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

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We Have Much to Lose with Trump

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“At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other.”

No Donald! The bedrock of our Constitution is the right of the people to maintain a total allegiance to their individual integrity and dignity. On the other hand, at the bedrock of dictatorial totalitarian regimes is a total allegiance to the state.

“When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.”

Unfortunately Donald, you confuse patriotism with unrestrained nationalism, the latter which you have pushed ever since you through your bomb-hat into the ring 18 long months ago. The bedrock of your entire candidacy rested totally on prejudice against and scapegoating of anyone and everyone who did not look like you.

The angry diatribe you called your Inaugural Address at your swearing-in ceremony atop the Capitol balcony overlooking the National Mall was not meant to unify a deeply divided country following a brutally traumatic election. Instead, you reemphasized your perennial themes of division, recrimination, and blame.

Your incessant reprise of “America first” harkens back to the late 1930s when the so-called “America First Committee” warned about Jewish Americans pressuring our government to join World War II by placing their needs over the needs of the country. In fact, “Our Country First” has been the battle cry of nationalist fascism throughout the world.

Yours Donald, was the bleakest, angriest, ugliest, most apocalyptic of all the many inaugural speeches I have heard since I first listened to John Fitzgerald Kennedy in January 1961. In one single day, we changed as a country with a President with grace and dignity to another with bluster and rage, from one with formidable intelligence and supreme self-knowledge to another with a narcissistic arrogance and a lack of self-understanding that pose great peril not only to our nation, but to the entire world.

But the most discouraging aspect of a thoroughly discouraging day was not so much the words you spoke during your inaugural invective, but, rather, it was your announcement coming as it did following your continual stream of very frightening nominees to fill key positions in your primarily-all-rich-white-men’s club cabinet.

Today, you announced your pick of John M. Gore, an attorney at the Jones Day firm, as undersecretary in the U.S. Department of Justice who would lead the Civil Rights Division. Not only have you already decided to reduce funding for the Civil Rights Division, but your choice of Gore gives us all the clear picture that you have no interest in protecting the rights of minoritized people.

Gore has been defending the North Carolina higher education system from legal challenges to maintain its discriminatory HB2 law that prevents trans people from using public bathroom facilities that most closely correspond with their gender identities.

In the recent past, Gore defended electoral redistricting schemes against challenges on civil rights grounds. In addition, he defended Governor Rick Scott and the state of Florida against charges of violating the National Voter Registration Act. The Miami Herald discovered that “Hispanic, Democratic and independent-minded voters are the most likely to be targeted,” while whites and Republicans were the least likely.

During the campaign, Donald asked minoritized racial groups to vote for him saying “what do you have to lose.” Well, if his cabinet picks are any indication, and in particular his choice of Jeff Sessions for Attorney General and John Gore to head the Civil Rights Division, we all have plenty to lose.

Also, before Donald’s election, Gregory T. Angelo, president of the Log Cabin (gay) Republicans told the New York Times that “[Trump] will be the most gay-friendly Republican nominee for president ever.”

While this is not saying much since most Republican nominees have been generally hostile, I would tell Angelo that his log cabin is on fire and he should seek shelter elsewhere.

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), Editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon), co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge), and co-author of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press).

 

Permission granted to forward, post, print, or publish this essay. warrenblumenfeld@gmail.com

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

January 21st, 2017 at 12:48 am

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United States Must Follow Rule of Law at United Nations

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“To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace.”

Chapter 1, Article 1, United Nations Charter

Under that mandate, the United Nations has acted since the organization came into force on 24 October 1945 following the second long and catastrophic war of the 20th century. Today, the United Nations represents 193 member states throughout the world who come together on the organization’s General Assembly as diplomats to defuse disagreements and conflicts before they turn into armed encounters.

Also, according to the U.N. charter, the 15-member Security Council has responsibility for determining where threats to peace exist in the world, and to take deliberate steps to maintain international peace and security.

The Security Council, on 23 December 2016, voted 14-0 on Resolution 2334 to condemn Israel’s construction of so-called “settlements” on the occupied West Bank taken after the 1967 War with its Arab neighbors. Though the United States, which sits on the Council, chose to abstain, throughout his presidency, Barack Obama has voiced the long-standing official policy of his country by designating Israeli settlements as a major impediment in any hoped-for two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President-elect Donald Trump, on the other hand, blasted the United Nations’ vote. And Trump’s proposed U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, a far-right-wing lawyer, does not support a “two-state solution,” but does support a Jerusalem capital, the “settlement” program, and Israel’s annexation of the occupied West Bank.

Though declared illegal under international law, approximately 570,000 Israelis live in the more than 130 so-called “settlements” (a.k.a. stolen land) since the 1967 War. If the Trump, Friedman, and Netanyahu plans are enacted, they will hammer the final nail into the coffin of a Palestinian/Israeli peace.

Many see Israel’s “settlement” policy on the occupied West Bank in the same light as Russia’s illegal incursion into Eastern Ukraine and annexation of Crimea, which likewise threaten political and military stability in the area, and further endanger world peace.

Since the U.N. vote, two United States Senators in particular, Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), announced they will introduce legislation to withhold U.S. funding from the U.N. until it reverses Resolution 2334.

Though the U.N. charter mandates Member States comply with the Council’s decisions, Cruz and Graham have given a hissy fit, and are now refusing to share their toys because others have simply asked them to follow the rules to which all have agreed previously.

The United States represents one of the richest and most powerful nations in the world. With massive power and treasure propping them up, Cruz and Graham, along with many of their Congressional colleagues, are attempting to impose their will by treading over the Charter of the United Nations.

According to the United States Department of Justice, “bullying includes repeated harmful acts and a real or perceived imbalance of power.”

Cruz and Graham believe, as do other bullies, that their “real or perceived imbalance of power” automatically and unquestionably grants them the right to use their power and privilege as weapons rather than as means for good.

All U.S. legislators, upon taking their oath of office, “swear to preserve and defend the Constitution of the United States.” That Constitution gives us all the foundation on which our country rests as a nation of laws. If one objects to any laws, our Constitution provides a mechanism by which we can work to change them.

Our founders, in their wisdom, did not give us the right to select which laws to follow and which to ignore. The United States government, for example, deployed federal troops to ensure, for example, that the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education school desegregation mandates as well as the provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 were met in the face of local resistance.

Similarly, the United States as all U.N. member nations swear to abide by all Security Council resolutions even in instances where they may disagree. The United States and the United Nations cannot function without the overriding foundational principles in the rule of law, no matter how rich and powerful or impoverished and relatively less powerful are any given states.

Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham, in their words and actions, clearly demonstrate the reasons why some people and entire nations see the United States as a bully nation.

We can do so much better in showing the world that we do, in fact, respect the United Nations and its Charter, while still maintaining the ability to voice opposition, as do all member states, to selective proposals and declarations.

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), Editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon), co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge), and co-author of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press).

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

January 12th, 2017 at 7:50 pm

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Surreal Transitions

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I feel a tense

Painful whiplash

As persistently

I relive still fresh visions

The sudden and complete car wreck

That was the election

 

In disjointed images

An oval office I see

     A young

     Dignified

     Graceful

     Elegant

     Brilliant man

In command of the facts and of himself

     Diligently

     Eloquently

     Rationally

Carrying on his callings

For the people and the nation he loves

 

Standing superimposed

By a figure of the Destroyer

One who thinks little over his words

     His actions

One who cares far less

 

Jung and Freud

Arguing and diverging often

And then finally

More similar than these two ever

 

Landscapes of clocks over tables melting

Lions emaciated seated playing chess

Elephants deep bass sounding through tuba trunks

Hamlet skulls aloft handless mid-air hovering

 

Handle-bar mustaches scream

With Mona Lisa weeping

Janice departs in Southern Comfort

To Jimmy’s Star Spangled Banner blaring

 

Pyotr Ilyich wading infected waters

Silencing already silent secrets of his life

As ear cheek eye chin

Dangle in monstrous pose

 

From dignity to destroyer

From grace to bluster

From empathy to narcissism unrestrained

From hope in change to dread of changes to come

 

Whiplash indeed

Trauma in fact

 

Grieving first

Organizing

Working

Acting

Individually and in consort

Uniting

Locally, nationally, internationally

Standing firm

 

Resisting retrenchment of gains fiercely fought

Maintaining at very least

Pushing further possibly

 

Remaining vigilant always

 

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

January 11th, 2017 at 7:32 pm

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I Feel Outrage and Depression over Continued Murders of Trans People

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I feel anger!!! No, I feel outrage!!!! And yes, I also feel depression! We have barely turned the corner into 2017 when we received reports of two trans women of color whom people violently and viciously murdered.

Mesha Caldwell, 41, 1/4/2017; Jamie Wounded Arrow, 28, 1/6/2017

Though 2016 marked the highest number of trans people killed in the United State with 27 known instances, with the vast majority being trans women of color, at the current rate, 2017 portends to be even worse.

Monica Loera, 1/22/2016; Jasmine Sierra, 1/22/2016

History is replete with groups and individuals facing colossal odds for simply expressing their truth, and for that, they were often forced to pay the ultimate price. Governments and individuals have devised ways of silencing opposition to maintain and extend its control and domination. They commit genocide upon the true human liberators, the profits, the visionaries who advocate for a just and free world.

Kayden Clarke, 24, 2/4/2016; Veronica Banks Cano, 2/19/2016

Antonio Gramsci wrote about the concept of “cultural hegemony,” which describes the ways in which the dominant group successfully disseminates its social definitions of reality and its social visions in a manner accepted as “common sense,” as “normal,” and as “universal.” This hegemony maintains and expands the marginalization of groups with differing identities or opposing views.

Maya Young, 24, 2/20/2016

Trans people have exposed the truth regarding this fabrication we call “gender roles” and the rigidity of gender identity as social constructions, which our society ascribes to each of us as it assigns us a sex at birth. With the label “female” assigned at birth, society forces us to follow its “feminine script,” and with “male” assigned at birth, we are handed our “masculine” script to act out.

Demarkis Stansberry, 30, 2/27/2016

As scripts are given to actors in a play, rigid notions of gender identities and the gender role scripts automatically assigned to them also were written long before any of us entered the stage of life. In fact, they have little connection with our natures, beliefs, interests, and values.

Kedarie/Kandicee Johnson, 16, 3/2/2016

According to social theorist Judith Butler,

“The act that one does, the act that one performs, is, in a sense, an act that has been going on before one arrived on the scene. Hence, gender is an act, which has been rehearsed, much as a script survives the particular actors who make use of it, but which requires individual actors in order to be actualized and reproduced as reality once again.”

Quartney Davia Dawsonn-Yochum, 32, 3/23/2016

If we challenge the director by refusing to follow our lines, and when we tell the truth about this human lie about the rigidity of gender, the director (society) doles out harsh, often fatal punishments.

Members of the trans community often suffer the consequences of other truth tellers of the past. 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.

Shante Isaac, 34, 4/10/2016

Murderers of trans people react in extreme and fanatical ways at the direction of the larger coercive societal battalions bent on destroying all signs of gender transgression in young and old alike in the maintenance of these gender scripts.

Keyonna Blakeney, 22, 4/16/2016

Most of us function as conscious or unconscious co-directors in this drama each time we enforce gender-role conformity onto others, and each time we relinquish our critical consciousness by failing to rewrite or destroy the scripts in ways that operate integrally for us.

Tyreece “Reccey” Walker, 32, 5/1/2016

Those who bully in society and filtered into the schools often fulfill the social “function” of establishing and reinforcing the socially-constructed scripts handed to them when they entered the performance. This is generated by larger social institutions within our patriarchal culture.

Mercedes Successful, 32, 5/15/2016

We must not and cannot dismiss the murders of trans people as only the actions of a few disturbed and sadistic individuals, for oppression exists on multiple levels in multiple forms. The killers live in a society that subtly and not-so-subtly promotes intolerance, spreads stereotypes, imposes stigmata, and perpetuates violence and the threat of violence. These incidents of murder must be understood as symptoms of larger systemic national hegemonic forms.

Amos Beede, 38, 5/25/2016

State legislatures in places like North Carolina, and elected officials such as former North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, who passed, signed, and promoted so-called “anti-trans bathroom” laws must be held accountable as co-conspirators in the violence against and murder of trans people!

“Goddess” Diamond, 20, 6/5/2016

Sponsors of these clearly discriminatory laws designed it specifically to ban trans people from using restrooms that most closely align with their gender identities. Legislators see the writing on the bathroom walls signaling the establishment of gender inclusive restroom facilities throughout the nation, which have existed in several nations around the world for decades.

Deeniquia Dodds, 22, 7/13/2016

The Catholic Church and other conservative religious denominations, who issue harsh judgments and condemnations against trans people must also be held accountable as co-conspirators in the violence against and murder of trans people!

Dee Whighem, 25, 7/23/2016

The Vatican hierarchy in 2015 psychologically bashed Alex Salinas, a 21-year-old trans man from Cadiz, Spain, by informing him that it had denied his request to become the godparent of his nephew because being transgender is incongruent with Catholic teaching. According to the Church’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, its doctrine-enforcing agency:

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

Skye Mockabee, 26, 7/30/2016

Well, the same Catholic Church, at another time, murdered Joan of Arc, the teenager who helped defeat the English in Joan’s native France and became one of the greatest war heroes in French history. Despite this, the Church tried Joan on the charge of heresy in rejecting Church authority in preference to direct inspiration from God, and most importantly, by donning men’s clothing. The Church burned Joan at the stake.

Erykah Tijerina, 36, 8/8/2016

Stigmatized and marginalized groups live with the constant reality of random and unprovoked systematic violence directed against them simply because their social identities. The intent of this xenophobic (fear and hatred of anyone or anything seeming “foreign”) violence is to harm, humiliate, and destroy the “Other” to maintain hierarchical power positions and attendant privileges of the dominant group over minoritized groups.

Rae’Lynn Thomas, 28, 8/10/2016

Though our President-elect presents himself as a bully and portends to be a negative role model, the time for bullying has come to an end! We are no longer intimidated. We are standing up, joining together as allies, as upstanders, to put an end to their hatred and violence, to their hegemonic programming to serve their need to control.

Lexxi T. Sironen, 43, 9/6/2016

We will once and for all end the deaths that have taken so many courageous, beautiful, and gentle spirits.

In the final analysis, whenever anyone of us is diminished, we are all demeaned. When anyone or any group remains institutionally and socially stigmatized, marginalized, excluded, or disenfranchised, when violence comes down upon any of us, the possibility for authentic community cannot be realized unless and until we become involved, to challenge, to question, and to act in truly transformational ways.

T. T., 9/11/2016

Each time we rewrite the scripts to give an honest and true performance of life, each time we work toward lifting the ban against our transcending the gender status quo by continually questioning and challenging standard conceptualization of gender, then will we begin as individuals and as a society to experience life to the fullest with our humanity and our integrity intact.

Crystal Edmonds, 32, 9/16/2016

Trans people have opened the boxes for all of us to ultimately obliterate binary gender 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.

Jazz Alford, 30, 9/23/2016

Trans visionaries, who are persecuted in their own time, will one day be perceived as the visionary truth tellers they definitely are. Until that day, the harassment, the marginalization, the fear, the violence, and the murders must end. It is up to us all to work toward this daily.

Brandi Bledsoe, 32, 10/8/2016; Sierra/Simon Bush, 10/22/2016

Noony Norwood, 30, 11/6/2016; India Monroe, 29, 12/21/2016

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

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

January 9th, 2017 at 2:36 pm

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Women & LGBT People Under Attack: Than & Now

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“The Republican Party must continue to uphold the principle that every human being, born and unborn, young and old, healthy and disabled, has a fundamental, individual right to life.” Republican National Committee for Life

Republican leaders announced recently that among their primary and immediate items on their legislative agenda once Donald Trump takes office, they will cut funding for Planned Parenthood. While these health care clinics do not currently receive direct federal funding, they do collect approximately $500. million in federal programs from payments and grants, which makes up about 40% of the organization’s yearly budget.

Though an estimated 2.5 million people throughout the country access Planned Parenthood each year for annual health checkups, screenings for diseases, and contraceptives, Republicans have attempted in the past to defund Planned Parenthood only to face a veto from President Obama.

In addition, now with Trump soon to take over the Oval office, many Republicans look forward to additional ultra-conservative judges sitting on the supreme to reverse still simmering contested topics such the legalization of abortion, equal pay for equal work, marriage equality, issues of trans public facilities, LGBT military inclusion, so-called “religious freedom restoration” laws, and many others.

In my continuing quest to understand and make meaning of current political, economic, and social realities, I constantly glance back into historical eras looking for similarities and parallels from which I can draw conclusions and possibly learn from past mistakes we as humans have made. While each era unquestionably poses unique conditions and challenges in many respects, I believe history has enumerable lessons to teach if we are willing to learn.

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 voicing.

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 against 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 Combatting 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.

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

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

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

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

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

January 7th, 2017 at 9:58 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Trump Marching Down Nixon’s Path to Disaster

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“Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don’t know what to do. Love.” Donald J. Trump, Tweet, 8:17 AM, 31 Dec. 2016

Donald Trump has made it his life’s mission to vanquish his “many enemies” — real and imagined. At this point in his life entering his eight decade, he has amassed an inexhaustible array of enemies including anyone and everyone who has ever made a disparaging remark against him, anyone and everyone who has failed to admire and publicly praise him, anyone and everyone who has withheld their heartfelt support in his personal, business, and political “affairs.”

In this regard, Trump behaves more Nixonian than Richard Nixon himself.

Unofficially referred to as “Nixon’s Enemies List,” the former president, prior to his resignation in disgrace, kept a record of his major political opponents. It was compiled by Charles Colson, Nixon’s special counsel to the White House, and written by Colson’s assistant, George T. Bell.

Officially titled the “Opponents List” and the “Political Enemies Project,” Bell distributed it as a memorandum to Nixon’s White House Counsel, John Dean, in September 1971. Dean publicized the list while testifying on June 27, 1973 in front of the Senate Watergate Committee investigating the burglary of the Democratic National Committee offices at the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C.

In a memorandum on August 16, 1971 to Lawrence Higby, assistant to Nixon’s White House Chief of Staff, H. R. Haldeman, Dean explained the list’s official purpose:

“This memorandum addresses the matter of how we can maximize the fact of our incumbency in dealing with persons known to be active in their opposition to our Administration; stated a bit more bluntly – how we can use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies.”

With Nixon’s insatiable narcissistic craving for attention and admiration, coupled with his intense and all-consuming paranoia, ultimately, the only person Nixon vanquished was himself, Richard Milhous Nixon.

Unfortunately, Donald Trump is walking (marching) down the path paved by Nixon. Omarosa Manigault, Trump’s campaign director of African American outreach and a former contestant on “The Apprentice,” warned that their team is compiling a list of people who did not support Trump’s candidacy. Though Nixon attempted to withhold divulging the existence of his “enemies list,” Trump is extremely transparent in his attempts to screw his political enemies. According to Manigault in an interview with the Independent Journal Review:

“Let me just tell you, Mr. Trump has a long memory and we’re keeping a list….It’s so great our enemies are making themselves clear so that when we get into the White House, we know where we stand.”

Not only has Trump publicly called out his political rivals in demeaning and humiliating terms, he has consistently demonized and demeaned the media, called into question the efficiency and reliability of the entire political intelligence community, challenged world leaders such as Angela Merkel of Germany while lavishing praise on brutal dictators like Vladimir Putin, verbally attacked the work of the United Nations, questioned our continuing involvement in NATO, and spoken derogatively against people who do not share all of his demographic identities – all this before ever stepping foot in the Oval Office as President.

If Trump continues down Nixon’s path, with his insatiable narcissistic craving for attention and admiration, coupled with his intense and all-consuming paranoia, ultimately, the only person Trump will vanquish will be himself, Donald John Trump.

He still has the space and time, however, to switch course and walk a different path, one envisioned in the prophetic words of Senator Robert F. Kennedy, which he spoke during his run for the presidency in 1968:

“When you teach a man to hate and fear his brother, when you teach that he is a lesser man because of his color or his beliefs or the policies he pursues, when you teach that those who differ from you threaten your freedom or your job or your family, then you also learn to confront others not as fellow citizens but as enemies, to be met not with cooperation but with conquest; to be subjugated and mastered.”

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

January 7th, 2017 at 10:31 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Donald Trump Surfaces from Swamp as Christmas Poo

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“Wow, the ratings are in and Arnold Schwarzenegger got ‘swamped’ (or destroyed) by comparison to the ratings machine, DJT. So much for being a movie star–and that was season 1 compared to season 14. Now compare him to my season 1. But who cares, he supported Kasich & Hillary.”

If anyone remains uncertain about President-elect Donald J. Trump’s (DJT) obvious pathological narcissism, his recent tweet haranguing his “Apprentise” replacement, Arnold Schwarzenegger, should at least give pause even to Trump’s most ardent supporters.

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

The American Psychiatric Association, in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual II (DSM) from 1968 lists “Narcissism” as an emotional problem and “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” (NPD) with a number of characteristics. These include

–An obvious self-focus in interpersonal exchanges
–Problems in sustaining satisfying relationships
–A lack of psychological awareness
–Difficulty with empathy
–Problems distinguishing the self from others (having bad interpersonal boundaries)
–Hypersensitivity to any insults or imagined insults
–Vulnerability to shame rather than guilt
–Haughty body language
–Flattery towards people who admire and affirm them
–Detesting those who do not admire them
–Using other people without considering the costs of doing so
–Pretending to be more important than they actually are
–Bragging and exaggerating their achievements
–Claiming to be an “expert” at many things
–Inability to view the world from the perspective of other people
–Denial of remorse and gratitude

Narcissistic Personality Disorder falls within the overall category of “sociopathology,” in which a person’s antisocial behavior demonstrates a lack of a sense of moral concern or responsibility or a deficit of social conscience. The American Psychiatric Association’s DSM classifies this condition as “Antisocial Personality Disorder” (APD), which it defines as…

“[A] pervasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others that begins in childhood or early adolescence and continues into adulthood.”

One does not have to have earned a Ph.D. in psychology to identify Donald Trump as someone suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder since he clearly manifests many if not all of its symptoms.

While Trump most certainly has not transformed into a beautiful fragrant flower as did the character in Greek legend, Trump has conducted a life campaign of attack, innuendo, name-calling, character assassination, blatant lying, and downright and incessant racist, xenophobic, Islamophobic, and misogynistic bullying. I would not find this as troubling if he had not positively resonated with a significant segment of the electorate.

At numerous stops on his campaign route, Trump promised that when he takes over the Oval Office, he will ask people to drop the “politically correct” term “happy holidays” and make it acceptable again to declare “merry Christmas.” On his so-called “Thank You America” tour in Wisconsin following the election, standing on-stage with a wall of large red-balled festooned Christmas trees behind him, Trump said he was fulfilling that promise to the state to return and say “merry Christmas.”

“So when I started 18 months ago, I told my first crowd in Wisconsin that we are going to come back here someday and we are going to say merry Christmas again. Merry Christmas. So, merry Christmas everyone. Happy New Year, but merry Christmas. And I am here today for one main reason: to say thank you to the people of Wisconsin.”

Even before Donald J. Trump descended the gold escalator in Trump Tower to announce his run for the presidency, through the announcement and the primaries, into the Republican National Convention that officially nominated him, then during the campaign and his election win, throughout his transition, and more than likely into his presidency, Trump has and will continue to dump deep and pungent metaphoric doo doo onto the political field of our nation.

So I now see that “South Park’s” Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo, that scatological character spreading joy and skid marks throughout the land, was patterned on no other than Donald J. Trump. There are, however, some striking differences.

Firstly, Trump spreads anything but joy throughout the land. And secondly, while Mr. Hankey seems rather harmless around mistletoe, Trump’s potential puny mistlefingers around the nuclear codes portends dangers for our nation and the world.

Trump needs to understand, though, that doo doo, metaphoric and otherwise, acts as effective fertilizer that nurtures the growth and flourishing of green leaves of political resistance and challenge that will eventually replace the doo-dooer with oxygen-enhancing nourishment for progressive social, political, and economic change.

You can count on it Donald!

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

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

January 6th, 2017 at 12:37 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Donald Trump’s Portrait as Hate Speech

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“I consider a picture of Trump, hate speech.” (Concerned Voter)

Political pundits and other students of history alike attempted to summarize our recent electoral season using such descriptors as “unprecedented,” “unpredictable,” “incredible,” “divisive,” “troubling,” “toxic,” and “post-factual.”

Since the election of Donald J. Trump as the 45th President of the United States, a contentious debate has surfaced in public institutions that receive federal or state funding centering on whether they should display Trump’s portrait in buildings once Trump takes office.

Officials at the Fire Department of New York (FDNY), for example, have banned firefighters from hanging or otherwise displaying pictures of President-elect Trump in firehouses or on trucks and other equipment. A memo delivered recently requested the department to “remain out of the political scene and out of the political field.”

Though New York firehouses have displayed photographs of past presidents, including George W. Bush standing at the World Trade Center holding a megaphone and Barack Obama when he visits FDNY facilities, officials took this action of prohibiting Trump’s image following community complaints that a firetruck in Brooklyn affixed a Trump mask to its grille.

This official FDNY action has generated controversy throughout the department, and has forecast a growing storm in the aftermath of a polarizing election.

An increasing number of public school educators and students of numerous social identities, as well, are debating (a.k.a. arguing) whether Trump’s image should hang on the walls of their campuses.

I met with students and educators, and I put out the word on social media that I would like to get their views on the current “portrait” controversy. Though certainly not a scientific study, I was able to take a snapshot into the minds of those who confided in me.

Some, though certainly not all, schools have routinely posted current presidents in their main offices, and in some cases in libraries, and at the discretion of teachers in their classrooms, However, because of Trump’s often xenophobic, misogynist, racist, Islamophobic, homophobic, and ableist rhetoric and behavior, quite a number of members of the school community, including students in particular, who already feel socially marginalized in the current cultural and political climate, argue that they would find pictures of the new president triggering both emotionally and physically.

Students

Speaking with a group of public university students, a major theme I found surfacing was that until the election, they had not been “political” and were “uninterested.” The election of Trump, however, was a loud and clear wake-up call. Each student committed to process their feelings and to take actions from then forward.

University students, siblings at another campus, said that directly following the election, they called their mother every day for a week in tears of concern for the fate of the country and for undocumented friends and their families who now live with increased and constant fears of deportation.

When I met with high school juniors and seniors in an LGBTQ history class, to a student, all expressed anger and fear at Trump’s election. One student expressed the sentiments of their classmates:

“No longer do people hold politicians to standards of behavior that they hold for high school students. It’s okay for the President-elect to grab women’s genitals, but if I did it, I’d be thrown out of school and thrown into jail.”

Every student in this class bristled against even the thought of Trump’s portrait looking “down” on them.

Educators

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

Even before the election concluded, I heard from a public-school educator:

“As we get closer to the election, I’m seeing more and more of my students of marginalized identities struggle — seriously, deeply struggle — with their mental and emotional health, to the point of discussing suicide….I suspect that I’m not alone in what I’m seeing, and that it’s happening on other campuses as well.”

Educators in my study uniformly expressed concern, at best, over their schools posting Trump’s image.

A high school history teacher remains somewhat hopeful:

“Unfortunately, he is going to be the President. If the school has posted Presidents in the past, it seems like they have to do this one no matter how distasteful. Luckily, we don’t do this in our school. I could imagine how difficult it would be to see him every day since he represents so much that I find abhorrent. We can’t ignore that he is President. If his image is posted, maybe it will be a reminder to resist?”

An elementary school teacher perceives the portrait controversy as providing teachable moments:

“I suppose it [posting Trump’s portrait] could be a potentially divisive issue if a particular school allows it to become so…However, if we are raising critical thinkers as we are tasked through the Common Core, then students might want to prepare their arguments. In fact, it could be turned into an entire lesson on argumentation.”

This teacher related this to the controversy regarding whether to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance:

“[M]y 6th graders were all standing up for and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance without knowing why. Then we did a lesson using [San Francisco 49ers quarterback] Colin Kapernick’s defiance in the face of the national anthem, and after making up their own minds, most of them (I work in a high poverty school where I’m the only white face in the room) chose to sit through it. (This also gave me the power to not have to stand up myself as an example, allowing me to exercise my objections for religious reasons).”

In addition to this teacher, others I heard from expressed their belief that whether to post Trump’s portrait will turn into a contentious issue only if educators decide and dictate on their own without facilitating student discussions in classrooms and schools at large.

Though elections traditionally result in tensions and rifts between colleagues within social institutions, the recent election has seen particularly intense divisions. According to one educator:

“…since the elections, which at work is a “No Talk About thing” because screaming fights have broken out in the Teacher’s Room. This has been the worst thing I have seen since I began working there. The teachers and staff have been at each other’s throats about why they think Donald Trump is a better person for our country and why Hillary isn’t and vice versa.”

A public-school counselor who coordinates a Gay Straight Transgender Alliance (GSTA), who sees the real-life consequences of an often non-supportive society, remains less hopeful in the current climate:

“My kids are quite savvy, and follow politics to some degree. One of our strongest members is an eighth grader who came out as gay last year. He’s very bright, well-informed, conscientious, and outspoken. He tried very hard to find commonalities with his Trump-supporting parents. He struggled more and more after the election, finally he broke down stating he’s not a gay, and now fears rejection and humiliation from the very people who’ve been supporting him. Suicidal, he was hospitalized. Donald Trump’s bullying and hateful rhetoric separated him from his parents, then himself, and then potentially from his support network.”

Regarding the displaying of Trump’s picture at school, a counselor believes:

“It’s like running a swastika up the flagpole!”

And the controversy rages. Time will tell whether this “portrait” storm spreads throughout the social climate of our land. But one thing remains certain, as the English idiom has long made clear,

“A picture is worth a thousand words!,” and just as triggering.

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

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

December 28th, 2016 at 5:04 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Mormon Tabernacle Choir to Perform at Trump Inauguration: A Perfect Match

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I was asked to sign a petition, which asks the Mormon Tabernacle Choir not to perform as scheduled at Donald Trump’s inauguration. The petition read in part:

“We, as signers of this petition, believe that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ decision to allow the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to perform at the upcoming presidential inauguration of Donald Trump DOES NOT reflect the values of Mormonism and does not represent its diverse 15+ million members worldwide.”

I could not sign the petition in good faith, though, because I believe Donald Trump and the values of Mormonism do, fact, align. Since its very founding and continuing over time, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) has perpetuated in policy and action, as has Donald Trump, numerous forms of oppression, and in terms of LDS, most notably sexism, heterosexism, racism, and anti-Jewish oppression.

Sexism

“Men are called as high priests because of their exceeding faith and good works — They are to teach the commandments — Through righteousness they are sanctified and enter into the rest of the Lord — Melchizedek was one of these — Angels are declaring glad tidings throughout the land — They will declare the actual coming of Christ.    About 82 B.C.”

Chapter 13, Book of Alma in The Book of Mormon

The Bishops Council of LDS (an all-male assembly) recently excommunicated life-long committed member in absentia, Kate Kelly, on the charge of “apostasy” for “conduct contrary to the laws and order of the church.” The “conduct” to which the Bishops refer amounts to Kelly’s lobbying efforts for the Church to change its policies and finally allow women’s ordination. Kelly serves as a lawyer and she cofounded the website OrdainWomen.org as a forum to raise issues and provide discussion on this crucial topic. According to the website:

“Ordain Women aspires to create a space for Mormons to articulate issues of gender inequality they may be hesitant to raise alone. As a group we intend to put ourselves in the public eye and call attention to the need for the ordination of Mormon women to the priesthood.”

The Bishops told Kelly in an email message that she could gain reinstatement after one year if she exhibited “true repentance” and relinquished her activism for women’s ordination. Kelly, however, claiming she “did nothing wrong,” vowed not to give up her fight, and though she does not have hope for a reversal, she plans to appeal the decision. 

Heterosexism

“Homosexual behavior violates the commandments of God, is contrary to the purposes of human sexuality, distorts loving relationships, and deprives people of the blessings that can be found in family life and in the saving ordinances of the gospel. Those who persist in such behavior or who influence others to do so are subject to Church discipline. Homosexual behavior can be forgiven through sincere repentance.

”The Handbook of Instructions, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

These words supposedly expressed God’s revelation to the leadership of LDS, and reaffirmed in 1995 when the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles entered the debate on the parameters of marriage by issuing “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.”

It stated in part, “We, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His Children” and claiming that the power to create children “is not an incidental part of the plan of happiness. It is the key – the very key….This commandment has never been rescinded.”

Leaders and members of the Church, therefore, justified contributing an estimated 20 million dollars to the 2008 California Ballot 8 initiative campaign, which succeeded in limiting the rights and benefits of marriage to one man and one woman.

If the Church’s position on same-sex attractions, expression, and marriage for same-sex couples was not clear enough, LDS President of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, Boyd K. Packer, referred to homosexuality throughout a sharply worded sermon as “wrong,” or “basically wrong,” “wicked,” “impure,” “unnatural,” “immoral,” “against nature,” “evil,” and as a threat to civilization. Packer’s sermon, delivered to the more than 20,000 participants in the LDS Conference Center in Salt Lake City, and millions more watching on satellite television at the Church’s 180th Semiannual General Conference in October 2010, stated in part:

“We teach a standard of moral conduct that will protect us from Satan’s many substitutes or counterfeits for marriage. We must understand that any persuasion to enter into any relationship that is not in harmony with the principles of the gospel must be wrong. From the Book of Mormon we learn that ‘wickedness never was happiness’….There are those today who not only tolerate but advocate voting to change laws that would legalize immorality, as if a vote would somehow alter the designs of God’s laws and nature. A law against nature would be impossible to enforce….To legalize that which is basically wrong or evil will not prevent the pain and penalties that will follow as surely as night follows day….If we do not protect and foster the family, civilization and our liberties must perish.”

Under this backdrop and literally across the street and one block from the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City, I was invited to present a keynote address to the delegates at the Eighty-First Annual Convention of the Rocky Mountain Psychological Association on April 16, 2011. I titled my address, “Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price,” based on the notion that homophobia — sometimes referred to as “heterosexism” (prejudice and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender [LGBT] people) is pervasive throughout society and each of us, irrespective of sexual or gender identity and expression, is at risk of its harmful effects.

Following my keynote address, a number of the convention delegates came to the podium to talk about how much they had gained from my remarks. In particular, I was enormously touched by the words of three delegates who literally moved me to tears.

A woman approached me with moistened eyes and tears running down her cheeks. Unable initially to speak, she hugged me and sobbed on my shoulder. She ultimately expressed how much my words had moved her, and through her sobs, told me the story of how her stepson, a young gay man, had killed himself three years earlier, and how members of her religious community, the LDS congregation of her small rural community, had shunned and scorned her when the young man’s sexual identity had become known.

Words failed me as we continued to hold and comfort each other.

Looking on was another woman who joined us. “I have a nine-year-old son, whom I am quite certain is gay,” she told us, as tears also streamed from her eyes. “I am forced to make a decision,” she said with urgency in her voice. “I must leave my LDS church and save my son from a possibly tragic fate if I remain. My son is the most important thing in my life, and I refuse to lose him to the narrow views of the people around me.”

While sad, she also now felt somewhat empowered in her decision to separate from what she considered as abuse and misunderstanding from her church community.

As I was on my way out of the large conference hall, I noticed a man, red eyed, who beckoned me. “I am a professor at Brigham Young University,” he explained. “Until your talk, I had never truly understood the hurt the LDS policy has on real people, but you personalized the issue for me.” With a tone of deep sincerity in his voice, he said: “I commit to you that I will bring this message to my campus when I go back to work on Monday.”

Racism

Yes, the LDS “revelation” on sexuality and gender expression has, indeed, hurt and damaged real people, but looking back historically, other LDS “revelations” have negatively affected real people while damaging the Church’s reputation.

Then 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 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, which the Church demands 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 sin of Cain, Adam and Eve’s eldest son, who killed his brother Abel: “What chance is there for the redemption of the Negro?,” stated Young in 1849 following declaration of his restrictive policy. “The Lord had cursed Cain’s seed with blackness and prohibited them the Priesthood.”

While making a speech to the Utah Territorial Legislature in 1852, Young further asserted: “Any man having one drop of the seed of [Cain]…in him cannot hold the Priesthood, and if no other Prophet ever spoke it before, I will say it now in the name of Jesus Christ I know it is true and others know it.”

In another instance, Young continued: “You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind….Cain slew his brother. Cain might have been killed, and that would have put a termination to that line of human beings. That was not to be, and the Lord put a mark upon him, which is the flat nose and black skin…that they should be the ‘servant of servants’; and they will be, until that curse is removed….”

Joseph Fielding Smith, Tenth Prophet and President of the LDS Church wrote in 1935 that, “Not only was Cain called upon to suffer, but because of his wickedness, he became the father of an inferior race. A curse was placed upon him and that curse has been continued through his lineage and must do so while time endures….” And in 1963 he asserted: “Such a change [in our policy] can come about only through divine revelation, and no one can predict when a divine revelation will occur.”

It seems that the Twelfth LDS Church president, Spencer W. Kimball, who served from 1973 to his death in 1985, was touched with such a “vision” and, therefore, reversed the ban, referring to it as “the long-promised day.”

We can ask today whether “revelation” or mere pragmatism was the determining factor in permitting black people full membership rights in the Church at a time of ongoing and heightened civil rights activities in the United States and an increase in LDS missionary recruiting efforts throughout the African continent. We can also ask whether “revelation” or mere pragmatism was the motivating consideration for abandoning its promotion of polygamous marriages at a time when the United States Congress demanded this as a condition for the admission of Utah as a state within the United States.

How many more times will the LDS hierarchy refuse ordination to women? How many more times will LDS members shun people and their families? How many more young people will injure and kill themselves due to LDS exclusionary and discriminatory policies? And how many more families will grieve the loss of loved ones before the LDS Church leadership receives its “divine revelation” to welcome and grant full membership rights, privileges, and responsibilities to people of all sexes, sexual identities, and gender identities and expressions?

Anti-Jewish Oppression

Reports came to light in 1995 that LDS was secretly inflicting forced and unwarranted posthumous “baptisms” onto Jewish Holocaust victims, including my European relatives whom the Nazis murdered. After the practice surfaced, LDS promised to discontinue these ritual baptisms, but reneged. LDS disclosed in 2011 it had “baptized” Daniel Pearl, a reporter who was Jewish for the Wall Street Journal whom terrorists kidnapped and killed in Pakistan in 2002, and also Anne Frank, whom LDS baptized in 2012.

So, no, I can not sign the petition asking the Mormon Tabernacle Choirs not to perform at the future Fascist-In-Chief’s coronation since they are a perfect match!

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

December 27th, 2016 at 2:52 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

West Bank, Crimea, The Americas: Illegal Annexation by Different Names

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The 15-member United Nations Security Council took a highly controversial step on Friday, December 23, 2016 by voting 14-0 to condemn Israel’s construction of so-called “settlements” on the occupied West Bank taken after the 1967 War with its Arab neighbors.

Though the United States chose to abstain, throughout his presidency, Barack Obama has voiced the long-standing official policy of his country by designating Israeli settlements as a major impediment in any hoped-for two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President-elect Donald Trump, on the other hand, blasted the United Nations’ vote. And Trump’s proposed U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, a far-right-wing lawyer, does not support a “two-state solution,” but does support a Jerusalem capital, the “settlement” program, and Israel’s annexation of the occupied West Bank.

Though declared illegal under international law, approximately 570,000 Israelis live in the more than 130 so-called “settlements” (a.k.a. stolen land) since the 1967 War. If the Trump, Friedman, and Netanyahu plans are enacted, they will hammer the final nail into the coffin of a Palestinian/Israeli peace.

Many see Israel’s “settlement” policy on the occupied West Bank in the same light as Russia’s illegal incursion into Eastern Ukraine and annexation of Crimea, which likewise threaten political and military stability in the area and further endanger world peace.

Historian Joel Spring refers to this “cultural genocide” defined as “the attempt to destroy other cultures” through forced acquiescence and assimilation to majority rule and standards. This cultural genocide works through the process of “deculturalization,” which Spring describes as “the educational process of destroying a people’s culture and replacing it with a new culture.”

An example of “cultural genocide” and “deculturalization” is evident in the case of Christian European American domination over Native American Indians, whom European Americans viewed as “uncivilized,” “godless heathens,” “barbarians,” and “devil worshipers.” White Christian European Americans deculturalized indigenous peoples through many means: confiscation of land, forced relocation, undermining of their languages, cultures, and identities, forced conversion to Christianity, and the establishment of Christian day schools and off-reservation boarding schools far away from their people.

The expansion of the republic and movement west was, in part, justified by overriding philosophical underpinnings since the American Revolution. Called “Manifest Destiny,” it was based on the belief that God intended the United States to extend its holdings and its power across the wide continent of North America over indigenous peoples from east coast to west. The doctrine of “manifest destiny” embraced a belief in American Anglo-Saxon superiority.

“This continent,” a congressman declared, “was intended by Providence as a vast theatre on which to work out the grand experiment of Republican government, under the auspices of the Anglo-Saxon race.”

A mid-19th century missionary wrote: “As tribes and nationals the Indians must perish and live only as men, [and should] fall in with Christian civilization that is destined to cover the earth.”

Throughout the Alaska territory, Christian missionaries, including Presbyterians, Catholics, Moravians, vied to win converts. Simultaneously, the United States government issued laws barring Alaskan Indian ceremonies regarded as “pagan” and contrary to the spread of Christianity.

During the early years of the new republic, with its increasing population and desire for land, political leaders, such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, advocated that Indian lands should be obtained through treaties and purchase.

President Jefferson in 1803 wrote a letter to then Tennessee political leader, Andrew Jackson, advising him to convince Indians to sell their “useless” forests to the U.S. government and become farmers. Jefferson and other government leaders overlooked the fact that this style of individualized farming was contrary to Indian communitarian spiritual and cultural traditions.

Later, however, when he inhabited the White House, Jackson argued that white settlers [a pleasant term for “land thieves”] had a “right” to confiscate Indian land. Though he proposed a combination of treaties and an exchange or trade of land, he maintained that white people had a right to claim any Indian lands that were not under cultivation. Jackson recognized as the only legitimate claims for Indian lands those on which they grew crops or made other “improvements.”

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

The Naturalization Act of 1790 excluded Native American Indians from citizenship, considering them, paradoxically, as “domestic foreigners.” They were not accorded rights of citizenship until 1924 when Congress passed the Indian Citizenship Act, though Asians continued to be denied naturalized citizenship status.

In addition, though Jackson founded the Democratic Party and brought greater popular control to government, as a farmer, his wealth increased enormously through his enslavement of Africans, and he gave the lash to any who attempted escape.

I found a definition of “settler” as “a person who settles in an area, typically one with no or few previous inhabitants.” I would add an essential condition that for this person to settle, the area must not have prior claim by others who call it their home.

How could Columbus have discovered what would later be called “the Americas” when people lived on this land for an estimated 12,000 years after coming over the Bering Isthmus during a glacial age when sea levels dropped? How can one “discover” people who have been here so long? Actually, First Nation people discovered Columbus on their land!

We must interrogate (analyze) the concept of “settler,” of “discovery,” of “the New World” as distinguished from “the Old World.”

Say, for example, I own a house, and someone knocks on the door, walks in, pushes me outside, and claims: “I like your house, and I am now settling here. You be on your way. Good bye!” And he slammed the door in my face.

“Manifest Destiny,” “annexation,” “settlements” represent different terms with similar meanings: unethical and immoral muggings and robbery of other people’s land. I fully support the United Nation’s courageous resolution.

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

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

December 23rd, 2016 at 8:05 pm

Posted in Uncategorized