Warren Blumenfeld's Blog

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

Trump Administration Proposal Guts Hippocratic Oath on “Religious” Grounds

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“I swear…that, according to my ability and judgement, I will keep this Oath and this contract:…I will…benefit my patients according to my greatest ability and judgement, and I will do no harm or injustice to them….Into whatever homes I go, I will enter them for the benefit of the sick, avoiding any voluntary act of impropriety or corruption….So long as I maintain this Oath faithfully and without corruption, may it be granted to me to partake of life fully and the practice of my art, gaining the respect of all men for all time. However, should I transgress this Oath and violate it, may the opposite be my fate.”

The Hippocratic Oath (Ορκος) stands as possibly the most widely known and referenced of all ancient Greek medical texts. Though little is understood about the author, or authors, of the Oath, we do know that it originated at a famous medical school on the Mediterranean island of Cos. Throughout the ages, physicians and others within the medical healing professions promise to uphold the basic principles to “benefit my patients according to my greatest ability and judgement, and I will do no harm or injustice to them.”

That’s about to change if Donald Trump gets his way. In reported accounts, the administration may be about to release its new “religious freedom” rule that will permit health care workers to refuse treatment to any patient, specifically LGBT people, women seeking abortions, and possibly people with HIV/AIDS on “religious” or “moral” grounds.

The directive would establish a new section of the Office of Civil Rights responsible for safeguarding health care workers’ rights to determine to which patients they will follow their sworn Oath and to which patients they will not. This will take us back to the retrograde presidency of George W. Bush when physicians, medical technicians, and ambulance drivers could refuse, for example, to transport transgender people to hospitals, withhold treatment to people with HIV/AIDS, and deny lesbian couples fertility treatments.

But it may not stop there since “religious” and “moral” beliefs often cover vast territories. If workers claim “religious objections,” could they block medical treatment to Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, and atheist patients? Will we again see transgender people forbidden ambulance service and, therefore, dying before help arrives?

What about white people refusing to treat black and brown people on “religious” grounds? Will we again see the creation of segregated white and black health care centers and hospitals as we did during the apartheid Jim Crow South and beyond? Will we see the construction of rainbow hospitals serving only the needs of LGBT people since all other medical facilities may now discriminate against them? What about rainbow centers with the addition of black and brown when the mere rainbow establishments block treatment to people of color?

Hippocrates rejected and discarded “divine” or “religious” concepts in medicine, such as prayer and live sacrifice to the gods. He based his work on empirical study of the body — the role of diet, drug therapies, and maintaining a bodily balance — as the foundation of medical knowledge.

The Trump administration has already worked tirelessly to kill the Affordable Care Act, and by abolishing the “personal mandate,” has effectively eliminated an estimated 13 million low income people’s ability to purchase high quality health care insurance.

This “religious freedom” rule is nothing less than the codification of long-standing and deeply-held biases within some denominations that employ “religious” justifications to oppress. It represents the Trump administration’s attempts to divide and conquer the electorate by instilling fear in promising the bigoted “freedom” to discriminate to the fullest extent of the law without the threat of prosecution.

How can anyone square 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 with the right to refuse medical services to another based on matters of identity, beliefs, and medical status?

The rule will destroy Hippocrates’ humanistic understanding of medicine by doing great harm and injustice, and will, once again, offer human sacrifice to the gods.

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

January 18th, 2018 at 12:06 pm

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“No Name-Calling Week” an Antidote to the Trumps of the Country

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This year, the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) is holding its “No Name-Calling Week” from January 15-19, 2018. It is a week of awareness activities planned and facilitated annually by K-12 educators and students, and allied with a growing number of organizations to highlight and work toward preventing incidents of name calling and other forms of bullying in schools and communities.

GLSEN bases “No Name Calling Week” on an idea proposed in the best-selling young adult novel, The Misfits (2003) by James Howe, in which four seventh-grade friends suffer the daily effects of insults and taunts.

How ironic, though, as this event comes in the current abusive political climate in which we find so many negative role models with the most visible being the President of the United States who calls his political opponents names from “crooked Hillary” to “little rocket man,” “Dicky Durbin,” “lyin’ Ted,” “liddle Marco,” “low energy Jeb,” Biden’s “not a very bright guy,” Ryan’s a “weak leader,” McCain’s “not a war hero.” He called Mexicans drug dealers, criminals, and rapists, and nations with majority black populations as, well, I’m not going to include Trump’s racist epithets here.

Trump referred to Rosie O’Donnell as “a fat pig”; attacked Megan Kelly by saying that “blood was coming out of her eyes, blood was coming out of her…whatever”; branded former Miss Universe, Alicia Machado, “Miss Piggy” and “The Housekeeper” because she was Latina; virtually admitted to sexually assaulting women because of his celebrity on an Access Hollywood tape. At a White House ceremony honoring World War II Native American Code Talkers, he again called Senator Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas.”

He mocked a disabled reporter; 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; told law enforcement officers to be rougher when arresting suspects; stiffed building contractors who worked for him; was sued and forced to pay damages for patterns of racial discrimination in the sale and rental of his apartment properties; and he threatens lawsuits on anyone who speaks against him.

He promised to monitor U.S. Muslim residents and impose bans on Muslims entering the U.S.; vows 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.

Trump excused his staff for producing a blatantly antisemitic poster depicting Hillary Clinton surrounded by $100. bills and a Star of David; said f*ck in a press conference; argued that he could randomly shoot someone in New York City without losing a voter; told a rally audience that he would pay legal expenses for anyone who punched out a protester; advised Russia to hack Hillary’s emails; stated that transgender people are unsuited to serve their country in the military; and attacked Gold Star families.

The 2016 GOP Presidential Platform validated Trump’s bigotry by referring to undocumented people as “illegal aliens” as if they were invaders from a distant planet in deep space bent on annihilating the country.

The American Medical Association defines “bullying” as a specific type of aggression in which the behavior is meant to harm or disturb, it occurs repeatedly over time, and where there is an imbalance of power with a more powerful individual or group attacking a less powerful one. This can occur face-to-face, through gossip or innuendo, or over the media, including social media including information and communication technologies such as Internet web sites, Twitter, e-mail, chat rooms, mobile phone and text messaging, and instant messaging.

Donald Trump has conducted a campaign of attack, innuendo, name-calling, character assassination, blatant lying, and downright and incessant racist, xenophobic, Islamophobic, cissexist, heterosexist, and misogynistic bullying. This is even more troubling since he is considered the “leader of the free world.” His abusive remarks, nonetheless, continue to resonate positively with a significant segment of the electorate.

We are increasingly seeing what has come to be known as “The Trump Effect” in which through Donald’s derisive and abusive words and actions, many young people mirror his behavior and react similarly against their peers.

We must not view bullying and harassment, however, as simply youth problems and behaviors, but rather, investigate the contexts in which bullying “trickles down” from the larger society and is reproduced within the schools. Young people, through the process of social learning, often acquire bullying and harassing attitudes and behaviors, and they also often learn the socially sanctioned targets for their aggression.

We all have a choice, however, in the role we play: we can join in the abuse, enable the abuse by defending abusers or by sitting passively on the sidelines (as are the majority of Republican “leaders”) as so-called “bystanders,” or we can function as active upstanders to intervene in stopping and preventing further abuse.

The compassionate and committed people at GLSEN, their co-sponsors, and the courageous educators and students are serving as antidotes to the Trumps by standing up to make our schools, our communities, our nation, and our world a better, safer, and more peaceful place.

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

January 17th, 2018 at 4:54 pm

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Trump’s Enablers & Bad Samaritans Imperil Us All

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 “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”

Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Reich Minister of Propaganda

“Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”

Voltaire

In an Oval Office meeting, Jan. 11, 2018, Trump became frustrated with legislators when they proposed restoring protections for immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador, and African countries as part of a bipartisan immigration plan.

“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?,” Trump said. He then suggested that the United States should instead bring more people from countries like Norway.

Earlier, Trump is reported to have said of Haitians currently in the U.S. that they “all have AIDS,” and that the 40,000 Nigerians in the U.S. would never “go back to their huts.”

We have long known that Donald Trump is a liar and a racist neo-nationalist. Republican leaders and their supporters who don’t speak out are enablers and are themselves racist conspirators!

“Enabler” is the term given to those who fail to act to help abusers. “Passive bystander” or “bad Samaritan” is the name for people who are conscious of bad actions developing around them but fail to intervene. Enabling and passively standing by take many forms, including literally offering an addict substances or conspiring with an abuser in a sinister plot, contributing to the denial of addicts and aggressors by asserting that they don’t have a problem, to downplaying the seriousness and making excuses for their behaviors, translating for others what the person “really meant,” downright lying, and so on.

How many times have we heard, “He didn’t mean it that way. What he really meant to say was…” and “You are misunderstanding her,” to “I got this black eye by walking into a door.”

Sarah Huckabee Goebbels, Trump Minister of Propaganda and Disinformation frequently verbally attacks members of the press at her White House press briefing for asking questions that may in any way challenge the president’s reasoning or truthfulness.

For example, at a press briefing January 11, 2018, just hours before Trump’s racist immigration comments, several reporters asked Sarah for clarification of the president’s early-morning tweets concerning a House of Representatives reauthorization vote on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which they found contradictory and perplexing. To which she initially responded, “We weren’t confused.”

“His tweet today was contradictory,” said Hallie Jackson, NBC Chief White House correspondent. “It was confusing. It just was.”

Unable to offer any reasoned clarification, Huckabee Goebbels went into personal attack mode: “Uh…” she replied, “I think that the premise of your question is completely ridiculous and shows the lack of knowledge that you have on this process.”

I often wonder how Trump enablers can sleep at night and get back up in the morning still willing to degrade and prostrate themselves by attacking our democratic institutions and seriously dismantling our country’s standing in the world.

Each time anyone enables an abusive action, they keep perpetrators and themselves further from the truth and from help, and they diminish themselves and their integrity more than just a bit.

I have been stuck time and time again throughout the post-factual campaign, transition, and now presidency of Donald J. Trump of the lies, the verifiable lies, big and small that he spreads: from his claim that Barack Obama was not born in the United States, to the  “thousands” of Muslims in New Jersey who cheered when the twin towers crashed down on 9-11, to “I know more about ISIS than the generals do,” to the border wall that the Mexican government will pay for, to Trump’s assertion that he appeared on the cover of Time magazine more than any other person ever, to his scathing attacks on the U.S. Intelligence agencies who he accused of leaking “false” documents signifying that Russia influenced the 2016 election, to his oppressive characterizations of entire groups of people and nations.

Even more troubling, however, are the Trump enablers who defend and articulate more clearly what “Trump was actually saying.” These enablers include counselor Kellyanne Conway, daughter Ivanka Trump, Vice President Pence, Evangelist Jerry Falwell Jr., White House Reich Minister of Propaganda and Disinformation, Sarah Huckabee Goebbels, and many other advisors and surrogates.

These enablers spin the facts by turning themselves into virtual pretzels in defense of Trump’s attempts, to paraphrase Voltaire, make us believe his absurdities intended to give him permission to commit possible atrocities.

His sustained and vicious attacks on what he refers to as the “dishonest and corrupt” media imperils our very freedom of the press as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Fortunately, the Fourth Estate, while making some mistakes, fact-checks itself and our politicians, including Trump, and by so doing, exposes his lies for what they are.

The Washington Post found Trump to have told in the range of 2000 false or misleading statements over a 355 day period.

From the beginning of his presidential campaign and into his tenure in the Oval Office, some have challenged the accuracy of Trump’s assertions. One of Trump’s pretzels finally crumbled under the weight of her own absurdities when called out by the host of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Chuck Todd on the January 22 broadcast.

Todd challenged Kellyanne Conway about the statement made by Sean Spicer, Trump’s first Minister of Propaganda and Disinformation, that “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration – period – both in person and around the globe.” When Todd referred to Spicer’s claim as “a falsehood,” Conway said.

“You’re saying it’s a falsehood, and Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that.” Todd immediately shot back: “Alternative facts are not facts. They are falsehoods.” Another way to phrase it, they are lies.

So questions remain:

How long will it take for Trump’s supporters to finally realize they have been duped by this con-artist who sold them his snake-oil-of-a-campaign-and-presidency of little value, which can have disastrous consequences? How much longer can Trump’s enablers, and passive and active supporters understand that they are hurting the country and sacrificing their own integrity and sense of dignity for the mere promise of a few shinny coins of glittering gold and the hot glow of fleeting power?

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

January 12th, 2018 at 10:14 am

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Trump’s “Racist” Immigration Plans in Historical Context

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In an Oval Office meeting, Jan. 11, 2018, Trump became frustrated with legislators when they proposed restoring protections for immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador, and African countries as part of a bipartisan immigration plan. “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?,” Trump said. He then suggested that the United States should instead bring more people from countries like Norway.

President Trump originally signed an executive order (Royal decree) that banned entry of residents from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States, and suspended admittance of refugees from Syria. He reinstated a new ban on primarily Muslim countries with the addition of Chad, North Korea, and Venezuela.

This thinly disguised continuation of his promised Muslim ban poses not only Constitutional issues, but also positions the United States across the world as a discriminatory nation acting contrary to its own ethical and moral standards by stigmatizing entire groups of people based on their country of origin and religious beliefs.

Politicians and most other residents of the United States alike, from every rung along the full political spectrum, generally agree on one issue: our immigration system is severely broken and needs fixing. Seemingly insurmountable gaps in political solutions to repair the system along with Congressional inaction to the point of blockage have brought the country to the point of crisis.

Though politicians and members of their constituencies argue immigration policy from seemingly infinite perspectives and sides, one point stands clear and definite: decisions as to who can enter this country and who can eventually gain citizenship status generally depends of issues of “race,” for U.S. immigration systems reflect and serve as the country’s official “racial” policies.

“Race”

Looking back on the historical emergence of the concept of “race,” critical race theorists remind us that this concept arose concurrently with the advent of European exploration as a justification for conquest and domination of the globe beginning in the 15th century of the Common Era (CE) and reaching its apex in the early 20th century CE.

Geneticists tell us that there is often more variability within a given so-called “race” than between “races,” and that there are no essential genetic markers linked specifically to “race.” They assert, therefore, that “race” is an historical, “scientific,” biological myth, an idea, and that any socially-conceived physical “racial” markers are fictional and are not concordant with what is beyond or below the surface of the body.

Though biologists and social scientists have proven unequivocally that the concept of “race” is socially constructed (produced, manufactured), however, this does not negate the very real consequences people face living in societies that maintain racist policies and practices on the individual, interpersonal, institutional, and larger societal levels.

Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), born Carl Linné, (also know as the “Father of Scientific Racism”), a Swedish botanist, physician, and zoologist, developed a system of scientific hierarchical classification. Within this taxonomy under the label Homo sapiens, (“Man”), he enumerated five categories based initially on place of origin and later on skin color: Europeanus, Asiaticus, Americanus, Monstrosus, and Africanus. Linnaeus asserted that each category was ruled by a different bodily fluid (Humors: “moistures”), represented by Blood (optimistic), Phlegm (sluggish), Cholor (yellow bile: prone to anger), Melancholy (black bile: prone to sadness).

Linnaeus connected each human category to a respective Humor, thereby constructing the Linnaeus Taxonomy in descending order: Europeanus: sanguine (blood), pale, muscular, swift, clever, inventive, governed by laws; Asiaticus: melancholic, yellow, inflexible, severe, avaricious, dark-eyed, governed by opinions; Americanus (indigenous peoples in the Americas): choleric, copper-colored, straightforward, eager, combative, governed by customs; Monstrosus (dwarfs of the Alps, the Patagonian giant, the monorchid Hottentot): agile, fainthearted; Africanus: phlegmatic, black, slow, relaxed, negligent, governed by impulse.

The British psychologist, Francis Galton (1822-1911) — a cousin of Charles Darwin –was a founder of the “Eugenics” movement. In fact, Galton coined the term “eugenics” in 1883 from the Greek word meaning “well born.” Eugenicists attempted to improve qualities of a so-called “race” by controlling human breeding. Galton argued that genetic predisposition determined human behavior.

He proposed that the so-called “elites” in the British Isles were the most intelligent of all the peoples throughout the planet, while “[t]he average intellectual standard of the Negro race is some two grades below our own [Anglo-Saxons]. The Australian type is at least one grade below the African Negro…” and “The Jews are specialized for a parasitical existence upon other nations.”

The U.S. writer, Madison Grant (1865-1937) codified a supposed “racialization” among European groups in his influential book, The Passing of the Great Race, or The Racial Basis for European History (1916), in which he argued that Europeans comprised four distinct races:

The “Nordics” of northwestern Europe sat atop his racial hierarchy, whom Grant considered as the natural rulers and administrators, which accounted for England’s “extraordinary ability to govern justly and firmly the lower races.” Next down the racial line fell the “Alpines” whom Grant referred to as “always and everywhere a race of peasants” with a tendency toward “democracy” although submissive to authority.

These he followed with the “Mediterraneans” of Southern and Eastern Europe, inferior to both the Nordics and the Alpines in “bodily stamina,” but superior in “the field of art.” Also, Grant considered the Mediterraneans superior to the Alpines in “intellectual attainments,” but far behind the Nordics “in literature and in scientific research and discovery.” On the bottom he placed the most inferior of all the European so-called “races”: the Jews.

Official Immigration and Naturalization Policy

The “American” colonies followed European perceptions of “race.” A 1705 Virginia statute, the “Act Concerning Servants and Slaves,” read:

“[N]o negroes, mulattos or Indians, Jew, Moor, Mahometan [Muslims], or other infidel, or such as are declared slaves by this act, shall, notwithstanding, purchase any christian (sic) white servant….”

In 1790, the newly constituted United States Congress passed the Naturalization Act, which excluded all nonwhites from citizenship, including Asians, enslaved Africans, and Native Americans, the later whom they defined in oxymoronic terms as “domestic foreigners,” even though they had inhabited this land for an estimated 35,000 years. The Congress did not grant Native Americans rights of citizenship until 1924 with the passage of the Indian Citizenship Act, though Asians continued to be denied naturalized citizenship status.

Congress passed the first law specifically restricting or excluding immigrants based on “race” and nationality in 1882. In their attempts to eliminate entry of Chinese (and other Asian) workers who often competed for jobs with U.S. citizens, especially in the western United States, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act to restrict their entry into the U.S. for a 10-year period, while denying citizenship to Chinese people already on these shores.

The Act also made it illegal for Chinese people to marry white or black U.S.-Americans. The Immigration Act of 1917 further prohibited immigration from Asian countries, in the terms of the law, the “barred zone,” including parts of China, India, Siam, Burma, Asiatic Russia, the Polynesian Islands, and parts of Afghanistan.

The so-called “Gentleman’s Agreement” between the U.S. and the Emperor of Japan of 1907, to reduce tensions between the two countries, passed expressly to decrease immigration of Japanese workers into the U.S.

Between 1880 and 1920, in the range of 30-40 million immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe migrated to the United States, more than doubling the population.Fearing a continued influx of immigrants, legislators in the United States Congress in 1924 enacted the Johnson-Reed [anti-] Immigration Act (“Origins Quota Act,” or “National Origins Act”) setting restrictive quotas of immigrants from Asia and Eastern Europe, including those of the so-called “Hebrew race.”

Jews continued to be, even in the United States during the 1920s, constructed as nonwhite. The law, on the other hand, permitted large allotments of immigrants from Great Britain, Ireland, and Germany.

This law, in addition to previous statutes (1882 against the Chinese, 1907 against the Japanese) halted further immigration from Asia, and excluded blacks of African descent from entering the United States.

It is interesting to note that during this time, Jewish ethno-racial assignment was constructed as “Asian.” According to Sander Gilman: “Jews were called Asiatic and Mongoloid, as well as primitive, tribal, Oriental.” Immigration laws were changed in 1924 in response to the influx of these undesirable “Asiatic elements.”

In the Supreme Court case, Takao Ozawa vs. United States, a Japanese man, Takao Ozawa filed for citizenship under the Naturalization Act of 1906, which allowed white persons and persons of African descent or African nativity to achieve naturalization status. Asians, however, were classified as an “unassimilateable race” and, therefore, not entitled to U.S. citizenship. Ozawa attempted to have Japanese people classified as “white” since he claimed he had the requisite white skin. The Supreme Court, in 1922, however, denied his claim and, therefore, his U.S. citizenship.

In 1939, the United States Congress refused to pass the Wagner-Rogers Bill, which if enacted would have permitted entry to the United States of 20,000 children from Eastern Europe, many of whom were Jewish, over existing quotas. Laura Delano Houghteling, cousin of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and wife of the U.S. Commissioner of Immigration sternly warned: “20,000 charming children would all too soon, grow into 20,000 ugly adults.”

Following U.S. entry into World War II at the end of 1942, reflecting the tenuous status of Japanese Americans, some born in the United States, military officials uprooted and transported approximately 110,000 Japanese Americans to Internment (Concentration) Camps within several interior states far from the shores. Not until Ronald Reagan’s administration did the U.S. officially apologize to Japanese Americans and to pay reparations amounting to $20,000 to each survivor as part of the 1988 Civil Liberties Act.

Finally, in 1952, the McCarran-Walters Act overturned the “racially” discriminatory quotas of the 1924 Johnson-Reed Act. Framed as an amendment to the McCarran-Walters Act, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 removed “natural origins” as the basis of U.S. immigration legislation.

The 1965 law increased immigration from Asian and Latin American countries and religious backgrounds, permitted 170,000 immigrants from the Eastern Hemisphere (20,000 per each country), 120,000 from the Western Hemisphere, and accepted a total of 300,000 visas for entry into the country.

The 1965 Immigration Law, however, was certainly not the last we saw “race” used as a qualifying factor. The Arizona legislature passed and Governor Jan Brewer signed SB 1070, which mandates that police officers stop and question people about their immigration status if they even suspect that they may be in this country illegally, and criminalizes undocumented workers who do not possess an “alien registration document.”

Other provisions allow citizens to file suits against government agencies that do not enforce the law, and it criminalizes employers who knowingly transport or hire undocumented workers. The law is currently on hold as it travels through the judicial process challenging its constitutionality.

“Ruthless Americanization”

Immigrants who enter the United States I believe to this day are pressured to assimilate into a monocultural Anglo-centric culture (thinly disguised as “the melting pot”), and to give up their native cultural identities. Referring to the newcomers at the beginning of the 20th century CE, one New York City teacher remarked: “[They] must be made to realize that in forsaking the land of their birth, they were also forsaking the customs and traditions of that land….”

An “Americanist” (assimilationist) movement was in full force with the concept of the so-called “melting pot” in which everyone was expected to conform to an Anglo-centric cultural standard with an obliteration of other cultural identities. President Theodore Roosevelt (1907) was an outspoken proponent of this concept:

“If the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself (sic) to us he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else….But this [equality] is predicated on the man’s (sic) becoming in very fact an American and nothing but an American….There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American but something else also, isn’t an American at all….We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language, for we want to see that the crucible turns our people out as Americans, of American nationality, and not as dwellers in a polyglot boarding house.”

Many members of immigrant groups oppose assimilation and embrace the concept of pluralism: the philosophy whereby one adheres to a prevailing monocultural norm in public while recognizing, retaining, and celebrating one’s distinctive and unique cultural traditions and practices in the private realm.

The term “Cultural Pluralism” was coined by Horace Kallen (1882-1974), a Jewish American of Polish and Latvian heritage who believed that ethnic groups have a “democratic right” to retain their cultures and to resist the “ruthless Americanization” being forced upon them by segments of the native white Anglo-Protestant population.

Social theorist Gunnar Myrdal traveled throughout the United States during the late 1940s examining U.S. society following World War II, and he discovered a grave contradiction or inconsistency, which he termed “an American dilemma.” He found a country founded on an overriding commitment to democracy, liberty, freedom, human dignity, and egalitarian values, coexisting alongside deep-seated patterns of racial discrimination, privileging white people, while subordinating peoples of color.

If we learn anything from our immigration legislative history, we can view the current debates as providing a great opportunity to pass comprehensive federal reform based not on “race,” nationality, ethnicity, religion, or other social identity categories, but rather, on humane principles of fairness, compassion, and equity.

Today, the United States stands as the most culturally and religiously diverse country in the world. This diversity poses great challenges and great opportunities. The way we meet these challenges will determine whether we remain on the abyss of our history or whether we can truly achieve our promise of becoming a shining beacon to the world.

For my PowerPoint, Immigration as “Racial” Policy, press here.

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), co-author with Diane Raymond of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (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

January 11th, 2018 at 9:27 pm

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Sinful Sodomites Blew Deadly Firestorms Penetrating California

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The utter power and strength of the LGBTQ community allows us to control the course and potency of hurricanes, floods, fires, droughts, and pandemics, and thus, we get to determine who lives and who dies, who retains their treasured belongings and who gets wiped out and washed away. Well, that is if you believe total eclipse of reason on the theocratic right who hold us responsible for causing many of the greatest (un)natural disasters of modern times.

The latest installment from the loony bin came from Colorado radio talk show host and pastor, Kevin Swanson, who accused gay people of causing the recent deadly wild fires in California arguing that 2017 “was the year of God’s judgment on the state of California.” This is the same pastor who appealed for the execution of gay people in 2015.

Swanson’s demented “reasoning” asserts that the wild fires are the result of God’s judgment upon a state whose legislature passed its FAIR Education Act in 2011 mandating the contributions of LGBT people and people with disabilities be included in school textbooks. Last year, California approved 10 textbooks that barely included LGBT history.

Swanson refers to the FAIR Education Act as a “bill that encouraged homosexual indoctrination in California public schools for six-, seven-, eight-, nine-, and 10-year-olds.”

Referring to 2017 in his absurdist cause-and-effect conspiracy, “It was the year that California introduced 10 textbooks into public schools that turned sodomites – that is, men from Sodom doing what men from Sodom like to do,” he continued, “and turning pedophiliacs and homosexuals into heroes….It also happened to be the year that God brought the most severe possible judgment on California.”

Swanson also argued that last year’s Hurricane Harvey was caused by Houston recently “having a very very pro-homosexual mayor,” and because of the city’s refusal to repent from its “sexual perversion.” According to Right Wing Watch, Swanson said on his radio program:

“Jesus sends the message home, unless Americans repent, unless Houston repents, unless New Orleans repents, they will all likewise perish. That is the message that the Lord Jesus Christ is sending home right now to America.”

Adding to Swanson’s list of factors bringing on the devastating storm, he attempted to position Christians as the victims in this drama by accusing Huston of “persecuting pastors and churches,” and he blamed the Texas state legislature for recently failing to pass a bill “that would have prevented cross-dressing men from using the women’s restrooms” because “they wanted to encourage the abomination of men attempting to dress like women and women attempting to dress like men.”

Swanson asserted in 2015 that God gives HIV/AIDS to gay people as “retribution to their sexual habit.” This, he said, is a sign of God’s kindness because having the virus makes it more likely they will renounce their homosexuality, thereby saving them from eternal damnation.

But wait! Hurricane Harvey and the California fires are only two the most recent natural disasters attributed to LGBT people. In a 2016 column on the website shoebat.com in an article titled “Hurricane Matthew Is The Wrath Of God Poured Out On the Cities Of Orlando And Savannah For Supporting The Evil Sodomites.” This must be urgent since the initial letter in each word of the title is capitalized! The article stated:

“Florida is a nice place, but it unfortunately has become a lot like California, representing both the best and the worst that America has to offer. This is especially true in the area of homosexuality. While there are many conservative and religious Floridians, there are a tremendous amount of sodomites and immoral activity that takes place there.”

The author, Andrew Bieszad, argued that the hurricane that hit Florida and other points in the U.S. Southeast resulted from God’s wrath directed against the scheduled Pride Festivals (“sodomite pride parades”) in Orlando, Florida and Savannah, Georgia. Bieszad asserted that this particular hurricane has dramatically erupted in “unnatural” ways and “is unexplained by science,” and that:

“The word ‘Hurricane’ originally comes from the Taino Indians, a people who inhabited the Caribbean and parts of Florida when the Spanish arrived in the 16th century. The original word, ‘Huracan,’ was a god of evil in their pagan religion, and the natives thought that these storms were attacks from this evil deity. Interesting.”

In addition, Bieszad asserted that it was no mere coincidence that this hurricane holds the name “Matthew.” Saint Matthew is depicted as an angel in the Christian Bible, and angles are “the ones obedient to God [who] always play important roles in executing God’s will, both for aiding man in his struggle for righteousness and punishing him in accordance with God’s will.”

But Bieszad simply pulls from the looney bin scavenged before by so many others. For example, in May 1978, Anita Bryant, Florida Orange Juice queen and chief organizer of her so-called “Save Our Children” campaign to overturn a gay-rights ordinance of Dade County, called homosexuals “human garbage,” and blamed the drought then overtaking California on their sinful behavior. Ironically, however, just one day following the first openly-gay San Francisco City Supervisor, Harvey Milk’s November 8 election, and six months following Bryant’s claim, it began to rain.

In addition, others blamed the torrential winds, rain, and devastating flooding of hurricane Katrina in 2005 on LGBT people. Reverend John Hagee, evangelical pastor of a “mega-church” in Texas, was quoted in an interview in 2006 saying that “God caused Hurricane Katrina to wipe out New Orleans because it had a gay pride parade the week before and was filled with sexual sin.”

Televangelist Pat Robertson has most likely talked to God who told him of an upcoming calamity. After Orlando, Florida city officials in 1998 voted to fly rainbow flags high atop city lampposts during Disney World’s annual Gay Days events, Robertson issued a stern warning to the city:

“…I don’t think I’d be waving those flags in God’s face if I were you. … [A] condition like this will bring about the destruction of your nation. It’ll bring about terrorist bombs, it’ll bring earthquakes, tornadoes, and possibly a meteor.”

Following the horrific events of September 11, 2001, Robertson, along with his conspiratorial-theorist evangelical buddy, Jerry Falwell, reiterated past warnings. Falwell, with an air of righteousness, proclaimed on Robertson’s 700 Club on the Christian Broadcasting Network on September 13, 2001:

“I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America, I point the finger in their face and say, ‘You helped this happen!’”

To this Robertson responded: “I totally concur.”

The cause for wide-spread and devastating health pandemics have also been laid at the feet of LGBT people. For example, Ronald Reagan, under whose presidency the AIDS pandemic was detected and spread, had not formally raised the issue until April 1, 1987 in a speech to a group of physicians in Philadelphia — a full seven years after the onset of AIDS in the United States.

During his first year in office, Reagan spoke flippantly of AIDS when he inferred that “maybe the Lord brought down the plague because illicit sex is against the Ten Commandments.”

When AIDS was perceived by many as a disease of primarily gay and bisexual men, Pat Buchanan, who served as Reagan’s Chief of Communications between 1985-1987, was quite outspoken, referring to AIDS as nature’s “awful retribution,” and saying it did not deserve a thorough and compassionate response.

Writing in 1986, Buchanan claimed: “The poor homosexuals — they have declared war upon nature, and now nature is extracting an awful retribution.” Also, back in 1983, Buchanan demanded that New York City Mayor Ed Koch and New York Governor Mario Cuomo cancel the Gay Pride Parade or else “be held personally responsible for the spread of the AIDS plague.” And later: “With 80,000 dead of AIDS, our promiscuous homosexuals appear literally hell-bent on Satanism and suicide.”

In 2007, Falwell extended the blame: “AIDS is not just God’s punishment for homosexuals, it is God’s punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals.” 

Some even fault gays for ultimately bringing about the total destruction of human life. In his annual “State of the World” address at the Vatican delivered to diplomats from 179 countries, Pope Benedict XVI, on January 9, 2012, released a dire warning stating that marriage for same-sex couples “undermine the family, threaten human dignity and the future of humanity itself.”

The pontiff stated earlier on December 22, 2008 at a Christmas address to the Curia, the Vatican’s central administration, likening saving humanity from homosexual and gender-variant behaviors to saving the rain forest from destruction:

“[The Church] should also protect man from the destruction of himself. A sort of ecology of man is needed….The tropical forests do deserve our protection. But man, as a creature, does not deserve any less.”

The Pope warned that humans must “listen to the language of creation” and understand the intended roles of man and woman. He compared behavior outside heterosexual relations as “a destruction of God’s work.”

If there is any lesson to learn from the spate of natural disasters hitting the globe, we as a collective human species, and not God(s), have the power to destroy or to save our planet if we stand resolute in reversing our destructive and senseless use of fossil fuels, and to commit ourselves to invest our resources and energy into renewable clean energy sources.

Rather than blaming LGBT people, we must embrace science to save humanity from itself.

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-author with Diane Raymond of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (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: warrenblumenfeld@gmail.com

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

January 5th, 2018 at 11:57 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Trump Administration Amplifies Its Declared War on the Transgender Community

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 “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.”

Anonymous

I add an important amendment to the above quote with the addition “…or you’re not capable of empathy,” which certainly holds true in the case of Donald J. Trump.

Jaimie Lee Wounded Arrow, 28, Sioux Fall, SD, January 1, 2017

Since taking office, the Trump administration has declared war on the transgender community.

Mesha Caldwell, 41, Canton, MS, January 4, 2017

In a memo sent from his Department of “Justice” to US attorneys, department heads, and federal agencies, Trump’s Attorney General, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, reversed an Obama-era policy that protected trans employees from discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Session made clear that his department would no longer interpret gender protections in Title VII to include gender identity and expression.

Sean Hake, Sharon, PA, January 6, 2017

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

Jojo Striker, 23, Toledo, OH, February 8, 2017

When the Trump administration promoted its 2017 “American Heroes 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.

Jaquarrius Holland, 18, Monroe, LA, February 19, 2017

“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.”

Tiara Lashaytheboss Richmond, (a.k.a. Keke Collier) 24, Chicago, IL, Feb. 21, 2017

Trump’s official policy-by-tweet contradicts Department of Defense 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 includes Australia, Bolivia, Canada, Germany, Israel, New Zealand, and Spain.

Chyna Doll Dupree, 31, New Orleans, LA, February 25, 2017

A 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.

Ciara McElween, 21, New Orleans, LA, February 27, 2017

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.

Alphonza Watson, 38, Baltimore, MD, March 22, 2017

Trump’s latest assault on the trans community comes in the form of a yet another likely rollback of protections initiated by his immediate predecessor.

Kenne McFadden, 26, San Antonio, TX, April 9, 2017

The Obama administration issued a policy directive manual enumerating the rights and responsibilities of transgender people in prison related to several areas including housing, strip searches, and medical care. The directive advised respect and protection of transgender inmates and, on a case-by-case basis, the possibility of residence in prisons matching their gender identities.

Chayviss Reed, Opa-Locka, FL, April 21, 2017

Trump’s expected dismantling of protections will have wide-ranging negative effects.

Kenneth Bostick, 59, New York City, NY, May 4, 2017

The National Center for Transgender Equality found that 16% of transgender adults (including 21% of transwomen) have been incarcerated in prison or jail at some point in their lives. Nearly half (47%) of black transgender women have been incarcerated.

Sherrell Faulkner, 46, Charlotte, North Carolina, May 16, 2017

These high rates are associated with disproportionate poverty, homelessness, societal and workplace discrimination, involvement in street economies, and sometimes, bias from law enforcement. They are also at higher risk for harassment, abuse, and violence in juvenile detention facilities, jails, and prisons.

Josie Berrios, (a.k.a. Kendra Marie Adams) 28, Ithica, NY, June 13, 2017

“Corrections” officials routinely deny transgender people transition-related medical care, and they often suffer prolonged sentences of isolation.

Ava Le’Ray Barrin, 17, Athens, GA, June 25, 2017

It should be crystal clear to everyone that Trump’s motive in declaring war on an entire category of people has nothing to do with concerns over improving military readiness, or ending discrimination in schools and in the workplace, or improving prison conditions. It has nothing to do with health care costs. It has nothing to do with some alleged and unspecific “disruption,” and it certainly has nothing to do with “religious freedom.”

Ebony Morgan, 28, Lynchburg, VA, July 2, 2017

 Trump’s actions are intended to harden his appeal of the base feelings with his base of support by targeting scapegoats for his failed policies and increasingly failed presidency.

Troy “Tee Tee” Dangerfield, College Park, GA, August 1, 2017

Trump’s not-so-surprising assaults 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: 

Jaylow McGlory, 29, Alexandria, LA, August 4, 2017

“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.”

Gwynevere River Song, 26, Waxahachie, TX, August 12, 2017

Pence opposes marriage equality and LGBTQ non-discrimination protections, and as Indiana Governor, 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 and financial push back.

Kiwi Herring, 30, St. Louis, MO, August 22, 2017

Donald Trump, by choosing Mike Pence, has added LGBTQ people to his already extensive list of scapegoated “Others,” which include Mexicans and all Central and South American-heritage people, First Nations peoples, Muslims, people with disabilities, all women, and NFL players and coaches taking a knee in solidarity with groups like Black Lives Matter protesting police attacks on black and brown people.

Kashmire Nazier Redd, 28, Gates, NY, September 4, 2017

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.

Derricka Banner, 26, Charlotte, North Carolina, September 12, 2017

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

Ally Steinfeld, 17, Cahool, MO, September 14, 2017

 We must all stand up and be counted against the scurrilous attacks perpetrated by the Trump administration.

 Stephanie Montez, 47, Robstown, TX, September 28, 2017

We must not permit the policymakers, the majority presumably heterosexual and largely cisgender male, to dictate policy over whether transgender employees and students are protected against discrimination,

Candace Towns, 30, Macon, GA, October 31, 2017

…and whether trans servicemembers are granted permission openly to serve their country.

Brooklyn BreYanna Stevenson, 31, Oklahoma City, OK, November 27, 2017

And we must not allow anyone, policymaker or otherwise, to demean, intimidate, harass, violate, or murder anyone, including our dear transgender worriers.

Brandi Seals, 26, Houston, TX, December 13, 2017

​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

January 4th, 2018 at 7:30 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Donald Trump Supports Human Rights in Iran But Not in the U.S.

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“Many reports of peaceful protests by Iranian citizens fed up with regime’s corruption & its squandering of the nation’s wealth to fund terrorism abroad. Iranian govt should respect their people’s rights, including right to express themselves. The world is watching! #IranProtests” Donald J. Trump, 10:42 PM – Dec 29, 2017

Trump praised demonstrators in Iran who protest corruption and dictatorial actions of the regime in power, but he demeans and demands the firing of black athletes who take a knee to protest racial inequality and police brutality. Trump is a Racist Hypocrite!

Trump praised demonstrators in Iran who protest corruption and dictatorial actions of the regime in power, but he mocks and scolds members of the Black Lives Matters movement who protest racial inequality and police brutality. Trump is a Racist Hypocrite!

Trump praised demonstrators in Iran who protest corruption and dictatorial actions of the regime in power, and he also, at least partially, praised white supremacists and neo-Nazis marching in Charlottesville, Virginia in support of maintaining statues and a flag glorifying the Confederacy. But of those demanding the dismantling of these purely racist symbols throughout the country, Trump called “weak, weak people…They’re trying to take away our culture. They’re trying to take away our history.” Trump is a Racist White Supremacist Hypocrite!

Trump praised demonstrators in Iran who protest corruption and dictatorial actions of the regime in power, but he called the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico “a weak leader” after she criticized Washington’s response to the devastating hurricane, and she pleaded for the government to “save us from dying.” Trump is a Mean-Spirited Racist Bulling Hypocrite!

Trump praised demonstrators in Iran who protest corruption and dictatorial actions of the regime in power, but he lambasted Muslim Gold Star parents who criticized his threats of a Muslim ban. Trump is an Islamophobic Racist Hypocrite!

Trump praised demonstrators in Iran who protest corruption and dictatorial actions of the regime in power, but he insulted a black Gold Star mother who criticized his lack of sensitivity in a phone call acknowledging the death of her son. Trump is a Racist Hypocrite!

Trump praised demonstrators in Iran who protest corruption and dictatorial actions of the regime in power, but as millions of people demonstrated in Women’s Marches in protest of his statements and policies, he tweeted: “Watched protests yesterday but was under the impression that we just had an election! Why didn’t these people vote? Celebs hurt cause badly.” Trump is a Patriarchal Sexist Misogynist Hypocrite!

Trump praised demonstrators in Iran who protest corruption and dictatorial actions of the regime in power, but after numerous women had the courage to step up and speak out by accusing him of sexual harassment, he called them “liars” and threatened to sue. Trump is a Patriarchal Sexist Misogynist Hypocrite!

Trump praised demonstrators in Iran who protest corruption and dictatorial actions of the regime in power, but he attacked “Tax Day” protestors who marched in the streets calling for him to finally release his tax returns by threatening in a tweet: “Someone should look into who paid for the small organized rallies yesterday. The election is over!” Trump is a Corrupt Kleptocratic Hypocrite!

Trump praised demonstrators in Iran who protest corruption and dictatorial actions of the regime in power, but as people throughout the country demonstrate against Trump’s draconian immigration policies, he threatens and calls them demeaning names and slurs. Trump is an Ethnocentric Jingoistic Nationalistic Racist Hypocrite!

Trump praised demonstrators in Iran who protest corruption and dictatorial actions of the regime in power, but as demonstrators in the United States and throughout the world protest the inhumane and murderous policies against LGBTQ people in Chechnya and throughout Russia, Trump offers no praise, but rather remains silent, while proposing bans against trans military service members, and eliminating protections for trans students in the schools. Trump is a Cissexist Heterosexist Hypocrite!

“Big protests in Iran. The people are finally getting wise as to how their money and wealth is being stolen and squandered on terrorism. Looks like they will not take it any longer. The USA is watching very closely for human rights violations!” Donald J. Trump, 8:03 AM – Dec 31, 2017

Trump praised demonstrators in Iran who protest corruption and dictatorial actions of the regime in power, but Trump needs to understand that more and more people each day are finally getting wise to how our money and wealth are being stolen and squandered by his would-be dictatorial regime and by the Republican Congress.

Looks like we will not take it any longer. The USA and the entire world is watching very closely in Trump’s continual human and civil rights violations, his corruption, his incompetence, his emotional and mental instability, his lies, his narcissism, his lack of empathy, his sociopathic personality, and, of course, his hypocrisy!

Here’s to strong democratic Resistance Movements in Iran, the United States, and throughout the world!

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

December 31st, 2017 at 2:51 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Trump’s Warped Policies (“Make”) of Racial and Health Issues (“America Great Again”)

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Donald J. Trump continues to run on his presidential campaign pledge to “Make America Great Again.” He never explained or defined, however, what strategies he would use to “Make” anything. He never truly articulated how he defines “Great.” And, possibly most importantly, he never talks about a time when “America” was actually “Great.” So which era does he use as his baseline for some sort of “greatness” that he promises to “Make” “Again”?

Though erratic and contradictory in character and temperament, Trump has provided some clear clues in his words, in his actions, and in his legislative supports and executive orders for us to decipher his otherwise cryptic motto to “Make America Great Again.”

On the issue of race relations, for example, Trump has increasingly raised the sound and pitch of his dog whistle to the level of an amplified system. He nominated an Attorney General with a record of racist rhetoric and actions. He has continually attacked members the Black Lives Matters Movement. He has demanded the firing of professional athletes who “take a knee” to highlight racial inequality and police brutality.

He refused to condemn white supremacists and neo-Nazis, and asserted a moral equivalency between marchers who support Confederate statues with opposing protestors. He gave full-throated support for a candidate in the Alabama U.S. Senate “race” who waxed nostalgically for a greater time in U.S. history when “families were strong” during the time of slavery.

Therefore, it appears logical to conclude that Donald Trump wants to “Make America Great Again” by increasing racial divides (“Make”) as it was in the antebellum South (“America,” “Great,” “Again”).

Donald Trump has provided us with strong clues on his regard for issues of health policy, and on HIV/AIDS specifically. He campaigned and continues to demand the death of the Affordable Care Act, while he and Republican members of Congress offer no viable alternatives. He supported a so-called “tax reform” bill, which he signed into law, that will reportedly cut 13 million people from quality affordable health care insurance.

And we don’t have to look very deeply to understand why his administration banned these seven words from use in Centers for Disease Control documents: entitlement, diversity, vulnerable, transgender, science-based, evidence-based, and fetus.

As someone who lived through the terrible initial years of the HIV/AIDS crisis, I often think about all my wonderful friends, and the tens and hundreds of thousands leading to millions of people in the U.S. and throughout the world community who did not survive, who lost their lives through the intransigence and cruel societal and governmental (in)actions that killed so many.

Well, how else are we to interpret Trump’s behavior (“Make”) other than to understand that he sees those as “Great” times to which he wants to take us, “America” “Again”?  Recently, he fired all remaining members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA), a group created under Bill Clinton’s administration in 1995 to recommend strategic policy responses to the pandemic. President George W. Bush continued the group’s charter, and the Obama administration expanded its mandate to monitor National HIV/AIDS strategy.

In June 2017, however, experiencing a lack of commitment by Trump and members of his leadership team to tackle the pandemic, six members of PACHA resigned in protest. They cited Trump’s apathy in a letter stating their inability to work with “a president who simply does not care.”

A former member and a signatory of the letter wrote that Trump: “has no strategy to address the ongoing HIV/AIDS epidemic, seeking zero input from experts to formulate HIV policy, and — most concerning — pushes legislation that will harm people living with HIV and halt or reverse important gains made in the fight against this disease.”

So, on the issue of HIV/AIDS, Trump works to “Make American Great Again” by taking the country back to the “policies” and times of Ronald Reagan’s presidency.

Ronald Reagan is not the model politician and leader that most Republicans worship today. Among other things, Ronald Reagan functioned as the Co-conspirator-In-Chief in the deaths of people infected with HIV during the early years of the eventual pandemic under his so-called “watch.” Ronald Reagan should have been charged with and convicted of genocidal murder, rather than seen as the much-venerated pseudo-saint who he has been anointed by the conservative Republican Party.

Whenever I hear tributes of praise to this mythological figure coming from Republican stalwarts, what comes to my mind instead is a stunningly poignant quote from Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart, his stage play covering the early years of AIDS in the United States:

“We’re living through war, but where they’re living it’s peace time, and we’re all in the same country.”

As I hear these words reverberating in my mind, images escape from my stored memory into consciousness of the excruciatingly long years of Ronald Reagan, under whose presidency the AIDS pandemic first came to light, when he finally and officially acknowledged the existence of the crisis. The one and only time he publicly spoke of AIDS before 1985, except to address a few reporters’ questions, was in his first year in office when he inferred that “maybe the Lord brought down the plague because illicit sex is against the Ten Commandments.”

Pat Buchanan, Reagan’s Chief of “Communications,” spoke for many by calling AIDS nature’s “awful retribution” that did not deserve a thorough and compassionate response. Later he said:

“With 80,000 dead of AIDS, our promiscuous homosexuals appear literally hell-bent on Satanism and suicide.”

Uninformed and prejudicial statements coming from the White House and the halls of Congress, from the State Houses, and yes, from some houses of worship during those trying times only encouraged the ceaseless bigotry and discriminatory actions against people with HIV, while the AIDS Project patchwork quilt expanded exponentially day-by-day.

In those early years, HIV/AIDS affected most visibly what some called the “4H Club” – Homosexuals, Haitians, Intravenous Heroin Drug Users, and People with Hemophilia – all but the latter considered as “disposables.” Governmental and many societal institutions refused to take wide-scale action.

One can reasonably argue that if most people with HIV/AIDS initially had been middle-class, white, suburban, heterosexual, Christian, males, rather than gay and bisexual males, trans people, people of color, working-class people, sex workers, and drug users, we would have immediately seen massive mobilizations to defeat the virus.

Some people refer to our current era as one in which HIV/AIDS and the discrimination surrounding it no longer pose major physical and social barriers. Unfortunately, nothing can be further from the truth even though much has improved since those horrendous early years. Infection rates throughout the world continue to rise, millions still can’t afford the constellation of drug therapies needed to keep them alive, and ignorance and prejudice remain as major impediments.

Though he could have been a major force in leading the efforts to contain a crisis, Ronald Reagan failed miserably by commission and omission, and for that he must be held accountable for the deaths of thousands of people during his years as Derelict-and-Criminal Commander-In-Chief on the war against HIV.

So, on a number of issues, to “Make America Great Again,” Trump imagines a time when draconian measures (“Make”) were used by men who were “real men” (“Great”), when women and people of color “knew their place” (“Great”), when Christian Evangelicalism ruled (“America”), when leaders functioned by divine right as totalitarian dictators as the landed gentry exploited and robbed the “peasantry” (“Great Again”).

Thankfully, though, more and more people see through the mottoes, the rhetoric, and the lies, people who truly wish to “Make America Great At Last.”

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

December 30th, 2017 at 1:44 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

“Trumpery” and the Destruction of Democratic Institutions

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According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the term “trumpery“ first appeared in the English language in the mid-15th century.

Webster’s 1913 Dictionary defined “‘Trump´er`y’ – n: 1. Deceit; fraud. 2. Something serving to deceive by false show or pretense; falsehood; deceit; worthless but showy matter; hence, things worn out and of no value; rubbish. a. 1. Worthless or deceptive in character; nonsensical talk or writing; ornamental objects of no great value.”

For someone who presents himself as a successful real estate model known for constructing high enduring structures, Donald J. Trump(ery) has operated as a deconstructor and a dumpster fire on the institutional structures of our democracy. Metaphorically, Donald Trump is the iceberg to our ship of state, the kryptonite to our super men and women, the wrecking ball to our historic landmarks, the final straw on our camel’s back.

Internationally, on Russia, for example, Trump encouraged Russia to cyberattack Hillary Clinton’s email server, and when the CIA and FBI offered conclusive evidence of Russia’s hacking into the Democratic National Committee, Trump issued continual denials and challenges to the efficiency and accuracy of U.S. intelligence agencies.

Recently, he destroyed U.S. options in helping to broker a peace deal by unilaterally declaring Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and threatening to move the U.S. embassy there. Soon thereafter, Guatemala jumped on board the Trump clown car. Trump and his complicit United Nations ambassador, Nikki Haley, frayed our international standing by bullying nations who dared vote against U.S. actions. Earlier in his administration, Trump loosened our ties within the NATO alliance.

Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Agreement, and the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, the latter action now opens wide the door for China to control trade throughout Asia.

Donald Trump, through words and actions, presents the U.S. to residents and leaders throughout the world as erratic and ineffective, as retreating from its stated position of defender of human rights and as a guardian against attack to our allies. Unfortunately, this President has alienated our closest international allies while cozying up with brutal dictators in Russia, the Philippians, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, among others.

Domestically, he has tapped the least qualified and least demographically diverse staff advisors and cabinet secretaries in modern history, most who have certified conflicts of interest in the positions they hold.

In his brief time in office, Trump has declared war on the environment by proposing a substantial budgetary reduction of an estimated 24% and a staff cut of 20% to the Environmental Protection Agency, consideration of lower automobile emission and fuel efficiency standards, relaxation of prohibitions against dumping toxins like coal ash into streams and rivers, reinstatement of the environmentally damaging Dakota Access and Keystone oil pipelines, and increased coal mining, natural gas, crude and scale oil drilling, and shrinking by approximately 2 million acres national monuments in Utah. And his administration’s efforts in helping to rebuild Puerto Rico following the hurricane have been slow and inadequate at best.

The just-passed Republican tax “reform” bill, which Trump openly endorsed, will grant huge tax deductions to corporations and the top 1% of the population, while ultimately raising taxes for many if not most middle- and working-class earners, and the possible gutting of the Affordable Care Act by eliminating the individual mandate, which reports indicate could throw 13 million people off health insurance.

The Republicans with Trump’s support have served up once again their so-called “trickle-down,” or more formally referred to as “supply-side,” economics in the latest incarnation of their tax reform law. “Trickle-Down” has also been referred to as the “Horse-and-Sparrow Theory”: If you feed the horse enough oats, some will pass through to the road for the sparrows. Shit happens!

Trump’s assault on transgender people is stunning. He reversed an Obama-era policy that protected trans employees from discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 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. And without warning or stated reasons, he fired the remaining members on hi HIV / AIDS council.

In other executive orders or tweet storms, Trump has expressed his intention to expel trans service members from the armed forces, and deport Dreamers, and Haitian refugees of the 2010 earthquake from the U.S.

On the issue of character, Trump has conducted a campaign of attack, innuendo, name-calling, character assassination, and misrepresentation toward anyone from all stations of life (and in particular, black people) who fail to bow down and kiss his ring or who challenge him on any level no matter who they are, including Gold Star families, black athletes, the cast of a Broadway musical, and even former political allies.

Trump has no love or need for knowledge or preparation, he has no apparent understanding of history or of science, and even less use for either. This President, rather, operates purely on emotion and instinct. He shoots from the mouth, and thrives on chaos, disarray, and perpetual infighting among his staff and advisors, whom he discounts when they attempt to give him counsel.

Throughout the remainder of his jaunt to the White House up to today, he has stepped over 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 do 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 bodies and their own lives, transgender people of all ages, couples in same-sex relationships, invading “alien” immigrants, Dreamers, Haitian and Syrian refugees, and certainly anyone and everyone who disagrees with or criticizes him.

He offended Navajo military veteran heroes of World War II at an official White House ceremony by invoking the racist epithet “Pocahontas” to insult Senator Elizabeth Warren. And he fully endorsed a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate from Alabama, Roy Moore, who has been accused of being a predator and abuser of underage girls when he was in his 30s.

We are increasingly seeing what has come to be known as “The Trump Effect” in which through Donald’s derisive and abusive words and actions, many young people mirror his behavior and react similarly against their peers.

While Donald Trump has no difficulty calling out those he sees as his political opponents, even within the Republican party, 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.

Simultaneously, he talked in vague terms about the murderous actions by neo-Nazis and other white supremacist groups in Charlottesville, and he refused to call out the perpetrators by name. Trump ejaculated a moral equivalency argument between the white supremacists and demonstrators protesting xenophobic nationalism.

By failing to divest his vast business holdings worldwide, Donald Trump not only faces valid charges of conflicts of interest, but more importantly, possibly violates the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

He continually assaults the First Amendment’s “free speech” clause by going after the media. 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 repeatedly has threatened to sue the “crooked and lying” media (Lügenpresse, “lying press” popularized by the German Nazis to silence opposition).

He incessantly blasts “Islamic jihadist terrorists” as the number one threat to our nation, thus 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. In his near-obsessive calls for “law and order,” he has called for a return to draconian (and possibly unconstitutional) measures of torture and surveillance.

Assisted by the larger Republican Party and the Supreme Court, which has virtually gutted the 1965 Voting Rights law, Trump has supported measures like gerrymandering and other means resulting 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.

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. Donald J. Trump imperils the entire world and brings us closer to horrors previously only imagined in science fiction (which is the only science he believes).

As the definition correctly warns, this Trump(ery) is “Worthless [and] deceptive in character; nonsensical [in] talk [and] writing; [a not-so] ornamental object…of no great value.”

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

December 29th, 2017 at 3:29 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

A Critical Reading of Ben Carson’s Offensive Prayer at Trump’s Cabinet Meeting

without comments

Donald Trump opened the beginning of his recent bizarre Cabinet meeting to the press with a statement expressing his now-usual hyperbolic self-praise of his alleged historic achievements since taking over the Oval Office, and touting the Congressional tax bill.

Near the conclusion of his remarks, just before he asked the media to exit, Trump inappropriately invited his Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Ben Carson, to “say grace” for the secretaries gathered around the table. Trump used the occasion to fling yet another insult at reporters by scolding, “You need the prayer more than I do I think, you may be the only ones. Maybe a good solid prayer and they’ll be honest. Ben, is that possible?”

Carson, a staunch follower of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, sermonized while those assembled solemnly bowed their heads. Included are Carson’s remarks with my editorial additions in italic:

“Our kind Father in heaven, (yes, indeed, invoking an all-powerful patriarch is, indeed, more than symbolic for this administration), we’re so thankful for the opportunities and the freedom that you’ve granted us in this country (though, unfortunately, the Trump administration desires to limit or eliminate many of these “opportunities” and “freedoms” from, for example, Muslims, hopeful immigrants, Dreamers, Transgender people, women and girls, lesbian, gay, and bisexual people, working-class and poor people, people with disabilities, people who need affordable health care, people dependent on Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security, anyone who won’t bow down and kiss the kleptocrat’s ring, especially members of The Resistance, and, of course, our democratic institutions, such as the media, the independent judiciary, the intelligence community, and the list goes on ad infinitum).

“We thank you for the president and for Cabinet members who are courageous (or more accurately, spineless in standing up to this president), who are willing to face the winds of controversy (don’t you mean, the strong tail winds of the rich, the well-placed, the corporate lobbyists?) in order to provide a better future for those who come behind us (who now will be enormously burdened by the increased national debt that this tax “reform” will produce).

“We’re thankful for the (Republican lock-step) unity in Congress, that presented an opportunity for our economy to expand (read as resurrecting its “trickle down” economics, which has never lived up to the hype, but has, instead, significantly increased economic disparity between the uber-rich and the rest of us), so we can fight the corrosive debt (by increasing it by an estimated 1.5-2.2 trillion dollars) that has been destroying our future (and will continue to do so unless we vote these political incompetents who are morally bankrupt out of office).

“And we hope that that unity (who do you think you’re kidding, Ben?) will spread even beyond party lines (in our terribly divided country, which your administration has done all it possibly could to exaggerate and exploit), so that people recognize (your deceit and hypocrisy that) we have a nation that is worth saving (unless you and your co-conspirators continue to go along your path of destruction). And nations divided against themselves cannot stand (as you plagiarize the great Abraham Lincoln to whom you don’t hold a candle).

In this time of discord (which your administration has furthered), distrust (how could we ever trust these Trumpians?) and dishonesty (hey, take a look in the mirror), we ask that you will give us (by your words and actions, you have no right to ask for anything) a spirit of (false) gratitude (which you already possess), compassion (of which you are not capable) and common sense (maybe when Hell freezes over).

And give us the wisdom (of which it is far too late for all of you to develop) to be able to guide (I certainly hope not) this great nation (and better once you are all out of office) in the (hopefully near) future.

We ask in the name of the Father (Trump), the Son(s and daughter of Trump), and the Holy Spirit (you mean “endless spigot ” of tax breaks pumped to the already rich and powerful), Amen.”

Regarding Ben Carson’s book, which he co-authored with his wife Candy, A More Perfect Union: What We the People Can Do to Reclaim Our Constitutional Liberties, I would answer the question the title poses that he and the entire Trump administration apologize for the harm they have wrought on our nation, and then immediately resign.

Carson wrote in the book:

“And as someone who has performed brain surgery thousands of times, I can assure you that the Constitution isn’t brain surgery.”

That’s for sure, and therefore, I advise Dr. Carson to return to his previous profession. And I respond to his Cabinet meeting prayer with my own invocation: 

We the People, please try to forgive them, for they know not good from evil, right from wrong, truth from lies, reason from irony, and empathy from narcissism. Amen.

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

December 20th, 2017 at 11:46 pm

Posted in Uncategorized