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Warren Blumenfeld
Warren Blumenfeld




The Republican Party Can Learn from al-Maliki’s Mistakes

Jun23

by: on June 23rd, 2014 | No Comments »

Currently serving his second term as Prime Minister of Iraq,Nouri Kamil Mohammed Hasan al-Malikitook office leading his Shiite Muslim-dominated Dawa Party in 2006. His rise to prominence began as a political dissenter protesting the policies and tactics of Saddam Hussein’s dictatorial regime in the late 1970s and soared after he was forced to flee a death sentence to live in exile for 24 years. While abroad, he became the principal leader of the Dawa opposition, while cultivating relationships with Iranian and Syrian officials for assistance in toppling Saddam and his Sunni Muslim-controlled Ba’ath Party.

Credit: Creative Commons

Since ascending to the chief position of Prime Minister, al-Maliki has crafted a nearly exclusively Shiite-dominated administration, which has had the effect of marginalizing and stoking dissent and creating an ever-increasing insurgency among the Sunni Muslim and Kurdish minorities. In recent weeks, a virtual civil war has broken out across the country, particularly in the northern and western regions of Iraq, led by the Sunni-controlled Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an offshoot of Al Qaeda.

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Acceptance Contingent on Conversion: The Politics of Religion

Jun17

by: on June 17th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

But now we got weapons,

Of the chemical dust.

If fire them we’re forced to,

Then fire them we must.

One push of the button

And a shot the world wide,

And you never ask questions

When God’s on your side.

-Bob Dylan

I often travel around the United States and internationally present talks on numerous issues of social justice. A few years back, I gave a talk on the topic of heterosexism and cissexism at Pace University in New York City. I talked about my own experiences as the target of harassment and abuse growing up gay and differently gendered, and I discussed the thesis of my book, Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price. In the book I argue that everyone, regardless of one’s actual sexuality identity and gender identity and expression are hurt by sexuality and gender oppression, and, therefore, it is in everyone’s self-interest to work to reduce and ultimately eliminate these very real and insidious forms of oppression.

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Gay Bashing as Campaign Strategy: What’s Up with Texas’ Republican Party?

Jun13

by: on June 13th, 2014 | No Comments »

Meeting at their annual Texas Republican Convention, approximately 10,000 party regulars came to Fort Worth to craft the party’s platform ahead of 2016 elections. Returning to their perennial obsession with homosexuality, this year they included a clause that reads:

“We recognize the legitimacy and efficacy of counseling, which offers reparative therapy and treatment for those patients seeking healing and wholeness from their homosexual lifestyle.No laws or executive orders shall be imposed to limit or restrict access to this type of therapy.”

Actually, California under Governor Jerry Brown and New Jersey under Governor Chris Christy have measures outlawing the practice of so-called “reparative therapy,” stemming from every reputable medical and psychiatric organization, including the American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, and American Psychological Association, which have concluded that this practice has been found not only ineffective, but more importantly, unsafe and psychologically destructive.

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A Grieving Father & Nation Ask, “When Is Enough, Enough!”

Jun9

by: on June 9th, 2014 | 11 Comments »

If we’d given the people of Sandy Hook more support, other kids wouldn’t be dead now. … Had I acted, maybe my son might be alive.” -Richard Martinez, father of slain 20-year-old Santa Barbara student, Richard Michaels-Martinez.

Credit: Creative commons

A Gun Culture

Giving new meaning to the term “hunting for a wife,” Jewelry by Harold owner in North Liberty, Iowa will give a husband-to-be a voucher for a new Remington 870 rifle with the purchase of an engagement ring priced at $1,999 or higher. Shop owner Harold van Beek stated: “So say: I’m hunting deer, and here is a diamond ring, dear.” To apply for this “deal,” one must be eligible to own a gun in Iowa, and not have been convicted of a felony.

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Sending Harvey Milk Throughout The Planet

Jun5

by: on June 5th, 2014 | 2 Comments »


This year, the United States Postal Service released a long-awaited and overdue postage stamp in honor of a pioneering legislator and advocate not only for the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans* (LGBT) people, but for all people, especially those who had been traditionally locked out of the legislative power structure that often attempted to control their lives. The stamp bears the likeness of Harvey Bernard Milk, the first openly gay person elected to the San Francisco City Board of Supervisors in 1977, who worked for and garnered support from members of a wide coalition of groups and communities.

Once in office, he was responsible for shepherding a comprehensive ordinance through the Board of Supervisors for LGBT rights, and worked successfully to defeat the draconian Proposition 6 on the November 7, 1978 California ballot sponsored by John Briggs, a conservative state legislator from Orange County. If said Proposition were to pass, it would have mandated the firing of all LGBT public school teachers as well as anyone who supported LGBT rights in the schools. Briggs alleged that gay teachers desired to abuse, molest, and “recruit” youth.

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A Reflection on Memorial Day

May26

by: on May 26th, 2014 | 11 Comments »

Credit: Creative Commons/Peter Hughes.

On Memorial Day, as we pause in remembrance of those who have died in service in the U.S. military, I hope we also remember as well the diplomats and the mediators, those working in conflict resolution, the activists dedicated to preventing wars and to bringing existing wars to diplomatic resolution once they have begun, the individuals of conscience who refuse to give over their minds, their souls, and their bodies to armed conflict, the practitioners of non-violent resistance in the face of tyranny and oppression, the anti-war activists who strive to educate their peers, their citizenry, and, yes, their government to the perils of unjustified and unjust armed conflict and incursions into lands not their own in advance of appropriate attempts at diplomatic means of resolving conflict.

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

May22

by: on May 22nd, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., the publisher of The New York Times, 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, it is clear that social customs and norms reinforce many shared preconceptions about the sexes 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.

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Supreme Court Ruling on Public Prayer Re-enforces Christian Supremacy

May12

by: Warren J. Blumenfeld on May 12th, 2014 | 3 Comments »

American politicians have prayed before public gatherings since the Founding Fathers crowded into a stuffy Philadelphia room to crank out the Constitution. The inaugural and emphatically Christian prayer at the First Continental Congress was delivered by an Anglican minister, who overcame objections from the assembled Quakers, Anabaptists and Presbyterians. The prayer united the mostly Christian Founding Fathers, and the rest is history.

Indeed, as U. S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy write in the 5-4 majority opinion in The Town of Greece, NY v. Galloway , “…the rest is history.”

Church Ave and State Street intersect in Knoxville, Tennessee. Credit: Creative Commons/ Wyoming_Jackrabbit

While a strict separation of synagogue and state, mosque and state, Hindu and Buddhist temple and state, and separation of atheists and state and virtually all the other approximately 5000 religions and state has been enacted, on the other hand, church – predominantly Protestant denominations, but also Catholic – and state, have connected virtually seamlessly to the affairs and policies of what we call the United States of America, from the first invasion of Europeans in the 15th century on the Christian Julian to the Christian Gregorian Calendars up to 2014 Anno Domini (short for Anno Domini Nostri Iesu Christi – “In the year of our Lord Jesus Christ”).

In the court case, two local women from Greece, New York filed suit against city officials for approving invocations with primarily overtly Christian content at monthly public sessions held on government property. However, according to Kennedy, “The town of Greece does not violate the First Amendment by opening its meetings with prayer that comports with our tradition, and does not coerce participation by nonadherents.”

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Israeli Arabs and Jews in Dialogue and Coalition

May10

by: on May 10th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Though the Sun beats down with extreme intensity upon the countries that comprise the Middle East, the almost constant barrage of troubling and often violent incidents metaphorically eclipse the golden rays from reaching the land and its people. During my latest trip to Israel in June of this year, however, I discovered glimmers of light and warmth and the potential for a brighter tomorrow.

I had the opportunity to attend a joint meeting between members of the Israeli non-governmental organization, Kav Mashve, and a group of 14 professional women from the Cleveland, Ohio area who were on an information-gathering trip conferring with women from throughout Israel. The trip was sponsored by The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA).

Kav Mashve (“The Equator,” whose masthead subtitle is “Employees’ Coalition for Equality for Arab University Graduates) was founded in October 2007 by Jews and Arabs to promote equal employment opportunities and to increase substantially the number of Arab college and university graduates in the professional labor force, both public and private, within the state of Israel. My cousin and life-long friend, Larry Tishkoff, who works at the Israel office of JFNA, organized the week-long itinerary for the women who were visiting Israel under the auspices of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland.

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Investigating Christian Privilege: Its Time Has Come

May9

by: on May 9th, 2014 | 4 Comments »

As spring peers forth from the soil and tree limbs, the annual Easter Egg Roll, sponsored by the President of the United States and the First Lady, thrills elementary and pre-school age children each year. Also, in school classrooms throughout the country, students and their teachers dip hardboiled eggs into brightly colored dyes, and display Easter eggs of pink, yellow, blue, green, red, and lavender. Some students adhere bunny, baby chick, rainbow, or angel decals to their Easter eggs. Some paint flowers or clouds; some sprinkle glitter of silver or gold. An excitement wafts through the classroom as students imagine sharing their treasures with parents or caregivers, as teachers reward the good work of their charges with delicious gleaming chocolate bunnies. A palpable excitement fills the air in anticipation of Easter Sunday as children adorn classroom bulletin boards with images of the season.

As an educator of pre-service teachers in the university, I am gratified to find that an ever increasing number of Colleges of Education include instruction on issues of power and privilege related to our socially constructed identities. We know that teachers must thoroughly come to terms with their social positions (“positionalities”), the intersectional ways in which they are privileged as well as how they have been the targets of systemic inequities, and the impact this makes on their students.

Depending on our multiple identities, society grants us simultaneously a great array of privileges while marginalizing us based solely on these identities. Inspired by Peggy McIntosh‘s pioneering investigations of white and male privilege, we can understand dominant group privilege as constituting a seemingly invisible, unearned, and largely unacknowledged array of benefits accorded to members of dominant groups, with which they often unconsciously walk through life as if effortlessly carrying a knapsack tossed over their shoulders. A number of researchers have developed extensive lists (white, male, heterosexual, cisgender (“traditional” gender presentation), able-bodied, Christian, adult, age, socioeconomic class, physical size) charting the benefits and privileges accorded to individuals within differing dominant identity categories.

Many people (most likely the majority) consider the Easter events I outlined, played out in Washington, DC and in some schools in the United States, as normal, appropriate, and joyous seasonal activities. Upon critical reflection, however, others experience them as examples of institutional (governmental and educational) (re)enforcements of dominant Christian standards and what is referred to as “Christian privilege,” though presented in presumably secularized forms. They represent some of the ways in which the dominant group (in this instance, Christians) reiterates its values and practices while marginalizing and subordinating those who do not adhere to Christian faith traditions.

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