Menstuff® has compiled information and books on Gay, Bi, and Transgender issues. This section is Robert N. Minor's weekly column featured daily on our homepage. Robert is the author of Scared Straight: Why It's So Hard to Accept Gay People and Why It's So Hard to Be Human and Gay & Healthy in a Sick Society and Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. He may be reached through www.fairnessproject.org or at E-Mail.

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How to Help the Media Undo the Blue Wave

There’s no doubt about it now: November 6th gave us a blue wave. And the more the votes are counted, the bluer it gets.

From local races to state legislatures, to gubernatorial and state-wide office flips, to unprecedented gains in the US House, to progressive ballot initiatives around the nation, the increased voter turnout reminds us again that what has been called “leftist” by an influential right-wing machine is actually centrist American with overwhelming popular support.

So much of mainstream corporate media prefers not to analyze it that way because it wants to play up some sort of viewer-attention-getting battle between extremes. The media has accepted as given what playwright Tony Kushner observed years ago:

"The terms of the national debate have subtly, insidiously shifted. What used to be called liberal is now called radical; what used to be called radical is now called insane. What used to be called reactionary is now called moderate, and what used to be called insane is now called solid conservative thinking.”

This media wants to keep the very lucrative fight going as it did the whole Trump phenomenon. It will hardly admit that this midterm election turned into a major statement about the country, much less that it was a blue wave.

More than that, it was a women’s, a progressive, and a rainbow wave with more examples than we can recount here. As a rainbow wave, Michelangelo Signorile points out that there was not only “a record number of LGBTQ candidates elected in races across the country ? over 150 at last count. But on the other side of the coin, many ardent homophobes and anti-gay candidates were taken down too.”

There were new and diverse faces in the fight, often younger than old-school Democrats. Many won and some lost, but those who lost as well helped create a movement for change.

Instead of focusing on and analyzing the reality of this wave, this media has quickly turned to doing two things it does regularly – talking about the Democrats in disarray and focusing its attention and punditry on what the Democrats might or might do when they take over the house. Sadly, Democrats are out there getting media attention by feeding this scheme.

Democrats who are cooperating with the media in this are taking the first step in drying up the blue wave and its potential to continue into 2020. And the Republicans know this because they know better how to manipulate the media to adopt Republican framing of issues.

I’m not sure why Democrats, especially their leaders, continually do this. Ego stroking? Personal media attention? Self-promoting? Lack of the ability to message discipline? Maybe all of these and more?

But it’s become a Democratic pattern to stand before media to air dirty laundry instead of working together behind the scenes to work out differences, to compromise, and then, when it’s effective, act. It’s like a triangulation where instead of spending time with those with whom you disagree, you seek affirmation from gathering a broader audience.

Take Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi standing together publicly to critique Maxine Waters, or senator Kristen Gillibrand lining up others in a public press conference to call Al Franken to resign. Why do this publicly even if they’re right unless it’s about personal media attention on a national stage – egos and future careers being stroked by the public display?

Whether or not the grandstanders were righteous (or self-righteous) in their cause, these public floggings do nothing but hurt their party and play into Republican critiques. They enforce negative images of the Democratic Party by denying them – you know, as linguist George Lakoff regularly points out: “when we negate a frame, we evoke the frame.”

Instead of forcing the media to admit that these November midterms were a popular shellacking of the Republicans by repeating something like “Because this was such a blue tsunami, everything is on the table,” they’re talking about who will be the next speaker of the house or what and how much will be investigated, or whether they will impeach Trump. And it’s easy and seducing enough for the rest of us to get caught up in these discussions on social media.

Democrats can keep the blue wave going if they control the media’s frame. They must do it against all the odds of a mainstream media that is going to work against them – yes, even MSNBC.

In every answer to every question they should at least begin by enforcing the narrative of a blue wave: “Because this was such a blue tsunami.” And then they should stop talking about what they will or will not do but rather keep everyone who is watching them as well as Republican leadership on the defense – “Everything is on the table.”

When any of us face the media, we can work not to be its enablers as well. Let’s learn from watching Democrats start to undo the position they’ve gained:

· Reframe every question the media and others ask. Remember that we don’t have to answer their questions the way they put them.

  • Don’t reinforce accusations by denial.
  • Use what George Lakoff calls the truth sandwich to speak about those against us.
  • Never feel guilty about repeating your points over and over again. Repetition is crucial.
  • Don’t assume that they will “get it” if you just keep explaining.
  • Don’t triangulate with the media. Talk with each other, not the media about ongoing discussions and disagreements.
  • Don’t talk about what you’re going to do or how you’re going to set up some committee to think about it – just do it when it’s time.
  • Be bold in descriptions of any plans – don’t look uncertain. Any plans can change later.

And sometimes just shut up.

Guilt Is Such an Effective Tool of Control that We’ll Use It on Ourselves

The human race has a long history of guilt and shaming. People and institutions have become experts at spreading guilt.

It’s been a successful tool for getting people to do what the powerful want, maybe even as sucessful as fear. And what makes it so easy is that people can be made to feel guilty in very passive-aggressive ways.

Think of those old bumper stickers that bragged: “I break for animals.” The implication for those following that car was: “What’s wrong with you that you don’t and that you don’t have the moral righteousness to display the same bumper sticker?”

Or take that fish symbol brandied about on the back of vehicles testifying: “I’m a Christian.” Ironically, the original fish symbol was meant as secret insider code in times of Roman persecution to disguise that a location was a place where Christians meant.

Whether wielded passively or self-righteously, guilt is seldom purely a moral idea. It’s mixed with the power plays of people and institutions who wield it.

There’s also a difference between being guilty according to someone’s standard and feeling guilty. Just think of your immediate reaction when you look into the rear view mirror and see that police cruiser behind you - no matter how lawfully you’re driving.

Feeling guilty, whether or not a person is really guilty of some real offense, isn’t just a crucial tool of religions. It’s a control mechanism that’s useful to keep anyone who feels guilty from confronting larger issues.

Even legally, the guilty who have the class privilege to affect the legal system are judged by a different standard than those who don’t. Justice is hardly ever a blind application of “you do the crime, you do the time.” Some are declared not guilty when they are or guilty when they aren’t.

When you know the right people, have enough money, or are a potential plea-bargainer who’s got beans to spill about the powers that be, there are completely different ways to relate to guilt. And if you’re into such power, you won’t feel guilt at all.

The current occupant of the White House and the good ol’ rich boys surrounding him so assume rich-boy privilege as the way things are that lies aren’t considered guilt-raising but shrewd means of doing business and getting ahead. If there’s any key to their entire life, it’s that it’s about little more than knowing, and being bailed out by, the right people.

Guilt is a useful tool of the elite. It keeps those they control occupied and self-controlling.

Using feelings of guilt is a tried and true way to maintain control. And feeling guilty works on a number of levels.

By doing so, people who brandish the guilt feelings are asserting and maintaining their positions of power over those who they encourage to feel guilty. Guilt feelings bind people to the one they believe has the authority to free them from guilt.

Using someone’s guilt to get them to do what you want, such as protecting you from your own deeds, has become an art. It’s one of the reasons our leaders love the idea of guilt. They use the words “personal responsibility” to invoke it. And they never include in “responsibility” the responsibility a member of society has to the whole and the least of its members.

Preachers know how successfully getting people to feel guilty brings in more souls along with their pocketbooks. Use of guilt feelings makes followers dependent upon preachers for salvation from the guilt.

Religious guilt-promoters might talk about God saving the guilty, but those preachers are the dealers of that message. And guilty people become as dependent on those preachers’ messages as on any drug.

Remember: people caught up in dealing with their personal guilt feelings are distracted. Preoccupation with personal guilt keeps them so focused on it that they have little energy or time to threaten the powers that be. They’re too obsessed with their guilt.

So, guilt feelings keep the powerful in place. The system loves it. The rich and powerful thrive on the guilt of others. And the beat goes on.

Yet, guilt feelings don’t just come from religious and political leaders. We too learned to use guilt to control our personal environments.

Our comfort with feeling guilty hardly needs our leaders to trigger it. We’ve often so internalized our guiltiness that most of us actually embrace feeling guilty in order not to face the fact that life and the actions of others are really out of our control.

Trying to control everything, after all, is a protective mechanism. As children we couldn’t control the adults around us. And those adults could at times be responsible for quite negative responses to us. We quickly saw that we’d better learn how never to let things get out of control.

So, today, if we can just feel that we’re in control of the environment around us, we believe it’s less likely to hurt us. Much of the time we can pull this off.

But illness and accidents happen. And instead of embracing the fact that we’re not in control of the universe, instead of learning to welcome surprise and growing in the process they provide for our lives, we’d rather dwell on “what we could have done.”

Our guilt over what we could have done to prevent a death, an accident, an illness, or a negative response from others is easier to embrace than admitting that we’re not able to control most of these events or many people. Our guilt comforts us.

An illusion of control is a recognized mark of addictive thinking. The desire to control an addict is a mark of those who enable the addiction to thrive.

A fear that the world is full of chance and serendipity drives people to religions and systems that comfort people that there really is some Controller, no matter how accidental things look.

So guilt, a seemingly noble expression of justice, is a useful control mechanism to remain in power. And even for the less powerful, it helps us feel that we’re in control of what we probably are not.

The Right-Wing Knows What Liberal Guilt Betrays: Look Sincere or Lose

The whole discussion these days of the need to return to civility in political discourse is a nice idea. Civility is better than incivility – going high when they go low is a really, really, really nice thought.

And it’s a discussion tied to privilege. The meanness of the Trump cult and the Republican politicians who can’t quit the guy demeans, damages, and destroys those without the privilege of the “civil” talking people, and the open, disgusting talk and actions of those right-wingers who prefer to win economically and socially means nothing is off their table.

From the top down, racism, sexism, heterosexism, classism, able-bodyism are public. From tee shirts to TV, it’s all there in the open, displayed shamelessly as if proud of ones bigotry and meanness.

Certainly, I’d rather have nice. I’d pick nice people as friends any day.

But media and popular expectations, sadly, have changed. The right wing itself has seen to that.

The words “civility” and “nice” have to be redefined. They’re not the same as being fair, after all.

Well-known author M. Scott Peck, in A World Waiting to be Born: Civility Rediscovered wrote that he began to arrive at a better definition of civility when he discovered a profound quotation from America’s Oscar Wilde: Oliver Herford.

“A gentleman,” Herford wrote, “is one who never hurts anyone’s feelings unintentionally.”

“Civility,” Peck suspected, has “much more to do with conscious intention – awareness - than with not hurting feelings. In fact, on occasion, it might actually be civil to hurt someone’s feelings as long as you know what you’re dong.”

Right wing people speak as the convinced. They argue as if they have no doubt at all. No hemming and hawing, no subtleties.

They get their talking-points from the gangs in Virginia Beach, Lynchburg, and D.C. They’re trained in soundbites – much right-wing religious talk really is jargon and soundbites. Notice how they always come back to the same, often coded, wording that the spin-doctors of their think tanks have carefully worked out for them.

Liberals, on the other hand, try to speak in nuance. They weigh the alternatives, knowing correctly that there are usually more than two sides to any issue.

Yet, in this day of seven-second soundbites, which do you think people remember most? The very valid points made by liberals who weigh the subtleties: “Well, there’s this to consider and then this, if not this?” Or a simplistic right-wing anti-LGBTQ soundbite: “It’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.”

What’s your favorite liberal soundbite that you hear repeated throughout the country by most liberals? Crickets….

Liberals are often ineffective because they’re plagued by a liberal guilt. They don’t want to repeat offenses from the past. They know offenses existed and don’t want to deny them.

They know there’s been discrimination and that often their own demographic has historically been a culprit in white racism, sexism, heterosexism, even classism.

Liberals don’t want to repeat the sins of their ancestors, nor do they want to be dogmatic and absolutist the way right-wingers are. They recognize that we’re all human beings struggling together.

Yet, there’s something else. It’s as if they need to atone for the oppressions of the past by avoiding anything that would be offensive to someone in the present, even if the offended is continuing the oppression.

Guilt-feeling liberals believe that the right-wing should be given equal time for their arguments. They’ll even provide and pay for it, as if the right wing doesn’t already dominate most of the media.

They believe that the inhuman views of the right-wing should actually be respected. They want to appear understanding about the personal circumstances that produce such bigotry in people.

They’re afraid that they might come across as too dogmatic, or as if they believe too strongly in absolute values, or that they’ll appear just as arrogant as the right-wing. And they don’t want to offend the people who are still offending them.

Guilt-feeling liberals cringe when another does state the truth. Presidential hopeful John Kerry was probably accurate when he was caught off the record back in March 11, 2004 saying the Republican attack machine is: “The most crooked, you know, lying group I’ve ever seen.”

Republican responses were predictably critical because, you know, they’d never ever say such things themselves.

Yet liberals themselves cringe when anyone says: “The Emperor has no clothes.” They’re some of the quickest critics of more radical left-wing activists.

So when ACT-UP staged its outrageous protests because people were dying and the Reagan government wasn’t paying any attention, many nice liberals stepped back in criticism of such tactics. These critics would have done the same, I suppose, during the Stonewall rebellion. Who needs right-wing critics when we do it ourselves?

Let’s face it - radical activists get attention. Just as Topeka’s Rev. Fred Phelps’ “God Hates Fags” tactics made Jerry Falwell more appealing to conservatives, so left-wing activists often prepare the way for more moderate liberals to be heard because, as they said when supporting the civil rights acts: “we’d better do something before they burn down our cities.”

The result of liberal guilt and its accompanying hesitancy is that liberals appear to believe in nothing sincerely. They act as if values such as equal opportunity and treatment for all human beings, ending the abuse of everyone, and trying to do no harm are negotiable. They act as if all values and ideas should be respected no matter how destructive and hurtful they are.

The unconvinced are looking for people they think aren’t just shifting to and fro in the political winds, worrying about what will work. They want to follow those who stand strongly enough to fight for something.

Liberal churches are dying because they publicly seem to stand up for very little and thus look wishy-washy and nicey-nice. Convincing public stands for something matter to those looking on.

Some progressives are learning how to be effective again. It’s being guilt-free enough to act as if we really believe in our values and to our death won’t compromise them, to talk and live as if equality, fairness and full acceptance of all human beings are values we will not ever negotiate -- even if our forcefully saying so hurts the feelings of those who disagree.

No Surprise in That Grand Jury Report: Religion Has a History of Covering Sexual Dysfunction

The recent release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report chronicling child sexual abuse by more than 300 Roman Catholic priests over a period of seventy years with over 1,000 identifiable victims is only a surprise to people who’ve been in denial about the millennia-long history of the relationship of religions to sexual obsession. “The report” also “said that there are likely thousands more victims whose records were lost or were too afraid to come forward.”

The real history of religions throughout the world shows how religious leaders and institutions have been concerned with controlling human sexuality through almost any means, especially when controlling that sexuality supports the culture’s political and economic powers. And, at the same time, it’s replete with sexual harassment and abuse.

Obsession with sexual control is due to religions having been useful to kings, emperors, and nations to promote their power – kings, emperors, and politicians who funded the religious institutions and were often treated as exempt from the religious sexual prohibitions that were enforced on the hoi polloi. Religious leaders and institutions came to rely upon economic and political patronage and protection from governments just as the religious right-wing wants it to be today.

Sexual control of populations is vastly common to, but doesn’t have to be something inherent in, religion itself. There’s as much sexual abuse in those non-religious corporations as in any denomination.

Healthy religion could be used to promote so much else, but that would mean giving up much institutional power. Instead, religious leaders would have to become comfortable with promoting freedom and personal choice.

But sexual obsession and control represent a familiar way religion has been used by its leaders, institutions, and allies to control the populace - adding eternal damnation and other condemnations and threats to sanctify worldly power plays.

Sex has been good for stoking religion because it’s universal and, in Capitalism, it sells. Thus, at the same time it can be both promoted for profit and useful to raise guilt when it’s ever practiced.

For millennia, then, religious leaders have been preaching that their divines want all kinds of controls on human sexuality.

You’ve noticed that that kind of preaching has mostly failed, right? If you listen to controlling religious leaders who continue to repeat these failed tactics talk, they’re shouting today as much as ever, if not more, that sexual license – being out of (their) control - is worse today than ever.

Of course, this is combined with religious leaders’ claims that it’s those other religions or denominations that have the problem - proof that they have the Truth and those others don’t. Protestants have historically enjoyed pointing out problems with the Roman Catholic Church even though the evidence is clear that Protestant ministers are involved in sexual abuse as much as priests.

Though the Roman Catholic Church has shown that it can act like a major international bureaucracy that has institutionalized sexual addictions and covered them up with religion addiction, the problem isn’t just something about celibacy. Married Protestant ministers have also regularly been caught with their pants down.

And, though some still scapegoat homosexuality, that trope was debunked decades ago. The majority of members of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, after all, are women.

The reality is that repression leads to obsession. And sexual addiction and dysfunction and their cover-up with sexual and religious righteousness are widespread cultural phenomena our sexually sick culture doesn’t want to face.

“As long as we can pin addiction on dysfunctional families and make them the primary cause of sexual addiction,” Anne Wilson Schaef asks in Escape from Intimacy, “can we then hold onto the illusion of ‘normal,’ refuse to look at the role of our institutions (especially church and school), and avoid completely the role of addictive society?”

As I discuss in When Religion Is an Addiction, sexual dysfunction and addiction and religion addictions are not strange bedfellows. Their relationship has a long history as cross-addictions in the Church, back at least as far as influential Church Father St. Augustine whose own Confessions show that he’s a classic example of a sexual addict covering it up by becoming a religion addict.

Augustine’s theological cover-up concluded that original sin was actually passed down through the sex act he could never reconcile in his personal life. Hence the Church would become a place for sexual anorexia and bulimia.

Even more today, though, it’s multiplied by that economic sexualization of our culture through conservative corporate, “free market” consumerism. Sex, the ad industry still believes, sells. It’s portrayed as something everyone can “have” better if they buy, buy, and buy more.

Sex is sold as proof you’re a real man or woman. It proves you’re finally close to another human being.

Everyone else has the stuff that ensures that they are having the great sex you aren’t, you should fear. And if you aren’t compulsive about sex, you’re told there’s something wrong with you. Even some “science” colludes with the idea.

This is an ideal environment for religious institutions to recruit followers by convincing them that they’re guilty for having, or even thinking about, sex. This tried and true method for getting people to relieve their guilt would lose much of its power if society weren’t selling things this way. No wonder right-wing religion is in cahoots with big business and its consumerism.

The resulting societally encouraged sexually dysfunctional thinking and resulting guilt would require institutional and personal healing and learning how sexuality can be holistic and healthy. But the popular method is to try to relieve the guilt and shame by a cover-up – the addiction to the feeling of being righteous.

Enter anti-sex politics and right-wing Christianity with its fear of anything it can’t control. Hide in the high of feeling righteous and identifying with each righteous cause, cling to the righteous feelings of right-wing Christianity’s exclusivism, and you have crossed into religion addiction.

It’s easier than coming to terms with what you hate or fear about yourself and rejecting the institutions that promote fear and hate. It’s easier than learning to find ones healthy sexual self.

Instead, this righteousness high works, until the addict falls off the wagon.

It’s Getting Harder, But Hope Is Still Our Choice

An optimist, my favorite definition goes, is someone who falls off a skyscraper and as he passes the thirtieth floor someone hears him say: “So far, so good.”

The profane Trump presidency, the accelerating corporate take-over of the US, and the further destruction of government social programs make it hard to be both a realist and an optimist. We can’t just look at the half of the glass that’s full and disregard the empty half.

On top of it all, that glass is far from half full. It’s flowing over for the richest 10% or fewer of US citizens.

Yet many of the other 90% -- so many of whom are deluded victims of this administration -- have been bamboozled into believing that the right-wing social agenda, including deporting foreign workers, restoring white supremacy, or undoing marriage equality, is the real solution to their problems.

But an inability to be optimistic doesn’t mean that pessimism is the only alternative. No matter how we feel about the future, there’s a better, empowering, and realistic choice that can change things.

It’s to opt for hope. Hope is a conscious decision.

Hopelessness, on the other hand, is a feeling. But that doesn’t make it worthless.

Hopelessness is, like anger, a secondary emotion that actually prevents us from feeling those emotions that lie beneath it: fear, hurt, powerlessness, and confusion. It’s a real clue that there’s something deeper.

Author-activist Paul Rogat Loeb, documents hope in The Impossible Will Take a Little While: Perseverance and Hope in Troubled Times (in its second edition). His is a collection of voices that’s a must read now when things look bleakest.

The experience of Vaclav Havel, former Czechoslovakian president, provides just one example. Three years before the Communist dictatorship fell, Havel wrote, “Hope is not prognostication. It is an orientation of the spirit, an orientation of the heart.” His experience is one of many that show that a series of seemingly futile and insignificant actions can bring down an empire.

Even in what appears to be a losing cause, one person may knowingly inspire another, and then another, who could go on and change the world.

Loeb tells of a friend who in the early 1960s in a pouring rain joined a small vigil in front of the White House protesting nuclear testing. A few years later famous baby doctor Benjamin Spock, who influenced thousands, spoke at a much larger march against the Viet Nam War, telling the crowd that his inspiration was that small group of women he saw by chance huddled with their kids in the rain. “I thought that if those women were out there, their cause must be really important.”

From his cell, Nelson Mandela speaks of how to survive prison intact, emerge undiminished, and conserve and replenish one’s hope. Add to that Susan B. Anthony’s words: “cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputation and social standing, never can bring about a reform.”

We hear Native American writer Sherman Alexie’s hope: “Everything is stuffed to the brim with ideas and love and hope and magic and dreams.”

Gay, Tony-award-winning playwright Tony Kushner writes that despair is a lie we tell ourselves, reminding us of the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. that “the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”

Then there’s Cornell West saying: “To live is to wrestle with despair yet never to allow despair to have the last word.”

In other essays we read of the creativity of people who carried on against great odds and were there to see the powers fall. They often never thought they were activists; they merely tried to end what was hurting them or their families.

We read others who fought for progressive values even though they didn’t expect to see results in their lifetime. But these were activists, Loeb reminds us, who believed that, “living with conviction is of value in itself regardless of the outcome.”

Giving up on life and the living, Loeb argues, is really ‘a form of arrogance.” Alice Walker’s testimony “Only Justice Can Stop a Curse,” examines that arrogance in the politics of bitterness.

So, for our own lives, our own good, our own conscience and integrity, we seem to have no choice other than acting out of hope.

“Life is a gamble,” historian Howard Zinn writes. “Not to play is to foreclose any chance of winning. To play, to act, is to create at least a possibility of changing the world.”

Settling for personal change isn’t enough to make our lives worth living or to ensure the world we want. Giving up in cynicism and pessimism will eat us up from the inside and allow those who’d hurt us to destroy the outside. We’ve been made for more.

Loeb: “We can’t afford the sentimental view that mere self-improvement, no matter how noble in intention, is enough. Nor can we afford to succumb to fear.”

It’s hard to do justice to a collection like The Impossible Will Take a Little While. Snippets of these inspiring writings make them seem trite and precious.

But when you sit down to take in these brief essays, the effect is cumulative, hope-inspiring. The words never deviate from the realities of facing the often-cruel societies others have made because these represent the stories of real people. And they inspire those of us who feel we have only a small garden to hoe, not an empire to redirect.

But I can’t resist the hope in words such as these from Benjamin Mays, mentor to Dr. King: “The tragedy of life doesn’t lie in not reaching a goal. The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach. It isn’t a calamity to die with dreams unfilled, but it is a calamity not to dream. It is not a disgrace not to reach the stars, but it is a disgrace to have no stars to reach for.”

Hope is realistic, and it’s a choice. I prescribe it for you now.

Be Honest: Does the US Really Value Education?

Teachers around the country, often in red states, are organizing to fight the ongoing destruction of public education. For generations, politicians have targeted public schools, with major funding from the school privatization movement, to help create a two-tiered class-based system by crippling public schools and demonizing teachers.

Past advocacy by educators as part of their professionalism has contributed to the conservative criticism of public education in the US and its scapegoating of teachers’ unions for any problems conservatives want to lay on the public school system.

Back in 1970, for example, the AFL-CIO-affiliated American Federation of Teachers became the first major union to stand against discrimination against lesbians and gay men. In 1974, its larger national rival, the National Education Association, added sexual orientation to its anti-discrimination policy.

Both unions have struggled with right-wing forces from within and without to maintain and expand the stands they took way over a quarter of a century ago. In 1999, both joined nine other educational and psychological organizations to condemn the aggressive right-wing promotion of the brainwashing mislabeled conversion “therapies,” as potentially harmful and ineffective, and to counter harassment of LGBTQ youth.

The final goal of economic conservatives is to privatize education so that children become lucrative moneymakers 24/7 for multinational corporations. For the religious and social conservatives, it’s to guarantee that our kids conform to their right-wing, sectarian Christian agenda, including marginalizing LGBTQ people.

The major enemies of this sectarian and corporate agenda, who are motivated by the stake they have in education as well as the fact that most become educators out of their love of teaching, are those teachers’ unions – the organizations that represent the actual trained professionals who are really in the classroom with America’s kids.

In contrast, how long has it taken their bosses – the motley crew on elected school boards, the managers who mimic CEOs, and the scared school systems – to stand against bullying and “safe schools?”

It’s not as if the teachers are in it for the money. With their educational backgrounds they could make more working in front of computer screens, in investment firms, or in real estate.

Instead, teachers take responsibility for a nation’s important resource, our children. But their value to us is reflected in how they’re treated compared to our bankers, armament dealers, informational techs, and corporate executives.

We talk a good line about education in this country, but the evidence belies what we really believe. When we talk about more funding for our schools you can hear people say: “You don’t think that throwing more money at schools works, do you?” When it’s about the Pentagon, who can’t account for one-quarter of its expenditures, we call it allocation.

And that child in the inner city school knows what education really means to us. As those students listen to our lines about how important education is, he knows what his teachers make, where they live, and how they’re treated in the media. But students also know how much those sports stars make, in what kinds of homes they live, and how people idolize them.

Those young students are too smart. They can see through all the American blather about the value of education to the truth good ole Jesus underlined: “Where your treasure is, there your heart is also.”

Going beyond appearances, we do everything to put our teachers down. We hold them suspect. We pile them with responsibilities way beyond their expertise and passion.

We place these professionals in a system run by people who have never run a classroom. Imagine the standards of the medical or legal profession set by boards of people with no qualifications other than the fact that they received the most votes in an electoral system where many qualify as “low information voters.”

We hire superintendents and downtown office beaureaucrats who couldn’t run a classroom and think schools are businesses. Even our Secretaries of Education are managers, not educators.

In keeping with this business-model obsession, Obama’s Arne Duncan never taught in a classroom. He was a CEO appointed by a mayor to be chief executive officer of the Chicago Public Schools. No wonder his programs perpetuated the philosophy of the Bush administration that’s dictated by corporate America.

And now we’re stuck with Betsy DeVos who bought her position, could care less about public schools, and wants to see all students brought to her sectarian Jesus.

I’m surprised that more teachers suffering through these people who think they know better how to manage education like a factory, aren’t bitter and disheartened. What must it be like to be blamed so that the fault is always: you’re not a good teacher; and the solution is some sort of “merit pay” based on criteria set up by non-professional corporatists and their hand-picked “consultants?”

Union busting remains on the agenda of numerous superintendents around the country. But if it weren’t for our teachers’ unions, teachers, those professional educators, would have no voice at all in the way we teach and nurture the students they, not the policy makers, interact with every school day.

Teachers know what works. Teachers know why education isn’t always working in the US.

We know that smaller classrooms work. We know that the happier teachers are, the better they teach.

We know that education is not an assembly line where products can be measured by endless standardized testing. We know that students come from different places (income levels, family backgrounds, emotional needs, talents, motivations, and abilities), and that the measure of a good educator is a student’s progress from that individual place along a path, not their conformity to arbitrary standards such as those behind initiatives like that No Child Left Behind law.

We know that, yes, throwing money at education will actually go a long way to solving our problems. How about just 1/10th of what we can’t account for of military spending?

But we’ll also have to start thinking about teachers as a national resource. We’ll have to think of our schools and colleges as more than training institutions for some corporate agenda.

In Taiwan where education is highly successful, September 28th is not only Confucius’ Birthday. It’s a national holiday to honor teachers.

People there actually stop working to honor teachers.

In the US we just tripped over Teacher Appreciation Week, but I bet most didn’t even know when.

That illustrates our real problem.

Are We Still Blaming Mothers for Screwed Up Ideas of Motherhood?

For many grown kids, standing in front of the Mother’s Day cards at the store this month is an exercise in mixed feelings – hope, sadness, love, guilt, fear, denial, and confusion. Finding that one card that says exactly how you feel without giving in to Hallmark-induced fantasies about the perfect mother is a challenge as difficult as any we might face.

An English professor friend claims that there are, in fact, no good poems about mothers in all of English literature. They all end up like those sentimental greeting card rhymes.

Yet, our mothers have generally done the best they could with what they’ve been given about motherhood from a culture that’s filled with messages that extol motherhood while taking away as much from mothers as possible. And all the conservatives’ high-minded blather about valuing motherhood is suspiciously empty to mothers who suspect that something else is really going on around them, but are supposed to blame themselves for whatever it is.

Culturally, we talk a good line about the value of motherhood, but our real values are betrayed by the fact that we never use mothering as a model for dealing with cultural problems. In a society that still doesn’t really value women as men’s economic and power equals, many would still rather brag about putting women and mothers on pedestals.

Balancing up there precariously, women are supposed to appreciate the fact that they’re shelved up on those narrow pillars. Why, then, would they ever prefer powerful equality, pay, or monetary benefits?

Instead of “mothering” problems, we use political, economic and social models that replicate punishing fathers and masculine ideals fundamental to a war-based economy. We don’t “mother” our issues.

We have wars on everything – drugs, violence, terrorism, illiteracy, poverty, AIDS, delinquency, crime. And, still like well-conditioned males are supposed to, we keep on warring whether we win any of these “wars” or not.

Like those poorly paid professionals who also deal with children and the needy, mothers are expected to settle for “fulfillment.” In fact, women are still taught that it’s motherhood that will ultimately fulfill them as women. And that should be enough.

Instead of mainstream culture embracing the fact that healthy psychological fulfilment isn’t found in others but in oneself, women are told that their fulfillment needs will be met in bearing and raising children. Society pictures the ideal woman as the mother who has sacrificed her own life goals, dreams, personal career, emotional and romantic life, and aspirations for a husband’s fulfillment and for children – think of the nostalgic image of the recently departed Barbara Bush.

To the extent that this doesn’t work for women, as opposed to therapy or group support, the common response is for mothers who believe all this to apply more pressure on children to fulfill women’s needs. Without another life beyond their children, without the financial and retirement security of a pension, without investments except those of a husband who could leave them for someone else, all their hope lies in the loyalty and emotional dependence of their kids.

Women are still even told that the really ideal mother stays at home with the children, and preferably home schools them. There’s little praise for the stay-at-home father and significantly less blame for “failing” fathers, but much concern about mothers ‘balancing” work and children so as to be Super Moms. And the implication is usually that the mother’s (not the father’s) career should suffer.

The more pressure we put on mothers instead of fathers, the more mothers end up being the communicators of unhealthy fulfillment messages from family and society. And, as the closer hands-on parent, the more they’ll get most of the derision for what are really society’s, and then children’s, issues.

Instead of realizing that our system’s ongoing sexism works to pressure women into this role, we continue to blame women who do attempt to find healthy alternatives that could actually provide wholeness and completion for women and result in healthier mothers.

So, children often grow up with a mix of resentment and attachment toward their mothers and other women – particularly if they’re authority figures. Children want to believe the best about mom. They want their relationship with their mothers to be better.

But they know how easily the one who installed the emotional buttons in them can push them. They too are really feeling the fact that mom was taught that you and I had to fulfill her.

Blaming mothers, rather than the system, for this element of sexism, is reflected in jokes about mothers, mother-in-laws, and women. It’s codified in the stereotypes about Jewish mothers, Italian mothers, or you-fill-in-the-blank mothers.

But it’s based in the unexamined realization by children that, instead of being here to live their own lives, a child’s life goals must include fulfilling their mothers’ otherwise unfulfilled lives.

On top of the usual motherhood confusion, there are the lingering messages of white racism that picture “traditional family values” as very white. Mothers of people of color are assumed to be victims of incomplete families, over-functioning, or limited by their need to be stopgaps in supposedly dysfunctional non-white cultures.

Even though statistics show that African American parents spend more time than white parents doing homework with their children, that reality never seems to make it into the white-affirming stereotypes of the African American family.

So, mothers are blamed for the problems with our children. Fathers are faulted for not being leaders of their families – affirming that masculinity-style leadership preference. Fathers are faulted for not being good disciplinarians, that is good punishers, maybe even because they didn’t hit their children enough.

But Mothers are blamed more broadly for not passing on traditional values, not staying home or not staying home “enough,” not making their home a comfortable place, putting their child into daycare, being “selfish” about their own lives, acting in their own interests, being too strong or domineering, being too close to their sons, being jealous of their daughters, and on and on and on. All of these arise out of stereotypes about women and the way we condition women out of their full humanity.

And if a child turns out to be LGBT, who’s at fault? Conservative theories that are still pushed by discredited so-called ex-gay ministries and the “therapies” of anti-gay counselors who are out of touch with all mainstream psychology, blame bad parenting in a way that often sounds like the blaming of mothers.

So, given the pressures placed on women, the hypocritical lip service for motherhood, the inhuman expectations placed on mothers, and the blaming of mothers who step out of the role for their own health, it’s no wonder Mother’s Day is often a mix of feelings that really point to the deep changes our society needs in its deeper value structure and it’s on-going conditioning about what women are supposed to be.

Why Is the Difference Between a Citizen and a Politician Important Today?

There are fundamental differences between being an American citizen and being a politician. As citizens, we’re to make sure that those we elect to represent us know exactly what our positions are on the issues that affect our lives.

As citizens, it’s not our job to present to the politician a position that’s not fully our own or is a pre-compromised version of it because we think that the compromise is more likely to be turned into legislation.

When we do that, we’re ensuring that politicians do not know what we really think while communicating that we aren’t convinced that our position should matter that much. We’re implying that politicians need not consider our actual stand in the process.

When I pre-compromise, I’m moving toward a position that isn’t mine and actually affirming the opposite of my own view by that very move. I’m communicating that I believe the opposing position is just as worthwhile, so politicians should feel free to move in that direction.

Pre-negotiating one’s needs and wants before expressing them doesn’t help politics, marriages, or even leadership in any organization. It merely means that the other in such relationships, the one for whom we pre-mediate our own positions, will never really know what we think. Our culture especially tells women to pre-compromise.

A citizen, as well, isn’t an uncritical follower of any politician, even those we’ve voted for and probably will again. I don’t expect any politician to agree with me on everything, and must let them know when I agree and don’t. I’m surprised when I have no gripes.

Our job is to keep those who’ve chosen to represent us informed of our views. You can bet that the right-wing will do it incessantly, and the squeaky wheel will get the most grease.

Politicians, though, have deliberately chosen to take on the citizen-paid job of actually working to implement the opinions of those they represent. That will at times require compromise.

Sometimes that compromise will be to incrementally change things. And we’ll know that that is the reason when the politician tells us about their plans for the next step after the success of this increment.

At times the politician must compromise because there are, frankly, different valid and logical ways to do things. Then it’s the politician’s job to explain that to us and answer our questions in a way that looks as if they’re listening and without mere reliance on talking points.

A good politician doesn’t act like an old-fashioned cash register where we push a key and theirs is the automatic response. A good politician – and there are few of these – is a leader who takes the time to explain, arguing that their decision was better than ours and showing us why we should follow their thinking.

But there are also times when nefarious reasons compromise a politician – Is the politician taking a stand based upon whose money dominates their lives? Does the politician not have a core set of values that will make them stand for something, proving they believe it even if they’re willing to lose for it? Has the politician sunk to the lesser goal of merely getting elected and maintaining power? What will the politician gain personally by their position?

All of this means that democracy and representative government is just plain messy. When corporations are in charge, things are clean. When democracy kills you, it’s a mess; when corporations do, it’s all neat and tidy.

It’s the difference between a national chain coffee shop and your local dive. The corporate place is neat and orderly with a limited number of approved psoters and papers nicely displayed. In the local non-corporate establishment, there’s a bit of chaos, disorderliness, and a variety of local notices and publications cluttering the tables and the bulletin boards.

Recognizing all this then, we’re guaranteed to disagree. Social media amplifies that rhetoric.

The key is to keep liberal and progressive movements together, and we’ve not been very good at that. We’ve also learned that Russian cyber-warriors work to exploit us into thinking that what they portray about a candidate and their supporters is reality.

Yes, yes, everyone should know that no candidate is “perfect” – I had problems with positions of both major Democratic presidential candidates and also knew realistically that the Democratic Party nominee was my only practical choice.

And I didn’t frame the discussion ever as “the least bad choice” but in terms of better choices. When we frame it as the former we discourage anyone we’re trying to convince and encourage Republicans. Studies show that the “negative” in campaigns works to keep voters home on Election Day more than to strengthen our side.

But when people complain about a candidate, it’s passive aggressive or worse to label the critic as seeking a “perfect” candidate or requiring a “purity test.” Those responses shut down discussion and split us all. They’re not measured, rational, or helpful.

It’s difficult to just stay on a positive message about the better candidate we support. We take disagreements as personal attacks even though we’re citizens not the politicians who’ve volunteered for the fray.

It’s difficult to admit where our own choice isn’t perfect by admitting we agree with the criticism and yet discussing why we stick with them. No wonder former generations recommended we never discuss politics or religion.

There are also cultural factors that definitely influence people’s criticisms more than people want to admit. Sexism, ageism, classism, white racism, able-bodied-ism, beautyism and others are persistently systemic. But pointing them out can be done a number of ways – some just not helpful.

Our responses to critics tell us more about ourselves and our fears and disappointments. When we get caught up, let’s face it, it becomes hard to listen to critics and to envision what will be needed to move the Party we favor forward.

But as citizens, our obligation is always to inform politicians where we stand and expect them to work it out. American historian Howard Zinn put it this way: “When a social movement adopts the compromises of legislators, it has forgotten its role, which is to push and challenge the politicians, not to fall in meekly behind them.”

Why Do Those White Evangelicals Really Love Trump? (Part Three in a Series)

These final two elements of the lens through which those White Evangelicals who continue to support Donald Trump see politics help us understand why they do.

(5) Capitalism. Confidence that the American economic system is divinely sanctioned.

Viewing the Bible and Christianity through the lens of Capitalism isn’t new. In The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Max Weber argued that “the Protestant work ethic” that developed after the Reformation was a force behind the rise of Capitalism.

Prosperity evidenced religious piety. The poor brought their misfortunes on themselves; the fact that people are rich proves God has blessed the wealthy.

American business both promoted and benefited from the rise of Evangelicals. By the 1950s, business lobbies and executives were promoting Evangelical narratives and leaders to counter the regulations of the New Deal and anti-capitalist “Godless Communism.”

American Capitalism became fully a part of the lens of these Evangelicals. This meant ignoring or interpreting unaccommodating Biblical passages.

Jesus’ call in Matthew 19:21 to give all that you have to the poor and follow him couldn’t mean that literally and was not meant for me. He couldn’t really mean what the Gospels tell us he said with “it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

The Hebrew prophets’ condemnations of loaning money with interest couldn’t apply to America. “Usury” should be interpreted instead as not demanding too much interest.

Evangelists such as Jerry Falwell in his 1980 Listen America! and Evangelical preachers promoted parables such as Jesus’ “Parable of the Talents” claiming that they taught basic Capitalist principles toward life.

With the influence of American New Thought and New Age teachings about prosperity for those who envision it, recent decades saw the rise of the “Prosperity Gospel” and ministers who downplay their harsher theological legaisms to make people feel happy and prosperous. Faithful Evangelicals should be financially secure - and certainly their leaders, like Joel Osteen, are.

Though there are voices in American society warning that the Bible isn’t a good promoter Capitalism, for those who support Trump, Capitalism as the best economic system is a Biblical certainty. That includes its rewards for true believers and punishments for lazy folk who must not truly be Christians.

(6) Anti-Secularism. The State should promote their sectarian Evangelicalism.

Religious movements have affected politics throughout history with ideas ranging from abolition to temperance. Roosevelt’s New Deal embodied the Christian Social Gospel while the civil rights acts of the LBJ era were pressured by the movement heavily inspired by the Black church.

Following World War II, White Evangelicals eschewed politics, believing that God would do his work on governments including bringing their destruction in an Apocalypse. By 1970, Hal Lindsey’s popular The Late Great Planet Earth assured them that God would soon vindicate them.

But cultural and social challenges coupled with mainstream marginalizing of these White Evangelicals as uneducated, backward, and insular, increased the sense of victimization that had historically made them feel like “strangers in a strange land.” Biblical quotations such as “Come out from among them and be ye separate” and hymns such as “This World Is Not My Home, I’m Just A-Passing Through” were soon replaced with using the Bible for political activism.

The New Testament was a hard place to find much more for their relationship to governments than to “render” what was due to Caesar or the Apostle Paul saying: “Obey the authorities.” The places for seeing a model for an Evangelical government were the Israel of their Old Testament and the contentious you-can-interpret-it-any-way-that-works-for-you book of Revelation.

With the 1964 defeat of Barry Goldwater and the embrace of the Southern strategy, Republicans knew that these White Evangelicals were useful. Pop evangelists rose to the occasion. Movements such as “The Moral Majority,” “Focus on the Family,” and “The Family Research Council” tied the self-concept, survival, and success of the White Evangelical agenda to legislative efforts and subsequent electionary politics.

There was little faith left in waiting around for God to act. Government was to become the means for these White Evangelicals’ vindication.

Candidates must affirm these six elements of their worldview, and politicians and preachers who strayed sexually could be forgiven for “indiscretions” and “sins” if they adhered to those elements. The list of the forgiven became long.

Abortion and equal rights for LGBTQ people became rallying cries. Being “pro-life” became the shorthand litmus test assuring that candidates actually accepted all six of the elements.

They became crucial to Conservatism. Linguist George Lakoff would analyze the mental frame that internalized and politicized them - a “strict father” model that embodied all of six elements in these White Evangelicals’ worldview.

When Donald Trump arrived on the scene, he embodied them. Whether he believed anu or just knew he could get Evangelical votes by espousing them is another question.

And charges of hypocrisy didn’t matter. They’re common in the world of these White Evangelicals and their leaders.

The word “hypocrisy” doesn’t challenge anything about their beliefs. It merely says that an individual didn’t live them perfectly.

And since they believe that we’re all sinners anyway, it merely means that the hypocrite is just another human like them, saved by grace. More important is whether the hypocrite affirms the six elements.

It’s a time-waster to argue religion with them. Down through history, religions do nothing – it’s what people do with their holy books, institutions, and traditions that has an effect, and that’s done because of this lens.

People cling to religious beliefs for reasons related to prejudices, the influence it provides, egos, beliefs about their culture, and to protect their personal identities.

It’s also a waste of time to dwell on the religious beliefs they regularly tick off looking for some mysterious answer there. It’s the wrong question to ask: “How can they believe this or that and still support X, Y, or Z politician?”

Do they, or do they not embrace instead these six elements of the lens through which these White Evangelicals see the world? That’s what matters.

Why Do Those White Evangelicals Really Love Trump? (Part Two in a Series)

There are six assumptions that make up the key to understanding what those White Evangelicals who voted for and are staying with Donald Trump see when they look at life and the Bible when they claim that they’re righteously following God and that Bible. Part One of this series included the first two. Here are the third and fourth elements:

(3) White supremacy. The white race is blessed and chosen to dominate any other.

Slavery was built into the socio-economic structure of the United States from the beginning, but reactions to Abolition, movements for racial equality, and desegregation were crucial to the mindset of those White Evangelicals supporting Trump, a mindset that was usually stoked by leaders from the South. In 1847, the largest Protestant denomination in the United States and the one that dominates Evangelicalism today, the Southern Baptist Convention, split from the Northern Baptists to protect slavery.

Well after the civil rights movement of the 1960s, in 1997, they apologized. But maintaining White privilege was already built into the Evangelicals who would eventually support Trump.

These White Evangelicals reacted especially negatively to the Supreme Court’s 1954 call for desegregation in Brown v. Board of Education. They responded with the creation of their own separate schools and an emphasis on home schooling.

Then came Loving v. Virginia in 1967 that ended prohibitions on interracial marriage. A new kind of segregation was needed in response, this time in the area of marriage. Even today, “sexual purity” movements are not just a reaction to changes in the culture’s sexual mores but also are means by which parents can work to arrange the “right marriages” for their children.

In 1967 Evangelical political leader Jerry Falwell founded a segregation academy in Virginia that was advertised as a “private school for white students.” Bob Jones University excluded black applicants until 1971 but prohibited interracial dating, which led to a Supreme Court decision and ended only in 2000.

After federal civil rights legislative victories during the Johnson administration, Republicans chose a “Southern Strategy” to appeal to white voters against African Americans by playing on White racial resentment of gains of people of color. Code words, urban legends, and bigoted insinuations were useful to appeal to these White Evangelical voters and have been used by Republican candidates since.

Sunday mornings remain “the most segregated hours in this nation.” Yet the White Evangelicals who support Trump fear the loss of their status as the better race.

They were a major bloc that voted for Trump because of their racism. And for them, the Bible thus must still be seen as supporting their Whiteness even if one of their great fears is being accused of racism.

(4) Anti-intellectualism. An open liberal education is a threat to belief.

Religious institutions in the United States were responsible for the beginnings of numerous great American universities and colleges, many of which are now seen as threats to those Evangelicals who support Trump. In 1995, Evangelical historian Mark Noll chronicled the history of Evangelical anti-intellectualism in The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, saying, “the scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.”

Of course, there’s a long history of “anti-intellectualism” in American society along side liberal educational advances. In 1642, Puritan John Cotton warned: “the more learned and witty you be, the more fit to act for Satan you will be.”

There’s also a long history of the “self-made man,” often a manual laborer, farmer, or cowboy who valued “practical” education, as opposed to book-learning from the liberal arts and sciences. That prejudice is reflected today when educators tell graduates that they are now about to https://www.cnsnews.com/commentary/chuck-colson/justice-scalia-we-are-be-fools-christs-sake enter “the real world.”

Using the teaching of evolution as the major excuse, these White Evangelicals sought protection in separate parochial schools and home schooling. They founded their own safe colleges usually in places far from what they considered the temptations of cities or major universities. One, for example, advertised that it was “fifty miles from any known form of sin.”

As part of the rise of 20th century Fundamentalism and again in recent decades reacting to the rise of feminism and other social equality movements, Evangelical denominations even purged their own seminaries to return them to the teaching of doctrines and practices that basically affirmed the six principles outlined here. Of course, the official claim was that their professors were not teaching the Bible correctly or in an acceptable “orthodox” understanding.

As large industries such as the fossil fuel industry began to see that they could use Evangelicals, they created their own “science,” promoted criticism of mainstream research and tied it to various doctrines and social issues they identified as crucial to those who would support Trump. Popularly, Paul’s claim to the Corinthians could be a proud rallying cry: “We are fools for Christ’s sake.”

In 2012 Justice Antonin Scalia, these White Evangelicals’ hero, appealed to this anti-intellectualism at a religious conference to demean those whom he felt challenged his faith:

“God assumed from the beginning that the wise of the world would view Christians as fools…and He has not been disappointed. Devout Christians are destined to be regarded as fools in modern society. We are fools for Christ’s sake. We must pray for courage to endure the scorn of the sophisticated world. If I have brought any message today, it is this: Have the courage to have your wisdom regarded as stupidity. Be fools for Christ. And have the courage to suffer the contempt of the sophisticated world.”

These and the other six elements explain why the charge of hypocrisy not only doesn’t affect these White Evangelicals but actually affirms their beliefs to them. In fact, they explain why it’s a waste of time to expect that religious doctrines are the key. They’re subordinate to the worldview represented by all six.

Next month: Part Three with the final two of the six key elements of the lens that explains their support for religious and political leaders even if they’re hypocrites.

What Now? Part Two: It’s Not Either/Or: Let’s Face Race and Everything

The fact that our president-elect appealed to both class and race in this election is beyond any doubt – it’s all on video. Yet, there are those who want to defend him as if the way he used race is somehow separate from the question of whether or not he really is a racist.

They’re really defending themselves – they don’t want to admit that they’d vote for an open racist. They don’t want to accept their personal responsibility for the resulting rise in crimes against Muslims, people of color, and LGBT people that has followed the permission their chosen candidate has thereby given for people to act as open bigots.

They’d prefer to deny that they themselves hold enough racism to give someone who appeals to white racism a pass, as if playing on racism, xenophobia, and homophobia isn’t important to them. They don’t want to think of how their votes evidence their lack of empathy for anyone but themselves.

Both class and race figured at a basic level in the rise of this president-elect who lost the popular count by over 2.8 million votes. That loss is a point we’ll always need to remember – of the Americans who voted and whose votes were counted, over 50% did not support his campaign. To the majority, he’s a loser and his campaign strategy was offensive and embarrassing.

The election post-mortem, however, has included debates about the relative importance of racism and classism in its outcome, as if these don’t support each other. The phrase “identity politics” has been used quite broadly as if whatever it refers to is a negative thing.

So how do we work through all this to move beyond this election?

When one works from a scarcity model of life – a model that supports the worst elements of capitalism, by the way – it’s easy to fear that attention to another issue will take it away from my issue. It’s a mindset that there’s not enough attention to go around.

In addition, this scarcity mindset suppresses the facts that all oppressions are related and that ending all of them is necessary. I cannot isolate my issue from any other.

It misses the point that any oppression will not die out until all the others also disappear. Oppression is an approach to life, a way of thinking, a frame that looks for a victim, and a fallback for a failing culture to scapegoat an “other.”

The scarcity model also obscures the fact that oppression is more than just prejudice. It’s prejudice plus power: the ability to effectively promote or prevent movement and change.

As such, what we’re fighting must be viewed not as just individual prejudice but systemic problems. Racism, sexism, heterosexism, etc. are promoted by the institutions of our society that need to preserve the status quo and how those institutions play off each other – that’s “the system.”

And – here’s something we’d rather deny – because the problem is systemic, every one of us, no matter what demographic we identify with and whether we want to admit it or not, has been taught racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, able-bodyism, and others. When someone says, for example, “I am not a racist,” they miss the deeper point – we all have been taught to be racist; the issue really is: are we working on it in ourselves and society.

Because they’re all related, then, and we’re a part of all of it no matter how far we’ve come, the second challenging, hard-to-face necessity emphasized in this series is that we need to reject denial, complaining, and guilt feelings to think in terms of building coalitions. We no longer can afford one-issue movements.

We begin by understanding that what initially appears not to be “my issue” is really my issue. It’s not just that we all have one common humanity whose feelings, desires, prayers, and hopes we share (If we think about it, what people pray for around the world no matter what their religion are the same things all people and their families worry about.).

We are not fighting a good charitable fight because some other group of pitiful people needs us to save them – that’s patronizing and disempowering for them. Instead, we need to learn how each of the isms hurts us, limits us, and boxes us in.

How does white racism separate those who identify as white from their full humanity? Read: Thandeka’s Learning to Be White: Money, Race and God in America.

How does the oppression of LGBT people limit the potential humanity of those who identify as straight? Read: Robert N, Minor, Scared Straight: Why It’s So Hard to Accept Gay People and Why It’s So Hard to Be Human.

Racism, LGBT discrimination, able-body-ism, classism, environmental degradation and others must end, I must be convinced, for my own good – and other people will benefit.

Next, we take a hard look at our lives, our friends, the circles we move in, who we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with in our chosen justice work, and where our comfortable interactions are. What we will often find is that naturally our circles are those that we’ve felt safe in and thus often they consist of the same demographics as us. Given the nature of the oppressions around us, that’s exactly how the system expects us to live.

Coalition building does not mean that an organization does “outreach” to those it has not included. It means building long-term relationships that grow to share trust and understanding.

It means all partners over time becoming convinced that the others are there for them when they have a fight for justice on their hands. No one needs to look around at the last minute wondering who’ll be there for them.

And it means listening to find out what the needs of those outside our demographic are, letting them take the lead in their fights but standing as allies, believing that what they say about their experience is true, asking how to be supportive, listening to their hurts, and not walking away when the going gets tough. It’s hard, but necessary, stuff.

© 2018 Robert N. Minor

Other Issues, Books, Resources

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Robert N. Minor, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus at the University of Kansas, is author of When Religion Is an Addiction; Scared Straight: Why It’s So Hard to Accept Gay People and Why It’s So Hard to Be Human; and Gay & Healthy in a Sick Society. Contact him at www.FairnessProject.org


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