Tikkun Daily button
Warren Blumenfeld
Warren Blumenfeld




On Democracy

Aug20

by: on August 20th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

democracy

True patriotism and commitment to democracy is more than just waving a flag. Credit: Creative Commons/Lee Coursey

Democracy demands an educated electorate. Democracy demands responsibility on the part of the electorate to critically examine our politicians so they can make truly informed decisions.

I observe a certain anti-intellectualism within current political discourse. How often do we hear politicians “accuse” other candidates or those serving in public office of being part of some so-called “elitist” intellectual establishment who are out of touch with “real” Americans. And what about the gendering of politics when we are told either that women don’t have the temperament to lead or when a politician calls an opponent’s manhood into question by demanding them to “man up”?

During economic downturns, charismatic and not-so charismatic leaders attempt to exploit the fears of the public in their quests for power and control. Conservative political discourse centers on “F” words: Faith, Family, Freedom, and the Flag. This set of buzz words comprise the foundation on which politicians tell us we should decide who is truly worthy of our votes.


Read more...

Stigmatization & Violence as Social Control: Making the Connections

Aug19

by: on August 19th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Officials in 17th-century Puritan Boston coerced Hester Prynne into permanently affixing the stigma of the scarlet letter onto her garments to forever socially castigate her for her so-called “crime” of conceiving a daughter in an adulterous affair. Stigmata include symbols, piercings, or brands used throughout recorded history to mark an outsider, offender, outcast, one who is enslaved, and others.

Though Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The Scarlet Letter is a work of fiction, members of several minority communities continue to suffer the sting of metaphoric stigmata through their skin color, hair texture, facial features, sex assigned at birth, sexual and gender identities and expressions, religious beliefs and affiliations, countries of origin, linguistic backgrounds, disabilities, ages, and so on.

1999, Amadou Diallo, 23; 2000, Patrick Dorismond, 26; 2003, Ousmane Zongo, 24; 2004, Tim Stansbury, 19; 2006, Sean Bill, 23; 2009, Oscar Grant, 23; 2012, Stephon Watts, 15; 2014, Eric Garner, 43; 2014, Michael Brown, 18.

This list stands as a black or Latino parent’s worst fear. It includes the names of innocent, unarmed black people, primarily boys and men, killed at the hands of police officers for virtually no other reason than the color of their skin.

Many white parents often dread engaging with their children in “the talk,” you know, the one about the so-called “birds and bees.” The trepidation they feel compels them sometimes to put it off as long as possible or never to bring it up at all. While this version of “the talk” may also engender anxiety in black and Latino parents, they must not only broach, but delve deeply into another form of “the talk” with their children, and in particular with their sons, that most white parents never have to consider.


Read more...

Baptist Pastor Inflicts Grief upon the Grieving

Aug18

by: on August 18th, 2014 | Comments Off

“The Lord bless you and keep you: The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; The Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

Numbers 6:24-26

Biblical scholar Matthew Henry interprets this biblical passage as one in which, “The priests were solemnly to bless the people in the name of the Lord…while he mercifully forgives our sins, supplies our wants, consoles the heart, and prepares us by his grace for eternal glory….”

Pastor T. W. Jenkins welcomes guests with these comforting words from Numbers 6:24-26 when contacting his website for the New Hope Missionary Baptist Church of Tampa, Florida. Jenkins explains his Church as “Christ-centered and biblically-based…[and] offers over 30 ministries, all of which are open to visitors searching for a spirit-filled place to call home.” Well, this may hold true, except if your family wishes to assemble a funeral service when the deceased man happens to have been married in life to another man. In that case, this biblical command no longer applies, and the pastor declares it null and void.

During the wake of Julion Evans who had succumbed to amyloidosis (a rare disease of a certain protein building up in bodily organs), his mother, Julie Atwood, and his husband and life partner for over 17 years, Kendall Capers, found no hope after receiving word from Jenkins that he had cancelled Evans’s funeral after reading a newspaper obituary that Evans was married to another man, that Capers was the “surviving husband.” Jenkins told Atwood that conducting the funeral at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church would be “blasphemous.”

Explaining his decision, Jenkins asserted: “I try not to condemn anyone’s lifestyle, but at the same time, I am a man of God and have to stand upon my principles.”

Well, Jenkins, in your refusal to conduct the funeral service, you have, indeed, condemned Evans’s so-called “lifestyle.” Actually, I never really understood why it is that heterosexual people and couples live their lives, while those of us who love and partner with someone of the same sex lead sorted “lifestyles.” Be that as it may, Jenkins has the absolute right “to stand upon [his] principles” as he defines them, though he would do well to take note of an action taken by another branch of Baptists.


Read more...

My Research Is My Therapy

Aug2

by: on August 2nd, 2014 | Comments Off

Credit: Creative Commons

While contemplating the topic and eventual focus of my doctoral dissertation at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, I was having difficulty deciding since so many potential directions and questions excited me. Knowing me as well as she did, my major professor offered me some guidance.

The seemingly simple but deeply profound words she uttered placed, for me, the scope of my eventual research into poignant and profound prospective driving my research agenda to this very day.

“Your research is your therapy,” she told me. Though framed as a declarative statement, she was posing in these words what I understood as a number of underlying questions. By implication, what I heard her saying was, “There are many potential directions and research questions for you to investigate. What directions and questions will challenge you to change and to grow, not merely as a researcher, not merely intellectually and academically, but also, and very importantly, personally, spiritually, ethically, emotionally, psychologically?”

I listened to my professor’s words, “Your research is your therapy,” and as I did, the bottlenecks in my mind unclogged and tears welled in my eyes. Visions of my childhood swirled in my memories settling upon a five-year-old self seated upon my maternal grandfather, Simon (Szymon) Mahler’s, lap in our cramped Bronxville, New York apartment.

Read more...

Forceful Penetration as Terror Tactic in Immigration Debate

Jul31

by: on July 31st, 2014 | 1 Comment »

“Listen, if you’re 14, 15, 16, 17 years old, and you’re coming from a country that’s gang-infested – particularly with MS-13 types, that is the most aggressive of all the street gangs – when you have those types coming across the border, they’re not children at that point. These kids have been brought up in a culture of thievery, a culture of murder, of rape. And now we are going to infuse them into the American culture. It’s just ludicrous.”

- Florida Republican Representative Rich Nugent

Credit: Creative Commons

Credit: Creative Commons

Rich Nugent does not stand alone in his dire warnings of the dangers children and other migrants will impose on the citizens of the United States if allowed to enter and remain. Phil Gingrey, Georgia Republican Representative, warns of grave public health threats as well. In a July 7, 2014, letter Gingrey wrote to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

“As a physician for over 30 years, I am well aware of the dangers infectious diseases pose. In fact, infectious diseases remain in the top 10 causes of death in the United States. …Reports of illegal migrants carrying deadly diseases such as swine flu, dengue fever, Ebola virus and tuberculosis are particularly concerning.”

Well, “as a physician for over 30 years,” he should know that Ebola is not only extraordinarily difficult to spread, but that it also does not occur in Central America. According to the World Health Organization, Ebola has only been discovered in humans living in sub-Saharan Africa.

Unfortunately, the absence of facts has never seemed to get in the way of anti-immigration activists. Nugent and Gingrey join a long list in their rhetoric of horror, hysteria, hyperbole, and hypocrisy throughout the immigration battles of the United States.

Read more...

Front Door, Back Door, Economic Chasm: Not a PBS Series

Jul28

by: on July 28th, 2014 | Comments Off

Credit: Creative Commons

In scenes reminiscent of the PBS series “Upstairs, Downstairs,” and “Downton Abbey,” a luxury condominium complex in New York City’s Upper West Side, according to an agreement reached between the developers and City government, when completed, will contain a door for use by wealthy residents only, and a separate door for lower-income tenants. In exchange for permission to build a bigger and taller building, the developers have agreed to include 55 affordable rent-regulated units.

Residents living in these more “affordable” apartments within high-end complexes throughout the City are usually restricted from availing themselves of amenities granted to wealthy occupants, including swimming pools, gyms, and tennis and basketball courts. Since traditionally in New York City the majority of renters and buyers paying market rates for housing are white and the majority of tenants living in rent-regulated units are people of color, these sorts of “agreements” promote legalized segregation based on skin color and the color of money.

No matter how utterly offensive we may consider this arrangement, it does not even begin to represent the enormous economic gap and segregation of communities in the United States today. While economic disparities plague all nations across the planet, nowhere are these disparities more extreme than in the United States. No other problem affects the security and the very survival of our nation and other nations across our ever-shrinking planet more than the income and resource gap between the rich and the poor.

Read more...

Intent & Impact of Giants Hiring David Tyree

Jul25

by: on July 25th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

“This will be the beginning of our country sliding toward, it’s a strong word, but anarchy. How can marriage be marriage for thousands of years and now all the sudden because a minority, an influential minority, has a push or agenda … and totally reshapes something that was not founded in our country.”

 - David Tyree, to the National Organization for Marriage, 2011

Credit: Creative Commons

David Tyree, former NFL wide receiver for the New York Giants, is probably most renowned for his amazing “helmet catch” in 2007 to continue the ultimately decisive game-winning surge against the undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLI by the close score of 17 – 14. In 2011, though, he announced that he would gladly trade his phenomenal catch in exchange for a law outlawing marriage for same-sex couples.

Tyree, who is married, a father of four children, and a devout Christian asserted that homosexuality and marriage for same-sex couples defies God: “I don’t agree with it [gay marriage] because God doesn’t agree with it. As a Christian, I don’t agree. Society may be changing but God is not.”

He also claimed in a series of Tweets in 2011 that homosexuality is not inborn: “…there are many former homosexual men & women in this country & no scientific data to support the claim of being born gay” and that he has met “former homosexuals.”

Well, Mr. Tyree, if you don’t “agree” with marriage for same-sex couples, don’t marry someone of the same sex. Simple! If you think having attractions for others of the same sex and acting on this is a choice, well, don’t choose it yourself. Period, the end! Can we move on now?

Read more...

The Renaissance Cheapness of Life Like Today?

Jul23

by: on July 23rd, 2014 | Comments Off

During this summer, I have had some time to catch up on some pleasurable reading and, I must admit, binge watching of three TV series.

Credit: Creative Commons

“The Borgias,” an Italian Renaissance-era Showtime series, in which the Spanish-born Cardinal Rodrigo Lanzol y de Borja (Italianized “Borgia”), through ruthless ambition, deceit, and criminal activity, rises to the Papacy as Alexander VI on August 11, 1492 until his death on August 18, 1503. At the time of his ascension, he was married with a number of children. After becoming Pope, he continued having sexual relations with his collection of mistresses, and he eventually elevated his offspring to high posts.

The HBO series “Game of Thrones,” located within what could be considered as a Renaissance timeframe in terms of technological development, weaponry, and garment styles in the backdrop of the fictional continents of Westeros and Essos toward the conclusion of a decade-long summer, meshes a number of plot lines, most notably ones in which members of numerous noble houses engage in civil war for the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms. The series investigates issues of power, social hierarchy, religion and spirituality, loyalty and betrayal, virtue and corruption, war and rebellion, crime, murder, and punishment.

“Elizabeth I,” a two-part TV miniseries appearing originally on British Channel 4, staring Helen Mirren, covers the final 24 years of Queen Elizabeth I in her nearly 45-year reign as Queer regent of England and Ireland (November 17, 1558 – March 24, 1603). Elizabeth’s time on the throne covered a period of enormous tensions and transitions as governments consolidated power through plots and conspiracies, alliances, war, and confiscation of territories. It was also a period of great religious upheavals.

Read more...

“What If They Gave a War and Nobody Came?”: The Israeli and Palestinian Conflict

Jul21

by: on July 21st, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Credit: Creative Commons

I keep hearing in the press and in popular discourse about the “two sides” in the Middle East conflict, with the sides being the Palestinians and the Israelis. I understand that there are indeed a number of “sides,” but I believe that the Palestinian people and the Israeli people are generally on the same side.

I do not see the two opposing sides being the Palestinian people versus the Israeli people. Rather, the opposing sides represent many of the leaders verses the peace loving Israelis and Palestinians who truly want to live in harmony with one another.

Many of the Israeli leaders desire to maintain and expand current borders and territories and to impose harsh penalties (for example the Israeli and Egyptian blockade of Gaza) upon the Palestinian people, which has resulted in a great humanitarian crisis, while the Palestinian leaders, primarily members of Hamas, vow to destroy the Jews, fire rockets on Israeli civilians, and are committed to forcing all Jews into the Mediterranean. Unfortunately, those who want peace are being held hostage by their leaders.

I visited Jerusalem last year, and I talked with Israelis and Palestinians who truly desire peace, who truly desire an era in which they can live alongside one another in trust and in harmony, but they are feeling that the continuing politics of hate and fear, war, and division are preventing this peaceful coexistence.

Read more...

…Then I Am a Proud Socialist!

Jul18

by: on July 18th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

Credit: Creative Commons

Even before the Cold War and the so-called “McCarthy Period” (named after Wisconsin Senator, Joseph McCarthy), individuals and groups on the political and theocratic Right have flung the term “Socialist” from their metaphoric sling shots into the faces of their political opponents to discredit their characters and dismiss their political ideas and policies, and to sway the electorate toward a conservative agenda. This continues to this very day as evidenced by the Tea Party’s representations of President Obama and of various progressive politicians.

As destructive and as freedom-killing as the Right would have us believe,Socialisminvolves “a theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole,” where each of us has a stake and advances in the success of our collective economy.

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

Read more...