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Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category



Seth Rogen, Sarah Silverman Among 300 Hollywood Stars Likely Duped into Supporting Right-Wing Group

Sep16

by: on September 16th, 2014 | 3 Comments »

nytad On Sunday, The New York Times featured a full page advertisement on page A7 sponsored by the group Creative Community for Peace (CCFP). The advertisement, which at first glance appears to be a benign call for peace in Israel and a denouncement of terror, was signed by the likes of Seth Rogen, Sarah Silverman, Aaron Sorkin, and hundreds of other entertainment stars.

A closer look at the ad reveals its less-than-benign intentions, and a closer look at the group behind the ad, CCFP, reveals that it is actually a front organization for the extremist pro-settler, pro-occupation organization StandWithUs, which is dedicated to laundering Israel’s image and shielding it from critique while demonizing Palestinians.

(For the purposes of transparency, StandWithUs tried to have one of my book appearances cancelled this year.)

Those who signed the letter, to be examined shortly, were almost certainly unaware of CCFP’s affiliation with a pro-occupation organization, particularly since it’s careful to hide that affiliation. Indeed, CCFP has attempted to claim that it is a wholly independent group, though the Forward found the opposite to be the case:

Formed in 2011, CCFP partnered with StandWithUs, a group widely perceived as being on the far right of the pro-Israel spectrum, which accepts tax deductible donations on CCFP’s behalf. CCFP’s founding member, David Renzer, has stated that his group has “always operated independently” of StandWithUs. But the Forward found that, like its partner group, CCFP rejects the U.S. position that settlements are an obstacle to peace and disputes the use of the term “occupation” to describe Israel’s military rule over the West Bank’s more than 2.5 million Palestinians.


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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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Affordable Housing Rally, San Jose

Sep15

by: on September 15th, 2014 | 3 Comments »

San Jose rally affordable housing

Sacred Heart Housing Action Committee led a rally in San Jose last week to raise funds and awareness for affordable housing. Credit: L. Kurth

Yes, it’s an oxymoron and a dream — affordable housing in San Jose, the city with the nation’s largest unsheltered homeless population. Four people died of exposure last winter, and so many more live crowded together in small apartments or vans.

So on September 11th a rally was held at city hall by Sacred Heart Housing Action Committee (SHHAC) along with a coalition of others to continue efforts to inform and persuade both the public and our elected and appointed officials to pass a fee to raise funds for affordable housing. It’s just one helpful idea, one drop in a bucket that was emptied when the Redevelopment Agencies (many for good reason) were disbanded.


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Joan Rivers Was No Gay Icon: An Open Letter to the Gay Community

Sep15

by: Nicholas Boeving on September 15th, 2014 | 12 Comments »

Credit: Creative Commons/David Shankbone

Icon. We throw the word around, but do we really know what it means? It found its way into the English language from the original Greek word used for likeness or image (eikṓn). In other words, icons are reflections of what a given group of people hold to be sacred. Given the recent passage of Joan Rivers, and the bewailment of her death as the loss of a great gay icon, I think it’s time to have a frank discussion of just what it is we DO hold sacred in the gay community…and why. We do not ask ourselves this question often enough.

Some have expressed bewilderment as to why Joan Rivers even attained the status of “icon” in the gay community in the first place. To understand this, you must first understand, psychologically speaking, some of the purpose(s) humor serves. Both Plato and Aristotle (yes, they did agree on some things) say that we laugh at the wretched, the fat, the miserable and poor because it asserts our own superiority. Sound familiar? Thought so. Going further, psychiatrist George Eman Vaillant categorized humor as a specialized defense mechanism; in other words, some things are too painful to confront or too terrible to talk about so we just deflect against them.

But let us ask ourselves: just what is it that we’re defending against?


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Campaign Nonviolence:  A Call to Transformation

Sep11

by: on September 11th, 2014 | No Comments »

 

 

Why do I engage in nonviolent direct action? Why will I go back to Beale Air Force Base (home of the Global Hawk surveillance drone which helps find targets for weaponized drones) later this month to demonstrate, even as all the charges against me and other anti-drone demonstrators have been dropped? Because I believe that through nonviolent action we can be transformed and can contribute to the transformation of the world.


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She shouldn’t have been so flirtatious. He shouldn’t have worn a hoodie. They shouldn’t have voted for Hamas …

Sep9

by: on September 9th, 2014 | 6 Comments »

Victim-blaming is as American as apple pie. One need look no further than William Ryan’s seminal book from 1971, Blaming the Victim, to understand just how deeply rooted this phenomenon has been in American society, and just how central victim-blaming is to maintaining power dynamics in this country.

Unfortunately, we’ve been reminded of this fact repeatedly over the past month via high-profile cases and global crises. Or rather, we’ve been reminded by the way in which a mostly white, mostly patriarchal middle class has responded to such events. Women have been blamed for being victims of domestic abuse and assault, black men have been blamed for being victims of police brutality and murder, and innocent Palestinian children have been blamed for being killed my missiles.

Contrary to those who dismiss victim-blaming as a liberal misinterpretation of the good old American boostrap-pulling ethic, this phenomenon has been in existence in this country for as long as there have been those in power seeking to maintain that status, buttressed by racist and sexist ideals.


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A New Peer Youth Emerges in Transforming the World

Sep9

by: on September 9th, 2014 | No Comments »

LBGTQ activists protest

Credit: Creative Commons/kaybee07

I’ve often heard of parents abusing and even disowning young people when they suspect or when a young person “comes out” to them as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or trans*, though except for movies and television episodes, I have never actually witnessed this. That is, until this week when I watched a YouTube video titled “How not to react when your child tells you he is gay.”

The video depicts what looks like an “intervention” by both birth parents and step-mother of twenty-year-old Daniel Pierce who they suspect is gay. When called into the living room, Daniel placed his phone on the “record” mode. After Daniel confirmed his sexuality, his mother stated, “I have known since you were a young boy that you were gay,” But then she accused him of making “a choice” by deciding to be gay.

The two women invoked the name of God and scripture, which soon spun into the three “adults” collectively unloading a verbal tirade and then physically abusing Daniel. They eventually tell him he is no longer welcomed, and demand that he move out of the house as soon as possible.

I became speechless, mouth open with no sounds audible, upset, literally shaking, and tears pooling in my eyes. At the conclusion of the video, images of other youth appeared on the YouTube screen. The youth had apparently filmed their reactions. I clicked on one after the other, and as I watched, my depression and outrage softened by the remarkable peer community that immediately and passionately came to Daniel’s defense.

What I witnessed when Daniel’s family of chance failed him was his new peer family of choice stepped in to lift him over their shoulders high above the din and the cruelty. All responders showed true and honest empathy and imagined themselves walking in Daniel’s tattered shoes.


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Sudden Calls for ‘Civility’ Threaten Academic Freedom After Palestinian-American Professor Fired

Sep7

by: on September 7th, 2014 | 4 Comments »

The University of Illinois administration is imploding under the weight of a swiftly growing academic boycott and a rash of no-confidence votes by numerous university departments. All of this has come in response to the firing of Professor Steven Salaita by Chancellor Phyllis Wise in August for his social-media critiques of Israel. The story of that firing is a sordid and rapidly deteriorating one on the verge of concluding. It has also become the story of how university administrations across America, unsettled by the Salaita case, are responding with calls for ‘civility,’ a preemptive strike threatening the principle of academic freedom.

To explain, it’s first necessary to briefly tell Salaita’s story as it currently stands, which indeed is a strange one. A former English professor at Virginia Tech, Salaita was hired away by Wise to a tenured professorship at Illinois, where he was to teach Native American Studies beginning this fall. However, Salaita was suddenly fired before he even stepped into a classroom just before the academic year began because of his severe critiques of Israel on Twitter.

For nearly three weeks, as outrage grew and academic boycotts by professors around the country spread, Wise and the administration remained silent. Then, finally, Wise released a statement explaining the Salaita firing in which she wrote:

“I firmly believe that a tenured faculty position at the University of Illinois is a tremendous honor and a unique privilege. Tenure also brings with it a heavy responsibility to continue the traditions of scholarship and civility upon which our university is built.”


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Beale Charges Dropped

Sep4

by: on September 4th, 2014 | No Comments »

 

 

 

 

 

The government has dismissed the case against the sixteen of us who were arrested last April for civil disobedience at Beale Air Force Base. Beale, outside Marysville, California, is home of the Global Hawk Drone, a surveillance drone that identifies targets for armed Predator and Reaper drones.

We’ll be back! In fact, we’ll be back later this month. For nonviolent direct action to be effective, it has to be sustained. History has shown that sustained nonviolent resistance is an effective means of social transformation.


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Why the Network of Spiritual Progressives?

Sep4

by: on September 4th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

heal the world

Join us to create a new society based on love, justice, and peace. Credit: Creative Commons/Pixabay

Just two months ago, I was living in Bellingham, Washington working as a collaborative divorce attorney, mediator, coach and trainer. I had a successful business contributing in a meaningful way to my local community. And I was engaged in local activism in various ways.  Then I was offered an opportunity of a lifetime — to be executive director of the Network of Spiritual Progressives. When offered an opportunity to try to build a spiritually progressive social change movement for one-third the salary I was earning as an attorney, mediator and trainer, I jumped at the opportunity.  So why would I walk away from a successful and enjoyable business contributing in a way I enjoy to take on a rather herculean task?

More about that in a minute. First let me explain the political landscape as I see it.

Here in the United States, there are thousands of wonderful local organizations focusing on either local issues or fighting against one or another form of injustice. And often they make contributions and progress to better the lives of some. But ultimately as activists spend hours and hours on end struggling to take out a right-wing bill or policy or win a lasting but limited victory (such as our gains in women’s rights and gay rights), global capitalists and the U.S. government emerge unscathed and continue to pound us with attacks that undermine all our efforts. Our government and the transnational corporate forces with which it is allied launch their attacks on social change struggles without any provocation at all or any care for the casualties of human suffering here and abroad. Meanwhile the tireless efforts of thousands upon thousands of people around the world continue to try to poke holes in the defenses of global capitalism—ultimately to no meaningful effect. Even when we win a few battles or a few rights, we do not change the larger context in which corporate power and right-wing ideology are becoming more abusive to the powerless, the middle class, and the earth that sustains and nurtures us.


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