Warren Blumenfeld's Blog

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

Let’s Break the Palestinian-Israeli Impasse as We the People

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The seemingly intransigent and tragic conflict between Palestinians and Israelis has lasted many generations, resulting in perpetual war, death of innocents and combatants alike, pain, grief, suffering, terrorism, hopelessness, denial, separation of families, loss of property and material possessions, and a numbing of the senses. The entire planet and all its inhabitants have been negatively affected by every detail small and great of this perennial impasse.

Is there any way out of the morass, or will this current reality never change? I am not a mystical sage. I have no magic crystal ball in which to gaze. No beautiful doves are ready to take wing on my signal.

But through extensive study and contemplation, I have perceived some options:

People on the political Left and the Right can stay entrenched in their binary ideologies and policy positions. They can continue to pursue the present course of (non)action by marginalizing and demonizing anyone who in any way supports the establishment and/or maintenance of the state of Israel as a nation for the Jewish people. They can also persist in uttering the word “Zionist” with disgust and scorn as justification for automatically dismissing others’ views and stances, while telling themselves they are “remaining true to their principles,” “maintaining their integrity,” and most of all, “acting intersectionally.”

Groups like Hamas and Hezbollah can perpetually refuse Israel’s “right to exist,” and repeatedly launch missiles on territories populated by Jewish civilians while using their own civilians as fodder for incoming bombs. Palestinian and Jewish parents can continue to send their youth in harms way in defense of sacred soil promised by God to three varied peoples Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

On this latter point, to paraphrase Golda Meir, fourth Israeli Prime Minister and a founder of the state: Peace will come when the Arabs [and Jews] will love their children more than they hate [each other].

The Israeli government and leaders of the Palestinian Authority can remain intransigent on several critical issues while failing to move forward on good-faith peace efforts and agreements. They might feel concerned that if peace were to break out in the region, then current and future levels of foreign aid from outside nations and individuals might dry up with these sources no longer seeing further need for aid. They may also use the Machiavellian tactic of “divide and conquer” to better ensure their chances of retaining and enhancing power.

One can demand that Jewish people, native and immigrant, go back “home” to their countries of origin, no matter where that may be and no matter the current stage of (un)rest. On this account, one can also demand that all non-indigenous non-First Nations peoples evacuate North and South America and the Caribbean for their ancestral homes as well.

Another option, however, includes stepping back and taking a 30,000-foot overhead view so we can comprehend where we have been and possibly chart a different path forward by considering ourselves as both and simultaneously Pro-Palestine AND as Pro-Israel, and by seeing these positions as not mutually exclusive or contradictory.

Like myself, for those who fundamentally (no pun intended), oppose the concept of any nation with an official or unofficial religion, either de jure (by law) or de facto (by fact), and, therefore, contest the existence of any theocratic state, and, in particular, Israel, I am attempting to suspend my judgment on this point for the time being.

I have personally determined that a Jewish state is critical if the Jewish people are to survive physically, religiously, and ethnically as a people. I have several reasons for coming to this conclusion, which I have discussed in other commentaries.

I must, however, qualify my endorsement for a Jewish state with my suggestions for moving forward.

First, to be clear, I would have much preferred to have seen the creation of a Jewish state following World War II carved out from lands in eastern Germany through western Poland. Having stated this, however, these are my suggestions:

  • Israel must end the occupation of all Palestinian lands confiscated since the 1967 War. Israel should either return the territories occupied by Israel since the 1967 War, or negotiate a “land swap” agreement arrived at by the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority in the context of non-partisan international negotiators.
  • Israel must close and return all so-called “settlements” on the occupied territories, unless and until compromise solutions to this issue are negotiated.
  • Israel must grant full and complete citizenship rights to all persons living as permanent residents in Israel regardless of religious, ethnic, or political backgrounds and affiliations.
  • All Israeli government buildings and proceedings must move from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv or another location of choice within the negotiated borders of Israel.
  • Jerusalem should be constructed as an international city and internationally-controlled and defended with privately-owned properties and free and open access.
  • Establish two states, Israel and Palestine (or any other name of the Palestinian’s choice).
  • Each country, Israel and Palestine, can and should join in a NATO-type alliance with other countries with the equivalent of Article 5 in the NATO charter stating that if either of these countries is attacked by the other or by another country, member nations from their respective alliances will join them in defensive measures. These alliances should be composed of Western and Middle-Eastern/Eastern nations to better ensure against chances of proxy wars between East and West.
  • Nations throughout the world must officially recognize Israel and Palestine, set up official embassies staffed by ambassadors and support personnel.
  • Palestine must be admitted to the United Nations as a bone fide country with all the rights and privileges this entails.
  • Allied countries need to continue current or increased rates of economic aid to the reconstituted Israel and Palestine for an agreed-upon number of years (minimum 15).
  • All nations need to ensure the normalization of relations with Israel and Palestine, including direct flights from their nations to both Israel and Palestine.
  • Strong anti-discrimination policies and enforcement procedures must be provided to uniformly and consistently protect residents and visitors of these nations of their civil and human rights.
  • Student, educator, business, arts, agriculture, science, technology, and other exchange programs between the two nations should be instituted to provide a means to perpetuate understanding and cooperation between Palestinians and Israelis.

I welcome additional items to add to this list.

I am certain that the clear majority will automatically reject some or even most of these suggestions, and quite possibly, for this reason, the list might ultimately prove effective as a compromise framework.

But since governments and their representatives have not been able or even willing to bring equitable and lasting peace to the Middle East, I hope we as all the people will finally have a voice, a seat at the figurative and literal table.

Maybe if more people stand firmly as both Pro-Palestine and Pro-Israel, maybe we can break the age-old bypass and reach a peaceful conclusion. End the binary, bring on peace. What a concept?!

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

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

June 28th, 2017 at 7:30 pm

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Manifesto of an Outraged Queer

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During the 21st Annual Dyke March held one day before the main Pride March in Chicago, organizers ejected a small group of women carrying a rainbow flag with a Star of David. Dyke March organizer, John-Paul Pagano, sent out a press release detailing why the decision was made to expel Jews:

“Yesterday during the rally we saw three individuals carrying Israeli flags super imposed on rainbow flags. Some folks say they are Jewish Pride flags. But as a Collective we are very much pro-Palestine, and when we see these flags we know a lot of folks who are under attack by Israel see the visuals of the flag as a threat, so we don’t want anything in the [Dyke March] space that can inadvertently or advertently express Zionism. So we asked the folks to please leave. We told them people in the space were feeling threatened.”

Laurie Grauer, one of the women forced to leave told the Windy City Times that the flag was “from my congregation which celebrates my queer Jewish identity, which I have done for over a decade marching in the Dyke March with the same flag.” She continued, “People asked me if I was a Zionist and I said ‘Yes, I do care about the state of Israel but I also believe in a two-state solution and an independent Palestine.”

It is unfortunate at best that members of the queer community are confusing the making of spaces threatening-free and comfortable with fascism, confusing political astuteness with tyranny. Who decides which individuals and groups are considered the “in groups” and the “out groups”? Who elected these organizers as the Thought Police?

No matter how the organizers attempt to frame the issues, this is anti-Jewish oppression plain and simple! Shame on them and those who supported their decision!

Did the organizers throw themselves from the March by using the term “Dyke” in the title, a word that threatens many people?

Did the organizers expel all Republicans whose Party has called for the exclusion of all Muslims from entering the United States?

Did the organizers eject practicing Catholics whose denomination in its official catechism describes same-sex sexuality as “acts of grave depravity” and “intrinsically disordered”?

Who are these self-appointed purveyors of a demarcation line separating who is to be included and who excluded from our spaces? Today, March organizers as well as several activists at last year’s annual National LGBTQ Taskforce “Creating Change” Conference scared off those who supported the existence of the state of Israel. They did this in the complete absence of reasoned and respectful discussion and debate.

Today, Jews and Jewish symbols are deemed toxic contraband in Chicago. Who and what will be next? Islamic, atheist, and anarchy symbols, the Chinese, Italian, or Syrian flags?

While I find the terms “gay” and “Republican” oxymoronic and worse, I will defend the right of members of the Log Cabin Republicans to join our spaces! While I consider the views of the gay gun rights group, Pink Pistols, to be anathema to my values, I will defend their right to join our spaces – hopefully, though, without their firearms in tow!

The theocratic and political Right loudly warns of a so-called “Gay Agenda” that we are supposedly attempting to impose in the schools, in the houses of workshop, in the halls of Congress, and in the homes of “unsuspecting” citizens throughout this land. Though there may be some basic issues on which most of us agree, we comprise such a diverse community (actually, many communities) — people with disparate views, social identities, political and religious affiliations, and people who are at all degrees of “outness” — there is no possible way that we could ever propose and work toward a unified “agenda.”

Quite simply, I believe that sexual and gender identities alone are insufficient to link a community and by extension, an entire movement. And this is possibly how it should be.

Of course, we certainly can and should challenge one another when we disagree on views, actions, terminology, perceptions of history, and ways to move forward. If indeed it is true, as the old saying goes, that the fish is the last to see the water because it is so pervasive, then from our vantage point at the margins, we have a special opportunity, indeed a responsibility, to serve as social commentators, as critics, exposing and highlighting the wide-scale inequities (or all kinds) that dampen and saturate our environment, and to challenge the culture to move forever forward and to grow.

We have crossed a critical line, however, when we enter into character assassination, insinuation and innuendo, name-calling, stereotyping, defamation, and calling into question one another’s motives for the views and perspectives we hold. I don’t care if it is people within our own communities, of even members of the ultra-right, the president of our local school board, or the neighbor next door, we don’t have to employ the tactics or use the language of those whom we oppose.

I recall the long and tortured history when the organizers of the annual South Boston Saint Patrick’s Day Parade forbad entry of the Irish LGBT organization’s contingent.

Are we as a community not acting like those who oppress us by using their exclusionary tactics? Have we learned nothing from the great  Audre Lorde in her warning that “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”

A “coalition” develops when individuals join with others of similar and differing backgrounds and social identities to work toward a common goal. Coalitions, however, are often very difficult to attain and can also be very uncomfortable.

Who promised comfort and threatening-free spaces in political engagement? According to African American feminist activist and writer, Bernice Johnson Reagon,

“I feel as if I’m gonna keel over any minute and die. That is often what it feels like if you’re really doing coalition work. Most of the time you feel threatened to the core and if you don’t, you’re not really doing no coalescing.”

But, if we are doing good work with overriding positive goals, the discomfort is worth the struggle.

The preeminent multicultural educator, Sonia Nieto likens multiculturalism to a great tapestry:

“A tapestry is a handwoven textile. When examined from the back, it may simply appear to be a motley group of threads. But when reversed, the threads work together to depict a picture of structure and beauty.”

The process is not always comfortable, not always neat, but the multicultural society provides a space for everyone to be heard, to reflect, to engage in critical dialogue, and to enter into a space of understanding, though not always agreement of views and cultures different from one’s own.

What I see happening at incidents like the Dyke March in the queer community, my queer community in terms of the internal policing is not what I fought for as an active member of the Gay Liberation Front and ACT UP. It has never been and never will be part of my “Gay Agenda.”

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

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

June 26th, 2017 at 12:21 pm

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Trump Administration Missing-In-Positive-Action at Pride Time

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As many of us commemorate the 48th anniversary of the historic Stonewall Inn-surrection during our month of Pride, the Trump administration chose to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the founding of an extremist right-wing group, Focus on the Family, as Vice President Mike Pence addressed the group in its Colorado Springs location promising “you have an unwavering ally in President Donald Trump.”

Pence referred to Focus on the Family as a “cornerstone of American life for so many Americans,” and he signified that its founder, James Dobson, is a “friend and mentor to me.” During last year’s presidential campaign, Pence spoke on Dobson’s radio program.

Focus on the Family comprises a conservative theocratic mega-media Christian ministry. On its official website, FOF promotes itself:

“To cooperate with the Holy Spirit in sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with as many people as possible by nurturing and defending the God-ordained institution of the family and promoting biblical truths worldwide.”

FOF declares that “[u]ltimately, we believe that the purpose of life is to know and glorify God through an authentic relationship with His Son, Jesus Christ. This purpose is lived out first within our own families then extended, in love, to an increasingly broken world that desperately needs Him.”

Founded by James C. Dobson in 1977, FOF, charted as a not-for-profit agency, functions as the largest theocratic-right organization in the United States operating out of Colorado Springs, Colorado. FOF supported the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (the federal law enacted September 21, 1996 defining legal marriage as only a union between one man and one woman).

It rejects reproduction freedoms for women, opposes sexuality education in schools except “abstinence-only,” works to ban curricular materials it deems inappropriate including notions of multiculturalism and specifically anything it has determined promotes the so-called “homosexual” or “gay agenda,” encourages prayer in schools, supports private school vouchers to pay for parochial education at tax payer expense and to the detriment of public schooling, and many other conservative causes.

According to Dobson: “Tolerance and its first cousin, diversity, are almost always buzzwords for homosexual advocacy.”

Dobson backed elective candidates, Randall Terry and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), who have called for the execution of abortion providers. He has referred to embryonic stem-cell research as “state-funded cannibalism,” encourages parents to abandon the public school system, and supports a constitutional amendment that would permit forced organized prayer in public schools. In addition, he founded a group called “Love Won Out” (later called “True Story) in 1998 dedicated to converting homosexuals to heterosexuality.

Dobson led FOF until 2003, before leaving when he established Family Talk in 2010 and initiating his radio broadcast, “Family Talk with Dr. James Dobson.” In his 2004 book Marriage under Fire, Dobson likens proponents of marriage for same-sex couples to Nazis: “Like Adolf Hitler, who overran his European neighbors, those who favor homosexual marriage are determined to make it legal, regardless of the democratic processes that stand in their way” p. 41.

Further, he claims that the “homosexual activist movement [is] working to implement a master plan that has as its centerpiece the utter destruction of the family” p. 19. According to Dobson, the goals of this movement includes: “…universal acceptance of the gay lifestyle, the discrediting of Scriptures that condemn homosexuality, muzzling of the clergy and Christian media, granting special privileges and rights in the law, overturning laws prohibiting pedophilia, indoctrination of children and future generations through public education, and securing all the legal benefits of marriage for any two or more people who claim to have homosexual tendencies” p. 19.

In addition to FOF, Dobson also created the Family Research Council (FRC) in 1981, which has developed into a major influential theocratic Right organization campaigning for so-called “traditional family values” as FRC sees it. The Southern Poverty Law Center has deemed FRC an extremist “hate group.”

In the face of Internal Revenue Service investigations of FRC’s overt lobbying activities, FRC administratively separated from FOF in 1992 to become an independent organization. Gary Bauer took over the helm as first president until 2003 when Tony Perkins succeeded him.

FRC takes virtually identical theocratic Right positions as its “parent” organization, FOF. Peter Sprigg, FRC’s Senior Researcher for Policy Studies asserted that same-sex sexuality should be legislated and declared illegal, and that “criminal sanctions against homosexual behavior” should be enforced. More recently, Sprigg argued that repealing the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy would encourage molestation of heterosexual service members.

Perkins himself has argued that “Homosexual men are more likely to abuse children than straight men,” that “homosexual misconduct” in the military will increase without the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, and on Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court: “We do not need a justice on the Supreme Court who sees it as her life mission to write the homosexual version of Roe v. Wade by striking down one-man, one-woman marriage across America.”

We must locate both FOF and its off-shoot FRC in a wider context, for they most certainly do not operate in isolation, but are, in fact, part of a much larger and wider conservative theological, political, and social movement founded and maintained on their interpretation of conservative Christian biblical pronouncements and principles.

This informal coalition of conservative Christian groups, often known collectively as the “Christian Right,” primarily evangelical and Catholic, include The Heritage Foundation (a conservative political “think”-tank founded in 1973), Concerned Women for America, American Coalition on Traditional Values, Coalition for Religious Freedom, Eagle Forum, Moral Majority, American Center for Law and Justice, Christian Coalition, Christian Voice, National Organization for Marriage, and many others too numerous to list.

Though the term “Christian Right” has been used to represent this movement, this terminology is inaccurate and misleading. A sizable number of well-intentioned conservative Christians do not abide by many of the extreme stances taken by movement leaders – leaders who seem to have hijacked Jesus’s message. While several leaders and organizations within this movement bristle against the notion of a large centralized government, paradoxically, they seem to be working toward the imposition of a powerful theocracy in their image.

Since “Christianity” cannot be viewed as monolithic because numerous denominations make disparate interpretations of scripture, the term “theocratic Right” is more accurate to represent this Right-wing religiously-based movement under discussion.

Several universities are also associated with the theocratic Right, namely Bob Jones University, Oral Roberts University, Liberty University, Regent University, Patrick Henry College, and Baylor University. The theocratic Right movement operates with vast media network of electronic and print outlets, including The Christian Broadcasting Network, Fox News, and a complex radio network with leading commentators including Rush Limbaugh and formerly Laura Schlessinger.

Many of these theocratic Right groups and religious ministries push what they refer to as Christian therapy for, as they phrase it, to remove people from the “deviant homosexual lifestyle.” These therapies go by such names as the X-Gay religious ministries, Exodus International, Homosexual Anonymous (a cynical co-optation of 12-Step programs methods of recovery), PFOX (Parents, Families, and Friends of X-Gays and Lesbians (an obvious rip-off of the LGBT allies support network PFLAG—Parents, Families, and Friends of Gays and Lesbians), and the so-called Reparative or Conversion Therapies, which promise conversion to heterosexuality if the patient has the required motivation to change.

As a brief aside, the theocratic Right paints LGBT as having so-called “lifestyles” while at least implying, on the other hand, that heterosexual people live lives. “Homosexual lifestyles” are political and theocratic buzzwords to conjure up forbidden and depraved sexual and predatory behaviors.

While no Republican president, including Trump, has ever issued a statement in support of LGBTQ Pride Month, President Clinton issued his first and second proclamations during his final two years in the White House, and President Barack Obama proclaimed this historic event each of his eight years in office.

As the first president to release a presidential proclamation commemorating Pride Month, Clinton stated, in part:

“I am proud of the measures my administration has taken to end discrimination against gays and lesbians and ensure that they have the same rights guaranteed to their fellow Americans… America’s diversity is our greatest strength. But, while we have come a long way on our journey toward tolerance, understanding, and mutual respect, we still have a long way to go in our efforts to end discrimination.”

Trump and all the Republicans remain missing in any form of positive action.

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

 

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

June 25th, 2017 at 5:06 pm

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Anti-Judaism, “Internal” Criticism, and Cyberbulling

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“Blumee is a Jew – he wants you dead – the Jews use the gays – once they’re able they will exterminate the Greeco Roman traditions of the west. it’s the Jew’s Bible that condemns male to male sexuality – wake the fuc k up,” wrote someone by the screen name “Soldat für Christus” in response to my recent commentary for LGBTQ Nation, “Why I Don’t Pledge My Allegiance to the American Flag.”

Though I gave a first-person account of the many reasons why I have chosen not to place my hand over my heart and robotically recite words to a tri-colored emblem, and I never once referred to my religious and ethnic heritage, this so-called Christian soldier continued:

“america is no longer a sovereignty nation it is controlled by the Jews, politically and economic – we’re the Jews bitch…. Only white nations are not allowed to be proud of their country – Multiculturalism is code for White genocide. The Talmudic Jews are completely open about their beliefs and goals. They believe darker races are easier to control and they believe the only way to control free people is to breed them out. Open your eyes people. Look at what’s been happening all over the world. Islam isn’t making U.S.& Eu immigration law.”

This comment illustrates a major anti-Jewish stereotype that while dominant societies have frequently been concerned that Jews can “pass” without detection into the mainstream, they have also historically portrayed Jews as rich and powerful conspirators who aim to control, manipulate, and eventually destroy societies.

This respondent’s kicking post, though, did not begin and end with me. No, for in their own way, they bashed intersectionally with a warning:

“This site [LGBTQ Nation] is worthless to young handsome white gay guys – most of you have cut off your dicks – your so prevented you want the rest us of to kill ourselves off as well.—– A new generation of young proud gay white men has arrived. So screw you old flabby tyrannies and lesbos. the push back is started -You’re done.”

Self-described as “gay,” this person chose as a screen icon what appeared to be the picture of a uniformed young white male who resembled a Nazi Storm Trooper under the infamous Ernst Röhm who paved the way for the rise of Adolph Hitler.

Even prior to the era of Trumpian white nationalism, I cannot help but reflect on the psychological studies when I read some of the comments and letters printed in our LGBTQ community and national publications, as well as messages on our internet chat rooms, blog sites, and email lists in which writers engage in vicious personal attacks, name calling, character association, and impugning of motives of other LGBT people and our allies with whom they disagree. It is as though these writers forget that there are actual human beings on the other end of the computer screen.

When reading the personal attacks against “our own,” I must ask myself, “Have some of us taken on the characteristics of our abusers by perpetuating the abuse? And what role does internalized oppression play in this equation?”

I have talked with several of our national and local LGBTQ leaders who have uniformly related that they have never been attacked in print as viciously by opponents from outside our communities as they have been by people from within our communities. It appears that we are virtually “eating our own.”

I am hearing of university professors, excellent educators, who have dedicated their lives to their students and their scholarship, who are leaving their chosen professions because they are experiencing angry attacks when they assign reading materials or they use terminology within their lectures that students don’t like.

Personally, on nearly every occasion when I post an article or commentary online, or share my educational materials – at no cost – to members of LGBTQ and other communities, though many comments are very supportive, almost every time one or a few people impugn my character and attack my academic rigor.

Though I make it known that I am always open to constructive criticism in terms of making suggested changes, corrections, deletions, and additions when presented to me within an environment of civility, some people feel they have the right and are entitled to attack me because I perceive topics from a different vantage point.

To engage in conversation, discussion, and dialogue entails a level of trust and respect, and involves an honest and open exchange of ideas. Once we digress into personal attacks, innuendo, character assassination, name calling, and calling into question another’s motives, a critical line has been crossed, a line from civil discourse into bullying, and the potential for real education has been lost.

Discussion can advance the development of critical consciousness. This consciousness involves a process in which we first discover the assumptions that guide our decisions, actions, and choices. Then through further reading and discussion, we can check the accuracy of our previously held assumptions by exploring as many different perspectives, viewpoints, and sources as possible. This will then allow us to make better informed decisions that are based on larger bodies of information than we had previously.

When we sink to a base level, however, we do a great disservice not only to ourselves, but also to our communities, and we perpetuate a negative role modeling for our young people.

While bullying and harassment have long been problems for young people in our nation’s schools at every level, advanced information and communication technologies bypass, filter, and thus mitigate social cues that act in ways to constrain bullying. At the same time, these information and communication technologies extend abusive and destructive bullying practices to virtually all aspects of a person’s life. Thus, cyberbullying takes bullying to a more destructive and protracted level.

The very nature of social communication technologies, however, establish the conditions that make it possible for users to perform and act in cyberspace in ways they would not ordinarily act in face-to-face interactions. The user experiences reduced or filtered sensual input, often unable to see or hear the person or people on the other end: no facial expressions signaling emotional output, no ability to see or read body language and voice intonations.

Computers embody one of postmodernism’s important tenets by challenging, contesting, and ultimately destabilizing identities. Through computer-mediated interactions, individuals continually redeploy identities as fluid, changing, multifaceted, and non-essentialized.

This identity destabilization presents several possibilities, for it can allow individuals to relate in genuinely open and honest ways online about themselves that might be frightening offline to discuss in real life personal encounters. On the other hand, with anonymity, the individual can act out hostile or sadistic emotions by abusing others online.

We must, however, take the higher ground.

To view my extensive PowerPoint presentation in two parts on the long history of anti-Jewish oppression press here: Part 1 and Part 2.

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

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

June 24th, 2017 at 3:57 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

“It’s Obama’s Fault,” In Rhyme

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

If one believes Trump:

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

And for the phony Russia investigation to unfold.

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

And for all his oh too many clear lies.

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

Because of him, that country’s a mess.

It’s Obama’s fault for Taliban terror,

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

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

And for all of our students’ failing scores.

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

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

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

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

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

When we are hot, and when we all freeze.

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

And for America’s slide to the rock bottom.

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

And for all the world’s many terrorist alarms.

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

And for the rain on the plain throughout Spain.

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

These raping, conniving, trespassing hoards.

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

And for shifting economic tectonic plates.

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

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

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

And his fault when crude now hits the floor.

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

And because things are no longer American made.

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

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

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

And for too few cops who walk on their beats.

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

And when thieves pillage and when they do plunder.

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

When the Earth shakes and lightning bolts smash.

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

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

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

And whenever we encounter any bad sailing.

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

While he’s been swimming in his delusion.

It’s Obama’s fault for contaminated air,

With his head in the clouds and his elitist stare.

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

Now because our best days have long since past.

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

The fault lies in his evil collusion.

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

And whenever anyone in America gains weight.

It’s Obama’s fault for terrorist plots,

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

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

And anytime that anyone of us must grieve.

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

And it’s his fault for melting Milk Duds.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And also his fault for Chuck Schumer’s passions.

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

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

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

The reason being that Obama’s a jerk.

It’s Obama’s fault for AIDS and TB,

For cancer and also ADHD.

It’s Obama’s fault for Obama care,

For anything and everything that is not fair.

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

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

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

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

Thank you President Barack Obama!

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

 

 

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

June 22nd, 2017 at 10:02 am

Posted in Uncategorized

I Don’t Pledge My Allegiance to Any Flag

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I pledge allegiance…” 

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

“…to the flag…” 

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

“…of the United States of America…” 

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

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

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

“…one nation…” 

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

“…under God…”

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

“…indivisible…” 

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

“…with liberty…” 

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

“…and justice for all.” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

June 21st, 2017 at 3:03 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Donald Trump’s Situational Compassion and Outrage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

June 20th, 2017 at 5:09 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Capitalism & Cooptation of Systemic Progressive Change

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Others responded:

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

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

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

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

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

Another Facebook friend wrote a comment to my original posting:

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

A fourth responder criticized my posting:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Ain’t singin’ for Pepsi

Ain’t singin’ for Coke

I don’t sing for nobody

Makes me look like a joke

This note’s for you.”

For my Critical Thinking Checklist, press here.

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

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

June 18th, 2017 at 2:36 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Southern Baptist Convention Remains South of Decency and Reason

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

June 17th, 2017 at 11:58 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What about you now Rand Paul?

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

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

June 14th, 2017 at 8:17 pm

Posted in Uncategorized