

Hughes’s certainty that ‘America will be’ – a faith that sustained not only the civil rights movement but feminism, gay liberation and other movements for equality – is hard to share today. Trump remains popular with about 40 per cent of the electorate, and among Republicans – 27 per cent of the electorate – his approval ratings are at 90 per cent. He does not command the support of most Americans, but he isn’t weak, either, because he has a fanatical cult behind him. Anthony Kennedy, who has announced his resignation from the Supreme Court, has handed Trump another opportunity to cement his judicial legacy. The Court will soon be reconsidering such matters as reproductive freedom, gay marriage and voting rights: right-wing groups are especially keen to limit black turnout in the 2020 presidential election. There’s no reason to believe the Muslim ban might not be extended with the Court’s approval, or other restrictive measures introduced.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the ban is already affecting those who do not fall under its strictures. A French friend of mine, whose parents are Iranian, was recently stopped at JFK and interrogated for three hours, her bag searched for ‘agricultural’ items. For people of Muslim origin visiting the States, JFK has increasingly come to resemble Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, where marathon searches, based on unconcealed ethno-religious profiling, are carried out on ‘national security’ grounds, but are also intended to assert ownership of the ‘homeland’.

One effect of this policy – also not unintended – will be to discourage repeat visits. A friend of mine in London, a British novelist with Somali parents, told me that she has decided not to apply for a fellowship in New York because she’s afraid of being denied entry, or subjected to a humiliating search at JFK. Even if she were to come, she would face what Rafia Zakaria has called ‘brown existence anxiety’, caused by the ‘scowls and the sneers, all the ordinary inflictions of distress that remain un-tabulated and uncounted’.

As Zakaria points out, ‘brown existence anxiety’ is the penalty that Muslims and immigrants are forced to pay for the ‘white extinction anxiety’ that has spread among white Republican voters, now that there are more deaths than births among whites in a majority of states. Trump’s base isn’t that different from Nixon’s ‘silent majority’, whites outside metropolitan centres who believe in ‘law and order’ – i.e. keeping immigrants and people of colour in their place. But over the last half century, people of colour transformed America into a more tolerant, inclusive society, made inroads into the establishment, and helped impose a new set of norms about what could and could not be said about them. Under Trump, these norms – the fragile gains achieved by social movements – are being shattered. For whites who imagine themselves to have been persecuted or silenced, this is experienced as a great moment of liberation. That’s why Trump’s rallies – like the lynchings they resemble, though the murder is only rhetorical – are such joyous affairs, as full of laughter as they are of fury.

Hillary Clinton was attacked for referring to ‘half’ of Trump’s supporters as a ‘basket of deplorables’, and there’s no denying the smug disdain, or the unmerited confidence she expressed in dismissing them. But was she wrong? The great question the Democrats now face is whether Trump’s supporters are redeemable, and if so, how many and at what cost. I recently listened to a well-known liberal critic of identity politics pontificate on the sorrows of white Evangelicals who, he said, feel entirely ignored by Hollywood. They had gone over to Trump, he claimed, because for once a politician had recognised them, validated their ‘culture’.

But the Evangelicals have an immense cultural infrastructure of their own, and Trump does not appear to have a comparable following among Black Evangelicals who are no less ignored by Hollywood. Chasing after Evangelicals – or the fabled ‘white working-class’ – sounds a lot like compromise with the forces of social conservatism, if not a resurgent white nationalism. In any case, the ‘white working-class’ is largely a figure of nostalgia. The actually existing American working-class is increasingly comprised of blacks and immigrants, the people who voted for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old socialist from the Bronx who won the Democratic primary in New York’s 14th congressional district, defeating the white incumbent, Joseph Crowley, in the biggest upset so far of the 2018 midterms.

I never thought I’d experience such joy at a congressional primary, but beggars can’t be choosers. When, the day after Trump’s victory, I wrote a piece for this blog entitled ‘The Nightmare Begins’, a radical friend accused me of exaggeration. Trump, he said, had remembered the working-class voters abandoned by neoliberal Democrats, and criticised liberal hawk visions of imposing democracy by force. Sure, he had pandered to racists, but he ought to be given a chance and, besides, Clinton was an establishment candidate and the system needed shaking up.

As Stephen Holmes and Ivan Krastev argue in a forthcoming book, The Light That Failed, the hard left had trouble reckoning with the danger posed by Trump because he ‘trashed all the essential postulates of the American creed, the set of beliefs underlying the country’s missionary zeal to spread its influence abroad’. As it turns out, his foreign policy is more militarist than Obama’s. He has deployed drones with abandon, ingratiated himself with dictators, and, by withdrawing from the nuclear agreement with Iran and moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, made war in the Middle East much more likely. His foreign policy philosophy was helpfully summarised by one of his advisers as ‘We’re America, bitch.’

‘We’re America, bitch’ is also Trump’s message to Muslims denied entry to the US and undocumented immigrants sitting in cages. The reality of America under Trump is much worse than the nightmare I envisaged, because the movement that he leads is more potent than the Republican Party, and much larger than Trump himself, even if he has provided both with a charismatic figurehead. Voting him out may turn out to be the easy part. Repairing the damage he has caused, and containing the domestic forces he has unleashed, will be far more difficult.

Comments

  1. Fred Skolnik says:

    “JFK has increasingly come to resemble Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, where marathon searches, based on unconcealed ethno-religious profiling, are carried out on ‘national security’ grounds, but are also intended to assert ownership of the ‘homeland’.”

    “Also intended to assert …” Where does this stupidty come from? Your writer knows as much about Israeli thinking as he knows about the far side of the moon.

    Israel is faced with a barbaric terrorist organization for whom blowing up planes is also on the agenda. That is why it conducts very thorough searches of all Arabs at Ben-Gurion. Mr. Shatz, once again, be a hero with your own children, not mine.

    I really regret having to step up every other week to correct these irresponsible assertions. Where does this Israel hatred come from and why does the LRB blog validate it? I am now rereading some of Philip Roth’s novels. He certainly wasn’t a Zionist but he did have a few things to say about British antisemitism in “The Counterlife.” Is that really it after all these centuries?

    • dmr says:

      Correct away, Fred, to your heart’s content. Nobody’s buying it. In Israel itself, yes. But elsewhere? Not nowadays. Not anymore.
      There,the “hatred” you are so obsessed with is nothing more and nothing less than a justified contempt for Israeli actions and policies. The barbarities of Hamas and other instances of whataboutery are irrelevant here.

      • Fred Skolnik says:

        The barbarities of Hamas are certainly relevant. That is what Israel is defending itself against.

        And who but other haters will buy your bogus humanism? Certainly not anyone who examines where else you’ve spoken out (nowhere). You’re a fake.

        • dmr says:

          D Shulman, A Hass, G Levy, I Hamerman, Miko Peled, U Avnery, Dmitri Shumkin, Z Sternhell, Breaking the Silence, B’Tselem, Haaretz editorials (in Hebrew, et al: all “haters”? All guilty of “bogus humanism”?

          Just curious….

          • dmr says:

            (i.e.: all “fakes,” lacking in integrity,because they haven’t spoken out about Tibet, the Rohingya, Duterte, etc.?)

          • Fred Skolnik says:

            No. you’re not curious. You’re just pretending to be curious. That’s why I call you a fake.

            And who’s talking about the Israeli left? I’m talking specifically about you. Trying to hide behind them?

            The animus of the extreme left in Israel is of a somewhat different nature. If you want to divert attention from yourself (which is the wise thing to do), and as I’ve written about the Israeli left – as well as about types like yourself (though focussing on America) – here is the link:

            http://twinenterprises.com/the_fear_of_monkeys/issue_twentyeight/choosing_sides.htm

            • Alasdair says:

              I read your essay. What a loads of bullshit. Anti-this anti-that nonsense. Not a single reference to a scholarly publication. Not a single phrase using logic and reasoning. No wonder you attack people. You do not have any support for your claims.

        • manchegauche says:

          Israel is not defending itself – Israel is encroaching and taking land from the Palestinians. So it goes – that’s might and weaponry for you, but don’t dress those actions up as some ‘defence’ of something.

          And stick to the subject anyway…

          • Fred Skolnik says:

            Of course Israel is defending itself. It defended itself in 1967 when Jordan attacked it and it has been defending itself against terrorist attacks ever since that time. Where have you been, on the moon? No telly there?

            • Alasdair says:

              When you steal someone’s home and they want to get their home back, you cannot say you are “defending” yourself against “terrorists”. Firstly people who want to get back their home from thieves are not called terrorists and secondly thieves fight and kill to keep what they have grabbed by force but no sane person calls that fight defence.

              • Fred Skolnik says:

                You’re getting hysterical. No one stole anyone’s home. The Land of Israel did not belong to the Arabs any more than Spain and Iran did, which they also conquered. The UN offered a compromise, the Jews accepted it, the Arabs rejected it and attacked Israel with the declared aim of destroying the country and massacring its Jewish population. That’s what Israel defended itself against and that is what it has been defending itself against ever since. Read the PLO and Hamas charters if you don’t understand what the Arabs want.

                • Alasdair says:

                  Unlike you who are biased, I have read a lot of scholarly publications from both sides. The conclusion is the Israel is a colonial force grabbing lands from people and then calling those people who have been forced to leave their lands terrorists.
                  Go back and live in the area you paid for. Leave people alone. Until you do not do this and until you do not end your apartheid regime, this is what it is.
                  Again you cannot defend yourself as a thief.

                  • Fred Skolnik says:

                    Whose conclusion? What scholarly publications have you read from the pro-Israel side? What scholarly publications have you read from the pro-Arab side? What scholarly publications have you read from the unbiased side?

                    Here’s something else you can read:

                    “The Arab world is not in a compromising mood. It’s likely, Mr. Horowitz, that your plan is rational and logical, but the fate of nations is not decided by rational logic. Nations never concede; they fight. You won’t get anything by peaceful means or compromise. You can, perhaps, get something, but only by the force of your arms. We shall try to defeat you. I am not sure we’ll succeed, but we’ll try. We were able to drive out the Crusaders, but on the other hand we lost Spain and Persia. It may be that we shall lose Palestine. But it’s too late to talk of peaceful solutions.”

                    –Azzam Pasha, Secretary-General of the Arab League, Sept. 1947

    • Dectora says:

      Yes, those who condemn Israel rarely reflect on the command of the leader of Hamas, Mamoud Abbas to ‘kill all Jews’. Why? It certainly doesn’t fit easily into the left/liberal mindset. He said ‘all Jews’ not all Israelis, uncomfortably aware that there are Bedouin Israeli citizens who see the Palestinians as ‘blow ins’ to a region where they have lived transhistorically.

      • Rodney says:

        Mahmoud Abbas is the leader of the PLO, not the leader of Hamas. I assume that Abbas never said what you claim he said.

    • Christopher M. Theodore says:

      Many extremely unconvincing people who are unwilling to consider other people’s opinions sound like Fred S. and post like him. “I really regret”… and “where does this stupidity come from” are tells, as does his into the terminology of Trump with his “fakery” comments. Fred, I’m sure you’re an OK guy. If you want to convince people that your ideas and perspective are correct or at least have merit just make your case without the bile and talking-down-to-people. Imagine we were all together just talking somewhere face to face. I actually liked your comment driving home the truth about why security in Tel Aviv airport is necessary. But I don’t think you are giving equal weight to the concerns of the author which are also legitimate in my opinion.

      • Fred Skolnik says:

        I don’t quite understand what you take to be the concerns of the author regarding security at Ben Gurion Airport. He is making statements that are so far from the truth that they can only be regarded as malicious.

        I have no illusions about who I am addressing on this blog and you are a little naive if you think that these people are going to be convinced of anything. They are not here to have a polite discussion about a neutral subject but to vilify the State of Israel. Since their remarks are slanderous I feel obligated to expose them as such, and I do so on substantive grounds. I also feel obligated to expose them as the haters they are. As for the language, go back and start examining theirs.

    • GillyT says:

      “Israel is faced with a barbaric terrorist organization for whom blowing up planes is also on the agenda”

      So where does the Stern Gang or Irgun sit with you Fred? Freedom fighters or terrorists? My father being on the receiving end of Menachem Begin’s handiwork had no doubt which category he and his lieutenant Yitzak Shamir belonged in.

      • Fred Skolnik says:

        I have no problem calling the Irgun a terrorist organization. Keep in mind that its activities were condemned by the Zionist leadership. And in the tragic King David bombing, Adina Hay has testified that she phoneed a warning on behalf of the Irgun, telling the British officer in charge to evacuate the hotel. His reply: “We don’t take orders from Jews.”

    • Donald Raeson says:

      I’ve no idea what that last sentence means. Care to provide an English translation?

  2. cizinka says:

    A thoughtful and accurate piece by Adam Shatz. The assumption that many Sanders and Stein supporters seemed to make – that ‘the system’ would apprehend Trump from any or all excessively evil moves – (thus justifying writing in their names in swing states in the 2016 election) is being shown to have been deeply misguided.

    The ‘system’ – which at various points included genocide, slavery, Jim Crow (i.e. apartheid), forced internment of Japanese, etc, and now features the War with No Terminius and mass surveillance, is not and never was set up to put a brake on these kinds of activities, but to faciliate them.

  3. Joe Morison says:

    It’s ironic that the first illegal immigrants crossing into Texas were Anglo-Americans coming in from north. That was before Texas was stolen from Mexico by the US in the 1846-48 war prosecuted by the hideous Polk; it was he and that war, against brown Catholic Mexico, that did a lot to cement the US’s idea of itself as an essentially white Anglo-Saxon protestant country.

  4. Let’s not turn on each other, folks. Trump won in large part because the Republicans disfigured Hilary Clinton–a woman perennially among the most admired people in the world–via the Benghazi hearings and Roger Stone’s tactics and with an assist from her own deplorable baggage. Democrats stayed home, demotivated and discouraged. I’m as prone as anyone to feel like we’re riding a horrible downtown train engineered by Reagan, Gingrich, Limbaugh, Cheney, Hannity and Trump. But let’s not assume that Trump’s victory indicates an ascendance of fascism in the US. Let’s focus on getting out the liberal and progressive and minority vote. Regarding Israel: “As all schoolboys learn, those to whom evil has been done will do evil in return.”

    • Dectora says:

      Trump stated ‘I love uneducated people’, a rare true statement from his lips’. And we know why, resentful uneducated (no college degree) people saw him as a richer more successful version of themselves.His simplfied syntax and belligerence also pleased many.

    • cizinka says:

      I know, I know. I do (partially) agree. but I just can’t believe the amount of Hillary hate I encountered – on the left.

    • VeroMan says:

      Ah, aren’t you forgetting just a little bit about Ms. Clinton’s past?

      She led the attack on women her husband abused while Arkansas AG and then Governor.

      She violated federal law by maintaining a private nonsecure email server for her government email throughout her four years as Sec. of State.

      She committed the most egregious acts of espionage against the USA of any cabinet-level officer in US history, detailed by former FBI Director James Comey in his July 5, 2016 statement.

      She engaged in obstruction of justice for having her personal email devices that were under subpoena physically destroyed and deleting more than 30,000 email messages under subpoena.

      She lied to the American people when she stated that no classified information was ever on her personal email server. FBI investigators not only found more than 100 classified emails, they found the highest classification of TOP SECRET messages on her computer (“Special Access Program” and “Compartmented”).

      She blatantly and deliberately violated national security protocols apparently so that she could control her email that dealt with her “pay-to-play” scheme that enriched the Clinton Foundation (90%+ admin fees) in exchange for her approvals of special exemptions for foreign entities.

      Exactly HOW had “Republicans disfigured Hillary Clinton”? Seems obvious she “disfigured” herself.

      Funny how you bemoan “an ascendance of fascism in the US” when it is the Leftist ANTIFA thugs who are the practicing Fascisti today.

      When is the last time you saw a Conservative group riot, burn autos, assault buildings, smash windows, and assault people who disagreed with them the way the Left does routinely?

      The thuggery and mob lunacy are expressed on the Left.

    • Doc TH says:

      Shatz ignores the problem that the Democrats nominated Hillary Clinton, who was arguably the only candidate that could have conceivably lost to Trump. Far from a plethora of support for Trump on the part of any number right wing fringe groups, the overall vote count revealed Trump garnered a minority of votes. From a purely mathematical view Trump attained, and continues to have, only a limited support from U.S. citizens. Shatz is irrationally hanging crepe over the current situation.

  5. MajorBarbara says:

    Though I despise Trump, I didn’t bother to finish reading this after I’d tripped over two significant misrepresentations in succession.
    1. I agree journalists are under attack at least rhetorically. However, the newsroom carnage in Baltimore was *not* related to Trump or the rightward swing. Follow-up stories have made clear this was a personal grudge held by the shooter regarding coverage of his apparent stalking of a woman, and his rage had been building for a long time. This was not a Charlie Hebdo ideological massacre. To represent it as such displays either ignorance (as a journalist yourself, you should know better than to take first reports as gospel or to impose your own preconceptions on initial impressions); or, worse, willing and deliberate misrepresentation in the service of ideology. (That I share your concerns, and/or that ‘the other side does it, if anything even worse’, doesn’t make the tactic acceptable.)
    2. Most coverage of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Masterpiece bake shop case took care to get the ruling and its implications correct. Most readers, unfortunately, got it wrong. The author should be in the former category, but is apparently in the latter. The justices didn’t rule that the baker has the right to discriminate on religious grounds – the Court didn’t reach that issue at all. The ruling, which they specified was very narrow, was that the Colorado human rights commission that heard the complaint and found for the gay couple displayed an open hostility to religion, sufficient to qualify as anti-religious bias. I’m an atheist myself, but if you read the Colorado opinion you’d have to agree. The Court (I think Kennedy wrote it, but I’m not inclined to Google to confirm) suggested that if the state board had been a bit more temperate or circumspect in its wording, the decision might have gone otherwise or at least reached the core issue. (Fear not; other cases lurking in the docket may yet force it.)
    Given two such blatant errors so early on in a lengthy essay, was it really worth reading the rest? I know this was only a blog post, but as John Adams said, facts are stubborn things, and I do expect more care from an LRB contributor.

    • Joe Morison says:

      You’re right about the primary motivation of the Baltimore killer, but no one can know what effect Trump’s rhetoric had on him. It’s easy to imagine that as he was closing in on his decision to murder the journalists, hearing his president describe them as ‘enemies of the people’ encouraged him. Motivation has myriad causes; at the very least, Trump’s statements gave his extra validation.

    • artemesia says:

      Agreed. I also could not get through this piece for the same reasons. He gets the Maryland shooting wrong, the case wrong and also piles on, gratuitously, about Ben Gurion airport/ Israel. Enough. It is bad writing.

  6. Faladog says:

    I didn’t need to be reminded that trolls never sleep. I know all about their insomnia.

    Although this thoughtful essay on what the U.S. has already become contains only one allusion by comparison to the garrison state of Israel, the first comment savages it for that and at least implies that the Jewish author is antisemitic for pointing out the similarity. As with the “one-drop rule” by which anyone with a black ancestor becomes themselves black, even the mildest criticism of Israel for some taints all else. Unfortunately, most of the comments that follow the first are thus about Israel, not the U.S. let alone what Schatz wrote about its slide into the abyss.

    • AndrewCorser says:

      I agree that Fred Skolnik (and is he a lone troll, or an Israeli Govt propoganda unit?) hijacked the discussion of this interesting piece, but there are surely similarities between the “democracy” that is sustaining Trump and the “democracy” that is sustaining Israeli aparthied? Our democratic institutions may be the least worst solution, but they are clearly in need of considerable improvement – cf Turkey, Venezuela, Russia(?) apart from the US and Israel and many others (the EU?).
      I think many would agree that we face a slide into the abyss of totalitarianism (possibly before we slide into the oblivion of climate change!) and I am interested in what, how ‘democracy will be’, in the face of these burgeoning populist/demagogic dictatorships? (I’m confident, though, that Chomsky or Zazic or Tariq Ali will have an answer!)

      • Fred Skolnik says:

        Neither. Whenever any of you displays your ignorance or your malice with regard to Israel I will expose you. When you use the word apartheid, you should at least understad what it means:

        http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/20666

      • dsucher says:

        The term “hijacking a conversation” is used as a way to suppress conversation… Had no one been interested in Fred’s remark they could have simply remained silent and Fred would (likely) not have responded. EOF.

        So look in the mirror at yourself my friend if you don’t like that part of the discussion….Anti-Israel bigots love to make it clear where they stand so they are delighted to respond.

        You don’t like what I’m saying? Don’t answer.

  7. Alices Restaurant says:

    Trump has certainly put the cultural Marxists in quite the tizzy–even masked Berkeley “free-speech” street-thugs are at a loss of what to do these days besides, of course, attack restaurants. But just wondering if the writer includes southern Italians in the “brown existence anxiety” mix or if it’s just the usual ME suspects–a favored group, it seems, among LRB columnists, despite the majority suffering a cleric/imam-driven political-religion full-service social system?

  8. Coldish says:

    I too, as an associate member of Mrs Clinton’s ‘deplorables’, and also a friend of what Mr Skolnik might regard as the Israeli extreme left, felt that Mr Shatz’s comparison with Ben-Gurion airport was un-called for, and distracted attention away from what he was writing about the USA. If you want to read more angry criticism from Mr Skolnik, just keep on making ill-judged or ill-informed remarks about conditions in Israel. He’ll oblige.
    The last (and only) time I went through Ben-Gurion airport I was very glad to observe and experience the long and thorough securíty checks in force. Rather that than risk having the plane blown up around me.

    • XopherO says:

      There is surely a misunderstanding in the piece. Entering the USA via an airport can be a pretty unpleasant experience even for Americans. Downright nasty at times. Apparently an international concert pianist had his brand new Steinway (a US company, though made in Hamburg) destroyed because customs thought the new varnish could be an explosive! A lot of musicians won’t go for fear for their instruments. However leaving is usually unproblemmatic. Whereas it is when you leave Israel that the real interrogation happens and you do well to have evidence of what you have been doing while there. Flying in is fairly simple. If you go El Al there is some interrogation in the UK, but (admittedly some time ago in my experience) if you fly BA, the questioning (not by Israeli staff) is fairly superficial.

      I understood perfectly well the interrogations and searches leaving Israel. I have never understood why US customs are so deliberately unpleasant to visitors – it seems a kind of game (we’re the best, you are scum) long before Trump. There really is no comparison between the two. One is clearly for security, whatever you think of Israeli government policies, the other is to deliberately make you feel bad. Trump has just made a nasty experience even worse.

      • cizinka says:

        I know European violinists who refuse to enter the US, after one had his bow smashed with a hammer by a border guard at an airport because it contained ivory, or so he thought.

  9. csaydah says:

    The top part of the response to this blog is nuts. More than 4 screens of material on Israel. Not a whit about the substance of the blog. National Socialists rose to power in Germany, among other reasons, because the opposition never unified — it spent its time fighting each other. Trumpism will last forever, as Shatz observes, so long as natural allies keep fighting each other over what amounts to trivia.

  10. Okwui Enwezor says:

    Thanks Adam for this wonderful piece, as always. Whenever there’s a debate on immigration I am often reminded of the time when I had the misfortune of holding a Nigerian passport. The nightmare of transit visas in the 1980s and 1990s which were required if you had to change planes in a non-Schengen airport, made traveling an unendurable dilemma. And it also reminds me of being deported to Canada in the mid 1980s when I was a student for taking a spring break holiday in Toronto instead of staying in the U.S., even though my student visa was up to date ; of being unable to visit so many countries to see art and exhibitions because I had the wrong passport from the wrong country in the wrong continent.

    There’s much in the immigration debate that is not written about when you are a West African from a “shithole” country traveling the world and the permission people give themselves to harass you, torment you, brutalize you that you simply become inured to the debate on immigration. The first thing they do to you at the border when you come from a shithole country is to try to steal your humanity, to put you into the process of depersonalization, to make you feel less than a cockroach, to make you feel fear and gratitude for normal simple courtesy. I could go on from personal experience or that of my siblings, beautiful black women who are tormented everyday in London and New York for having the wrong accent. Immigration does not stop at the border where Obama and Trump have played politics with the lives of brown peoples, the true wretched of the earth.

    Your piece is about reality and we need more of it, written with anger and not with rationality. Because I am in my fifties and have a true experience with the topic and have lived it and know hundreds more who are living it, we should also know that there are thousands of non-racist nativists who support these measures. They may even be our friends, lovers, neighbors, etc.

    Thanks as always for jumping into the fray. But the immigration debate is much, much more than the dramatic scenes at the border or the bottomless graves in Mediterranean or shallow graves on the sands of the Sahara. Who will remember or commemorate those lost ones lying in secret graves with no name?

    Brown bodies dumped and buried in those graves are the tokens we pay for the debate on immigration, especially for us coming from shithole countries in order to have our humanity stripped from the human waste we have become.

  11. unless says:

    Report just now from SPLC:
    JULY 5, 2018
    SPLC News This Week
    Maryland newsroom shooting — Diversity in education — Racist robocalls

    Shooting at Maryland newspaper draws praise, celebration from far-right
    Since last week, far-right activists have taken to social media to celebrate and engage in racist speculation and victim blaming following a shooting that claimed the lives of five Maryland newspaper staffers. The shooting came just days after President Trump called a group of reporters the “enemy of the American people.” It also came after alt-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos said he couldn’t “wait for the vigilante squads to start gunning journalists down on sight.”
    READ MORE https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2018/06/29/far-right-shooting-maryland-newspaper-draws-praise-celebration


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