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Warren Blumenfeld
Warren Blumenfeld




The Hunger Games as Metaphor For Youth Oppression and Resistance

Nov10

by: on November 10th, 2014 | Comments Off

The Hunger Games

Credit: Creative Commons/MMSC10

I believe one of the litmus tests by which a society can be judged is the ways it treats its young people, for this opens a window projecting how that society operates generally.

Adultism, as defined by John Bell includes “behaviors and attitudes based on the assumption that adults are better than young people, and entitled to act upon young people without their agreement. This mistreatment is reinforced by social institutions, laws, customs, and attitudes.” Within an adultist society, adults construct the rules, with little or no input from youth, which they force young people to follow.

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James Inhofe: A Not-So Sly Fox Set to Guard the Henhouse

Nov6

by: on November 6th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

The children’s story of the fox that people set to guard the henhouse represents a cautionary tale. It warns us of the dangers of granting unfettered access and responsibility within a confined space or field to someone having a conflict of interest. By us placing the fox in charge, we give the predator free rein to literally kill and eat our chickens. What we are left with is a bloodied and depleted henhouse.

In a larger political sense, the story warns us not to allow an industry to engage in “self-regulation” without ensuring sufficient safeguards and alternate means of control, or of hiring industry insiders to monitor their industry.

Unfortunately, we the people failed to heed the warning of this children’s tale by voting in the majority to turn over control (to grant [relatively] unfettered access and responsibility) of the United States Congress, in both houses, to the Republican Party. We don’t know yet exactly the consequences of our collective action, but one thing is certain: as the “majority” Party, Republicans will serve as the chairs of all Senate committees and will continue to do so in the House of Representatives.

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In Remembrance of Matthew Shepard

Nov3

by: on November 3rd, 2014 | Comments Off

The Laramie Project

Scene from The Laramie Project, a play based on the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard. Credit: Creative Commons/Wikipedia

Last year, when I was teaching a university Queer Studies course, I opened a unit on the topic of violence directed against members of our community. As I discussed Brandon Teena, Gwen Araujo, and Matthew Shepard, a number of students stated that while they had heard of Brandon Teena because they saw the film “Boys Don’t Cry,” they were not familiar with Gwen Araujo (even though her story was profiled in the film “A Girl Like Me”), and most surprisingly to me, they had not heard of Matthew Shepard or the remarkable play and film “The Laramie Project.”

It was difficult for me to conceal my disappointment and concern, but on reflection, I know that I cannot expect young people to know their own history when the schools continue to omit our history, our literature, our contributions, and our voices in the classrooms of our nation.

Though I had difficulty reading through to the end without breaking off with emotion a few times, I read to the students in my Queer Studies course an address I gave on Thursday, October 15, 1998 on the Amherst, Massachusetts Town Commons, three days after the death of Matthew Shepard as part of a memorial tribute called in his honor.

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Ebolaphobia and the Contagion of Fear

Oct31

by: on October 31st, 2014 | Comments Off

Two brothers, Pape, 13-year-old eight-grader, and Amidou, 11-year-old sixth-grader, reported being attacked and bashed by a mob of their classmates on the playground of their Bronx, New York Intermediate School 318. Pape and Amidou, who were born in the United States, lived in Senegal in West Africa for a time to learn French. They moved back to the U.S. one month age to rejoin their father, Ousmane Drame, a Senegalese American.

Throughout the violent attack, classmates taunted the brothers with chants of “You’re Ebola!” The boys were rushed to a local hospital with severe injuries. During a press conference at the Senegalese American Association in Harlem and flanked by community leaders, the boys’ father, a 62-year-old cab driver, reported that “They go to gym, and [taunters] say, ‘You don’t touch the ball, you have Ebola, if you touch it we will all get Ebola.’” The elder Drame claimed that the school did nothing to prevent or to intervene in the attack, and did not even write an incident report.

Though one case of Ebola was reported earlier in Senegal, this month the World Health Organization declared Senegal free of Ebola virus transmission, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In addition, a Senegalese mother announced that her 9-year-old daughter was bullied at her Harlem school, and when she came home, her daughter asked, “Mommy, do I have Ebola?”

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The Fight for Clean Potable Water in Detroit

Oct15

by: on October 15th, 2014 | Comments Off

global citizens festival central park

Thousands crowded Central Park in New York City for the Global Citizens Festival on September 27. Credit: Creative Commons/ Anthony Quintano

Over 60,000 people in New York’s Central Park and millions more around our planet were treated to the eclectic sounds of world-class performers at the third Global Citizens Festival on Saturday, September 27. Performers included Jay Z, Beyoncé, Carrie Underwood, The Roots, Tiesto, No Doubt, Sting, and Alicia Keys.

The organization Global Citizen, whose goal is to eliminate extreme poverty worldwide by 2030, sponsored the event to shed light on poverty, which continues to affect an estimated 1.2 billion people, and to empower individuals and the world community to take concrete actions to end this scourge. Specifically, Global Citizen urges people to contact world leaders to focus on issues of providing vaccines, education, and sanitation to all the world’s citizens.

Internationally, more people have mobile phones than have clean potable water and sanitation facilities. An estimated 3.4 million people die each year of diseases caused by lack of access to clean water and adequate sanitation infrastructures. This shortage kills people around the world every four hours. This lack of clean water and vaccinations significantly lowers a person’s chances for quality education, keeping them in extreme poverty. The vicious cycle continues.

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Happy LGBT History Month

Oct2

by: on October 2nd, 2014 | Comments Off

Multicultural education is a philosophical concept built on the ideals of freedom, justice, equality, equity, and human dignity…. It challenges all forms of discrimination in schools and society through the promotion of democratic principles of social justice.

National Association for Multicultural Education, emphasis added

lgbt flag

Credit: Creative Commons/Wikipedia

October is LGBT History Month. It originated when, in 1994, Rodney Wilson, a high school teacher in Missouri, had the idea that a month was needed dedicated to commemorate and teach this history since it has been perennially excluded in the schools. He worked with other teachers and community leaders, and they chose October since public schools are in session, and National Coming Out Day already fell on October 11.

I see this only as a beginning since lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer, (LGBTIQ) history is all our history and, therefore, needs to be taught and studied all year every year. Why do I feel this way?


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Dangerous Values at Values Voters Summit

Sep30

by: on September 30th, 2014 | 5 Comments »

Values Voters Summit

Credit: Creative Commons/Gage Skidmore

I perceive so many issues and so much material to critique from the recent so-called Values Voters Summit in Washington, D.C. that I find it difficult where precisely to focus.

I could talk about the cast of characters invited to present to the largely older, white, conservative Christian confab audience, with such notables ranging from current and former elected political officials including Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum, Michelle Bachmann, Bobby Jindal, Mike Huckabee, and David Dewhurst, to ultra conservative media pundits such as Erick Erickson (Editor-in-Chief of Red States) and Glenn Beck, to heads of far-right organizations like Gary Bauer (Pres., American Values) and Kelly Shackelford (Pres. & CEO, Liberty Institute).

I could center my comments on the “intellectual” and historical bloopers made by a number of the presenters. For example, Ted Cruz lambasted U.S. officials talking with Iranian leaders:

“This week the government of Iran is sitting down with the United States government, swilling chardonnay in New York City to discuss what [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu rightly describes as an historic mistake…setting the stage for Iran to acquire nuclear weapon capability.”

Cruz, like President George W. Bush before him, shows his utter ignorance of Muslims and their cultures, in Cruz’s case, by his ignorance of their ban on consuming alcoholic beverages.


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Environmental Justice and the “Science” of Denial

Sep22

by: on September 22nd, 2014 | Comments Off

Only after the last tree has been cut down,
only after the last river has been poisoned,
only after the last fish has been caught,
only then will you learn that you cannot eat money
.”
– Cree Proverb

climate change protest

Protestors in Melbourne in 2009 share an important message on the climate crisis. Credit: Creative Commons/Takver

The White House recently released its National Climate Assessment that reported our global climate is, in fact, changing, and this is due primarily to human activity, in particular, the burning of fossil fuels. The Assessment investigated approximately 12,000 professional scientific journal papers on the topic of global climate change, and discovered that in the articles expressing a position on global warming, 97 percent fully authenticated both the reality of global warming and the certainty that humans are the cause.

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

What seems clear to the scientific community seems like science fiction to many key politicians, including Lamar Smith (R-TX), paradoxically the Chair of the U.S. House of Representative’s Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, who has been a perennial skeptic of human-produced climate change. He stated on the floor of the House:

“We now know that prominent scientists were so determined to advance the idea of human-made global warming that they worked together to hide contradictory temperature data.”

He quoted no sources, and his accusations were later proven false.


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Homophobia and Anti-Semitism in the Same Breath: The Politics of the Westboro Baptist Church

Sep16

by: on September 16th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Westboro Baptist Church

Students kiss in front of Westboro Baptist Church protestors at Oberlin College in Ohio. Credit: Creative Commons/Wikipedia

A few years ago toward the end of July when I was serving as Associate Professor in the School of Education at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, members of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, led by their “pastor,” Fred Phelps, mounted protest rallies in three sites in Iowa: Waukee’s Jewish Historical Society, the Iowa State University Campus in Ames, and at the Marshalltown Community Theater, which was performing the play “The Laramie Project” profiling the life and murder of gay college student Matthew Shepard.

Phelps (before his recent death) and his followers travel around the country protesting funerals of fallen soldiers (most of whom are apparently heterosexual). They claim that these deaths are God’s punishment against a country that tolerates homosexuality. Phelps is also notorious for his 1998 protest of the funeral of Matthew Shepard, a college student from the University of Wyoming in Laramie murdered in a brutal homophobic assault.

On their websites godhatesfags.com & jewskilledjesus.com, Phelps and company directed their Iowa protests against “…the Jews…[who] arrested, falsely accused, prosecuted and then sentenced [Jesus] to death…” and protested Iowa because “God hates Iowa” for being “the first to begin giving $ to little [homosexual] perverts for no other reason than they brag about being little perverts.”

I wrote an editorial critical of Phelps and his followers in our local newspaper. Apparently, Shirley Phelps-Roper, Phelps’s daughter, read my piece, and she wrote me an email message before arriving in our town:

 Hello Professor.

Glad to see we got your attention with our upcoming good fig hunt in Iowa. You approached the issue with a veil on your heart, blind eyes, a hard heart, stopped up ears, and full of guile – because that’s how you – and all the rest of the apostate, reprobate Jews – roll. God did that.  His righteous judgments are wonderful!

PS:  Shall we put you down as one of the naughty figs?  You are definitely not sounding or acting like a good fig. I’m just sayin’.

Shirley Phelps-Roper


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Progressive Faith Communities Take Back the Discussion on Morals

Sep15

by: on September 15th, 2014 | Comments Off

For far too long, the political and theocratic Right have hijacked the social dialogue by taking as their own the “F” words – “Faith,” “Family,” “Freedom,” and the “Flag” – in addition to the term “Values.” This set of buzz words served as the litmus test by which the Right would have us decide who is truly worthy of our votes.

Within this discourse we find coded racist and classist dog whistles. For example, when politicians employ terms such as “poor,” “welfare,” “welfare state,” “European-style socialism,” “inner city,” “food stamps,” “entitlements,” and “bad neighborhoods,” they tap into many people’s anxieties and past racist teachings of people of color. In addition, the buzz phrase, “personal responsibility” now has become a catch phrase to justify cutting benefits from those who have fallen on hard times and need assistance.

Over the past couple of decades, I have examined what may actually be left of the Left, and how we can take back the discourse and reclaim these “F” words with progressive definitions. I have been particularly encouraged by a number of faith-based movements bringing people together to highlight issues of compassion and justice.


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