Warren Blumenfeld's Blog

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Trump & Confederacy Enthusiasts Fail to Heed Lee and Davis’ Warnings

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While Donald J. Trump either lost or has refused to refer to his moral compass ever since the early years of his life, if he simply studied U.S. history he would have known how to respond to the violent racist and anti-Semitic white supremacists and neo-Nazis in Charlottesville before, during, and following their deadly march and rally.

And if the violent racist and anti-Semitic white supremacists and neo-Nazis had read their history, they would never have come to Charlottesville to protest the removal of Confederate monuments, nor would they ever have carried Confederate battle flags!

An estimated 1500 members of the racist right descended on this small liberal university community for the expressed purpose of voicing their opposition to the planned removal of a 26-foot statue atop a massive stone pedestal of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in a park once named for him. The statue of Lee riding his horse and holding a hat in hand was erected in 1924, long after the Civil War during the Jim Crow era in Virginia.

The Charlottesville City Council voted in April of this year to remove and sell the memorial statue, and to change the name of Lee Park to Emancipation Park. A circuit court judge issued a six-month injunction before going the plan can go into effect.

The actions by the Charlottesville City Council follow a growing trend by other municipalities to take down symbols of the Confederacy, and either sell them or donate them to historical museums.

The dissolution of these objects, however, has served as a rallying cry, a cause célèbre, in the movement for white identity politics collectively coming to be known as “white grievance politics”: white people, on the micro level, (primarily men and boys) who claim their rights and power have been weakened by a growing emphasis on multiculturalism and diversity, and internationally on the macro level, the notion that “the West” is under assault which has resulted in a diminution of power and status by the “non-Western” world. Members of the movement position themselves as the victims of an (undocumented and mythological) unfair and biased redistribution of resources and power.

In the U.S., members are demanding the continued display of Confederate monuments and other symbols, such as the Confederate battle flag, arguing “tradition” since these are a part of their “heritage,” and they represent an era of American history.

These emblems and personalities do, in fact, represent an era of American history, an era of war over the right to continue the enslavement of other human beings, one in which many Southerners believed they had the “God” given right to torture, work to death, separate families, rape, and otherwise abuse others for their own economic, social, and cultural benefit.

Most certainly, these monuments and symbols represent “tradition,” but a tradition worth remembering only as one of the leading shameful eras in our national story, and not as one to romanticize or admire.

Under the guise of preserving “tradition,” proponents of keeping Confederate symbolism fail to realize that most of the monuments were erected well after the Civil War toward the end of the 19th– and into the 20th-century. Southerners imposed these monuments primarily as weapons of intimidation against black people in the Jim Crow South during what has come to know as the “Redemption Period.”

One of their own heroes, Confederate General Robert E. Lee, would been outraged by their efforts and tactics if he were alive today. Following the Confederate surrender to Union forces, Lee hoped for a reunified country with the enmities of war put aside and given up. He understood that the symbols of the war, if continued to be displayed, would prevent the emotional and physical healing truly necessary to unite this exhausted and traumatized nation.

He wanted no monuments erected, no flags flown, and no other symbols to the Confederacy displayed. In his book, “Personal Reminiscences and Letters,” Lee included a letter he sent in 1864 to the Gettysburg Identification Meeting Committee asserting that the Confederate flag should be retired and put away due to the strong feelings it evokes.

“I think it wisest not to keep open the sores of war, but to follow the example of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife, and to commit to oblivion the feelings it engendered.”

Confederate President Jefferson Davis followed Lee’s lead when in his The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, he wrote:

“My pride is that that flag shall not set between contending brothers; and that, when it shall no longer be the common flag of the country, it shall be folded up and laid away like a vesture no longer used.”

In his biography, The Man Who Would Not Be Washington: Robert E. Lee’s Civil War and His Decision That Changed American History, author Jonathan Horn wrote that when Lee became president of Washington College in Lexington, Virginia in 1865, he received several offers for memorials, but he refused them all since he felt they would “anger the victorious Federals.”

As Lee wrote in a 1866 letter:

“As regards the erection of such a monument as is contemplated; my conviction is, that however grateful it would be to the feelings of the South, the attempt in the present condition of the Country, would have the effect of retarding, instead of accelerating its accomplishment; & of continuing, if not adding to, the difficulties under which the Southern people labour.”

Lee also turned down a proposal to erect a monument to Stonewall Jackson arguing that it would be unreasonable to ask families of Confederate veterans for money to build a monument when they hardly have enough money to feed their families, as Horn explained.

Horn added that Lee requested that he did not wish to be buried in his Confederate uniform. Following his request, no former Confederate soldiers dressed in their uniforms, and no Confederate battle flags flew during his 1870 funeral procession.

Lee thought instead of putting a lot of time and money into memorializing the Confederate Generals,

“All I think that can now be done, is to aid our noble & generous women in their efforts to protect the graves & mark the last resting places of those who have fallen, & wait for better times,” as he wrote in 1866.

At his impromptu “press conference” this week, Donald Trump talked about the issue of taking down historical monuments:

“So, this week it’s Robert E. Lee,” Trump said. “I notice that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder is it George Washington next week, and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?”

While we all must question and challenge all of our seriously flawed founders and other national leaders, and, yes, come to an eventual collective decision whether to retain monuments to such notables as Washington, Jefferson, and Jackson, who engaged in slavery, and in Jackson’s case, in the genocide of First Nations people, they would not today be charged with treason and sedition against the United States as would members of the Confederacy.

Not many people are arguing for the erection of impressive statues, for example, in the image of the infamous Revolutionary War traitor, Benedict Arnold. In truth, leading Confederacy figures triggered more tattering of the nation and death than Arnold could have even imagined.

I am proud of the committed and courageous anti-fascist activists who came out to counter the pure and undisguised hatred of the white supremacists and neo-Nazis in Charlottesville and throughout the nation. I grieve the tragic loss of Heather Heyer, 32, a courageous freedom fighter, whose life was tragically taken as she stood up for her principles of social justice for all people. I also grieve the death of two state troopers, Lt. H. Jay Cullen, 48, and Berke M.M. Bates, who would have turned 41 in just a few days, in a crash of their helicopter as they observed the demonstrations from above.

If significantly more Germans stood up to Nazis early and often like Virginians and people throughout the country stood and continue to stand up to the neo-Nazis white supremacist purveyors of hate, my Jewish family would not have been killed, and the world would have been spared a deadly and horrific war that killed tens of millions more.

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

August 16th, 2017 at 5:31 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Take Down Confederate Symbols and Misappropriations of First Nations’ Peoples

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Controversy has been swirling around a long-overdue public debate whether to change the name of the Washington Redskins football franchise. On one side, some news outlets, like the San Francisco Chronicle, announced back in 2013 that they will no longer use the word “Redskins” when referring to the team. Also in 2013, the Washington, D.C. City Council voted overwhelmingly to refer to the team’s name as “racist and derogatory.”

According to an October 16, 2013 Press Release by the American Indian Movement (AIM) Twin Cities (Minneapolis and Saint Paul) calling for a protest at the game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Washington “Redskins”:

“The continued use of American Indian likenesses and images by sports teams has resulted in widespread racial, cultural and spiritual stereotyping which promotes hatred and disrespect of American Indian people. Using American Indian slurs like ‘Redskins’ is no different than the use of Black Sambo which offended African Americans or the Frito Bandito which is offensive to the Hispanic community.”

The press release went on to demand: “Retire the racist attire! Recognize that American Indians are a living people, not mascots for America’s fun and games!”

The team originally took the name “Boston Braves” at its inception in 1932, but changed it one year later to “Boston Redskins.”

At the center of this maelstrom, team owner Daniel Snyder is holding firm by announcing he has no intention of changing the name, referring to it as a “tradition” and as a “badge of honor.” In fact, on the wall of the organization’s Ashburn, Virginia, offices hangs a commemorative plaque given to the team’s former coach, George Allen announcing:

“Washington Redskins is more than a name we have called our football team for over eight decades. It is a symbol of everything we stand for: strength, courage, pride, and respect — the same values we know guide Native Americans and which are embedded throughout their rich history as the original Americans.”

Daniel Snyder needs to turn the tables by imagining the name of his team as the “Washington Blackskins” under the team symbol of the Confederate battle flag.

The Southern Poverty Law Center found a current total of 1,503 Confederate-related symbols across the United States, including:

  • 718 monuments and statues, nearly 300 of which are in Georgia, Virginia or North Carolina;
  • 109 public schools named for Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, or other notable Confederates;
  • 80 counties and cities named for Confederates;
  • 9 official Confederate holidays in six states; and
  • 10 U.S. military bases named for Confederates.

Under increasingly intensive pressure, South Carolina led the way in 2015 by removing the Confederate flag from the State House grounds where it had hung since 1962. Other cities slowly and often reluctantly followed suit. Those on the other side of the issue who demand retaining these monuments and symbols argue “tradition” since they are a part of their “heritage,” and they represent an era of American history.

These emblems and personalities do, in fact, represent an era of American history, an era of war over the right to continue the enslavement of other human beings, one in which many Southerners believed they had the “God” given right to torture, work to death, separate families, rape, and otherwise abuse others for their own economic, social, and cultural benefit.

Most certainly, these monuments and symbols represent “tradition,” but a tradition worth remembering only as one of the leading shameful eras in our national story, and not as one to romanticize or admire.

These symbols actually inspire people to violence while for many others, they bring to the surface a legacy of oppression and pain. The monuments and symbols empowered, for example, 21-year-old avowed white supremacist Dylann Roof who brutally and without any sign of remorse murdered nine African American parishioners at the historic Emanuel A.M.E. church on June 17, 2015. Roof was depicted in several on-line photos some in which he carried the Confederate battle flag in one hand and a gun in the other.

In addition, an estimated 1500 white supremacists and neo-Nazis recently marched on Charlottesville, Virginia carry Confederate flags, Nazi symbols, and other racist and anti-Semitic regalia in protest of the town’s order to remove the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. The rally resulted in extreme violence and the murder of a young woman and death of two state police officers.

Under the guise of preserving “tradition,” proponents of keeping Confederate symbolism fail to realize that most of the monuments were erected well after the Civil War toward the end of the 19th– and into the 20th-century. Southerners imposed these monuments primarily as a weapon of intimidation against black people in the Jim Crow South during what has come to know as the “Redemption Period.”

The so-called “Redeemers” included a coalition of the southern faction of the Bourbon Democrats: a very conservative and pro-business arm of the Democratic Party whose stated goal of “redemption” was to rid the South of liberal Republicans, northern “carpetbaggers,” and “scalawags” (poorer non-slaveholding whites).

While literally millions of First Nations people inhabit the United States today, they as a group remain largely invisible to most other U.S.-Americans. The image of so-called brave “Redskins” in football and “Braves” in baseball, and countless other sports teams were constructed through a historically revisionist and romanticized lens, back to some fairy-tale time and place where the European “settlers” (a.k.a. “invaders”) broke bread in some mythological first Thanksgiving with “the natives,” where all was fine forevermore.

In fact, European-heritage people actively deculturalized, robbed them of their land, and committed genocide on native peoples, and the cultural descendants of the Confederacy – descendants of those willing to wage war to ensure the continued enslavement of other human beings — strikes as hypocrisy at best, and more like justification for further colonization and misappropriation of cultural symbols, in addition to racist stereotyping.

As a genuine step in the direction of truly honoring and respecting other people, the cultural imperialism must end.

Tear down and change the sport’s team and school names that misappropriate First Nations’ cultural and spiritual heritage. Tear down the monuments and other symbols to the Confederacy. Place these in museums as reminders of a disgraceful past, one that we must remember so we don’t repeat.

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

August 15th, 2017 at 3:53 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Trump Is Accomplishing His Goal to “Make America Hate Again”

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Since the November 8, 2016 election of Donald J. Trump as the 45th President of the United States, the reported incidents of hate crimes in nine metropolitan areas increased by more than 20% according to a study conducted by Brian Levin, professor of criminal justice at California State University at San Bernardino for the non-partisan Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism. This research shows a reversal of a previous trend of fewer hate crimes across the nation just a few years earlier.

In addition, the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that monitors hate groups and crimes throughout the U.S., found a spike in the number of hate groups, especially anti-Muslim, “for a second year in a row in 2016 as the radical right was energized by the candidacy of Donald Trump.”

The day Trump descended the escalator in his tower of gold, with head raised arrogantly forward as he held court at his press conference announcing his run for the presidency, he tossed down the bodies of Mexican people as if they were red Trump steaks, as his initial stepping stones on his compassionless and brutal march to the White House.

“The US has become a dumping ground for everyone else’s problems. [Mexico is] sending people that have lots of problems, and they are bringing those problems to us. They are bringing drugs, and bringing crime, and they’re rapists.”

Before his declared run, Donald Trump arguably the most prominent of the so-called “birthers,” continually accused President Obama of illegitimacy as Commander in Chief by claiming he was born outside the United States, even well after the President released his official birth certificate. This along with Trump’s supposed investigations into Mr. Obama’s time spent in Indonesia as a child, and inquiries into his African roots on his father’s side coexist as not-so-veiled xenophobic and racist threats.

Throughout the remainder of his jaunt to the White House up to today, he stepped on the bodies of Muslims, Jews, all women, black people, Latinx people of all nations, activists in Black Lives Matter since they do not matter to him, people with disabilities, bodies that did not fulfill his rigid standards of feminine beauty, prisoners of war, the military in general and military generals whom he knows more about how to defeat ISIS, Gold Star parents, women who have the audacity to fight to control their own bodies and their own lives, transgender people, lesbian, gay, and bisexual people, couples in same-sex relationships, invading “alien” immigrants, dreamers, in fact, anyone and everyone who disagree with or criticizes him.

Neither Salvador Dali nor Franz Kafka, in the farthest outreaches of their brilliant imaginations, could have ever drawn or written more grotesque or surreal images of the United States in the Trumpian era. Albert Camus comes closest in his masterpiece, The Plague, symbolizing the development and spread of Euro-fascism. But while the plague ultimately diminished and receded virtually on its own after running its course, the plague of exploited fear, hatred, and scapegoating unleashed by Donald Trump that sickens our nation will not subside merely by itself.

No. In our noble experiment that we call the United States of America, it will take an aware and thoughtful electorate to move us forward, especially during these times of regression and moral decay.

Going from Obama to Trump has brought about a national collective whiplash: from the forward motion of the Obama administration regarding the advancement of civil and human rights to the backward and downward direction of the Trump presidency.

Trump’s statements, policies, and actions, coupled with his cabinet and other staff appointees like Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, and Sebastian Gorka have resulted in furthering the already deep skid marks across the landscape, and a collective fracture and anxiety on the body politic.

From what Trump proposes and his manner of presentation, he has continued his radical descent from his golden escalator to the lowest bowels of rhetoric and hurtful policy positions.

This Republican president has exhibited and appealed to compulsory markers of hyper-masculinity, for example, to rugged individualism (“I alone can fit it!), appeals to extreme nationalism to defend our country from the invading hoards, objectification of the female body both in language and in alleged deed, and to base notions of tribalism of us versus all “others.”

Donald Trump has no difficulty calling out those he sees as his political opponents, even within the Republican party, and he jumps quickly to label bombings and trucks or cars plowing over people in Europe as “radical Islamic terrorists,” even well before the evidence is collected. He talked in vague terms, though, about the murderous actions by neo-Nazis, neo-Confederates, and other white supremacist groups in Charlottesville recently, and he refused to call out the perpetrators’ groups by name.

On the other hand, we can take pride in the words and deeds of Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe who stated in clear and certain terms that “all the white supremacists and Nazis who came into Charlottesville” need to “go home and never come back.”

Governor McAuliffe and all the righteous counter demonstrators who stood up to bigotry deserve our respect and admiration by intervening and by stating in a collective voice of solidarity, “not in our town.”

Trump has excited the worst in the human psyche. But Trump has merely served as a tool – a toxic catalyst – that has revealed the iceberg of the largely submerged resentment and fear of the “other.” By his example, he has given others permission to reveal their own xenophobic beliefs with strength and even with pride.

The reality is that these domestic terrorists are already home. They live in the state of Virginia. They live everywhere throughout the Divided States of America. They live down the street from each of us. Some of them serve on our local school boards, and police forces. Some of them teach our children and help us fill out our tax forms.

Expressing outrage toward the extreme racism, antisemitism, xenophobia, misogyny, heterosexism, and ableism of the neo-Nazi white supremacist political right is necessary. However, it is ultimately not sufficient to cure the plague of hate perpetuated ever since the first Europeans stepped foot onto what is now known as North America.

From Columbus to the colonists, from the killers and exploiters of First Nations peoples and the slavers (which included many of the “founding fathers), to the white supremacists of the Jim Crow South and across the nation, all the way to the image we see each time we stand in front of the looking glass, we the people of the United States have a long-entrenched legacy of hate, a legacy that each of us has internalized to varying degrees along a wide spectrum.

So, yes indeed, we need to stand up to hatred when we perceive it, for when we do not, we collude in the oppression. We must call out the President of the United States for his incapacity to provide moral leadership within our severely traumatized nation.

However, we must dig deeper and further if we, as a nation, are to turn a corner and begin to heal from our history. For it is often easier to interrupt the external hatred than it is to look inside at the ways we as individuals have internalized the bigotry to which we have been exposed.

But unless and until we also do our “personal work,” we will remain a fractured nation, preventing us from attaining our stated goal of E Pluribus Unum.

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

August 14th, 2017 at 1:06 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Trump’s Fascism through Words into Policies into Actions

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“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence, on many sides.”

In his terse and insufficient verbal response to the violence between hundreds of avowed neo-Nazi white supremacists and anti-fascist counter protestors in Charlottesville, Virginia, President Donald Trump blamed the deadly fascist violence “on many sides.”

Again, Trump refused to repudiate members of the so-called “alt-right” for instigating their clearly fanatical rhetoric directed against anyone who appears and thinks differently from themselves.

If one is displaying hatred and bigotry for white supremacy, then call me an avowed and proud hater and bigot!

We have long since passed the point where it is merely hyperbole to compare the rise and control of the Nazis in the 1920s and 1930s to the rise and possible total take-over of fascism in the United States and in some other countries around the world.

In both Nazi Germany and in U.S.-style alt-right fascism, strong leaders whipped up dehumanizing stereotypes resulting in the scapegoating of already-marginalized groups of people to blame for causing past problems and posing clear and present dangers to the state.

“The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is deeply alarmed at the hateful rhetoric at a conference of white nationalists held on November 19 [2016] at the Ronald Reagan Building just blocks from the Museum…The Holocaust did not begin with killing; it began with words. The Museum calls on all American citizens, our religious and civic leaders, and the leadership of all branches of the government to confront racist thinking and divisive hateful speech…”

These words from a press release of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC refers to a white nationalist conference headlined by neo-Nazi, Richard Spencer, who greeted attendees with a tribute to then President-elect Donald J. Trump shouting “Hail Trump! Hail victory!” from the stage before all in attendance gestured in a traditional Nazi straight-arm salute.

Once identifying himself as a Democrat, Donald Trump, while recently disavowing himself from white nationalists, has transformed himself, at the very least, into the mouthpiece of the far-right-wing of the Republican Party.

On the right-wing side of the dictatorial strongmen’s political spectrum, we find the philosophy and practice of “fascism.” While also deployed as an epithet by some, fascism developed as a form of radical authoritarian nationalism in early-20th century Europe in response to liberalism and Marxism on the left.

Political scientist, Lawrence Britt, enumerates 14 tenets of fascism:

  1. Powerful and continuing nationalism,
  2. Disdain for the recognition of human rights,
  3. Identification of enemies/scapegoats [of the country’s problems] as a unifying cause,
  4. Rampant sexism,
  5. Supremacy of the military,
  6. Controlled mass media,
  7. Obsession with national security,
  8. Religion and government are intertwined,
  9. Corporate power is protected,
  10. Labor power is suppressed,
  11. Disdain for intellectuals and the arts,
  12. Obsession with crime and punishment,
  13. Rampant cronyism and corruption, and
  14. Fraudulent elections

While many governmental leaders and candidates for public office may push for a number of these tactics while remaining outside the definition of “fascist,” the cumulative effect increases depending on the severity of and the degree to which they initiate these measures.

Donald Trump, in what he has stated and proposed falls directly within the parameters of fascism. Using Britt’s taxonomy, I filled in Trump’s positions:

  1. Appeals to “nationalism,” presented in the guise of “popularism,” feeding on people’s fears and prejudices, which has already resulted in the segregation of people and nations from one another, and threats and dangers of violence;
  1. Rolled back many of the rights and protections minoritized peoples have tirelessly fought for over the decades: reproductive rights, transgender rights, voting rights, citizenship rights, anti-torture guarantees, rights of unreasonable search and seizure, rights of assembly, disability rights, freedom of religion, possibly marriage equality, environmental protections of all kinds. Recall, as well, his father Fred Trump and his refusal some years ago to rent Trump properties to black people, over which they were sued and eventually signed a consent decree;
  1. Scapegoating of already disenfranchised identity categories as the internal and external enemies of the United States: Muslims and anyone from Muslim-majority countries, Mexicans and all Latinx people, urban “thugs,” transgender people, the press, Somalis, President Barack Obama, the ACLU, liberals, etc.;
  1. Toxic misogynistic utterances and allegations of sexual harassment by numerous women, which have reached historic proportions;
  1. Promises to enlarge and improve our “failing” military, fire generals whom Trump “knows more than about ISIS,” and extremist rhetoric toward nations by threatening nuclear annihilation;
  1. Threats to employ libel laws to sue the “crooked and lying” media (Lügenpresse, “lying press” popularized by the German Nazis to silence opposition);
  1. Continual cries against “Islamic jihadist terrorists” as the number one threat to our nation thereby exposing U.S. Muslims to increased calls for travel bans from majority-Muslim countries, and a call for a “national registry” and surveillance to track their movements;
  1. Attendance at several “Christian prayer vigils” and appearances at conservative right Christians conferences and universities like Liberty University, with calls to “Make America Great Again” giving the subliminal dog-whistle message of making (keeping) America white and Protestant again;
  1. Promises of a deregulated corporate business sector with massive tax cuts and other financial incentives. “I will formulate a rule which says that for every one new regulation, two old regulations must be eliminated”;
  1. Implied reduction in the rights of workers to organize and negotiate collective bargaining agreements, privatization of entitlements, advocacy for the abolition of a national minimum wage (while relenting somewhat to a $10. minimum wage for the present time at least);
  1. Resentment and attacks on the political, media, and intellectual “elites” to the point of instigating scorn and harassment against the “elite media” covering Trump’s rallies and demanding an apology from the cast of the Broadway show, “Hamilton: An American Musical” for voicing concerns over a Trump presidency with VP-elect Mike Pence in attendance.

His chief political strategist, former editor of the far-right Breitbart News, Stephen K. Bannon, severely castigated the press by calling it “the opposition party”:

“The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while… The media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States.”

In his admission to “deconstruct the administrative state,” Bannon apparently wants to dismantle the free press. The Trump administration’s obvious “divide and conquer” or “divide and rule” (Latin dīvide et īmpera) strategy it hopes will have the effect of inhibiting the media from unifying and establishing a strong block to push for the truth by competing for the limited crumbs in the mirage of the tasty press-access pie.

  1. Near obsessive calls for “law and order” involving draconian (and possibly unconstitutional) measures of torture and surveillance;
  1. Increasing deployment of his adult children and son-in-law as close trusted political operatives, who even meet with visiting diplomats and have been sent to foreign capitals to negotiate political and business deals, plus continuously unresolved conflict-of-interest issues between his position as President and his worldwide business interests;
  1. Assisted by the larger Republican Party and the Supreme Court, gutting of the 1965 Voting Rights law, which has resulted in voter suppression campaigns effectively reducing the number of polling stations in primarily minoritized racial communities, and limiting days and times for pre-election-day voting. In addition, another fascist ruler, Vladimir Putin, weighed-in on Trump’s side to sway the presidential election in their (Putin & Trump’s) favor.

Watching the Republican National Presidential Convention last summer, was like witnessing a neo-fascist power rally with angry, primarily white and older Party activists.

Returning to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s history reminder:

“The Holocaust did not begin with killing; it began with words.”

During Trump’s relatively brief time in office, his administration’s words have translated into policy and now into violent actions by some of his most staunch supporters.

Donald Trump speaks the language of the alt-right with his alt-facts within his alt-reality universe.

The difference between the great successes of the Nazis and the ultimate defeat of the Trump regime in the not-too-distant future, though, is that while relatively few individuals and national leaders stood up early to the Nazis by forcefully calling them out and intervening, the unprecedented outpouring of resistance, protest, and intervention — including in the streets of Charlottesville — by individuals and entire nations will and must shift the balance of power back to “we the people.”

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

August 12th, 2017 at 6:16 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

The R.A.I.S.E. that L.O.W.E.R.S. The Statue of Liberty’s Beacon

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Give me your rich, your whites,

Your English speakers holding Ph.D.s,

The 20-somethings of your high-skilled class,

Send these, the privileged, well-employed to me,

I shut my lamp on all the lower castes!

Donald Trump is pushing a Republican-sponsored congressional measure, the so-called Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment, or the R.A.I.S.E Act introduced by Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Perdue (R-GA). The bill would drastically shrink legal levels of immigration by 50% by cutting the number of green cards issued. It would also callously execute an upper cap of 50,000 refugees admitted each year, and eliminate the visa diversity lottery.

Based on a point system, it assigns the greatest number of points to applicants between the ages of 26 – 31 years of age who are highly skilled, fluent in English, and, in particular, have earned doctorate degrees and have been offered a job with an annual salary at least three times the average salary for the region.

During a press conference announcing the measure, Trump’s senior policy adviser, Stephen Miller, trashed the long-established image of the Statue of Liberty standing proudly in the harbor as a beacon of light and hope for the downtrodden of the world. Instead, Miller attempted to distance the statue, which was originally intended to be called “Liberty Enlightening the World,” from Emma Lazarus’s great sonnet “The New Colossus.”  The fundraising committee responsible for the building costs of the statue’s pedestal asked the young Jewish American poet in 1883 to contribute her work to the fundraising effort.

Lazarus was very concerned as she wrote the sonnet that Liberty Enlightening the World be understood as a beacon for Russian Jews suffering the cruel oppression of pogroms spreading throughout the Pale of Settlement (the area of governmental confinement of Jews in Eastern Europe). But she pointed the beacon in her sonnet toward not only Jews, but upon people suffering throughout the world, as a moral mission of the United States.

“Send us your tired, your poor / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

During a reception held in New York City in 1886 at the statue’s dedication for Liberty’s French sculptor Frederic Bartholdi, the opening sentence of the celebratory speech for him stated,

“Here we have a statue that welcomes the stranger.”

R.A.I.S.E. paradoxically L.O.W.E.R.S. (Leaving Out Workers and Englishless Refugee Seekers) immigration. It contradicts the meaning of not only the true intent of our majestic Statue of Liberty, but even more importantly, betrays the image that the United States of America has projected as embodying “the shining beacon on a hill,” attributed to Puritan leader and first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, John Winthrop, who lived from 1588 – 1649.

Possibly, however, Steven Miller got it right by exposing the great myth of “American Exceptionalism.” In truth, Winthrop promoted neither religious tolerance nor democratic principles. In fact, he despised democracy and diversity of thought while advocating and practicing a form of authoritarianism.

The Pilgrims, who left England for Massachusetts in 1620, originally had strong connections with the Church of England, but they were disenchanted with what they viewed as the church’s compromises with Roman Catholicism. They came to North America with hopes of establishing a purer form of Protestant Christianity than they had found in their native land.

These “Puritans” separated from the Church of England to establish their own religious institutions, but they were not interested or willing to extend to others the religious freedom they were seeking. They believed that they were a divinely chosen people, and soon established “a biblical commonwealth” crafted from their own form of Christianity in which the church and the state were to support and protect each other.

If they had a chance years later, they would have soundly rejected most of the tenets enumerated in the Bill of Rights.

During colonial times, religious dissension was not tolerated. For example, the Pilgrims “warned out of town” a Sephardic Jewish merchant. They also enacted an anti-Catholic statute asserting “that no Jesuit or ecclesiastical person ordained by the authority of the pope shall henceforth come within our Jurisdiction,” and they banished Quaker missionaries.

Later, as Quakers kept coming, the Puritans enacted harsher penalties, for example, cutting off their ears, or using hot irons to bore holes through their tongues. Then, between 1659 to 1661, Puritans executed four Quakers on the gallows on Boston Common. Other religious nonconformists like Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson were compelled to flee Massachusetts.

At his trial in 1635, Williams foretold what would be echoed by many during the coming centuries, that “the civil state [must not] impose upon the soul of the people a religion, a worship, a ministry. The state should give free and absolute permission of conscience to all men in what is spiritual alone.”

The Republican and Presidential-supported cruelly regressive immigration proposal will have the effect, if passed, of forcing Lady Liberty and Emma Lazarus to sob. It will go against the statue’s promise of,

“Sending these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me / I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Yes, the “golden door” of our country; not the tacky way-over-the-top golden toilet in Trump Tower that currently rains down on us.

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

August 5th, 2017 at 5:33 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

A Proposal for TIME to Declare the “Resistance” as 2017’s “Persons of the Year”

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There are moments in history when conditions come together to create the impetus for great social change. We now rest on the cusp of one of those foundational moments as greater numbers of people of disparate social identities, backgrounds, and ages have been organizing, resisting, throughout the nation, in cities and towns large and small, to challenge an ever-widening existential assault on our nation’s critical democratic institutions and on democracy itself.

We have long since past the point where it is merely hyperbole to compare the rise and control of European nationalism / fascism in the 1920s and 1930s to the rise and possible take-over of nationalism / fascism in the United States and in other countries around the world.

In both 1920s Europe and in U.S.-style alt-right fascism, strong leaders whipped up dehumanizing stereotypes resulting in the scapegoating of already-marginalized groups of people to blame for causing past problems and posing clear and present dangers to the state.

During the campaign season and after taking office, Donald Trump mocked a disabled reporter; called undocumented Mexican immigrants drug dealers, criminals, and rapists; denounced a U.S.-born federal judge on the basis of his ancestry; threatened to reinstate the failed and unconstitutional “stop and frisk” tactics used against primarily people of color; threatened lawsuits on anyone who speaks against him.

He promised to monitor U.S. Muslim residents and impose bans on Muslims entering the U.S.; vowed to reverse women’s reproductive freedoms and marriage equality of same-sex couples; retweeted white supremacists’ racist and anti-Jewish propaganda; boiled his rally audiences to a fever-pitch by demonizing and bashing the press. And most recently, he highlighted trans people’s already minoritized “other” status with his military ban.

The difference, however, between the great successes of fascism in Europe and the ultimate defeat of the Trump regime in the not-too-distant future is that while relatively few individuals and national leaders stood up early to fascism by forcefully speaking out and intervening, the unprecedented outpouring of resistance, protest, and intervention by individuals and entire nations demonstrates that the ultimate balance of power rests with “we the people.”

We cannot merely dismiss Donald Trump as a narcissistic and emotionally deranged sociopath who gained the most powerful position in the world simply for his own personal gain. While all this is possibly true, Trump represents the mouthpiece of the so-called alt-right in spreading his alt-facts within his alt-reality universe.

The political center and left, through the Resistance, speaks truth to power in actual reality serving as an antidote to Trumpism / fascism. In Trump’s own perverse way, he has acted as the catalyst sparking the connections and coalitions between people of disparate social backgrounds who maintain similar philosophies of social change and social justice.

The Resistance embodies Patriots challenging jingoist Nationalists.

Resistance members are organizing against a corporate culture that dictates economic policy through the purchasing and ownership of politicians at the expense of the people and our country, a corporate culture that eliminates workers’ health care and collective bargaining rights, one that promotes and maintains workplace inequalities based on race, nationality, age, sex, sexual identity, gender expression, and disability, one that forecloses our homes through scurrilous business practices, and one that holds students hostage to loan structures that jeopardizes their futures.

They are resisting a corporate culture that tortures animals, outsources our jobs, manufactures faulty products, privatizes previously public services, obstructs the development and production of clean energy technologies, one that poisons our food and our environment while pushing for deep cuts and restrictions in regulatory procedures.

They are resisting a military industrial complex that marches to the beat of industry, an educational system based on standardization and allegiance to corporate needs, and a prison industrial complex that perpetuates the racial and socioeconomic class inequities pervasive throughout the society.

They are resisting to ensure that health care is viewed as a human right and not as a privilege for only those with means. They are fighting for appropriate regulation over corporate extravagance and malpractice. And ultimately, they are working to take back a nation that truly serves its people, and to reinvigorate the “American dream.”

Veteran grassroots social justice workers and a new generation of activists are joining together in resistance to keep this concept called “the democratic experiment” alive. They are not willing to relinquish personal freedoms for false promises of increased national security through manupulation and scapegoating of an imaginary internal and external enemy.

The new Resistance is now transforming and revolutionizing the society and its institutions by challenging overall power inequities. They are making links in the various types of injustices, and they are forming coalitions between marginalized groups.

They are dreaming their dreams, sharing their ideas and visions, and organizing to ensure a world free from all the deadly forms of oppression, and along their journey, they are inventing new ways of relating and being in the world. Their stories, experiences, and activism have great potential to bring us to a future where people across backgrounds and identities will live freely, unencumbered by social and economic structures that benefit the few and limit the many.

Joining together they are making real Margaret Mead’s insightful and stirring statement:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

The new Resistance movement has amended and transformed Mead’s “small group” to one of “every-increasing” size.

For these and many more reasons, I propose that TIME magazine awards the “Resistance” as its “Persons of the Year” for 2017.

But let’s not stop there. I also propose that the Nobel Committee grant the “Resistance” its 2017 “Peace Prize,” because in actuality, it is working to prevent the tragedy that was World War II.

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).

Permission to forward, print, or publish this proposal: warrenblumenfeld@gmail.com

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

July 29th, 2017 at 12:33 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

“Donald J. Trump is NOT my president!!!!”

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As the title appears, this is what I wrote in large bold letters upon a bright scarlet red background on my Facebook page. I felt this ever since that shockingly dreadful evening last November when Trump won a majority in the Electoral College while losing by over three-million popular votes to Hillary Clinton.

When Trump dumped his tweet storm on our courageous trans service members this week, I felt I finally had enough, and I publicly acknowledged what I had been feeling about Trump for months.

All but one of the comments to my Facebook announcement confirmed my declaration. However, someone I had known for decades wrote:

“Where do you live? He is your President.”

I quickly responded:

“I live in the United States of America, a nation founded and compelled to adhere to a Constitution. Donald Trump does not follow the Constitution and does not adhere to human and civil rights. Therefore, Donald Trump is not my President. Even if he were to follow the Constitution, I have freedom of conscience and freedom of mind. Therefore, I choose not to accept Donald J. Trump as my President. No, He is NOT my President. What part of ‘NOT’ do you not understand?”

I stick to every word in my retort, but I know that the answer is much more complex than a single paragraph could ever capture. My fuller reply begins with a personal story:

My beloved grandfather, Simon Mahler, was born in 1894 in what today is Krosno, Poland. Simon and his parents and large family, which included 13 siblings, were all born and raised in Poland, most of whom died there as well (many killed under the Nazi occupation). While they were born and lived in Poland, they were never considered by Christian Poles (which constituted the vast majority), as being Poles.

Stated another way, while they resided in Poland, they were never considered of Poland.

When my grandfather came to the United States in 1913 and thereafter, he never identified as “Polish American” since he never was accepted as Polish in Poland. He identified rather as “Jewish American,” two descriptors of which he was very proud.

This personal narrative underscores the point that within many if not most countries, some groups of people – classes of people – matter more than others within a hierarchal system that accords those toward the top more citizenship status, benefits, and privileges.

The further down groups of people are placed, constructed, upon this hierarchy, the less status they have, the less ability they have to define themselves, and the less power they have over their lives as they feel the brutal sting of oppression.

Let’s get into the weeds a bit:

Within a patriarchal system of male domination in the United States, for example, cisgender heterosexual Christian upper socioeconomic-class male bodies matter more, while “othered” or “minoritized” bodies matter less. These “othered” bodies include female and intersex bodies, and bodies that violate the “rules” for the reproduction and maintenance of the dominant patriarchal system, such as trans, gender non-conforming, gay, lesbian, and bisexual bodies, and bodies with disabilities.

In addition, within many Western societies like the United States, non-European-heritage bodies are regarded also as abject bodies – bodies that, to use Judith Butler’s phraseology, do not matter, or, at least, do not matter as much as “white” bodies.

Butler reminds us that the term “abjection” is taken from the Latin, ab-jicere, meaning to cast off, away, or out. On a social level, abjection designates a degraded, stigmatized, or cast out status. In psychoanalytic parlance, this is the notion of Verwerfung (foreclosure).

Social theories and anti-fascist activist, Antonio Gramsci, coined the term “subaltern” to describe groups that those with higher status exclude from societal institutions and deny having a voice in the larger society.

Judith Butler states that “we regularly punish those who fail to do their gender right,” and similarly punish those who fail to do their “race” right. Doing one’s “race” right often depends on doing one’s socioeconomic class right. The regulatory regimes of “sex,” “sexuality,” “gender,” “ability,” “race,” and “class” are inimically connected, and these connections are discursively or socially maintained.

Webster’s dictionary defines “oppression” as a noun meaning “the unjust or cruel exercise of authority or power” on the individual / interpersonal, institutional, and larger societal levels.

As opposed to “oppression,” I define “social justice” as “the concept that local, national, and global communities function where everyone has equal access to and equitable distribution of the rights, benefits, privileges, and resources, and where everyone can live freely unencumbered by social constructions of hierarchical positions of domination and subordination.”

So a number of critical questions can be asked regarding my statement that “Donald Trump is NOT my president!!!!”

For members of identity groups who live in the United States but are not considered of the United States – at least not to the degree of those constructed further up the hierarchy – is Donald Trump their president too?

For members of identity group placed lower on the hierarchy (the “abject” “subaltern” bodies) and who pay their taxes, could this be considered as “taxation without representation”? In this regard, did King George III of England (not-so affectionately referred to as the “Mad King”) truly “represent” the people living in the American colonies?

Do “we the people” as individuals have the right to whom we consider as “our president” whether officially elected or not?

During the campaign season and after taking office, Donald Trump mocked a disabled reporter; called undocumented Mexican immigrants drug dealers, criminals, and rapists; denounced a U.S.-born federal judge on the basis of his ancestry; threatened to reinstate the failed and unconstitutional “stop and frisk” tactics used against primarily people of color; threatened lawsuits on anyone who speaks against him.

He promised to monitor U.S. Muslim residents and impose bans on Muslims entering the U.S.; vowed to reverse women’s reproductive freedoms and marriage equality of same-sex couples; retweets white supremacists’ racist and anti-Jewish propaganda; boils his rally audiences to a fever-pitch by demonizing and bashing the press. And most recently, he highlighted trans people’s already minoritized “other” status in his military ban.

In so doing, Trump did not invent the categories of “abjection,” but he simply reiterated the social hierarchy that was long established for his own personal and political advantage, and to divert attention from the ongoing Russia collusion scandal.

All of us “othered” bodies and our allies must take notice and act to stem the tide and eliminate the divisive and corrosive hierarchy!

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

 

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

July 27th, 2017 at 4:02 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Trump Declares War on Trans Servicemembers

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“After consideration with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow…… ….Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming….. ….victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you.”

As the Trump administration promotes its “American Heroes [Themed] Week,” the alleged Commander-in-Chief let it be known in a torrential three-tweet series that he does not include trans people in the category of “American Heroes,” especially those currently and previously serving in the U.S. military.

Trump’s official policy-by-tweet contradicts Department of Defense new regulations released June 30, 2016 under Defense Secretary Ash Carter permitting trans people to join and openly serve their country. At that time, the United States added its name to an ever-increasing list of 19 other nations welcoming trans people into their military ranks, with the Netherlands as the first as far back as 1973. A sampling of others include Australia, Bolivia, Canada, Germany, Israel, New Zealand, and Spain.

The U.S. House of Representatives defeated a bill earlier this month on a bipartisan basis, which, if passed, would have prohibited the Pentagon from covering the costs of transition surgeries. Twenty-Four Republicans joined the Democrats in turning back the proposal introduced by Missouri Republican Representative Vicky Hartzler.

Estimates vary regarding the number of active trans members currently serving, from 1,320 – 6,630 according to a Rand Corporation Study, to an estimated 8,800 in the U.S. armed forces, and 6,700 serving in the Guard or Reserve forces by the Williams Institute.

The Rand Study fully debunks the Lier-in-Chief’s assertion of some sort of burdensome “tremendous medical costs” expended on trans servicemembers. Of the Pentagon’s annual military health care budget of $6.28 billion, an estimated relatively minuscule $2.4 – 8.4 million accounts for transition-related health care costs.

In addition, Rand found that merely 25 – 130 active-component trans military personnel have deployment restrictions due to transition-related medical treatments. In comparison, 50,000 active-duty soldiers in one single branch, the Army, cannot deploy for medical and other reasons.

It should be crystal clear to anyone that Trump’s motive in issuing his latest ban on an entire category of people has nothing to do with concerns over improving military readiness. It has nothing to do with health care costs. It has nothing to do with some alleged and unspecific “disruption.”

As North Korea increasingly develops and improves its nuclear and intercontinental missile capabilities, as the crisis in Syria worsens by the day with its ally Russia gaining more regional and geopolitical influence, as our NATO allies are forced to go it alone while Donald whistles in the wind, by declaring war on trans people in the military, he kicks the proverbial can down the road in terms of developing consistent and coordinated strategic military and foreign policy initiatives. He also hardens his appeal of the base feelings with his base of support.

Since Trump’s inauguration, the White House website has removed reference to LGBT issues and policies from the previous administration, and reversed an Obama-era executive order permitting trans students to use school facilities most closely aligning with their gender identities.

Trump’s not-so-surprising current assault on trans people has the heavy thump print of Vice President Pence who, in his first congressional campaign in 2000, argued for public funding of so-called conversion therapy for LGBTQ people. On his website at the time, his disdain for same-sex attractions and sexuality stands out:

“Congress should support the reauthorization of the Ryan White Care Act only after completion of an audit to ensure that federal dollars were no longer being given to organizations that celebrate and encourage the types of behaviors that facilitate the spreading of the HIV virus. Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.”

Pence opposes marriage equality and LGBTQ non-discrimination protections, and helped to pass the so-called Religious Freedom Restoration law allowing businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ people. The state was forced to amend the law after experiencing serious political push back.

Donald Trump, by choosing Mike Pence, has added LGBTQ people to his already long list of “the Others,” which includes Mexicans and all Central and South American-heritage people, Muslims, people with disabilities, all women, plus anyone who supports the “Black Lives Matter” movement. By choosing Mike Pence, Trump has double-downed in his attempts to divide and conquer the electorate by instilling fear in promising the bigoted the “freedom” to discriminate to the fullest extent of the law without the threat of prosecution.

Members of the trans community often suffer the consequences of other truth tellers of the past. Nearly every two – three days, a person is killed somewhere in the world for expressing gender nonconformity. The vast majority of murders are of trans women of color.

The Trump administration’s latest assault on trans people will prove to be a total failure by discharging and preventing service by talented and committed people who would have joined the ranks, many who held or could have potentially held critical positions, for example, as language interpreters and other military specialists.

As our troops are currently stretched thin throughout the world’s conflict areas, the reinstated ban only exacerbates the problem and discredits our country by eliminating an entire class of people whose only desire is to contribute to the defense of their nation.

We must admire trans folks for maintaining a willingness to join the military following such scurrilous representations of them, but permitting policymakers, the majority presumably heterosexual and largely cisgender male, to dictate policy over whether trans servicemembers are granted permission openly to serve our country makes about as much sense as allowing men to determine whether women get the vote or whether women maintain control over their reproductive freedoms.

The question is not whether they will “allow” us to serve openly. The more salient question is whether we can forgive them for their dehumanizing, offensive, and downright prejudicial stereotypical characterizations.

Though eventually legislators reversed the former “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that banned lesbian, gay, and bisexual people entry into the military, history will record and remember this indelible stain on the reputation of the United States. While the country now needs to undergo its developmental process in gaining a greater awareness regarding the needs, concerns, and realities of trans people, we will not forget, and for many of us, we will find it difficult to forgive.

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

July 26th, 2017 at 2:15 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Our Press the Democracy-Reviving Antidote to Trump’s Venomous Lies

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This week our country and the world commemorates the 48th anniversary of the historic and breathtaking Apollo astronaut’s Moon landing taking “a giant leap for mankind” while leaving behind a small U.S. flag and the delicate detailed footprints of the brave patriots from the Aeronautics and Space Administration.

The Trump administration has also taken a breathtaking “giant leap” as our country and the world looks on, but the leap Trump and his co-conspirators have taken is not extraterrestrial. This leap, rather, follows a deranged trail outside of the traditional political and civil discourse environment into the toxic atmosphere of blatant lies and deception, leaving behind a stench-filled democracy-killing dump in its wake.

“No administration has accomplished more in the first 90 days,” Trump boldly asserted to his rally audience in Kenosha, Wisconsin. But beneath this Trumpian hyperbole, what has he actually accomplished?

While the White House website lists 28 bills signed by Trump, though this is the highest since 1949, it stands well below the 76 signed by Roosevelt in 1933. But as PolitiFact reports, many of Trump’s bills were “minor or housekeeping bills,” and “none met a longstanding political-science standard for ‘major bills’.”

“I know more about ISIS than the generals, trust me.” But ISIS is not all he knows more about than anyone else.

  • Talking about an Obama-induced “crisis” throughout the country at the Republican National Convention, Trump guaranteed that “I alone can fix it.”
  • “I understand the tax laws better than almost anyone, which is why I’m the one who can truly fix them.”
  • “I know more about renewables than any human being on Earth.”
  • “I understand social media. I understand the power of Twitter. I understand the power of Facebook maybe better than almost anybody, based on my results, right?”
  • “Nobody knows more about debt. I’m like the king. I love debt.”
  • “I think nobody knows more about taxes than I do, maybe in the history of the world. Nobody knows more about taxes.”
  • “Nobody knows banking better than I do.”
  • “I understand money better than anybody. I understand it far better than Hillary, and I’m way up on the economy when it comes to questions on the economy.”
  • “I think nobody knows the [U.S.] system [of government] better than I do.”
  • “I used to be, George, the fair-haired boy — you know, when I was a contributor. I know more about contributions than anybody.”
  • “Nobody knows more about trade than me.
  • “Nobody in the history of this country has ever known so much about infrastructure as Donald Trump.”
  • “There’s nobody bigger or better at the military than I am.”
  • “I know more about offense and defense than they will ever understand, believe me. Believe me. Than they will ever understand. Than they will ever understand.”
  • “There is nobody who understands the horror of nuclear more than me.”

Whether blatant lies, bravado, hyperbole, or self-dilution, considering his collective past statements, the public and our allies abroad cannot and should not trust him, for he has no credibility left.

In addition, where are these mythical tax forms he promised to release? Where is this spectacular health care plan that will improve care and lower costs that he promised to pass? Where are the best, brightest, and most qualified cabinet secretaries he promised to nominate? When has he placed “America First” above his own self-interests and profits? Where are his excellent business negotiating skills? When will he and his family begin to “Hire and Buy American” in their businesses as he has demanded of the private sector?

While he complained about some sort of conspiratorial voter fraud that deprived him of garnering the popular vote in the last election, he has done nothing to curb the real voter suppression efforts by the Republican Party nationwide, nor has he pushed to restore the Voting Rights Act to its once effective version before the Supreme Court gutted its chief provisions.

Instead, he brought together a so-called “Election Integrity Presidential Advisory Commission,” which has demanded secretaries of state divulge voter information that violates many state constitutions. The commission serves merely as a front to feed Trump’s narcissistic need to prove – contrary to facts and reason – that he won the popular vote in the last election, rather than what all accounts have concluded: that he lost to Hillary Clinton by over 3 million.

Congressional oversight committees and a Special Prosecutor are investigating numerous scandals swirling throughout his administration placing Trump in a collision course with the Constitution regarding possible links to Russia in influencing the outcome of the past election and serious concerns over his business ventures and conflicts of interest.

He referred to these investigations: “You are witnessing the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history – led by some very bad and conflicted people!”

Former White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, promoted blatant lies — like the inauguration crowd size, Elton John supposedly appearing, and the administration having no meetings with Russian diplomats before the inauguration — to his factual blunders — like Hitler never used chemical weapons on his own people at “the Holocaust centers” — to his obvious abuse and hatred of the White House press corps.

Newly appointed Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, has already been shown to have either misspoken, stretched the truth, or blatantly lied during her relatively few press briefings.

Now as Anthony Scaramucci has taken over the helm as White House Press Director, and has guaranteed “full transparency” at his post, time will only tell whether that too will turn out to be a lie.

“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 836 false or misleading claims in the first 181 days after swearing to uphold, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.

At press conferences, Trump disrespects reporters. He demands them to “sit down” when they ask questions he doesn’t like, and he speaks of a “running war” with the media. He has even accused “freedom of the press” as the cause of terrorist bombings in the U.S.

Throughout his campaign to the present day, Donald Trump has energized his base of supporters by consistently blaming and attacking the media generally as well as specific outlets.

He labeled the venerable New York Times as “failing,” and BuzzFeed as “a failing pile of garbage.” He argued that “[Journalists are] among the most dishonest human beings on earth.” He continually calls them “liars” whenever they write stories unflattering to him and his administration.

German Nazis popularized the term Lügenpresse (“lying press”) to intimidate and silence opposition.

He cut back on the number of televised White House daily press briefings, and he rarely consents to giving press conferences.

His chief political strategist, former editor of the far-right Breitbart News, Stephen K. Bannon, severely castigated the press by calling it “the opposition party”:

“The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while… The media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States.”

Well, in his admission to “deconstruct the administrative state,” Bannon apparently wants to dismantle the free press. The Trump administration’s obvious “divide and conquer” or “divide and rule” (Latin dīvide et īmpera) strategy it hopes will have the effect of inhibiting the media from unifying and establishing a strong block to push for the truth by competing for the limited crumbs in the mirage of the tasty press-access pie.

Trump seems, however, to like people over at Fox News who serve as his apologists and promoters. Fox News has operated as the mouthpiece of the conservative segment of the Republican Party since its inception (a virtual Republican Party infomercial), and as the state-supported propaganda machine during Republican administrations much as Pravda (“truth” in Russian), functioned under dictatorial regimes during the former Soviet Union.

Fox News promotes “fairness and balance” as Prava promotes “truth.”

No matter how Trump and his accomplices wish to characterize the so-called “mainstream press,” gratitude must be showered upon them rather than the scorn and vile bigotry coming from the political right.

Members of the media, our purveyors of facts, ensure the perpetuation of our democratic form of government. While they sometimes get it wrong, when they do, they follow up with retractions, and at times, individual reporters and commentators lose their jobs if malintent or malice is proven.

I admire not only the center-left to progressive news outlets, reporters, and commentators, but also the courageous conservative Republican-leaning journalists and pundits who speak truth to power, people like Joe Scarborough, Nicole Wallace, Michael Steele (former RNC Chair), and now even Fox News host, Shepard Smith, who stated in an on-air discussion with another Fox anchor, Chris Wallace, regarding Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with Russian agents in Trump Tower:

“We’re still not clean on this, Chris. Why all these lies? Why is it lie after lie after lie? If you clean, come on clean.”

Donald Trump represents the voice of the alt-right in spreading his alt-facts within his alt-reality universe. Because of our mighty press providing the democracy-saving antidote to the constant stream – in drips and torrents — of misinformation, lies, and cover ups from this and past administrations, We the People, by informing ourselves, will ensure that our system of government does not perish from the Earth.

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

July 23rd, 2017 at 6:30 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Spicer and McCarthy Out, Huckabee Sanders In

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Finally, White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, had the decency to resign after all his blatant lies — like the inauguration crowd size, Elton John supposedly appearing, and the administration having no meetings with Russian diplomats before the inauguration — to his factual blunders — like Hitler never used chemical weapons on his own people — to his obvious abuse and hatred of the White House press corps.

Now we’re stuck with Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the mean girl we all had to endure in middle school, who continually violates her vow to uphold her Evangelical Christian beliefs by seriously disobeying the 9th Commandment: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor,” by lying through her teeth.

She does, though, valiantly adheres to Commandment 5: “Honor you father and your mother,” by following the distorted lead of her hate-filled, hypocritical, and bigoted self-righteous father, Mike Huckabee, Christian minister, former Arkansas governor, and Republican presidential candidate.

Let us not forget that Huckabee organized a rally in support of Rowan County, Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis who become the face of resistance to the 2015 Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing marriage for same-sex couples on par with different-sex couples throughout the United States.

Only hours after the Court’s ruling in June 2015, Davis ordered her staff to stop issuing marriage licenses. Though she has been charged with a court order, through her lawyers she expressed her belief that granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples “irreparably and irreversibly violates her conscience” because it goes against her religious beliefs. She stated that she fears going to Hell for violating “a central teaching” of the Bible if she were to comply with the Supreme Court’s decision.

Davis, however, seems to practice a form of “cafeteria Christianity” by picking and choosing which of the “central teachings” she will follow. Possibly Davis chose to run for the job of issuing marriage licenses in her county since she has been issued four such licenses herself by divorcing three times: 1994, 2006, and then again in 2008.

In addition, according to published accounts, Davis “gave birth to twins five months after divorcing her first husband. They were fathered by her third husband but adopted by her second.”

Huckabee saw no apparent hypocrisy by supporting Davis’s decision to defy the law of the land. Mike Huckabee issued a statement backing her:

“I spoke with Kim Davis this morning to offer my prayers and support. I let her know how proud I am of her for not abandoning her religious convictions and standing strong for religious liberty. She is showing more courage and humility than just about any federal office holder in Washington.”

Huckabee called for a “National Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” following Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy’s pronouncement in 2012 that he opposes same-sex marriage, and in published accounts asserted:

“We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.”

During the last presidential primary season, Mike Huckabee presented a keynote speech at the “National Religious Liberties Conference,” organized by self-described “Christian Pastor,” Kevin Swanson. Swanson is infamous for his consistent calls for imposition of the death penalty on homosexuals, warnings that the Girl Scouts and the movie “Frozen” convert girls into lesbians, and accusations that homosexuals and women who wear pants (look out Hillary) bring on natural disasters.

During his opening remarks at the conference, Swanson quoted scripture: “Yes, Leviticus 20:13 calls for the death penalty for homosexuals,” and continuing, he declared that he was “willing to go to jail for standing on the truth of the word of God.”

In the past, Huckabee, on Fox News, placed blame for the shooting massacre at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut by stating:

“We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we have systematically removed God from our schools. Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage?”

This is Huckabee’s reiteration of a theme he peddled after the mass murder at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado when he attributed the bloodbath to a society that removed God and religion from the public realm:

“[S]ince we’ve ordered God out of our schools, and communities…we really shouldn’t act so surprised …when all hell breaks loose.”

Throughout his campaign to the present day, Donald Trump has energized his base of supporters by consistently blaming and attacking the media generally as well as specific outlets. A very brief sampling includes:

“[Journalists are] among the most dishonest human beings on earth.” He continually calls them “liars” whenever they write stories unflattering to him and his administration.

“The failing New York Times wrote a big, long front-page story yesterday. And it was very much discredited, as you know.”

At press conferences, Trump tells reporters to “sit down” when they ask questions he doesn’t like, and he speaks of a “running war” with the media. He has even accused “freedom of the press” as the cause of terrorist bombings in the U.S.

He has cut back on the number of televised White House daily press briefings, and he rarely consents to giving press conferences. 

Considering Sarah Huckabee Sanders familial background and past performance with her recent elevation as chief White House press secretary, the stormy relations between the Trump administration and the press under Sean Spicer has the potential of getting even worse, if that can be imagined.

I will definitely miss, however, Melissa McCarthy’s parody of Sean Spicer on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.” Now that was “spicy”!

Hey, maybe SNL’s producer, Lorne Michaels, will invite Spicer to host the show. Perhaps he will be playing Melissa McCarthy. Wow, the possibilities.

Stay tuned.

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

July 21st, 2017 at 10:45 pm

Posted in Uncategorized