Kathleen Kern Author

Our Great Southern Civil Rights/Visiting Friends Tour, Part V

One last stop in Georgia, then all around Florida

From the ACCORD Civil Rights Museum in St. Augustine, FL

After Montgomery, we headed to Lake City, FL for some downtime with my college friends Paula and Mark, but we decided to do a quick stop in Albany (pronounced al-BAENY), GA on the way. Using a willingness to face mass arrest, the Albany Movement had the ambitious goal of desegregating the entire city using the strategy of mass arrests. Sheriff Pritchett just kept sending them to jails within a 200-mile radius of Albany. Dr. King considered Albany a failure, but within two years of these arrests, the town was desegregated. Cynthia, our guide at the museum, was surprised that anyone had thought it a failure.

Cynthia kind of interfered with our plans to do a quick look around and then travel on to Lake City, five hours away. However, since she was brand new at the job, and we were the only people in the museum we didn’t have the heart to tell her we didn’t need a guide. When the time got to about an hour later than we had planned to leave, we had to tell her we weren’t going to tour the church, but we did get a selfie with her.

The sun was very bright. Cynthia does not have squinty eyes. She gave us the address of another good soul food restaurant: Flossie’s Soul Food Restaurant
2004 E Oglethorpe Blvd, Albany, GA
I was still full from eating at Antoinette and Selmar’s though.

Lake City Florida: Paul and Mark Moser

We arrived late afternoon at the Moser land. They hold about sixty acres jointly with Paula’s sisters, and it’s full of trails, trees, and gardens—what my friend Tony whom I visited on March 3-4 called Old Florida. I became friends with Paula and Mark when we went to Bogota, Colombia (gulp) 40 years ago for a semester to study Latin American History and Liberation Theology. I think when something transforms how you view the world, you are always attached to the people you were with at the time.

We went out for a 6:45 am walk the next morning with Paula and met up with two of her sisters. We stayed with Pam, the sister with the cane, when we drove from Bluffton to Miami on I-75 and caught the flight to Bogota.

Clockwise from top left: Paul and Michael talking about word games, with the mist rising on the pond in the background; cool fuzzy pink flower; Paula in Pam’s garden; Michael, Pam and Peggy; in Peggy’s house with her orchids; on the walk. Center: me in front of Paula and Mark’s outstanding azaleas.

After the intense learning experiences of the previous few days, hanging out with Mark and Paula in their hot tub, catching up on events of the past decade and just conversing with two interesting people was what we needed. I think they do retirement better than anyone I know. Paula has turned Michael on to a dizzying array of new games like Absurdle, Nurdle, etc., which he is enjoying. If we don’t see them for another 10 years, I know we will pick up right where we left off.

Again, please admire the azaleas. Paula and Mark were watching their grandson that morning, and he didn’t want to leave Paula’s arms, so we couldn’t get us all in one picture.

St. Petersburg and Tampa: Tony Treadway and Glenn Hasek

We spent a couple days in St. Petersburg where I reconnected with my friend Tony Treadway, whom I hadn’t seen for decades. He is working on a memoir and I’m helping him out with editing. Tony is spending his retirement playing in four, count ’em four, different bands. We also had dinner with my old college friend, Glenn Hasek, with whom I co-edited Bluffton’s college paper, The Witmarsum. He, his wife Miriam, and son Ben currently live outside Tampa in Odessa, FL, where he works from home, publishing Green Lodging News, a newsletter about environmentally sustainable practices in the hotel industry.

Did I remember to take selfies of either of these encounters? No, I did not, but Tony sent me the photo on the right after the fact. He sent me several and wrote

“The one with the tin foil – I put that on when the Tortugas perform the song ‘Alien Teenagers,’ and I tell the audience the foil prevents them from getting inside my head.”

Miami

Selfies aplenty occurred in Miami, where we visited Michael’s relatives and his daughter Beth. Interestingly. When I tried to find civil rights history that occurred in Miami, I found exactly nothing. Tony (see above) said that it’s the difference between Old Florida and southern Florida. Southern Florida was invented by PR firms, according to him.

Nohelia Jarquin is the daughter of the cousin of Michael’s first wife. He remains close to that side of the family, so “relatives” seems a good description for them. We had lunch with Nohelia, her husband Alejandro and their son Diego. Knowing how much Michael loved nacatamales, a Nicaraguan delicacy similar to, but more elaborate than tamales, she bought hime some frozen ones from a woman who made them, with instructions to boil them the next day.

These instructions left us with a conundrum: how were we going to boil them in a hotel room? After some thought, we bought an electric kettle at the St. Augustine Target, because we could use one at home, and used it to boil the nacatamales. They were superb.

Coral Gables: Beth Melissa, Eric and Eric’s Parents

We had a really good time in Coral Gables with Beth Melissa and her boyfriend Eric. Beth gave us a tour around the area, and Eric took us to his favorite Cuban restaurant, the Versailles. We also had dinner with Eric’s parents, Marta and Rubens Tabarley who were pretty much everything you would want in friends; I wish our conversation could have continued, but my back wouldn’t permit it. Marta is originally from Colombia and Rubens is from Argentina, but they have lived in Coral Gables for many years. Eric cooked us a traditional Asado. I knew I shouldn’t have eaten so much sausage before the skirt steak, but I did. If you are offered blood sausage, do not let the name keep you from eating it.

Of course, this event took place after weeks of my worrying that Michael and I would be presentable enough. Our lifestyle trends more casual than Beth’s does. If you zoom in on our picture with the you will notice that I got my nails done. Michael wore one of the new shirts he bought because Florida was warmer than he thought it would be.

St. Augustine

The ACCORD Civil Rights Museum is the type of repository most according to my taste, I’ve found. A small enterprise, run by enthusiastic volunteers with some surprisingly valuable historical artifacts. Our guide clearly regarded all of the objects with great affection, and spoke withpride about the dentists’s office, which houses the museum, having the first integrated waiting room in St. Augustine. (After our travels, I wondered whether it was the only one anywhere in the South during the 1960s.)

Dr. Robert Hayling, the only oral surgeon of any color for miles around, was one of the driving forces behind the St. Augustine Movement which influenced President Lyndon Johnson in his passage of the Civil Rights Act. Do you remember the film of a white man dumping acid in a swimming pool to get black people out of it? That was St. Augustine.

Our enthusiastic guide, Gwendolyn Duncan. Highly recommend.
Our guide said that this sign was from the original St. Augustine Woolworth’s.
Dr. Hayling’s presence is felt throughout the museum. One of my favorite stories about him was how he confronted one of the men threatening him, reminding him that he had performed major oral surgery on him the previous week.
If you can zoom in to read these ephemera, they make the arrests of students more personal and immediate.
St. Augustine was the only place in Florida where Dr. King was arrested.
The mother of the Governor of Massachusetts came to St. Augustine with goal of getting arrested. For some reason, Gwen found her to be especially amusing. She does (did) seem like a happy person.
Gwen highly recommends this book to get a wholistic view of St. Augustine in 1964
Dr. Gordon was Dr. Hayling’s partner in St. Augustine.
But no matter how accomplished Dr. Gordon was Lincoln National Life would not sell him insurance because he was not “Caucasian.” There are some other interesting ephemera in that case.
The sign from that hotel where the manager dumped acid in the pool that movement young people were trying to desegregate.

The following eyewitness account of a Klan meeting in St. Augustine describes the threat that forced Dr. Hayling to leave town. I am putting them in full size so that you can read them easily.

Gwen pointed out this church as the church where King and other civil rights leaders met to strategize for the St. Augustine Campaign–and the plaque there confirmed it. However, when we walked back to our car, we noticed another church across the street claimed the same thing. I imagine several churches were involved.

I think the next blog will be the last.

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Our Great Southern Civil Rights/Visiting Friends Tour IV

Montgomery and Selma

Sculpture outside the Memorial for Peace and Justice.

We could easily have spent a week in Montgomery, Alabama and the area around it, but we decided to focus on the Legacy Museum and the Memorial for Peace and Justice (aka “The Lynching Museum.”) Like others who have visited, we had trouble finding the words to describe the museum. The designers take you from the Middle Passage (and you feel like you’re underwater as you read about it) through the error of racial terrorism following Reconstruction. You continue to the present New Jim Crow in our prison system, where you can sit in a chair behind a glass panel and talk to real people about what brought them to prison, and what burdens they are bearing.

In the museum, we found the jar of soil that Rabbi Tom Guttherz and his community brought from the spot where John Henry James was lynched (see Part II) on a giant wall of jars, but we weren’t allowed to take pictures of that or anything else in the museum. And the gift shop didn’t have postcards that captured some of the amazing exhibits, so that was a bummer.

We were allowed, however, to take pictures in the memorial, which records all the lynchings that took place in southern counties.

Outside the Memorial
Inside the structure, they use the vertical rusted steel monoliths for the counties and place them in seemingly random order. Outside, they lay them on the ground and put them in alphabetical order by state. I thought it appropriate to record the lynching in my own state.
My first attempt to use the panoramic photo feature on my phone–not successfully. For those who cannot make out the words, it is dedicated to lynching victims whose deaths went unrecorded.
To me, it makes sense they used poets and artists to provide commentary since, in many ways, words fail to describe the museum and the memorial.

That evening, we had dinner with the family of Jalil’s daughter, which provided a much-needed shift in mood and a good space to talk about our visit to the museum and news events. Antoinette, or “Toni,” is a fabulous cook, and we were way too full of food and fellowship by the time we left. We were a little distressed to learn that Antoinette and her daughter Amina were making $2.50 an hour working as servers.

Why did I choose two nearly identical photos? The growing hilarity on little Ayden’s face. Counterclockwise: Me, Antoinette, Ayden, Selmar (Antoinette’s husband), and Michael.

The next day in Selma was quite different. The museums and historical markers were less sophisticated but more accessible. The Legacy Museum almost felt as though it came down from On High. You definitely saw the work of dedicated human volunteers keeping the witness of Bloody Sunday and the marches across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma alive.

Not sure, but I think the Lowery’s monument stole the quote from Shirley Chisholm.
From Joshua 4:21-22, “When your children shall ask you in [the] time to come what mean these stones, then you shall tell them how you crossed over.”
On the park side of the Edmund Pettus Bridge was a little gift shop with a mural painted on its side. It was less slick and professional than the other museum gift shops we visited, but a lot more interesting.

After the park, we made our way across the bridge and explored the city of Selma.

You can’t escape the poverty in Selma. The public housing project across the street from his official historical marker is in significantly better repair than the houses in the neighborhood around it.

We walked back over the bridge again and found a small, unassuming museum open across the street from the gift shop. Unlike the high-tech museums we had visited, we could take as many pictures as we wanted in this one.

Some of the footprints of those who walked across the bridge on Bloody Sunday.
Records of the people arrested in Selma along with a reconstruction of a cell in which they were imprisoned.

Returning from Selma to Montgomery, we stopped at the Rosa Parks museum an hour before it closed. We could only take pictures of the sign out front and her statue in the foyer.

We finished our long day amongst the cloud of witnesses at Connie Bs, which had some darn good soul food. I just ordered sides.

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Our Great Southern Civil Rights/Visiting Friends Tour, Part IV

Atlanta—February 26, 2020

The most cynically overused quote by Martin Luther King. At the Martin Luther King National Historic Park in Atlanta.

From Clemson, we drove to Atlanta, where we stayed with our friend Billie and spent a couple of dinners visiting with her daughter Stephanie.

Billie, left, and Stephanie, right. They are the mother and sister, respectively, of our friend Jalil Muntaqim. Jalil was released in October 2020 and lived with us for seven months afterward. I didn’t write about it, because we all thought it best for him to keep a low profile. Maybe when he finishes parole, I’ll have more to say. But you can check this out
in the meantime.

We did not see all the Civil Rights History-related sites in Atlanta; that would have taken a week. But we figured learning what it was like for Billie and Stephanie to be the only black family living in Skyline, Utah was living Civil Rights history. Also, waiting almost fifty years for their Black Panther son and brother, whose trial the FBI meddled with, to get out of prison counts, I think.

We confined our official civil rights touring to the Martin Luther King National Historic Park one afternoon. Ebenezer Baptist Church, his childhood home, MLK and Coretta Scott King’s tomb, and other significant landmarks all lie within the boundaries of this park.

We noticed that all the historic landmarks and the interpretive center were closed due to Covid, but for some reason, the gift shops at each place were open.

These engraved quotations by MLK Jr were harder to read in person than they are here because I upped the contrast a whole lot when I edited the photos.
Gandhi’s teachings on nonviolence. I’ve kind of gone off Gandi because of Arundhati Roy and my former work supervisor from Meghalaya, India. The real hero who took on the caste system was Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, they say.
The Martin Luther King “I have a dream” World Peace Rose Garden, which contains reflections by children on the speech. See lower middle square. Given the most recent war in Gaza, I was particularly moved by the poems by Gazan children.
We weren’t allowed to go into Ebenezer Baptist, but I bought a couple of fans with a picture of Martin and Coretta looking like newlyweds at the gift shop. I look forward to using them this summer
Coretta Scott King, laying down some truth.
Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King probably have the most beautiful final resting place ever.
MLK’s birthplace, home while he pastored Ebenezer, and a typical architectural style in the neighborhood–all very close together.
Walking in the footprints of the faithful witnesses who came before me I learned that Congressman John Lewis had big feet for a small man; Bishop Desmond Tutu and I had the same shoe size, and no way am I going to stwith wwwep on Maxine Waters’ footprints!

I found it hard to leave Billie, currently spitting Stage 4 cancer in the facewith great joie de vivre. Thinking about coming back in the summer.

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Our Great Southern Civil Rights/Visiting Friends Tour, Part III

We thought we were here for the friends but if you look past all the football paraphernalia stores, you see people working for civil rights and the restoration of history.

From right to left: Our friends Peter (who wrote the definitive biography of Howard Thurman),
Jane (a genetics nurse Ph.D.) Orrville Vernon Burton, who worked for voting rights in the 1960s and is
having to do the same now 60 years later, Michael and yours truly. Jane and Peter were having a good time,
despite appearances.

When we visited our friends Peter and Jane in Clemson, SC, we assumed the visit would be heavy on the friends part of the tour and light on the civil rights. But due to Peter’s career as a professional historian, we did find a civil rights—or maybe “human rights” is a better term—connection.

It all began when Peter (or Jane—I forget)said that the university had probably built its football stadium over the graves of enslaved people.

Clemson Stadium, aka “Death Valley,” due to the prowess of its Tigers team. Maybe they
should keep the name, given it’s probably over a graveyard.

Peter then told us an African American literature professor on campus had led the effort to remember the lives of enslaved people who lived on the John C Calhoun plantation, which became the campus of Clemson University, built by convict labor. The graves of these slaves and convict laborers are marked by flags, or spray-painted circles on walkways around the campus.

Next day, we accompanied Peter to the Clemson Campus to check out what was going on there. Peter was the perfect tour guide to explain, in the era of Black Lives Matter, how the school was navigating between its Board and its faculty what to do with buildings named for enslavers and racists.

Old Main, also known as Tillman Hall, which faculty pushed to rename because
Senator Benjamin R.“Pitchfork Ben” Tillman was a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Person.
Black and white head shot of Nancy Washington Legree, an enslaved woman who worked in the John C. Calhoun Home that still stands on the Clemson Campus
Thomas Green Clemson was a Confederate officer and ran a forced labor camp with the
people he enslaved.
The “integration with dignity” happened after its first black student sued Clemson
in federal court for admittance into the University.
This sign was the compromise between the trustees and the faculties. Tillman’s actual
name would come off the building, but they’d put up this plaque alluding to his repugnant attitudes and behavior.

When Peter suggested we tour the home of virulently pro-slavery John C. Calhoun, my first reaction was I didn’t want to be one of those people who toured plantation homes. But Peter encouraged me, saying the exhibits inside were not that kind of Old South nostalgia. We were both surprised, however, by how not-that- kind-of-nostalgia they were. Peter hadn’t been on campus for a while so the narrative of enslaved people who had lived on the plantation/campus was new to him.

But first, we had to learn more about this guy.
I’m using big pictures so that you can see the tags with magnification.

At the end of our Clemson campus/plantation/forced labor camp tour,
we paused to reflect on what we had learned next to a building name for
Strom Thurmond. Some people think he had a conversion experience later in life. Others
beg to disagree.

Another important thing I learned that day: my ankle, broken at the end of June,
could now walk more than four miles.

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Our Great Southern Civil Rights/Visiting Friends Tour, Part III

Greensboro and Chapel Hill

From Charlottesville, we drove to the Woolworth Museum in Greensboro. In 1960, four young men sat at the lunch counter at the Woolworths and asked for service. They did so for months until the store, experiencing staggering economic losses, quietly caved.

Michael standing in front of the Greensboro Woolworth’s/International Civil Rights Museum

The museum doesn’t allow you to take any pictures, and it didn’t sell any postcards of the pictures I wanted to take, most significantly the wall with the names of all those who died participating in the struggle for civil rights. For those who are interested in going to the museum–the film that they show you at the beginning of the self-guided tour pretty much tells you everything you will see in the museum.

Have you ever heard of the Greensboro Massacre? It sounded familiar to me; my thoughts went to something labor-related. Michael and I were both shocked to learn it happened in 1979 when I was a senior in high school. It started out as a “Death to the Klan” rally sponsored by the Communist party in a low-income housing development. The Klan had been trying to divide workers along racial lines that the communists had been trying to organize in the textile factories. Well, the Klan and the Nazis showed up and killed five of the rally participants—with the collusion of the Greensboro police, as it turns it out. When the police finally turned up, they arrested the rally participants. As part of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission from 2004-2006, the city agreed to erect a memorial to those slain at the housing development, but so far, just this plaque marks the event—Marker J-28 in the North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program.

We had dinner that night with friends of Michael, who had decided they preferred North Carolina weather to Rochester weather.

Chrissy told me to smile after I took the first one
The names of the beers on tap were fun

On our way to Chapel Hill the next day we stopped to see a friend who used to live in Canandaigua and who also does not miss the snow.

Behind us in the red brick building is a very Whole Foods sort of store, but more community-conscious.

In Chapel Hill, we discovered some significant human rights events. Heard of the freedom riders who de-segregated the buses in the South? What dates come to mind? Well, these folks were doing it in 1947 and were put on chain gangs for their resistance. Respect to the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the brave citizens of Chapel Hill.

The North Carolina Office of Archives and History put this up in 2008

Chapel Hill had its own sit-ins, but high schoolers set off the movement here in 1960 instead of college students.

Love me some Direct Action
I was literally standing in front of this monument, when a passerby asked me what I was looking for. He silently pointed to it when I replied.
I thought these kids deserved a close-up.

We spent the night in Hickory, NC with Michael’s friends Kathleen and Kevin, who showed us lovely hospitality, and of course, I forgot to take a selfie of us. I also didn’t find much in the way of sites in Hickory that marked the Civil Rights movement. But I did find a thesis on the desegregation of Hickory High School.

On our way to Clemson the next day, we decided it was time for us to participate in another southern tradition. Verdict: my waffle and Michael’s burger were tasty.

The sun was very bright.

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Our Great Southern Civil Rights/Visiting Friends Tour, part II

Plaque on the armory where John Brown made his last stand. Storer College was established
for Black students in the 19th century.

Catoctin Furnace

The next day, February 19, we stopped in Maryland to see the Catoctin furnace, where excavators had recently uncovered the graveyard of enslaved people who worked in the furnace.

The plaques included the work and lives of enslaved people.
The photo above the poem is what the cemetery actually looks like. We were unable to see it.
Names of enslaved workers at the Catoctin furnace
I took this picture and the following picture from the viewing platform. As you can see,
nothing resembling the slave cemetery is immediately visible.
Plaque on the viewing platform for the enslaved peoples’ cemetery.

Harpers Ferry

After Catoctin Furnace, we spent the remainder of the day in Harpers Ferry with our friend Jane from DC and visited the site where John Brown tried to start the war to end slavery. I was surprised that the armory where Brown made his last stand was so small. Of all the arsenals in states where the war was fought, John Brown’s Fort, as people came to call it, was the only one to survive the Civil War. When it fell into disrepair, Alumni from Storer College, a school for black students, restored it.

Our Great Southern Civil Rights/Visiting Friends Tour, part II

Plaque on the armory where John Brown made his last stand. Storer College was established
for Black students in the 19th century.

I should mention that Harpers Ferry itself is what people call “charming,” all cobblestones and scenery. Jane enjoys visiting there because it’s along the Potomac River and full of hiking trails. Most of the town is National Park Area.

Below are some plaques at the site. It’s good to keep in mind that John Brown thought he was on a mission from God to free enslaved people because he understood the miseries under which they were living. The young people with him were in their late teens and early twenties—university students who thoroughly believed in this mission.

The Kennedy House

Four miles away from Harpers Ferry, the Kennedy House is preserved as the site from which Brown and his comrades left early in the morning to launch their raid on the armory.

All the people who were with John Brown. Notice their ages.
A closer look at the Kennedy House.

Reflections? I still believe in the power of nonviolence. And obviously, the Underground Railroad was largely a nonviolent enterprise. But given that the life of an average enslaved person, once he began working in the sugarcane fields, was seven years, the mass rapes of slave women, the torture of enslaved people with impunity. I do not condemn John Brown. The fault of the Civil War lies with people who did not care enough about the lives of enslaved people from 1619 onwards.

Charlottesville

On our way to Greensboro the next day, we decided to stop in Charlottesville, VA, because a high school friend of Michael’s is the rabbi of the synagogue there. But before our meeting, we stopped to see the place where Heather Heyer was murdered by a white supremacist who drove into a crowd of people who had come out to protest the 2017 “Unite the Right” Rally.

James Alex Fields, Jr. injured 35 other people in addition to killing Heyer. Fields, 20, had previously expressed neo-Nazi and white supremacist beliefs, driving from Ohio to attend the rally. In 2019, state court convicted him for the first-degree murder of 32-year-old Heather Heyer, eight counts of malicious wounding, and hit and run, sentencing him to life in prison plus an additional 419 years. Fields also pled guilty to 29 of 30 federal hate crime charges to avoid the death penalty, resulting in another life sentence in June 2019.

Heather Heyer, ¡Presente!
She had a street named after her
People keep refreshing the Heather Heyer memorial when the city or
unsympathetic individuals try to remove it.

At the Charlottesville courthouse is a plaque commemorating John Henry James’ lynching. Like many of these plaques, the Equal Justice Initiative was responsible for erecting it.

Rabbi Tom Gutherz had more than 15 minutes of fame after the “Unite the Right” Rally in 2017. All the major news organizations wanted to know how his congregation had fared when Nazis surrounded their synagogue. His congregation decided the only irreplaceable items in the temple were sacred items they had adopted from a Jewish community destroyed in the Holocaust. So they removed these from safekeeping, but besides that precaution, they were in the streets with those standing against the rightwingers invading the town. Tom is also active in interfaith activity with area clergy. You can read some of his thoughts here.

Tom wants people to know he’s not as severe as he appears in this accidental GIF.
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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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