Kathleen Kern Author

In this sub-season



In this sub-season
when snow retreats, revealing
fecal gashes snowplows
leave in lawns
my neighbors—yearning
for perfection—poison,
I scavenge plump pillows 
of moss the plows 
scraped up.


Only in this short season 
does moss rehome,
become a barricade
against weeds mustering
to invade my garden 
and spaces
between stone and concrete.


I am 59.
I feel the pulse beneath snow and earth,
the will to break through, increase.
I know some cracks will go unfilled.

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Quora: fascists welcome; Palestinians, not so much

Screenshot of my Quora profile page

Since the coup attempt at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, online publications and social media have received renewed scrutiny for allowing hate speech on their platforms as well as providing a venue for domestic terrorists to connect with each other. Breitbart, VDare, Daily Caller, Gab, 4Chan, 8Chan, DLive, and Parler often come up in these discussions. Quora doesn’t.

Founded in 2009, Quora is a question-and-answer site visited by 300 million people a month who can ask or answer just about anything. I’ve gotten advice on my fruit trees, acrylic nails, appliances, and answers to quirky science questions.

Quora is also a place for political dialogue, and in this area, it skews far to the right of what I have experienced on Twitter and Facebook. On Quora, I learned that social justice is a bad thing, and social justice warriors are despicable characters out to ruin anything enjoyable. (My response, always: “I am a social justice warrior and I am delightful.”) Racist, misogynist, homophobic and transphobic questions, answers, and comments appear regularly.

As does fascism. Quora has an entire space ostensibly for people interested in fascism, but after reading a few entries, one understands the space is a discussion group for fascists. A few days ago, a Quoran asked me a question about what white supremacists or fascists want to achieve. I checked to see if others had answered the question and found a person who presented himself, without apology, as a fascist. “I look at the modern west and see the uselessness of Democracy,” he wrote, citing Europeans allowing Muslims to flood their countries and leaving their traditions and freedoms to focus on hedonism. He continued:

Fascism is the answer. Fascism will destroy the socialists for their many crimes, forcibly repatriate the foreigners who do not belong in our countries, and harshly punish the elites who have so damaged the west that they might enrich themselves further.…

Violence is going to be necessary to restore the west, and fascism is the necessary vehicle.

I complimented him on his honesty, noting that a lot of fascists participate on Quora who do not acknowledge their fascism (and who for some reason think ANTIFA are fascists.) I wrote, “Maybe those of us working for human rights could finally wake people out of their apathy and bothsidesism if the Right had the integrity to name what they are.”

His response: Your side never will. You talk about “human rights” a lot, maybe you even think you actually care about them, but you don’t.…”

He then accused my “side” of violence, censorship, and suppression. “I know exactly what you socialists are and your intentions are, which is why I hate you and support using the same tactics against you.”

The difference between you and me comes down to two things. One, I’m honest about my intentions and what I am. Yes, I want sides to no longer exist in my country. I’ve listed my reasons why and I think they’re fairly rational.

You people would round my side up for the cattle cars without a second thought and try and somehow justify it or pretend it isn’t happening.

The reason your side focuses so much on propaganda and censorship of your opposition is that your ideology can only exist unchallenged. That’s why your activists are far more confrontational, violent, and prone to rioting than mine. Fascists arrive at fascism as a result of a realization of the true nature of society and humanity and a realization of the incredible weakness of democracy…

My response:

I find it really interesting that you don’t understand at all what it means to be an advocate for human rights — everybody’s human rights — but your description of what it means to be a fascist is pretty much how human rights advocates understand fascism.

Him: “I do support human rights, for the right people.”

He followed with a screed condemning human rights advocates who support ISIS widows, adding that Israel’s subjugation of Palestinian savages only makes sense. He shared his approval of the AUC paramilitaries in Colombia, noting they are more effective than the Colombian army in stamping out communism. (I want to add here that Colombian paramilitaries commit by far the most vicious human rights atrocities against Colombian civilians.)

The discussion continued, but you get the idea. Note to self: do not argue with fascists.

Quora claims to be non-partisan, stating its site exists to “share and grow the world’s knowledge.” Its moderators do not monitor the postings. Instead, it asks its members to police the site and report objectionable content.

And therein lies the problem. Women, racialized people, queer people, disabled people, and Muslims have their content downvoted and reported to the moderators consistently by white male Quorans. One woman told a journalist that she tried rephrasing some of the most sexist questions she found on Quora so that they pertained to men. Almost immediately, her questions were downvoted or reported out of existence. A similar pattern of harassment, downvoting, and reporting routinely happens to members of marginalized groups. The result? Most of them leave Quora, making it a very white, troll-y space.

If you’re Palestinian, Quora is an incredibly hostile environment. You will be told that you and your country do not exist. That you are innately savage. That everything about your history and culture boils down to one Hamas or Islamic Jihad training video. Quora has banned the space Palestine Today — where people discuss Palestinian culture, history, politics, and the Israeli military occupation of Palestine — at least three times since I joined in 2017. It has banned Rima Najjar, a Palestinian professor who has compared Zionism to fascism. Her expulsion begs the question: If fascists are welcome to post about fascism on Quora, why can’t someone compare another ideology to fascism on Quora?

My detractors have downvoted and collapsed many of my own answers about the Israeli military occupation of Palestine. These answers did not express opinions so much as provide accounts of what I had witnessed in the Al-Khalil/Hebron area over two decades of work with Christian Peacemaker Teams. I appealed, and Quora moderators usually restored them, but then the partisans of Israel downvoted them again.

I also created a space, Allies and Accomplices, which was popular for the two weeks it existed. Allies and Accomplices provided space for people to report oppressive behavior they encountered on Quora since reporting this behavior to moderators didn’t seem to work for people of color, Muslims, and other marginalized people. I learned about oppressions that I hadn’t considered. For example, I had noticed an obsession in the questions about personality disorders. I had not considered how the plethora of those questions would affect people who struggle with them. Membership in our space increased rapidly, and we even generated automatic congratulations from Quora for doing so well.

My co-moderator and I appealed when Quora moderators suspended and then banned the space (one post had mentioned a Quoran’s name, and he reported us for that.) We said we could adapt the space to bring it into compliance with the rules. We never heard back from Quora.

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A tale of two Congresswomen, the Israeli lobby and a Jewish Space Laser

Official Congressional photos of Ilhan Omar and Marjorie Taylor Greene

Both accused of anti-Semitism, but treated very differently by political and Jewish establishment

“It’s all about the Benjamins, baby.” Congresswoman Ilhan Omar tweeted these words from a Puff Daddy song in 2019, referring to the role Israeli lobby money plays in congressional foreign policy. (Turns out, a lot.) Republicans, Democrats, and the establishment Jewish organizations pilloried her, calling her anti-Semitic. Even progressive Jews called her out, claimed she had used a trope about Jewish money controlling the world. The young congresswoman removed the tweet and issued the following statement:

Anti-Semitism is real, and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes. My intention is never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole. We have to always be willing to step back and think through criticism, just as I expect people to hear me when others attack me for my identity. This is why I unequivocally apologize.

At the same time, I reaffirm the problematic role of lobbyists in our politics, whether it be AIPAC, the NRA or the fossil fuel industry. It’s gone on too long and we must be willing to address it.

Nonetheless, if you google “Ilhan Omar” and “anti-Semitism,” you will see her detractors did not find this apology adequate. In January 2020, StopAntisemitism.org named her “Anti-Semite of the Year,” choosing her over Louis Farrakhan and actual Nazi, Richard Spencer.

This week, news came out that freshman congresswoman and Qanon conspiracy theorist Marjorie Taylor Greenfield has suggested a giant space laser funded by the Rothschilds was responsible for the California wildfires. In other words, a Jewish space laser.

On social media, I see most people treating her comments as a joke, with the exception of progressive Jews, and even they are employing gallows humor. Are Democrats and Republicans passing resolutions in response to her clearly anti-Semitic accusation as they did with Omar’s tweet? Nope. The hearts of Republicans still seethe over her audacity — as a black, Muslim, immigrant, leftist — to believe she had the right to run for public office.

What do we hear from the major Jewish organizations? From Mort Klein at the Zionist Organization of America? He called Omar and her colleague Rashida Tlaib “frightening insensitive terrorist supporting, Jew hating, America hating Israelophobes,” and “a curse on America.” What about the American Jewish Committee, who misrepresented her comments as saying that Jews were buying off members of Congress, rather than the Israeli lobby had too much financial influence on the Congress?

Crickets. Even the Anti-Defamation League, which has called out Marjorie Taylor Greene for past anti-Semitism, hasn’t gotten around to mentioning the space laser yet.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez spoke of her trauma during the recent failed coup, describing what it was like to be trapped in a room with fellow legislators who wanted to see her harmed. I want to ask those who condemned Ilhan Omar in 2019 this question: if you found yourself surrounded by people who wanted to hurt you, would Ilhan Omar or Marjorie Taylor Greene be the one more likely to help you to safety?

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You are one with Nature and so is your SUV

First published on Medium.com. I’d appreciate if you’d visit and give me a few claps!

KathleenKernMar 30 · 3 min read

They can hear the whales

The spider web stretched across your woodpile this morning — the perfect pearls of dew on each strand — after you saw it, every piece of jewelry you owned seemed lusterless and tacky. You sat in the rich black dirt of your garden and ate a tomato right from the vine. Yet, as you dug your toes into the soil, you knew, you knewyou had to get closer to the earth, connected, rooted.

It’s time to buy an SUV.

You can choose to become like Matthew McMonaughey and drive your SUV to an old growth forest. Become entranced by the birdsong that is somehow as loud with your window up as when you are running on the trail. But picture this: you and your SUV driving intothat same forest, becoming one with the ecosystem of plants, fungi, bacteria and duff, listening to the microorganisms you release from their captivity on the forest floor screaming with delight as they fly past your windshield.

And now you come to a pristine stream. As our Indigenous brothers and sisters say, #WaterIsLife. Are you going to settle for watching the sun sparkling on the ripples? No. All life came from the water; drive right back into it. Climb onto the rocks. You have recreated the primordial drama of the first creature emerging from the sea!

And now that that you’re in love and loving nature with the one you love, you must have an SUV to haul all your stuff as you drive around looking for the peak natural experience. You might want to try out the Peninsula Trail. First, stop at a small country store. A mysterious blind man will approach you and tell you the trail is not on a map. And though you thought “trail” implies, perhaps, a narrow ridge overlooking the ocean, the trail turns out to be an asphalt highway along the coast. Don’t ask yourself why a paved road running alongside the Pacific Ocean complete with a demarcated scenic overlook wasn’t on a map, and why you needed a blind guide for that. Or why you must hold your arms out like you’re pretend-flying an airplane in order to hear whales at the scenic overlook. As the night approaches, he will take you to a dark forest so you can hear a snowy owl. And then you realize: he was never going to murder you, he is of the Ancient Ones, forged from the soil and the iron at the heart of the earth itself, and he not only hears the whales and the owls, he speaks their language.

You and your partner breathe deeply of conifer-scented air before you drive him 200 miles back to his house.

And then you create life. You become Gaia, earth mother, and continue the cycle that the Ancients Ones sparked into being. You drive to the ocean in your SUV. As a wispy voiced singer reflects on the merits of swimming in clean water, you speak to your unborn child about the sounds the ocean makes; you drive her to an old-growth evergreen forest and other heartbreakingly beautiful locations in the Pacific Northwest, the natural habitat of the SUV.

Do you understand what we are telling you? When you calculate the cost of having a child, the Earth obligates you to factor the price of a new SUV into that cost. Otherwise, your precious son or daughter will grow up to despise nature — and none of us wants that.

Sponsored by Heirloom Fuels for a New Green New Deal

KathleenKern

WRITTEN BY

KathleenKern

Have worked for Christian Peacemaker Teams since 1993 (http://cpt.org), serving in Haiti, Palestine, Colombia… Also write novels.

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