Warren Blumenfeld's Blog

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

We Shall Continue Fighting the Republican Onslaught

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Donald Trump is NOT Hitler or Mussolini. Republicans in Congress are NOT Nazi Storm Troopers. The Republican tax scam is NOT the blitz over London.

But the Republican tax scam IS an attack on most people in the United States who do not fall within the upper 10% on the income scale. It IS an enormous give-away to rich individuals and corporations. It IS an attack on the already fragile safety nets of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. It IS an attack on the small progress we have made on affordable health care. It IS an attack on our environment, especially the oil fields of Alaska. And it IS an attack against the possibility that the African proverb, “It takes a community to raise a child,” can become a reality in our country.

Therefore, for those of us in the Resistance, and because we may have lost a battle in this seemingly intractable radical conservative war, I take solace in the great words of former British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, in portions of his now-famous speech delivered to the House of Commons on 4 June 1940:

“Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender….”

To my compassionate and tireless compatriots in struggle, we will ultimately turn back the onslaught.

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

December 19th, 2017 at 5:21 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Ryan’s Republican Tax Scam Throws Out the Babies with the Party

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“This is going to be the new economic challenge for America: people. Baby boomers are retiring — I did my part, but we need to have higher birth rates in this country.”

This two-sentence statement in defense of the Republican Tax Scam by House Speaker Paul Ryan on December 14 is all one needs to critically analyze in order to understand the Republican agenda of attacking the majority of residents in the United States and on planet Earth.

Not-so-coincidently, about the same time Ryan delivered his lets-all-have-more-babies warning, the Trump administration listed its seven deadly words never-to-mention-or-include in the Center for Disease Control budgetary documents for 2018.

Entitlement, Vulnerable, Diversity, Fetus, Transgender

So, let’s first look through the lens of these five deadly words in relation to Ryan’s off-handed more-offspring policy.

People like Ryan and other people and families who have the economic means to reproduce without financial difficulty, don’t have a clue that most people are not so entitled.

Without adding the expenses for higher education, the average cost to raise one child in the U.S. from fetus until age 18 is over $245,000. For many less entitled, more financially vulnerable families, child care alone is a budget buster. A report from Care.com found that more than half of those surveyed spend upward of 10% of household income on child care, and 20% assert spending 25% of their income or more.

The average cost of day care per child, per week is $196. A family with only one child at a full-time day care center pays $10,192 a year.

The average cost of an after-school babysitter is $214 per week. The average family that uses an after-school sitter spends roughly $7,700 per year, assuming a 36-week school year.

The average cost of a nanny is $556 per week. A typical family that pays a nanny for 52 weeks a year will spend a whopping $28,900 on child care over the course of a year.

While substantially raising the current birthrate is a long-term project, the Republican tax scam has other devices at its beckoned call. Since the scam by most economic estimates will raise the national debt a minimum of $1.5 trillion over the next ten years, the next red meat on the Republican chopping block are the government entitlements of Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and the “personal mandate” to purchase health care insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

So, Ryan, who wants people in all their economic diversity to go forth, combine sperms with eggs, and multiply, he and his Republican co-conspirators will take away health care insurance from an estimated 13 million people, including families with children, and reduce other entitlements from financially vulnerable people, while hardly providing much tax relief in their scam for overall child deductions and the Child and Dependent Care Credit.

And since Ryan and other Republicans seem not to care much about the rights of transgender people, and believe the myth that they don’t or can’t birth children, good riddance to them and all LGBTQ people.

Research-Based, Science-Based

Regarding Trump’s additional deadly words, Ryan emphasized that increasing the population will aid in guaranteeing governmental solvency in the United States. Well, are there any scientific research-based correlations between population growth with quality of life on our planet?

Currently, the world population stands at an estimated 7.59 billion people and growing exponentially every second of every day. At current rates, we will reach well over 9 billion (9,725,000,000) by the year 2050.

In relative terms, the planet did not hold one billion people until as late as 1804. We added each additional billion within consecutively shorter intervals of time: 2 billion in 1927, 3 billion in 1960; 4 billion in 1974; 5 billion in 1987; 6 billion in 1999; 7 billion in 2011.

The Obama White House in 2014 released its National Climate Assessment reporting that our global climate is, in fact, changing, and this is due primarily to human activity, in particular, the burning of fossil fuels.

The Assessment investigated approximately 12,000 professional scientific journal papers on the topic of global climate change, and discovered that in the articles expressing a position on global warming, fully 97% authenticated both the reality of global warming and the certainty that humans are the cause.

Additional studies released since the White House report signed the beginning of the depletion and ultimate total collapse of glaciers in Antarctica, which can continue to raise worldwide sea levels an additional 4 feet. This depletion is now irreversible.

Since Trump took over the Oval Office, he pulled the United States from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, severely gutted regulations on corporations and industries that seriously pollute our water, air, and ground, while reemphasizing fossil fuels and deemphasizing clean energy sources.

Substantially increasing the output of babies even if one holds the financial clout to do so in the United States will certainly do very little to reduce the national debt, but it will, on the other hand, do much to increase our entry onto the list of endangered species.

So Republicans, by passing their tax scam, they may very well be placing their party onto the “endangered” list as well. But, for Paul Ryan, he will finally fulfill his life-long “libertarian” dream of dismantling any remaining remnants of The New Deal and The Great Society in the so-called “deep state.”

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

December 18th, 2017 at 2:36 pm

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Trump Erases Words Attempting to Erase People & Issues

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Picture this: In a nation not much dissimilar to our own, a powerful and rich, but not very smart tyrant ruled over his kingdom by attempting to alter what was true, and some people believed him. This was the reason he attained and sat on the golden thrown as long as he did. He convinced enough of the people that he would make the kingdom regal again, defeat all dragons and other enemies foreign and domestic, and bring prosperity to average folks.

But then, tragedy struck. After days upon days of torrential storms gushing rivers of rain from the heavens, great floods submerged cities and towns alike washing away property and lives as if they were toothpicks into the vast and bottomless sea. Those who survived joined in protest demanding action be taken by the monarch to save the remainder from impending doom.

Looking outward from his high-towered glass and steel castle, he pronounced his intention to vanquish the rain with a Royal Order hereby eliminating the word “clouds” from the official language over the realm. He asserted that without the existence of the aforementioned “clouds,” rain would cease, the physical landscape would toss off its watery burden, and life and prosperity would return to the kingdom.

The autocrat based his action on the certainty that he could trick people into believing that a thing cannot exist outside of language, because that which is not named, is, therefore, not real. Right?

And now it seems that yet another no-so-very-bright would-be dictator has taken on the very same tactic, this time in an attempt to drain away a raging river that has changed the social, cultural, and political landscape for the better. This “sea change” has occurred over the past centuries with the ever-increasing power and strength with each succeeding wave of the feminist women’s movement and the movement for LGBTQ equality, which have challenged patriarchal control over people’s bodies and their very lives.

The Trump administration has ordered the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the nation’s highest public health agency located in Atlanta, Georgia, immediately to cease using seven words and phrases in all future documents in preparation for next year’s budget.

The now forbidden words and phrases are “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based,” and “science-based.” Only with the phrases, “science-based” and “evidence-based,” were analysts given alternatives: “CDC bases its recommendation on science in consideration with community standards and wishes.”

The administration offered no other alternatives, and gave no official reasons for its ruling on language usage. One need not have acquired a doctorate degree in political science, however, to understand this order as constituting the latest assault in its ongoing war against women’s reproductive freedoms, the rights of LGBTQ people, and multicultural initiatives.

While still campaigning on March 30, 2016, in an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, Trump asserted that women who have abortions should be punished.

Since taking over the Oval Office, Donald Trump and his administration have either attempted or have actually reversed many Obama-era policies on issues of sexual and gender identity and expression and on abortion rights.

In March, for example, Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the CDC among other agencies, discontinued questions regarding sexual and gender identities in surveys going to seniors. HHS also eliminated information about LGBT people from its website.

In a memo sent from Trump’s Department of Anything-But-Justice to US attorneys, department heads, and federal agencies, Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions reversed an Obama-era policy that protected trans employees from discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Session made clear that his department would no longer interpret gender protections in Title VII to include gender identity and expression.

In a related story, Session also delivered his ruling that will severely limit the Affordable Care Act’s insurance mandate for contraception when it goes against employers’ religious or moral beliefs. Included in the memo, Sessions ordered officials to:

“…effective immediately, incorporate the interpretative guidance in litigation strategy and arguments, operations, grant administration, and all other aspects of the Department’s work, keeping in mind the President’s declaration that ‘[i]t shall be the policy of the executive branch to vigorously enforce Federal law’s robust protections for religious freedom’.”

Since Trump’s inauguration, the White House website has removed reference to LGBT issues and policies from the previous administration, and reversed Obama’s executive order permitting trans students to use school facilities most closely aligning with their gender identities.

As the Trump administration promoted its “American Heroes Week” earlier this year, the alleged Commander-in-Chief let it be known in a hammering three-tweet series that he does not include trans people in the category of “American Heroes,” especially those currently and previously serving in the U.S. military.

“After consideration with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow…… ….Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming….. ….victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you.”

Trump’s not-so-surprising assaults on trans people has the heavy thumb print of Vice President Pence who, 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 as governor, helped to pass the so-called Religious Freedom Restoration law in Indiana allowing businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ people. The state was forced to amend the law after experiencing serious political and financial push back.

Those in power continually attempt to omit, delete, minimize, distort, and completely erase the contributions, presence, existence of individuals and groups as if they have made no significant and important contributions. The result often is that many groups’ histories, stories, and voices have gone underrepresent.

I must warn Donald, however, that though he may attempt to erase words, he will never erase people and the issues for which they tirelessly and passionately fight. Only days after the decree of that other once-mighty King, when the rain failed to end, the people rose up in unified outrage forcing the tyrant from his tower and ending his reign.

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

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

December 16th, 2017 at 3:14 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Of the 12 Lies of Donald

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(sung to the tune of “The 12 Days of Christmas”)

Of the first lie of Donald, this POTUS said to us,

I will make the country great again!

 

Of the second lie of Donald, this POTUS said to us,

Mexicans will rape,

Yeah and I’ll make the country great again!

 

Of the third lie of Donald, this POTUS said to us,

I am smart,

Mexicans will rape,

Yeah and I’ll make the country great again!

 

Of the fourth lie of Donald, this POTUS said to us,

Climate change is fine,

I am smart,

Mexicans will rape,

Yeah and I’ll make the country great again!

 

Of the fifth lie of Donald, this POTUS said to us,

Just be-lieve me,

Climate change is fine,

I am smart,

Mexicans will rape,

Yeah and I’ll make the country great again!

 

Of the sixth lie of Donald, this POTUS said to us,

I honor women,

Just be-lieve me,

Climate change is fine,

I am smart,

Mexicans will rape,

Yeah and I’ll make the country great again!

 

Of the seventh lie of Donald, this POTUS said to us,

Muslims all will kill us,

I honor women,

Just be-lieve me,

Climate change is fine,

I am smart,

Mexicans will rape,

Yeah and I’ll make the country great again!

 

Of the eighth lie of Donald, this POTUS said to us,

I don’t know Russians,

Muslims all will kill us,

I honor women,

Just be-lieve me,

Climate change is fine,

I am smart,

Mexicans will rape,

Yeah and I’ll make the country great again!

 

Of the ninth lie of Donald, this POTUS said to us,

Tax plan will hurt me,

I don’t know Russians,

Muslims all will kill us,

I honor women,

Just be-lieve me,

Climate change is fine,

I am smart,

Mexicans will rape,

Yeah and I’ll make the country great again!

 

Of the tenth lie of Donald, this POTUS said to us,

Black Lives Don’t Matter,

Tax plan will hurt me,

I don’t know Russians,

Muslims all will kill us,

I honor women,

Just be-lieve me,

Climate change is fine,

I am smart,

Mexicans will rape,

Yeah and I’ll make the country great again!

 

Of the eleventh lie of Donald, this POTUS said to us,

Trans soldiers threaten,

Black Lives Don’t Matter,

Tax plan will hurt me,

I don’t know Russians,

Muslims all will kill us,

I honor women,

Just be-lieve me,

Climate change is fine,

I am smart,

Mexicans will rape,

Yeah and I’ll make the country great again!

 

Of the twelfth lie of Donald, this POTUS said to us,

The system’s rigged against me,

Trans soldiers threaten,

Black Lives Don’t Matter,

Tax plan will hurt me,

I don’t know Russians,

Muslims all will kill us,

I honor women,

Just be-lieve me,

Climate change is fine,

I am smart,

Mexicans will rape,

Yeah and I’ll make the country great again!

And now only I will make us great again!

A Very Happy Holidays to All,

and to All Soon a New and Progressive President and Congress!

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

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

December 13th, 2017 at 1:10 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Theocracies and Justification for Widescale Oppression Then and Now

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Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace…

John Lennon

Whether we realize it or not, history determines how we frame current events. Take, for example, two recent incidents that represent legacies from millennia past.

Donald Trump, as the most politically-powerful person on the planet, officially declared Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and announced plans to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem from the city of Tel Aviv – the site of all other nation’s embassies in Israel.

By taking these actions, the President of the United States confirmed what most Orthodox Jewish leaders have asserted for literally thousands of years that the entire ancient land of Israel, “The Promised Land,” this “Land of Milk and Honey,” was guaranteed by almighty G*d to the Jewish people as it is said in the Tanakh (the Jewish Bible) in Genesis 15:18-21, 26:3, 28:13, and other biblical passages. The city of Jerusalem appears 669 times in the Jewish Bible.

The text most quoted to justify Jerusalem as the Jewish “Eternal City” is found in 2 Chronicles 6:5-6, where King Solomon quotes G*d as saying, in part: “…I [your G*d] have chosen Jerusalem that my name may be there and I have chosen David to be over my people Israel.”

But then again, according to many Orthodox Christian leaders for the past two thousand years, though God may have given Jerusalem and the ancient land of Israel to the Jews, the Holy City holds immense importance to the Christian people not only because Jesus died and has risen there, but also since this is the very place of “the end of days” where “the Christ,” according to Christian prophesy, the one anointed by the Lord, will return and rein forever and ever.

After the Muslim Seljuk Turks conquered Jerusalem and much of the Holy Land, and closed it to all Jewish and Christian pilgrims, Pope Urban II commenced the First Crusade (1096-1102), and others followed until 1291 to recapture the territory for Christians.

While Mecca in the current nation of Saudi Arabia is the most sacred of all Muslim places, Jerusalem is important religiously as the site where the Islamic prophet Muhammad took his Night Journey to heaven ((isra’), and where the holy Al-Aqsa Mosque rests. In political terms, the Palestinian people claim East Jerusalem as the capital of any eventual Palestinian nation.

The problem seems that God has promised the same parcel of land to three peoples of three Abrahamic religions. How different is this “God-given” right from the justification used by European-heritage people in its colonial expansion in “the Americas”?

For example, the doctrine of “manifest destiny” embraced a belief in American Anglo-Saxon superiority. “This continent,” a congressman declared, “was intended by Providence as a vast theatre on which to work out the grand experiment of Republican government, under the auspices of the Anglo-Saxon race.”

Another current event where the past reared its not-so invisible head was in the U.S. senate race in Alabama with the candidacy of Judge Roy Moore. Moore rose to prominence (infamy) with his extreme Christian biblical interpretations that directly contradict the United States Constitution that he swore to protect and defend.

Moore rationalized breaking his oath as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court on religious grounds by invoking Biblical texts when he imposed a large stone slab of the Ten Commandments on the publicly-owned courthouse grounds, and when he urged all Alabama judges to defy the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling to ensure marriage equality for same-sex couples. He has also asserted that Muslims do not have a right to serve in Congress.

Moore ironically justified his opposition to marriage equality by allegedly defending children from “an inherent evil” by calling for the seizure of the children of gay and lesbian people and sending the parents to prison. He argued that children must not be “raised in unnatural families that contradict the created order.”

On issues of race, he referred to Native Americans and Asian Americans as “reds” and “yellows,” and when asked by an African American to state a time when America was great,” Moore responded:

“I think it was great at the time when families were united — even though we had slavery — they cared for one another…. Our families were strong, our country had a direction.”

Nine women, some who were underage at the time, charged this supposedly highly religious Christian man with sexual harassment and assault, which Moore denied. Many of his staunch supporters invoked religion in his defense. For example, Jim Ziegler, Alabama state auditor stated:

“Take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus.”

And Jerry Moore, Roy’s brother proclaimed:

“The allegations against Roy Moore are not true, not true at all….[My brother is being persecuted] like Jesus Christ was.”

The lighted billboard sign standing outside The Living Way Ministries Church in Opelika, Alabama, a tax-exempt religious institution, announced:

““THEY FALSELY ACCUSED JESUS! VOTE ROY MOORE”

Religion and its perversely distorted interpretations by individuals, groups, denominations, and nations throughout the ages have devoted themselves to justifying the most unimaginable and egregious forms of oppression against other human beings and against the environment.

Individuals and organizations have employed “religion” to justify the marginalization, harassment, denial of rights, persecution, oppression, theft, and murder of entire groups of people based on their social identities. During various historical periods, people have applied these texts, sometimes taken in tandem, and at other times used selectively, to establish and maintain hierarchical positions of power, domination, and privilege over individuals and groups targeted by these texts and tenets.

Monocultural theocratic ethno-states and denominations justify the very worst in the human psyche. How much more division, though, and how many more deaths will it take for people to come to understand that religion, if one chooses to believe, should be used to establish a connection on the personal level with a force outside oneself, and not as weaponized ammunition to aim at those who believe otherwise?

So let’s just continue marginalizing, attacking, robbing, and killing one another over beliefs we can never prove. That makes a lot of sense. Or does it?

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

December 11th, 2017 at 3:14 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Remembering a First: Elmhurst College Leading the Way

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Elmhurst College became the first institution of higher education in 2011 to include an optional demographic question on its admission application forms related to sexual and gender identity. The question asks: “Would you consider yourself to be a member of the LGBT community?” with the three multiple-choice answers: “Yes,” “No” and “Prefer Not to Answer.” Numerous campuses have since followed Elmhurst’s lead.

Though the way students answer this question will not impact their chances for admission, college administrators took this move to increase student diversity on the campus, which is part of their mission statement.

Elmhurst took an important step forward because it sends a strong message that this institution acknowledges, welcomes, and supports LGBT people. In the midst of Elmhurst’s progressive advancement, however, conditions related to campus climate often remain difficult at best for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) students.

I along with my co-researchers Sue Rankin, Genevieve N. Weber, and Somjen Frazer conducted our comprehensive study, 2010 State of Higher Education for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender People, which was sponsored by the Q Research Institute in Higher Education of the national organization Campus Pride.

Our results found that LGBT students, staff, faculty, and administrators remain at significantly higher risk, compared with their heterosexual and gender normative counterparts, for harassment at our colleges and universities. The on-line study comprised 5149 participants including students, staff, faculty, and administrators representing all 50 states who attended all the Carnegie Basic Classification of institutions of higher education.

We found that a considerable number (31%) experienced difficult or hostile campus climate, 21% experienced some form of harassment around their sexual identity or gender expression. Among LGB participants, 13% feared for their physical safety, while 43% along the transgender spectrum feared for their physical safety.

Approximately 50% of our participants concealed their identities (stayed in “The Closet”) in an attempt to avoid intimidation. These rates were significantly higher for LGBT participants of color. In addition, more than one-third of all participants seriously considered leaving their campuses.

While enumerated categories on official forms, and also within bullying prevention, hate crimes, and civil rights legislation, and directed questions in research surveys aid in successful efforts to raise the visibility and to determine the unique needs of members of specific communities, for example, minoritized ethnic, racial, sexual, and gender diverse segments of the larger population and specifically within our campus communities, we typically encounter resistance and backlash to these efforts.

Elmhurst College’s inclusion of an LGBT demographic question on their standard student admissions form has not, as some had contended, taken us down the slippery slope from a focus on equity and equality of opportunity to the realm of affirmative action. Those who assert this show utter lack of knowledge regarding the goals of the LGBT movement. Those who employ this scare tactic divert attention from the real goal we have of heightening visibility of LGBT students and their issues and ending the isolation and marginalization on our campuses.

Those who find concern about the preference abounding in college admissions policies, they should investigate the inequities in granting preferences to “legacy” students whose parents and grandparents graduated from these esteemed institutions, many who have contributed substantial amounts to their alma maters. According to The Economist:

“In most Ivy League institutions…‘legacies’ make up between 10% and 15% of every class….The students in America’s places of higher education are increasingly becoming an oligarchy….”

In fact, all the major movements for progressive social change have had many “firsts,” and they have gained from the theorists, activists, and movement leaders who have preceded them.

The first wave of the Feminist movement in the 19th century gained its inspiration from the leadership and strategies of the Abolitionist movement. The workers and union movements built on the strengths of the Abolitionist and Feminist movements. The Civil Rights movements continued to build on those who had gone before. In fact, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gained inspiration for his philosophy of non-violent resistance not only from his religious faith, but also from Mahatma Gandhi in South Africa and India, and Leo Tolstoy in Russia.

The second wave of the Feminist movement recharged from previous movements reflecting the first wave and the movements during the intervening years. The counter-cultural youth movements, the environmental justice movements, movements for peace, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender movements, the movement for intersex equality and rights, the disability rights movement, the movement for medical and mental patients’ rights, the movement for youth liberation, indeed, the movements for all oppressed people somehow connect and draw from one another.

In addition to social movements, academic discourses also align in a number of ways. Critical Multiculturalism, Critical Race Theory, Critical Feminist Theory, Post-Colonial Theory, Queer Theory, and others synergize, reflect upon, and enhance one another.

One of my favorite poets and essayists, Adrienne Rich, highlights the damage done through silencing and invisibility:

“When those who have the power to name and to socially construct reality choose not to see you or hear you …when someone with the authority of a teacher, say, describes the world and you are not in it, there is a moment of psychic disequilibrium, as if you looked in the mirror and saw nothing.”

But we can take strength that at these moments of “firsts” like those at Elmhurst College, we have the opportunity to join in unified action. Rich continues:

“It takes some strength of soul — and not just individual strength, but collective understanding — to resist this void, this non-being, into which you are thrust, and to stand up, demanding to be seen and heard.”

Thank you Elmhurst College for leading the way!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

December 8th, 2017 at 2:23 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Donald Trump Provokes Third Intifada by Recognizing Jerusalem as Israeli Capital

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The body of Donald J. Trump has become the site where reason, truth, and empathy go to die!

By officially declaring Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and announcing plans to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem from the city of Tel Aviv – the site of all other nation’s embassies in Israel — Donald J. Trump imperials the world, and further jeopardizes a peaceful resolution to the seemingly perennial Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Palestinian organization, Hamas, has accused Trump of opening “the gates of Hell,” and has called for organized protest. In anticipation, the U.S. State Department has issued safety warning for embassies around the world.

Except for most Israeli officials and several people in the United States, Trump’s action has been roundly criticized by leaders in capitals throughout the world, with mere tepid support from his own Secretaries of State and Defense. In his own perverse way, Trump has brought together constant rivals in the Middle East, including Turkey, Iran, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Yemen, in one united voice opposing his decision.

All other U.S. Presidents of both parties since the modern state of Israel’s inception in 1948 hoped that West Jerusalem would become the capital of a peaceful Israel, and according to the interests and wishes of most Palestinians and their leaders, East Jerusalem would become the capital of the eventual Palestinian state. By taking these unprecedented and premature actions, Donald Trump has poured Middle Eastern oil onto a tinder box that, likely, will ignite the Third Intifada in the region.

Ariel Sharon instigated the Second Intifada (Palestinian uprising against Israel) in September 2000 by walking upon the Temple Mount, the home of some of the holiest shrines in Islam. In the four years following Sharon’s provocation, estimates place the death toll of military personnel and civilians at 3,000 Palestinians, 1,000 Israelis, and 64 foreigners. Sharon became Israel’s eleventh Prime Minister six months following his infamous “visit” to the Temple Mount.

Trump’s official recognition and intention to move the embassy to Jerusalem makes no political sense other than to appease his ever-decreasing base of supporters and Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, one of Trump’s many puppet masters. Trump’s decision further endangers U.S. and Israeli security, and offers nothing to move the peace process forward. In fact, it places the final nail in its coffin.

Surrounding investigations into Trump’s connections with Russia, he acts like a wounded and caged animal fending for his life. His latest announced plans in Israel along with his repeated insults and incitements toward a volatile and brutal North Korean autocrat appear likely that he is attempting to take down the entire planet and all its inhabitants along with him.

Donald Trump’s actions have risen to the level of high crimes of treasonous offenses that present clear and present dangers to the citizens of the international community.

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

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

December 6th, 2017 at 11:05 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Peace Will Prevail Over Trumpism Only With Justice

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“There can be no justice without peace, and there can be no peace without justice.”

Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Peace activist and civil rights leader, Dr. King chanted this statement outside a California prison, which was holding Vietnam War protesters on December 14, 1967. In his commitment and passion for justice, and in his inimical and profound way, he understood several connecting strands:

“I see these two struggles as one struggle,” he said. By fighting a war “against the self-determination of the Vietnamese people,” he realized that his country, the United States of America, had been proliferating injustice. While fighting for the civil and human rights of people in his home nation, without opposing what King believed to be the clear exploitation of the Vietnamese people, would contradict his declaration that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Throughout his life, he invoked his vibrant image of the “inescapable network of mutuality” that links all of humanity.

With King’s words swirling around my mind, I sat stunned in complete disbelief watching as Donald Trump announced and then signed, with his typical overexaggerated flare, Executive Orders to shrink by over two-million acres two national monuments, Bear’s Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, in the state of Utah utilizing “states’ rights” as his justification.

Through his disingenuous words, however, the staged cheers from invited guests, the gleaming teeth flashing from plastered smiles of political leaders, we see clearly that Trump’s assault on the environment and on the native peoples’ sacred lands has more to do with the rights of mining, drilling, and logging corporations that it ever could have with the rights of states.

For the second time in barely over a week, Trump has launched the second battle in his declared war on First Nations peoples. Flanked by surviving Navajo war veterans in a White House ceremony giving honor to them one week prior, President Donald Trump lacked any sense of decency and respect by again taunting his nemesis, Senator Elizabeth Warren, with a racial epithet, “Pocahontas,” referring to her Native American heritage. He did this while standing beneath a portrait of Trump’s acknowledged “favorite” president, Andrew Jackson, who is infamously known to have committed genocide on native peoples.

But whenever I think this incompetent, dishonest, and psychologically damaged man could not surpass the hurt he has wrought, there he goes shoveling even more dung on the people and institutions he swore to protect.

I write these words as my heart is breaking yet again. Over the past two years, ever since Donald J. Trump descended the escalator in his golden tower to announce his run for the most powerful position in the world, he has offended so many individuals and entire groups of people, most of whom hold little political and social power, that I find it difficult to comprehend how and why such a person could attain and then remain in office.

I wept as he stereotyped Mexicans as criminals and rapists, and when he mocked a journalist with disabilities. I shook with rage as the gloated about grabbing women by their genitals, and when he personally attacked courageous Gold Star families.

I felt breathless when he summarily declared transgender military members disqualified to serve their country, and excluded from public facilities most closely aligning to their identities. But I took it as par for this president’s (non-golf) course when he officially endorsed an accused child sexual predator and molester over a qualified Democrat in a U.S. senatorial contest.

Throughout his march to the Oval Office, he has stereotyped and further marginalized Muslims and the religion of Islam, alienated our closest international allies, provoked our adversaries, demeaned and degraded members of our Intelligence agencies and judicial institutions, deregulated environment policies that further imperil our planet.

In league with Republican flawmakers, he has attacked the middle and working classes with retrograde healthcare and tax policies. Had this President and his Republican co-conspirators been physicians, we the people would have already sued them for malpractice.

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

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

As a resident of Washington, D.C. during the presidency of Richard Nixon and the upheavals surrounding the Watergate investigations, which ultimately led to Nixon’s resignation, I was reassured that our nation’s Constitution, while imperfect, held our institutions together even as our people stood disunited.

During these current troubling times of discord and dissent, political polarity and incompetence, ever-increasing social and economic inequalities, scapegoating and stereotyping, and our nation’s shrinking moral leadership throughout the world, I believe our Constitution will get us through as long we as a people remain vigilant working tirelessly to ensure that justice rises and ultimately prevails in our quest for peace.

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

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

December 5th, 2017 at 12:10 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Grade School as a Gender-Noncomforming Student

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I dedicate this commentary to my life-long friend and comrade, Lawrence (Larry) J. Magid, who has been there himself, and who always has been there for me.

“Sticks and stones can break my bones, but names can never hurt me.” This was one of the biggest lies our culture teaches us growing up. Another myth states that bullying is simply a sign of a youthful rite of passage, that “boys will be boys” and “girls will be girls,” and that it will toughen them to better meet the demands of life.

In a longitudinal study conducted by Boston Children’s Hospital and published in the February 17, 2014 issue of Pediatrics, “Peer Victimization in Fifth Grade and Health in Tenth Grade,” while the results might appear rather intuitive, researchers confirmed that the longer the timeframe peers bully a young person, the more severe and lasting the impact on that person’s health.

I did not have to wait for the study to understand full well the long-term consequences of bullying. For most of my years in school, I was continually attacked and beaten by my peers who perceived me as someone who was “different.”

Names like “queer,” “little girl,” and “fag” rained down upon me like the big red dodge ball my classmates furiously and sadistically hurled at one another on the schoolyard. I would not – or rather, could not – conform to expressions of the gender roles that my family and peers so clearly expected me to follow, and I regularly paid the price.

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

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

Not knowing what else to do at this time with what they considered as my gender non-conformity, my parents sent me to a child psychologist at the age of four until my 13th birthday because they feared that I might be gay (or to use the terminology of the day, “homosexual”), and because they were afraid for my safety.

There was a basic routine in the “therapy” sessions. My mother took me out of school every Monday and Thursday at 11:00 to the psychologist’s office. I walked in, took off my coat, and put it on the hook behind the door. The psychologist then asked me if there was anything in particular I wanted to discuss. I invariably said “no.” Since I did not understand why I was there in the first place, I surely did not trust him enough to talk candidly.

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

He instructed my parents to assign me the household tasks of taking out the garbage, mowing the lawn (even though we initially lived in an apartment building and we did not have a lawn), and not washing or drying the dishes. He also told my parents to prevent me from playing with dolls or to cook. And – as if this all was not enough – he advised my parents to sign me up for a little league baseball league, which despite my hatred of the sport, my father basically forced me to join for two summers.

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

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

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

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

I can see now that this all amounted to an insidious and dehumanizing fear and hatred of anything even hinting at femininity in males. This is, of course, a thinly-veiled misogyny, and it nearly succeeded in taking my life.

Looking into the bathroom mirror, my 14-year-old self stared back at me, tears rolling down into the sink below. All I could envision was the continual and relentless attacks: boys flicking my ears from behind me when we were aboard the school bus, girls loudly giggling as I walked by, peers isolating me on the school yard keeping me from playing games or joining them for lunch, students flinging food at me from multiple corners of the lunchroom, boys waiting for me with constant blows to my stomach and face when teachers weren’t looking.

I don’t remember where, but I learned that if I took more than the recommended dosage of aspirin tablets, I could develop serious internal bleeding and die. Seeing no way out, I opened the bathroom medicine cabinet turning my 14-year-old reflection away. Reaching inside, I grabbed the 1000-count aspirin bottle, and with hands shaking, soundlessly twisted off the cap as not to arouse suspicion from my family just beyond the door.

Then with seeming effortlessness, I poured a handful of pills as if I were pouring sugar from a shaker. With little hesitation, I lifted my clenched hand toward my mouth and tossed the white pills into my mouth, choking and gagging as they hit my throat. Their bitterness, though, forced me to vomit them into the sink.

Though I was angry at myself for not having the “stomach” to kill myself, I was also relieved because I suppose at least a part of me still wished to live.

All things considered, my life turned out fairly well. I entered college in 1965 during a time our society underwent dynamic changes. I joined with others to demonstrate our opposition to the war in Vietnam; I worked with students of color in our common struggle against housing discrimination around our campus, and I helped plan ecology workshops to highlight the state of our increasingly polluted planet. I chose to join a therapy group in my college counseling center, which gave me the support to “come out” as gay. I later went on to become a teacher for children with disabilities, a journalist, and a tenured university professor. I now define myself as “agender.”

As I am writing this today at age 70, I consider myself not as a victim, but rather as a survivor of the bullying and abuse from those earlier times. When my therapist diagnosed me having Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, along with Social Anxiety Disorder, moderate Agoraphobia, and clinical depression over 30 years ago, I was actually relieved, for then I could begin to let go of the self-blame I had carried for so long.

Today, I often hear Steven Sondheim’s song, “Anyone Can Whistle,” in my mind’s ear, a Broadway show tune about a person who has accomplished many difficult tasks – like speaking Greek, dancing the tango, even slaying a dragon – but who seems incapable of managing simple things like whistling.

Anyone can whistle, that’s what they say — easy.
Anyone can whistle, any old day — easy.
It’s all so simple.
Relax, let go, let fly.
So someone tell me, why can’t I?

In my life, I earned numerous degrees including a doctorate, and I published several books and peer reviewed journal articles. I have been asked to speak throughout the United States and around the world on varied topics focusing on issues of social justice, and I have been given a wonderful opportunity to travel to places I only dreamt about when I was younger.

I have come to understand full well, though, and I have come to accept my severe limitations due to the bullying I endured and the damage I suffered from those earlier times. Sondheim’s “whistling” stands as an analogy for relationships.

Though I have attempted to develop long-term romantic relationships along my way, I have come to understand the harm to my emotional self. I have lived alone since 1977 following a series of tries at sharing residences with trusted roommates, though none of these living arrangements worked for me.

In truth, sticks, stones, and names can damage the body as well as the spirit, and they all can kill. Fortunately, schools have at least begun to leave the myths and lies behind, and to take actions. Most notably, we are witnessing more schools conducting programs to empower the so-called “bystanders” – those who know of the bullying, but often feel powerless to step in – transforming them into active “upstanders” by intervening to stop the abuse.

With knowledge, understanding, and interventions, young people are now leading the way to a better future. So…

Maybe you could show me how to let go,
Lower my guard,
Learn to be free.
Maybe if you whistle,
Whistle for me.

* * * * *

I was honored by my friend Larry Magid to write “The Parent, Educator, and Youth Guide to LGBTQ Cyberbullying” for his important life-saving website ConnectSafely. The site generally and the Guide specifically is “dedicated to educating users of connected technology about safety, privacy and security. Here you’ll find research-based safety tips, parents’ guidebooks, advice, and news and commentary on all aspects of tech use and policy.”

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

November 30th, 2017 at 3:07 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Volcanic Cultural Eruption Changing Patriarchal Landscape

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“What is patriarchy? A society is patriarchal to the degree that it promotes male privilege by being male dominated, male identified, and male centered. It is also organized around an obsession with control and involves as one of its aspects the oppression of women.”

Allan Johnson

Within a patriarchal system of male domination, cisgender heterosexual male bodies matter more, while “othered” bodies matter less. These “othered” bodies include female and intersex bodies, and bodies that violate the “rules” for the reproduction and maintenance of the dominant patriarchal system, such as trans, gender diverse, non-binary, and gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual bodies, and bodies with disabilities. In addition, within many Western societies, non-European-heritage bodies are regarded also as “othered” abject bodies.

The United States stands at a critical cultural juncture in which victims of sexual harassment and assault are stepping out of the shadows of isolation and fear to challenge abusive patriarchal power, domination, and privilege. Recently their testimony has taken down several prominent high-visibility men in numerous spheres of life, from political to entertainment and media. By doing so, these former victims have empowered others to step out and speak up not only against specific men, but most notably against a patriarchal system of oppression.

Though people of all genders are fully aware of the continuing existence of the patriarchal system, and they have been working tirelessly for its eradication, many others, however, fail to perceive its existence and its harmful effects on themselves and others.

This apparent invisibility in many Western countries, in fact, not only fortifies but, indeed, strengthens its power by perpetuating patriarchal hegemony in such a way as to avoid detection. In other words, male dominance is maintained by its relative invisibility (though for many of us, it stands as blatantly obvious), and with this relative invisibility, privilege escapes analysis and scrutiny, interrogation and confrontation by many.

Dominance is perceived as unremarkable or “normal,” and when anyone poses a challenge or attempts to reveal its true impact and significance, those in the dominant group brand them as “subversive” or “accuse” them of being “overly analytical” or of being “political.” Possibly those who make these accusations are not themselves sufficiently analytical. Most likely, they are attempting to hold on, as long as possible, to their power and privilege.

Within a patriarchal society that transmits distorted binary gender extremes, questions inevitably arise: How dare women demand their reproductive freedoms, which would reduce or even take away my (the male) making the decision whether to carry or abort my genetic offspring? How dare a woman choose not to marry a man? How dare women compete with me for a high social position? How dare gay men think of coming on to me? How dare transmen take on the privileges by transitioning that I have “earned” from birth? How dare transwomen relinquish male privilege and betray their gender (read as betray patriarchy itself)? How dare intersex people not choose to “become either one or the other”?

Toxic forms of hypermasculinity require the promotion and use of firearms to keep at bay the intensive psychosocial compulsive fear and dread of penetration from bullets, and by extension the gaze of gay and bisexual men, and the female gaze since patriarchy promises males the right to the aggressive outward intrusive gaze, the right of penetration of “others.”

Laws are built upon and reflect the society in which they are meant to affect. Our patriarchal individualistic society opposes and inhibits women’s reproductive freedoms, encourages the inequities in salaries between men and women, establishes and maintains the massive development of wealth for a very few while encouraging the enormous financial disparities between the very rich and everyone else, and many other issues.

Throughout history, examples abound of male domination over the rights and lives of women and girls. Men denied women the vote until women fought hard and demanded the rights of political enfranchisement, though women in some countries today still are restricted from voting; strictly enforced gender-based social roles mandated without choice that women’s only option was to remain in the home to undertake cleaning and childcare duties; women were and continue to be by far the primary target of harassment, abuse, physical assault, and rape by men.

In addition, women were and remain locked out of many professions. At one time, rules required that women teachers relinquish their jobs after marriage. In fact, the institution of marriage itself was structured on a foundation of male domination with men serving as the so-called “head of the household” and taking on sole ownership of all property thereby restricting these rights from women.

And when patriarchal social and family structures converge with patriarchal religious systems, which reinforce strictly defined gender hierarchies of male domination, women and girl’s oppression and oppression of those who transgress sexual-, sexuality-, and gender binaries and boundaries became inevitable.

In other words, women have been constructed as second-class and even third-class citizens, but through it all, women as a group have challenged the inequities and have pushed back against patriarchal constraints.

The current cultural shift has been long in coming. It must not be considered, though, as arising from a quick and sudden earthquake, but more from a long-simmering and often erupting volcano that changes the entire landscape from time to time. The latest victims of this patriarchal system to speak out are standing on the strong and firm shoulders of multiple generations over several centuries, to the activists in the first, second, and third waves of feminists, from the courage of individuals like Sojourner Truth to Anita Hill to Anthony Rapp to Leigh Corfman.

As volcanic eruptions alter forever the physical landscape, all the courageous upstanders against patriarchal oppression will forever alter the cultural and social landscape.

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

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

November 29th, 2017 at 12:05 pm

Posted in Uncategorized