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Media Cohesion Essential in Trumpian Post-Fact Era

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“We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.” Benjamin Franklin

Appearing on the MSNBC “Morning Joe” program Tuesday March 21, White House correspondent for the political center-right Independent Journal Review, Erin McPike, explained why she was chosen as the only reporter allowed to travel with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson aboard his plane on his recent visit to Asia.McPike described how she contacted the State Department on several occasions for an interview with the Secretary of State with little results. Following publication of her article concerning Tillerson’s daily access to the President, Tillerson consented to grant McPike an interview during his Asia trip.

Associated Press White House correspondent Julie Page interrogated McPike about the ethics of her decision to accept Tillerson’s invitation when all other members of the press pool were barred.

Page asked, “Why not do the right thing for everyone and not just your news outlet? Do you think it hurts the case for press access going forward now that they [the Trump administration] know that at least one news organization will take this special access and not stand with the rest of the press core?”

“Well Julie,” retorted McPike, “I don’t know if that’s fair. I mean, if you had the opportunity to get the first interview with the Secretary of State, don’t you think you would have taken it?”

“Absolutely,” Page quipped,” but not if it’s on a plane at the exclusion of other reporters…. There’s a difference between an interview and then the traveling press core that sees the ins and outs of what the Secretary of State is doing, to know who he’s meeting with, to know what he’s doing.”

In her interview, McPike asked Tillerson if he would permit a larger press pool to accompany him in the future. According to Tillerson:

“I’m not a big media press access person. I personally don’t need it. Doing daily availability,” he added, “I don’t have this appetite or hunger to be that, have a lot of things, have a lot of quotes in the paper or be more visible with the media.”

Seated in studio next to Page, former Republican National Committee Chair, Michael Steele (2009-2011) made the insightful observation that he was witnessing in the exchange between these two reporters a rather successful and possibly intentional strategy of the Trump White House in creating tensions and imposing a wedge to separate and split the media.

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

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

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

Trump continues to describe the New York Times as “failing” even though subscriptions for this newspaper of note rose by 2.5 million alone since the November 2016 election.

Donald Trump apparently does not consider his style of presentation as combative, though he accuses the press of creating a confrontational climate.

“And I’ll tell you what else I see [in the media]. I see tone. You know the word tone [he said sarcastically]. The tone is such hatred. I’m really not a bad person, by the way. No, but the tone is — I do get good ratings, you have to admit that — the tone is such hatred.”

Trump admitted that he actually likes and has been positively energized by his feud with the media.

“I will be honest. I sort of enjoy this back and forth, and I have all my life, but I have never seen more dishonest people than frankly the political media.”

While Trump is passionate about his feud with the media, and though Tillerson has no “need” for them, our democracy, on the other hand, not only needs a free and unencumbered press, but it is existentially dependent on it.

So next time Trump or his White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, verbally attack individual journalists and entire press outlets or refuse to address their questions, the remainder of the press attending a briefing must make it known that they will refrain from asking further questions until and unless their colleagues’ receive either an apology or their concerns are addressed.

The reporters at Trump’s recent press conference should have stood unified following the President’s characterization of BuzzFeed as “a failing pile of garbage” for posting, along with some other outlets, an unverified dossier of information supposedly linking the Trump campaign directly to the Russian government.

They should have stood unified following Trump’s refusal to take CNN reporter Jim Acosta’s question at the same press conference because his network published a 2-page summary of that dossier. Said Acosta from the press gallery to the President,

“Since you are attacking our news organization, can you give us a chance to ask a question?”

Trump refused arguing: “They are very, very dishonest people,” and he moved on to take other reporters’ questions.

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.

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

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

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

While definitely tempting for reporters and media organizations to battle one another by pecking at the hard ground for these mere morsels of access, the higher goal of bringing truth to the people should outweigh the crumbs. The media will feed from the entire delicious pie if and when they remain unified.

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

 

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

March 21st, 2017 at 6:37 pm

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Reflections of a Proud “Momma’s Boy”

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I Am Not There…

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.

Anonymous

Not a day goes by that I don’t think about my mother, Blanche Mahler Blumenfeld, who died four years ago just two day before her 89th birthday. Her father, Simon Mahler, also died at age 89, and her mother Eva Schoenwetter Mahler passed away at around age 92. (We don’t know exactly because we discovered that Eva always told people she was four years younger than she really was since convention at the time of her wedding in 1921 dictated that wives should be younger than their husbands.)

When my father died in 1998, my sister Susan asked me to deliver his eulogy at the funeral on that excruciatingly hot and dry Nevada August day. I was visiting friends in London when he died, and during the flight to Las Vegas, I had no difficulty transferring thoughts to paper, which I read later at the cemetery.

Though I pride myself as being a fairly good writer, this time when Susan asked me to write our mother’s eulogy, I simply could not find the words to what my mother truly meant to me. She was such a large part of my life and my consciousness, and she remains so to this day. She was more than my mother, for she was my best friend and confidant. I couldn’t even imagine my life without her.

Though our society discourages true closeness between mothers and sons, and students at my schools often ridiculed and bullied me for it, I am proud to have been “a momma’s boy.” I am proud to have been her son and her friend.

Mom was certainly not perfect. She was actually far from it, and her imperfections were what most endeared me to her. She was not always the best cook. No matter how hard she tried, she could not make a pot roast without burning the bottom (which for me was always the best part). She made Susan and me eat cow’s tongue, which still to this day makes me nauseous whenever I think of the cow’s taste buds touching my own.

She never liked to watch movies with British actors because she said she didn’t understand “foreign languages.” She considered chocolate as her primary vegetable, and she regularly ate her required daily servings. She hated to drink water because “it had no taste,” so she weaned Susan and me on Pepsi, and then later DietRite Cola.

She complained whenever having to go out in snow, but she loved to watch it fall from the window. Her favorite trees were White Birch and especially Weeping Willow because it reminded her of her childhood home in Brooklyn. She wept the day the great Willow toppled in her front lawn during a storm.

She loved to swim, and practiced constantly to beat her older brother, Jack — the only person at summer camp who swam faster. She loved Eva and Simon, Jack and her younger brother Charles (“Chickie”), and she never recovered from their loss. Often, when calling for me, she often slipped and called me “Jack” or “Chic” by mistake, but there was no mistake because they were always part of her soul.

Mother never felt comfortable with the title “matriarch” because she said she never asked to be the last one remaining, and the last one left behind.

In my mother, what you saw was what you got. She was the most genuine and honest person I have ever met. She could not tolerate falseness or hypocrisy, and she could see it immediately when displayed in anyone around her. She had a voice, and she certainly used it. She stated and defended her positions firmly and with conviction, and always with compassion.

My mother was very bright, creative, and she had a number of talents: she could carry a good tune, she could have been a fabulous beautician if she had wanted to pursue that career, she gave great neck rubs with her strong fingers.

She loved beauty, Mario Lanza records, the color blue, sugary snacks, bagels and Jewish rye bread with Philadelphia cream cheese, Guilden’s mustard and Helman’s (Best Food’s) mayonnaise, her own kosher dill pickles, chopped liver, and manicotti. She loved people, and she loved life itself.

Though she might not have been the best at some things, there is no doubt that she was the best mom.

My mother’s life was rarely easy and often filled with constant struggles. We never had much money, and to say that my father was difficult to live with would be an understatement. Mother, though, lived with grace and integrity, with a wonderful infectious sense of humor, and without complaint. She was loved and is loved, and she will never be forgotten.

There is a concept in Jewish tradition known as Tikkun Olam — meaning the transformation, healing, and repairing of the world so that it becomes a more just, peaceful, nurturing, and perfect place. My mother made the world a better place just by being herself. She brought joy and compassion to all she met. I never heard anyone voice anything but praise for her.

I say Shalom to you mom, and I say to you, go in love and in peace. I know you are still looking after me in death as you always did in life.

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

March 15th, 2017 at 10:38 pm

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Hey Steve King: They Are All OUR Babies

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U.S. Republican Representative Steve King yet again insulted not only the Iowa residents of his congressional district but also the people throughout our country. In his latest nationalist white supremacist rant this week, he supported far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders by tweeting that civilizations cannot be restored with “someone else’s babies”:

“Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”

King doubled down in a CNN interview by stating that he meant what he tweeted, and criticized immigrants who “don’t assimilate into America.” Soon afterwards, former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke, retweeted King’s diatribe adding: “GOD BLESS STEVE KING!”

King’s Naked Racist & Xenophobic Clothing

I found it extremely difficult and frightening to watch the Republican National Presidential Convention on its first night, since I had the definite impression that I was witnessing not simply a political gathering, but more distinctly, a neo-nationalist power rally with angry, primarily white and older Party activists.

The following day, I saw a rerun segment of a panel discussion on MSNBC hosted by Chris Hayes, which included Esquire magazine’s Charles Pierce who discussed what he perceived as the “old white people” who run the Republican Party. He argued that the convention is filled with “loud, unhappy, dissatisfied white people.”

Before I could take pride in the accuracy of my own perceptions, GOP Representative Steve King of Iowa piped in with a jaw-dropping quip by retorting:

“This whole ‘white people’ business, though, does get a little tired, Charlie. I mean, I’d ask you to go back through history and figure out, where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people that you’re talking about? Where did any other sub-group of people contribute to civilization?”

“Than white people?,” asked Hayes incredulously. King backtracked a bit and emphasized that in “Western civilization itself” and places where Christianity had a foothold was based on the contributions of primarily white people.

While one might automatically dismiss King as simply an extreme Right-wing nut, the presidential standard bearer of his party, Donald Trump, has moved King’s rhetoric and policies to the center. Throughout King’s infamous political career in the Iowa State Senate (1996-2002), and U.S. House since 2002, he has consistently defended the authority of white Christian people.

For example, he, like Donald Trump, have targeted undocumented immigrants, and rejected the notion that many are high-achieving students. King asserted that they should not receive a pathway to citizenship saying that for every valedictorian who is legalized, “there’s another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”

What seemed impossible, Trump actually moved to King’s right flank on issues of southern immigration:

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

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

Steve King was also a prominent and outspoken “birther.” He has consistently tried to define President Barack Obama as “other” by attempting to prevent our former President the right of self-definition – an apparent contradiction within a political party that emphasizes rugged individualism, freedom, and liberty.

In August 2012, King made the absurdist accusation during a tele-town hall meeting that though his staff had found Barack Obama’s birth announcement in two separate Hawaiian newspapers,

“That doesn’t mean there aren’t some other explanations on how they might’ve announced that by telegram from Kenya.”

In addition, according to King while Obama was running for the presidential nomination in 2008:

“When you think about the optics of a Barack Obama potentially getting elected President of the United States…[w]hat does it look like to the world of Islam? I will tell you that, if he is elected president, then the radical Islamists, the al-Qaida, the radical Islamists and their supporters, will be dancing in the streets in greater numbers than they did on September 11 because they will declare victory in this War on Terror.”

Echoing King, Trump demanded during his campaign “for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” which plays into the rising tide of Islamophobia in the United States.

Trump, King, and other anti-immigration activists connect narratives representing immigrants, migrants, and even visitors to our borders in the language of disease, crime, drugs, alien and lower cultural and life forms, of invading hoards, of barbarians at the gates who if allowed to enter this country will destroy the glorious civilization we have established among the lesser nations of the world.

The 2016 Republican Party Platform codified the language by defining the “other” as “illegal aliens,” as if they were dangerous and deadly non-human invaders from deep space.

Multiculturalism & Social Justice:

In the course I taught at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa titled “Multicultural Foundations in Schools and Society,” I showed students a video of our “Representative” Steve King. Speaking to his supporters on August 21, 2012 at a Le Mars, Iowa, Town Hall meeting, King conjured up a supposed deep and sinister plot to ensnare young and impressionable first-year college students into campus multicultural groups to turn them into victims, which he asserted will convince them to work toward the eventual overthrow of this country’s power structure.

King talked about preparing for a debate on the Iowa State University campus on the concept of multiculturalism. He checked out the university’s website:

“I typed in ‘multicultural,’” he stated on the video, “and it came back to me at the time, 59 different multicultural groups listed to do, to operate on campus at Iowa State….And most of them were victims’ groups, victimology, people who feel sorry for themselves.”

He warned that these groups are “out there recruiting our young people to be part of the group who are feeling sorry for themselves….But just think of 59 card tables set up across the parking lot on the way to the dorm….And the first group says, ‘Well, you’re a victim that fits us. We want to help you. Why don’t you join us?’….And then you’re brought into a group that has a grievance against society rather than understand there’s a tremendous blessing in this society.”

Though King attended Northwest Missouri State University from 1967 to 1970, enrolled in courses toward a career as a wildlife officer, he never completed his degree. His political career officially began when he was elected to the Iowa Senate in 1996. While there, he was instrumental in passing the law mandating English as the “official” language of Iowa.

While in public office, he has consistently taken stands championed by the political Right opposing affirmative action for women and minoritized people, marriage equality for same-sex couples, women’s reproductive freedoms, and gun control, among others.

I advise Mr. King – and indeed, the entire Republican Party establishment and membership – that rather than resisting the concepts of multiculturalism and social justice and viewing these as challenges to our country’s very existence, we need to embrace our rich diversity. Even then Republican National Committee head, Reince Priebus, announced that the Party must undertake better “outreach” to “minorities” in his “autopsy report” following the GOP’s failure to recapture the White House in 2012.

According to the National Association for Multicultural Education:

“Multicultural education is a philosophical concept built on the ideals of freedom, justice, equality, equity, and human dignity as acknowledged in various documents, such as the U.S. Declaration of Independence, constitutions of South Africa and the United States, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations. It affirms our need to prepare student for their responsibilities in an interdependent world.”

Today, the United States stands as the most culturally, ethnically, racially, linguistically, and religiously diverse country in the world. This diversity poses great challenges and great opportunities. I would advise Republicans and others that 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.

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

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

March 13th, 2017 at 3:07 pm

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Ding Dong, Joseph Nikolosi Is Dead, in Context

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“You should never say bad things when someone dies, only good things. Joan Crawford’s dead….Good.”      Betty Davis

An essential element of liberty is the freedom to define oneself. One of the chief violators of this principle, Joseph Nikolosi, died recently at age 70.

Nikolosi established and promoted so-called “reparative therapy” (a.k.a. conversion therapy). As a psychologist and a co-founder of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), Nikolosi advanced his belief that people drawn sexually to their own sex can and should change to heterosexuality in the process of “therapy.” He enumerated his theories about human sexuality in his highly controversial and contested book, Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality: A New Clinical Approach.

Most reputable mental health associations have opposed and declared “reparative therapy” not only ineffective, but as psychologically destructive and dangerous: from the Academy of Pediatrics and American School Counseling Association to the American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, and National Association of Social Workers, among many others.

Five states have already outlawed “reparative therapy”: California, Vermont, Oregon, New Jersey, and Illinois.

Setting the Context

From the so-called “Eugenics Movement” of the mid-nineteenth century though the twentieth century CE and beyond, medical and psychological professions have often proposed and addressed, in starkly medical terms, the alleged “deficiencies,” “mental diseases,” and even “physical” differences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people compared to heterosexuals.

During what has come to be known as the “Eugenics” movement in science (coined by Francis Galton in England in 1883 from the Greek word meaning “well born” or “of good origins or breeding” in which the socially constructed hierarchical concept of “race” was codified), some members of the scientific community viewed people attracted to their own sex as constituting a distinct biological or racial type — those who could be distinguished from “normal” people through anatomical markers.

For example, Dr. G. Frank Lydston, U. S. urologist, surgeon, and Professor from Chicago, in 1889 delivered a lecture titled “Sexual Perversion” at the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Chicago in which he referred to homosexuals as “sexual perverts” who are “physically abnormal.”

“…the unfortunate class of individuals who are characterized by perverted sexuality have been viewed in the light of their moral responsibility rather than as the victims of a physical and incidentally of a mental defect…. Even to the moralist there should be much satisfaction in the thought that a large class of sexual perverts are physically abnormal rather than morally leprous.”

Also, the American medical doctor, Allan McLane Hamilton, wrote in 1896 in his article “The Civil Responsibility of Sexual Perverts, in the American Journal of Insanity:

“The [female homosexual] is usually of a masculine type, or if she presented none of the ‘characteristics’ of the male, was a subject of pelvic disorder, with scanty menstruation, and was more or less hysterical and insane.”

Physician, Perry M. Lichtenstein published in his 1921 medical journal article “The Fairy and the Lady Lover,” that: “A physical examination of [female homosexuals] will in practically every instance disclose an abnormally prominent clitoris,” and that the “fairy” is a “freak of nature who in every way attempts to imitate women.”

And in 1857 in France, the physician August Ambroise Tardieu wrote in his book, Medico-Legal Attacks on Morals, that:

“This degeneracy is evidenced in men who engage in same-sex eroticism by their underdeveloped, tapered penis resembling that of a dog, and a naturally smooth anus lacking in radial folds.”

In addition, rather than considering homosexuality, bisexuality, and gender non-conformity merely as emotional, gender, and sexual differences along a broad spectrum of human potential, some sectors of the medical and psychological communities force pathologizing language onto people with same-sex and all-sex attractions, and those who cross traditional constructions of gender identities and expression.

Dr. Sigmund Freud, for example, saw homosexuality as a developmental disorder, a fixation at one of the intermediate “pregenital” stages. He believed this was caused, at least in part, by an incomplete resolution in males of the Oedipal complex.

The Swiss physician, August Forel, wrote in his 1905 book, The Sexual Issue:

“The [sexual] excesses of female inverts [homosexuals] exceed those of the male,…and this is their one thought night and day, almost without interruption. [Male inverts] feel the need for passive submission…and occupy themselves with feminine pursuits. Nearly all [female and male] inverts are in a more or less marked degree psychopaths or neurotics.”

Educational opportunities for primarily middle-class women improved somewhat during mid-19th century in the United States. Often locked out of most institutions of higher learning, they founded several women’s colleges such as Mt. Holyoke College, Vassar College, Smith College, Wellesley College, and Bryn Mawr.

There were, however, many conservative critics who attacked this new trend warning that educated women would be unfit to fill traditional roles in society, and others, like Dr. Edward Clarke, in his 1873 article, “Sex in Education or A Fair Chance for the Girls,” warned that study would interfere with women’s fertility, causing them chronic uterine disease.

And Dr. Havelock Ellis, in Psychology of Sex, concluded:

“Women’s colleges are the great breeding ground of lesbianism. When young women are thrown together, they manifest an increasing affection by the usual tokens. They kiss each other fondly on every occasion…They learn the pleasure of direct contact…and after this, the normal sex act fails to satisfy them.”

Ellis posited that female homosexuality was increasing because of the rise of feminism, which taught women to be independent of men.

This context has resulted in members of the medical professions committing lesbians, gay males, bisexuals, and those who transgress so-called “normative” gender identities and expressions, often against their will into hospitals, mental institutions, jails and penitentiaries, force pre-frontal lobotomies, electroshock, castration, and sterilization. We have been made to endure “aversion therapy,” “reparative therapy,” “Christian counseling,” and genetic counseling.

The first Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-I) (the American Psychiatric Association-sponsored and endorsed handbook of mental disorders) published in 1952 listed homosexuality, for example, as “Sociopathic Personality Disorder.” The “updated” 1968 DSM-II described homosexuality as “Sexual Orientation Disorder (SOD).”

The physician Irving Bieber co-authored a study in 1962, “Homosexuality: A Psychoanalytic Study of Male Homosexuals” sponsored by the New York Society of Psychoanalysts, in which he concluded that homosexuality constituted a psychopathology that could be cured or prevented with psychoanalysis. Bieber later said in an interview in the New York Times, Dec. 23, 1973:

“A homosexual is a person whose heterosexual function is crippled, like the legs of a polio victim.”

In addition, the psychiatrist Charles Socarides, another co-founder of NARTH, argued that homosexuality is an illness, a neurosis, possibly caused by an over-attachment to the mother, which he too argued could be treated. Bieber and Socrarides became the “authoritative” and often-referenced researchers in the area of causation and “treatment” of homosexuality.

(As a side note, Socarides’ son Richard came out as gay and served as a White House counselor and principle advisor on LGBT rights to President Bill Clinton.)

By 1973, the American Psychiatric Association had finally changed its designation of homosexuality for those comfortable with their sexual orientation, now asserting that it does not constitute a disorder.

Two years later, in 1975, the American Psychological Association followed suit and urged mental health professionals “to take the lead in removing the stigma of mental illness that has long been associated with homosexual orientations.” It declared:

“[H]omosexuality per se implies no impairment in judgment, stability, reliability, or general social or vocational capabilities.”

The American Psychiatric Association, in its DSM-V, the diagnosis of “gender identity disorder,” which the manual imposed upon transgender people since it published DSM-III in 1980, changed to the designation, “gender dysphoria,” which APA considers as a descriptive term rather than as diagnostic and pathologizing.

In the case of LGBT people, the scientific community has consistently deployed the “medical model” to investigate and pathologize the “other.” In so doing, heteronormativity and cissupremacy (oppression and colonization against trans people), therefore, became perceived as unremarkable or “normal,” unquestioned hegemonic norms against which all others are judged.

Heterosexual and cisgender norms have justified and explained away the otherwise unacceptable persecution and oppression of non-conforming sexual and gender identity groups, while evading issues of domination, privilege, subordination, and marginalization. This “medicalization” of homosexuality, bisexuality, and gender non-conformity only serves to strengthen oppression and heterosexual and cisgender privilege through its relative invisibility.

Given this invisibility, issues of oppression and privilege are neither analyzed nor scrutinized, neither interrogated nor confronted by members of the dominant group. But we have taken back the discourse and proudly assert again and again that “an essential element of liberty is the freedom to define oneself.”

The death of Nikolosi signifies, at the very least, that we have reached the middle of the end of externalized definitions of our bodies and our identities.

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

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

March 10th, 2017 at 3:16 pm

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Trump and Collective National Traumatic Stress Disorder

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Each week throughout the year as I make my pleasant two-mile walk to my local supermarket with four-wheeled cart in tow, I pass a house with a large white pole and a United States flag in the front yard flowing in the breeze. Recently in my western Massachusetts neighborhood, we experienced very heavy sustained winds with even stronger gusts.

Subsequently, this week as I traveled my customary jaunt, I noticed that the wind somehow noticeably tilted the pole and tore and battered the flag. Seemingly one of the holes hooked up and over the pole causing the flag to knot up onto itself. Metaphorically, this torn, battered, and knotted flag incapable of flying unfurled symbolizes the current political climate ravaging our country.

While strong political winds have forever blown through this land even before revolution detached us from the British empire, our most recent election cycle into the first 100 days of the new presidency has ripped and tattered our politics by reaching unprecedented proportions.

Donald J. Trump has whipped up destructive Category 5 hurricane force winds, and he has left a collective national (possibly worldwide) traumatic stress disorder in its wake with his rhetoric, behavior, and policies. (This could not now be referred to as a collective national post-traumatic stress disorder – PTSD – since it remains ongoing.)

Throughout the primaries and transition and into his taking over the White House, Trump has used the bodies of entire groups of people as stepping stone in his ascension to power: Muslims, Jews, Latinx and specifically Mexicans, undocumented residents, trans and lesbian, gay, and bisexual people, people with disabilities, women and their reproductive rights, journalists and mainstream media outlets, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the United Nations, the presidents of Mexico and Australia, people dependent on government entitlements to survive, and many others. (Trauma)

He picked for national security advisor a retired military Army Lt. General who was convicted of having “inappropriately shared” classified information with foreign governments, and who was charged with breaking protocol and lying by negotiating with Russian government officials a possible sanctions relief before Trump took office.

He nominated a highly controversial billionaire to head the Department of Education who has in the past advocated for a voucher system that would divert funding from public school to private and parochial schools.

He chose to lead the Department of Energy a former Texas Governor who admitted he was unaware of the function of the department he was to administer, and who, in his infamous “oops” moment in his run for the presidency in 2012, actually forgot that this was one of the three federal agencies he intended to eliminate.

In addition, Trump’s Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development admitted having no experience for the job, a Secretary of Health and Human Services who has been accused of having close financial ties to pharmaceutical and health insurance companies, a Secretary of State with close links to Russian and other foreign government officials, a Secretary of the Department of Justice with a controversial track record at best in the area of civil rights and voting rights and who has been charged by some Democrats with lying during his confirmation hearings about his talks with the Russian government during the election, and an Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency who has sued that very agency in the past for imposing regulations he believed were detrimental to business. (Trauma)

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 potentially environmentally damaging Dakota Access and Keystone oil pipelines, and increased coal mining, natural gas, crude and scale oil drilling. (Trauma)

He has increased the risk of war by attempting to slash the budget for the Department of State by an estimated 30% while increasing the military budget by around $54 million. (Trauma)

He is pushing for a repeal of the Affordable Care Act to be replaced by a Republican plan, which, if enacted, would make it less affordable for middle and lower income people to purchase health insurance and eliminate an estimated 10 million people currently on the ACA while simultaneously lowering taxes for the super-rich. It would also reduce the number of people eligible for Medicaid, and potentially eliminate federal reimbursements to Planned Parenthood. (Trauma)

Trump’s travel ban specifically targets people from Muslim-majority countries, and his reversal of Obama’s order to permit trans students to use school facilities most closely aligning with their gender identities places trans students at increased risk for marginalization and bullying. (Trauma)

We have witnessed a new wave of anti-Semitic incidents throughout the country in the form of Jewish gravesite desecrations and bomb threats at over 100 Jewish community centers and at a Jewish children’s museum. Homophobic, racist, and Islamophobic incidents are on the rise, and someone torched and destroyed a mosque in Texas, as the white supremacist ultra-right solutes the new Commander in Chief. (Trauma)

And overarching the entire Trump presidency leers a scandal of unparalleled proportions involving the Russian government’s invasion of our electoral process with possible collusion by members of Trump’s campaign and administration.

Without any shred of evidence, he arrogantly accused former president Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower, attacked the reliability and independence of our intelligence agencies, seriously called into question the credibility of a U.S.-born federal judge of Mexican heritage, cynically mocked a reporter with disabilities, labeled the media “the opposition party,” and reportedly admitted to grabbing women by their genitals.

Though he talks like a populist, he behaves like an authoritarian oligarch. He promised to “drain the swamp” of Washington while stocking that very swamp with Wall Street insiders. And he has lied through his teeth on a regular basis.

Donald Trump has clearly demonstrated that he does not have the requisite character, temperament, and background for the most important job in the United States, and he certainly lacks the willingness to learn.

Resiliency is one thing, but just how much more trauma and whiplash can we as individuals and as a society take?

What this would-be dictator has accomplished, however, on the other side of the equation, is to invigorate the political left-of-center in coming together in coalition to resist the rightward course set by Trump and his Republican congressional cronies.

Like the regressive tactics of Anita Bryant in her so-called “Save Our Children” campaign to reverse “Gay Rights” ordinances in Dade Country, Florida and other locales throughout the country during the late 1970s, and the widespread governmental and larger societal inaction in the opening years of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, which reenergized the progressive LGBT movement, and the brutality directed against black and brown people by some “law enforcement” officials, which sparked the “Black Lives Matter” movement, Trump in his perverse way has inspired (forced) people of many varied social identities to connect in direct action for mutual protection and survival, some for the first time.

Ironically, Trump has also revitalized our appreciation of and dependence on the media for the information we need to make sense of the times and on which we can better make informed decisions.

We cannot predict how much longer the continual stream of traumatic events will last and how much longer our tattered flag will remain knotted on the pole, but one thing is certain. As the old saying goes, “What does not kill us will make us stronger.”

Warren J. Blumenfeld is associate professor in the School of Education at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. He 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

March 9th, 2017 at 6:28 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Declaring My Gender Liberation

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In this my 70th year of life, I am traveling a journey out of yet another closet.

Throughout my entire 70 years, I have never “felt” male, and except for between the ages of 8-10 when I “felt” female, the vast majority of my time on this planet I have neither felt male nor female. The trans movement has given me the space and the terminology to see and define myself as “non-binary” and “agender.” Specifically, my brilliant and inspirational young cousin, Ariel Mahler, assisted in prying open my gender closet door by courageous example.

My pronouns are Warren, Warren, and Warren in the first, second, and third person, in the past, pluperfect, present, future, and subjunctive tenses. I also don’t object if people use pronouns to describe me since “he” and “she” never had much resonance or importance in connection to myself.

I am not defining as “trans,” and though I suppose that I present as “cis,” I honestly don’t know, or at this point in my life particularly care, where I fall on the wide and extensive cis/trans spectrum.

I do know quite well, though, that I have deeply internalized the social repression against breaking free from the gender status quo all of those 70 years. I am painfully aware of how I continually self-censor and edit my public behavior and presentation. Though I don’t necessarily like it, I clothe myself in muted colors in my attempts to remain as invisible as possible in the course of my day. I am working now to understand how I want to express my gender with integrity, authenticity, and lack of fear.

I was born in 1947 during the so-called “McCarthy Era” — a conservative time, a time when difference of any sort was viewed with suspicion and scorn. On the floor of the U.S. Senate, a brash young Senator from Wisconsin, Joseph McCarthy, sternly warned that “Communists [often thought of as Jews in the public imagination] corrupt the minds and sexual perverts [homosexuals] corrupt the bodies of good upstanding Americans,” and he proceeded to have homosexuals and Communists officially banned from all government service. To McCarthy, Jews, homosexuals, and Communists were one and the same.

For homosexual U.S.-Americans during this era, police frequently raided their bars, which were usually Mafia owned; the U.S. Postal Service invaded their organizations and even published the names of their mailing lists in local newspapers; and people regularly lost their jobs when “exposed.”

Gender nonconformers and those suspected of “homosexual tendencies” were often involuntarily committed to mental institutions by family members, where they lost all civil rights and control over their lives. Some were never released. Some were forced to undergo electroshock therapy; some were even lobotomized (doctors removed the frontal lobe of peoples’ brains with instruments forced through the eye sockets or the nose).

Before my second birthday, my parents suspected that I might be gay, or to use the terminology of the day, “homosexual.” Shy and withdrawn, I preferred to spend most of my time alone. Not knowing what else to do with what they considered as my gender non-conformity, my parents sent me to a child psychiatrist at the age of four until my 13th birthday.

There was a basic routine in the “therapy” sessions. I walked into the psychiatrist’s office, took off my coat and put in on the hook behind the door. The psychiatrist then asked me if there was anything in particular that I wanted to discuss. I invariably said “no.” Since I did not understand why I was there in the first place, I surely did not trust him enough to talk candidly.

When I was less than forthcoming in our conversations (which was on most occasions), he took from the shelf a model airplane, or a boat, or a truck, and we spent the remainder of the hour assembling the pieces with glue. In private sessions with my parents, he told them that he wanted me to concentrate on behaviors and activities associated with males, while of course avoiding those associated with females.

He instructed my parents to assign me the household chores of taking out the garbage, mowing the lawn (even though we lived in an apartment building and we did not have a lawn), and not washing or drying the dishes. Though I had loved to design and sew clothing for my sister’s dolls, this was now forbidden to me. And as if this all were not enough, he advised my parents to sign me up for a little league baseball team, which, despite my hatred for the sport, I was forced to join for two summers.

I did not tell the psychiatrist when I was about eight or nine years old that I thought I might be – or possibly wished I were – pregnant. The son of my mother’s friend who lived across the street frequently came over to our apartment. On these occasions, he tried to engage me in a wrestling match, but I always refused since feeling I was pregnant, I feared wrestling would harm my fetus. About one year later, I no longer believed I was female.

If I learned anything during my time with the psychiatrist, it was that I should cloak any signs of gender nonconformity from the sun’s exposing rays – to keep it well concealed deep within my consciousness, only to be resurrected during those rare but precious moments of solitude. It wasn’t long into my sessions with the psychiatrist that I began to believe that there was indeed something wrong with me. Why else would my parents be sending me, trying desperately to change me: my “mannerisms,” my interests, my likes, and even my dislikes?

“When you wave,” my father sternly warned one afternoon on the front steps of our apartment building when I was eight years old, “you MUST move your whole hand at the same time. Don’t just move your fingers up and down like you’re doing.”

He grabbed my arm, and despite my free-flowing tears and cheeks pink with shame, he vigorously demonstrated the “proper” hand wave for “a man.” Then, as if anticipating the scene in the film La Cage Aux Folles (and the U.S. remake The Birdcage), my father took me into the backyard and forced me to walk and run “like men are supposed to move.” Obviously, I had previously been doing something wrong. “Of course the other children pick on you,” he blamed. “You do act like a girl.”

For most of my years in school, I was continually beat and attacked by my peers who perceived me as someone who was “different.” Names like “queer,” “little girl,” and “fag” targeted me like the big red dodge ball my classmates furiously hurled at one another on the schoolyard. I would not – and could not – conform to the gender expectations my family and peers so clearly projected onto me, and I regularly paid the price.

This kind of bullying and policing of my gender expression started the very first day I entered kindergarten. It was 1952 and I was attending public school in Bronxville, NY. As my mother dropped me off and kissed me good-bye on the cheek, I felt completely alone and began to cry. My new teacher walked up to me and said, in a somewhat detached tone of voice, “Don’t cry. Only sissies and little girls cry.”

Some of the other boys overheard her, and quickly began mocking me. “The little girl wants his mommy,” one said. “What a sissy,” said another. Without a word, the teacher simply walked away. I went into the coatroom and cried, huddling in a corner by myself, until she found me.

Years later, in 1970, after I came out as gay to my parents, I asked my mother why she and my father had sent me to “the toy doctor,” as they had once called the psychiatrist. She looked at me urgently and with deep affection said:

“You wouldn’t have understood at the time, but we sent you because we felt you were too effeminate, and we thought you would grow up to be a homosexual. Your effeminacy,” she continued, “was the reason why the other children couldn’t accept you and why they hurt you. We sent you because their taunts hurt us too, and we couldn’t think of anything else to do.”

That wasn’t, however, the whole story; she also confided another reason for sending me. She said that my father suffered the pain of being different when he was young. He and his two sisters were the only Jews in their schools in the 1920s to 1930s in Los Angeles. Because of the anti-Semitism at the time, the other boys beat him up nearly every day.

While in elementary school, he hid in a small crawlway beneath one of the buildings during recess period to avoid attack by his peers. My mother told me that she and my father attempted to help me conform to my gender expectations to fit in so I wouldn’t have to go through what my father experienced.

My parents sent me to the psychiatrist, at least in part, in an attempt to direct my eventual gender expression and sexual identity (at the time, they equated my gender non-conformity to my possible homosexuality). My school reinforced this on my classmates and on me every day.

Even in kindergarten, children were channeled into gender-specific activities: boys were encouraged to participate in sports, girls to hone housekeeping skills such as cooking and cleaning. This less-than-subtle encouragement seemed to grow more rigid with every year of school.

Despite this, I developed what would become a lifelong appreciation of music and art. In the fifth grade, I auditioned for the school chorus and was accepted along with only a handful of boys and about 50 girls. The scarcity of boys in the chorus was not due to any gendered imbalance in the quality of boys’ singing voices. The determining factor was one of social pressure.

I and the other four boys in the chorus were generally disliked by our peers. In fact, most of the other boys in our class despised and picked on us, and viciously labeled us “the chorus girls,” “the fags,” “the sissies,” and “the fairies.” The girls, on the other hand, who “made it” into the chorus were well respected and even envied by the other girls in the school.

When I was 12-years-old, the bullying, the shame, and the pressure from my father to conform merged to bring me to take a large bottle of aspirin from our bathroom medicine cabinet, and toss a large quantity into my mouth. Somewhere I learned that doing this would cause massive internal bleeding, which could lead to death since I wanted to end the pain I was feeling.

A part of me, though, still wanted to live, and I quickly spit out the pills into the sink with the bitter taste lasting literally in my mouth and figuratively in my spirit.

During high school in the early 1960s, I had very few friends and I rarely dated. It was not that I did not wish to date, but I wanted to date some of the other boys. I could not even talk about this at the time since the concept of high school Gay/Straight Alliances was still many years in the future. In high school, the topic of homosexuality and gender-nonconformity rarely surfaced officially in the classroom, and then only in a negative context.

I graduated high school in 1965 with the hope that college life would somehow be better for me. I hoped that people would be more open-minded, less conforming, more accepting of difference.

To a great extent, things were better. At San José State College (later University), I demonstrated my opposition to the war in Vietnam with others. I worked to reduce racism on campus, and I helped plan environmental ecology teach-ins. Nevertheless, there was still something missing for me. I knew that I did not and could not conform to societal gender expectations and that I was gay, but I had no outlet of support through which I could express my feelings.

As far as I knew, there were no openly gay people, no support groups, no organizations, and no classes or library materials that did anything more than tell me that homosexuality was “abnormal” and that I needed to change.

In 1967, I finally decided to see a therapist in the campus counseling center, and I began what for me was a very difficult coming out process. And then during my first year of graduate school in 1970, I experienced a turning point in my life.

In my campus newspaper, The Spartan Daily at San José State College, I saw the headline in big bold letters: “GAY LIBERATION FRONT DENIED CAMPUS RECOGNITION.” The article stated that the chancellor of the California State University system, Glenn Dumke, under then Governor Ronald Reagan’s direction, had denied recognition to the campus chapter of the Gay Liberation Front.

In the ruling, Dumke stated that “The effect of recognition…of the Gay Liberation Front could conceivably to be endorse or to promote homosexual behavior, to attract homosexuals to the campus, and to expose minors to homosexual advocacy and practices” and “…belief that the proposed Front created too great a risk for students – a risk which might lead students to engage in illegal homosexual behavior.”

Consensual same-sex sexuality remained illegal until 1975 in California until almost five years after I left California.

This was the first I had heard of such a group, and the first time I had heard about other gay people on my campus. I called the coordinator of the group, and she invited me to the next meeting. Since the chancellor did not permit group members to hold meetings on our campus, they met at a little diner on a small side street a few blocks off campus. Unfortunately, this only confirmed my fears of the underground nature of LGBT life. As I approached the door to enter the meeting, I felt as if I were a member of the French resistance during the Nazi occupation.

Upon entering, I saw around 15 people. I recognized one young man from my chemistry class, but the others were strangers. I saw a near even mix of men and women, which made me feel a bit easier. In my mind, I had envisioned 50 men waiting to pounce on me as I entered, but I soon discovered that they were all good people who were concerned about me. They invited me to their homes, and before too long, I relaxed in their presence.

I left San José in January 1971 to work for a progressive educational journal, EdCentric, at the National Student Association in Washington, DC. Within a few months after arriving, I founded and became the first director of the National Gay Students Center, a national clearinghouse working to connect and exchange information between the newly emerging network of LGBT campus organizations within the US.

One year after leaving San José, I read that students at Sacramento State University, represented by the student government, sued the chancellor in Sacramento County Superior Court and won the case forcing the university officially to recognize their group. The court upheld the students’ First Amendment rights to free speech and freedom of association by affirming their contention that “…to justify suppression of free speech, there must be reasonable grounds to fear that serious evil will result if free speech is practiced; there must be reasonable grounds to believe that the danger apprehended is imminent.”

During the early 1970s, I was an active member of Gay Liberation Front in Washington D.C., which formed the leading edge of a movement rising like a phoenix from the ashes of the Stonewall Inn in New York City. Our first meetings were held at Grace Church, the Washington Free Clinic in Georgetown, and All Souls Church on 16th Street, until we managed to rent a brownstone on S Street NW to establish a Gay Liberation Front living collective. Meetings provided a space for gays, lesbians, bisexual women and men, and trans people to come together and put into practice what feminists had taught us — that the “personal is the political.”

We laughed and we cried together. We shared our ideas and most intimate secrets. We dreamed our dreams and laid out plans for a world free from all the deadly forms of oppression. And, somewhere along our journey, we began inventing new ways of relating to one another.

For those of us assigned male at birth, we came to consciousness of how we had been stifled growing up in a culture that taught us to hate the feminine within – that taught us that if we were to be considered worthy, we must be athletic, independent, assertive, domineering, and competitive. Most of all, we at least began to rejected the idea that we must bury our emotions deep within the recesses of our souls.

Through the years, with the increasing visibility and recognition of people along the trans spectrum and of intersex people who have contested and shaken traditionally dichotomous binary notions of gender and sexuality, I have been able to go even further in my “coming out” process.

Their stories and experiences have great potential to us back into the future — a future in which anyone and everyone on the gender spectrum everywhere will live freely, unencumbered by social taboos and cultural norms of gender.

I am proud and thankful to those who have laid the path and all who have traveled and extended its course by courageously calling into question this social myth of gendernormativity, the boxes society places us into as it imposes upon us our gender scripts.

Trans and intersex people have opened the boxes for all of us ultimately to obliterate the gender status quo of binary oppositions by demonstrating the visible ways, the options upon an enormous gender continuum, one that does not depend upon a sex assigned to us, a sex that is imposed and forced upon us by others. The trans and intersex communities have shown us the essential fluidity of gender.

In my case, who said old dogs can’t learn new tricks? That is simply an ageist expression anyway!!!!

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

 

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

March 8th, 2017 at 12:02 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Trans People Defined Outside the Norm Who Lack Prior Claim

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The Trump administration recently annulled federal guidelines issued last May by former President Barack Obama that authorized public school students to use restrooms and other public facilities aligning with their gender identities. The Obama-era directive was based on the premise that the federal law banning sex discrimination in education, Title IX, covered gender identity as well.

Trump’s “justice” department under Jefferson Beauregard Sessions disputed this claim, and argued instead that the issue should be decided separately within each state. But as we know, the demand for “state’s rights” throughout our history has been nothing less than a codification for the state’s rights to discriminate.

On Monday, March 6, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it would not hear the case of Gavin Grimm, a Virginia trans male high school student who has sued his school district for the right to enter school facilities corresponding with his gender identity. The Court’s decision vacates a lower court’s ruling in Grimm’s favor, and now the case goes back to the court of appeals for retrial.

In her pioneer book, Homophobia: A Weapon of Sexism, Suzanne Pharr describes a series of elements she finds common to the multiple forms of oppression. Such elements include what she refers to as a “defined norm” and a “lack of prior claim,” among many others.

Pharr explains a “defined norm” as “…a standard of rightness and often of righteousness wherein all others are judged in relation to it. This norm must be backed up with institutional power, economic power, and both institutional and individual violence.”

Another way “the defined norm manages to maintain its power and control…” and kept exclusive is by what Pharr refers to as the element or system of “lack of prior claim.”

This, according to Pharr, “…means that if you weren’t there when the original document (the Constitution, for example) was written, or when the organization was first created, then you have no right to inclusion….Those who seek their rights, who seek inclusion, who seek to control their own lives instead of having their lives controlled are the people who fall outside the norm….They are the Other.”

In the original and unamended version of the U.S. Constitution, for example, since only European-heritage male land owners had the right to vote, all Others, including women and people of color (those outside the defined norm and who lacked prior claim) had to fight long and difficult battles against strong forces to gain access to the voting booth, often under the threat of and actual violence inflicted against them.

Some who continue to oppose marriage equality for same-sex couples claim that this would undermine the sanctity of marriage, and possibly lead to the destruction of society, often using religious sanctions as their justification.

For example, responding to Vermont’s Civil Unions legislation in 2000, Catholic Cardinal Bernard Law reflected the opinion of a number of New England Cardinals and Bishops:

“The Legislature of the State of Vermont, by passing the Civil Unions Bill [countering the defined norm and lack of prior claim], has attacked centuries of cultural and religious esteem for marriage between a man and a woman and has prepared the way for an attack on the well-being of society itself [by these Others].”

Similarly, Robert Lewis Dabney, Professor of Theology at Union Seminary in Virginia, warned: “What then, in the next place, will be the effect of this fundamental change [countering a lack of prior claim] when it shall be established? The obvious answer is, that it will destroy Christianity and civilization in America [by these Others who are outside the defined norm].”

Cardinal Law and Professor Dabney engaged in similar dire predictions, but, and here is the key, they are referring to two different events – the Cardinal referred to marriage for same-sex couples, Dabney, who lived from 1820-1898, referred to women’s suffrage — but they forewarned similar consequences: the destruction of the family and civilization as we know it.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints provides an example on the institutional level. LDS President, Brigham Young, instituted a policy on February 13, 1849, emanating from “divine revelation” and continuing until as recently as 1978 forbidding ordination of black men of African descent [outside the defined norm] from the ranks of LDS priesthood.

In addition, this policy prohibited black men and women of African descent from participating in the temple Endowment and sealings [lacking in prior claim], which the Church dictates as essential for the highest degree of salvation. The policy likewise restricted black people from attending or participating in temple marriages.

Young attributed this restriction to the so-called sin of Cain, Adam and Eve’s eldest son, who killed his brother Abel: “What chance is there for the redemption of the Negro? [lack of prior claim],” stated Young in 1849 following declaration of his restrictive policy. “The Lord had cursed Cain’s seed with blackness and prohibited them [the Others] from the Priesthood.”

Since those in power in the United States have excluded trans and intersex people from the category of “defined norms” by viewing trans and intersex people as the Other, and the founding national and institutional policy documents have likewise excluded trans and intersex peoples’ civil and human rights from a prior claim, a spate of state legislatures have either passed or have considered passing laws prohibiting trans (and by implication, intersex) people from entering public restroom facilities that conforms to their gender identities and expressions, but may differ from the sex assigned to them on their birth certificates.

North Carolina’s HB 2, for example, its Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, also goes by its extended title, “An Act to Provide for Single-Sex Multiple Occupancy Bathroom and Changing Facilities in Schools and Public Agencies and to Create Statewide Consistency in Regulation of Employment and Public Accommodations.”

Last year, Republican Delegate Mark Cole of the Virginia House of Delegates proposed House Bill 663 that would require all people in public buildings, including schools, to use restrooms corresponding to their “correct anatomical sex.”

This bill, if passed, would have the effect of prohibiting trans and intersex people from going into the restroom facility matching their gender identities. The bill defines “anatomical sex” as “the physical condition of being male or female, which is determined by a person’s anatomy.” Referring to schools, the measure states:

“Local school boards shall develop and implement policies that require every school restroom, locker room, or shower room that is designated for use by a specific gender to solely be used by individuals whose anatomical sex matches such gender designation.” Violation carries a $50 penalty.

How would such a law be enforced? Civil rights advocate Tim Peacock argues:

“[A]dults would be required to inspect children’s genitals before they use the bathroom. This is what the conservative movement has devolved into: forcing children to allow adults to examine their genitals out of misplaced fear that transgender kids and adults might commit a hypothetical never-before-seen act of violence or sexual aggression (that would still be against the law with or without transgender protections).”

In Texas, a proposed bill, HR 2801, included a provision that would offer students $2,000 for reporting and claiming “mental anguish” for having to share restroom facilities with students of another assigned sex.

Members of the trans community often suffer the consequences of so many Others. Nearly every two days, a person is killed somewhere in the world for expressing gender nonconformity. The vast majority of murders are of trans women of color.

So the draconian measures undertaken by state and local governments and by individuals against trans people and their civil and human rights directly and intricately connect with elements of oppression suffered by Others outside the defined norm who lack prior claim.

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

March 6th, 2017 at 4:36 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Trump Administration Flushes Trans Bathroom Protections

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The Trump administration has cancelled the federal guidelines issued by former President Barack Obama in May 2016 that allowed students in public schools to use restrooms and other facilities consistent with their gender identity.

The Solicitor General’s office submitted a document to the Supreme Court asserting that the Obama administration’s directive did not “undergo any formal public process” or explain how the directive was “consistent with the express language of Title IX,” the federal law outlawing sex discrimination in education.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, initially reported to have opposed rescinding Obama’s order, has since released a statement asserting that “This is an issue best solved at the state and local level,” and added Attorney General Jeff Sessions, “Congress, state legislatures, and local governments are in a position to adopt appropriate policies or laws addressing this issue.”

Contrary to Session and DeVos’ views, this is most emphatically a federal issue.

This once again raises the concept of “tyranny of the majority” articulated back in the 1830s by Alexis de Tocqueville, French political scientist and diplomat, who traveled across the United States for nine months between 1831-1832 conducting research for his epic work, Democracy in America.

Though he favored US style democracy, he found its major limitation in its stifling of independent thought and independent beliefs. In a country that promoted the notion of “majority rules,” this effectively silenced minoritized peoples.

This serves as a crucial point because in a democracy, without specific guarantees for the rights of minoritized peoples, there is danger of domination or tyranny over others whose ideas, values, and social identities are not accepted by the majority.

Though, or course, most issues are different in many ways, but take the following cases as examples:

If the issue of prohibiting the practice of slavery were not settled in Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation and later codified in the US Constitution, and left instead to the individual states, I question whether the states would have voluntarily outlawed the practice of slavery, and I believe the practice of legalized slavery would have lasted long after the Civil War in some states.

If the issue of school desegregation were not settled in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education US Supreme Court decision and later strengthen in the federal Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965, and left to the individual states, I question whether the states would have voluntarily relinquished the practice of racial segregation, and I believe this practice would remain to this very day in some states.

If the issue of women’s reproductive freedoms were not settled in the 1973 US Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, and left to the individual states, I believe today women’s rights to control their own bodies would be dependent on their geographic location, thus disqualifying many women from their reproductive rights.

The founders of this country provided a mechanism for the protection of minoritized people against the tyranny of the majority. The checks and balances between the three branches of government: Executive, Legislative, and Judicial, and the authority of federal legislation over the individual states have been seen time and again (though of course not perfectly and not without major adjustments and reversals of policy along the way) to offer some form of protection for minority rights and responsibilities.

If we leave these important issues of social justice and social inequality to majority rule, then many of the evils that have plagued this country throughout its history will continue long into the future.

While the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees equal protection under the law, (“…no state shall … deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws”), our current patchwork of disparate and contradictory laws and state constitutional amendments remains not only confusing but also inequitable.

Just think back to before the Supreme Court legalized marriage equality nationwide for same-sex couples in June 2015. Prior to the decision, a couple could marry in some states but not in others. And if that married couple moved to a state that did not grant marriage equality, depending on the state, their marriage could be declared null and void.

Some legislators and community members list several objections to gender inclusive facilities: people would become uncomfortable, women would be at greater risk for assault, expense would be great to replace urinals with toilet stalls, it would go (no pun intended) against tradition, and other reasons.

Well, let’s take these concerns in order. First, change, any change, often taps into people’s anxieties. but over time, people generally accommodate or assimilate new ideas and knowledge into their overall mental library.

Secondly, yes, women have suffered assaults by men entering women’s rooms. Some gender inclusive facilities people are advocating, however, include primarily single-user lockable restrooms. These types of facilities substantially increase safety for all users. In addition, in larger multi-user restrooms, though the clearly stereotypical stick figure wearing the tacky stick dress stuck onto the door announces this as a female-only space, it cannot and has not ensured the occupants’ safety.

Gender inclusive restrooms, while nothing new in many locations and other countries, in others might be seen as non-traditional, contrary to what has existed before. This is the so-called “lack of prior claim” argument: if it was not there at the beginning of our organization, our culture, or our country, then it should not exist now.

We heard this theme voiced and written during the fight against the institution of slavery and against “Jim Crow,” when women began to organize for the right to vote, at the start of labor union organizing, calls for direct voting of US Senators rather than leaving it to state legislators, movements to abolish gender-based clothing mandates and other restrictive gender rules, demands for marriage equality, and many other progressive social, cultural, and political changes.

The current bifurcated restroom designation contradicts the realities of peoples’ sexed bodies, gender identities, and gender expressions. Many intersex people define neither as “male” nor as “female.” Which restroom must they choose, or which are they allowed to choose?

The “sex” designation typed onto many trans peoples’ official records assigned to them at birth simply do not accurately and integrally reflect their actual gender identities. They had no power or control at the time of their birth to list the designation that most closely matched their actual gender identities, and many laws today make it extremely difficult and expensive to permit any changes.

Gender must be seen as a continuum rather than as constituting binary oppositions. Basically, the criticism of maintaining bifurcated restroom facilities rests upon one primary foundation: cisgender male privilege. By permitting only cis-Johns and not Janes into their Johns, even in single-user facilities, cismen will perpetuate their unearned privileges. The ol’ boys club will remain safe and secure, keeping the gender infidels outside the perimeters as the barricades hold firm.

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

February 22nd, 2017 at 10:25 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Pence’s Photo Op at Dachau Not Merely Hypocritical

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I don’t usually begin a commentary this way, but – as a queer person and as a Jew who lost multiple family members to murder during the German Holocaust, I feel so furious that I am having difficulty finding the words. What I saw and heard far exceeds mere hypocrisy, but reaches into the inner depths of disgust, outrage, and contempt.

Vice President Mike Pence standing with the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, at a joint press conference at the European Council in Brussels, Monday, February 20, began his statements by relating how very moved he was on his recent trip (and obvious photo op) with his wife and daughter as they visited the first Nazi concentration camp, Dachau, constructed in 1933.

They walked under the gate with the heinous words “Arbeit macht frei,” (“Work sets you free”) and were joined by Abba Naor, a survivor of the camps, along with other officials. The Pences laid a wreath beneath the International Memorial at the camp, and witnessed the prisons’ barracks and the ovens inside the camp’s crematorium.

In Dachau alone, Nazis imprisoned and enslaved more than 200,000 and ultimately murdered approximately 40,000 people, and millions more throughout the Nazi realm that they defined as enemies of the state, race polluters, abject (cast off) “othered” bodies, those unworthy of life, many under the category of “inferior people” (Untermenschen): Jews, Slavs, non-Aryan emigrants, peoples of color, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Roma, Communists, people with disabilities, labor trade unionists, unemployed people (the “work shy”), people who performed abortions, and others.

I wonder whether Pence truly understands the events in Germany that led to the mass incarcerations and the genocide: the stereotyping of entire groups of people whom the Nazis scapegoated for causing the problems of the state.

I wonder whether Pence understands how his own administration, indeed, the Republican Party writ large has employed the tactics of stereotyping and scapegoating of the bodies of entire groups of people to use as stepping stones in their ascension to and maintenance of power: LGBTQ people, people of color, Muslims, immigrants, people with disabilities, feminists, pro-choice advocates, labor trade unionists who push for collective bargaining, those who understand the important role of government in health care and in maintaining a fundamental level of economic security, and yes, Jews.

Pence, as a member of Congress and later as Indiana Governor, has, first, not been a friend to labor unions. During the election, according to Brett Voorhies, president of the Indiana State AFL-CIO:

“Mike Pence has waged repeated attacks on working Hoosiers as governor and will without a doubt continue the attacks alongside his anti-worker running mate Donald Trump who is ‘100 percent right to work’ (anti-union and collective bargaining).’”

Trump figuratively spit in the faces of minoritized “racial” groups, in particular Mexican immigrants, during his off-scripted rambling announcement speech:

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

Trump eventually enlarged his dehumanizing representations to include people in all of Latin America and people in Muslim countries (except for those in which he has business interests).

Vice President Mike Pence, in his first congressional campaign in 2000, argued for public funding of so-called conversion therapy for LGBTQ people. On his website at the time, his disdain for same-sex attractions and sexuality stands out:

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

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

Let Us Not Repeat History

Though I rarely offer comparisons between events transpiring before and during the ascension to power of the German Third Reich with resemblances to contemporary United States – since to do so could result in trivializing one of the most horrific episodes in human history – nonetheless, I am haunted by certain parallels that demand attention.

I am troubled by multiple similarities between that time not so very long ago with the discourses expressed and events transpiring today. I want, therefore, to highlight, in particular, the parallels I see in Nazi portrayals and understandings of sex, sexuality, gender, and gender expression: a divisive and brutal program that was anti-feminist, anti-women’s equality, anti-women’s reproductive freedoms (anti-family planning, anti-contraception, anti-abortion), anti-lesbian, anti-gay, anti-bisexual, anti-transgender, anti-gender nonconforming, anti-sexuality education in schools.

For example, Alfred Rosenberg, one of the Nazi’s chief ideologues, directed his misogynist outrage by warning all women:

“The emancipation of women from the women’s emancipation movement is the first demand of a female generation trying to rescue nation and race, the eternally unconscious, the foundation of all civilization, from decline…. [O]ne thing must be made clear: Only a man must be and remain judge, soldier, and politician.”

The Nazis added Paragraph 218 of the German Penal Code to outlaw abortions and establish a national file on women who had undergone and doctors who had performed abortions.

In addition, the Nazis acted on and eventually extended Paragraph 175, the section of the German Penal Code dating back to 1871 with the unification of Germany:

“Unnatural vice committed by two persons of the male sex or by people with animals is to be punished by imprisonment; the verdict may also include the loss of civil rights.”

Nazi ideology rested on the assessment that homosexuals (males) lowered the German birth rate; they endangered, recruited, enticed, and corrupted youth; that a possible homosexual epidemic could spread; that homosexuals are “potential oppositionists” and enemies of respectable society; and that sexual relations between people of the same sex impairs their “sense of shame” and undermines morality, which inevitably will bring about the “decline of social community.”

While Nazi ideology and practice rejected lesbianism as well, they did not criminalize same-sex sexuality between women, as they had in Germany’s Paragraph 175 of the Penal Code, because they believed that so-called “Aryan” lesbians could produce Aryan children for the “New Germany.”

On the other hand, Heinrich Himmler, Gestapo head and chief architect of the Reich’s anti-homosexual campaign, justified his actions by arguing that male homosexuals were “like women” and therefore, could not fight in any German war effort. Subsequently, he conducted surveillance operations on an estimated 90,000 suspected homosexuals, arrested approximately 50,000, and transported somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 to several concentration camps throughout the Nazi dominion. Very few survived.

Hitler also proposed eliminating all sexuality education from the German school system and encouraged parents to take on the primary responsibilities for sexuality instruction within the home.

The Nazi regime connected multiple forms of oppression when Heinrich Himmler reorganized the Reich Criminal Police Bureau to centralize operations by creating a national file on male homosexuals, transgender people (referred as “transvestites”), what they referred to as “wage abortionists” (women and their doctors), and to monitor the production and ban the use of contraceptives to “Aryan” women.

Within this Bureau, they established The Reich Office for Combating Homosexuality and Abortion, which in the single year of 1938 alone, conducted 28,366 arrests for abortion, and 28, 882 arrests of male homosexuals.

The common thread running through Nazi ideology regarding sex, gender expression, and sexuality was their intense campaign to control individuals’ bodies and the bodies of members of entire communities in the attempt to control their minds.

Throughout history, examples abound of patriarchal domination over the rights and lives of women and LGBT people, whom they have been constructed as second-class and even third-class citizens not merely in Nazi Germany, but today as the current political climate indicates.

I wonder if Pence understands the irony, at best, in his journey through Dachau! If he sees the parallels of his own politics and the politics of the Republican Party, with those of the Nazis before they began their fanatical genocidal slaughter, then possibly something good may still come out of his visit.

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

February 20th, 2017 at 2:08 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Trump Further Demolishes the Wall Separating “Church and State”

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First Lady Melania Trump read from a script “The [Christian] Lord’s Prayer” as part of her introduction of her husband at a rally in Florida, Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017. She did this at a time when Donald has consistently marginalized Muslims, and when reported hate crimes against Muslims and Jews (in addition to Blacks, Latinx, and LGBTQs) has continually increased since Trump’s election.

Where is this supposed separation of “church and state”? Trump has, though, fortified the already-solid and impenetrable wall between “mosque and state” and “synagogue and state.”

During Trump and Pence’s inauguration ceremonies, six religious clergy offered prayers and Biblical readings atop the balcony of the U.S. Capitol, interspersed by Trump and Pence placing their left hands on a stack of Bibles during their swearing-in ceremonies. And ending the festivities, sounds emanated from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Clergy invited to read and offer prayer at the inauguration included five Christians and one Jew. As I watched the proceedings on TV, I questioned whether I was viewing a presidential swearing-in or, rather, attending an evangelical tent revival as clergy invoked the name of Jesus at least eight times.

Not wanting to exclude Muslins, he said during his inaugural address, in usual Trump fashion, “We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones — and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth.”

Trumps continual marginalization of Muslims in his rhetoric and in his attempts to impose travel bans against people from the seven majority-Muslim countries where he has no direct business ties are testaments (pun intended) to his feelings about the followers and precepts of Islam.

On International Holocaust Remembrance Day (27 January 2017), throughout his ceremonial speech commemorating the Holocaust, Trump denounced the “horror inflicted on innocent people by Nazi terror” while never once mentioning Jews and anti-Semitism.

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

During a campaign rally speech, in West Palm Beach, Florida, October 14, 2016, Trump said, in part that “The Washington establishment and the financial and media corporations that fund it exist for only one reason: to protect and enrich itself….For those who control the levers of power in Washington, and for the global special interests….This is a conspiracy against you, the American people, and we cannot let this happen or continue. This is our moment of reckoning as a society and as a civilization itself.”

Donald Trump may not have a general grasp of politics and history, but he certainly understands how to use of the propaganda of fascism to sway public opinion. Donald will never admit to lifting the sentiments and words almost verbatim from the notorious Protocols (Minutes) of a Meeting of the Learned Elders of Zion.

The Protocols was a fabricated anti-Semitic text dating from 1903 that was widely distributed by Russian Czarist forces to turn public opinion against a so-called “Jewish Revolution” for the purpose of convincing the populace that Jews were plotting to impose a conspiratorial international Jewish government.

The white nationalist website, The Right Stuff, celebrated Trump’s Florida speech. Lawrence Murray wrote an article affirming that “somehow Trump manages to channel Goebbels (Nazi Minister of Propaganda) and ‘Detroit Republicanism’ all at the same time.”

During his recent marathon and rambling White House press conference, Trump was asked by Jake Turx, an orthodox Jewish reporter, about the recent spike in reported anti-Semitic incidents across the country. Turx made it clear, using an agreeable tone, that he was not charging the President of anti-Semitism:

“Despite what some of my colleagues may have been reporting, I haven’t seen anybody in my community accuse either yourself or anyone on your staff of being anti-Semitic. We understand that you have Jewish grandchildren. You are their zayde,” (an affectionate Yiddish word for “grandfather”). At this point, Trump said, “Thank you.”

Turx then asked his question:

“However, what we are concerned about and what we haven’t really heard being addressed is an uptick in anti-Semitism and how the government is planning to take care of it. There’s been a report out that 48 bomb threats have been made against Jewish centers all across the country in the last couple of weeks. There are people committing anti-Semitic acts or threatening to….”

Trump cut him off and argued that his was “not a fair question.” He commanded Turx to “Sit down. I understand the rest of your question.”

The President continued, “So here’s the story, folks. No. 1, I am the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life. No. 2, racism, the least racist person.”

Turx again tried to reassure the President that no accusation was intended or implied, but Trump demanded, “Quiet, quiet, quiet!” He accused the reporter of lying when Trump asked for questions that were straightforward and simple.

Trump lashed out: “I find it repulsive. I hate even the question because people that know me. …” Not completing his sentence, Trump added that Turx should have relied on Israeli Prime Minister, Netanyahu’s, endorsement of him, “instead of having to get up and ask a very insulting question like that.”

Trump voices no such indignation when the subject focuses on the promotion of conservative forms of Christianity. Televangelist Pastor Mark Burns, a Donald Trump surrogate who often traveled with his candidate around the campaign trail, warmed up the crowd at a Trump rally in Hickory, North Carolina, March 14, 2016 by calling on Democratic presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, to have a “come to Jesus” moment.

Speaking in front of the audience before New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s on-stage question-and-answer session with Trump, Burns declared that Sanders needed to be “saved”:

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

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

While on stage, Trump did not distance himself from Burns’s inflammatory and offensive remarks, but, instead, characterized his rallies as “love fests.” By not standing up to Burns, Trump was complicit in attacking not only Bernie’s faith, but the faith of the entire world Jewish community.

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

The concept of “hegemony” describes the ways in which dominant groups successfully disseminate dominant social realities and social visions in a manner accepted as common sense, as “normal,” as universal, and as representing part of the natural order, even at times by those who are marginalized, disempowered, or rendered invisible by it.

Christian hegemony, resulting in Christian privilege, can be understood as the overarching system of advantages bestowed on Christians. It is the institutionalization of a Christian norm or standard, which establishes and perpetuates the notion that all people are or should be Christian, thereby privileging Christians and Christianity, and excluding the needs, concerns, religious cultural practices, and life experiences of people who are not Christian. At times subtle and often overt, Christian hegemony is oppression by neglect, omission, erasure, and distortion, and also by design and intent.

We cannot, though, conceptualize dominant group privilege monolithically, for we must factor into the equation issues of context and intersectionality of identities. As there is a spectrum of Christian denominations and traditions, for example, so too is there a hierarchy or continuum of Christian privilege based on 1) historical factors, 2) numbers of practitioners, and 3) degrees of social power. Therefore, we need to view forms of privilege along a continuum or spectrum rather than conceiving them as binary opposites.

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

Since first erected, that Jeffersonian wall of separation between “church and state” has suffered from increased battering and now barely stands as a worn and tattered ruin. Candidates and elected officials don their Christian credentials like armor to repel potential attacks on their motivations and character.

Everyone has the right to hold any, or no, religious beliefs as they consider appropriate to suit their lives. This is a basic constitutional right, and more importantly, a basic human right to which all are entitled.

Many of the framers of the United States Constitution were supremely (pun intended) aware of the dangers of entangling religion with governmental public policy and affairs. But while Trump demands the construction of a high and sturdy wall separating the United States from Mexico and a veritable wall preventing Muslims from entering, he, as other Presidents before him, have taken a wrecking ball to the wall separating “church and state.”

So then, how “separate” are religion and government in the United States? Where is the peoples’ right to freedom from religion?

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

February 19th, 2017 at 3:54 pm

Posted in Uncategorized