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Warren Blumenfeld
Warren Blumenfeld




People Polished the Stone of the Irish Emerald Isle

May27

by: on May 27th, 2015 | 4 Comments »

The gay pride parade in Dublin, Ireland.

For the first time anywhere in the world, the people of the Republic of Ireland voted overwhelmingly to codify same-sex marriage. Above, the Pride Parade in Dublin, Ireland, 2009. Credit: CreativeCommons / Charles Hutchins.

Though the Catholic Church has scratched, tarnished, and clouded the stone that is the Emerald Isle with its wheel of oppression, the people have spoken loudly and clearly, and by so doing, have dismantled some of the spokes on that wheel and have polished the stone to brilliance once again.

In what can only be seen as an historic vote, for the first time anywhere in the world, the people of the Republic of Ireland voted overwhelmingly, by a majority of 62 percent to 38 percent, to sanction marriage for same-sex couples with all the legal benefits and responsibilities already granted to different-sex couples (thereby dismantling a spoke on the wheel of Catholic oppression). An estimated 60.5 percent of the eligible 3.2 million registered voters turned out to the polls. Though the Irish government passed civil partnership legislation in 2010, which could have been rescinded by future legislative actions, this popular referendum now constitutionally codifies the legal standing of same-sex couples.

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Hyper-Masculinity, Twin Peaks, & Gendered Violence

May25

by: on May 25th, 2015 | No Comments »

The front lobby of a Twin Peaks restaurant in Orlando, Florida.

Credit: CreativeCommons / Ricky Brigante.

While is it common knowledge that dogs, in particular male dogs, urine scent mark their territories, human males often mark their territories in other forms more noxious and poisonous than urine. We witnessed the deadly effects of turf battles recently in Waco, Texas between rival motorcycle clubs (gangs) in the parking lot, outdoor patio, and inside the local Twin Peaks Restaurant.

While male dogs and human males “spray” to restrict others from their claimed territories, for dogs, the stimulus stems from innate genetically-programmed instincts. For human males, who are significantly less controlled by biologically-mandated reflexes, on the other hand, the motivational incentives come from the socially manufactured gender roles inculcated and enforced within us to maintain our physical and psychological domains. In dogs, the impetus for what I am calling “turfing,” is essentialized. In human males, it is largely socialized. Humans contain the capacity for higher levels of reason to mediate and even override any dispositional factors that might be involved.

Preeminent scholar and social theorist Judith Butler addressed what she refers to as the “performativity” of gender roles in that these roles are basically involuntary reiterations or reenactment of established norms of expression, acts that one performs as an actor performs a script that was created before the actor ever took the stage. The continued transmission of gender roles require actors to play their designated parts so that they become actualized and reproduced in the guise of reality, and in the guise of the “natural” and the “normal.”

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Social Contexts of Youth Bullying

May20

by: on May 20th, 2015 | No Comments »

Scantily-clad women serve food to men inside Twin Peaks restaurant.

It's no wonder that discrimination and abuse are still so prevalent. In a cycle that must be broken, restaurants like Twin Peaks, that feature barely-dressed attractive female servers, are a product of, and contribute to our male-centric culture. Credit: CreativeCommons / Ricky Brigante.

While studying a number of bullying prevention programs, I find that, while providing good overall theoretical and conceptual foundations and strategies for prevention and reduction of incidents, some crucial components are still missing. We must also discuss and examine the social and cultural contexts wherein bullying attitudes and behaviors often stem. We must find ways not only to understand and to actually engage in correcting these larger social and cultural contexts.

I contend that we must not view bullying and harassment as simply youth problems and behaviors, but rather, investigate the contexts in which bullying “trickles down” from the larger society and is reproduced within the schools. Young people, through the process of social learning, often acquire bullying and harassing attitudes and behaviors, and they also often learn the socially sanctioned targets for their aggressive behaviors.

The developmental and educational psychologist, Albert Bandura, proposed that young people learn primarily through observation, and that one’s culture transmits social mores and what Bandura called “complex competencies” through social modeling. As he noted, the root meaning of the word “teach” is “to show.”

Society presents many role models, from very positive and affirming to very negative, biased, aggressive, and destructive. Modeling, he asserted, is composed of more than concrete actions, which he referred to as “response mimicry,” but also involves abstract concepts, “abstract modeling,” such as following rules, taking on values and beliefs, making moral and ethical judgments.

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The Hypocrisy of “Pro-Life” and the GOP

May18

by: on May 18th, 2015 | No Comments »

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

Republican National Committee for Life

A cartoon showing hypocratical Republican and Democratic positions.

Hypocrisy. Credit: CreativeCommons / Bearman2007.

Ever since the historic Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade, in 1973, the National Republican Party Presidential Platform has consistently taken a so-called “pro-life” position. For example, its 2012 platform proclaims: “Faithful to the ‘self-evident’ truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed.”

Though the Republican Party might have an interest in bringing pregnancies to term in nearly all situations – even in instances of rape and incest, and regardless of the wishes of the women involved — even a cursory investigation of the Party’s stands and actions on the major issues of the day, proposed and in many cases acted upon by current Republican legislators and executives on the national, state, and local levels, gives us a picture of a Party that is anything but “pro-life” for the living. In actuality, the GOP conducts itself as a Party that stands for life until birth; then one is left to fend for oneself.

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Cartoons of Free Speech or Hate? Redux

May12

by: on May 12th, 2015 | 4 Comments »

"Love is a human right" poster lying on the pavement outside.

Credit: CreativeCommons / Samantha Marx.

This is the second in my series of commentaries on the American Freedom Defense Initiative and its “Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest” held recently in Garland, Texas.

In my first commentary, I discussed the controversy surrounding the so-called American Freedom Defense Initiative’s (AFDI) cartoon caricature context of the Prophet Muhammad where two men opened fire on a security officer stationed outside the contest building. The officer brought down the shooters killing them both. By my bringing attention to the Islamophobia guiding AFDI’s event, a few readers of my commentary accused me of “blaming the victims.”

In actuality, I did no such thing. AFDI and its leader, Pamela Geller, have a far-reaching history of Islam bashing, and their event in Texas fit clearly into that framework. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which follows extremist hate group, defines AFDI as an extremist right-wing organization. To caricature the Prophet Muhammad, while clearly protected by the First Amendment’s “freedom of speech” clause, can also be seen as an act of hate and bullying for the goal of insulting, inciting, inflaming, demeaning, and provoking.

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Cartoons of Free Speech or Hate?

May5

by: on May 5th, 2015 | 2 Comments »

Within two of the most prominent monotheistic religions in the world, Judaism and Islam, tradition dictates it blasphemous and highly insulting for any person to physically depict their G*d in Judaism, and the Prophet Muhammad in Islam, even positively or respectfully. So why then did the so-called American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) and its leader, anti-Islam activist Pam Geller, organize their “Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest” at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland, Texas, a small suburb near Dallas? Geller offered a $10,000 prize to be awarded for the “best” cartoon caricature of Muhammad.

According to Geller, as well as the invited keynote speaker, far-right politician Geert Wilders, head of the Dutch Freedom Party, the event was called as an exercise in free speech. Evidently, Geller chose the site in reaction to a pro-Islam gathering, “Stand with the Prophet” held there last January. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which follows extremist hate groups, defines AFDI as an extremist right-wing organization.

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Little Hope in Baltimore for the “2s,” “3s,” and “4s”

Apr29

by: on April 29th, 2015 | Comments Off

Two Black pastors walk past two policemen in riot gear.

'For white people who cannot seem to understand reactions of a community to the death of one man, all you have to do is look in the mirror to determine your card,' writes Dr. Blumenfeld. Above, African American pastors cross paths with Baltimore police. Credit: CreativeCommons / Vladimir Badikov.

In virtually all the university courses I teach in the field of education, I conduct what invariably turns out to be a valuable and poignant activity for the pre-service teacher educator enrolled in the course. The simulation represents the ways in which our society, along a continuum of very high to very low, encourages and enhances to discourages and reduces the individual’s motivation to learn and succeed in life.

I begin by alerting students that we are going to engage in a class activity. I travel around the room placing a playing card face down on each student’s desk. (I always include a “Joker” card.) I tell them not to look at their cards. I then stand in front of the room and provide directions. I model by taking a remaining card from the deck, and without looking at it, I place it face outward upon my forehead.

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Marriage Equality Not Left to States or Democratic Popular Vote

Apr28

by: on April 28th, 2015 | Comments Off

As the U.S. Supreme Court will decide this summer whether to legalize marriage equality for same-sex couples throughout the nation, I have often heard it said that this issue should be left up to the individual states to decide in legislative house or in the voting booth by the people. As the argument goes, this is a states-rights issue, and the national government should not intrude by imposing its will on the states. In addition, numerous other objections abound by a number of conservative politicians and theologians.

Many conservative and political individuals and organizations oppose marriage for same-sex couples for the stated reason that, according to them, so-call “Judeo-Christian” tradition – a term I reject since it obscures the major differences between these two monotheistic religions — dictates that God has ordained marriage between one man and one woman, and this has been the case throughout millennia. They also argue that children need both a mother and father to develop normal and healthy lives.

For the sake of discussion, however, I would like to refute some of the theocratic and political claims of so-called “God’s law” and the alleged consistency in the foundation of marriage. I argue that the institution of marriage throughout time and culture has always been and continues to evolve, transition, and undergo redefinition.

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Religious Justifications for Oppression: A Brief U.S. History

Apr15

by: on April 15th, 2015 | Comments Off

Throughout the ages, individuals and organizations have employed “religion” to justify the marginalization, harassment, denial of rights, persecution, and oppression of entire groups of people based on their social identities. At 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.

Proponents of the so-called “Religious Freedom Restoration Acts” (RFRA) recently passed in states like Indiana and Arkansas argue that these laws promote religious freedoms and freedom of speech – two tenets already covered by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Supreme Court opened the flood gates for the enactment of new and enhanced RFRA laws in its 2014 decision Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. While human and civil rights anti-discrimination laws primarily have never covered bone fide religious institutions, the Hobby Lobby ruling extended such exemptions to “closely held” (where no ready market exists for the trading of stock shares) for-profit corporations when these owners claim that to follow anti-discrimination statutes would violate their religious beliefs.

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​​Mercy over Vengeance for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

Apr13

by: on April 13th, 2015 | 4 Comments »

“I would like nothing better than to see you die, Mr. McKinney. However, this is the time to begin the healing process. To show mercy to someone who refused to show any mercy. Mr. McKinney, I am going to grant you life, as hard as it is for me to do so, because of Matthew.”

Thus, Dennis Shepard, speaking for himself and his wife Judy during a heart-wrenching and nearly unbearable emotional court-room speech to one of his son Matthew’s convicted murders, Aaron McKinney, 22, spared both McKinney and his accomplice, Russell Henderson, 21, of the death penalty. As he spoke, his voice often breaking as he wiped tears streaming down his face and falling to the floor, the sound of weeping throughout the courtroom including men and women in the jury box, Dennis Shepard called his 21-year old son his hero, and he talked of Matthew’s special gift for reaching out and helping others.

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