Warren Blumenfeld's Blog

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

Cabinet Officials Sing Hallelujah to Their Naked Emperor

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Once upon a time, in a kingdom not so very far away, all the emperor’s closest advisors sat around the grandest golden table in the castle heaping unqualified praise on their leader’s great victories since taking over the throne.

“Thank you so very much for bestowing upon me the extraordinary privilege and honored blessing of serving your majesty,” cried one.

“For you to include me in the finest hour ever known to our realm, words can never truly express my appreciation,” exclaimed another.

And a third gushed, “My gracious lord, your accomplishments have already far exceeded any of your predecessors in sheer weight and magnitude in the impact they have already had on your adoring and gracious subjects.”

While another uttered with great excitement, “Your name and your legacy will resound among all the nations of the world throughout the centuries until the end of time.”

Looking upon the gathering, a young child, with an expression of confused reflection pasted upon her intelligent and inquisitive face, pulled her mother close and asked in a whisper imperceptible to the emperor:

“But mother, our emperor of the House of Orange has done nothing successfully. He slew no dragons. He has destroyed alliances with our closest neighbors and our dearest friends. While he talks a lot about feeding and putting people back to work, and about making our kingdom great again, self-imposed scandals rock every corner of the palace preventing him from doing anything for his people.”

“The court jesters jeer him when he is out surveying his private land reserves,” continued the child. “Except for a very small number, his subjects find him rather dreary in mind, abusive in behavior, and over-inflated in pride. Secretly, people hope he will abdicate. So why do his advisors pile him with such lavish tributes?”

Thinking about the question momentarily, the mother looked into her daughter’s eyes and said, “Well, my dear. I suppose the emperor’s advisors want to keep their heads.”

This revised telling of Danish writer, Hans Christian Andersen’s tale, “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” represents in simile the scene acted out during President Donald Trump’s first official Cabinet meeting since taking office.

Following Trump’s usual hyperbolic and completely devoid-from-reality admired praise of himself, “Never has there been a president….with few exceptions…who’s passed more legislation,” [a clear lie], “who’s done more things than I have,” virtually every Cabinet secretary spoke in glowing and, frankly, sickly-sweet stick-finger-down-the-throat terms acknowledging their utter and total appreciation for being chosen to work for, not the people of the country, but, instead for their fearless narcissistic bully-in-chief.

Defense Secretary James Mattis stood out as the only exception by praising the actual people he works for in his government position:

“Mr. President, it’s an honor to represent the men and women of the Department of Defense. And we are grateful for the sacrifices our people are making in order to strengthen our military so our diplomats always negotiate from a position of strength. Thank you.”

Off with his head!

We may apply to this unprecedented and clearly bizarre White House meeting every cliché ever used to describe the type of over-the-top adoration and glorious devotion shown by these high (?) Cabinet officers: they prostrated themselves, they kissed his ring, they engaged in brown-nosing, they sang his praises, they had a come to [Trump] moment, they saw the light, they shouted Hallelujah, they pledged their allegiance, and the list goes on.

In actuality, though, these civil servants lost so very much. They lost their focus. They lost their dignity, their sense of self, and their integrity. And they lost track of whom they work for and represent: the people of the United States of America.

These elements Donald J. Trump either never possessed, or lost years before taking over the Oval Office.

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

June 13th, 2017 at 5:08 pm

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Doublespeak and the Death of Reasoned Debate in the Trumpian Age

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While actually mythological, coming from Trump, members of his administration, and other supporters,  “deep state” refers to a conspiratorial shadowy network of manipulators pulling the levers of government power in Washington, D.C. as a covert force in resisting and attempting to bring down this president and his legislative agenda.

“Fake news,” as used by Trump, includes any and all unfavorable news and other reports after exposing this administration to the bright lights of public scrutiny. The term stands even in the face of the New York Times finding that Trump mislead or misstated the facts at least once in 91 of his first 99 days, and the Washington Post counted 623 false or misleading claims in the first 137 days after swearing to uphold, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.

Leaders on the political and theocratic Right employ the concept of “doublespeak” in which they deliberately distort, disguise, or reverse the meaning of words and ideas. This process results in the death of reasoned and rational critical dialogue and debate.

When reporters ask them questions that by any measure would be seen as appropriate and cogent, these leaders simply use the tactic of doublespeak, and, thereby, shut down any discussion. “Next question!”

Of course, they have packed many additional terms in their doublespeak arsenal, like, for example, “liberty” and “freedom” to advance their agendas, which include such tenets as shrinking the size of government and giving more control to state and local governments; ending governmental regulation of the private sector; privatization of state and federal governmental services, industries, and institutions including schools; permanent incorporation of across-the-board non-progressive marginal tax rates; market driven unfettered “free market” economies, which ultimately, they argue, will ensure individuals’ autonomy.

In addition, the National Rifle Association claims as one of its branding mottoes that “Guns Save Lives,” but just how many lives do guns save with the estimated 33 thousand lives taken each year, including about 11 thousand declared as homicides?

Individuals and groups claim they are “pro life,” well at least until birth. After that, many of these same groups advocate reducing or eliminating entitlement programs that serve as safety nets for those in need. In many instances, “pro life” means that infants and their families should be left on their own, while expecting no assistance from government. Also, they stand as “pro life” while simultaneously supporting capital punishment. Doublespeak?

And for many of these same individuals and groups, the “separation of [religion] and state” means that the state must stay out of the affairs of religion, but religion has the moral duty of entering and affecting the affairs of government. Doublespeak!

The political and theocratic Right has very skillfully manipulated the language and the discourse in its concentration on so-called “social issues” by attempting to own the terms “patriot,” “patriotism,” “honor,” “country,” “faith,” “freedom,” “liberty,” “security” [(“motherhood,” “apple pie”)], and, of course, “real American.”

With this doublespeak misappropriation, they attempt thereby to demonize and “other” those who favor women’s reproductive freedoms; marriage and other civil rights for same-sex couples and individuals; trans protections and visibility; scientific research; support for the arts and humanities; those who warn of the human component in global climate change; those who advocate for common sense gun control, comprehensive “single-payer” health care, equitable tax policies, compassionate immigration reform, inexpensive or free public higher education, appropriate and comprehensive governmental regulations over the private sector, investment in infrastructure and clean renewable energy sources, strong labor protections, voting rights, supervision over law enforcement agencies, actual separation of religion and government, diplomatic solutions to international conflict with military means only as a last resort, and many other issues.

The political and theocratic Right may engage in doublespeak, but as members of the rational resistance, we will continue to expose the false and misleading assertions and clear-cut lies. In the final analysis, truth will win out.

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

June 12th, 2017 at 7:12 pm

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Trump & Ryan’s (Tryan’s) Co-Conspiracy in Moral Bankruptcy

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“I would just say that of course there needs to be a degree of independence between [the Department of Justice], FBI, and the White House and a line of communications established. The president’s new at this. He’s new to government, and so he probably wasn’t steeped in the long-running protocols that establish the relationships between DOJ, FBI, and White Houses. He’s just new to this.”

Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, stated this at a press conference in defense of President Donald Trump’s “hope” that former FBI Director, James Comey, would suspend investigating fired National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, for possibly negotiating or colluding with the Russians prior to Trump’s taking office.

Though all new presidents face a learning curve when moving into the Oval Office, Donald Trump knows virtually nothing about the functions and running of the federal government, and he seemingly lacks any desire to learn. He should have at least taken Gold Star father, Khizr Khan’s, impassioned offer at the Democratic National Convention last summer to borrow his copy of the U.S. Constitution to understand the very basics of the job.

Having a very steep learning curve in understanding the selling of merchandise in a department store is one thing, but “just [being] new to this” in arguably the most powerful and impactful office on the planet is quite another.

I expect the surgeon who operates on my cataracts, and similarly, the president of my country to have a superior degree of competence, show a high standard of care, and continually update their knowledge base as additional information comes forward. Anything less places people at risk for severe injury and sets up the conditions for malpractice.

Paul Ryan’s attempted excuse for Trump this week, and, more generally in his spineless refusal to speak out against this president’s abusive and morally bankrupt antics in word and action begs the question: Why does Ryan support a president who he previously had serious doubts about during the primaries regarding Trump’s temperament and ability to lead?

Both men agree on one primary assumption attributed to Thomas Jefferson: “That government is best which governs least.” Trump and Ryan (“Tryan”), however, take this to the extreme.

Tryan’s agenda 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 regulations 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.

One need simply look at Tryan’s attempts to eliminate the Affordable Care Act; to severely curtail environmental regulations on industry and, for example, the Dodd-Frank legislation passed to reduce the chances in the banking sector of repeating the disastrous policies leading to the last economic recession; to push for the privatization of social institutions such as education with the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of the Department of Education; to pass a draconian so-called “tax reform” plan and a national budget that places billions more dollars into the pockets of the rich and super rich, while imposing increasingly greater hardships on the remainder of our people by taking away many of the safety nets and programs needed by deserving U.S.-Americans and countries in the form of aid.

Trump most certainly does not understand, while Ryan was weaned on the philosophy of “objectivism” (or rational individualism in which proponents assert there are objective standards of truth) articulated by Ayn Rand in her novels and non-fiction works.

Ayn Rand, who has become the intellectual center for the economic/political/social philosophy of Libertarianism, constructs a bifurcated world of one-dimensional characters in her novels. On one side, she presents the noble, rational, intelligent, creative, inventive, self-reliant heroes of industry, music and the arts, science, commerce, and banking who wage a noble battle for dignity, integrity, personal, and economic freedom, and for the profits of their labors within an unregulated “free market” Capitalist system.

On the other side, she portrays the “looters” represented by the followers, the led, the irrational, unintelligent, misguided, misinformed, the corrupt government bureaucrats who regulate and manipulate the economy to justify nationalizing the means of economic production, who confiscate personal property, who dole out welfare to the non-entitled, the lazy, and in so doing, destroy personal incentive and motivation resulting in dependency. Welfare Ayn Rand terms “unearned rewards,” while she argues for a system of laissez-faire Capitalism separating economics and state.

Ayn Rand bristles against the notion of collectivism, of shared sacrifice and shared rewards. Rather, she argues that individuals are not and should not be their brothers’ and sisters’ keepers; that one must only do unto oneself; that one must walk only in one’s own shoes and not attempt to know the other by metaphorically walking in another’s shoes; that personal happiness is paramount; and that one’s greatest good is what is good for oneself rather than for the greatest number of people.

In other words, Ayn Rand paints a world in which the evil and misguided “takers” wage war against the noble and heroic “makers.”

Paul Ryan blamed men “in the inner city” on their “real culture problem” for their higher rates of unemployment during his appearance March 12, 2014 on Bill Bennett’s “Morning in America” program:

“We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work, and so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with.”

Earlier, Ryan spoke in 2012 that: “Right now about 60 percent of the American people get more benefits in dollar value from the federal government than they pay back in taxes. So we’re going to a majority of takers versus makers in America and that will be tough to come back from that. They’ll be dependent on the government for their livelihoods [rather] than themselves.”

Ryan, who demanded “personal family time” as a major condition for taking over the House Speakership, consistently opposes legislation that would extend paid family leave benefits for new parents. For example, in 2009, he voted against the proposed Federal Employees Paid Parental Act.

Paul Ryan claimed that he read Ayn Rand growing up, and “it taught me quite a bit about who I am and what my value systems are, and what my beliefs are,” he told members of the Atlas Society, an organization devoted to Any Rand in a 2005 speech.

“The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand.” He went on to say, “And the fight we are in here, make no mistake about it, is a fight of individualism versus collectivism.”

The so-called “Libertarian” battle cry of “liberty” and “freedom” through “personal responsibility” sounds wonderful on the surface, but we must ask ourselves as individuals and as a nation, what do they really mean by and what are the costs of this alleged “liberty” and “freedom”?

We must, first, cut through the coded xenophobic, racialized, and classist language, for often when politicians use the words “poor,” “welfare,” “inner city,” “food stamps,” “entitlements,” “bad neighborhoods,” “foreign,” “culture of poverty,” they tap into many white people’s anxieties and past racist teachings of people of color.

Ayn Rand and by extension, Tryan would rather blame poverty within our communities and low achievement in our schools on the “cultures” of those suffering from the social inequities. This “cultural deficit model” detracts and undermines us from interrogating and truly addressing the enormous structural inequities pervasive throughout our society, which these “Libertarians” would have us multiply if we were to follow their lead.

So-called “social issues” become wedge issues to attract people to a particular candidate. In the final analysis, though, when middle and working class people vote for these candidates, they essentially vote against their own economic self-interests.

Ragnar Danneskjöld, Ayn Rand’s so-called moral crusading pirate and symbol for “justice” in Atlas Shrugged, quite tellingly expresses Ayn Rand’s true purpose when she puts these words in the pirate’s mouth:

“I’ve chosen a special mission of my own. I’m after a man whom I want to destroy. He died many centuries ago, but until the last trace of him is wiped out of men’s minds, we will not have a decent world to live in.”

Hank Rearden, one of Ayn Rand’s “righteous” industrialists asks: “What man.”

Danneskjöld replies: “Robin Hood….He was the man who robbed the rich and gave to the poor. Well, I’m the man who robs the poor and gives to the rich – or, to be exact, the man who robs the thieving poor and gives back to the productive rich.”

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

June 10th, 2017 at 3:17 pm

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Trump’s Character Defects & Steep Learning Curve Imperil the World

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“[Peace] is something that I think is frankly, maybe, not as difficult as people have thought over the years.”

In a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem, May 23rd, President Donald Trump boldly asserted that one of the modern world’s most intractable diplomatic nightmares plaguing and daunting negotiators for decades is “not as difficult” for this man who put his name on the book, The Art of the Deal (which was actually written by a ghost writer, Tony Schwartz).

“We want to create peace between Israel and the Palestinians. We will get it done,” Trump said. “We will be working so hard to get it done. I think there is a very good chance and I think we will.”

The prior day, when conferring in Jerusalem with Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, and other Israeli leaders and U.S. diplomates, Trump betrayed his utter lack of understanding and apparent lack of interest when he stated that:

“Our Secretary of State [Rex Tillerson] has done an incredible job. We just got back from the Middle East. We just got back from Saudi Arabia.”

At this point, Ambassador Dermer was seen attempting to stifle a grimace and a laugh since by the third grade in the United States students know that Israel is a Middle Eastern country on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. Trump seems to have taken as his world history and geography tutor, his Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos.

Donald Trump 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 slight 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.”

During his stay in Jerusalem, Trump visited Yad Vashem, The World Holocaust Center. Like others before him, he wrote his inscription in the guest book. When then Senator and Democratic Party presidential nominee, Barack Obama, came to Israel in July 2008, he left a poignant dedication:

“I am grateful to Yad Vashem and all of those responsible for this remarkable institution. At a time of great peril and promise, war and strife, we are blessed to have such a powerful reminder of man’s potential for great evil, but also our capacity to rise up from tragedy and remake our world. Let our children come here, and know this history, so that they can add their voices to proclaim ‘never again.’ And may we remember those who perished, not only as victims, but also as individuals who hoped and loved and dreamed like us, and who have become symbols of the human spirit.”

Trump, however, seemingly unaware, or more likely, incapable of considering time and place, focused only on himself in this brief writing:

“It is a great honor to be here with all of my friends — so amazing and will never forget!”

Why, though, should we find this surprising? On International Holocaust Remembrance Day (January 27, 2017), in his ceremonial speech commemorating the Holocaust, Donald Trump denounced the “horror inflicted on innocent people by Nazi terror” while never once mentioning Jews and antisemitism.

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

My body shook with rage and my blood thickened at the sight of Donald Trump laying a ceremonial wreath at Yad Vashem. This sacred site stands as a testament and memorial to the victims and to the righteous under Nazi atrocities. Just by stepping foot on the hallowed ground of Jerusalem, the place of confluence between three great monotheistic world religions, Trump committed an outrage with his hypocrisy, vested self-interests, and moral bankruptcy.

When speaking to Arab and Muslim leaders in Saudi Arabia on the first leg of his trip, Trump pushed for unity in stamping out “Islamic extremism” in their territories, but he reversed previous U.S. policy by not pushing for democratic values and human rights in the Middle East. Neither did Trump speak out in Israel against the harsh treatment of Palestinians under the occupation.

But this is no surprise since Trump and his administration have been continually undermining democratic values and human rights in his own country, the United States.

Donald Trump’s lack of knowledge and little apparent interest in learning even the fundamentals surrounding the issues in world and domestic affairs, combined with his enormous power imperils not only the United States, but nations across the globe.

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

May 24th, 2017 at 6:29 pm

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Pride, Consumerism, and the Tchotchketization of a Movement

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Today, we see more lesbian and gay people, and occasionally bisexual and transgender characters on television, in films, fiction and non-fiction written materials, magazines, commercials, and ads.

From the pages of slick magazines, Melissa Ethridge and her (now former) partner, sporting broad smiles and holding hands, display chic Cartier bracelets on their wrists; a male couple with a young girl and a yellow Labrador Retriever smile as they are all seated on the floor beside their Ikea couch, a lesbian couple learning American Sign Language in advance of their adoption of a young deaf girl in an ad for Wells Fargo Bank, and there’s Dumbledore in the Harry Potter series.

Then there are shows like “Glee,” “Modern Family,” “Will and Grace,” “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” “Ugly Betty,” “Desperate Housewives,” “Project Runway,” “Orange Is the New Black,” “Looking,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “How To Get Away with Murder,” “Scandal,” “Shameless,” “Empire,” “The Fosters,” “Transparent,” and movies like Brokeback MountainThe Kids are Alright, The Single Man, The Imitation Game. These represent only the tip of the proverbial iceberg of recent examples of media visibility.

These characterizations, though on occasion representing minoritized races and ethnicities, comprise largely white and middle- to upper-class people. While the majority today would be considered by many as “positive” representations for the most part, which may more fully and accurately represent some of our lives relative to the rather sad and miserable or violently threatening characterizations presented previously, the majority depict the upwardly mobile, socially assimilated character who poses little overt challenge to the status quo, those who function rather successfully in the competitive corporate world, those who shop for a dishwasher or go on an expensive vacation with their heterosexual friends and relatives.

While many benefits accrue with these representations, such as providing better role models for our youth, helping to overcome many of the stereotypes and reducing prejudices, the capitalist system seems to have employed these images of “we are just like you” in its attempts to coopt critique and possible challenge to that very system.

A few years back, I entered my university classroom and was about to introduce that day’s lesson when my eye caught a large poster pined to the bulletin board displaying a tightly clenched raised fist, reminiscent of the iconic Black Power symbol popularized in the 1960s. Above the image read the words in large capital letters, “JOIN THE FIGHT.”

Encouraged by the sight, I walked over to the poster hoping to find some indication of resurgent social activism. To my dismay and utter aversion, however, appearing in smaller letters, the poster advertised “The Fighting Burrito,” a local fast food campus hangout. The profit motive transformed this iconic symbol into a sales pitch for burritos, tacos, carbonated drinks, and nachos.

In our communities, the “Pride” marches of the past have morphed into parades and festivals funded on major corporate sponsorship and capitalist consumption. Parade contingents now include large canvas banners affixed with familiar logos of national and local banks, insurance companies, soft drinks and beer, and real estate offices. Ironically, some of these same companies not so long ago refused to hire “out” members of our communities, but seeing how our business will improve their economic bottom line, we are now happily welcomed.

Along the parade routes and at rally sites, companies and individuals display and sell their wares, from internet and phone company subscriptions to rainbow-colored everything imaginable: from t-shirts to teething rings, and from towels to toilet seat covers. Gucci just introduced their new rainbow pride-theme sneakers for the bargain price of only $995.

In addition, merchants and artisans borrow the pink triangle — the Nazi patch gay men were forced to wear on their clothing when incarcerated in concentration camps — to fashion glimmering pink Rhinestone jewelry worn as glamorous fashion accessories.

Originally, the pink triangle, this symbol of ultimate oppression of gay men in Nazi concentration camps, in the 1970s our communities deployed as a mark of solidarity, in the AIDS activist movement of the 1980s and 1990s, as an emblem of resistance in mobilizing against the intransigence of governmental and societal inaction, and today often as simply as an accoutrement of vanity as a fashion statement.

The latter is an example of what I refer to as “the tchotchketization of a movement” (“tchotchke” in Yiddish means knick knacks, small objects, etc.).

While possibly the exception, and certainly not necessarily the rule, some of us at least are now “out” at work with few or no real consequences to our job security. Others now ascend the corporate ladder with relative ease, and own exclusive vacation homes in the Florida Keys, Panama, or Tuscany to “get away from it all.” We gentrify older urban neighborhoods, and spruce up city landscapes with the newest decorative trends.

However, are we actually contributing to the ever-widening income gap that has overtaken our country? And what about the folks and entire communities we dislocate as we gentrify entire neighborhoods?

More often than not, these gentrifiers include white gay, lesbian, and bisexual men and women who conform fairly closely to traditional conceptualizations of gender expression, as cisgender.  Lesbians and bisexual women, as women within an overriding sexist society, however, statistically earn less than their male counterparts, and individuals who present along the transgender spectrum continue to find less freedom of expression, and, therefore, far less job security.

While upward mobility stands as a somewhat laudable goal, I believe that if we are going to achieve a truly equitable society, we must reach higher, wider, and broader. As important as economic security may be, I hope we do not envision this as the final resting place over the rainbow.

If the relatively few of us who attain this security, after having been seduced by promises of achieving some degree of credibility and respectability, I fear we will have become part of the very problems that so many of us have fought so tirelessly to eradicate.

Metaphorically, oppression operates like a wheel with many spokes. If we work to dismantle only one or a few specific spokes, the wheel will continue to roll over people. Let us, then, also work on dismantling all the many spokes to conquering all the many forms of oppression in all their many forms.

Until and unless we can join in coalition with other groups, I consider that the possibility for achieving a genuine sense of community and a genuine sense of equity will be unattainable. I believe also that sexual and relational attractions and gender identities and expressions alone are not sufficient to connect a community, and by extension, a movement for progressive social change.

We must, therefore, look beyond ourselves and base a community and a movement not simply on social identities, but also on shared ideals and values among individuals from disparate social identities, with like minds, political philosophies, and strategies for achieving their objectives.

Let us revel in our past victories, for we have fought tirelessly for them. But let us not dwell there because we have further to go to ensure a truly just and equitable society and world.

In the final analysis, whenever anyone is diminished, we are all demeaned, when anyone or any group remains institutionally and socially marginalized, excluded, or disenfranchised from primary rights, benefits, and resources, the possibility for authentic community cannot be realized unless and until we become involved, to challenge, to question, and to act in truly transformational ways.

I hope, therefore, that we can reignite the revolutionary and transformational flame of what was Stonewall.

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

May 22nd, 2017 at 11:42 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

He’s “Assertive,” She’s “Bossy”: The Double-Standard Language of Gender

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Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr., the publisher of The New York Times, in 2014 fired the paper’s Executive Editor, Jill Abramson, after she served only three years as the first woman in this top position. Though reports conflict over the cause of the firing, Sulzberger claimed that “I chose to appoint a new leader of our newsroom because I believe that new leadership will improve some aspects….”

Abramson seems to have talked with top officials at the paper about the apparent discrepancy between what she is paid in her position compared to a substantially higher salary paid to men who previously held the same rank and title. This, together with allegations over Abramson’s supposed brusque personality and management style “may have fed into the management’s narrative that she was ‘pushy.’”

According to The New Yorker, “Abe Rosenthal, an executive editor during the late seventies and eighties, was never considered a subtle personality, to say the least. And so there is a reason that gender has been widely discussed in relation to Abramson’s firing and how she was judged, even if it was not the decisive factor.”

Regardless of what was the basis for her firing, clearly social customs and norms reinforce many shared preconceptions about the genders in and out of the business world. Some of these may be inconsistent or even contradictory, but they share the common element that they prescribe rules of conduct for us all. These preconceived notions, or stereotypes, become standardized mental pictures that societies hold representing oversimplified opinions, attitudes, of judgments.

I define ”sexism” as the overarching system of advantages bestowed on males. It is prejudice and discrimination based on the sex we are assigned at birth, especially against females and intersex people, and is founded on a patriarchal structure of male dominance promoted through individual, institutional, social, and cultural systems.

Language itself often reinforces sexist stereotypes. Indeed, the language we use expresses the way we experience the world around us, and the words people use in talking about the genders reveal social attitudes that tend to maintain sexist behaviors.

When males and females both exhibit similar outward behaviors, the sex we are assigned at birth will often determine the societal stereotype affixed to that behavior.

For example, what may be seen as “assertive” behavior in a male may be called “pushiness” in a female. A male may be seen as being “enthusiastic” or “passionate,” whereas a female is accused of being “emotional” or “on the rag.” Where a male is viewed as “confident” or “firm,” a female, on the other hand is considered “stubborn” or “b — chy.”

When a woman aims to be a corporate executive, stepping outside the gender role assigned to her, she is sometimes accused of “trying to be like a man” and considered “too masculine.”

Though referring to non-human animals, these names are sometimes applied to people depending on their assigned sex. For example, people refer to males as “studs,” “stallions,” “bucks,” “wolves,” and “lions,” whereas females are “foxes,” “kittens,” “pussies,” “bunnies,” “birds,” “chicks,” “lambs,” “b — ches,” “shrews,” “cows,” “dogs,” “nags,” and “sows.”

The animals used to refer to males signify bravery or sexual prowess, while those applied to females tend to be either negative in tone or they cast females in the role of sexually-passive objects.

Other words, usually used as “masculine” and “feminine” nouns, have not-so-subtle differences in meaning that reflect the values placed on males over females. Masculine nouns include “brave,” “king,” “wizard,” “landlord,” “patron,” “grandfatherly advice,” “sir,” “master,” “bachelor,” “host,” “player,” “red-blooded American,” “the stronger sex.”

Feminine nouns include “squaw,” “queen,” “dame,” “broad,” “witch,” “landlady,” “matron,” “old wives’ tale,” “madam,” “ho,” “whore,” “slut,” “nymphomaniac,” “maiden,” “mistress,” “bachelorette,” “hostess,” “old maid,” “old bag,” “easy,” “frigid,” “the weaker sex,” she has a “maiden name,” and is a “cock tease.”

In addition, some words seem to apply almost exclusively to females, such as “flirt,” “moody,” and “hysterical,” carrying negative connotations. In fact, the term “hysteria” from the 19th century C.E. was used to refer to women only, and was thought to be caused by a disturbance in the uterus, from the so-called “wondering” or “floating womb.”

Taken in tandem, these linguistic double standards reflect the sexism still enforced within our society. 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; 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.

In other words, females have been constructed as second-class and even third-class citizens, but certainly not as victims, because through it all, as a group they have challenged the inequities and have pushed back against patriarchal constraints.

Though many females, males, and intersex people are fully aware of the continuing existence of sexism and male privilege, and they are working tirelessly for its eradication, many others, however, fail to perceive its harmful effects on themselves and others. This apparent invisibility of patriarchy, sexism, and male privilege in many countries, in fact, not only fortifies but, indeed, strengthens this form of oppression and privilege 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 even “accuse” them of being “overly analytical” or “too sensitive.” Possibly those who make these accusations are not themselves sufficiently analytical or sensitive.

I have heard some people refer to our current times as a “post-Feminist” era, where sexism and male privilege no longer impose major social barriers. They are referring to “Feminism,” which can be defined as the cultural, political, economic, and civil rights movement for the advancement of equality and equity between the genders.

For me this brings to mind a cleaver and I believe insightful bumper sticker produced by the National Association for Women: “I’ll be Post-Feminist in the Post-Patriarchy.” Unfortunately, however, the patriarchy is still alive and fully functioning.

I would like to thank Dr. Diane Raymond for her invaluable input into this commentary.

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), Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense), and Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press).

Written by Warren Blumenfeld

May 22nd, 2017 at 8:41 am

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President Trump Stress Disorder (PTSD) Infecting Worldwide Body Politic

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“Here’s what I know: Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University. He’s playing members of the American public for suckers: He gets a free ride to the White House, and all we get is a lousy hat….[D]ishonesty is Donald Trump’s hallmark, [with his] bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny, the absurd third-grade theatrics.”

Mitt Romney, March 3, 2016

Though I seldom agree with Mitt Romney, former Massachusetts Governor and 2012 Republican Presidential standard-bearer, on Donald Trump’s temperament and character, though, we stand on common ground.

One must first have command over one’s mental faculties before one can possibly have command over the affairs of state and can command respect from any constituency! Donald J. Trump fails on all levels. And now the world watches as our basic democratic principles come under assault by a man and most of his appointees who use the presidency as an entry-level position with little overriding supervision.

We are left with is what I refer to as “President Trump Stress Disorder” (PTSD), which has assaulted the worldwide collective body politic as a virus attacks the body’s defenses.

Whether by sheer incompetence, carelessness, and error or by clear intend, purpose, and design, President Donald J. Trump, with his words and actions, poses a greater threat to the security of the United States from within than any opponents from without.

Right-wing populists, like Donald Trump, are popular until they get into office. Then the former populists dump bait-and-switch policies and actions into the pool of voters as the bait snares and destroys them.

As more details surface about Trump and his associates’ alleged ties to the Russian government and specifically to Vladimir Putin, we are hearing accusations thrown at Trump from political pundits and residents alike of his conscious treachery and insurrection with comparisons to the notorious traitor, Benedict Arnold.

Arnold initially served the Continental Army as a general during the American Revolutionary War. During the War, however, he turned his allegiances to the British whose high command commissioned him as a brigadier general in the British Army to fight against his former comrades.

Some have accused President Trump of failing to abide by his oath of office “to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States of America” by violating the Constitution’s “emoluments clause,” colluding with foreign governments against the interests of the United States, calling into question the integrity and undermining the workings of the U.S. judicial system, and failing to carry out his responsibilities of appointing numerous officers to key federal agencies.

History will judge whether Donald J. Trump has committed any actual high crimes and misdemeanors to initiate impeachment procedures, for the facts have not yet been gathered and the jury has yet not been formed. Trump, though, has clearly strained our relations with our allies and has placed our world standing, in terms of our values, competencies, and trustworthiness, into serious doubt.

If Trump has any remaining sense of mind, he will resign immediately for this President Trump Stress Disorder pandemic to abate and for the healing to begin. Full recovery, however, will depend on our country’s ability and dedication to diagnose the cause of this disease and to find preventive measures ensuring its final and complete eradication.

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

May 17th, 2017 at 10:31 am

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Donald Thump Gives Commencement Speech at Liberty University

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President Donald J. Trump gave the commencement address at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, on May 13, 2017. What follows is the transcript of a (fictitious) speech he delivered there, though most of the points and incidents are indeed factual.

Hello. My name is President Donald J. Thump, though I still can’t believe people actually elected me.

Well, anyway. Dear graduates of 2017, faculty, staff, and administrators of Liberty University, which was founded by one of my ultimate and most beloved mentors and heroes, the honorable moral Christian crusader, Jerry Falwell Sr.

Imagine a young child watching the communist-inspired children’s television program “Teletubbies.” You are introduced to the newest cast character, the subversive purpled-bodied, triangle-headed, Tinky Winkie. We as a country indeed owe a great debt of gratitude to your founding father, Jerry Falwell Sr. He was the first to unearth the plot by militant homosexuals to recruit our impressionable youth into their deviant gay lifestyle by using this purple pervert who carried a bright red handbag, and is a homosexual role model.

If Jerry Falwell Sr. had never been born, we might never have known what he reminded us about: that “AIDS is not just God’s punishment for homosexuals, it is God’s punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuality.”

Also, we never would have known the true words behind the acronym “NOW.” He was correct by alerting us that NOW, rather than standing for “National Organization for Women” as feminists purport, actually stands for “National Order of Witches.” He also exposed reality when he announced:

“I listen to feminists and all these radical gals – most of them are failures. They’ve blown it….Feminists hate men. They’re sexist. They hate men – that’s their problem.”

And just imagine a world without Jerry Falwell Sr. It was Jerry who courageously uncovered the real criminals behind the historic terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 inside our true God-fearing country when he exposed the perpetrators as

“…pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America.”

I don’t know about you, but I can’t even imagine such a world without Jerry Falwell Sr., this remarkable televangelist alerting us to THE truth.

Thank you Jerry for your wise words of wisdom, but enough about him. This commencement is about me.

I want to tell you all here and now in front of this packed audience, I want to tell you that now in my honored and privileged position as President of the United States, you’re going to see “Merry Christmas” in department stores, and no more of this pansy politically correct “Happy Holidays” stuff. As President, I now declare victory against the war on Christmas that liberals and other creepy multiculturalists have been waging in our Christian nation. I won, they lost!

I’m telling you here and now something that you already know: Christianity is under siege, and we have to band together to defend ourselves from the infidels in the United States. I want you to understand that the United States of America is now under my great and inspiring leadership. I am smart. I am rich. I am powerful, and I know how to get things done. I and only I can do it!

Imagine our liberty and how free we will be as individuals and as a nation when the upper 10% (mainly of white families) of our population controls even more than the approximately 80-90% of the accumulated wealth and 85% of the stocks and bonds that they already control. And imagine when corporate executives, who currently pay lower tax rates than their secretaries, incur even lower taxes. And also imagine when I together with the Congress outlaw labor unions and eliminate a government-imposed hourly minimum wage system.

Imagine our liberty and how free we will be as individuals and as a nation when I take back from the estimated 20 million people who now have health insurance for the first time in their lives under the Affordable Care Act, which I dub the “Euro-Socialist-inspired” Obama Care.

As President, I will return us to the good-old days when 50 million people in our country went uninsured and their only form of health care was the hospital emergency room that the remainder of the population had to pay, a time during those bygone days when young adults could not remain on their parents’ health plans until age 26, when insurance companies could deny people coverage for preexisting medical conditions and could drop people when they became sick.

I will return us to a time when women had to pay higher insurance premiums than men, when companies could make unjustified rate hikes whenever they wanted, and limit peoples’ rights to appeal company decisions regarding their benefits. Now that’s real liberty. (enormous applause from audience)

As President, I also promise to rescind Comrade Obama’s stated policy of providing free junior college tuition to students. I guarantee never to increase governmental student assistance programs, which I hope will further restrict deserving students from middle and working class backgrounds. Also, imagine when I cut and eventually eliminate governmental entitlement programs, thereby drying up the support systems from the “takers,” including many of our elders, people with disabilities, and other residents sitting on their butts in front of the TV.

Imagine our liberty and how free we will be as individuals and as a nation when I enact an executive order and encourage our Congress to pass legislation to construct a fence well into the celestial heavens on our southern border payed for by Mexico, when I even further increase deportations and dump people in the middle of the oceans, and continue to restrict immigration and social and educational services to youth, and most importantly, when the courts finally let me prevent Muslims from entering our Christian country. (loud sustained applause from audience with standing ovation)

Also imagine when I together with the Congress declare English as the “official” language of our entire nation, thereby eliminating bilingual education and mandating that all government documents be written in only good old English – the American language. It’l be a uuuuuge victry!

Imagine our liberty and how free we will be as individuals and as a nation when I re-criminalize women who attempt to control their bodies, and when doctors and others assist them in carrying out the choices they make. (loud sustained applause from audience with standing ovation)

Imagine our liberty and how free we will be as individuals and as a nation when I overturn those laws that spit in the face of God by allowing homosexuals to marry each other, and other laws granting them the benefits of living where they wish, eating in restaurants and purchasing things in stores they wish to patronize, visiting their so-called “partners” in hospitals and attending their funerals, inheriting their partners’ stuff after they die, and all the other benefits that should only be granted within the sacred bonds between one man and one woman.

If you want to hear about how sacred I take the marriage vows, you can ask all three of my beautiful – and once-were-beautiful — wives!

And imagine when we return to the days when men were men and women were ladies, because now, I already outlawed transgender students from entering the bathroom of their choice, and I will make it harder to have transition procedures. And returning to the good old days of the mid-20th century, I will mandate that everyone wear the clothing of their sex and behave as our God had intended.  (“amen” coming from throughout the crowd)

Imagine our liberty and how free we will be as individuals and as a nation when I terminate all so-called “affirmative action programs” that get in the way of hard working righteous white men, for as we well know, as it currently stands, white people, especially white Christians, and heterosexuals are the real victims of our current Nanny State big government society.

Imagine our liberty and how free we will be as individuals and as a nation when I assist Congress in privatizing our national parks, and loosening environmental and consumer protections of all kinds. I will grant even more mining, oil, and lumber companies an enhanced right to exploit the land, and grant them more enormous tax breaks and subsidies. I promise to expose the lie that the liberals perpetuate daily in their claims of some sort of human-caused climate change and the warming of the Earth. As we all here know, God can only change our climate.

Imagine our liberty and how free we will be as individuals and as a nation when I downsize government by eliminating the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Education, the Department of Energy, and the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as many other agencies during my term in office.

Imagine our liberty and how free we will be as individuals and as a nation when we divert money currently going into public education into school vouchers so parents can send their students to good Christian schools at tax payer expense. And imagine when we reintroduce prayer into the public schools, and when the current pretext of a supposed separation of religion (“Church”) and state is finally exposed as the heresy it is.

Imagine our liberty and how free we will be as individuals and as a nation when I am given free rein to conduct invasions into sovereign nations to bring about American-style democratic reforms and restore civility. Look out Iran and California!

So, I ask you all here today, don’t merely imagine an America with more liberty and freedom through a peewee size government with severely reduced public services, an unlimited defense budget, enhanced state rights and the ability for states to secede anytime they wish, and a return to the true God. Now that I am your Divine Commander-In-Chief, that is exactly what you will get.

So to you graduates, I say, good luck and God bless you, God bless Jerry Falwell Sr. and Jr., and God bless the Christian Theocracy of the United States of America.

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

May 15th, 2017 at 2:54 pm

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Segregated “Colored” Railroad Car Rolls into Michigan Police Station

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The Louisiana General Assembly passed in 1890 the “Separate Car Act” granting railroad companies the right to provide separate railway cars for the “white” race and the “colored” race.

On June 7, 1892, Homer Plessy, a shoemaker, was jailed for sitting in a “white” car on the East Louisiana Railroad. Though demographically he was defined as one-eighths black and seven-eighths white, he was required to sit in the “colored” car under the so-called “one drop” rule — one drop of “black” blood makes you “colored.”

Mr. Plessy sued Louisiana in 1892 claiming in state court that the Separate Car Act violated the 13th (abolition of slavery) and 14th (equal protection) Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. Judge John Howard Ferguson ruled against Plessy by declaring that the state could indeed regulate railroad companies operating within Louisiana.

Plessy appealed to the Louisiana state Supreme Court, which upheld Judge Ferguson’s decision. As his final recourse, Homer Plessy took his case to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1896, in Plessy v. Ferguson, in what became a deep-seated stain on the cause for human and civil rights until it was reversed in Brown v. Board of Education (1954), the Supreme Court, by a ruling of 7 – 1, upheld the lower court’s decision.

Writing in 1896 for the majority, Justice Henry Brown asserted:

“That [the Separate Car Act] does no conflict with the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery…is too clear for argument….A statute which implies merely a legal distinction between the white and colored races — a distinction which is founded in the color of the two races, and which must always exist so long as white men are distinguished from the other race by color — has no tendency to destroy the legal equality of the two races….The object of the [Fourteenth Amendment] was undoubtedly to enforce the absolute equality of the two races before the law, but in the nature of things it could not have been intended to abolish distinctions based upon color, or to enforce social, as distinguished from political equality, or a commingling of the two races upon terms unsatisfactory to either.”

The precedent set in this ruling came to be known as the “Separate but Equal” doctrine, which argued that separate facilities for black people and white people were constitutional if they were allegedly “equal” (though in actuality, where were not). This doctrine soon spread to other areas of public life including restrooms, restaurants, theaters, hospitals, and public schools.

It also extended the “Black Codes” — the so-called “Jim Crow” laws — throughout the South. These laws were passed following the enactment of the 13th Amendment to limit rights of newly-freed enslaved black people. “Jim Crow” statutes got their name from Jim Crow, a southern minstrel performer.

This now-metaphoric “colored” segregated train car recently pulled into a Michigan police station after a presumed white officer told others on the force that he is part African American.

Sergeant Cleon Brown, a respected veteran of 19 years in the Hastings police department, had been curious about his ethnic heritage:

“There’s always been questions reference to my dad. He had darker skin and black curly hair,” Brown said. “My oldest daughter was born with a medical issue and the specialist thought there was African heritage in our blood line.”

Genetic testing disclosed that Brown is of 18% African heritage. After relating the results to other officers, “They were real quiet to me and in police work, you have to communicate,” he said.

Sergeant Brown filed an Equal Employment Opportunities Commission discrimination complaint, though he contends that the situation only worsened. He found a black Santa Clause ornament with “18%” marked on it placed on a station’s Christmas tree. He also charged that the Hastings police chief called him “Kunta” after Kunta Kinte in the popular Alex Haley book and TV miniseries, “Roots.”

In Brown’s civil rights suit, he is asking for $500,000 in damages and a demand for Chief Jeff Pratt’s resignation. Brown, however, firmly maintains that the lawsuit is not about money.

“Absolutely not, from the beginning we said this was about them making a hostile work environment,” he said.

The attorney for the city of Hastings argues that Brown cannot sue for racial discrimination because he does not “appear” to be African American. This attorney’s diversionary tactics tap into societal myths that “race” represents objective, observable, and immutable biological characteristics rather than arising as socially-determined norms.

Looking back to the historical emergence of the concept of “race,” critical race theorists remind us that this concept arose concurrently with the advent of European exploration as a justification and rationale for conquest and domination of the globe beginning in the 15th century of the Common Era (CE) and reaching its apex in the early 20th century CE.

Meanwhile, geneticists tell us there is often more variability within a given so-called “race” of humans than between human “races,” and that there are no essential genetic markers linked specifically to “race.” They assert, therefore, that “race” is socially constructed — a historical, “scientific,” and biological myth. Thus, any of these socially-conceived physical “racial” markers are fictional and are not related with what is beyond or below the surface of the body.

Though biologists and social scientists have proven unequivocally that the concept of “race” is socially constructed, however, as Sefa Dei asserts, “the knowledge that race is an ideological, social/material construct does not take away the consequences when one is faced with actual racist incidents or practices.”

Sergeant Cleon Brown discovered what minoritized “races” have always understood: that racism is widespread in “law enforcement” agencies, and the racist railroad train travels on a regular schedule to towns and cities throughout the land.

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

May 14th, 2017 at 1:59 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Resuscitating Catholic Sexual & Gender History: Crucifixion or Resurrection?

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“…Basing itself upon Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered. They are contrary to natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of love [i.e., children]. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.”

Roman Catholic Church Catechism 2357

So, if the Roman Catholic Church declares, as it does in its Catechism and from the pulpit, that “homosexual acts are acts of grave depravity,” and “are intrinsically disordered,” and therefore, “[u]nder no circumstances can they be approved,” then how will Church officials and laypeople alike counter the cognitive dissonance aroused by Jesuit priest, Father James Martin SJ based in New York City, who announced this past April on his Facebook page when referring to Catholic saints:

“Some of them were probably gay. A certain percentage of humanity is gay, and so were most likely some of the saints. You may be surprised when you get to heaven to be greeted by LGBT men and women.”

While others both inside and outside the Church have made similar claims in the past, what makes Fr. Martin’s assertion particularly notable is the fact that he currently serves as the Vatican’s officially-appointed consultant on LGBTQ issues, who has ignited a virtual fire (and brimstone) storm among the flock.

The Church can square the good Father’s statement in several ways. Since Fr. Martin does not maintain that these supposed “gay saints” engaged in “homosexual acts.”

According to Catechism 2359:

“Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.”

In this regard, Pope Francis wrote on the archdiocesan website, July 1, 2016:

“Those with predominant same-sex attractions are therefore called to struggle to live chastely for the kingdom of God. In this endeavor they have need of support, friendship and understanding if they fail. They should be counseled, like everyone else, to have frequent recourse to the Sacrament of Penance, where they should be treated with gentleness and compassion.”

As written in Catechism 2358:

“The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.”

How can one seriously reconcile the Church’s paradox, though, by labeling us as “objectively disordered” on one hand while calling for acceptance “with respect, compassion, and sensitivity”?

As historians know only too well, the times and cultures in which the saints lived severely condemned and criminalized same-sex sexuality with penalties ranging from social ostracism, to floggings, incarceration, and death. The Church itself also inflicted many of these penalties on the accused in addition to excommunications and defrockings.

Therefore, the sexual histories of people who lived before the modern era are sparse and incomplete at best. In addition, our lives, stories, and overall histories have been intentionally hidden by socially-dominant individuals, groups, and institutions through neglect, deletions, erasures, omissions, bans, censorship, distortions, alterations, trivializations, the changing of pronouns signifying gender, and by other means.

Not only have people speculated about the sexual activities of the saints, but also about the Popes as well, for example, the homosexual or bisexual expressions of Pope Paul II (1464-1471) and Pope Julius II (1503-1513), among others.

In his Facebook messages, Fr. James Martin also opined on the maltreatment of trans people:

“It saddens me that a #trans student cannot choose what bathrooms to use. A basic need. It’s an affront to their dignity as human beings.”

In this short and frank statement, Fr. Martin virtually challenges his Church’s longstanding history of oppression against gender nonconformity. The Catholic Church, as one religious institution, has wronged and at times murdered those who have advanced beliefs that ran contrary to Church “teachings.”

Joan of Arc, the teenager who helped defeat the English in her native France, became one of the greatest war heroes in French history. In spite of this, the Catholic Church tried Joan on the charge of heresy in rejecting Church authority in preference for direct inspiration from God, and most importantly, by donning men’s clothing. Joan died by burning at the stake.

The Vatican hierarchy recently fenced off Alex Salinas, a 21-year-old transman from Cadiz, Spain, by informing him that it had denied his request to become the godparent of his nephew because a transgender identity is incongruent with Catholic teaching.

According to the Church’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, its doctrine-enforcing agency:

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

The Church’s conflation of sexual identity with gender identity and expression in this statement betrays not only a prejudiced sentiment but also a clear misunderstanding of the realities of real human beings’ lived experiences.

Additionally, in his April 2016 letter focusing on marriage and the family titled Amoris Laetitia (“The Joy of Love”), Pope Francis sternly warned against gender transition procedures when he stressed that “conditioning children into believing a lifetime of chemical and surgical impersonation of the opposite sex is normal and healthful is child abuse.”

So, I restate my initial question: How will Church officials and laypeople alike counter the cognitive dissonance aroused by Father James Martin’s Facebook claims?

Some options specifically for the Church include, but are not limited to: ignore the Father’s statements, dismiss them as unsubstantiated and unproveable, dismiss Fr. Martin from his role as Church consultant on LGBTQ issues, defrock him on charges of heresy.

On the other hand, the Church can conduct further historical investigations into the content of Fr. Martin’s assertions (though historians most assuredly have sufficient documentation to generally substantiate his claims). Or, the Church can state unequivocally that the Father’s statements ring true.

What, though, would be the consequences of the Church “coming out” and setting their doctrine not-so-straight? What would be the consequences of the Church altering its dogma related to human sexuality and gender? Basically, the house of cards on which Church teaching rests would fall crashing down.

First, since the Catechism defines homosexual expression as “intrinsically disordered,” and if the Church concedes that some saints did, in fact, engage in same-sex sexuality, does this mean that they too were intrinsically disordered? If so, what does this say about the divine sanctity of the saints? Is not at least a segment of the foundation on which the qualifications for determining the saints undermined?

And what does this say to other religions, since there is often a synergistic relationship between religions, and especially between denominations within similar religious traditions.

If the Catholic Church wavers on its past condemnations related to the expression of same-sex sexuality and/or gender identity, might this call into question, for example, the Southern Baptist Convention’s conclusion that “Homosexual behavior is intrinsically disordered and sinful,” or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints’ determination that “Homosexual behavior violates the commandments of God, [and] is contrary to the purposes of human sexuality…”

In addition, would other cards in the house of the Roman Catholic Church fall from its patriarchal rafters if it finally reevaluates its oppressive gender hierarchy by denying ordination and full equality to women?

And what about its conclusion that no man supposedly had anything to do with the conception of the historical figure of Jesus according to its own teachings? How can the Church continue to justify its patriarchal tyranny, which it has done all these many centuries?

Father Martin evokes so many intrinsically ordered questions within his stunning message to his Facebook friends. Stay tuned for the transpiring dialogue.

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

May 12th, 2017 at 6:48 pm

Posted in Uncategorized