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“It’s Obama’s Fault,” In Rhyme

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Throughout the primary season, the election process, and since taking office, Donald Trump has consistently failed to take responsibility for his mistakes. In fact, his ego renders it completely impossible for him to admit making errors in judgment and action. Instead, Trump places blame on others. A major target of his projection centers on former President Barack Obama.

If one believes Trump:

It’s Obama’s fault for tapping his phones,

And for the phony Russia investigation to unfold.

It’s Obama’s (and by extension, Hillary’s) fault for ISIS to rise,

And for all his oh too many clear lies.

It’s Obama’s fault for Syria’s homeless,

Because of him, that country’s a mess.

It’s Obama’s fault for Taliban terror,

Yes, it’s his fault and his fatal error.

It’s Obama’s fault for Middle East wars,

And for all of our students’ failing scores.

It’s Obama’s fault for all racial tensions,

For killings of blacks, and police, and others not mentioned,

It’s Obama’s fault that good jobs did flee,

For hair loss, acne, and the sting of a bee.

It’s Obama’s fault for poverty, hunger, disease,

When we are hot, and when we all freeze.

It’s Obama’s fault Iran split the atom,

And for America’s slide to the rock bottom.

It’s Obama’s fault for North Korea’s bombs,

And for all the world’s many terrorist alarms.

It’s Obama’s fault for Russia in Ukraine,

And for the rain on the plain throughout Spain.

It’s Obama’s fault for invaders on our shores,

These raping, conniving, trespassing hoards.

It’s Obama’s fault for increasing interest rates,

And for shifting economic tectonic plates.

It’s Obama’s fault for the burst housing bubble,

In fact, he’s responsible for all of our troubles.

It’s Obama’s fault for oil prices to soar,

And his fault when crude now hits the floor.

It’s Obama’s fault for deficits in trade,

And because things are no longer American made.

It’s Obama’s fault for wars on Christmas,

And it’s his fault for all of this fracas.

It’s Obama’s fault for all unsafe streets,

And for too few cops who walk on their beats.

It’s Obama’s fault for cities going under,

And when thieves pillage and when they do plunder.

It’s Obama’s fault when planes fall and cars crash,

When the Earth shakes and lightning bolts smash.

It’s Obama’s fault for heat waves and drought,

And when fires, cyclones, and floods they do mount.

It’s Obama’s fault for bridges and roads failing,

And whenever we encounter any bad sailing.

It’s Obama’s fault for Flint’s water pollution,

While he’s been swimming in his delusion.

It’s Obama’s fault for contaminated air,

With his head in the clouds and his elitist stare.

It’s Obama’s fault when our sports teams rank last,

Now because our best days have long since past.

It’s Obama’s fault when there’s no solution,

The fault lies in his evil collusion.

It’s Obama’s fault for the state of the states,

And whenever anyone in America gains weight.

It’s Obama’s fault for terrorist plots,

And when any and all of our good food does rot.

It’s Obama’s fault when our lovers do leave,

And anytime that anyone of us must grieve.

It’s Obama’s fault when our rockets go thud,

And it’s his fault for melting Milk Duds.

It’s Obama’s fault for Hillary Clinton’s laugh,

And it’s his fault for Joe Biden’s many gaffs.

It’s Obama’s fault for Bernie Sander’s hair,

And it’s his fault for Elizabeth Warren’s strong flair.

It’s Obama’s fault for Harry Reid’s moods,

And it’s his fault for Nancy Pelosi’s attitudes.

It’s Obama’s fault for Wasserman-Schultz’s actions,

And also his fault for Chuck Schumer’s passions.

It’s Obama’s fault for Keith Ellison’s religion,

And it’s his fault for John Lewis’s activism.

It’s Obama’s fault that Congress won’t work.

The reason being that Obama’s a jerk.

It’s Obama’s fault for AIDS and TB,

For cancer and also ADHD.

It’s Obama’s fault for Obama care,

For anything and everything that is not fair.

It’s Obama’s fault when stocks do fall,

In fact, it’s Obama’s fault that we have faults at all.

But I don’t believe what Trump and conservatives say,

Because Obama has made us safer, more productive, and better during his stay.

Thank you President Barack Obama!

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense), and co-author of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press).

 

 

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

June 22nd, 2017 at 10:02 am

Posted in Uncategorized

I Don’t Pledge My Allegiance to Any Flag

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Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind.” Albert Eisenstein

Originally published in the September 8, 1892 issue of The Youth’s Companion, a widely circulated children’s magazine, the Baptist minister, Francis Bellamy, wrote the Pledge of Allegiance in commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the voyage and arrival of Christopher Columbus to what would later be called “the Americas.”

At Bellamy’s urging, Congress and President Benjamin Harrison passed a proclamation fashioning the public school flag ceremony as the centerpiece of Columbus Day tributes (Presidential Proclamation 335) with the Pledge first recited in public schools on Columbus Day, October 12, 1892.

Suggested originally around 1948 by Louis A. Bowman, an Illinois Attorney and Chaplain for the Illinois Society for the Sons of the American Revolution, the idea of adding the two words, “under God,” gained popularity by 1951 when the Knights of Columbus, the world’s largest Catholic Fraternal Service Organization, passed a resolution to lobby the President, Vice President, and Congress to make “under God” a universal and permanent addition to the Pledge.

This (Christian) theocratic imposition, which passed Congress and signed into law by President Dwight David Eisenhower, found itself officially inserted into the Pledge on June 14, 1954 (Flag Day), and also printed onto currency, “In God We Trust,” in 1957 during the formative years of the so-called “Cold War” as a reaction to the “Godless” Communist Soviet Union. (“In God We Trust” was minted on U.S. coins by the Department of the Treasury in 1864 during the period of the U.S. Civil War.)

In 2014, the American Humanist Association, a progressive group, surveyed 1,000 U.S. adult citizens regarding what they felt about “under God” in the pledge after reading the following statement:

“For its first 62 years, the Pledge of Allegiance did not include the phrase ‘under God.’ During the Cold War, in 1954, the phrase ‘one nation indivisible’ was changed to read ‘one nation, under God, indivisible.’ Some people feel this phrase in our national pledge should focus on unity rather than religion.”

After reading this brief account, 34% of respondents said they felt “under God” should be removed from the Pledge of Allegiance. This included the vast majority of atheists, 41% of non-Christians, and even 21% of Christians said “under God” should be taken out of the Pledge.

I find it highly problematic that the Supreme Judicial Court in my home state of Massachusetts ruled on May 9, 2014 that “under God” in the Pledge does not discriminate against atheists. The court asserted that while the wording may contain a “religious tinge” (what?!), it reflects patriotic practice rather than religion. Also, since it is voluntary, the Pledge, with “under God,” may continue to be recited daily in public schools.

Even with “under God” notwithstanding, I have long refused to stand at attention, place my hand over my heart, take off head coverings, and recite the Pledge.

“I pledge allegiance…” 

…no I don’t since to do so amounts to nothing more than a hollow gesture of talking some sort of talk. As I was taught in English classes to avoid the passive “to be” verb, likewise “to pledge” amounts to a passive and shallow form of (non)action…

“…to the flag…” 

…a mere piece of cloth, and like the words of a pledge, represents merely a symbol, which can signify nothing beyond the threads, the dyes, and the stitches holding it together…

“…of the United States of America…” 

…and for all those with insufficient background knowledge of its history, its multiple cultures, its people, and its relationships to other countries of the world, what are they pledging allegiance to?…

“…and to the republic for which it stands…”  

…yes, a government in which citizens have the right to vote for elected officials representing them, which is a concept and an empowering reality when enacted and carried out. However, we have a history and a legacy in this country that has denied and continues to deny, by law and by practice, this right as we currently are witnessing in parts of our country, for example, in North Carolina, Florida, and other states in their “voter suppression” statutes.

“…one nation…” 

Yes, indeed, a single nation. But let us never forget that this nation, this E Pluribus Unum (“from many, one”) came the diversity from the entire world: the traditions, the languages, the cultures, the religions, the belief systems, the totality of the human experience, which must be acknowledged, supported, cherished, valued, and nurtured never again compelled to melt away into a Eurocentric, Protestant, and oligarchically-dominated, patriarchal, racist, classist, adultist, heterosexist, cissexist, ableist, ethnocentric stew of ruthlessly mandated conformity…

“…under God…”

But what ever happened to that grand U.S. vision of a wall separating religion and government, more commonly known as a “separation of Church and state,” even though primarily Christian houses of worship take “church” as their titled designation? “Under God” certainly has much more than a “religious tinge.”

“…indivisible…” 

…yes, possibly in the sense of commitment to make this “a more perfect union,” but with this experiment we call “The United States of America,” the process, our democratic process, is bound to be messy, with divisions and fractures inevitable, but hopefully with mechanisms and systems continually expanding that encourage diversity of thought and identity while maintaining the process of perennial change and progress…

“…with liberty…” 

…though defined in many ways depending on the individual who defines it, I see “liberty” as individuals’ inherent right to define, to identity, to name themselves, to develop and maintain their sense of agency and subjectivity without others defining or controlling them. I ask us to access whether we as a society have truly reached that point. 

“…and justice for all.” 

Yes, all. Not only some – of certain socially dominant groups. I wonder whether this overriding notion of “rugged individualism,” with all this talk of “personal responsibility” coming from certain quarters on the political Right, amounts to doublespeak by meaning, instead, that we need not maintain any of the safety nets put in place to assist our most vulnerable residents.

On the other hand, for in the words of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

To ask (read as “compel,” though the Supreme Court ruled that schools cannot mandate) young people, some just entering public school, to stand head uncovered (Christian tradition signifying respect) with right hand (“right” in many cultures, most notably in the history of the Catholic church, standing for good, for righteousness, for a shield against the evil inherent on the “left” – the side of the Devil – as in “sinister” from the French) over the heart (the “love” organ) to recite words, some of which many young people neither understand nor can pronounce – “indivisible” for example – which were originally recited to commemorate the leader, Christopher Columbus, of ruthless imperialist conquerors, smacks of jingoistic indoctrination at a time before young people’s cognitive and intellectual developmental facilities have reached a stage of heightened critical consciousness.

My intent here is to distinguish between two terms — terms that are often used interchangeably, but in actuality, while connected in some ways, are unique and distinct. The terms are “Patriot” and “Nationalist” with their corresponding concepts of “Patriotic” and “Nationalistic.”

A “Patriot” according to my copy of Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary is:

  1. “a person who loves, supports, and defends his or her country and its interests,” and
  2. “a person who regards himself or herself as a defender, especially of individual rights against presumed interference by the federal government.”

A “Nationalist,” according to my dictionary is 1. “a person who has devotion and loyalty to one’s own nation,” and 2. “a person who has [and here we see the crucial difference] excessive patriotism or chauvinism, which is a zealous and aggressive patriotism or enthusiasm for military glory, a biased devotion to any group, attitude, or cause.”

I often wonder how many people who vehemently advocate for the recitation of the “Pledge of Allegiance” and adamantly affix and raise U.S. flags to porches and house lawns as they exaltedly wave them atop their speeding cars and pickup trucks, how many of these people take the time actually to vote in local and national elections?

How many of them volunteer to remove litter from parks or serve meals at soup kitchens? How many of them write letters to the editors of local and national media, and stay current on issues, laws, and policies affecting their communities and their nation?

And how many of them truly understand the histories, the peoples, the governmental and economic systems, the traditions, the languages – for that matter, the actual locations – of many other countries across the planet in contexts other than having to learn about these nations when international tensions arise?

Rather than conducting an exercise in thought control, this act of adult and institutional infractions upon our youngest citizens to circumvent the development of a critical interrogation of the status quo, let us instead awaken a culture of critical consciousness in the development and enhancement within us all of deep inquiry as lifelong learners about our country (along the entire spectrum from the inspired vision undergirding this great nation to the gashes and ruptures along the way), about the relationship between our country and other countries across this orb we know as “Earth,” to ever challenge, to engage, to work toward the advancement of the ideal on which our country rests, to eventually become that magnificent tapestry of individual threads of unlimited beauty and, yes, liberty and justice for all. Aside from words, let us fertilize the dream to fruition.

After weighing the facts, after making an informed decision, after determining whether reciting the Pledge of Allegiance has merit for you as an individual, and if you believe saying it is in line with your views and attitudes, go for it! But how informed are 5 and 6 and 7-year-olds in our schools when their teachers encourage them to stand at attention and recite the Pledge?

Oh sure, a student or a parent or guardian can have the student opt out of standing with their classmates in front of the flag in recitation. However, this opting out is very intimidating for the person who chooses to do so. They often face subtle and even overt pressures.

As we all have the freedom to pray and observe or not observe religious practices within our private spaces, so too, we have the freedom to pledge our allegiance to our country. I am questioning whether public spaces, such as schools and massive sporting venues, are, in fact, appropriate spaces.

The United States stands as a creative and noble concept, a vibrant idea, a vital and enduring vision, a process and progression toward, but it does not yet attain nor yet reach that concept, that idea, that vision. It is, rather, a work in process.

Yes, our country has come far in working for liberty and justice for its residents, but we still have far to go. And this is possibly what separates the patriot from the nationalist, for the patriot understands and witnesses the divide, the gap between the reality and the promise and potential. The nationalist on the other hand is often unaware or does not acknowledge that a gap exists between the potential and the reality.

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense), and co-author of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press).

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

June 21st, 2017 at 3:03 pm

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Donald Trump’s Situational Compassion and Outrage

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If we are to believe published reports, President Donald Trump feels genuinely and deeply moved when seeing the faces of death and grief resulting from the brutal actions of tyrannical regimes and individuals.

After witnessing scenes on TV of people gasping for air, and seeing convulsing and lifeless bodies randomly spread on the ground, Trump ordered the bombing of a Syrian military airbase thought to have been used to launch planes suspected of dropping deadly toxic gas upon defenseless civilians, including young children and babies, in northern Syria’s Idlib province.

Trump publicly spoke out and is now considering even greater sanctions on North Korea following the recent death of Otto Warmbier, a 22-year-old student from the University of Virginia, whom the North Korean government sent home in a deep coma after sentencing him to a 15-year hard labor prison sentence for allegedly stealing a propaganda poster, or according to Pyongyang, “acts against the state.”

The President generally stands first on the Tweetosphere line in thrusting out his severe condemnations a mere nanosecond after reports of suspected Jihadist terror attacks anywhere around the globe, especially in Europe. He has, however, allowed his Twitter feed a needed respite by allowing it to sleep following terrorist attacks perpetrated by non-Muslims upon members of the Islamic community, for example, the recent incident in London, which resulted in the death of one and injuries to several others during their holy month of Ramadan.

Donald Trump has demonstrated a consistent pattern of selective situational compassion and outrage depending on events and the countries or individuals involved.

Trump has reversed several key initiatives from the Obama era that were meant to increase political and economic programs and engagement and ease some sanctions on the Cuban government. During the presidential campaign, Trump argued for a retightening of past sanctions until that government initiates “religious and political freedoms for the Cuban people,” even though the U.S.-led embargo on the island has proven to be a failure over the past 50 years.

It seems, however, that Trump would rather engage in a sword dance with his Saudi Arabian dictator friends than speak out forcefully against documented civil rights violations in that country. A recent report from the Human Rights Watch organization found:

“Through 2015 Saudi authorities continued arbitrary arrests, trials, and convictions of peaceful dissidents. Dozens of human rights defenders and activists continued to serve long prison sentences for criticizing authorities or advocating political and rights reforms. Authorities continued to discriminate against women and religious minorities. [Under this system, ministerial policies and practices forbid women from obtaining a passport, marrying, travelling, or accessing higher education without the approval of a male guardian, usually a husband, father, brother, or son.] On March 26, [2015] a Saudi Arabia-led coalition began an airstrike campaign against Houthi forces in Yemen that included use of banned cluster munitions and unlawful strikes that killed civilians.”

President Trump appears to be cozying up to President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippians by inviting him to the White House for a getting-to-know one another session. This is the same leader who has unleashed a storm of terror against suspected drug dealers resulting already in approximately 7,000 executions during only the past year. In a telephone call from the Oval Office, Trump praised Duterte for doing “an unbelievable job on the drug problem.”

While reports have confirmed the existence of detention camps in the Republic of Chechnya – a region within the Russian Federation — holding men accused of being gay, where they are beaten and tortured with electric shocks, and some of the men have died of the injuries inflicted upon them, Trump has remained absolutely silent on this matter with his BFF Vladimir Putin.

On the domestic front, Trump’s selective situational compassion and outrage stand in full force. He verbally attacks and, thereby, calls into question the validity of our judicial system and the separation of governmental powers each time he speaks out against the courts in cases in which he has vested interests, for example, in individual and joint action suits again his alleged Trump University and in his executive travel bans.

When, however, will he vigorously express his public concern in clear-cut cases of police brutality, which often result in the deaths of innocent people of color and later in the acquittal of the law enforcement officers involved?

A recent case involved a Minnesota police officer whom a jury found not guilty in the shooting death of Philando Castile during a traffic stop in which the officer mistook the driver for someone suspected in a robbery. Castile’s girlfriend took a phone video of events leading to his death, which clearly shows that he posed no imminent danger to the officer.

In addition, the National Rifle Association remained stunningly silent following the verdict even though Castile represented a virtual poster model for the NRA by legally purchasing and carrying a gun in his car, and immediately notifying the officer of this fact before searching the vehicle.

If Trump is so concerned after viewing the dead faces of innocents and hearing the grief of those who loved them, then why has Trump ordered “his” Justice Department to rescind orders to investigate several police departments for possible racial biases and differential treatment, which officials in the Obama administration initiated to more adequately ensure accountability in the wake of the rising tide of high profile incidents and tensions between local law enforcement agencies and the communities they are meant to serve?

And when was the last time, actually, when was there a time, that the current president expressed compassion or any other emotion in the ever-increasing murders of trans people, primarily trans women of color, in this or in any country?

During the primaries and since, Donald Trump asserted in loud and clear terms that he would never foreshadow the tactics for achieving his agenda priorities as not to alert his adversaries and to maintain the element of surprise. While this strategy seems reasonable in some instances, the president — any president — must develop and project a certain consistency and stability of tone and actions to offer reassurance to our nation’s allies while setting clear boundaries to those who would do us and others harm.

Whether his intention or not, Trump’s consistent inconsistencies broadcast what and who he values and who he dismisses, and it eventually will underscore (undermine) his presidency.

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense), and co-author of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press).

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

June 20th, 2017 at 5:09 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Capitalism & Cooptation of Systemic Progressive Change

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As someone who came of age during the turbulent 1960s in the United States, I valorized the artists, those song writers and singers who laid out the musical score for my life, the minstrels who included Bob Dylan, Odetta, Janice Joplin, Buffy Saint Marie, Donovan, John Baez, Judy Collins, Jimmy Hendrix, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Tim Buckley, Santana, Leonard Cohen, The Supremes, The Beatles, Phil Ochs, The Weavers, Peter Paul and Mary, Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Richie Havens, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, and several others.

Before the technical revolution that followed, before the advent of the portable earphone devices such as the iPhone, and even prior to the “Walkman,” I carried these troubadours in the record library of my mind and memory as I witnessed the seemingly unending body bags transporting my generation back home from Vietnam, from scenes of police blasting high-powered fire hoses at resisters, including the very young, against racial intolerance in the South and throughout the country, of women’s continuing struggle against a patriarchal system that has long held power and privilege over them, of people standing up to environmental polluters, and of a military industrial complex that harvests the bodies of black and brown men and youth as fodder for ever-increasing corporate profits, of the torn bodies of John and Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, those known and unknown whose lives ended far too soon.

So “Hey, Mr. Tambourine man, play a song for me,” “for the universal soldier” “with God on our side” while we’re “sitting on the dock of the bay” wishing that “we will overcome” as “we all come to look for America” as “I often feel like a motherless child, a long way from my home.”

While watching my TV recently, I was disappointed and rather sickened, but unfortunately, not particularly surprised to hear one of my favorite songs serving as the lyrical backdrop for a commercial. To receive other points of view, I posted the following on my Facebook timeline:

“Paul Simon’s ‘America’: focus alienation. Why did Simon allow & Volkswagen use it in a TV commercial? Consumerism at any cost!”

This song spoke volumes to me and many others of my generation, especially in the third verse:

“Cathy, I’m lost, I said though I knew she was sleeping
And I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why
Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike
They’ve all come to look for America
All come to look for America…”

I am fully aware that Paul Simon does not know me. I also realize that he did not sell (out) to Volkswagen the rights to use his song in its advertising to betray my personal trust and admiration of his body of work.

I’m possibly very naïve, but I did feel somehow betrayed. Following my Facebook post, I wrote in the “comments” box, “When will song writers and singers place artistic and personal integrity and dignity over capitalist profits? Or will they ever?”

Others responded:

“That was bad, but not as bad as this.”

A link connected to a TV ad for TD Ameritrade in which a father lovingly teaches his son the “accepted” socially-constructed and enforced rules and behaviors of “masculinity” by instructing him, for example, to play baseball. Behind the “moving” images, the corporate advertisers chose “Cat’s in the Cradle” composed by Harry Chapin and sung by Joseph Angel:

“My child arrived just the other day
He came to the world in the usual way
But there were planes to catch and bills to pay
He learned to walk while I was away
And he was talkin’ ‘fore I knew it, and as he grew
He’d say ‘I’m gonna be like you, Dad
You know I’m gonna be like you…’”

A final image of the commercial announced: “Invest in every moment.”

So we need to ask TD Ameritrade — while based in Omaha, its largest shareholder is Toronto Dominion (TD) Bank – is the intent of your allegedly poignant ad to urge fathers to perpetuate the practice of absenteeism whose children “leaned to walk while [you were] away” and “[were] talkin’ ‘fore [you] knew it”? Is this really “Invest[ing] in every moment”?

Another Facebook friend wrote a comment to my original posting:

“The French nuclear power company AREVA used my all-time favorite disco dance tune, ‘Funkytown,’ for their advertising, and that troubled me. Also, another favorite disco tune, ‘Born to be Alive,’ was used by Bacardi rum. That was acceptable!”

A fourth responder criticized my posting:

“Simon wrote the song so he can sell it to anyone he wants. These are commercials and not real life…not to be taken seriously. I am all for artists, writers and musicians making profit from their work any way they choose. Idealism and business do not mix.”

This person painted clearly a notable problem by stating that “Idealism and business do not mix,” but more importantly, exhibited an even more grave and disastrous one by showing an utter lack of critical consciousness in the ways of media manipulation.

A few years back, I entered my university classroom and was about to introduce that day’s lesson when my eye caught a large poster pined to the bulletin board displaying a tightly clenched raised fist, reminiscent of the iconic Black Power symbol popularized in the 1960s. Above the image read the words in large capital letters, “JOIN THE FIGHT.”

Encouraged by the sight, I walked over to the poster hoping to find some indication of resurgent social activism. To my dismay and utter aversion, however, appearing in smaller letters, the poster advertised “The Fighting Burrito,” a local fast food campus hangout. The profit motive transformed this iconic symbol into a sales pitch for burritos, tacos, carbonated drinks, and nachos.

And this shows one means by which Capitalism misappropriates and transforms artists and their art into consumerist recruiters, which ultimately coopt the potential for true and lasting progressive social, political, and economic change.

The fact remains that we as individuals and as a society should be expected to critically, reflectively, and creatively investigate and analyze media rather than simply absorb them at face “value.” Not only must our schools help equip students with communication and reading literacy skills, but they must also actively teach skills of media literacy to empower students to deconstruct, analyze, and reflect upon media images and messages that bombard them like atmospheric microwaves daily.

I am encouraged by the musical artist, Neil Young, in his 1988 song, “This Note’s for You,” (a backhand reference of Budweiser’s slogan, “This Bud’s for You) in which Young proclaimed his personal integrity and independence from the Corporate hype:

“Ain’t singin’ for Pepsi

Ain’t singin’ for Coke

I don’t sing for nobody

Makes me look like a joke

This note’s for you.”

For my Critical Thinking Checklist, press here.

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense).

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

June 18th, 2017 at 2:36 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Southern Baptist Convention Remains South of Decency and Reason

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At this year’s annual Southern Baptist Convention held in Phoenix, Arizona, leaders in the Resolutions Committee initially voted not to permit the general body to consider a resolution submitted by well-known black Texas pastor, Dwight McKissic, condemning white nationalism, white supremacy, and the alt-right.

As written, the proposal in part affirmed that “there has arisen in the United States a growing menace to political order and justice that seeks to reignite social animosities, reverse improvements in race relations, divide our people, and foment hatred, classism, and ethnic cleansing.” It identified this “toxic menace” as white nationalism and the alt-right, and urged the denomination to oppose its “totalitarian impulses, xenophobic biases, and bigoted ideologies that infect the minds and actions of its violent disciples.”

It claimed that the development of white supremacy in Christian communities was contained within the theory known as the “curse of Ham,” which directed that “God through Noah ordained descendants of Africa to be subservient to Anglos” and was expanded as a justification for slavery and segregation. McKissic’s resolution asked the Southern Baptist Convention to condemn nationalism and “reject the retrograde ideologies, xenophobic biases, and racial bigotries of the so-called ‘alt-right’ that seek to subvert our government, destabilize society, and infect our political system.”

Following a movement by several SBC members in pressuring the Resolutions Committee, the general body passed a revised and somewhat watered-down resolution against the alt-right.

While the Southern Baptist Convention’s reluctance, at best, to rebuke racism and other forms of oppression is reprehensible, it is by no means surprising when placed in historical context.

The issue of slavery became a lightening rod in the 1840s among members of the Baptist General Convention, and in May 1845, 310 delegates from the Southern states convened in Augusta, Georgia to organize a separate Southern Baptist Convention on a pro-slavery plank. They asserted that to be a “good Christian,” one had to support the institution of slavery, and could not join the ranks of the abolitionists.

Well, either by divine “inspiration” or due to political pressure, 150 years later in June 1995, the SBC reversed its position and officially apologized to African Americans for its support of and collusion in the institution of slavery (regarding it now as an “original sin”), and also apologizing for its backing of “Jim Crow” laws and its rejection of civil rights initiatives of the 1950s and 1960s.

Delegates to the annual SBC session in New Orleans in 1996 passed their “Resolution on Jewish Evangelism” committing to put more energy and resources into converting Jews to Christianity. The resolution read, in part:

“WHEREAS, There has been an organized effort on the part of some either to deny that Jewish people need to come to their Messiah, Jesus, to be saved:…BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, That we direct our energies and resources toward the proclamation of the gospel 6 [of Jesus] to the Jewish people.”

The SBC continues to believe, as do some other denominations, that Judaism remains an inadequate or immature religion without Jesus as its central figure.

At their 1997 annual session, SBC delegates overwhelmingly voted to boycott Walt Disney theme parks, movies, and products for extending benefits to partners of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees, for the “hosting of homosexual and lesbian theme nights at its parks…,” and for producing films and books with lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender characters thereby “connecting Disney to the promotion of the homosexual agenda….”

The resolution continued: “That we encourage Southern Baptists to give serious and prayerful reconsideration to their purchase and support of Disney products and to boycott the Disney theme parks and stores if they continue this anti-Christian and anti-family trend.”

Regarding their stands on women in the Church, at their 1998 session, the SBC declared that a wife should “submit herself graciously” to her husband’s guidance, and the denomination has since removed women from top executive posts.

According to the 1998 resolution: “The husband and wife are of equal worth before God, since both are created in God’s image. The marriage relationship models the way God relates to His people. A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. He has the God-given responsibility to provide for, to protect, and to lead his family. A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ….[She] has the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his helper in managing the household and nurturing the next generation.”

Later, in 2000, the SBC declared that women should no longer serve as pastors.

In 2010, the  SBC passed its “Resolution on Homosexuality and the United States Military,” which stated in part: “RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention…affirm the Bible’s declaration that homosexual behavior is intrinsically disordered and sinful, and we also affirm the Bible’s promise of forgiveness, change, and eternal life to all sinners (including those engaged in homosexual sin) who repent of sin and trust in the saving power of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).”

So, how long will it take for the Southern Baptists Convention to apologize again to black people and all people of color, to LGBTQ people, to Jewish people, to women, to all the people and groups they have offended?

With religious rights come responsibilities, and with actions come reactions. Whenever clergy pronounce and preach their oppressive dogma, they must take responsibility for the bullying, harassment, violence against and suicides of individuals and groups they degrade and demean.

This critique does not amount to a simple theocratic disagreement. This is not a “disagreement” at all! It speaks to issues of power and control; it goes to who has the power to define “the other” and who has the power and control to define “the self”: the individual and members of a social identity group, or rather, the Church with a capital “C.”

An essential element of liberty is having the freedom to define oneself!

Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense), and co-author of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press).

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

June 17th, 2017 at 11:58 pm

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Those Beholden to the Gun Lobby Are the Real “Tyrants”

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“Why do we have a Second Amendment? It’s not to shoot deer. It’s to shoot at the government when it becomes tyrannical!”

What makes Senator (R-KY) Rand Paul’s tweeted remarks of June 23, 2016 about politically-motivated shooting so astoundingly ironic is that Paul himself was one of the Republican Congressional baseball team members caught in the crossfire during a team practice in advance of the annual Republican versus Democratic charity game.

Rand Paul has not been alone in his assessment. Dr. Ben Carson, Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and former Republican Party presidential candidate argues that an armed citizenry is needed to protect the people against “tyrants” and “radicals.”

In Carson’s book, which he co-authored with his wife Candy, A More Perfect Union: What We The People Can Do To Reclaim Our Constitutional Liberties, they assert that our country must never impose restrictions on firearms since “our founders recognized that ‘we the People’ could represent a significant fighting force if necessary to repel an invasion by foreign forces. They also knew that an armed population would discourage government overreach.”

“The founders feared an overbearing central government might attempt to dominate the people and severely curtail their rights,” the Carsons write. “This, in fact, is the primary reason that the Second Amendment was included in the Bill of Rights.”

The Carsons anticipated that many people might charge that it is “ludicrous to imagine our federal government trying to seize unconstitutional power and dominate the people.” By referring to James Madison, the Carsons said the founder “could foresee a day in America when radicals might assume power and try to impose upon America a different system of government.”

They continued, “His hope was that the establishment of such a different way of life would be difficult in America, because American citizens, having the right to keep and bear arms, would rebel.”

After lobbying Congress throughout his presidency to pass common sense gun regulations, and finding consistent confrontation, inaction, and intransigence on the part of legislators, Former President Barack Obama announced his Executive Orders to expand background checks for certain buyers of firearms.

The Orders mandated individuals “in the business of selling firearms” to register as licensed gun dealers. This was to close the so-called “gun show loophole” that has previously exempted small sellers like gun hobbyists and collectors from maintaining official sales records. In addition, the Orders increased funding for enforcement by hiring 200 new Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives agents and investigators, and $4 million to track illegal online firearms trafficking.

The President was at the time, however, realistic that the initiatives will not by themselves solve the epidemic plaguing our nation. Speaking at a press conference on January 5, 2016, he conceded:

“We know we can’t stop every act of violence, every act of evil in the world. But maybe we could try to stop one act of evil, one act of violence.”

For this reason, he continued to challenge national legislators: “But we also can’t wait,” Obama added. “Until we have the Congress that’s in line with the majority of Americans, there are actions within my legal authority that we can take to help reduce gun violence and save more lives.”

The reaction from Republican leaders at the time was swift and predictable. House Speaker Paul Ryan expected that the president’s Executive Order “will no doubt be challenged in the courts” and “can be overturned by a Republican President.”

Most of last year’s Republican presidential candidates came out shooting through their mouths. For example, Chris Christie called Obama a “petulant child,” and continued: “This president wants to act as if he is a king, as if he is a dictator. [If the courts don’t overturn his actions], I’m sure that ultimately the next president will make sure that he abdicates those extra constitutional actions.”

According to Donald Trump: “I will veto, I will unsign that so fast. So fast.”

Ted Cruz called Obama’s initiatives an “abuse” of executive power, and he vowed to repeal them when he is president. Rubio also said he would repeal the orders if elected to the presidency.

Carly Fiorina seemed to enter the stratosphere in her reply: “It is delusional, dangerous, not to mention unconstitutional for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to continue to talk about climate change and gun control in the wake of a Paris terrorist attack, a San Bernardino terrorist attack, instead of talking about a plan to defeat [the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria].”

Jeb exclamation mark Bush said: “I will fight as hard as I can against any effort by this president, or by any liberal that wants to take away people’s rights that are embedded in the Bill of Rights, embedded in our Constitution.”

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives, February 2 of this year, voted 235-180 to reverse Obama-era regulations, which had required the Social Security Administration to list with the FBI’s database background check system people who receive disability benefits and have a mental health condition to determine eligibility for purchasing a firearm. In other words, the Republican action made it much easier for people with documented mental health issues to acquire guns.

It never fails to amaze me, though, how some people spout the second clause of the Second Amendment, which reads: “…the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed,” while forgetting or discounting a key term in the first clause, “well regulated.”

No right granted in our founding documents — neither in the Declaration of Independence nor in our Constitution — and no matter how groundbreaking and progressive are these documents, they do not grant unfettered or limitless rights.

The United States ranks first among 178 countries researched in 2014 for the highest rate of firearms with 112.6 per 100 residents, with Serbia coming in a distant second at 69.7, Yemen third at 54.8, and Switzerland forth at 45.7.

I felt enormous excitement and pride, but not particularly surprise, when watching on TV iconic civil rights leader, Representative John Lewis of Georgia, leading other courageous Democratic activists by putting their bodies on the floor of the House to stand up for people of this country, June 23, 2016. These elected officials broke House rules to fix a broken legislative system controlled by corporate greed at the expense of real people’s lives in failing to pass common sense gun safety measures that the vast majority of U.S. residents support. For example, 85% of those polled support background check on all private gun sales including at gun shows.

How many more young children and adults must die, and how many more of our Congressional legislators must we wish a speedy and complete recovery from serious injuries sustained in gun violence before our elected leaders finally take seriously common-sense firearms safety regulations?

What about you now Rand Paul?

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense), and co-author of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press).

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

June 14th, 2017 at 8:17 pm

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Cabinet Officials Sing Hallelujah to Their Naked Emperor

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Once upon a time, in a kingdom not so very far away, all the emperor’s closest advisors sat around the grandest golden table in the castle heaping unqualified praise on their leader’s great victories since taking over the throne.

“Thank you so very much for bestowing upon me the extraordinary privilege and honored blessing of serving your majesty,” cried one.

“For you to include me in the finest hour ever known to our realm, words can never truly express my appreciation,” exclaimed another.

And a third gushed, “My gracious lord, your accomplishments have already far exceeded any of your predecessors in sheer weight and magnitude in the impact they have already had on your adoring and gracious subjects.”

While another uttered with great excitement, “Your name and your legacy will resound among all the nations of the world throughout the centuries until the end of time.”

Looking upon the gathering, a young child, with an expression of confused reflection pasted upon her intelligent and inquisitive face, pulled her mother close and asked in a whisper imperceptible to the emperor:

“But mother, our emperor of the House of Orange has done nothing successfully. He slew no dragons. He has destroyed alliances with our closest neighbors and our dearest friends. While he talks a lot about feeding and putting people back to work, and about making our kingdom great again, self-imposed scandals rock every corner of the palace preventing him from doing anything for his people.”

“The court jesters jeer him when he is out surveying his private land reserves,” continued the child. “Except for a very small number, his subjects find him rather dreary in mind, abusive in behavior, and over-inflated in pride. Secretly, people hope he will abdicate. So why do his advisors pile him with such lavish tributes?”

Thinking about the question momentarily, the mother looked into her daughter’s eyes and said, “Well, my dear. I suppose the emperor’s advisors want to keep their heads.”

This revised telling of Danish writer, Hans Christian Andersen’s tale, “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” represents in simile the scene acted out during President Donald Trump’s first official Cabinet meeting since taking office.

Following Trump’s usual hyperbolic and completely devoid-from-reality admired praise of himself, “Never has there been a president….with few exceptions…who’s passed more legislation,” [a clear lie], “who’s done more things than I have,” virtually every Cabinet secretary spoke in glowing and, frankly, sickly-sweet stick-finger-down-the-throat terms acknowledging their utter and total appreciation for being chosen to work for, not the people of the country, but, instead for their fearless narcissistic bully-in-chief.

Defense Secretary James Mattis stood out as the only exception by praising the actual people he works for in his government position:

“Mr. President, it’s an honor to represent the men and women of the Department of Defense. And we are grateful for the sacrifices our people are making in order to strengthen our military so our diplomats always negotiate from a position of strength. Thank you.”

Off with his head!

We may apply to this unprecedented and clearly bizarre White House meeting every cliché ever used to describe the type of over-the-top adoration and glorious devotion shown by these high (?) Cabinet officers: they prostrated themselves, they kissed his ring, they engaged in brown-nosing, they sang his praises, they had a come to [Trump] moment, they saw the light, they shouted Hallelujah, they pledged their allegiance, and the list goes on.

In actuality, though, these civil servants lost so very much. They lost their focus. They lost their dignity, their sense of self, and their integrity. And they lost track of whom they work for and represent: the people of the United States of America.

These elements Donald J. Trump either never possessed, or lost years before taking over the Oval Office.

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense), and co-author of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press).

 

 

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

June 13th, 2017 at 5:08 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Doublespeak and the Death of Reasoned Debate in the Trumpian Age

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While actually mythological, coming from Trump, members of his administration, and other supporters,  “deep state” refers to a conspiratorial shadowy network of manipulators pulling the levers of government power in Washington, D.C. as a covert force in resisting and attempting to bring down this president and his legislative agenda.

“Fake news,” as used by Trump, includes any and all unfavorable news and other reports after exposing this administration to the bright lights of public scrutiny. The term stands even in the face of the New York Times finding that Trump mislead or misstated the facts at least once in 91 of his first 99 days, and the Washington Post counted 623 false or misleading claims in the first 137 days after swearing to uphold, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.

Leaders on the political and theocratic Right employ the concept of “doublespeak” in which they deliberately distort, disguise, or reverse the meaning of words and ideas. This process results in the death of reasoned and rational critical dialogue and debate.

When reporters ask them questions that by any measure would be seen as appropriate and cogent, these leaders simply use the tactic of doublespeak, and, thereby, shut down any discussion. “Next question!”

Of course, they have packed many additional terms in their doublespeak arsenal, like, for example, “liberty” and “freedom” to advance their agendas, which include such tenets as shrinking the size of government and giving more control to state and local governments; ending governmental regulation of the private sector; privatization of state and federal governmental services, industries, and institutions including schools; permanent incorporation of across-the-board non-progressive marginal tax rates; market driven unfettered “free market” economies, which ultimately, they argue, will ensure individuals’ autonomy.

In addition, the National Rifle Association claims as one of its branding mottoes that “Guns Save Lives,” but just how many lives do guns save with the estimated 33 thousand lives taken each year, including about 11 thousand declared as homicides?

Individuals and groups claim they are “pro life,” well at least until birth. After that, many of these same groups advocate reducing or eliminating entitlement programs that serve as safety nets for those in need. In many instances, “pro life” means that infants and their families should be left on their own, while expecting no assistance from government. Also, they stand as “pro life” while simultaneously supporting capital punishment. Doublespeak?

And for many of these same individuals and groups, the “separation of [religion] and state” means that the state must stay out of the affairs of religion, but religion has the moral duty of entering and affecting the affairs of government. Doublespeak!

The political and theocratic Right has very skillfully manipulated the language and the discourse in its concentration on so-called “social issues” by attempting to own the terms “patriot,” “patriotism,” “honor,” “country,” “faith,” “freedom,” “liberty,” “security” [(“motherhood,” “apple pie”)], and, of course, “real American.”

With this doublespeak misappropriation, they attempt thereby to demonize and “other” those who favor women’s reproductive freedoms; marriage and other civil rights for same-sex couples and individuals; trans protections and visibility; scientific research; support for the arts and humanities; those who warn of the human component in global climate change; those who advocate for common sense gun control, comprehensive “single-payer” health care, equitable tax policies, compassionate immigration reform, inexpensive or free public higher education, appropriate and comprehensive governmental regulations over the private sector, investment in infrastructure and clean renewable energy sources, strong labor protections, voting rights, supervision over law enforcement agencies, actual separation of religion and government, diplomatic solutions to international conflict with military means only as a last resort, and many other issues.

The political and theocratic Right may engage in doublespeak, but as members of the rational resistance, we will continue to expose the false and misleading assertions and clear-cut lies. In the final analysis, truth will win out.

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense), and co-author of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press).

 

 

 

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

June 12th, 2017 at 7:12 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Trump & Ryan’s (Tryan’s) Co-Conspiracy in Moral Bankruptcy

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“I would just say that of course there needs to be a degree of independence between [the Department of Justice], FBI, and the White House and a line of communications established. The president’s new at this. He’s new to government, and so he probably wasn’t steeped in the long-running protocols that establish the relationships between DOJ, FBI, and White Houses. He’s just new to this.”

Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, stated this at a press conference in defense of President Donald Trump’s “hope” that former FBI Director, James Comey, would suspend investigating fired National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, for possibly negotiating or colluding with the Russians prior to Trump’s taking office.

Though all new presidents face a learning curve when moving into the Oval Office, Donald Trump knows virtually nothing about the functions and running of the federal government, and he seemingly lacks any desire to learn. He should have at least taken Gold Star father, Khizr Khan’s, impassioned offer at the Democratic National Convention last summer to borrow his copy of the U.S. Constitution to understand the very basics of the job.

Having a very steep learning curve in understanding the selling of merchandise in a department store is one thing, but “just [being] new to this” in arguably the most powerful and impactful office on the planet is quite another.

I expect the surgeon who operates on my cataracts, and similarly, the president of my country to have a superior degree of competence, show a high standard of care, and continually update their knowledge base as additional information comes forward. Anything less places people at risk for severe injury and sets up the conditions for malpractice.

Paul Ryan’s attempted excuse for Trump this week, and, more generally in his spineless refusal to speak out against this president’s abusive and morally bankrupt antics in word and action begs the question: Why does Ryan support a president who he previously had serious doubts about during the primaries regarding Trump’s temperament and ability to lead?

Both men agree on one primary assumption attributed to Thomas Jefferson: “That government is best which governs least.” Trump and Ryan (“Tryan”), however, take this to the extreme.

Tryan’s agenda centers on a market-driven approach to economic and social policy, including such tenets as reducing the size of the national government and granting more control to state and local governments; severely reducing or ending governmental regulations over the private sector; privatization of governmental services, industries, and institutions including education, health care, and social welfare; permanent incorporation of across-the-board non-progressive marginal federal and state tax rates; and possibly most importantly, market driven and unfettered “free market” economics.

One need simply look at Tryan’s attempts to eliminate the Affordable Care Act; to severely curtail environmental regulations on industry and, for example, the Dodd-Frank legislation passed to reduce the chances in the banking sector of repeating the disastrous policies leading to the last economic recession; to push for the privatization of social institutions such as education with the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of the Department of Education; to pass a draconian so-called “tax reform” plan and a national budget that places billions more dollars into the pockets of the rich and super rich, while imposing increasingly greater hardships on the remainder of our people by taking away many of the safety nets and programs needed by deserving U.S.-Americans and countries in the form of aid.

Trump most certainly does not understand, while Ryan was weaned on the philosophy of “objectivism” (or rational individualism in which proponents assert there are objective standards of truth) articulated by Ayn Rand in her novels and non-fiction works.

Ayn Rand, who has become the intellectual center for the economic/political/social philosophy of Libertarianism, constructs a bifurcated world of one-dimensional characters in her novels. On one side, she presents the noble, rational, intelligent, creative, inventive, self-reliant heroes of industry, music and the arts, science, commerce, and banking who wage a noble battle for dignity, integrity, personal, and economic freedom, and for the profits of their labors within an unregulated “free market” Capitalist system.

On the other side, she portrays the “looters” represented by the followers, the led, the irrational, unintelligent, misguided, misinformed, the corrupt government bureaucrats who regulate and manipulate the economy to justify nationalizing the means of economic production, who confiscate personal property, who dole out welfare to the non-entitled, the lazy, and in so doing, destroy personal incentive and motivation resulting in dependency. Welfare Ayn Rand terms “unearned rewards,” while she argues for a system of laissez-faire Capitalism separating economics and state.

Ayn Rand bristles against the notion of collectivism, of shared sacrifice and shared rewards. Rather, she argues that individuals are not and should not be their brothers’ and sisters’ keepers; that one must only do unto oneself; that one must walk only in one’s own shoes and not attempt to know the other by metaphorically walking in another’s shoes; that personal happiness is paramount; and that one’s greatest good is what is good for oneself rather than for the greatest number of people.

In other words, Ayn Rand paints a world in which the evil and misguided “takers” wage war against the noble and heroic “makers.”

Paul Ryan blamed men “in the inner city” on their “real culture problem” for their higher rates of unemployment during his appearance March 12, 2014 on Bill Bennett’s “Morning in America” program:

“We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work, and so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with.”

Earlier, Ryan spoke in 2012 that: “Right now about 60 percent of the American people get more benefits in dollar value from the federal government than they pay back in taxes. So we’re going to a majority of takers versus makers in America and that will be tough to come back from that. They’ll be dependent on the government for their livelihoods [rather] than themselves.”

Ryan, who demanded “personal family time” as a major condition for taking over the House Speakership, consistently opposes legislation that would extend paid family leave benefits for new parents. For example, in 2009, he voted against the proposed Federal Employees Paid Parental Act.

Paul Ryan claimed that he read Ayn Rand growing up, and “it taught me quite a bit about who I am and what my value systems are, and what my beliefs are,” he told members of the Atlas Society, an organization devoted to Any Rand in a 2005 speech.

“The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand.” He went on to say, “And the fight we are in here, make no mistake about it, is a fight of individualism versus collectivism.”

The so-called “Libertarian” battle cry of “liberty” and “freedom” through “personal responsibility” sounds wonderful on the surface, but we must ask ourselves as individuals and as a nation, what do they really mean by and what are the costs of this alleged “liberty” and “freedom”?

We must, first, cut through the coded xenophobic, racialized, and classist language, for often when politicians use the words “poor,” “welfare,” “inner city,” “food stamps,” “entitlements,” “bad neighborhoods,” “foreign,” “culture of poverty,” they tap into many white people’s anxieties and past racist teachings of people of color.

Ayn Rand and by extension, Tryan would rather blame poverty within our communities and low achievement in our schools on the “cultures” of those suffering from the social inequities. This “cultural deficit model” detracts and undermines us from interrogating and truly addressing the enormous structural inequities pervasive throughout our society, which these “Libertarians” would have us multiply if we were to follow their lead.

So-called “social issues” become wedge issues to attract people to a particular candidate. In the final analysis, though, when middle and working class people vote for these candidates, they essentially vote against their own economic self-interests.

Ragnar Danneskjöld, Ayn Rand’s so-called moral crusading pirate and symbol for “justice” in Atlas Shrugged, quite tellingly expresses Ayn Rand’s true purpose when she puts these words in the pirate’s mouth:

“I’ve chosen a special mission of my own. I’m after a man whom I want to destroy. He died many centuries ago, but until the last trace of him is wiped out of men’s minds, we will not have a decent world to live in.”

Hank Rearden, one of Ayn Rand’s “righteous” industrialists asks: “What man.”

Danneskjöld replies: “Robin Hood….He was the man who robbed the rich and gave to the poor. Well, I’m the man who robs the poor and gives to the rich – or, to be exact, the man who robs the thieving poor and gives back to the productive rich.”

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense).

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

June 10th, 2017 at 3:17 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Trump’s Character Defects & Steep Learning Curve Imperil the World

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“[Peace] is something that I think is frankly, maybe, not as difficult as people have thought over the years.”

In a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem, May 23rd, President Donald Trump boldly asserted that one of the modern world’s most intractable diplomatic nightmares plaguing and daunting negotiators for decades is “not as difficult” for this man who put his name on the book, The Art of the Deal (which was actually written by a ghost writer, Tony Schwartz).

“We want to create peace between Israel and the Palestinians. We will get it done,” Trump said. “We will be working so hard to get it done. I think there is a very good chance and I think we will.”

The prior day, when conferring in Jerusalem with Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, and other Israeli leaders and U.S. diplomates, Trump betrayed his utter lack of understanding and apparent lack of interest when he stated that:

“Our Secretary of State [Rex Tillerson] has done an incredible job. We just got back from the Middle East. We just got back from Saudi Arabia.”

At this point, Ambassador Dermer was seen attempting to stifle a grimace and a laugh since by the third grade in the United States students know that Israel is a Middle Eastern country on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. Trump seems to have taken as his world history and geography tutor, his Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos.

Donald Trump admitted to The Washington Post that he does not read: “I never have. I’m always busy doing a lot. Now I’m more busy, I guess, than ever before.”

Rather than concern himself with the “Three R-s”, Trump relies on the “Four I-s” (Impulsiveness, Instinctiveness, and Intuition in his I-first world view) when making decisions. He has never read a biography of any of our past presidents, and his grasp of U.S. and world history is slight at best.

Continuing, he said he has no need to read extensively because he arrives at the right decisions “with very little knowledge other than the knowledge I [already] had, plus the words ‘common sense,’ because I have a lot of common sense, and I have a lot of business ability.”

During his stay in Jerusalem, Trump visited Yad Vashem, The World Holocaust Center. Like others before him, he wrote his inscription in the guest book. When then Senator and Democratic Party presidential nominee, Barack Obama, came to Israel in July 2008, he left a poignant dedication:

“I am grateful to Yad Vashem and all of those responsible for this remarkable institution. At a time of great peril and promise, war and strife, we are blessed to have such a powerful reminder of man’s potential for great evil, but also our capacity to rise up from tragedy and remake our world. Let our children come here, and know this history, so that they can add their voices to proclaim ‘never again.’ And may we remember those who perished, not only as victims, but also as individuals who hoped and loved and dreamed like us, and who have become symbols of the human spirit.”

Trump, however, seemingly unaware, or more likely, incapable of considering time and place, focused only on himself in this brief writing:

“It is a great honor to be here with all of my friends — so amazing and will never forget!”

Why, though, should we find this surprising? On International Holocaust Remembrance Day (January 27, 2017), in his ceremonial speech commemorating the Holocaust, Donald Trump denounced the “horror inflicted on innocent people by Nazi terror” while never once mentioning Jews and antisemitism.

While the Nazis targeted several groups for interrogation, incarceration, and death, the regime singled out the Jewish people for mass genocide in their “final solution.” Though Donald Trump has only a limited grasp of world history, we could have at least assumed that even he would know this basic fact.

My body shook with rage and my blood thickened at the sight of Donald Trump laying a ceremonial wreath at Yad Vashem. This sacred site stands as a testament and memorial to the victims and to the righteous under Nazi atrocities. Just by stepping foot on the hallowed ground of Jerusalem, the place of confluence between three great monotheistic world religions, Trump committed an outrage with his hypocrisy, vested self-interests, and moral bankruptcy.

When speaking to Arab and Muslim leaders in Saudi Arabia on the first leg of his trip, Trump pushed for unity in stamping out “Islamic extremism” in their territories, but he reversed previous U.S. policy by not pushing for democratic values and human rights in the Middle East. Neither did Trump speak out in Israel against the harsh treatment of Palestinians under the occupation.

But this is no surprise since Trump and his administration have been continually undermining democratic values and human rights in his own country, the United States.

Donald Trump’s lack of knowledge and little apparent interest in learning even the fundamentals surrounding the issues in world and domestic affairs, combined with his enormous power imperils not only the United States, but nations across the globe.

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense).

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

May 24th, 2017 at 6:29 pm

Posted in Uncategorized