Racist, Misogynist, Eugenicist, Ableist, Bigot, Traitor, Gaslighter, Liar: A Letter to My Representatives on Their Christofascist Bigotry

Senator Cornyn, Senator Cruz, Representative Williams,

Separating kids from their families. Dosing them into compliance with psychotropic drugs without parental consent or knowledge of their medical history. Putting them in cages. Losing track of them. Trafficking them. Denying due process. Joking about it. These are acts of incipient evil: callous, careless, and cruel. We have crossed a bright shining line.

American democracy is up against a relatively large, well-heeled, and highly organized Christofascist bloc whose rhetoric reveals their contempt for pluralism and democratic norms and their desire to impose theocratic authoritarianism on the rest of us. To resist, we need to know how to understand and contextualize that rhetoric. Many of us who have lived and left right-wing evangelicalism and who have been trying, in some cases for years, to expose the Christian Right as authoritarian and abusive, are ready to serve as interpreters.

Source: Authoritarian Christianity, or, what Franklin Graham Really Means when he Equates Progressivism with Godlessness – Not Your Mission Field

Trumpism and American Evangelicalism are racist and misogynist religions based on patriarchy and white supremacy. The most churched white people in the country support Nazis who chant “Jews will not replace us.” They support child abusers, domestic abusers, harassers, rapists, and the language of domestic violence while devaluing women and children. They support violent discrimination against LGBTQ and disabled people. They support rape culture, spiritual abuse, and the gaslighting of a nation. They support tearing apart families and traumatizing childrenRadicalized from birth in enclaves of fear and hate, they are the self-avowed enemies of democracy and pluralism.

Kidnapping children of color (an American tradition) is just the latest depravity forwarded by the acolytes of these pluralism-rejecting ideologies. A great many Americans, sick of this low and cruel form of Christianity, are emptying the pews in response. Immigrants and Muslims and LGBTQ aren’t the problems. White evangelicals are. You are.

You, my representatives, are morally and ethically bankrupt (near enough to round down) authoritarian bigots. You are traitors selling out our foreign policy to dictators. You are kleptocrats dismantling our country. You are bad people operating outside laws, norms, and civil society. The indictments are rolling in (23 as of this writing), though not fast enough to save our systems from generations of rebuilding.

We see you. We see your racial hatred, your indifference to suffering, and your refusal to examine systemic causes. We see your hypocrisy, your inconsistency, your incredibly selective mercy, and your thinly veiled supremacy. We see your deflection, false equivalence, fear-based socialization, projection, and defensive fetishes. We see you cherry picking hate and ignoring love. We see you and reject you. Your bigotry and base morality are cautionary tales to our kids. Do not be like these twisted and unworthy men. Do not discard ethics and tatter your souls as they have done. Do not be on their side of history.

“Will they kidnap me and put me in a cage,” ask kids across America after glimpsing the news. I cannot reassure my Jewish kids that their whiteness will protect them from a party of providentialist Christofascists following the script (stage 7 out of 9) of segregation, concentration, and genocide-ready tyranny. With the GOP and the Trump administration elevating and amplifying virulently anti-Semitic Holocaust deniers and the Republican electorate electing Nazis, reassurances might become more lies on the pile.

“Needless to say, racists don’t spend a lot of time hunting down reliable data to train their twisted models. And once their model morphs into a belief, it becomes hardwired. It generates poisonous assumptions, yet rarely tests them, settling instead for data that seems to confirm and fortify them. Consequently, racism is the most slovenly of predictive models. It is powered by haphazard data gathering and spurious correlations, reinforced by institutional inequities, and polluted by confirmation bias. In this way, oddly enough, racism operates like many of the WMDs I’ll be describing in this book.”

Source: Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy

Racism makes bad decisions and bad policy. Your careers, my reps, provide ample example. Russia and white supremacists are still interfering in our systems (many of us in infosec and tech offer continuous witness), but Congress and POTUS are more concerned with baseless, performative racism than with fortifying our infrastructure and protecting our citizens against a hostile nation-state and domestic Christofascist terror. Your performances in hearings with Comey, Hayden, Watts, et al demonstrate your loyalties. Those loyalties are not to our country or Constitution. They are loyalties to party, power, patriarchy, and supremacy. A government made of such loyalties is an enemy of the people.

I think we can’t keep going with a system that allows the minority to run the country, especially a racist minority, a misogynist minority, a fundamentalist minority, a cruel…minority.

How long will the majority consent to be governed by the minority?

Source: Waiting – emptywheel

You represent the most intolerant and cruel of our deliberately poisoned body politic. Beneath respect and beyond moral rehabilitation, you merit not even the pretense of respectability from the constituents you marginalize and endanger. You are not civil. You are not respectable. You are not acceptable. You are not okay. You do not know how to behave in polite society.

You are pariah. Wherever you go, you will be seen and rejected for what you are: racist, misogynist, eugenicist, ableist, bigot, traitor, gaslighter, liar. There are social costs for intolerance. There are costs for imposing your dark, dystopian vision of “one kleptocracy under God” upon us.

I think it’s important for liberal Americans who do not come from a patriarchal religious background to hear our stories and to sit with that shock. Why? Because I remain convinced that if American civil society and the American press fail to come to grips with just how radically theocratic the Christian Right is, any kind of post-Trump soft landing scenario in which American democracy recovers a healthy degree of functionality is highly unlikely.

To put it another way, you may not come from Jesus Land, USA, but Jesus Land is coming for you. We will all be subjected to theocratic dystopia, to “one kleptocracy under God,” if we don’t stop the Christian Right. The Christian Right has been able to acquire massively disproportionate power in part because the press has allowed evangelicals’ slick, code switching PR spin doctors–such as the Southern Baptist Convention’s Russell “journalists never ask me about my view that feminism is a heresy” Moore–to frame the national discussion of evangelicalism. The result is that the readers of major news outlets are presented with an unrealistically benign picture of a darkly authoritarian, cult-like branch of Protestantism. That’s one reason I’m writing this essay.

Source: Escape from Jesus Land: On Recognizing Evangelical Abuse and Finding the Strength to Reject the Faith of Our Fathers – Not Your Mission Field

The elephant in the room is that the vast majority of (mostly white) conservative Evangelicals hold to a fundamentalist, authoritarian version of Christianity that is incompatible with pluralism, but for that no less “really” Christian, as “real” Christianity comes in both reactionary and progressive versions. Combined with political power, conservative Evangelicalism threatens democracy and human rights, and to continue to treat conservative Evangelicals as if they are operating in good faith within the acceptable boundaries of American democratic norms will serve only to normalize extremism, allowing Evangelicals to further erode our democracy. And pretending that “real” religion is incapable of being abusive and anti-democratic only serves to deflect from the rot within American Christianity that we as a society need to face.

Source: Journalists Should Stop Scratching their Heads about Evangelical Trumpism, Admit White Evangelicals are Illiberal Christians – Not Your Mission Field

The Paradox of Tolerance.png

Behaviorism, Compliance, and the Subversiveness of Autistic Pride

It is deeply subversive to live proudly despite being living embodiments of our culture’s long standing ethical failings.

Source: THINKING PERSON’S GUIDE TO AUTISM: On Hans Asperger, the Nazis, and Autism: A Conversation Across Neurologies

This conversation between Steve Silberman and Maxfield Sparrow on Hans Asperger, Nazis, and autism connects past with present through the ever present themes of compliance and behaviorism.

Seeing non-compliance pathologized by Nazi doctors makes me proud to belong to a people who resist oppression. And realizing that so much of what passes for therapy and accommodation today would be wholeheartedly embraced by Nazi doctors reminds me that the monsters who killed Autistic children 80 years ago were also human beings with families and friends and loving relationships. It reminds me that otherwise good people today could also be monsters.

To be openly and proudly autistic is to be regarded as a threat to the social order.

If we were not threatening to the social order in some way, there would not be therapies designed to control how we move our bodies and communicate.

A threat processed on a near instinctual level:

I don’t get to talk about the lived experience of autism from this angle as often because I’m nervous about appearing too radical. I’m usually talking about how challenging life is for us, how often we are social outcasts, how the thin slice studies showed that people prejudge us harshly in just micro-seconds of seeing or hearing us (though we fare better than neurotypical subjects when people only see our written words), how many of us are homeless or unemployed. All of that is the flip side of this same subversive coin, though.

The revelations about Hans Asperger serve to remind us that “eugenics reassert themselves in every historical era” and that compliance and behaviorism are the social order acting against our neurotypes, our freedom, and our health—as they have done for a long time.

The hardest part for me was coming to realize how much the entire identification and naming of people with my neurotype was part of a tireless search to purge the Reich of all the non-compliant people. Asperger’s full name for our neurology was “autistic psychopathy” because our lower-than-neurotypical interest in social compliance was viewed as dangerous to the state. Sheffer says those identified as psychopaths were people “such as ‘asocials,’ delinquents, and vagrants” who “threatened social order.” We Autistics are still fighting lifelong battles against those who go to great lengths—sometimes abusive and deadly lengths—to force us to comply with their wish for us to not be Autistic. We still threaten social order. I opened this book thinking “history,” and closed it thinking “origins of an ongoing human crisis.”

One of the best things that could come out of this is a wake-up call, because concepts like eugenics reassert themselves in every historical era—whether it’s Nazis talking about “life unworthy of life,” geneticists in Iceland talking about “eradicating” Down syndrome through selective abortion, a presidential candidate mocking a disabled reporter from the podium while bragging about his “good genes,” or autism charities framing autism as an economic burden on society. Resisting institutionalized violence requires perpetual vigilance.

Reframe our tendency to rebel as part of our gift to the health of society,  as a perpetual vigilance that humanizes our spaces and our systems.

…at the same time, Asperger insisted that the non-compliance of his patients, and their tendency to rebel against authority, was at the heart of what he called “autistic intelligence,” and part of the gift they had to offer society.

Our non-compliance is not intended to be rebellious. We simply do not comply with things that harm us. But since a great number of things that harm us are not harmful to most neurotypicals, we are viewed as untamed and in need of straightening up. Sheffer writes that Dr. Asperger called this non-compliant trait malicious, mean, and uncontrollable. She notes him describing Autistic children as having a “lack of respect for authority, the altogether lack of disciplinary understanding, and unfeeling malice.” That appears to be the majority opinion of us today as well. If we were not threatening to the social order in some way, there would not be therapies designed to control how we move our bodies and communicate.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not anti-therapy. I embrace therapies that help me with some of my Autistic co-occurring conditions like circadian rhythm disruption and digestive malfunction. I welcome treatments for epilepsy-a co-occurring condition found in 25% – 30% of Autistics-because I’ve seen how much suffering epilepsy brings. My late fiancé died from SUDEP, a fatal complication of epilepsy, and before his death I watched seizures shred his attempts at living a full life. What I am against are therapies to make us stop flapping our hands or spinning in circles. I am against forbidding children to use sign language or AAC devices to communicate when speech is difficult. I am against any therapy designed to make us look “normal” or “indistinguishable from our peers.” My peers are Autistic and I am just fine with looking and sounding like them.

But seeing more clearly that we have always faced the barriers we face today has stirred some pride in being part of a people who survive against the odds. Seeing non-compliance pathologized by Nazi doctors makes me proud to belong to a people who resist oppression.

It is deeply subversive to live proudly despite being living embodiments of our culture’s long standing ethical failings.

Max, for instance, based on your reading of Sheffer’s book, you said earlier, “Asperger called this non-compliant trait malicious, mean, and uncontrollable.” That’s partly true, but that’s also a result of Sheffer’s relentless cherry-picking, because at the same time, Asperger insisted that the non-compliance of his patients, and their tendency to rebel against authority, was at the heart of what he called “autistic intelligence,” and part of the gift they had to offer society.

One of my favorite anecdotes from Asperger’s thesis is when he asks an autistic boy in his clinic if he believes in God. “I don’t like to say I’m not religious,” the boy replies, “I just don’t have any proof of God.” That anecdote shows an appreciation of autistic non-compliance, which Asperger and his colleagues felt was as much a part of their patients’ autism as the challenges they faced. Asperger even anticipated in the 1970s that autistic adults who “valued their freedom” would object to behaviorist training, and that has turned out to be true.

Source: THINKING PERSON’S GUIDE TO AUTISM: On Hans Asperger, the Nazis, and Autism: A Conversation Across Neurologies