Warren Blumenfeld's Blog

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

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

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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

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Trump, Lügenpresse, and Anti-Democratic Intimidation to Silence Opposition

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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.

Trump tweet: “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!” 4:48 PM – 17 Feb 2017

“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 understand how his bombastic style of presentation affects his relationships with the media and with his constituents, but 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.”

Prior to and throughout his presidential run and into his administration, he has waged a frontal assault on the very democratic systems on which our country was founded. He called into question the legitimacy of Barack Obama’s presidency, the “fairness” of the “rigged” electoral system, the freedom of the press, the reliability of the intelligence community, the intelligence of the electorate, and the independence of the judiciary.

Steven Miller, Trump’s senior White House policy advisor, accused judges of inappropriately interfering in the President’s executive orders, and he asserted that Trump’s national security decisions “will not be questioned” by the courts.

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.”

In this contentious atmosphere in which Trump continually lambasts and attempts to delegitimize the media, just before the election in October 2016, a video went viral showing two Trump supporters shouting “Lügenpresse” (German for “lying press”).

The German author Reinhold Anton coined the term in 1914 primarily in a foreign context to refer to “enemy propaganda.” The Nazis later popularized Lügenpresse to silence opposition to the regime.

In this regard, Adolph Hitler said:

“The great masses of the people will more easily fall victims to a big lie than to a small one.” And, “The victor will never be asked if he told the truth.”

Trump (encapsulated in his alt-right, alt-facts, alt-universe), like other authoritarians, uses “Machiavellian” tactics in his singlemindedness, cunning, plotting, and unscrupulous – sometimes vicious — actions in advancing his career, enacting his policies, and enhancing his power. To Trump, the ends certainly justify the means no matter who gets hurt.

Throughout his business career and into his presidency, while simultaneously vilifying the courts, Trump uses law suits as a means of intimidation to get his way and to vanquish his opposition. He continually threatens to employ libel laws to sue the “crooked and lying” media. We will most likely see more of these threats emerging from Trump’s Ministry of Propaganda (a.k.a. “White House Office of Communications”).

While the major wealthier media outlets have the privilege and ability to stand up to Trump’s coercion, some of the smaller organizations who run on very tight budgets and depend on volunteer labor have no such privileges. For many of these smaller outlets, even the treat of a harassing lawsuit has resulted in self-censoring.

Though before the election they may have included some articles dealing with political analysis among their otherwise primary specialized focuses, in my discussions with some leaders of these outlets, they told me under the guarantee of anonymity that they can no longer “risk” publishing articles that in any way criticize Trump or his administration.

While the United States Constitution created three independent governmental branches, Executive, Legislative, and Judicial, and the First Amendment — supplemented and expanded by legislative actions and judicial decisions — granted “freedom of the press,” our “Fourth Estate” stands (or falls) more vulnerable and susceptible than the other three. Our very democracy, nonetheless, depends on a free and independent press. Without it, authoritarianism wins and democracy fails.

Unfortunately, Trump sees his “running war” with the media as a veritable “Game of Thrones” in which “to the victor goes the spoils.”

“You know, it really doesn’t matter what the media write as long as you’ve got a young, and beautiful, piece of ass.” Donald J. Trump

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

February 17th, 2017 at 6:00 pm

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On Internalized Oppression and Eating Our Own

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In my recent article, On Internal Criticism: Taking the Higher Ground, I assert that “we certainly can and should challenge one another when we disagree on views, actions, terminology, perceptions of history,” philosophical and ideological strategies, “and ways to move forward” as individuals and as communities.

I then argue, “We have crossed a critical line, however, when we enter into character assassination, insinuation and innuendo, name-calling, stereotyping, defamation, and calling into question one another’s motives for the views and perspectives we hold.”

Connected to the personal and often vicious attacks on LGBTQ people by other LGBTQ people, I posed two important critical questions: “Have some of us taken on the characteristics of our abusers by perpetuating the abuse? And what role does internalized oppression play in this equation?”

LGBTQ people, and other people of socially marginalized identities and communities, still live in a nation and a world that, in many quarters, teaches that we are “less than,” that we do not have a right to exist, and even that we actually do not exist. As such, we can find it difficult at best not to internalize society’s negative teaching about ourselves.

We can understand internalized oppression as the internalization, consciously or unconsciously, of external attitudes, teachings, myths, lies, and stereotypes of inferiority, inadequacy, self-hatred, and sense of “otherness” by the targets of systematic and systemic oppression.

Lipsky, referring to racism, discusses the “distress patterns” of internalized oppression:

“The result has been that these distress patterns, created by oppression and racism from the outside, have been played out in the only two places it has seemed ‘safe’ to do so. First, upon members of our own group — particularly upon those over whom we have some degree of power or control… Second, upon ourselves through all manner of self-invalidation, self-doubt, isolation, fear, feelings of powerlessness, and despair.”

Internalizing these external negative societal messages is not our fault, for we too have been socialized within the systemic framework of multiple forms of oppression. There are, however, steps we can take to reduce, or even eliminate internalized oppression, though working to end internalized oppression is a long-term process.

We cannot begin the process of unlearning until and unless we work to become aware of our own distress patterns, for it is much easier to direct our anger and blame – to project — outward onto others, than to look within ourselves to our own injuries.

Though I have been involved as a political activist and community organizer for 50+ years founding and working for LGBTQ organizations and activist groups, through years of undertaking my “personal” work, nearly on a daily basis, I continually become aware of the “stuff” still in my head: the self-doubts, the shame, the fear of living as a queer person.

For example, I have always loved the colors lavender and pink. My good friend gave me a gift of a beautiful bright and warm hot pink fleece house robe, which I simply adore. Before I put it on each time, however, I always pull the curtains and shades in my house and lower the lighting to make certain no one on the outside can see me.

I understand that we live in a nation with strictly-held gender scripts where it is written that people assigned “male” at birth must don certain apparel (not “gay apparel”) and avoid others. Part of my reaction stems from the knowledge that transgressors suffer extreme consequences. I am certain, however, that I also operate in ways influenced by internalized oppression.

Therefore, to Acknowledge the internalized oppression can be the second step after Awareness, before proceeding to taking Action. This “AAA” 12-step program plan to confront addiction can be applied to confronting internalized oppression as well.

One of the means of action I have taken over the past three decades was first to develop and continually refine and to conduct “Unlearning Internalized Oppression” workshop for members of marginalized identities and communities.

By no means officially “scientific” or definitive, over the years in my studies and hearing workshop participants’ experiences, I have come up with a list of some of the ways people act out or manifest their distress patterns related to their internalized oppression:

  1. Denial of one’s minoritized identity(ies) to oneself and others.
  2. Attempts to alter or change one’s identity(ies).
  3. Feeling one is never “good enough” (sometimes a tendency toward “perfectionism”).
  4. Engaging in obsessive thinking and/or compulsive behaviors.
  5. Under-achievement as a sign of resignation or giving up; or Over-achievement as a bid for acceptance.
  6. Delayed or postponed emotional and/or cognitive development.
  7. Low Self-Esteem and/or Body Image.
  8. Contempt for the more “open” or “obvious” members of your identity community(ies).
  9. Contempt for those at earlier stages of the identity developmental process” (The “I am more proud than thou” attitude.)
  10. Denial that oppression against minoritized peoples and communities are serious social problems.
  11. Contempt for those who are not just like ourselves; and/or Contempt for those who seem like ourselves.
  12. Projection of prejudice onto other minoritized group(s), reinforced by society’s existing prejudices.
  13. Becoming psychologically and/or physically abusive; or remaining in an abusive relationship.
  14. Attempts to “pass” as a member(s) of dominant groups to gain social approval.
  15. Increased fear and withdrawal from friends and relatives.
  16. Shame and/or depression.
  17. Anger and/or bitterness.
  18. School truancy and/or dropping out of school; Workplace Absenteeism/Reduced Productivity
  19. Continual self-monitoring of one’s behaviors, mannerisms, beliefs, and ideas.
  20. “Minstrelizing” or clowning as a way of acting out society’s negative stereotypes of your minoritized identity(ies).
  21. Mistrust and destructive criticism of “activist” community leaders. (“Eating One’s Own.”)
  22. Reluctance to be around or have concern for children of dominant groups for fear of being considered a “pedophile” or “predator.”
  23. Conflicts with the law as a reaction to oppression, sometimes as a conscious or unconscious cry for help.
  24. Unsafe sexual practices and other destructive risk-taking behaviors (including risks for pregnancy and STDs and HIV).
  25. Separating sex and love, and/or fear of intimacy. Sometimes low or lack of sexual drive.
  26. Substance abuse (including food, alcohol, drugs, and others).
  27. Suicidal ideation, attempts, completion.

During these times, as the political and theocratic right-wing attempt to roll back the gains marginalized people and communities have fought so hard and tirelessly for over the years, we must remain forever vigilant and continue the struggle. For us to work to our fullest potential in the movement and generally in our daily lives, we must also work on our “stuff,” the ways in which we have internalized those subtle and not-so-subtle messages, how this has limited us, and how we can dismantle this internalization and move forward.

We must stop eating our own!

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

February 15th, 2017 at 3:03 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Trump’s “Extreme Vetting” Hypocrisy

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So what does Donald Trump mean when he argues for “extreme vetting” of visitors and refugees to the United States?

Trump’s executive order stops admittance of all refugees into the country for 120 days and halts all citizens from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the U.S. for three months. He said he will enact new screening policies, which he calls “extreme vetting,” of all incoming visitors and immigrants.

But what he mean by “extreme vetting”? In his own words he argued:

“We want to ensure that we are not admitting into our country the very threats our soldiers are fighting overseas. We only want to admit those into our country who will support our country and love deeply our people.”

Trump said that all people from his targeted seven predominately Muslim countries who want to come to the U.S. will now have to undergo face-to-face interviews and must fill out a questionnaire to determine if they accept and support our values (whatever that means). He gave no further details.

Does Donald not know that U.S. officials have already instituted extraordinarily rigid screening procedures for foreign nationals desiring to immigrate here, as well as a complicated and extensive visa application process? In fact, the U.S. has some of the tightest travel and immigration procedures in the world.

In defending his “extreme vetting” executive order, the President stated his reasoning:

“I will never forget that my responsibility is to keep you — the American people — safe and free.”

And this is as it should be for President Trump and, indeed, for any President of the United States. We should all be grateful that the President understands this important responsibility. But it seems that he is going about it in the wrong way derived from erroneous information by his advisors.

Rather than continuing to promote this ill-conceived executive order, Trump needs to turn his attention and energy toward extremely vetting, first, his cabinet and other high-level choices, since many of them turned in their ethics paperwork late, have apparent conflicts of interest, and have insufficient experience for the offices they are to fill.

To name only a few of many, Trump’s pick for national security advisor, retired Army Lt. General Mike Flynn, in a 2010 military tribunal was convicted of having “inappropriately shared” classified information with foreign governments, and during the presidential campaign circulated false conspiracy theories. Now he has been charged with breaking protocol and lying about it by negotiating with Russian government official on possible sanctions relief before Trump took office.

Trump nominated highly controversial billionaire Betsy DeVos to head the Department of Education, who has in the past advocated for a voucher system that would divert funding from public schools to private and parochial schools, and give greater emphasis on for-profit charter schools. Recently, she has been charged with plagiarism. At her Senate confirmation hearings, she was roundly criticized for her lack of even basic knowledge on teaching and pedagogical issues.

Former Texas Governor and failed presidential candidate in 2012, as Trump’s choice to lead the Department of Energy, admitted that he was unaware of the functions of the very department he said he wanted to eliminate in his notorious “oops” Republican primary debate moment.

Ben Carson initially turned down Trump’s offer to serve as Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development admitting that he had no experience in this area, but eventually accepted the post.

Questions still swirl around Trump’s pick of Representative Tom Price as Health and Human Services Secretary over potential conflicts of interest, past and present, with his investments in pharmaceutical companies, medical devices, and health insurance companies, which donated directly to his campaign.

Moving on, if President Trump wants to keep “the American people safe and free,” he will seriously consider scrapping the Affordable Health Care Law and replacing it, with the aid of the Congress, with a single-payer health care system like that of our Canadian neighbors to the North, who pay less and live longer.

If Trump is actually concerned about keeping “the American people safe and free,” he needs to stop cozying up to Wayne LaPierre and other officials of the National Rifle Association, and push for extreme vetting provided by increased gun safety regulations in the purchasing and use of firearms.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, gun-related violence has reached enormous proportions in our country by snuffing out the lives of upwards of 30,000 people and wounding many more annually. Approximately 11,000 of these deaths are a result of murder, while the remainder include suicides and accidents. Many of the guns used in these killings reach military grade weapons power, guns which currently remain legal.

If the President wants to keep “the American people safe and free,” he will commit to extreme vetting of Vladimir Putin regarding any possible hacking of the Democratic and Republican National Committees, and involvement in our electoral system, in addition to his authoritarianism involving acts of intimidation, murder, and violation of civil rights of the Russian people and territorial rights of people in other nations.

If the President wants to keep “the American people safe and free,” he will reject any executive and legislative actions addressing so-called “religious freedom” policies, which allow people to discriminate based on their “religious beliefs.”

If he wants to keep “the American people safe and free,” he will oppose any limitations against women maintaining their rights to control of their own bodies.

If he wants to keep “the American people safe and free,” he will oppose the Dakota Access and Keystone Pipelines, and push Congress to invest substantially more in clean renewable energy sources.

If he wants to keep “the American people safe and free,” he will appoint a fully qualified and well-respected person committed to ensuring equality, safety, and freedom of we the people as Director of the Civil Rights Division in the Department of Justice, since Trump’s pick of Sessions to lead the DoJ as Attorney General has been such a disappointment, at best, for those of us who value the protection of everyone’s civil and human rights.

If Trump wants to keep “the American people safe and free,” he will push for a national law banning discrimination against trans people from using the public facilities that most closely align to their gender identities.

In addition, he will cease rounding up undocumented residents who are in the United States to provide a better life for themselves and their families, and he will provide them a reasonable path to citizenship so they can safely and freely come out of the shadows.

And Donald Trump will provide the American people with the tools by which we can extremely vet him by finally releasing his financial and tax documents.

The President can do much more, but if the President wants to set a very basic agenda for his first 100 days in office, he can consider the points outlined above, at the very least, as a way of keeping “the American people safe and free.” After that, we the people will assist him in adding other forms of extreme vetting when directed toward appropriate areas of investigation.

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

February 13th, 2017 at 12:50 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

On “Internal” Criticism: Taking the Higher Ground

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“The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” Audre Lorde

Scan the psychological literature and you will find numerous case studies of abused youth who grow to become abusers, and bullied tormented youth who eventually become tormentors themselves. On the other end of a wide continuum, other studies document such young people who eventually stop the cycle of abuse as adults — some who work to make the world a safer place physically and psychologically for everyone.

How many times have we been, and continue to be, harassed and assaulted by bullies on the schoolyard, and scorned and reviled by those with social and political power who want to roll back the gains we have made over the years? If the current political climate is any indication, unless we commit to interrupting the trend on the personal, interpersonal, institutional, and larger societal levels, it will get even worse.

I cannot help but reflecting on the psychological studies when I read some of the letters printed in our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community and national publications, as well as messages on our internet chat rooms, blog sites, and email lists in which writers engage in vicious personal attacks, name calling, character association, and impugning of motives of other LGBT people and our allies with whom they disagree. It is as though these writers forget that there are actual human beings on the other end of the computer screen.

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

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

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

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

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

Just one hour before writing this commentary, someone within the LGBT community accused me of being a narcissist in the ilk of Donald Trump, being an academic fraud, and being a “self-promoter” by uploading my articles, commentaries, and PowerPoints onto websites and Facebook groups, rather than treat me as someone who wishes to share my work with others.

Though I am quite confident in the quality of my work, and am open to correcting any errors, I often wonder about writers and upcoming scholars who are not as experienced in the publishing process and the often-brutal internal criticism that invariably follows. How will that effect their self-concept and desire to continue moving forward in their important work?

A 2014 National Civility Survey by Weber Shandwick and Powell Tate, with KRC Research found that about 66% of U.S. citizens believe that we have “a major civility problem” in our country, and 70% believe that “civility has eroded over the past few years.”

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

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

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

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

I am sure there are those who would tell me, “Oh why don’t you simply grow up and join the real world?” My response is that I hope we can radically transform the so-called “real world” — for it is only real if we collude and buy into it as it is. The strategy I propose certainly will not entirely eliminate the venomous assaults lodged against us by those with whom we disagree, but it will undoubtedly help to maintain our sense of dignity and our integrity. We can, therefore, take the higher ground.

A central tenet of Jewish tradition is Tikkun Olam: meaning the transformation, healing, and repairing of the world so that it becomes a more just, peaceful, nurturing, and perfect place. I ask us to join and go out into our lives, and work for Tikkun Olam. Let the abuse stop here.

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

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

February 11th, 2017 at 6:41 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Attempting to Silence Elizabeth Warren, U.S. Senate Committed an Act of Violence

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Though Donald Trump called his opponents demeaning names and sought to assassinate their characters throughout his run for the presidency and after his inauguration, during his final national debate with Hillary Clinton when she said she would raise taxes on the wealthy like herself and Trump “assuming he can’t figure out how to get out of it,” Trump interrupted by calling her “such a nasty woman.”

Though Texas Senator Ted Cruz called Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, a liar on the floor of the U.S. Senate in July 2015, he was not censured or made to sit down when he said in part: “What we just saw today was an absolute demonstration that not only what [Senator McConnell] told every Republican senator, but what he told the press over and over and over again, was a simple lie….”

When senior Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, during an all-night marathon confirmation hearing for Senator Jeff Sessions as Trump’s nominee for U.S. Attorney General read comments from former Senator Edward F. Kennedy referring to Sessions as a “throw-back to a shameful era” and as a “disgrace” for his reported racist remarks when he served as a U.S. attorney for the southern district of Alabama, Mitch McConnell rose from his seat warning Warren not to further impugn the character of a sitting senator.

For McConnell, the final straw came as Warren attempted to read a 1986 letter from Coretta Scott King regarding Sessions’ negative impact on black citizens by obstructing their voting rights. As Warren read King’s words about Sessions’ “…awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens in the district he now seeks to serve as a federal judge,” McConnell rose again now to invoke the Senate’s arcane and rarely used Rule No. 19, which states in part that senators cannot “directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator.”

The Senate President instructed that “[t]he Senator [Warren] will take her seat.” Following a vote of 49 for and 43 against on strict party lines, the Senate president rebuked Warren and told her she is barred from speaking on the Senate floor during the remainder of the Sessions confirmation hearing.

The following day, male Senators, including Udall of New Mexico, Brown of Ohio, and Sanders of Vermont read King’s letter aloud on the Senate floor without any form of censorship.

Responding to questions regarding his reasons for silencing Warren, McConnell asserted:

“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”

And because of the tireless persistence against seemingly insurmountable odds, Elizabeth and all the other “nasty” female heroes throughout the ages on this and other continents, have pushed their respective (though often not respectful) societies forever forward by calling out the injustices around them.

While not her primary intention, Elizabeth Warren has been a constant thorn in the side of many Republican legislators. As a Harvard Law Professor, Warren proposed a new governmental agency in 2007, a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, responsible for protecting consumers in the financial sector as a response to the Great Recession. The new office was included as a U.S. governmental agency as authorized under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 during the 111th Congress.

President Obama appointment Warren as Assistant to the President and as Special Advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to set up the new agency. The Republicans in Congress stonewalled her nomination to head the agency since they opposed her persistence in defending consumer’s rights by further regulating the business sector. Obama was forced, therefore, to withdraw her name from consideration.

The President made a Congressional recess appointment of Ohio State Treasurer, Richard Cordray to head the agency. Following constitutional concerns arising from the way the appointment was made, Congress finally voted Cordray into the position by a margin of 66 to 34 on July 16, 2013.

If Republicans understood then that Elizabeth Warren would refuse to simply sit down and retreat from a lost battle, but rather run hard for the more powerful position of U.S. Senator, possibly they might not have fought so vigorously to block her heading a federal agency.

Two years prior to Sessions’ arrival in the Senate, in 1994 then Senator Joe Biden of Delaware championed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which mandated stiffer penalties for crimes against women and better protections and services for victims. The act came up for its third reauthorization in 2012 with a few new additions including that the law’s provisions extend to same-sex couples, to Native Americans, and to undocumented immigrants who have suffered abuse and who would be granted temporary visas.

Sessions voted against the reauthorization because he said he could not support the added provisions. During his confirmation hearing, Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy questioned Sessions about his opposition to the VAWA, and asked that if confirmed as Attorney General would he enforce the entire law, including the aspects he opposed.

Sessions gave an opaque response saying: “I will defend the statute if it’s reasonably defensible.”

Possibly even more concerning was Sessions’ initial response after Trump’s 2005 remarks captured by Access Hollywood surfaced where he bragged about grabbing women by their vaginas without consent. A reporter for The Weekly Standard asked Sessions whether he considered the behavior described by Trump as sexual assault.

His response was, “I don’t characterize that as sexual assault. I think that’s a stretch….”

When Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy pressed Sessions during his hearing asking, “Is grabbing a woman by her genitals, without consent, is that sexual assault?” Session responded, “Clearly, it would be.”

Violence comes in many forms. In addition to how the VAWA defines it, violence also refers to the intentional silencing of women – silencing of anyone – to denying them their voice, their sense of agency, and their subjectivity.

Mitch McConnell and the other 48 Senators (all on the Republican side of the aisle) committed an act of violence by voting to extinguish Elizabeth Warren’s voice from the floor of the United States Senate as she read the poignant words of an African American woman civil rights icon raising troubling issues about the violation of voting rights for people of color.

The Senate, on the evening of Tuesday, February 7, 2017 committed an act of violence.

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

February 8th, 2017 at 3:15 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

LGBTQ People Must Oppose Trump’s Islamophobic Travel Ban

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Since President Trump signed an executive order (Royal decree) that stops entry of residents from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States, and has suspended admittance of refugees from Syria, a contentious debate has been raging not only generally among differing political and social factions in the U.S. but, specifically, among individuals and groups within lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer (LGBTQ) communities.

Toward one side of the continuum of opinions LGBTQ people assert that Trump’s actions pose not only Constitutional issues, but also position the United States across the world as a discriminatory nation acting contrary to its own ethical and moral standards by stigmatizing entire groups of people based on their country of origin and religious beliefs.

Those toward the other side assert that some if not all the countries on the barred list persecute LGBTQ people within these countries, and, therefore, we must send a clear and strong message by ending, at least for a time, entry into the United States. Anything else would be to condone the oppression.

The timing of Trump’s order has particular poignancy coming as it has just under seven months after Omar Mateen, the lone known attacker who was inspired by ISIS, shot and killed at least 50 people and injured several more at the Pulse, a gay club in Orlando, Florida. Some LGBTQ people assert that since conclusive documentation shows that ISIS regularly arrests any male even suspected of homosexuality, tortures them, and tosses them from high roof tops, where crowds below pelt their lifeless bodies with stones after they hit the ground.

Hudud” (literally meaning “limit” or “restriction”) is a punishment mandated by God in the Quran, and “liwat” is the term for the act of anal sex between males. For ISIS, the hudud for liwat is death.

In addition, in Iran since the Iranian Islamic Revolution of 1979, which replaced the Shah with an orthodox Shiite theocracy, many segments of the population have experienced repression under Iranian Sharia law. Among the segments include LGBT inhabitants.

Since 1979, some human rights activists estimated between 4000 – 6000 LGBT people have been executed in Iran. Same-sex sexuality between consenting partners in private is defined as a crime. Iranian law condemns males involved in sexual penetrative acts (sodomy or lavat) with the possibility of death, and so-called non-penetrative acts with flogging. After the fourth non-penetrative “offense,” the penalty is death.

Females convicted of engaging in same-sex sexuality (mosahegheh) may be made to undergo flogging with 50 lashes. And following the fourth conviction, they too are eligible for the death penalty (Articles 127, 129, 130).

Following the Islamic Revolution, trans identity and expression were also classified as crimes. However, the government reclassified these in 1986 as “heterosexual” if the person undergoes gender confirmation (formerly known as “sex reassignment”) surgery. Today, Iran stands as the country performing the most gender confirmation surgeries in the world, second only to Thailand. Iranian trans people, however, still suffer frequent harassment and persecution.

Throughout his run for the White House, Donald Trump stereotyped and scapegoated Muslims and anyone from Muslim-majority counties, as well as Mexicans and all Latinx people as the internal and external enemies of the United States. It is notable that Trump signed an executive order to construct a wall on our southern border and called for the suspension of travel from people coming from seven Muslim nations and an indefinite end to legal immigration of Syrian refugees fleeing their war-torn nation.

While travelers and refugees from these targeted nations may have been exposed to extreme heterosexist and cissexist ideologies, policies, and actions, and while some, though certainly not all, have internalized what they were taught, this alone must not and cannot disqualify them in the minds of LGBTQ people from traveling or immigrating to our shores.

In fact, some LGBTQ people are coming to the U.S. to avoid prosecution. In addition, progressive Muslims in the United States and abroad are clearly supportive of LGBTQ people and do not abide by some of the radical doctrines espoused in orthodoxy.

If this were the case, then we must restrict entry travel and deport anyone and everyone holding similar views from all religious and secular backgrounds, including members of the conservative Christian theocratic right. But, as we know, Trump would never even think of doing so, especially since the voice of Steve Bannon, the mouthpiece for the white racist nationalist right, resounds in his ear.

Research by the New America Foundation found that the greatest threat of terrorism in the United States since the attacks on September 11, 2001 have come from anti-government radical white supremacist groups. Researchers of the study have asked, then, why have no members of these groups been taken and put away in prison at Guantanamo Bay? Why have no drones dropped bombs on the leaders and rank-and-file members?

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

Donald Trump, with his Islamophobic rhetoric and policies, functions as the Recruiter-in-Chief for ISIS and other extreme terrorist groups and regimes because he personifies the tyrannical Christian crusader waging war on Islam. His unilateral policies drafted and delivered without consultation with our friends throughout the world threatens to destroy long-established and mutually-successful alliances.

A recent CNN/ORT poll found that 55% of U.S. residents oppose Trump’s travel ban, and 60% do not want the government to construct of a border wall with Mexico.

The good people, which includes significant numbers of LGBTQ people, who are taking to the streets, to social media, to the phones by calling political leaders, to the written and spoken word to oppose Trump’s clearly discriminatory and retrogressive policies, these actions, and not Trump’s, will Make American Great Again, since its steep decline following January 20, 2017.

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

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

February 5th, 2017 at 5:23 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Trump Lowers the Bar in Higher Education

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“In my opinion, Donald Trump lives a life of loving and helping others as Jesus taught in the great commandment. He cannot be bought; he’s not a puppet on a string like many other candidates…who have wealthy donors as their puppet masters.” Jerry Falwell, Jr.

And the hits (to progressives) keep on coming.

Currently as we are lost in the fog of war against travelers from seven primarily-Muslim nations and against Syrian refugees, confirmation hearings for Trump’s unqualified cabinet picks whose purpose seems to destroy the very agencies to which they would administer, Trump’s growing battle with our neighbors to the south, plus the nomination of Neil Gorsuch in the mold of the late right-facing Antonin Scalia for the Supreme Court, yet another salvo has been shot from the canons of Trump Tower.

Donald has tapped the ultra-right Christian Evangelical President of Liberty University, Jerry Falwell Jr., to head a new commission called the Federal Taskforce on Higher Education Policy. According to Falwell, its purpose is to identify changes in the U.S. Department of Education’s policies and procedures in response to its “overreaching regulation” and micromanagement.

“The goal is to pare it back and give colleges and their accrediting agencies more leeway in governing their affairs,” said Falwell.

He told the Chronicle of Higher Education that when visiting the then President-elect, Trump offered him the position of Secretary of the Department of Education, but he declined because “I wanted a role [in the administration] that would allow me to stay at Liberty.”

In his place, Trump nominated highly controversial billionaire Betsy DeVos, who has in the past advocated for a voucher system that would divert funding from public schools to private and parochial schools, and to give greater emphasis on charter schools. Recently, she has been charged with plagiarism. At her Senate confirmation hearings she was roundly criticized for her lack of even basic knowledge on teaching and pedagogical issues.

So why is Falwell’s nomination to this Taskforce so troubling? I find it difficult to know where to begin. Let’s start with guns.

Liberty University’s motto is “training champions for Christ,” and Junior takes this quite literally.

Liberty University, founded by late Southern Baptist pastor and televangelist, Jerry Falwell Senior, announced its precedent-setting plans to become the first U.S. university with its own National Rifle Association-compliant gun range facility. The university is taking this action just one year after its board of trustees approved a policy to allow students to carry concealed firearms on campus.

Jerry Falwell Jr., current President of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, one year ago urged all students at the school’s mandatory convocation to apply for concealed-carry permits so they can proudly bear firearms around the campus.

“I’ve always thought that if more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in,” he proclaimed to the loud unrestrained applause of students. “I just wanted to take this opportunity to encourage all of you to get your permit. We offer a free course,” he said. “Let’s teach them a lesson if they ever show up here.”

Falwell acknowledged a large elongated protrusion in his trousers: “If some of those people in that community center [in California] had what I have [a .25 caliber pistol] in my back pocket right now …,” he said while students interrupted with even louder cheers and sustained clapping. “Is it illegal to pull it out? I don’t know,” he continued while chuckling.

Falwell told reporters he owns several shotguns, rifles, and pistols, which he has kept on his farm for several years, and he confirmed that he was given a license to carry a concealed weapon last year.

Later, Junior clarified that “those Muslims” to whom he was referring represent people like Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik, the couple who shot and killed 14 people in a San Bernardino, California office building during a holiday party on December 2, 2015.

Regarding its curriculum, Liberty University established its Center for Creation Studies. Its website states:

“The purpose of the Center for Creation Studies is to promote the development of a consistent biblical view of origins in our students. The center seeks to equip students to defend their faith in the creation account in Genesis using science, reason and the Scriptures.”

Under the Center’s auspices, Liberty requires all students to take the course, History of Life: Creation Studies (CRST) 290.

The University published it “The Liberty Way” student honor code defining its procedures and rules of conduct. It makes perfectly clear in its one-paragraph statement under the subheading, “Sexuality and Relationships,” its policies on sex before marriage and same-sex sexuality.

“Sexuality outside of a biblically ordained marriage between a natural-born man and a natural-born woman are not permissible at Liberty University. In personal relationships, students are encouraged to abide by common-sense guidelines to avoid the appearance of impropriety. Activities outside these standards and guidelines are violation of the Student Honor Code.”

Punishments for violations range from small to larger monetary fines to expulsion depending on the violation against God.

Falwell Jr. took over as president of Liberty University after the passing of his controversial father, Jerry Falwell Sr., who founded the conservative Christian institution in 1971.

While Junior has been somewhat more restrained in his public comments on “social issues,” unfortunately, as the saying goes, the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree. His infamous father, who in addition to founding Liberty University also headed the ultra-conservative Moral Majority organization.

Following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, Senior blamed it on “…pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America.“

He also argued that “AIDS is not just God’s punishment for homosexuals, it is God’s punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals.”

His disdain for strong women is legendary:

“I listen to feminists and all these radical gals – most of them are failures. They’ve blown it.  Some of them have been married, but they married some Casper Milquetoast who asked permission to go to the bathroom. These women just need a man in the house…. Feminists hate men. They’re sexist.”

So while Junior may believe that Trump’s election was divinely inspired as was his selection to lead the President’s new Taskforce on Higher Education Policy, I can just imagine the sorts of proposals he will make to supposedly “deregulate” these institutions.

Each college and university will proclaim new and multiple mott0s:

“A pistol in every backpack, a firing range for every campus.”

“Queers and feminists not welcome here.”

“Creationism above all else.”

“Critical thinking discouraged.”

“We do not separate Church from state. Fear and submit to the power of God as we define God.”

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 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 1st, 2017 at 1:00 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Fascism Will Fail in the U.S. Because of “We the People”

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We have long since past the point where it is merely hyperbole to compare the rise and control of the Nazis in the 1920s and 1930s to the rise and possible total take-over of fascism in the United States and in some other countries around the world.

In both Nazi Germany and in U.S.-style alt-right fascism, strong leaders whipped up dehumanizing stereotypes resulting in the scapegoating of already-marginalized groups of people to blame for causing past problems and posing clear and present dangers to the state.

The difference, however, between the great successes of the Nazis and the ultimate defeat of the Trump regime in the not-too-distant future is that while relatively few individuals and national leaders stood up early to the Nazis by forcefully speaking out and intervening, the unprecedented outpouring of resistance, protest, and intervention by individuals and entire nations guarantees the balance of power will soon rest back with “we the people.”

Donald Trump represents the mouthpiece of the alt-right in spreading his alt-facts within his alt-reality universe. The political center and left telling the truth in actual reality serves as the antidote to fascism from taking hold. In his own perverse way, Trump has acted as the catalyst sparking the connections and coalitions between people of disparate social identities who maintain similar philosophies of social change and

Not intending to get too deeply into the weeds of social theory, but exposed and disputed in the work of French philosopher, sociologist, and literary theorist, Jean-François Lyotard, and other postmodernist thinkers, was the concept referred to as the “meta-narrative,” “master narrative,” or “grand narrative” explanation of human knowledge and historical experience.

This “meta-narrative” constructs human history as a linear developmental tale emphasized by consistent movement forward to the (singular) inevitable and sustainable goal of “progress.” In other words, the history of society is one of continuing progress. Each human generation gets better than those going before in terms of knowledge and progress.

If, as some who hold to the meta-narrative claim that progress moves inevitably and invariably forward, if people believe “I think we’ll slowly get over this,” then individuals and entire societies are more likely to relinquish their responsibility in challenging forms of inequities because all inequities will inevitably disappear, since history itself will ensure “progress.”

Theorists like Lyotard, however, dispute the mega-narrative historical view as being not merely overly optimistic and simplistic, but also as inaccurate and dismissive of the great variety and diversity of human experience. The meta-narrative also perpetuates dominant group hegemony by valorizing dominant discourses of “truth” and marginalizing other forms of knowing.

According to the great abolitionist who escaped the chains of bondage, Frederick Douglass, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

History shows us that process, rather than moving forever forward in a linear fashion, deploys more like a continuing spiral stretched out. We commence our travels forward, and then we begin to circle up, back, then down, then we continue the process over and over again through time. But as we begin moving forward on each consecutive revolution of the spiral, we stand a bit further ahead, further onward than we did at the previous cycle.

The march toward social justice, therefore, cannot be represented as a continually forward procession, but rather, it advances and retreats. With each retreat, though, we stand closer to our goals than we did previously. The metaphor represents the movement of individuals, nations, and the world at large.

Possibly this is what Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was imagining when he told us that “[t]he arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

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 29th, 2017 at 7:52 pm

Posted in Uncategorized