Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Skin Deep

At the rally in Cincinnati yesterday, Elizabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton had some fun at the expense of Donald Trump.

The Trumpistas can dish it out, but can’t take it.

Former Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), who lost his seat to Elizabeth Warren, suggested that she undergo genetic testing to prove she’s part Cherokee.  The Native American community might have some thoughts on that, Scott.

If Donald Trump can get away with saying Elizabeth Warren is racist while calling her “Pocahontas,” then he has to prove via genetic testing that he’s not a shitgibbon.

Pale Comparison

Jamelle Bouie at Slate explains that just because embittered white folks helped carry the narrow vote for Britain to leave the E.U., it doesn’t necessarily make it so that Donald Trump will win over here.

Here in the United States, our polls show a substantial Trump loss in the general election against Hillary Clinton, just as they showed a substantial Trump win in the Republican presidential primaries. The chief reason is that, unlike the U.K., the U.S. has a large voting population of nonwhites: Latinos, black Americans, Asian Americans, etc. In Britain, “black and minority ethnic” people make up about 8 percent of the electorate. By contrast, people of color account for nearly 1 in 3 American voters. In practice, this means that in the past two national elections, there has been an electoral penalty for embracing the most reactionary elements of national life. And we see this in the polling between Trump and Clinton. If the United States were largely white—if its electorate were as monochromatic as Britain’s—then Trump might have the advantage. As it stands, people of color in America are acting as a firewall for liberalism—an indispensable barrier to this surge of ethno-nationalism. Complacency isn’t called for, but confidence isn’t wrong either.

The other thing to remember is that not all ethnic groups vote as a bloc.  Yes, the vast majority of African-Americans belong in the Democratic camp, as do a number of Hispanic/Latino voters, but it’s not because they all agree on the party platform or prefer Hillary Clinton over Mr. Trump.  The reasons are as varied as the make-up of the blocs, and by and large they’re not as socially liberal or as willing to separate church and state as your average Democrat.  Indeed, the family structure and religious affiliation are powerful elements that would have you believe that they should go along with the hacked and cynical appeal to “family values” that has become the rallying cry of the GOP over the last forty years.

The main reason is that when it comes to being embittered and embattled, the complaints of the cranky old white folks or the gun-rattling stars-and-bars wavers pale — literally — when compared to the everyday racism and indignities faced by people of color in America.

So no, the Democrats shouldn’t take a single vote or bloc for granted, but at least when it comes to knowing who’s got your back and who’s more likely to burden it, the answer is pretty black and white.

A Full Human Being

Melissa McEwan in BNR on the Supreme Court ruling on Texas’s restrictive abortion laws.

…I was born the year after Roe v. Wade was decided, and from the time I was old enough to comprehend even the most cursory facts of abortion law, I understood, even before I could articulate it, that whether my government allowed me control over my own body and the agency to make decisions about my own reproduction communicated how much I was respected and valued as a full human being.

My very first public act of political resistance was leading a walkout in my 8th grade confirmation class in protest of a minister who wanted to show us a graphic anti-abortion film. I was officially labeled a troublemaker, and the minister told me I would be pregnant or dead by the time I was 16. I was neither.

I have always understood intimately that abortion law is not, and has never been, just about access to abortion, but also about how we value women.

For as long as I can recall, I have heard that the anti-choice position is about valuing life — but that language of life virtually always refers to fetuses and never to the people who carry them.

The worth and quality of my life is greater when I am afforded autonomy, agency, consent, and choice.

I am eminently willing to concede that people can have a good faith disagreement about when human life begins, but that has absolutely no bearing on resolving the dispute over legal, safe, and accessible abortion.

My life, right now, is not so precious that any other human being could be compelled to use their body to support mine for the next nine months (at least). No other human being is obliged to give up an organ for me, even if it would save my life. Nor bone marrow, nor blood, nor skin. People who are forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term are being asked to do something no other people are asked to do for another person, which exposes the truth of the anti-choice position: Fetuses are valued more highly than the people who carry them.

It is an inescapable result of that position that I would feel devalued. A living, breathing, thinking adult woman whose life is considered to be worth less than a potential life.

[…]

The question is not really when life begins. The question is whether we recognize women and other people with uteri as humans whose lives have intrinsic value and the rights of autonomy, agency, consent, and choice. It is only because such a vast swath of our population cannot or will not answer a resounding and unqualified “yes” to that question that there is even space for an obfuscating debate about when life begins.

Today, the Supreme Court made a decision that says women’s lives have value; that women’s choices have value; that women’s agency has value.

Read the whole article.

Short Takes

Supreme Court strikes down restrictive abortion rights.

Supreme Court upholds ban on gun sales to those convicted of domestic violence.

U.K. politics in meltdown after Brexit.

Volkswagen agrees to settle U.S. emissions scandal for $14.7 billion.

Clinton and Warren hit the campaign trail in Ohio.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Stonewall

This is significant.

President Obama will designate a new national monument at the historic site of the Stonewall Uprising in New York City to honor the broad movement for LGBT equality. The new Stonewall National Monument will protect the area where, on June 28, 1969, a community’s uprising in response to a police raid sparked the modern LGBT civil rights movement in the United States.

The designation will create the first official National Park Service unit dedicated to telling the story of LGBT Americans, just days before the one year anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision guaranteeing marriage equality in all 50 states.

Significant in the fact that in less than half my lifetime we have gone from an administration that mocked AIDS victims — when it finally got around to saying the word — to one that supports equality in all its forms and venues, including transgender rights.

Of course it’s not over.  I and millions of LGBT citizens still live in states where it’s legal to be discriminated against in employment and housing, where it’s still acceptable to bait and stigmatize gays and lesbians in political campaigns, and where a commercial showing two dads or two moms raising a family generates a call for boycotts (and, of course, fund-raising).

Designating a national monument will have no practical effect in changing the remaining conditions of hate and bigotry in places where it’s still not acceptable in the sight of many for a man and a woman of different races to get married.  It is, however, a milestone to acknowledge the history and mark the place and then keep moving on.

He’s All Yours, George

George F. Will has left the GOP thanks to Donald Trump.

Will, a conservative writer for the Washington Post, confirmed to PJ Media that he switched his Maryland party registration from GOP to unaffiliated.

At a meeting of the Federalist Society Friday in D.C., Will told the group it’s worth refusing to back Trump even if it hands the election to Democrat Hillary Clinton.

“This is not my party,” he told the group. “Make sure he loses. Grit their teeth for four years and win the White House.”

Funny, it was his party when they basically held the country hostage and used thinly-veiled racism and dog whistles to do everything to destroy President Obama, not to mention the trashing of the Clintons and supporting a war started on lies, but now that they have someone who says all of that out loud, he decides to flounce?

Set it to music, George.

This Is Normal In America

Jim Wright in Facebook:

This week’s Good Gal with a Gun.

Yesterday raging gun nut Christy Sheats chased her two daughters into the street with a gun. One of the daughters, Taylor, was already wounded and collapsed in the street. Sheats’ husband, Jason, shouted, “Don’t do this, they’re our kids!” Sheats went back inside, reloaded, and returned to the street where she shot the unwounded daughter, Madison, in the back as she tried to flee. When police arrived they found Christy Sheats standing in the street, holding the gun she’d used to murder her children. They ordered her to drop the weapon and surrender. She didn’t. Fearing that she would shoot the children again, they shot her dead. One of the daughters was pronounced dead at the scene, the other died later in the hospital.

Why?

Why did this happen?

Because this is what gun nuts do.

This is how people who are obsessed with guns solve their problems. This how gun nuts resolve disputes. For gun nuts, this is the ONLY solution, every time. The gun gives them power and that power warps their thinking. They dream of using the power, being the hero, forcing others to do what they want. The gun makes them mighty. The gun makes them brave. The gun makes them ten feet tall. The gun makes them right. The gun makes them righteous. The gun makes them GOD. You do what I say or I’ll fucking kill ya.

That’s how obsession works.

This is why gun nuts like Christy Sheats are so utterly terrified somebody will come to take away their guns. Because to them guns are power, the One Ring, My Precious, and the thought of losing that power terrifies them.

It’s an obsession. And this is how it always ends, right here.

When people are fed a constant diet of fear, anger, and rage and are enabled by a culture of violence and paranoia and exceptionalism and told over and over that guns are the answer to every situation then THIS is how they solve their problems.

This isn’t an accident, or a moment of insanity, this is NORMAL in America and you can see it reflected in every aspect of our society from those who are afraid to go to the grocery store without a gun to TV shows that solve EVERY problem with a gun to sovereign citizen militias that intend to shoot down the rest of us with their guns to average citizens who believe they have a right to overthrow their government with guns to our police forces who increasingly resolve every confrontation with guns to our nation’s foreign policy which is largely based on guns. It’s all part of a set piece.

This, right here, is who we are.

When the only tool you own is a gun, every problem is a target. Couple that to a constant state of rage and insecurity and easy access to firearms and the end is inevitable.

Guns themselves aren’t the problem.  It’s the unfettered access to them by people who have no business getting them and being held in the thrall of a minority of loud-mouthed fearmongers that is the real problem.  Until we deal with that, this is normal America.

Short Takes

The search is on for survivors after the floods in West Virginia.

Mulligan: Petition for re-vote on Brexit hit 3 million signatures.

Death toll could rise in Central California wildfires.

Iraqi commander: Fallujah “fully liberated.”

First vessel passes through expanded Panama Canal.

The Tigers got swept by Cleveland.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Sunday Reading

Up Yours, Trump — Aziz Ansari in the New York Times on why Donald Trump makes him scared for his family.

“DON’T go anywhere near a mosque,” I told my mother. “Do all your prayer at home. O.K.?”

“We’re not going,” she replied.

I am the son of Muslim immigrants. As I sent that text, in the aftermath of the horrible attack in Orlando, Fla., I realized how awful it was to tell an American citizen to be careful about how she worshiped.

Being Muslim American already carries a decent amount of baggage. In our culture, when people think “Muslim,” the picture in their heads is not usually of the Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or the kid who left the boy band One Direction. It’s of a scary terrorist character from “Homeland” or some monster from the news.

Today, with the presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and others like him spewing hate speech, prejudice is reaching new levels. It’s visceral, and scary, and it affects how people live, work and pray. It makes me afraid for my family. It also makes no sense.

There are approximately 3.3 million Muslim Americans. After the attack in Orlando, The Times reported that the F.B.I. is investigating 1,000 potential “homegrown violent extremists,” a majority of whom are most likely connected in some way to the Islamic State. If everyone on that list is Muslim American, that is 0.03 percent of the Muslim American population. If you round that number, it is 0 percent. The overwhelming number of Muslim Americans have as much in common with that monster in Orlando as any white person has with any of the white terrorists who shoot up movie theaters or schools or abortion clinics.

I asked a young friend of mine, a woman in her 20s of Muslim heritage, how she had been feeling after the attack. “I just feel really bad, like people think I have more in common with that idiot psychopath than I do the innocent people being killed,” she said. “I’m really sick of having to explain that I’m not a terrorist every time the shooter is brown.”

I myself am not a religious person, but after these attacks, anyone that even looks like they might be Muslim understands the feelings my friend described. There is a strange feeling that you must almost prove yourself worthy of feeling sad and scared like everyone else.

I understand that as far as these problems go, I have it better than most because of my recognizability as an actor. When someone on the street gives me a strange look, it’s usually because they want to take a selfie with me, not that they think I’m a terrorist.

But I remember how those encounters can feel. A few months after the attacks of Sept. 11, I remember walking home from class near N.Y.U., where I was a student. I was crossing the street and a man swore at me from his car window and yelled: “Terrorist!” To be fair, I may have been too quick to cross the street as the light changed, but I’m not sure that warranted being compared to the perpetrators of one of the most awful incidents in human history.

The vitriolic and hate-filled rhetoric coming from Mr. Trump isn’t so far off from cursing at strangers from a car window. He has said that people in the American Muslim community “know who the bad ones are,” implying that millions of innocent people are somehow complicit in awful attacks. Not only is this wrongheaded; but it also does nothing to address the real problems posed by terrorist attacks. By Mr. Trump’s logic, after the huge financial crisis of 2007-08, the best way to protect the American economy would have been to ban white males.

According to reporting by Mother Jones, since 9/11, there have been 49 mass shootings in this country, and more than half of those were perpetrated by white males. I doubt we’ll hear Mr. Trump make a speech asking his fellow white males to tell authorities “who the bad ones are,” or call for restricting white males’ freedoms.

One way to decrease the risk of terrorism is clear: Keep military-grade weaponry out of the hands of mentally unstable people, those with a history of violence, and those on F.B.I. watch lists. But, despite sit-ins and filibusters, our lawmakers are failing us on this front and choose instead to side with the National Rifle Association. Suspected terrorists can buy assault rifles, but we’re still carrying tiny bottles of shampoo to the airport. If we’re going to use the “they’ll just find another way” argument, let’s use that to let us keep our shoes on.

Xenophobic rhetoric was central to Mr. Trump’s campaign long before the attack in Orlando. This is a guy who kicked off his presidential run by calling Mexicans “rapists” who were “bringing drugs” to this country. Numerous times, he has said that Muslims in New Jersey were cheering in the streets on Sept. 11, 2001. This has been continually disproved, but he stands by it. I don’t know what every Muslim American was doing that day, but I can tell you what my family was doing. I was studying at N.Y.U., and I lived near the World Trade Center. When the second plane hit, I was on the phone with my mother, who called to tell me to leave my dorm building.

The haunting sound of the second plane hitting the towers is forever ingrained in my head. My building was close enough that it shook upon impact. I was scared for my life as my fellow students and I trekked the panicked streets of Manhattan. My family, unable to reach me on my cellphone, was terrified about my safety as they watched the towers collapse. There was absolutely no cheering. Only sadness, horror and fear.

Mr. Trump, in response to the attack in Orlando, began a tweet with these words: “Appreciate the congrats.” It appears that day he was the one who was celebrating after an attack.

Lost Remains — John Cassidy in The New Yorker on why the Remain vote lost in Britain.

To many people around the world, the United Kingdom’s vote, on Thursday, to quit the European Union came as a great shock. But the result, with fifty-two per cent of voters in favor leaving the E.U., shouldn’t have been such a surprise. The fact is, the E.U. has never been particularly popular with ordinary people in the U.K., particularly England, and in the weeks leading up to the vote many opinion polls showed the Leave side with a narrow lead. The financial markets and most commentators, myself included, were assuming that, at the last minute, prudence and risk aversion would generate a swing in favor of Remain. That didn’t happen.

The easiest way to understand what did happen is to look at some voting maps. With the exceptions of London, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, every major region of the U.K. voted to exit the E.U. The Remain vote was particularly weak in the West Midlands and the Northeast of England, two areas that have been hit hard by de-industrialization. But even in the relatively prosperous Southeast of the country, if you subtract London from the results, a majority of people voted to leave.

The Guardian has published some telling charts detailing the demographic breakdown of the vote. For one thing, they show gaping class divisions. One of the best predictors of how people voted was their education level. Those with college degrees tended to opt for Remain, while people without them tended to opt for Leave. Age and income gradients were also clearly visible in the vote tabulations. The older and poorer you are, the more likely you were to vote Leave. The younger and richer you are, the more likely you were to vote Remain.

Put all this data together, and the implication is that, outside of Scotland and Northern Ireland, which are special cases, the British working classes and lower middle classes, particularly those living in the provinces, have delivered a stinging rebuke to the London-based political establishment, which was largely in favor of staying in the E.U. But what explains this revolt against the élites?

One popular theory points to racism and nativism, which featured prominently in the anti-E.U. campaign. The Leave side went up in the polls after it managed to shift the debate away from the likely economic impact of Brexit and onto immigration and issues of national sovereignty. Although much of the immigration into the U.K. comes from outside of the E.U., the Leave forces were able to focus attention on the freedom of movement for workers, which is one of the founding principles of the E.U.

In the past decade or so, Britain has taken in many thousands of immigrants from Poland, Romania, and other Eastern European countries that joined the European community after the Berlin Wall came down. In many working-class areas of the U.K., there is a lot of resentment toward these new arrivals, who are viewed as competitors for jobs and government-provided services, such as education, health care, and welfare. “A majority of people thought immigration is too large, and that leaving the E.U. would bring it down,” John Curtice, a political scientist at Strathclyde University who is also the BBC’s resident polling guru, said on-air on Thursday, as the results came in.

A second theory, which I examined in a post on Thursday, is that economic anxieties and resentments underpinned the political anger that fuelled the Leave vote. Demagogues such as Nigel Farage, the leader of the U.K. Independence Party, were able to exploit these economic worries, directing them against immigrants and other easy targets.

Yet another argument is that the Leave result was really about culture and values. Pointing to data collected by the British Election Study, Eric Kaufmann, a professor of politics at Birkbeck College, argued on Friday that the best predictor of voting patterns wasn’t income or education levels but attitudes toward the death penalty, which are a proxy for authoritarian attitudes more generally. “The probability of voting Brexit rises from around 20 per cent for those most opposed to the death penalty to 70 per cent for those most in favour,” Kaufman wrote on the Web site of the Fabian Society. “Wealthy people who back capital punishment back Brexit. Poor folk who oppose the death penalty support Remain.”

This is an interesting theory, but it doesn’t necessarily explain why hostility toward the E.U. has risen in the U.K. during the past couple of decades. Has the British public become more authoritarian and resistant to change during that period? I don’t think so; if anything, attitudes about gay marriage and other social issues show a shift in a liberal direction.

What has certainly happened is that decades of globalization, deregulation, and policy changes that favored the wealthy have left Britain a more unequal place, with vast regional disparities. “It’s the shape of our long lasting and deeply entrenched national geographic inequality that drove differences in voting patterns,” Torsten Bell, the director of the Resolution Foundation, a bipartisan think tank, commented on Friday morning. “The legacy of increased national inequality in the 1980s, the heavy concentration of those costs in certain areas, and our collective failure to address it has more to say about what happened last night than shorter term considerations from the financial crisis or changed migration flows.”

That argument sounds persuasive to me. On Thursday night, it was the early announcement of a huge Leave vote in Sunderland, a depressed city in the Northeast that used to be a big shipbuilding center, that indicated the way the night was headed and caused the pound sterling to plummet in the Asian markets. Meanwhile, the Remain vote was consistently stronger in prosperous areas. Economics matters.

Still, the margin of victory was narrow, and it is also worth looking at the way the Leave and Remain campaigns were run, and considering how things could have turned out differently. If the Remain side, led by Prime Minister David Cameron, had managed to persuade two in a hundred more voters to accept its arguments, it would have won. But the Remain campaign was uninspiring in the extreme.

In retrospect, it can be argued that Cameron’s mistake occurred as far back as 2013, when, in an effort to satisfy the Eurosceptics inside his own Conservative Party, he pledged to hold a referendum at some point before 2017. At the time, this was an easy promise to make: Cameron believed he couldn’t deliver on it. He was then heading a coalition government alongside the pro-E.U. Liberal Democrats, who wanted no part of a referendum and had the power to veto one. But after the Conservatives pulled off a surprise in the May, 2015, general election and won a majority in the House of Commons, the Prime Minister felt he had no option but to follow through on his promise.

Yet even after he had set a date for the referendum, Cameron could surely have done a better job of selling an upbeat vision of the E.U., one that had Britain as an active and enthusiastic member. Rather than accentuating the positive, Cameron and George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, sought to scare the electorate into voting their way, arguing that a vote for Leave would plunge the U.K. economy into a recession and cost the average household about sixty-two hundred dollars a year.

Almost all economists agree that the E.U. has been good to Britain. But the sixty-two-hundred-a-year figure was so large, and so specific, that many people didn’t believe it. Speaking to the BBC on Friday morning, Steve Hilton, a former political adviser to Cameron, conceded that the negative campaign, which was dubbed Project Fear, had backfired. Rather than winning people over, it alienated many voters who had legitimate concerns about the E.U. “People have expressed real anger at being ignored by the system, and I think this is at the heart” of what happened, Hilton said.

Looking ahead, the fate of the Remain campaign should serve as a reminder of the limits of negative campaigning—a reminder that Hillary Clinton would do well to take note of as she goes up against Donald Trump. In confronting populist demagoguery, it isn’t enough to attack its promulgators. To get people to turn out and vote in your favor, you also have to give them something positive to rally behind. The Leave campaign, for all its lies and disinformation, provided just such a lure. It claimed that liberating Britain from the shackles of the E.U. would enable it to reclaim its former glory. The Remain side argued, in effect, that while the E.U. isn’t great, Britain would be even worse off without it. That turned out to be a losing story.

How Orlando Hurt Puerto Rico — Jennifer Velez in Mother Jones on the heartbreak the shooting brought to the island.

As news of the June 12 shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando spread, families in Puerto Rico began to receive frantic calls about their sons, daughters, siblings, nephews, nieces, and cousins who had been celebrating a Latin-themed night of music and dancing in the crowded bar. They were among the 49 people who were dead after a gunman opened fire at the club around 2 a.m.; approximately 53 others were wounded before police killed the shooter.

As many as 23 of those who died were identified as being Puerto Rican. Although it’s unclear how many were actually born on the island, many of the victims had family there. As they grapple with the unspeakable loss of loved ones, these families also face unusual challenges in the wake of the largest mass shooting in US history, from the potentially steep cost of burial and other expenses, to navigating the complex web of victims’ services as a Spanish-speaker with limited English.

Although pledges to help are coming from the government,advocacy organizations, and private companies, even those families who receive some assistance may struggle to cover all the costs, especially those with large extended families who may have wanted to fly in and support relatives in Orlando. “Once they arrive here to be able to claim the remains of their loved ones, it’s like where do they stay? How do they get from point A to point B?” said Samí Haiman-Marrero, a local Orlando business owner and a part of the core team of Somos Orlando (“We Are Orlando”) a coalition of organizations that formed after the tragedy to act as a bridge between families who need assistance and organizations that can help. They have connected families with resources that offer a variety of services, including housing, or grief counseling in Spanish.

“It’s not just parents and immediate siblings perhaps that are traveling, we’re talking about large groups of family members trying to come,” Haiman-Marrero noted. “It’s a really tight knit community and so the mourning transcends beyond the typical nuclear family.” She described one family of 25 who traveled from Puerto Rico to Orlando and needed help with housing. “I got some calls directly from Puerto Rico [asking in Spanish], ‘We’re arriving tomorrow we need a place to stay, it’s five people a baby and that’s it. We need help,’” she said.

There are also other significant issues that families are facing—some are logistical, some financial, and some are cultural. Here is an overview:

Language is a barrier: When dealing with an emergency, being able to communicate with police, officials, and other key people is essential. For some victims’ families who do not speak English and only speak Spanish, something as simple as making a call to get information about a loved one can be a struggle. “For these families to travel from Puerto Rico…to pick up the body of their son or daughter, it’s heart breaking, their hearts are in pieces,” said Pedro Julio Serrano, executive director of Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, a social justice organization for the LGBTQ community in Puerto Rico. Adding to their grief, he says, “There are language barriers and there are cultural barriers.” When Haiman-Marrero got a call from Puerto Rico from a woman seeking housing for her and her family, Haiman-Marrero made sure the services she recommended had Spanish language support. “I made sure before I even provided the information to the young lady that called from Puerto Rico” those services would be in Spanish. “I didn’t want her to be scrambling.” The assistance center set up at Camping World Stadium for those affected by the massacre had help in both languages, said Haiman-Marrero.

Families who want to bury loved ones in PuertoRico may face hefty funeral expenses: If families want their loved ones to be buried on the island close to relatives, the process can be costly. The cost of shipping remains to Puerto Rico may include charges from the funeral home in Orlando, which would be responsible for sending the body to Puerto Rico, and additional expenses for the funeral home in Puerto Rico. Funeral services, the shipping of remains, and church services among other costs can run from $5,000 to $8,000, said Mariela Atkins, office manager at Robert Bryant Funeral & Cremation Chapel in Orlando, which provided services for three victims, one of whom was to be transported to Puerto Rico. But costs vary depending on what families desire, Atkins said. For example, the price of a casket has a broad range depending on the style, material, or size. A government victim’s compensation fund is also helping with funeral costs.

But some airlines are stepping in to help. United Airlines is providing the transportation of remains at no cost said Ida Eskamani, development officer for Equality Florida. Southwest is also providing transportation of the remains free of charge. JetBlue has offered complimentary travel for immediate family and domestic partners of victims.

Some groups are raising money to help, but funds have not yet reached the families: Equality Florida, the state’s LGBT civil rights organization, is part of the Somos Orlando coalition and has created a GoFundMe account that in the week after the shooting has raised more than $6 million. The organization partnered with the National Center for Victims of Crime to distribute funds to families. But no funds have reached victims’ families yet, said Mai Fernandez, executive director with the National Center for Victims of Crime. She explains that the organizations intended to wait to disburse funds until the pace of donations slowed and they can assess the total amount that is available for aid.

There are longstanding taboos about homosexuality in Puerto Rico: Pedro Julio-Serrano who runs the LGBT program based in Guaynabo has faced homophobia in Puerto Rico and understands a deep cultural problem that some families face. “It’s a very touchy subject, but some of the victims’ families found out that their victim was LGBT when this happened, so they will have to do deal with that,” he said. “It’s tragic that someone has to wait until they die for their family to find out that they are gay.” Some of the Puerto Rican victims moved to the U.S. mainland because they wanted to live in a environment that was more accepting of the LGBT community, he added.

Although some views about the LGBT community are slowly changing, the island’s machismo culture and strict, traditional views on gender roles are still dominant: Men should be masculine, emotionally tough, marry women, and have children. There is also a history of violence. In the 1980’s a serial killer on the island killed 27 gay men. Hate crimes have dwindled in recent years, Serrano said, but the homophobia and discrimination are still big problems. Some families are grappling with grief and must also cope with their own uncomfortable views about homosexuality.

“This [tragedy] is something that goes to the heart of who we are as Puerto Ricans,” Serrano notes. “We’re frightened, but we won’t live in fear.”

Doonesbury — Double or nothing.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Friday, June 24, 2016