Warren Blumenfeld's Blog

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

Spicer and McCarthy Out, Huckabee Sanders In

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Finally, White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, had the decency to resign after all his blatant lies — like the inauguration crowd size, Elton John supposedly appearing, and the administration having no meetings with Russian diplomats before the inauguration — to his factual blunders — like Hitler never used chemical weapons on his own people — to his obvious abuse and hatred of the White House press corps.

Now we’re stuck with Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the mean girl we all had to endure in middle school, who continually violates her vow to uphold her Evangelical Christian beliefs by seriously disobeying the 9th Commandment: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor,” by lying through her teeth.

She does, though, valiantly adheres to Commandment 5: “Honor you father and your mother,” by following the distorted lead of her hate-filled, hypocritical, and bigoted self-righteous father, Mike Huckabee, Christian minister, former Arkansas governor, and Republican presidential candidate.

Let us not forget that Huckabee organized a rally in support of Rowan County, Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis who become the face of resistance to the 2015 Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing marriage for same-sex couples on par with different-sex couples throughout the United States.

Only hours after the Court’s ruling in June 2015, Davis ordered her staff to stop issuing marriage licenses. Though she has been charged with a court order, through her lawyers she expressed her belief that granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples “irreparably and irreversibly violates her conscience” because it goes against her religious beliefs. She stated that she fears going to Hell for violating “a central teaching” of the Bible if she were to comply with the Supreme Court’s decision.

Davis, however, seems to practice a form of “cafeteria Christianity” by picking and choosing which of the “central teachings” she will follow. Possibly Davis chose to run for the job of issuing marriage licenses in her county since she has been issued four such licenses herself by divorcing three times: 1994, 2006, and then again in 2008.

In addition, according to published accounts, Davis “gave birth to twins five months after divorcing her first husband. They were fathered by her third husband but adopted by her second.”

Huckabee saw no apparent hypocrisy by supporting Davis’s decision to defy the law of the land. Mike Huckabee issued a statement backing her:

“I spoke with Kim Davis this morning to offer my prayers and support. I let her know how proud I am of her for not abandoning her religious convictions and standing strong for religious liberty. She is showing more courage and humility than just about any federal office holder in Washington.”

Huckabee called for a “National Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” following Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy’s pronouncement in 2012 that he opposes same-sex marriage, and in published accounts asserted:

“We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.”

During the last presidential primary season, Mike Huckabee presented a keynote speech at the “National Religious Liberties Conference,” organized by self-described “Christian Pastor,” Kevin Swanson. Swanson is infamous for his consistent calls for imposition of the death penalty on homosexuals, warnings that the Girl Scouts and the movie “Frozen” convert girls into lesbians, and accusations that homosexuals and women who wear pants (look out Hillary) bring on natural disasters.

During his opening remarks at the conference, Swanson quoted scripture: “Yes, Leviticus 20:13 calls for the death penalty for homosexuals,” and continuing, he declared that he was “willing to go to jail for standing on the truth of the word of God.”

In the past, Huckabee, on Fox News, placed blame for the shooting massacre at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut by stating:

“We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we have systematically removed God from our schools. Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage?”

This is Huckabee’s reiteration of a theme he peddled after the mass murder at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado when he attributed the bloodbath to a society that removed God and religion from the public realm:

“[S]ince we’ve ordered God out of our schools, and communities…we really shouldn’t act so surprised …when all hell breaks loose.”

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

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

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

At press conferences, Trump tells reporters to “sit down” when they ask questions he doesn’t like, and he speaks of a “running war” with the media. He has even accused “freedom of the press” as the cause of terrorist bombings in the U.S.

He has cut back on the number of televised White House daily press briefings, and he rarely consents to giving press conferences. 

Considering Sarah Huckabee Sanders familial background and past performance with her recent elevation as chief White House press secretary, the stormy relations between the Trump administration and the press under Sean Spicer has the potential of getting even worse, if that can be imagined.

I will definitely miss, however, Melissa McCarthy’s parody of Sean Spicer on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.” Now that was “spicy”!

Hey, maybe SNL’s producer, Lorne Michaels, will invite Spicer to host the show. Perhaps he will be playing Melissa McCarthy. Wow, the possibilities.

Stay tuned.

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

July 21st, 2017 at 10:45 pm

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England Marks Half Century Decriminalizing Male Same-Sex Expression

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This year marks the 50th anniversary of the decriminalization of adult same-sex sexual expression in England. This followed a long and tortuous history of royal decrees, legislative acts, religious dogma, and social attitudes related to sexuality and gender expression dating back centuries.

The English in 1431 CE, under King Henry VI, urged the Catholic church to condemn Joan of Arc for the “crime” of wearing “men’s” clothing. Henry argued:

“It is sufficiently notorious and well-known that for some time past, a woman calling herself Jeanne the Pucelle (the maid) leaving off the dress and clothing of the feminine sex, a thing contrary to divine law and abominable before God, and forbidden by all laws, wore clothing and armor such is worn by men.”

Joan asserted that her style of dress was her religious duty and higher than Church authority. She asserted:

“For nothing in the world will I swear not to arm myself and put on a man’s dress.”

Catholic Inquisitors accused her of practicing paganism and condemned her to death for wearing men’s clothing and armor, and burned her at the stake as a heretic.

Throughout the 1500s – 1700s in England and its American colonies, women accused of being “witches” were killed. In Salam, Massachusetts, for example, 20 women were executed.

People assigned “female” at birth but who presented as male and who married women, during the 1500s – 1800s in Europe, including England and the United States, if discovered, they suffered penalties from floggings to death. 

In 1533, under the reign of King Henry VIII of England, Parliament instituted the “Buggery” (or sodomy) law, punishable by the penalty of death for,

“the detestable and abominable Vice of Buggery committed with mankind or beast.”

This meant that a male found to have had sex with another male, and, yes, someone who was discovered engaging in sexual intercourse with an animal, both the persons and the animals would be killed.

Under the reign of Queen Elizabeth I of England in 1564, the death penalty for same-sex sexuality between men became a permanent part of English law until 1861. Women were exempt from the law by British courts who decided that sex between two women was not possible.

Crossdressing was occasionally practiced in the colonies. Edward Hyde, Lord Cornbury, colonial governor of New York and New Jersey from 1702-1709 walked nearly every afternoon in public dressed in his wife’s clothing, which he explained was a tribute to his cousin, Queen Anne. There is no evidence that he engaged in sexual relations with men.

About this time in England, there developed the first documented fairly organized network of men gathering together for company and sexual encounters. From around 1700 – 1830, a series of houses or pubs, later called “Molly Houses,” catering to the needs of these men were established throughout London. Some of the “Houses” consisted of private rooms in taverns, while others were in private houses. Many of these houses were raided by police, the men tried, and some were executed.

Since the early to mid-19th century, a linear history of homosexuality, bisexuality, and gender non-conformity predominately in the West, begins with the formation of a homosexual and gender non-conforming “identity” and a sense of community brought about by the growth of industrialization, competitive capitalism, and the rise of modern science, which provided people with more social and personal options outside the home.

It is only within the last 150 or so years that there has been an organized and sustained political effort to protect the rights of people with same-sex and more-than-one-sex attractions, and those who cross traditional constructions of gender expression.

There were some in England who were early defenders of homosexuality. One was sex researcher Havelock Ellis whose wife was bisexual. He referred to same-sex desire as “inversion,” in which the person “inverted” gender traits due to a congenital hormonal anomaly. He likened this “inversion” to other human anomalies, such as color-blindness.

Another defender was writer and social reformer Edward Carpenter. Carpenter was inspired by the poems of Walt Whitman celebrating “manly attachment,” and traveled to the U.S. to confer with Whitman.

In the U.S. in 1860, poet Walt Whitman published his book, Leaves of Grass. The section titled “Calamus” was clearly homoerotic. Kalamos in Greek mythology turned into a reed in grief for his young male lover, Karpos, who drowned. The Acorus calamus is the name given to a marsh plant. For Whitman, his “Calamus” poems represent the kind of love between Kalamos and Karpos.

Very soon following the book’s publication, authorities removed it from library shelves at Harvard University and placed it in a locked cabinet with other books thought to undermine students’ morals. Whitman was fired from his job at the U.S. Department of the Interior.

During the mid-19th century in England and the United States, educational opportunities for primarily middle-class women improved somewhat. Often locked out of most institutions of higher learning, several women’s colleges were founded.

There were, however, many conservative critics who attacked this new trend warning that educated women would be unfit to fill traditional roles in society, and others, like U.S.-born Dr. Edward Hammond Clarke, in his 1873 book Sex in Education, or a Fair Chance for Girls, warned that study would risk atrophy of the uterus and ovaries resulting in chronic uterine disease. He went on to assert that sustained vigorous mental activity resulted, for girls, in masculinization, sterility, insanity, and even death.

And Dr. Havelock Ellis concluded:

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

In 1861, English criminal law ended the death penalty for men convicted of engaging the same-sex sexuality dating back to the time of Queen Victoria I.

The last men executed for homosexuality in England were James Pratt and John Smith who were hanged in 1835. Persecution, however, continued.

The British Parliament, in 1885, authorized Section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment, referred to as the Labouchere Amendment, prohibiting “gross indecency” between males with up to two years imprisonment. The Amendment was named after its sponsor, MP Henry Labouchere, who argued for the criminalization of men found guilty of gross indecency with another male “in public or in private” for a term of imprisonment “not exceeding two years,” with or without hard labor.

In 1895, the English court sentenced poet and playwright, Oscar Wilde, to two years hard labor for “gross indecency” and “sodomy” with the young nobleman, Lord Alfred Douglas. Lord Alfred Douglas, in his poem “Two Loves,” coined a euphemism for homosexuality as “The love that dare not speak its name.” After his release, Wilde died in exile in France. 

Publishing houses introduced numerous new lesbian and gay novels in the 1920s.  Most notable among these was the English lesbian classic The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall. Shortly following its publication in 1928, the novel was declared obscene in both England and the United States, and was banned for a time.  

In England, Alan Mathison Turing, mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst, and pioneering computer scientist, during WWII, worked for England’s Government Code and Cypher School. He and his team of scientists succeeded in breaking the Nazi German codes.

Though he was considered a national hero who some said shortened the war by approximately 2 years and saved Great Britain, in 1952, he was criminally prosecuted on the charge of “gross indecency” for soliciting a male for sex, and for being homosexual. Rather than going to prison, he accepted a plea bargain to undergo injections of female hormones referred to as “Chemical Castration.” Just two years later, two weeks before his 42nd birthday, he took his life. 

The British government constituted a committee in 1954 to investigate homosexuality and prostitution. It included several judges, a psychiatrist, several theologians and academics. The committee, later referred to as The Wolfenden Committee after its Chair, Lord Wolfenden, in their final report concluded (with only one dissenter) that private same-sex sexual conduct between consenting adults within their homes should not continue to be criminalized.

The Wolfenden Report of 1957 stated, in summary: “unless a deliberate attempt be made by society through the agency of the law to equate the sphere of crime with that of sin, there must remain a realm of private that is in brief, not the law’s business.”

It would take, however, another ten years for Britain’s Labour government to act on the Report’s recommendations. Speaking for the government’s position in Parliament, Home Secretary Roy Jenkins argued on July 4, 1967 that criminal law must no longer prosecute homosexual men (women were not held to these laws) because “those who suffer from this disability [of being the object of ridicule and derision] carry a great weight of shame all their lives.”

The Sexual Offences Act of 1967 decriminalized same-sex sexuality between men who attained the age of 21 years. It covered private consensual sex within England and Wales, but did not apply to the Merchant Navy or the Armed Forces. The age was lowered to 18 in 1994, and to 16 in 2000 thereby equalizing age of consent with heterosexual sexuality.

Scotland followed decriminalization in 1980 with its Criminal Justice Act, and Northern Ireland in 1982 in the Homosexual Offences Order.

A royal “general pardon” was granted to Alan Turing in 2013. A recent statute posthumously pardoned thousands of men convicted of what was once ruled as the “criminal” act of homosexuality.

It would take the United States until 2003, when the Supreme Court, in Lawrence v. Texas, declared the remaining laws against same-sex sexuality between consenting adults in private as unconstitutional. 

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

July 18th, 2017 at 6:08 pm

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No Mere Game of Thrones

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Winter has come,

the Long Night has come

to Game of Thrones.

 

But Game it is not.

 

Thrones compete,

React,

Slaughter

for Dominance.

 

Prior wars forgotten

as fresh alliances

Forge between

Past combatants,

while former friendships

Transform to enmities.

 

Searching for power

and treasure corrupt

and divide

Never contemplating

Divide and Share

can supplant

Divide and Conquer,

that Peace

can

supersede War,

that Power With

can

surpass Power Over.

 

White Walkers

Our Unconscious

Searching,

Tracking,

Coming for us.

 

We can

Defeat them

when

We know Ourselves,

our Pasts,

our Todays,

when

we Imagine

Coming closer

toward

the Conscious

Visionary

Thinkers

we are

and

can still become.

 

No, this is no Game at all.

 

Rather, the

World’s Saga.

 

We normalize

Burying the dead

as Despots

Blare Jingoist cries.

 

We Renounce

our Rights

our Liberty

for False Promises

of Security.

 

They Invent

Subversive

Invading Nemeses

to Gain,

Maintain,

Enhance

their Strangle Hold,

which

Threatens Destruction

from Within

the Nation Itself.

 

No, this is no Game at all.

 

Rather a Mirror,

a Cautionary Tale

a Glimpse

into our Tomorrows

Lest we

Alter,

Change,

Correct

Direction.

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

July 17th, 2017 at 12:49 am

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Forget Healthcare Reform – Demand Healthcare Revolution!

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Quality healthcare is a human right. Quality healthcare is a civil right in a just society, in any society! We the people must abolish any and all healthcare systems with profit as the primary goal.

Republicans attempt to perpetrate a deceptive swindle in their Health(don’t)Care bills in the House and Senate. These Health(don’t)Care bills have nothing to do with health at all. They function as political cover to grant massive tax breaks to the rich.

Taking a victory lap following the vote House vote, Vice President Pence thanked all the “principled lawmakers” for their support in the bill’s passage.

They tout their scams as establishing “freedom of choice” to “freedom-loving” individuals while granting “enhanced rights” to states.

Translated from doublespeak to realspeak: “freedom of choice” means that with the bill’s elimination of a public mandate, individuals can choose not to purchase health care insurance, forgo preventative medicine, develop catastrophic ailments, and die in the street is they so choose, or they can go to a hospital emergency room for their primary care while other tax payers pick up the tab. Freedom?

“Enhanced rights” for states translates to granting states and insurance companies federal waivers to charge people with pre-existing medical conditions much higher rates than other customers, substantially increase prices for older people, and disregard the mandate to cover specified services like pregnancy care.

In addition, these “wonderful” bill for “freedom-loving Americans” will cut Medicaid programs for low-income people, while allowing states to enact work requirements on Medicaid recipients. Oh, and let us not forget that the bill eliminates tax increases on the rich and super-rich as well as on the health industry. Wonderful?

In the final analysis, Republicans’ “liberty” and “freedom” perpetuates their vicious self-serving fraud on the people, except for the upper 10% in the ever-growing economic divide.

I am disgusted when politicians discuss destroying our current modest healthcare system to grant people “freedom of choice.” How very hypocritical!

They are the same politicians who continually work to take away women’s freedom of choice over their bodies!

These are the same politicians who continually work to take away same-sex couples’ freedom of choice over whom they can legally marry!

These are the same politicians who continually work to deny trans people freedom of choice over which public facilities to use!

These are the same politicians who continually work to take away good peoples’ rights to travel to this country or to seek sanctuary from oppression!

A free people have guarantees to go to a quality healthcare provider for preventative care without having to choose between care and food.

A free people have guarantees to go to a quality healthcare provider for ailments big and small without having to choose between care or paying for housing.

A free people have guarantees to go to a quality healthcare provider for treatment of catastrophic ailments without having to choose between care and having sufficient funds for retirement or for sending progeny to school.

A free people have guarantees to quality healthcare no matter their station in life, no matter their geographic location, no matter their physical and mental condition, no matter their social identities, no matter what!

The Republicans’ ultimate purpose is not to guarantee universal healthcare, but instead, to shrink substantially the size of government; to end governmental regulation of the private sector; to privatize state and federal governmental services, industries, and institutions including healthcare; to permanently incorporate across-the-board non-progressive marginal tax rates; to ensure market driven unfettered “free market” economies.

Back in the 2012 U.S. presidential campaign at the CNN-Tea Party-sponsored Republican presidential candidates’ debate in Florida the debate facilitator, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, asked then presidential candidate Ron Paul the hypothetical question of what we as a society should do in the case of a 30-year-old man who chooses not to purchase health insurance, and later develops a serious life-threatening disease. Before Paul had a chance to answer Blitzer’s question, a number of audience members shouted “Let him die! Let him die!”

Is this the image of our country we want to continue projecting around the world? Is this the type of country “we the people” were promised? Is this the type of country in which “we the people” want to live?

Reported by the Peterson-Kaiser Health System Tracker, the U.S. ranks last in terms of life expectancy and first related to disease burden compared with other so-called “developed” countries. We spend about $8,745 per capita on health care, compared, for example, with its government-sponsored single-payer healthcare, Australia’s $3,997 per person.

As destructive and as freedom-killing as the political and theocratic right would have us believe, according to the World English Dictionary, socialism involves “a theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole,” where each of us has a stake and advances in the success of our collective economy.

No country in the world today functions as a fully socialist state, but rather, some of the most successful economies combine elements of capitalism with socialism to create greater degrees of equity and lesser disparities between the rich, the poor, and those on the continuum in between.

For those who thrust the term “socialist” as a curse word, if a socialist is one who advocates for a governmental single-payer quality universal healthcare, then we should all be Democratic Socialists!

If a socialist is one who demands that our country protects and enhances our Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid safety nets, then we should all be Democratic Socialists!

This year, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development conducted its “Better Life Index” to determine the “happiest countries in the world,” according to its residents. Based on an 11-measure survey assessing quality of life, including health, housing, income, jobs, community, education, the environment, work-life balance, and life satisfaction, all the Scandinavian countries, plus Iceland, Netherlands, and Switzerland, and only one North American country, plus Australia and New Zealand reached the top 10 ranked countries.

Included in descending order are number one, Norway, Switzerland, Denmark, Iceland, Finland, New Zealand, Canada, Netherlands, Australia, and Sweden. I am saddened, but not surprised, that the United States did not make the cut in the top 10. We would do well to look to these countries for some of their Socialist policies that sustain high levels in quality of life issues, including health, for their residents.

All these countries provide government-sponsored quality universal healthcare. Shame on the U.S. for not following their lead.

If the rich and super rich must pay higher taxes, then so be it!

If we must reduce our ridiculously high annual military budgets, then so be it!

We must get our policy priorities in order. We the people must fight for each and everyone’s right to quality healthcare. We must divorce healthcare from the corporate profit motive and marry it to a government-sponsored single-payer system!

Let the ground swell. Let the volcanoes erupt. Let the clouds crash with thunder. Let the people rise, fists held high, voices ringing, chanting, singing, demanding, announcing:

HEALTHCARE IS A RIGHT! HEALTHCARE IS A RIGHT! HEALTCARE IS A RIGHT!

Republicans be damned! We need a revolution!

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

July 13th, 2017 at 10:04 pm

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Dismantling the Wheel of Oppression for a Winning World

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I read a question that asked, “What does winning look like in a world without [one of the forms of oppression, like, for example, racism or sexism]?” I briefly concluded that this is unimaginable only because it is the wrong question to ask.

We can visualize “oppression,” and its attendant dominant group privileges, as comprising a metaphorical wheel with the numerous spokes each representing the various forms oppression takes. These include racism, sexism, heterosexism, trans oppression, ableism, ethnocentrism, classism, religious oppression, ageism and adultism, lookism, and so forth. If somehow, we could dismantle or eliminate one of the spokes, the wheel will, nevertheless, continue to trample over the rights and the very lives of individuals and entire groups of people based on their many intersectional identities.

We must, therefore, work to dismantle the rim circling and linking the spokes together to begin imaging “what winning looks like.” I employ at least four disparate but connecting theoretical organizers to place a bright spotlight on what comprises the rim: Iris Marion Young’s “Faces of Oppression,” Rita Hardiman and Bailey Jackson’s “Levels of Oppression,” Suzanne Pharr’s “Elements of Oppression,” and Sherry Watt’s “Privilege Identity Exploration” (PIE) model.

Young’s taxonomy looks at oppression as involving a constellation of conditions divided into five categories (or “faces”) that include:

  • Powerlessness: linked to Karl Marx’s theory of socialism in which some people have the power to make decisions and have more control over their lives while other have less or no such power,
  • Exploitation: the act of using other people’s labors to benefit or profit oneself without giving fair compensation,
  • Marginalization: the act of consigning or relegating a group of people to a lower social status or at the outer edges of society,
  • Cultural Imperialism involves taking the culture of the ruling class and establishing and continually reproducing it as the norm (hegemony),
  • Violence is used by the dominant group to keep the powerless, exploited, and marginalized in fear of random and unprovoked attacks, intended to humiliate, damage, or destroy people.

Hardiman and Jackson investigate the ways in which societal privilege and oppression are constructed and maintained on overlapping and coexisting levels:

  • Personal/Interpersonal,
  • Institutional,
  • Societal/Cultural.

Pharr highlights the “common elements of oppression” comprising:

  • Defined Norm: Pharr explains as “…a standard of rightness and often of righteousness wherein all others are judged in relation to it. This norm must be backed up with institutional power, economic power, and both institutional and individual violence.”
  • Institutional Power: power in the social institutions including resources, laws, policies, political clout, political representation,
  • Economic Power: financial/material resources,
  • Myth of Scarcity: the socially-imposed fear and warning that there are not enough resources to go around,
  • Violence & Threats of Violence: the implicit or explicit societal messages intended to make people afraid, to fear harm, pain, suffering, etc. if they advocate for themselves or challenge oppressive conditions,
  • Lack of Prior Claim, according to Pharr, “…means that if you weren’t there when the original document (the Constitution, for example) was written, or when the organization was first created, then you have no right to inclusion.”
  • Othering: treating some people and groups as abnormal or different related to the defined norm. Those who seek their rights, who seek inclusion, who seek to control their own lives instead of having their lives controlled are the people who fall outside the norm….They are the Other.”
  • Invisibility: omitting, deleting, erasing the contributions, presence, existence of individuals and groups as if they have made no significant and important contributions, to underrepresent their histories,
  • Distortion: to revise history to reflect incomplete, inaccurate, or false histories,
  • Stereotyping: dehumanizing individuals and groups by denying individual characteristics and differences; applying the “fallacy of confirming instances” which involves seeking evidence for what one already believes and omitting or ignoring evidence that contradicts what one already believes,
  • Blaming the Victim: portraying oppression as deserved, and seeking explanations for the problems people face by blaming individual behaviors and failures of character, motivation, culture, etc.,
  • Internalized Oppression: coming to believe the falsehoods, derogatory characterizations, stereotypes, and myths society perpetuates about you and your group,
  • Horizontal Hostility: hatred, othering, prejudice and discrimination against, and/or competing with others who are also oppressed (instead of joining in solidarity and coalition with people who are underrepresented),
  • Identification with Power: identifying with, assuming, believing, falsely that those in positions of authority act in your best interests, and seeking to attain the favor of those in power (possibly because of desires to attain similar social status),
  • Exploiting Isolation: circumventing, interfering with, preventing solidarity and coalitions among groups and individuals, and/or taking advantage of the lack of solidarity among underrepresented groups and individuals, “divide and conquer,”
  • Assimilation and Tokenism: creating fake or mythical “model” representatives in an attempt to discredit or dispute claims of and challenges to oppression,
  • Individualized Solutions: responding to systemic problems by proposing that individuals need to work harder to persevere, and/or believing all people can equitably pull themselves up by their bootstraps without addressing systemic inequity, the “myth of meritocracy” syndrome.

Watt’s “Privilege Identity Exploration” (PIE) model addresses the forms of resistance around discussions that challenge dominant group privilege and social oppression. According to Watt, when raising and discussing issues of oppression and privilege, several forms of resistance may emerge:

  • Denial: A rejection of the concept of dominant group privilege.
  • Deflection: The notion that majority rules and that the minority cannot expect the majority to adhere to minority standards.
  • Rationalization: The notion that the individual did not set the conditions for the inequities that may exist in the society currently or historically.
  • Intellectualization: The assertion that the individual is not prejudiced and does not discriminate. The “my best friend is a …” attitude.
  • Principium: A defensive reaction arising from a personal or political belief. Though the person may feel badly that a certain social identity group may not have achieved full equality and equity within in society, this is the way it was meant to be.
  • False Envy: Sometimes manifesting a certain affection for a minoritized person or a group of people, it is an effort to deny the complexity of the social and political context. At times, it manifests itself in dominant groups’ claiming victimhood at the hands of minoritized groups.
  • Minimalization: Reducing the effect that social identity has upon one’s life chances, and that issues of oppression based on social identity are no longer a problem.
  • Benevolence: Projecting an excessively sensitive attitude toward a social and political issue or group based on a position of charity.

These are only a few of the many theoretical foundations on which we may place the rim of the wheel of oppression under the microscope so we may look at its structural composition for the purpose of taking it apart, dismantling its very substance before we toss its contents onto a trash heap of history. That’s what “winning” looks like.

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

July 11th, 2017 at 9:43 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Trump & DeVos Plan to Destroy Public Education

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Preliminary reports of President Donald Trump’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2018 show a radical restructuring (decimation) of the Department of Education. With all the scandals and controversies swirling throughout the White House, important and potentially destructive policy initiatives are going virtually unnoticed through the efforts of our Diverter-In-Chief.

If Trump and his anti-public education co-conspirator, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos get their way, $10.6 billion will be eliminated from federal education initiatives. These cuts will include slashing by half financing for college work-study programs, elimination of public-service loan forgiveness, and reductions by hundreds of millions of dollars for public school mental health, advanced coursework, teacher training, after-school programs, and other services.

The Trump administration wants to divert some of these funds, approximately $1.4 billion, to expand corporate for-profit charter schools and voucher schemes for private and religiously-based parochial schools.

The President, through his chief advisors, such as Steve Bannon, subscribe to the economic/political philosophy that has come to be known as “neoliberalism,” which centers on a market-driven approach to economic and social policy, including such tenets as reducing the size of the national government and granting more control to state and local governments; severely reducing or ending governmental regulation over the private sector; privatization of governmental services, industries, and institutions including education, health care, and social welfare; permanent incorporation of across-the-board non-progressive marginal federal and state tax rates; and possibly most importantly, market driven and unfettered “free market” economics.

Trump’s attempts to deregulate and privatize education is reflected in his choice of highly controversial billionaire Betsy DeVos to head the U.S. Department of Education, who has a history of advocating for a voucher system for private education and emphasizing charter schools at the expense of public education. Recently, she was charged with plagiarism. At her Senate confirmation hearings, she was roundly criticized for her lack of even basic knowledge on teaching and pedagogical issues that any college sophomore education major would know.

Donald Trump underscored his own attitudes on the importance of education when he admitted to The Washington Post that he does not read: “I never have. I’m always busy doing a lot. Now I’m more busy, I guess, than ever before.”

Rather than concern himself with the “Three R-s”, Trump relies on the “Four I-s” (Impulsiveness, Instinctiveness, and Intuition in his I-first world view) when making decisions. He has never read a biography of any of our past presidents, and his grasp of U.S. and world history is insignificant at best.

Continuing, he said he has no need to read extensively because he arrives at the right decisions “with very little knowledge other than the knowledge I [already] had, plus the words ‘common sense,’ because I have a lot of common sense, and I have a lot of business ability.”

Within our neoliberal age, our schools are run more like business factories where the classroom serves as the assembly line that would even make Henry Ford proud. This follows the primary tenets of one of the major proponents of neoliberal economics, Milton Friedman:

“Our elementary and secondary education system needs to be totally restructured. Such a reconstruction can be achieved only by privatizing a major segment of the educational system — i.e. by enabling a private, for-profit industry to develop that will provide a wide variety of learning opportunities and offer effective competition to public schools.”

This corporate-type structuring of the university and public schools, in the context of shrinking state and national educational subsidies even as student enrollment has increased, however, has compelled many state-supported universities and public schools to increase class sizes and increasingly tap into an adjunct faculty pool of lower-paid and overworked educators “teaching” lecture-style courses over dialogic or constructivist pedagogies, and whose only real assessment option is the standardized textbook-publisher constructed “objective” testing requiring memorization and regurgitation of facts over critical thinking and analysis.

Trump’s plan will only increase these problems. But rather than continue our trajectory down the tenuous and highly questionable road of neoliberalism in education, we might at least consider reinitiating, in updated ways, some of the theoretical and practical educational pedagogical strategies of the preeminent “progressive” educational thinker, John Dewey.

What he said a century ago (1900) about the “old education” could serve as a critique today about neoliberal educational policy:

“…the old education: its passivity of attitude, its mechanical massing of children, its uniformity of curriculum and [pedagogical] method. It may be summed up by stating that the center of gravity is outside the child. It is in the teacher, the textbook, anywhere and everywhere you please except in the immediate instincts and activities of the child[ren themselves].”

Dewey, an early educational reformer, saw that this was true “in the elementary school up through the college.” He and other members of the Progressive educational movement wanted to create schools as more effective agencies of a democratic society.

They stressed the importance of the emotional, artistic, and creative aspects of human development. They insisted that education must continually connect to and reconstruct the students’ living experiences, with the student as the center of concern, respecting human diversity where individuals must be recognized and respected for their own abilities, interests, ideas, talents, and cultural identities.

They emphasized the development of critical, socially-engaged intelligence allowing all individuals to understand and better participate in the affairs of their communities, their country, and their world. This progressive approach signaled a distinct shift in U.S.-American education, which promoted cultural uniformity rather than diversity, and the development of obedient, rather than critically analytical and fully thinking residents.

Dewey saw two primary roles of the teacher/professor: to guide students through the complexities of life and give them opportunities to learn in a “natural” way, by solving problems that were relevant to their own experiences; and to enable students to manage contemporary conditions and new demands that might be placed upon them. Overall, the mission of the school to Dewey was to discover ways of breaking down barriers between schools and students’ communities.

Possibly by returning to Dewey’s recommendations for public education, and abandoning our current path over the cliff of neoliberalist deregulatory and privatization, we may create dynamic and engaging settings for bringing teaching and learning for democratic and critical engagement into our times.

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

 

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

July 10th, 2017 at 2:58 pm

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Donald Trump’s White Supremacist Appeal of “A Clash of Civilizations”

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“I declare today for the world to hear that the West will never, ever be broken. Our values will prevail. Our people will thrive. And our civilization will triumph.”

Thus, during his speech in Poland’s Krasinski Square this month, President Donald Trump threw down the metaphorical gauntlet by turning up the volume of the dog whistle to full audible blast for human perception by declaring what propagandists for extremist Jihadist groups and ultra-right white supremacist neo-nationalists throughout Europe and the United States have long claimed: there is a clash of civilizations between the so-called West and the East.

What exactly, though, does Trump mean when he talks about “the West”? Not surprisingly, he evokes a white primarily Euro-Christian “civilization”:

“Americans, Poles and the nations of Europe value individual freedom and sovereignty,” he said. “We must work together to confront forces, whether they come from inside or out, from the South or the East, that threaten over time to undermine these values and to erase the bonds of culture, faith and tradition that make us who we are. . . . We write symphonies. We pursue innovation. We celebrate our ancient heroes, embrace our timeless traditions and customs, and always seek to explore and discover brand-new frontiers.”

By implication, all other cultures rank as inferior, savage, and non-innovative societies. Well, Trump’s vacuous understanding of world music is only rivaled by his vacuous understanding of world history, since China, India, the Middle East, and other global regions during numerous historical eras have led the world economically and have produced some of the richest innovations in industry, technology, engineering, architecture, literature, philosophy, art, music, and of course, food.

Though most other U.S. presidents who visited Warsaw, Poland have placed a commemorative wreath on the monument in tribute to the brave Polish Jews at the Warsaw Ghetto uprising against Nazi oppression, Donald Trump chose neither to visit the monument nor to mention the slaughter of the estimated three million Polish Jews during World War II.

In his Poland speech, written by Steve Miller, chief architect of the administration’s travel ban, Trump continued by asking:

“The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive,” the president said. “Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost? Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders? Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it?”

So, if Trump by implication defined what he meant by “the West,” who does he include in his use of the word “we.” Actually, this “we” is a misstatement since he campaigned during his run for the presidency on a platform of “America first.”

By personally attacking many of our allies, some who attended the recent G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany (in actuality, now G19 since Trump has pulled the U.S. out of many of the agreements and accords of the other nations), Trump has transformed his “American First” position to that of “America Alone” and “I, Donald Trump First,” with the corollary, “And Screw the Rest of the World.” This comes directly from the playbook of Senior White House Divider and Isolationist-In-Chief, Steve (Breitbart) Bannon.

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

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

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

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

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

It seems, however, that according to Fox News host, Tucker Carlson, though Europe comprises a major portion of this so-called “West,” it betrays its culture and its civilization. Carlson asserted on his program, Tucker Carlson Tonight (5/23/17):

“If you care about America, you won’t let it become Europe” by blindly accepting multiculturalism. Carlson and others use “multiculturalism” as an epithet and coded language for “non-white,” “non-Christian,” as “the other,” as “not us.”

Though Trump brought his “clash of civilizations” rhetoric to perceivable levels, still for those of us skillful in breaking codes, we discover the not-so-subtle racist, xenophobic, Islamophobic, anti-semitic tropes coming from Trump, Carlson, and other right-wing zealots.

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

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

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

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

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

On the right-wing side of the political spectrum, we find the philosophy and practice of “fascism.” While also deployed as an epithet by some, fascism developed as a form of radical authoritarian nationalism in early-20th century Europe in response to liberalism and Marxism on the left.

Donald Trump clearly exalted the fascist white so-called “race” in his Poland speech in referencing to “the West” ten times and “civilization” five times. His rhetoric in issuing an implied Christian crusade for, as he stated, “family, for freedom, for country, and for God” could have come directly from the Ku Klux Klan or from other white supremacist militias in the U.S. and Europe.

Though Trump asked “whether the West has the will to survive,” a more urgent question arises over whether we as a democratic nation will survive Donald 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

July 9th, 2017 at 4:03 pm

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Love as The Defining Principle of “Family”

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On July 4, my good neighbors invited me to join them, their closest family, and friends for their annual backyard cook out, which I gladly accepted. I’ve admired these neighbors since I first moved directly next door over four years ago. Their two daughters and son, and their grandchildren love coming over to see them on nearly a daily basis where good times and tasty food rule their days. I feel a certain envy that most of my beloved family members live so far from me.

Though my neighbors and I share divergent backgrounds, we read from virtually the same page politically. And as has become the case, especially at large gatherings, discussion turned to issues of politics within this contested and tumultuous Trumpian age. Somehow the topic centered on a comparison between conditions under President Obama versus President Trump.

All but one person around our table yearned for the reason, the relative calm, and the steadiness of our former president. The only holdout was either a friend of a family member or an in-law, a white man of about 35ish, a practicing Catholic (like most of those gathered), who argued that “Obama attacked the family.”

As I asked him “How did Obama attack the family?” someone at the table flinched and tried to change the topic knowing this man and his politics. I perceived her thinking that I had opened a hornet’s nest.

“He attacked the family by supporting homosexual marriage,” he quipped. “I would support domestic partnership, but not marriage. Marriage is only for one man and one woman. It’s always been that way, and should be that way now.”

We went back and forth for a while. I talked about how “separate but equal has never been equal,” as affirmed by the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision holding school segregation unconstitutional.

He then invoked the notion of “Biblical marriage,” from which I retorted: “Do you mean that men should engage in polygamous relationships like Abraham, the patriarch of Jews, Christians, and Arab Muslims who conceived progeny with two women, his wife Sarah and maid servant Hagar?”

“Or do you mean that if you are a man and your brother dies,” I continued, “you are obliged to marry his widow even if you are already married, as stated in the Jewish Bible?”

“Or what about the mandate in the Christian Bible,” in Ephesians 5:22: “Wives, be submissive to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.” And 1 Corinthians 14:33-35: “As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silence in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.”

We talked for another 15 or so minutes about the supposed separation of religion and government. But issues around marriage equality have been on-going for many years, long before people of so-called differing “races” were finally granted the right to marry in the Supreme Court decision of Loving v. Virginia in 1967.

I remember back to the early 1990s, when residents in a section of Los Angeles erupted following the acquittal of police officers accused of exerting excessive force against motorist Rodney King. A few weeks later, the fictional TV character, Murphy Brown, played by Candice Bergen, gave birth. Vice President Dan Quayle, in his own inimical fashion, concluded that the riots in Los Angeles were caused by a deterioration of “traditional family values” as represented by the unmarried Murphy Brown.

Ross Perot, Texas billionaire and Independent presidential candidate, declared on ABC’s 20/20 in 1992 that if elected he would not appoint “adulterers or homosexuals” to high position of government. “No, I don’t want anybody there that will be at a point of controversy with the American people,” said Perot. “It will distract from the work to be done.”

In the fall of 2011, as I watched from my home in Ames, Iowa the political TV ads by the candidates running in the all-important first-in-the-nation Republican Iowa Caucuses, a recurring theme emerged. In their attempts to appeal to the estimated 60% of Iowa Republican caucus goers who defined as Evangelical Christians, most of the candidates emphasized their so-called “Christian family values,” which, by the way, opposed marriage for same-sex couples and LGBT members of the U.S. military.

We saw this theme most clearly exhibited in Texas Governor’s Rick Perry TV ad “Strong”:

“I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a Christian, but you don’t need to be in the pew every Sunday to know there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school. As president, I’ll end Obama’s war on religion. And I’ll fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage. Faith made America strong. It can make her strong again.”

In addition, political and theocratic Right groups continually attempt to ban books on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender themes geared to students over the accusation that these books do not promote “traditional family values.”

One does not have to look far to see a basic confusion (translated as “deception”) in terminology between “family” (denoting a configuration of individuals) and “values” (related to intrinsic human principles and qualities). In addition, the term “traditional family” – currently defined as a family constellation composed of two married parents (a man and a woman) with birth children – is even more problematic because it is a relatively modern invention constructed during the rise of the industrial age.

The Right holds it up as the standard against which all others are judged, even though a U.S. Census Bureau report found that “[b]etween 1960 and 2016, the percentage of children living in families with two parents decreased from 88 to 69.” Even in these families, many of the children were not directly related by birth to at least one of the parents.

In truth, the concept of “traditional family values,” as used by the political and theocratic Right, has nothing to do with “tradition,” with “family,” or even with “values.” It has more to do with politics, with separating people into distinct and discrete camps of “us” versus “them,” while blaming and scapegoating “them” for the problems facing our country and our world.

At one time, the Right scapegoated “Communism” and the “Communists” using scare tactics to recruit members into its organizations and bring in donations to fill its war chests. Now, since the relative demise of world Communism and the fall of the Soviet Union, the Right needs other villains to scapegoat to further its own political agendas, and has thus targeted those who fall outside its current definition of the “traditional family,” which include lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, those who fall along the transgender spectrum, people who favor and advocate for protecting women’s reproductive freedoms, Muslims, immigrants, and even heterosexuals who either choose not to marry or choose not to bear children.

These politicians, educators, and clergy seem somehow to have forgotten the warning given by poet and essayist Walt Whitman:

“I say of all dangers to a nation, as things exist in our day, there can be no greater one than having certain portions of the people set off from the rest by a line drawn – they not privileged as others, but degraded, humiliated, made of no account.”

We must as a society, then, expand the definition and remove from our vocabulary words that delineate people according to relationship status, for example, the value-laden terms “unwed mother,” “illegitimacy” and “illegitimate child,” “bastard child,” “out of wedlock,” “bachelor,” “old maid,” “Miss,” “Mrs.” – and consign these words to the archives of history because when currently used, they separate people from one another and result in stereotyping, scapegoating, and lowered self-esteem.

Human diversity is a true gift as evidenced by the fact that “families” come in a great variety of packages, with differing shapes and sizes, colors, and wrappings. If, however, we still need to cling to a common definition of “family,” I would remind us of one offered by singers/songwriters, Ron Romanovsky and Paul Phillips, who tell us that:

“The definition’s plain for anyone to see. Love is all it takes to make a family.”

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

July 8th, 2017 at 3:26 pm

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Exposing the Toxic Hyper-Masculinity of Trump and Putin

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Man for the field and woman for the hearth,

Man for the sword and for the needle she,

Man with the head and woman with the heart,

Man to command and woman to obey,

All else confusion.

Lord Alfred Tennyson, The Princess

Numerous commentators have written of the character, mental, and personality flaws of both Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. We cannot, however, understand the motivational factors directing these “leaders’” words and actions without adding into the equation an investigation of the socially-constructed, defined, and maintained characteristics of gender and the roles attached to each of its categories.

What is usually the first question people ask a new parent on the birth of a child?  “How much does the baby weigh?” Not usually since that question usually comes later. What about, “Is the baby healthy?” Sometimes, but typically not first. Usually, people ask, “Is it a boy or a girl?” On the surface, this is a seemingly innocuous question. However, it is rife with underlying social and ethical consequences.

Even before the infant’s assigned sex is inscribed on the birth certificate, assumptions and social imperatives have already been made regarding that infant’s general life course, assumptions based on a highly sophisticated and complex network of gender-based roles assigned to the sexes. These assumptions reflect specific concepts of gender: social constructs regarding “masculinity” and “femininity.”

These gendered roles maintain the sexist structures of society, and heterosexism reinforces those roles, for example, by casting such epithets as “faggot,” “dyke,” and “homo” at anyone who steps outside their designated gendered roles regardless of their actual sexual identitides. These symbolic spears society throws to the heart of anyone who violates established (socially constructed) norms of behavior, those society often considers traitors to their sex.

All people in our society, no matter our assigned sex designation, are saddled with the heavy burden — yes, burden — on the “masculine / feminine” binary frame. Concepts of masculinity and femininity promote the domination of males over females and reinforce the identification of maleness with power. Assigned males are encouraged to be independent, competitive, goal oriented, and unemotional, to value physical and mental courage and toughness. Assigned females, on the other hand, are taught to be nurturing, emotional, sensitive, and expressive, to be caretakers of others while disregarding their own needs.

Society mandates that males must be “in control.” They cannot get too close to their feelings, and if they do, they certainly cannot allow them to show. They must “keep it all together” and to “suck it up.” They cannot show vulnerability, awkwardness, doubts. They must be “on top,” in bed and out.

Within the Male/Masculine conflation, society maintains a rigidly controlled hierarchy:

On top is found the so-called “Alpha Male,” characterized by

  • being the leader(s)
  • inflated confidence,
  • mental and physical toughness,
  • highly competitive with the goal of winning being more important than what is contested,
  • seen as weaknesses: intellectualism, empathy, showing of strong emotions except anger and rage,
  • having presence (take up the space they inhabit; being seen as physically dominant, virile),
  • strong body language in how they talk, walk (exaggerated swagger), what they look at, where they place their hands, where they position themselves in the midst of others in what they consider as the most powerful position to take control: “I alone can do it.”
  • take chances and move out of their comfort zone,
  • surrounded by trophy girlfriends and/or wives who grab on their arm, or are placed literally and figuratively by their side, behind, and beneath, and seldom talk,
  • vocal and loud with solid voice,
  • strong intense eye contact and hard firm hand shakes,
  • calm under pressure showing no signs of fear or trepidation,
  • knows how to dress,
  • stands out,
  • has no problem saying “no,”
  • persevere and doesn’t give up,
  • projects any apparent weaknesses and shortcomings as the problems of others,
  • blames others for these weaknesses, shortcomings, and loses.
  • does not apologize, back down, or retreat, but “fights back ten times harder,”
  • signs of tenderness or vulnerability only allowed for other team members in the arena of gladiators, when inebriated, and during the heat of sex.

The Beta Male, on the other hand, are seen by the Alphas as:

  • the followers,
  • unremarkable,
  • lacks confidence,
  • avoids risk and confrontation
  • lack physical presence and charisma
  • emotional

Though ultimately unattainable for all males, the deceptive rabbit of masculinity circulates around their track of life on patriarchal wires that project the alluringly tasty rewards of control, security, and independence, but only if they perpetually compete in the race by sprinting after that illusive rabbit.

Some boys and men internalize this socially mandated illusion of masculinity to the extreme, to a self-destructive and toxic hyper-masculinity. As they run and run and run around the course, they invariably stumble hurting themselves and others along the way. They build and accumulate frustration turning to resentment and then to anger and often rage because they can never truly reach, grasp, and consume the promised patriarchal bait.

For those men and boys who survive, the societal masters dispose of them as dog trainers dispose the overworked greyhounds. They are stalked, controlled, used, wasted, and ultimately slaughtered.

Girls and women, who also grow up in a patriarchal system of domination, are certainly not immune to internalizing these messages and thereby, they often collude in pressuring males to join and remain in the race.

Compulsory masculinity, when it reaches the level of toxic hyper-masculinity and even beforehand, demands of all boys and men their surrendering of their critical reasoning by never challenging the system, along with losing their individuality, their moral and ethical compasses, their emotions, and their very integrity and humanity for some promise of security, support, and sense of camaraderie and the privileges that automatically accrue to followers of the patriarchal system of domination and control.

Fortunately, a new generation of assigned males, assigned females, and trans people is challenging the system by revolutionizing former conceptualization of gender identity and expression. They are shaking up traditionally dichotomous binary notions of male/female, masculine/feminine, and gay/straight.

They are courageously calling into question this social myth of gendernormativity, the boxes society places us into as it imposes upon us all our gender scripts. They have opened the boxes for all of us to ultimately obliterate the gender status quo of binary oppositions by demonstrating the visible ways, the options upon an enormous gender continuum, one that does not depend upon a sex assigned to us, a sex that is imposed and forced upon us by others.

Their stories and experiences have great potential to bring us into a future — a future in which anyone and everyone on the gender spectrum everywhere will live freely, unencumbered by social taboos and cultural norms of gender. It is a future in which the “feminine” and “masculine” — as well as all the qualities on the continuum in between — can live and prosper in us all.

Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, and you too Lord Alfred Tennyson, take note the wise words of Bob Dylan:

The line it is drawn

The curse it is cast

The slow one now

Will later be fast

As the present now

Will later be passed

The order is

Rapidly fadin’

And the first one now

Will later be last

For the times they are a-changin’

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

July 7th, 2017 at 4:42 pm

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Trump Administration’s Travel Ban Diminishes Us All

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Give us your rich, your white

Your Euro-Christian Corporate billionaires

No blacks, no browns, or Muslims, or the poor

For these my lamp is out for now and evermore.

Statue of Liberty since Trump’s Travel Ban

Walter Vale walks robotically and without apparent enthusiasm though his life as a Connecticut College economics professor. He shows little respect or tolerance for his students whom he has not given the syllabus well into the new semester for a course he has taught for the past 20 years.

When not at the college, he pretends to complete a book that he is not even close to finishing. He occasionally takes piano lessons in an effort to retain a part of his late wife who was a classical concert pianist and recording artist. He just fired his fifth teacher.

Charles, his department chair, requests that he present a paper at a conference at New York University since Walter’s coauthor is unable to attend. When Walter declined stating that he only gave nominal input into the paper while admitting that he had not even read the completed manuscript, Charles sternly insisted.

Walter reluctantly drove the relatively short distance, and upon entering his Manhattan apartment that he and his late wife maintained for decades, he noticed several unfamiliar objects. “Hello,” he called out with no audible response.

He opened the bathroom door to the terrifying screams of a young woman soaking naked in the tub. As he quickly turned around, a young man grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and threw him violently against the wall.

“I live here. I live here. This is my apartment,” Walter tried to get out the words. The man reluctantly released him, and stated that an acquaintance sublet this apartment where he and his girlfriend have been living for the past two months. As tempers cooled, the young couple realized they had been swindled.

Tarek explained to Walter that he is an immigrant from Syria, a musician who performs on a Palestinian-Syrian drum known as a djembe, and Zainab is a Senegalese jewelry designer and street vendor. They both came to the United States for a better life, and they met and fell in love in New York City. Though they pack their belongings to leave, Walter decides to allow them to stay until they have time to ask Zainab’s sister if they can stay in her cramped apartment.

Over the next few days, Walter develops a friendship with the couple, whom he finds out entered the country undocumented. As they travel around Manhattan together, Walter sees the city again with fresh eyes through the excitement of his new young friends who showed him things he had never noticed before, cultures that were right in front of him.

Tarek taught Walter how to play the drum, and the two of them ventured to Central Park on various occasions to join an ongoing drum circle. While on the subway platform, Tarek tells Walter of his dream one day to perform there underground as travelers enter and leave the trains for their destinations. A sense of joy and youthful wonder returned to Walter’s spirit, something that had seemed to have died with the passing of his wife years before.

On their way back to the apartment from the park, Tarek’s drum case gets caught in the subway turnstile, and police arrest him mistakenly for attempting to enter without paying. They discover he had entered the country illegally, and incarcerate him at a detention facility in Queens for deportation back to Syria.

Feeling uncomfortable staying alone with Walter, and fearing the police may come for her as well, Zainab moves in with relatives in the Bronx. Walter hires an immigration lawyer to free Tarek.

After not being able to contact her son for some time, Tarek’s mother, Mouna, traveled from her home in Michigan and appeared at the apartment. Distressed by the news of Tarek’s arrest, she hesitatingly accepts Walter’s invitation to stay at the apartment while the legal process is underway.

Mouna and Walter soon develop a close friendship. She related her family’s difficult life in Syria where her journalist husband died while serving a long prison sentence for challenging the dictatorial regime in his writing. She is fearful for her son and for herself if they are deported since she also entered the United States without proper documentation.

They created a comfortable domestic relationship with Mouna cooking for Walter, and Walter treating Mouna to a night on the town at a Broadway production of The Phantom of the Opera, a favorite of hers ever since Tarek sent his mother the cast recording.

Unfortunately, the lawyer’s efforts to keep Tarek in the U.S. failed, and without any notification, immigration officials deported him back to his native country. Now without any family remaining, Mouna decided to reunite with her son in Syria. During her final night in the United States, Mouna joined Walter in bed for a comforting and calming embrace.

The next day, Walter took his new friend to the airport. They shared a poignant moment before Mouna boarded the plane. Leaving the terminal, Walter entered the subway tunnel, took his drum from its case, and played on the platform as commuters traveled on their way.

As it turned out, the “Visitor” in the film’s title was Walter. Tarek, Mouna, and Zainab enriched, excited, enlivened, and reinvigorated Walter’s perspective on the world. They showed him his own country in ways he never could have imagined if left within his previously monocultural and monochromatic world.

Like Dorothy’s black-and-white Kansas landscape that changed to living color when she was transported to Oz, Walter’s new friends, through their backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives, gave him the means to transport his life from drab to beautiful Technicolor. In microcosm, they exemplified the life blood that brings sustaining and enhancing cultural nutrition to the U.S. body politic.

Like all organisms, nations will wither and die unless they continue expanding their perspectives on how they view this ever-changing world. The United States stands today as one of the most, possibly the most, innovative nations in the history of humankind only because of its sustained influx of innovative ideas and solutions to problems coming from its continuing immigration populations.

President Trump signed an executive order (Royal decree), which partially took effect recently, that bans entry of residents from six majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States, and has suspended admittance of refugees from Syria. His 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.

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

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

“Pluralism” comprises the philosophy whereby one adheres to a prevailing cultural norm in public while recognizing, retaining, and celebrating one’s distinctive and unique cultural traditions and practices in the private realm.

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

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

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

While diversity of groups in any nation poses great challenges and great opportunities, the way we meet these challenges will determine whether we remain on the abyss of our history or whether we can truly achieve our promise of becoming a shining beacon to the world.

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

The Visitor, 2007: writer and director, Tom McCarthy; producers, Michael London & Mary Jane Skalski; executive producers, Jeff Skoll & Omar Amanat; actors, Richard Jenkins as Walter Vale, Haaz Sleiman as Tarek, Danai Gurira as Zainab, Hiam Abass as Mouna, Michael Cumpsty as Charles.

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

July 2nd, 2017 at 3:07 pm

Posted in Uncategorized