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Social Justice, Intersections in Forms of Social Oppression, Bullying Prevention

John Kasich’s Anachronistic Traveling Show

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Who some political pundits call the most moderate of the current crop of GOP presidential candidates, Governor John Kasich of Ohio appears the least bent on calling others in the race demeaning names or impugning their characters. From what I could tell initially, he might have been someone I could have sat down with and amicably discussed politics over a cup of coffee in a local diner. But the more I listen to him and actually try to comprehend what he is saying, the more anachronistic and downright ignorant I find his statements.

I see Kasich as the incarnation of the legendary literary character, Rip Van Winkel, who fell asleep for 20 years after drinking homemade moonshine. The only difference with Kasich is that rather than slumbering through the U.S.-American Revolutionary War against the British, as did Van Winkel, Kasich snoozed through the second half of the last century, and, unfortunately, he hasn’t yet quite regained his full faculties and senses.

“Coeds” and Sexual Assault:

While campaigning in the New York State primary, a female student audience member asked Kasich what he would do to make her “feel safer and more secure regarding sexual violence, harassment, and rape” if he became President.

He started out fine by arguing for the need of confidential reporting of sexual assaults and access to evidence-gathering equipment. Then he stuck his foot into it by referring to female students as “coeds,” and then continuing: “I’d also give you one bit of advice. Don’t go to parties where there’s a lot of alcohol.”

While most people should not attend “parties where there’s a lot of alcohol” for a number of reasons, to single out young women specifically, the governor patronized them at best. Quite a few prominent women’s groups and other advocates rounded criticized the Governor for his “blame the victim” rhetoric.

And his use of the term “coeds” to refer to female students at predominately coeducational institutions is as outdated and misogynistic as the terms “man” and “mankind” to refer to all people and humanity. Actually, everyone would be considered a “coed” where people of all sexes were in contact.

Earlier while campaigning in Virginia, Kasich talked about the people who worked for him in his Ohio race for the governor’s office, and he later issued an apology after stating that “…many women, who left their kitchens to go out and go door-to-door and to put yard signs up for me….”

I can imagine the scene going through Kasich’s mind as he uttered those words. Upon the black-and-white small-screen television, Ward Cleaver comes home from work driving his 1957 Ford into the driveway. Upon opening the front door, Ward beholds his wife, June, bedecked in pearls, sensible heals, and a stylish dress of the day as she happily vacuums the living room wall-to-wall carpet. Beaver and his brother Wally are upstairs in Wally’s room hashing out plans to avoid their father’s guilt-laden disappointment after they contributed to the “boyish” mischief they engaged in within their all-white suburban cookie-cutter neighborhood.

Jesus Predated Pesach, Really?:

While also campaigning through New York, Kasich toured a Matzah factory in Brooklyn, flanked by Orthodox Jews. Holding a box of the Passover matzah, Kasich choked on his foot by stating:

“The great link between the blood that was put above the lampposts,” [actually, it was doorposts], “the blood of the lamb, because Jesus Christ is known as the lamb of God. It’s his blood, we believe….”

I consider Kasich bringing up Jesus in a kosher Jewish factory as not merely an error in misreading his intended audience as well as something utterly insensitive and offensive, but historically inaccurate. The Great Pesach (Passover) of the Jewish people from the bonds of slavery in Egypt occurred around the year 2450 on the Jewish calendar, over 1300 years before Jesus was even a twinkle in the Christian God’s eye. In fact, Jesus celebrated the Passover Seder as his “last supper.” The blood painted above the doorposts to spare children from G*d’s wrath had no connection to Jesus.

Hey, LGBTs, “Get Over It”:

When interviewed about his perspective on the recent spate of anti-LGBT laws passing across the nation in states like North Carolina, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kasich told LGBT people basically to chill:

“If you feel as though somebody is doing something wrong against you, can you just, for a second, get over it, you know, because this thing will settle down.”

For anyone who faces discrimination, Kasich’s solution is simple: snap your fingers and relax. So whenever a trans* person is confronted with legal action for entering a restroom that most closely corresponds with their gender identity, for example, simply push open the restroom door of the facility that matches, instead, the gender assigned on your birth certificate, reenter the closet of denial and fear, and risk ridicule, harassment, assault, injury, or death. So simple!

Hard Working Latina Maids:

To his increasingly growing list of groups Kasich has offended, add Latino/a people. During a campaign stop in California, Kasich attempted to gear his comments toward Latino/a voters when he related an anecdote about a maid who conscientiously cleaned his hotel room:

“A lot of them do jobs that they’re willing to do, and that’s why in the hotel you leave a little tip.”

While possibly well-intentioned, forwarding this one personal reference of Latino/a people carries his story into the domain of being patronizing and of stereotyping members of many varied ethnicities. But, hey, like Ward Cleaver, this could possibly be the virtual extent of his interaction with members of communities outside of his own sphere of frequent contact.

Zzzzzzzzzzz…

Instead of opening his mouth further, I have a simple solution for Kasich: I think it best if you close your eyes and go back to sleep. We will wake you after the election.

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

April 20th, 2016 at 5:53 pm

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Democratize the Electoral System!

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The principle of “one person, one vote” rings out upon the U.S.-American landscape as an essential and central unifying element of our great democracy, but one which, unfortunately, merely resounds as an ideal rather than as the reality.

In the early years of our country during Colonial times, eligible voters involved only wealthy land owners, primarily white men. Because the framers of our Constitution could not agree on national voting standards, the individual states decided. Most states, though, continued to grant voting rights primarily to the landed gentry. In fact, during the election of our first President, George Washington, approximately only six percent of the total population of the new nation was eligible to vote. Eventually, white men of a certain age were granted the vote regardless of their ownership of property.

Former enslaved peoples were granted citizenship in 1868 under the14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, though only males could vote. The 15th Amendment passed in 1870 granting suffrage to males regardless of “race” on the federal and state levels. This did not extend to Native Americans since the federal government defined them in oxymoronic terms of “domestic foreigners.” In 1882, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act barring people of Chinese ancestry from becoming naturalized citizens, thereby excluding them from voting.

So-called “Jim Crow” measures enacted by a number of states placed enormous roadblocks in the way of African Americans registering to vote in the form violent intimidation, voting taxes, and literacy tests. In some places, African Americans were not allowed to register unless they determined the exact number of grains of rice or beans in a large container.

After many years of fierce and prolonged battles, women won the right to vote with the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920, though other groups faced continued restrictions, including Asian Americans and Native Americans.

The Supreme Court of the United States advanced voting rights in Reynolds v. Sims (1964) by ruling that state legislatures must redistrict so that congressional districts contain roughly equal represented populations, with continued redistricting as needed after censuses. State lawmakers to this day stack the odds in their favor and against the electorate be gerrymandering districts.

The 24th Amendment passed in 1964 outlawing poll taxes as a condition for voting, and the next year in 1965, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act forbidding states from implementing discriminatory restrictions on voting, including a provision requiring legislators in states with a history of discrimination against minoritized voters to get federal permission before changing their voting procedures. The 26th Amendment followed in 1971 lowering the voting age to 18, won primarily by young people who rightly argued that if the federal government could draft them into military service where they could possibly lose their lives in foreign wars, they most assuredly must also have the right to choose their leaders. Still to this day, residents of some U.S. territories, though granted U.S. citizenship, do not have the right to vote in some important elections.

Democracy in the election process suffered a serious setback when the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in a vote of 5-4 in 2010 in the case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Since the First Amendment prohibits the national government from curbing independent political expenditures of nonprofit corporation, the ruling has extended this to for-profit corporations, labor unions, and other organizations. The result of this decision has been the almost unlimited corporate funding funneling into the election process to disproportionally effect elections.

The Anti-Democratic Electoral System

Even with all the advances in the U.S. electoral process over the years, “one person, one vote” stands merely as a distant mirage completely out of reach of the electorate. Just some of the seemingly endless array of obstructions in the democratic voting process, we witnessed the resent stripping of the Voting Rights Act by the Supreme Court, state voter suppression laws, the state presidential caucus systems, the ways major political parties determine delegates to their conventions, and the Electoral College system.

Voting Rights Act Gutted:

The Supreme Court, in Shelby County v. Holder, by a 5-4 ruling in 2013, eviscerated the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Following the decision, Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who sided with the minority, warned that the 1965 act was still needed, and the ruling was like “throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.” In the aftermath of this decision, primarily Republican lawmakers in states throughout the nation have imposed measures to inhibit racially minoritized and younger people, who traditionally cast ballots for Democratic Party candidates, from voting. Though very little voter fraud has been uncovered, tactics include reducing the number of polling stations, decreasing the amount of days open for voting, requiring voters to present certain often-difficult-to-obtain forms of photo identification, and other measures.

The Problematic Delegate Selection System:

The state presidential caucus system by its very nature is inherently undemocratic. The amount of time necessary (up to 3 or 4 hours) during a specific block of time during the day makes it possible for only a limited percentage of the electorate, primarily Party activists, to participate. In addition, by having to position oneself (to caucus) at specific locations within a large room or in various rooms depending on the candidate one supports eliminates issues of confidentiality and privacy in the election process.

The manner in which the state primaries and other delegate-selection systems function restrict a true democratic process. A candidate may receive a given proportion of votes compared to other candidates of a political party, but fail to receive that proportion of delegates who will cast their votes for that candidate at the Party’s presidential convention. This inequitable distribution is heightened by the Democratic Party’s so-called “super delegates” composed of primarily state elected officials and other leaders who vote their own particular preferences rather than following the will of the people in their states. On the Republican side, Party officials in a state like Colorado chose delegates to the Presidential Convention without that state’s electorate ever casting a vote.

I suggest changes to the current primary system:

  1. Abolish the state caucus system.
  2. Establish regional primaries, for example, one for the Southern states, another for the Eastern, Midwestern, Pacific Northwestern, Southwestern, etc. Rotate the sequence of regional primaries each Presidential election cycle.
  3. Residents of U.S. territories that are not currently granted the right to vote in national elections must have that right.
  4. Eliminate the delegate selection process altogether. Each candidate will receive a running total of votes, which that candidate receives in regional primaries. Following the last regional primary, the candidate of each political party with the most total number of votes (whether a majority or plurality) will become that Party’s presidential nominee.
  5. The Party nominee will have the right to choose a Vice Presidential running mate.
  6. Reinstate and enhance the Voting Rights Act.
  7. Increase the number of voting days from one day to one week.
  8. Increase the number of polling stations.
  9. Eliminate the spate of voter suppression laws.
  10. Allow same-day voter registration.
  11. Eliminate the inequitable system of gerrymandering, which could possibly come about through U.S. Justice Department monitors or high court mandates.
  12. Reverse Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission.

To further ensure a more democratic “one person, one vote” system, we must finally and fully scrap the undemocratic Electoral College system, which can and at times does elevate the runner-up in terms of cast votes to the presidency, as evidenced by the selection (not election) of George W. Bush over Al Gore in 2000.

To view my PowerPoint presentation, “Immigration as ‘Racial’ Policy,” click 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), and co-author of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press).

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

April 16th, 2016 at 10:20 am

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“Religious Freedom” Laws Permit “Freedom to Discriminate”

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Through arduous and highly contested debates, the framers of our great Constitution endeavored to strike a prudent balance of powers, not only between the three branches of the federal government, but they also endeavored to lay the blue print for a system that would grant to the states that which they did not specifically accord to the centralized national government. Numerous Constitutional amendments and judicial decisions over the years have increasingly fine-tuned this system in ways and over issues the original framers could not have even imagined.

Over our history, individuals and entire political parties have broadcast clarion calls delivered from soap boxes and mountain tops to newspaper editorial pages for increased rights of the states to decide issues they see fit, even when these contrast significantly from Congressional legislation and judicial decisions.

Political operatives have cried “states’ rights” often utilizing so-called “religious” justifications over issues of slavery, interracial marriage, racial segregation, women’s enfranchisement and the rights of women to control their bodies, public schooling, rights to education and other services for people with disabilities, immigration status, voting rights, and many other areas of public policy.

“States Rights” and “Religious Beliefs” have long served as the allied battle cry as well for state legislators to deny lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans* (LGBT) people the rights and privileges summarily granted to their heterosexual and cisgender counterparts. Today, no national laws require all states to protect residents from discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, counseling, and other areas based on sexual identity and gender identity and expression.

Currently only 22 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have passed non-discrimination laws in housing, for example, protecting people’s rights based on sexual orientation, and 19 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, on the basis of gender identity and expression.

States that prohibit housing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.   Prohibits housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity   Prohibits housing discrimination based on sexual orientation only   Does not factor sexual orientation or gender identity.

An expanding movement gaining support in State Houses around this nation, as exemplified through Mississippi’s new “religious freedom” law, permits individuals and institutions to refuse service based on their “religious beliefs” to lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans* people and members of all other groups they consider nonconformists to their judgments and precepts. And North Carolina’s HB 2, the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, includes a section that prohibits trans* people the ability to enter a restroom facility that conforms to their gender identity and expression, but differs from the sex assigned to them on their birth certificate.

“States Rights” on Foundation of “Religious Freedom”

For the purpose of situating the most recent incarnation of the “states’ rights” based on “religious freedom” argument to deny LGBT people their civil and human rights, I include a representative sample of significant “leaders” who employed these arguments to promote their own oppressive agendas.

On Slavery and Race:

Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy: “[Slavery] was established by decree of Almighty God…it is sanctioned in the Bible, in both Testaments, from Genesis to Revelation…it has existed in all ages, has been found among the people of the highest civilization, and in nations of the highest proficiency in the arts.”

Judge Leon M. Bazile, in convicting Richard Perry Loving (a white man) & Mildred Delores Jeeter (a black woman) for marrying in Virginia in 1958 for violating that state’s
“Act to Preserve Racial Integrity, 1924”:  “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, Malay and red, and He placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with His arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that He separated the races shows that He did not intend for the races to mix.”

On Jews:

Martin Luther, On the Jews and Their Lies (1526): “…For us Christians they stand as a terrifying example of God’s wrath….These poisonous envenomed worms should be drafted into forced labor. The young and strong Jews and Jewesses should be given the flail, the ax, the hoe, the spade, the distaff, and the spindle and let them earn their bread by the sweat of their noses. As a last resort, they should simply be kicked out for all time.”

Adolph Hitler in his book Mein Kampf: “Today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord” (p. 65).

On Women:

Robert Lewis Dabney, U.S. Christian theologian, Southern Presbyterian pastor, on women’s suffrage: “What then, in the next place, will be the effect of this fundamental change when it shall be established? The obvious answer is, that it will destroy Christianity and civilization in America…There is a Satanic ingenuity in these Radical measures which secures the infection of the reluctant dissentients as surely as of the hot advocates….Radical women will vote, and vote wrong.…What those influences will be may be learned by every one who reverences the Christian Scriptures, from this fact, that the theory of “Women’s Rights” is sheer infidelity.”

Reverend Pat Robertson: “The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.”

On Trans* Identities:

The Catholic Vatican hierarchy recently fenced off Alex Salinas, a 21-year-old transman from Cadiz, Spain, by informing him that it had denied his request to become the godparent of his nephew because being transgender is incongruent with Catholic teaching.

According to the Church’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, its doctrine-enforcing agency: Transgender status “reveals in a public way an attitude opposite to the moral imperative of solving the problem of sexual identity according to the truth of one’s own sexuality. Therefore it is evident that this person does not possess the requirement of leading a life according to the faith and in the position of godfather and is therefore unable to be admitted to the position of godfather or godmother.”

Anti-LGBT Equality under the Law:

So what can we infer from those religions that justify such discriminatory treatment of other human beings? In terms of LGBT equality, I simply cannot comprehend the clear and undeniable contradiction between a religion’s expressed claims, in various forms, to love one’s neighbor as oneself, and how it is better to give than to receive, combined for example, with a baker’s refusal to bake a confectionery delight; a photographer’s refusal to preserve joyous moments; a caterer’s refusal to cook the pleasures of delectable sustenance; a florist’s refusal to arrange the beauties from the garden; a jeweler’s refusal of a band connecting human souls; a realtor’s refusal to show shelters signifying new chapters in one’s book of time, or a landlord’s refusal to rent; a shop owner’s refusal to sell the common and special objects supporting and enhancing life; a restauranteur’s refusal to serve anyone a time away from the kitchen, an employer’s refusal to hire a fully qualified and committed employee, all these based solely on peoples social identities.

Therefore, we must see the “states’ rights” argument for what it really is: “States Rights to Discriminate.” And we must challenge the long-standing and deeply-held biases within some denominations that employ “religious” justifications that allow them the “religious freedom” to oppress.

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

April 6th, 2016 at 3:05 pm

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The Terrorism in Depriving Self-Definition

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An essential element of liberty is the freedom to define oneself.”

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld

Though I do not quote myself often in my writing, as I have been reflecting on the concepts of “terrorism” and of “violence,” I believe my quote aptly serves as a foundation for my argument that we must expand and provide a more nuanced understanding of these terms.

Terrorism has been described generally as the use of violence, or the threat of violence, to accomplish a political, religious, or ideological purpose. The World Health Organization defines violence rather broadly as:

“…the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, which either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation.”

“Power” in this sense can situate itself on physical power, but it can also include the power of dominant authority figures and social institutions to impose physical as well as emotional and even coercive power onto individuals and groups of lower social rank – the “psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation.”

“Identity”:

According to Erik Erikson, preeminent developmental psychologist, individuals possess an innate drive for identity, an inborn lifetime quest to know who they are, which powers their personality development. Anita Woolfolk defines identity as “…the organization of the individual’s drives, abilities, beliefs, and history into a consistent image of self. It involves deliberate choices and decisions, particularly about work, values, ideology, and commitments to people and ideas.”

Foundational to Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development is his belief that throughout life, individuals progress through a series of eight discrete periods or stages, during which they confront tasks that they must successfully negotiate and resolve in order to advance to the next stage. Healthy development at any one stage rests on meeting the challenges posed by the tasks at previous stages.

During the late pre-teen years through early 20s, young people experience their greatest and most concentrated timeframe of identity development in which they strive to answer the questions: Who am I now? Who was I before? Who will I become?

“Hegemony”:

Antonio Gramsci was a leader in the Italian Community Party in the early 20th century, as well as political theorist, politician, and linguist whom the Fascist regime of Benito Mussolini imprisoned for his outspoken advocacy of human and civil liberties. At his trial in 1926, the chief prosecutor argued:

“For twenty years we must stop this brain from functioning.”

While serving his sentence, he wrote more than 30 notebooks between 1927 and 1935 constituting over 3000 pages of history and analysis together known as the Prison Notebooks. In these writings, he stressed the imperative for workers’ education founded upon the strong bedrock of history and understanding of social relations, and the origin and function of ideas. Gramsci’s health deteriorated dramatically while incarcerated, and he died in 1937 at the age of 46.

Gramsci advanced the concept of “cultural hegemony,” which describes the ways in which the dominant group successfully disseminates its social realities and social visions in a manner accepted as “common sense,” as “normal,” and as “universal.” This hegemony maintains the marginality of other groups with different or opposing views.

“Discourse”:

French philosopher, Michel Foucault, discussed how hegemony advances through what he termed “discourses,” which include the ideas, written expressions, theoretical foundations, and language of the dominant culture. These the dominant group implants within networks of social and political control, described by Foucault as “regimes of truth,” which function to legitimize what can be said, who has the authority to speak and be heard, and what is authorized as true or as the truth.

To “Other” and To “Minoritize”:

Add to all this what poet, novelist, and anthropologist Nathaniel Mackey discusses as the process of “othering,” which is something people do. Therefore, “to other” must  seen as a verb, an action. An “other” is someone or a group of someones acted upon. Likewise, “to minoritize” is also something people do through the methods of defining, stereotyping, and scapegoating them.

The dominant group, therefore, exerts power and control by attempting to define the “other” in order of depriving people of their agency and subjectivity to prevent them from achieving their fullest development in terms of their identities and making empowering decisions in their lives. In echoes of the Fascist prosecutor at Gramsci’s trial, this is to “stop the brain from functioning.” In the final analysis, when dominant groups attempt to define the “other,” they attempt to control the “others’” bodies for the purpose of controlling their minds.

But what happens to these “others” in their process of identity development?

I argue that the concepts of “terrorism” and “violence” constitute more than the cruel and repressive actions of individuals or groups upon others. It involves an overarching system of differentials of social power and privilege by dominant groups over subordinated groups based on ascribed social identities and reinforced by unequal social group status. And, according to political scientist, Iris Marion Young, this is not merely the case in societies ruled by coercive or tyrannical leaders, but it occurs within the day-to-day practices of contemporary democratic societies such as the United States.

“Terror” and “Violence” on LGBT Bodies and Minds:

I assert that all “othered” and “minoritized” individuals and communities experience hegemonic/discursive forms of “terror” and “violence” from dominant groups. For the purposes of this commentary, I focus on organized religious terror on LGBT people. Since I center my discussion on primarily a United States context, I concentration largely on conservative Christian denominations.

I single out conservative Christian denominations specifically in a United States on the basis of their Christian privilege. Stemming from Peggy McIntosh’s pioneering investigations of white and male privilege, we can, by analogy, understand Christian privilege as constituting a seemingly invisible, unearned, and largely unacknowledged array of benefits accorded to Christians, with which they often unconsciously walk through life as if effortlessly carrying a knapsack tossed over their shoulders. This system of benefits confers dominance on Christians while subordinating members of other faith communities as well as non-believers.

Terrorism & Violence as Official Policy:

While a number of Christian denominations have and are currently defending the rights, sexuality, identities, and expressions of LGBT people, and are openly welcoming them into their congregations, and some into the ranks of their clergy, a number of the more conservative denominations have released official statements, doctrines, and policies in opposition, specifically to their sexualities. I include some selective examples used to define the “other” in terms of their sexualities:

Catholic Catechism, 1997: #2357: “…tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’ They are contrary to the natural law….”

Southern Baptist Convention, 2010 “Resolution on Homosexuality and the United States Military”: “RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention…affirm the Bible’s declaration that homosexual behavior is intrinsically disordered and sinful….”

Evangelical Covenant Church, “Resolution on Sexuality” adopted 1996: “…Evangelical Covenant Church resolution to care for persons involved in sexual sins such as adultery, homosexual behavior, and promiscuity compassionately recognizing the potential of these sins to take the form of addiction.”

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Handbook of Instructions: “Homosexual behavior violates the commandments of God, is contrary to the purposes of human sexuality, and deprives people of the blessings that can be found in family life and in the saving ordinances of the gospel.”

Related to trans* identities, the Catholic Vatican hierarchy recently fenced off Alex Salinas, a 21-year-old transman from Cadiz, Spain, by informing him that it had denied his request to become the godparent of his nephew because being transgender is incongruent with Catholic teaching. According to the Church’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, its doctrine-enforcing agency:

Transgender status “reveals in a public way an attitude opposite to the moral imperative of solving the problem of sexual identity according to the truth of one’s own sexuality. Therefore it is evident that this person does not possess the requirement of leading a life according to the faith and in the position of godfather and is therefore unable to be admitted to the position of godfather or godmother.”

Nearly every two days, a person is killed somewhere in the world for expressing gender nonconformity. The vast majority of murders are of trans* women of color.

Am I Practicing “Religious Bigotry”?

In discussion forums where I have argued that some conservative religious doctrines on same-sex sexuality and trans* identities constitute forms of terrorism and violence, sometime people have accused me of attempting to intimidate and silence Christians who hold to the statements I listed above. They accused me of making them abandon any beliefs on the topic that disagree with my own.

My answer is that anyone can believe anything they wish, including that homosexuality and transgender identities and expressions allegedly go against “God’s plan” and that anyone who engages in same-sex sexuality and/or anyone who defines as trans* are “sinners,” “sodomites,” “perverts,” or any of the numerous other epithets they lodge, and that we will go to Hell unless we “repent.” Sure, believe what they will. They can also believe that Jews and blacks, for example, are inferior forms of life.

Beliefs are one’s rights to hold. However, the expression of those beliefs onto an individual or group of individuals is a form of terrorism, especially when intended to deny LGBT people (or Jews or blacks, among many other groups) their human and civil rights, their subjectivity, and their identities. In so doing, they are exerting power and control by attempting to define the “other.”

With religious rights come responsibilities, and with actions come reactions. When religious leaders preach their damaging interpretations of their sacred texts on issues of same-sex relationships or identities and gender non-conformity within and outside their respective houses of worship, they must be held accountable and responsible for aiding and abetting those who target and harass, bully, physically assault, and murder people perceived as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or trans*. In addition, they must be held accountable as accomplices in the suicides of those who are the targets of these abusive actions, and who grow up in a religious denomination and larger society that teaches them to deny, to hide, and to hate themselves.

Therefore, we have a right, no, an obligation to counter this destructive and, yes, oppressive discourse with all the voices, the energy, the unity, the intelligence, and all the love of which we are capable.

So, in response to the accusation that I am practicing “religious bigotry” by challenging conservative doctrine on same-sex sexuality and gender non-conformity, I assert that this is not merely a “disagreement.” No, this is not a “disagreement” at all! It has to do with 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”).

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

April 2nd, 2016 at 11:40 pm

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Trump and All of Us Inhabit World Punishing Women

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Responding to Donald Trump’s comment that he wants to ban abortions, and once made illegal, for any woman who continues to have abortions, “There would have to be some form of punishment,” Bernie Sanders called this “shameful” and continued that “I don’t know what world this person lives in.”

Though Bernie’s statement about the world Trump inhabits appeared rhetorical, I would tell Bernie and others that the Donald is living in the here and now, in a world fabricated by the Republican Party, one that already punishes women on a daily basis. Though not many in the Party would expose their true feelings as clearly and loudly as Trump, I am certain many others advocate punishing women who chose to have abortions.

Ever since the historic Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade, in 1973 legalizing abortion, the National Republican Party Presidential Platform has consistently taken a so-called “pro-life” (anti-abortion, anti-choice) position. For example, its 2012 platform proclaims: “Faithful to the ‘self-evident’ truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed.”

We see the concerted effort primarily by Republican national and state legislators to severely restricted women’s reproductive health care options across the country. For example, in Texas, Governor Rick Perry signed into law a ban on abortions past 20 weeks of pregnancy. The law also mandates that women’s clinics upgrade their ambulatory surgical centers, it increases restrictions on the use of the abortion-inducing drug RU-486, and it requires all doctors who perform abortions to have hospital admitting privileges. These “Targeted Restrictions on Abortion Providers” (TRAP) abortion bans attempt to close as many clinics as possible that provide abortions, rather than make these clinics any safer for clients.

This latter requirement on hospital admitting privileges of doctors stands as the cornerstone of a new Alabama law, which opponents view as a measure to eventually restrict all abortions in the state. And who can forget about the Virginia law that forces women seeking abortions to undergo transabdominal ultrasound procedures at least 24 hours before an abortion. The original version of the bill included the even more extreme invasive procedure of transvaginal probes. A number of states offer extremely biased anti-abortion counseling to pregnant women, mandatory ultrasound procedures, and waiting periods before which an abortion cannot proceed.

State legislatures and Governors, primarily led and enacted by Republican majorities, passed 92 abortion restrictions in 2011 alone, and in 2012, 43 restrictions in 19 states.

While the landmark 1965 Griswald v. Connecticut Supreme Court decision invalidated a Connecticut law that restricted the purchase and use of contraceptive devises, Republicans have proposed and have, unfortunately, won a ruling to permit employers and health insurance companies to refuse coverage for contraceptives.

Proponents of the so-called “Religious Freedom Restoration Acts” (RFRA) recently passed in a number of states argue that these laws promote religious freedoms and freedom of speech – two tenets already covered by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Supreme Court opened the flood gates for the enactment of new and enhanced RFRA laws in its 2014 decision Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. While human and civil rights anti-discrimination laws primarily have never covered bone fide religious institutions, the Hobby Lobby ruling extended such exemptions to “closely held” (where no ready market exists for the trading of stock shares) for-profit corporations when these owners claim that to follow anti-discrimination statutes would violate their religious beliefs.

By a 5 to 4 decision, the Court struck down the contraceptive mandate, the regulation approved by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requiring employers to cover certain contraceptives for their female employees.

Though the Republican Party might have an interest in bringing pregnancies to term in nearly all situations – even in instances of rape and incest, and regardless of the wishes of the women involved  — even a cursory investigation of the Party’s stands and actions on the major issues of the day, proposed and in many cases acted upon by current Republican legislators and executives on the national, state, and local levels, this gives us a picture of a Party that is anything but “pro-life” for the living. In actuality, the GOP conducts itself as a Party that stands for life until birth; then one is left to fend for oneself.

Combined with their pronouncements opposing women’s reproductive freedoms, obstruction to contraception, they correspond perfectly with monotheistic patriarchal fundamental attempts to control people’s bodies in order to control their minds.

When patriarchal social and economic systems of male domination attempt to keep women pregnant and taking care of children, they can restrict their entry, or at least their level and time of entry, into the workplace, and ensure women’s dependence on men economically and emotionally. As women produce more and more children, expanding numbers of little consumers emerge to contribute to the Capitalist system ever increasing profits for owners of business and industry. The patriarchal system necessary to control women’s bodies amounts to imperatives to control women’s minds and life choices.

And when patriarchal social and family structures converge with patriarchal religious systems, which reinforce strictly defined gender hierarchies of male domination, women and girl’s oppression and oppression of those who transgress sexual-, sexuality-, and gender binaries and boundaries became inevitable.

In other words, women have been and often remain constructed as second-class and even third-class citizens, but certainly not as victims, because through it all, women as a group have challenged the inequities and have pushed back against patriarchal constraints.

So, is there a Republican Party, a political right wing, war on women? I find it quite obvious. I see a war on women to control their bodies, which is nothing less than the attempt to control, to colonize, women’s minds and their very lives for the purpose of maintaining patriarchal domination.

So yes, Bernie, we all already inhabit a world in the here and now that punishes women for asserting their choices. Trump, even though he back tracked from his initial statement about punishing women, is merely saying what many in his Party believe.

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

March 31st, 2016 at 1:41 pm

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“Radical Christian Terrorists”

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Terrorism has been described generally as the use of violence, or the threat of violence, to accomplish a political, religious, or ideological purpose. The World Health Organization defines violence rather broadly as:

“the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, which either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation.”

Over the past couple of decades, the term “terrorist” has come into widespread use to describe acts of terror perpetrated primarily by members of groups who use their distorted and corrupted interpretations of Islam as their justification. These groups include al-Quiada, ISIS, Boco Haram, Hamas, and Hesbala, among others.

Throughout our current presidential election cycle, major Republican leaders as well as all candidates on the Republican side have routinely criticized and condemned President Obama and the Democratic candidates for not referring to these violent extremists as “Islamic extremists” or as “radical Islamic terrorists.” For example, Donald Trump slammed the President for being so politically correct that “you’d almost think they have the terrorists coming out from Sweden.”

I believe that people who advocate and inflict injury and murder of innocent non-combatants, young people, women, people adhering to other religious backgrounds, and people of the same religion to which they themselves claim to follow, we must define them for what they are: “evil,” “criminals,” “barbarians,” “thugs,” “savages,” “monsters,” and yes, “terrorists.”

Obama, Clinton, and Sanders understand, unlike the Republicans, that the perpetrators of this violence do not, in fact, represent the teachings of Islam, and to refer to them as such would not only validate their claims to divine inspiration, but would, in turn, unduly implicate the billions of non-violent follows of Islam worldwide.

If anyone continues to insist, as do all the Republican presidential candidates, that we must refer to these murderers as “Islamic extremists” or “radical Islamic terrorists,” then I contend that we refer to any and all people who were Christian and supported the institution of slavery, like the President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, as “radical Christian terrorists.”

The expansion of the republic and movement west on this continent, in part, people justified by the overriding philosophical underpinnings since the American Revolution. Called “Manifest Destiny,” it was based on the belief that God intended the United States to extend its holdings and its power across the wide continent of North America over the native Indian tribes and other nations from the east coast to the west. The doctrine of “Manifest Destiny” embraced a belief in U.S.-American Anglo-Saxon superiority. These people, therefore, were radical Christian terrorists.

Joan of Arc, the teenager who helped defeat the English in her native France, became one of the greatest war heroes in French history. In spite of this, she was tried by the Catholic Church on the charge of heresy in rejecting Church authority in preference for direct inspiration from God, and most importantly, by donning men’s clothing. By executing Joan by burning at the stake, the Church falls under the definition of “radical Christian terrorist,” as does Joan herself.

Pope Urban II summoned the First Crusade in Clermont, France to “liberate” Jerusalem from Muslims. In the summer of 1096, as the crusade began, soldiers murdered several thousand Jews along their way in the lands along the Rhine River, looted and destroyed their homes, as the Crusaders stated, “Because why should we go off to attack the unbelievers in the Holy Land and leave the unbelievers in our midst untouched.?” They accused Jews as being treacherous auxiliaries of Muslims. According to Pope Urban II, “Let us first avenge ourselves on them [the Jews] and exterminate them from among the nations so that the name of Israel will no longer be remembered, or let them adopt our faith.”

When the Crusaders reached Jerusalem in 1099, they pillaged Muslim buildings and killed thousands. The massacre of the Muslim population of Jerusalem reached epic proportions. In addition, the invaders burned the synagogue on the Temple Mount to the ground with all the Jews inside. One Crusader, an eyewitness to the event wrote: “Men rode in blood up to their knees and bridal reins. It was a just and splendid judgment by God that this place would be filled with the blood of the unbelievers.”

The Crusades lasted from 1040 – 1350. By 1204, however, the tide began to turn against the Western European invaders, as the Mamluk dynasty in Egypt drove them out of Palestine and Syria. So I ask, why do we read in the history books about the “Christian Crusaders” rather than the “radical Christian terrorists.” I ask the same in reference to the Christian “Inquisition,” because this terror was far more than a mere “inquiry.”

And yes, of the many rationales Hitler and the Nazi command used to justify their “solution” to the so-called “Jewish question,” was their justification that they were doing “God’s” work” as stated by Adolph Hitler in his book Mein Kampf:

“Today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord” (p. 65).

So, yes, Hitler was a “radical Christian terrorist” as was the entirety of the Nazi Party.

What’s in a Name?

If it is not already quite obvious, my intent is to expose the wide and deep double standard in the representations used in public discourse in reporting and discussing violent acts. When officials suspect Muslims of committing crimes or inciting violence, leaders and the media almost automatically term them “Islamic terrorists” or “radical Islamic terrorists,” but rarely if ever refer to Christian perpetrators of crime and violence as “radical Christian terrorists.”

Which news outlets called Timothy McVey, the convicted perpetrator of the Oklahoma City bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995, a “radical Christian terrorist”? Who referred to the illegal “occupiers” of federal lands for 41 days in Oregon, led by Ammon Bundy as “radical Christian terrorists”? When was the last time we heard members of the myriad so-called white supremacist groups like the Ku Klux Klan and Aryan Nation called “radical Christian terrorists”?

The double standard not only exposes inherent Islamophobia, but by naming “Islam” and “Muslims” in the rhetoric regarding the criminal acts, it wrongly legitimizes and validates the suspects’ claimed religious justification for undertaking these actions.

When a Christian performs a good deed, we often hear of that person’s “Christian charity” or “good Christian values” used to describe these acts. This individual is portrayed as representing the group of Christians as a whole. On the other hand, when a Christian engages in crimes, violent or not, we see the person painted as some sort of outlier or deviant of the group norms with their Christianity not seen as part of the portrait. Quite often, the same conditions reproduce themselves in the case of “race.”

Often when law enforcement officials suspect a white person, the media lede goes something like this: “Police arrested (name), age (fill in the blank), who is suspected of robbing (store).” When a person of color is involved, however, the lede usually includes the suspect’s race: “Police arrested (name), age (fill in the blank), an African American (for example), who is suspected of robbing (store).”

At the intersections of “race” and religion, our society “racializes” persons adhering to a number of non-Christian faiths. For example, for persons our society constructs as “white,” when wearing the sacred head coverings of Muslims, Sikhs, or orthodox Jews, or the hair styles of Rastafarians, the public imagination converts these individuals and groups to the category of “racialized other,” and thus profiles them as such.

This is how dominance functions in our society to sustain and perpetuate itself. In this way, dominance avoids the glaring lights of examination and thus escapes challenge. Therefore, dominance is maintained by its relative invisibility; and with this invisibility, dominant group privilege is neither analyzed nor scrutinized, neither interrogated nor confronted. It is perceived as unremarkable or “normal,” and when anyone poses a challenge or attempts to reveal its significance, those in the dominant group brand them as “subversive” or as “sacrilegious.”

Therefore, I applaud the President and the Democratic candidates for not falling into the discursive traps set by the Republicans.

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

March 29th, 2016 at 10:46 am

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New Movement Meeting the Needs of White Lives

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Imagine this: You are driving while white down the street. You are more than two times less likely to be pulled over and arrested during a traffic stop than black drivers. You are also significantly less likely to receive a traffic ticket then Latino/a and black drivers. Instead, you as a white driver are more likely to receive a verbal warning than are racialized drivers. You are also at reduced risk for police officers searching your vehicle during a traffic stop.

White pedestrians are also significantly less likely to be randomly pulled aside, questioned, and frisked by law enforcement officers than their black, brown, Native American, and Middle Eastern counterparts. In 2015 alone, “Police killed almost five black people per every million black residents of the U.S., compared with about 2 per million for both white and Hispanic victims.”

With these statistics in mind, it was inevitable that some white people would feel left out, invisible, white washed out of law enforcement discrimination, ill-treatment, persecution, and mortal injuries. So, to fill this need and counter the argument by asserting that white people are the real victims of police abuse, the neo-Nazi group from Texas, Aryan Renaissance Society (ARS), now promotes and publicizes White Lives Matter (WLM) as “a movement dedicated to [the] promotion of the white race.” Aryan Renaissance Society is a member organization of the white nationalist coalition United Aryan Front.

Upcoming White Lives Matter events from a number of groups in different areas of the country include one sponsored by the anti-Semitic Christian Identity Theo-Political Ministry, Divine Truth Ministries, which is planning a White Lives Matter rally on or near April 20, Adolf Hitler’s birthday, to “promote the idea that Whites have a right to live, and without fear; and to secure the existence of our people, and a future for white children.”

Just think of it, with the emergence of the White Lives Matter Movement, white people can venerate the good old days when we could stay even more blissfully unconscious of our white privileges than we are today – hey, what white privilege?; when the Euro-centric monocultural school system was even more the white washing order of the day; where the songs Elvis Presley appropriated from black blues artists and repackaged for a white audience blared over the audio systems in restaurants and elevators throughout buildings guarded by white security officers to keep out so-called “non-white” people.

Now, finally, I can breathe easier knowing there is a bright tomorrow for white people. I had been fearful that the way things had been going for us white folks lately, in two or maybe three years hence, we would see our culture and our race falling onto the endangered species list. Now I can rest assured. (Oops, I thought we didn’t have a race. Do we?)

Whiteness and white supremacy will continue long into the future, even after I have passed away into that great whiteness in the sky. Though I am Jewish and I don’t believe in him, maybe I will see cute white Jesus resplendent with his high cheek bones and flowing golden blond hair.

The White Lives Matter Movement can now sponsor events for white people so we can finally be given the option of finding and meeting one another. We can now invite to our communities white law enforcement officials to present information on the white European-heritage community experience.

Because of the new White Lives Matter Movement we are witnessing emerging, possibly we will see greater understanding of our white lifestyles. With this understanding, we might find fewer and fewer young people having to live in a closet of fear, we might see fewer hate crimes against white people on account of our non-race, and we might find greater chances for white students concentrating more on academics rather than on physical and emotional racial safety concerns. We might also find as a result of this groundbreaking White Lives Matter Movement, closer family relationships, greater chances for career success for white people, and overall, a new generation experiencing enhanced feelings of self-esteem and developing positive white identities at earlier ages than ever before.

Oh yes, this Movement is on the Right[-wing] track! It is redressing the long and tragic history of oppression, marginalization, disenfranchisement, and victimization since the establishment of this great nation against all white European-heritage people.

This Movement is on the cutting edge by working to take our social institutions back to those halcyon days of the mid-20th century where law enforcement agencies hired only white officers and administrators, where great universities opened their doors only to the sons of the white Protestant elite and wealthy, before the time when educators came up with the wacky and horrific notion of expanding the curriculum to include other than European-heritage voices, before educators concerned themselves with providing their students an education that would equip them to live and function in a diverse and continually changing world.

Indeed, the White Lives Matter Movement is providing a great service. All law enforcement agencies need to take note, or they will be left behind this new and exciting trend backward that will have far regressive implications.

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

March 25th, 2016 at 5:26 pm

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Cruz Control of U.S. Muslims

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In his attempt to out-Trump Donald Trump’s demands “for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” Texas Senator and presidential candidate Ted Cruz has upped the ante by calling on national and local law enforcement agencies and other security forces “to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.”

Though Cruz did not fully address Constitutional issues nor ease concerns regarding the inflammatory and clearly discriminatory nature of this racial profiling, he defended his scheme saying that this strategy has proven effective in the past in reducing urban gang violence “to get the gang members off the street.”

But this anti-Muslim rhetoric is nothing new for Ted Cruz who has also asserted an alleged conspiracy in which some Muslims are attempting to impose Sharia law in our country. He proclaimed that “Sharia law is an enormous problem” in the U.S.

Maybe I am missing something here, but to compare street violence with someone who may possibly assemble incendiary devises in their basements seems erroneous at best. Also, the draconian measures of increasing patrols and surveillance on any specific demographic group for the actions of a very few reminds me of the massive inescapable telescreens in an Orwellian nightmare. And Ted, where in the U.S., other than in your own head, has Sharia law become an enormous problem?

I would ask, rather, where was the surveillance, the patrols, and the regulations on the primarily rich white men who brought our entire economy to its knees because of their unethical business practices during the last recession? And where are the largescale calls by the Republicans even now for such measures?

Poet, novelist, and anthropologist Nathaniel Mackey discusses the process of “othering,” which is something people do. Therefore, “to other” must be seen as a verb, an action. An “other” is someone or a group of someones acted upon. Likewise, “to minoritize” is also something people do through the methods of defining, stereotyping, and scapegoating them.

Quite clearly, Cruz (and Trump) manifest Islamophobia, defined as prejudice and discrimination toward the religion of Islam and Muslims who follow its teachings and practices. Like racism, sexism, and heterosexism, for example, Islamophobia is much more than a fear, for it is a taught and often learned attitude and behavior, and, therefore, falls under the category of oppression.

Unfortunately, Cruz has many role models, leaders from the United States and abroad, who have “othered” groups of people to justify the denial and confiscation of their rights and property.

During the early years of the new republic, with its increasing population and desire for land, political leaders, such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, advocated that Indian lands should be obtained through treaties and purchase. Later, however, when he inhabited the White House, Andrew Jackson argued that white “settlers” (actually, “land thieves”) had a “right” to appropriate Indian land. Though he proposed a combination of treaties and an exchange or trade of land, he maintained that whites had a right to claim any Indian lands that were not under cultivation. Jackson recognized as the only legitimate claims for Indian lands those on which they grew crops or made other “improvements.”

The Indian Removal Act of May 28, 1830 authorized President Jackson to confiscate Indian land east of the Mississippi River, “relocate” its former inhabitants, and substitute their land with territory west of the River. The infamous “Trail of Tears” during Jackson’s presidency attests to the forced evacuation and redeployment of entire Indian nations in which many died of cholera, exposure to the elements, contaminated food, and other hazards.

And reflecting the tenuous status of Japanese Americans, many who were born in the U.S., and stemming from the racism of the U.S. majority, following U.S. entry into World War II at the end of 1941, military officials under President Franklin Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066, uprooted and transported approximately 110,000 Japanese Americans to Internment (Concentration) Camps within interior states far from the shores. The Supreme Court upheld the order two years later. Not until Ronald Reagan’s administration did the U.S. officially apologize to Japanese Americans and authorized the payment of reparations amounting to $20,000 to each survivor as part of the 1988 Civil Liberties Act. Unfortunately, some elected officials have called for similar detention facilities in the United States to incarcerate Muslims.

Listening to Cruz and other politicians on the not-so-fringe of the political Right, they seem to hold Israeli right-wing leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in high esteem with their reactions toward Palestinians in the occupied territories confiscated after the 1967 War. Israeli Military Order 101, issued in 1967, still prohibits 10 or more Palestinians from gathering “for a political purpose or for a matter that could be interpreted as political.” If convicted, violators face a fine and imprisonment up to 10 years. In addition, Israel demolishes homes of family members of Palestinians accused of committing violent crimes, but no such penalties are imposed on Jewish so-called “settlers” accused of similar crimes. Palestinians face trials in Israeli military courts, but “settlers” are tried in civilian courts. An estimated over one-half million Jewish land thieves live on occupied Palestinian lands today.

History and current events teach us that nothing radicalizes a given population more than finding itself under siege. Nothing radicalizes a given population more than feeling unwelcomed, disrespected, marginalized, and disenfranchised. Cruz and others who advocate replicating the failed policies of the past and currently enacted endanger the very countries they claim to protect.

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

March 24th, 2016 at 11:13 am

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DSM as Political Guidebook

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According to Greek legend, a young man was so fascinated, awestruck, and enraptured by his own image reflected on the surface of a pool that he sat lovingly gazing at water’s edge for so long that he succumbed to his own vanity and eventually transformed into a flower that carries his name, “Narcissus.”

In the age of psychology, the American Psychiatric Association, in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual II (DSM) from 1968 lists “Narcissism” as an emotional problem and “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” (NPD) with a number of characteristics. These include excessive preoccupation with personal competence, power, prestige, and vanity; difficulties in maintaining gratifying personal relationships; deficits in psychological self-awareness; severely impaired empathy for others; problems differentiating the self from others; hypersensitivity to all criticism and insults – imagined or real; arrogant body language; flattery toward people who admire or praise them; tendency toward bragging and exaggerating personal achievements and qualities; claiming expertise in a number of areas; and inability to view the world and issues from other peoples’ perspectives. In summary, this condition results in the over-inflation of one’s self-importance.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder falls within the overall category of “sociopathology,” in which a person’s antisocial behavior demonstrates a lack of a sense of moral concern or responsibility or a deficit of social conscience. The American Psychiatric Association’s DSM classifies this condition as “Antisocial Personality Disorder” (APD), which it defines as “a pervasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others that begins in childhood or early adolescence and continues into adulthood.”

Psychologists diagnose individuals as having APD if they manifest three or more of these symptoms: repeatedly violating social norms related to established laws and performing acts that result in frequent arrests; deceitfulness, dishonesty, and lying; impulsivity; irritability and repeated aggressiveness; reckless disdain for personal safety or the safety of others; consistent irresponsibility in work settings and frequent failures in honoring financial commitments; or lacks sense of remorse.

While in ancient Greece and Rome, a demagogue originally referred to a leader or orator who advocated for and championed the common people, the term has since come to represent a politician who, rather than employing rational arguments, appeals instead to peoples’ fears and prejudices for their own political ends.

When “we the people” (the demos in “democracy” rather than the demos in “demagogue”) step into the election booth, we must first fully vet the candidates and fully educate ourselves to the issues. During any era, narcissistic and other types of sociopaths using demagoguery appeal to the electorate to achieve political offices.

Therefore, democracy demands an educated electorate. It demands our personal responsibility to critically examine our politicians so we can make truly informed decisions. It demands of us all, as well, an appraisal into ourselves to understand our motives, our interests, and our weaknesses lest we fall for the stereotyping, the scapegoating, the calls to hatred, and the calls to violence, either directly or covertly, by the demagogues.

As a student of history, I can name only a few of our U.S. presidents and a few more in the Congress whom I would consider in varying degrees as truly great moral and political leaders with soaring intellects who served the people with honesty and integrity. Others may have once held these qualities, but the process involved in obtaining an office compromised them to such an extent that they either left the political arena to preserve their integrity, or they lowered their moral center of gravity and remained to keep hold onto power.

I never thought that I would examine the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association as my political guidebook, but within the current political season, I find it extremely useful, especially as I witness some figures, one in particular, so consumed with their own images, words, and needs, that they lose their human form and morph not into flowers, but rather, into dangerous creatures who challenge and degrade our democratic system of government.

I am deeply concerned about our country’s ability to attract new and fresh talent, whom I believe may be the only ones who can rescue our nation from the political cynicism and malaise, and heal the political scars and deep divisions. Possibly the current crisis has had the effect of motivating some to do exactly that.

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

March 19th, 2016 at 5:31 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Christian Proselytizing as a Form of Oppression

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Televangelist Pastor Mark Burns, a Donald Trump surrogate who often travels with his candidate around the campaign trail, warmed up the crowd at a rally in Hickory, North Carolina by calling on Democratic presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, to have a “come to Jesus” moment. Speaking in front of the audience before New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s on-stage question-and-answer session with Trump, Burns declared that Sanders needed to be “saved”:

“Bernie Sanders who doesn’t believe in God. How in the world are we going to let Bernie? I mean really? Listen, Bernie gotta get saved. He gotta meet Jesus. He gotta have a come to Jesus meeting.”

Earlier in the campaign, Sanders talked about his connection to his Judaism: “I am very proud of being Jewish, and that is an essential part of who I am as a human being.” He related that his father’s family had been brutally murdered by Hitler during the Holocaust for being Jewish.

While on stage, Trump did not distance himself from Burns’s inflammatory and offensive remarks, but, instead, characterized his rallies as “love fests.”

Though I had thought by this time in the campaign season that Trump had come to the end of his list of individuals and entire social identity groups he would offend, but I was, in fact, sadly mistaken. He has now added Jews to his catalogue of offended group, which previously included women, Muslims, Chinese, Mexicans, all people from Central and South America, Dreamers, members of the Black Lives Matter Movement, numerous world leaders, his current and past Republican Party rivals, John McCain, the Republican “establishment,” Communists, Socialists, Liberals, Progressives, all Democratic party leaders and supporters, and, ranking toward the top, President Obama. So where is this Republican Party “Big Tent” I keep hearing about?

By not standing up to Burns, Trump stands complicit in attacking not only Bernie’s faith, but the faith of the entire world Jewish community. We have, however, seen these anti-Jewish attacks before by leaders on the political and Christian theocratic Right.

On the day of his inauguration as Governor of Alabama in January 2011, talking at the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church — where the Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once preached – Governor Robert Bentley proclaimed:

“[I]f you’re a Christian and you’re saved … it makes you and me brother and sister….So anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I’m telling you, you’re not my brother and you’re not my sister, and I want to be your brother.”

Interviewed by Jewish TV host Donny Deutsch on the CNBC show “The Big Idea” in 2007, columnist and conservative political pundit, Ann Coulter, said that everyone on earth should be Christian and that Jews needed to be “perfected….It is better if we were all Christians.”

While many Christians view proselytizing as offering the gift of Jesus to the “unbelievers,” many if not most individuals of other faiths and many non-believers consider this as not merely an imposition or as manipulation, but, in fact, consider this as a form of oppression. Christian proselytizing rests on a foundation of Christian privilege and a deep sense of entitlement in a U. S. context.

For the most part, Christian privilege involves the notion that one does not have to educate oneself — to become familiar – with the religious beliefs and customs of other religious communities. On the other hand, members of these other, often invisible, communities need to be familiar with Christian traditions and customs not only because of the massive promotion (hegemony) of Christian religious and cultural practices, but also as a necessary condition for emotional and often physical survival to negotiate between the dominant Christian culture and their own ethnic and religious cultures.

This privilege and sense of entitlement figuratively hit me in the face when I was serving as a tenured professor at Iowa State University just a few years ago. In my course, Multicultural Foundations in Schools and Society, a required course for undergraduate pre-service teachers, a number of students, in their writings, seemed to come virtually to the same conclusion.

On the final course paper over various semesters, some students from conservative Christian backgrounds wrote that though they enjoyed the course, that their professor had a great sense of humor, and that they gained some valuable information for their eventual classroom teaching careers, nonetheless, they informed me that “Dr. Blumenfeld will be going to Hell for being a practicing homosexual.” These students either stated explicitly or implied that homosexuality and transgender identities are sins in the same category as stealing and murder.

Other students went further by insisting that “even if Professor Blumenfeld had been heterosexual,” since I am Jewish and I do not accept Jesus as my “personal savior,” I will go to Hell regardless of my sexual identity and expression. Anyone who doubts this, said one student, “Only death will tell!” This student concluded by asserting that the real Christian privilege is “To suffer and die in the name of Jesus Christ.”

Another student writing on the final course paper entirely dismissed the notion of Christian privilege by asserting:

“[A]s a Christian I am called to not be tolerant. I am not called to be violent, but am called to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28). When I look through all of the information I have been given in my life…I come to the conclusion that America was founded as a Christian nation…Separation of church and state was created to keep the state out of changing the church, not to keep the church out of the state.”

This student’s misunderstanding of the First Amendment of our Constitution aligns with the majority of U.S.-Americans who believe that the United States was created as a Christian nation (First Amendment Center, 2010, 2007, 2013).

Let’s imagine similar scenarios as those I outlined, while taking out the words “Christian,” “Christianity,” and “Jesus,” and substituting “Islam,” “Muslim,” “Judaism,” “Jewish,” “Allah,” “YHWH,” or “HaShem.”

“Bernie gotta meet Allah. He gotta have a come to Allah meeting.”

“[I]f you’re a Jew, it makes you and me brother and sister….So anybody here today who has not accepted HaShem, I’m telling you, you’re not my brother and you’re not my sister, and I want to be your brother.”

“Everyone on earth should be Muslim, and Christians need to be perfected….It is better if we were all Muslims.”

I can only imagine how instantaneously these speakers would find themselves shut down, denounced, and condemned.

And I wonder how many Orthodox Jews were prohibited from casting their vote in the numerous states holding presidential caucuses and primaries on a Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath. Just sayin’.

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

March 14th, 2016 at 6:15 pm

Posted in Uncategorized