Crossposted from Tikkun Daily by Warren Blumenfeld

"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

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.

Previous Chair of the Committee, Representative Ralph Hall (R-TX) asserted that he does not have concerns about global warming, but, rather, he is "really more fearful of freezing," even though, he mentioned, "I don't have any science to prove that." He went even further by stating that he did not "think we can control what God controls."

Many on the anti-science political and theocratic Right (mis)quote scripture to justify human exploitation of the planet. For example, Republican presidential hopeful, Rick Santorum, questioned Barack Obama's "theology" in an Ohio campaign stop on February 18, 2012 by asserting that Obama believes in "some phony ideal, some phony theology. Oh, not a theology based on the Bible, a different theology."

The next day, when asked to explain his remarks on the CBS news program "Face the Nation" by moderator Bob Schieffer, Santorum responded that he was referring to "the radical environmentalists," and by implication, placed Obama in this category. Santorum attacked the notion that "man is here to serve the Earth," which he argued "is a phony ideal." Santorum countered that idea, stating "We're not here to serve the Earth. The Earth is not the objective. Man is the objective. I think a lot of radical environmentalists have it upside-down."

In yet another ill-conceived and executed Christian crusade, Santorum, with his publicly expressed literal biblical perspective, conjures up such passages as Genesis 1:26, which states:

"Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth and over all the creatures that move along the ground.'"

Also, Genesis 1:28: "God blessed [humans] and said to them, 'Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.'"

And, Genesis 9: "Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, 'Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.The fear and dread of you will fall on all the beasts of the earth, and on all the birds in the sky, on every creature that moves along the ground, and on all the fish in the sea; they are given into your hands. Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.'"

And Santorum is certainly not alone among his Republican colleagues and electorate. A 2008 study by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, "A Deeper Partisan Divide over Global Warming," found that 58 percent of respondents who identified as Democrats and 50 percent of Independents believed that global warming is mostly caused by human activity, while only 27 percent of Republicans believed this.

Among Democrats, those with higher educational levels - 75 percent with college degrees compared with 52 percent with less education - expressed the view that solid evidence has shown human activity largely as the cause of global warming. Opposed to the Democrats, however, educational levels of Republicans resulted in an inverse relationship in trusting the scientific evidence with only 19 percent of Republican college graduates compared with 31 percent with less education believing in the human connection to climate change.

Pew's updated report in 2013 found that overall 67 percent of U.S. residents believe global warming is happening, but only 25 percent of Tea Party Republicans believe this.

How many more British Petroleum and Exxon Valdez oil spills, polluted and poisoned waterways and skies, dead lakes, clear cut forests, mine disasters, mutilated and scorched Earth, nuclear power plant accidents and meltdowns, toxic dumps and landfills, trash littered landscapes, extinct animal and plant species, encroachments on land masses by increasingly rising oceans and seas, and how many more unprecedented global climatic fluctuations will it take for the anti-science Republican party to put the health of the planet, and by extension the health of all Earth's inhabitants, on the front burner, if you will, of policy priorities over the unquenchable lust for profits by corporate executives?

For a party claiming to stand as "pro-family," what kind of legacy and what kind of future are they really bequeathing to our youth? For a party that claims to promote political conservatism and "traditional values," what is more traditional and valuable than conserving and thus sustaining the Earth's resources responsibly and equitably?

While differing marginally on specific issues, many Republicans march in lock-step to the drummer of conservative political and corporate dogma centering on a market-driven approach to economic and social policy, including such tenets as reducing the size of the national government and granting more control to state and local governments; severely reducing or ending governmental regulation over the private sector; privatizing governmental services, industries, and institutions including education, health care, and social welfare; permanently incorporating across-the-board non-progressive marginal federal and state tax rates; and possibly most importantly, advancing market driven and unfettered "free market" economics.

I ask, though, how "free" are we now as mining, oil, and lumber companies lobby to exploit the land, and as legislators grant corporations enormous tax breaks and subsidies? How "free" will we be if conservative Republicans succeed in abolishing the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Consumer Protection Agency, the US Department of Education, the US Department of Commerce, and other governmental agencies? How "free" will we be if conservative Republicans succeed in the US Congress with their threats to privatize our national parks, and to loosen environmental and consumer protections of all kinds?

In truth, the conservative Republican battle cry, seemingly coined by Sarah Palin, of "drill baby drill," unfortunately is what the Obama administration has forwarded, resulting in significantly more domestic oil production than under the George W. Bush administration. This, however, is simply unsustainable since the US currently consumes approximately 20-25 percent of the oil produced worldwide, though we hold in the range of only 2 percent of planetary oil reserves.

Webster's dictionary defines "Oppression" as a noun meaning "the unjust or cruel exercise of authority or power" on the individual/interpersonal, institutional, and larger societal levels. Human treatment of the environment certainly falls under this definition. As opposed to "oppression," I define "social justice" as the concept that local, national, and global communities functioningwhere everyone has equal access to and equitable distribution of the rights, benefits, privileges, and resources, and where everyone can live freely unencumbered by social constructions of hierarchical positions of domination and subordination."

This concluding phrase is of prime importance, for when humans place themselves into "hierarchical positions of domination and subordination," environmental degradation inevitably results. This is no different in a US context from other hierarchies of power and privilege: White people over People of Color, men over women, rich over working class and poor, heterosexuals over homosexuals and bisexuals, cisgender people over transgender people, able-bodied people over people with disabilities, native-born English speakers over immigrant linguistic minorities, adults of a certain age over youth and over seniors, Christians over members of all other religious and spiritual communities as well as over non-believers, and the spokes on the oppression wheel continue to trample over people and over our environment.

A non-regulated privatized so-called "free-market" economic system lacking in environmental protections is tantamount to a social system deficient of civil and human rights protections for minorities.

If people wish to quote scripture, they would do well to heed biblical warnings, such as Isaiah 24: 4-6:

"The earth dries up and withers, the world languished and withers, the exalted of the earth languish. The earth lies under its inhabitants; for they have transgressed the laws, violated the statues, and broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse consumes the earth; its people must bear their guilt."

 

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren's Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), and co-author of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press).

To read more pieces like this, sign up for Tikkun Daily’s free newsletter, sign up for Tikkun Magazine emails  or visit us online. You can also like Tikkun on Facebook  and follow us on Twitter.

Crossposted from Tikkun Daily by Warren Blumenfeld

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

And in her editorial, which she submitted to our local newspaper and the editor rejected, Phelps-Roper in part ranted:

The reason Jews belong in the same category as homosexuals is because they're both vile sinners before God - period. See www.jewskilledjesus.com for the facts. There is not a group of people more sodomy-enabling in this world than the apostate reprobate Jews.

Note: Phelp-Roper defined "Good Fig" in her editorial as the estimated "144,000 righteous Jews left, to be called and sanctified. They will mourn him whom they pierced, repent and obey."

Issues of common decency and respect for human dignity suffered a serious setback on March 26, 2010 when the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that Albert Synder of York, Pennsylvania was unjustified in suing Fred Phelps and his followers for picketing the 2006 funeral of Synder's son, 20-year-old Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Synder, who was killed in a vehicle rollover accident in Iraq. The court also ordered Synder to cover Phelps's court costs in the amount of $16,510.

Before this ruling, Synder successfully won a lawsuit against Phelps. At the lower court trial, the jury awarded Synder $11 million, which the court later reduced to $5 million.

Synder has appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, which has agreed to consider whether the protestors' actions are within the scope of protected speech covered by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, or are circumscribed by issues of privacy and religious rights of the mourners.

Phelps and company, on their website and in their actions, in their own distorted way, continued the centuries-old linkage of the many clear and stunning connections between historical stereotypical representations and oppression against Jewish people and lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and trans* people (LGBTs). In my research, I have discovered that throughout history, many dominant groups have depicted or represented minority groups in a variety of negative ways in order to maintain control or mastery. I divided these historical interconnections into five primary categories:

1. Religious Condemnations: Throughout the ages, people have cited certain biblical passages to justify persecution and denial of legal protections of LGBT people and Jews, even though there is great disagreement among religious scholars over the interpretations of these passages.

2. Immature Developmental Stage: Jews and LGBT people have been represented as constituting an immature developmental stage: Judaism as an intermediate or immature religious stage on the way to Christianity - the advanced, mature faith - and the Hebrew Bible as only a prelude to the eventual coming as Jesus. And homosexuality and homosexuals as constituting immature human/sexuality development.

3. Immutable Biological Types: By the late nineteenth century, both Judaism and homosexuality had come to be viewed by the "scientific" community as distinct "racial types," with immutable biological characteristics - a trend that increased markedly into the twentieth century of the Common Era.

4. Abuse and Recruitment of Children: A crucial point in the psychology of scapegoating is the representation of minorities as subhuman forms that "recruit," molest, and kill children of the majority, and accordingly, both Jews and LGBT people have long been accused of being dangerous predators of children.

5. Domination and Destruction of "Civilized" Society: While the dominant society has frequently been concerned that Jews and people attracted to others of their sex can "pass" without detection into the mainstream, they have also historically portrayed these groups as rich and powerful conspirators whose aim is to control, manipulate, and eventually destroy societies.

Beliefs are one's rights to hold. However, the expression of those beliefs onto an individual or group of individuals I argue constitutes a form of oppression, especially when intended to deny anyone or any group their human and civil rights. By so doing, they are exerting power and control by attempting to define the "other," with the intent of depriving people of their agency and subjectivity. They are attempting to control people's bodies and their minds.

With religious rights come responsibilities, and with actions come reactions. Whenever clergy pronounce and preach their conservative dogma against any one group, they must take responsibility for the bullying, harassment, violence and suicides of those against whom they preach.

I am again struck by the ways in which the numerous forms of oppression - including racism, sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, classism, ableism, ageism, ethnic and religious oppression, and all the other forms - while oppressing members of minority groups, on many levels also hurt members of dominant groups. Although the effects of oppression differ quantitatively for specific minority groups and dominant groups, and though it cannot be denied that oppression serves the vested interests of some, in the final analysis, most people lose.

The meaning, therefore, is quite clear. When any group of people is stereotyped and scapegoated, it is ultimately everyone's concern. We all, therefore, have a self interest in actively working to dismantle all the many forms of oppression.

Therefore, we have a right, no, an obligation to counter this destructive and, yes, oppressive discourse with all the voices, the energy, the unity, the intelligence, and all the love of which we are capable. And people throughout the country have been consistently speaking out and standing up to the Westboro Baptist Church.

At Matthew Shepard's funeral service, his good family and friends, outfitted in angel costumes, joined side-by-side in a line and lifted their outstretched wings separating and blocking the view of protesters from mourners. And at Iowa State University, students organized a counter demonstration to thwart the hatred and the oppression.

In countering Westboro, people are practicing the Jewish tradition of Tikkun Olam - transforming, healing, and repairing the world so that it becomes a more just, peaceful, nurturing, and perfect place.

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Crossposted from Tikkun Daily by Nicholas Boeving

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?

Alan Downs Ph.D., author of The Velvet Rage: Overcoming the Pain of Growing Up Gay in a Straight Man's World, has diagnosed with surgical precision the origin of this cancerous condition in the gay community and largely attributes it to early childhood experiences of overwhelming shame. As a natural counterpoint to this toxic shame, gay men move into a second stage of overcompensation: The disease of More: More money, more muscles, more labels, more cars... multiplied ad infinitum.

Gay men stuck in the ugly adolescence of self-loathing and fear defend against feeling this way at all costs. Instead, they project their own raging insecurities outward. In the process of doing so, they construct false identities of superiority and holier-than-thouness to defend against a raging internal tempest that is the result of their own paralyzing fear of being utterly unlovable. What is the characteristic flavor of this stage's humor? Cattiness, bitchiness, and just plain meanness. Nowhere has this unholy trinity of inner-hatred-turned-outward been more powerfully and tragically expressed than in the comedic legacy of Joan Rivers.

You don't have to be hateful to be funny. Carol Burnett and Lucile Ball never stooped to the level of vituperative shtick to demean, dehumanize, or degrade the human condition. Quite the opposite: They ennobled it. Joan Rivers unfurled her fame and secured her fortune by doing exactly the opposite.

Gay icons of yesteryear like Judy Garland were icons in the original sense of the word; Garland reflected and expressed with a trembling vulnerability and raw strength the beating, broken heart of the community, which is why she was - and will forever remain - the greatest icon of them all, having ignited with her passage the gay liberation movement. Now that's a legacy that matters.

Newer icons such as Madonna and Lady Gaga slashed their way to the top of the charts and into the heart and soul of the gay community with their fierce, unflinching commitment to their art and their messages of manumission (freedom from bondage; whatever those fetters may be.) These grande dames earned their enthronement in the pantheon of figureheads by empowerment, not by hate, and embody ideals to aspire to, whether you like their music or not.

Was Rivers a sarcastic savant? Yes. Was she a fierce fashionista? That's debatable. But was her Gospel of the Low Blow what we in our community really wish to continue living our lives by? I, for one, do not.

Deaths - whether literal or figurative - are always times of transition and transitions can go either way. Joan Rivers may have been a legend, but she's no icon that I wish to aspire to. So in our own community's time of transition I think it's vital to take a serious moment of pause to ask ourselves, what is the image that we wish to project? What is the community we wish to build? And who are the people we wish to become?

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Crossposted from Tikkun Daily by Warren Blumenfeld

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.

On Tuesday, September 9, I read a press release circulated by the organization Faith in Public Life out of Washington, D.C. announcing its nationwide mobilization plans for the 2014 elections crafted by national progressive and moderate faith leaders. The press release read in part:

"Ten years after conservative 'values voters' propelled President George W. Bush to reelection, progressive and moderate religious leaders will unveil plans to engage voters on common-good policies, rather than divisive culture war issues.Across the country, clergy and faith-based organizations will launch campaigns, ranging from massive voter registration drives to cross country bus tours, to mobilize supporters and hold politicians accountable on issues including immigration reform, voting rights and healthcare."

Faith in Public Life serves as a think tank and organizational structure linking faith communities in strategizing effective ways to form coalitions and advance issues of social justice in the public square and to transform issues of equality and equity into legislative policy. Just a few of the many organizations joining this progressive faith coalition include the Moral Mondays movement and Nuns on the Bus.

In response to a number of draconian measures taken by the North Carolina legislature to roll back progressive gains previously enacted, the Moral Mondays movement has come together on Mondays in the state to conduct non-violent protest demonstrations and acts of civil disobedience. Organized partially by faith leaders, including William Barber, head of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, Moral Monday actions have opposed the legislature's restrictions on voting rights of repealing same-day voter registration, reducing early voting days, and taking away tax credits from parents whose dependent students register to vote at their campus addresses. Previously, the legislature designed its redistricting equation to overwhelmingly favor Republican candidates. Demonstrators also protested the repeal of the state's Racial Justice Act of 2009, which had given prison inmates on death row the ability to challenge their sentences on the basis of racial bias. The visibility and success of Moral Mondays have spread initially to Georgia and South Carolina, and have since extended across the country.

Nuns on the Bus, a project of NETWORK Education Program and founded in 1971 by Catholic sisters, advocates for social justice issues, registers voters, and lobbies legislators on Capitol Hill. Nuns on the Bus has conducted a number of bus tours: the first traveling between Iowa through the Midwest, and terminating in Washington, D.C. in summer 2012 to protest the Republican budget plan devised by conservative Republican Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan. Its next tour in May through June 2013 focused on pushing for a compassionate and equitable comprehensive immigration reform policy traveling to Ellis and Angel Islands - sites of immigration entry.

Progressive individuals, organizations, and faith communities are now coming together to push for a living wage and reduce the enormous gaps in wealth distribution, to register voters and turn back voter suppression policies, work towards equitable and caring comprehensive immigration policies, and advance policies providing quality and affordable education and health care for all. In essence, the coalition is taking back the words associated with the Right as they call on this country to live up to its promise of freedom and justice for all.

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Crossposted from Tikkun Daily by David Harris-Gershon

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.

Indeed, even CCFP's website admits, while hiding behind a veneer of progressive, artistic sensibilities, that its focus is to combat Israel being singled out for critique, as well as boycotts, while highlighting the misdeeds of Palestinians. And this is exactly what the now-infamous NYT advertisement achieved: after an admirable opening sentence, its exclusive focus is to critique Hamas and slander Palestinians as "human shields" while remaining silent about Israel's actions in Gaza. In short: the advertisement's underlying goal is to paint Israel as the victim, and Palestinians as the violent enemy, when those who witnessed the massive death and destruction in Gaza know the truth to be, ehem, more nuanced.

Below is a replica of the letter which appeared in the NYT (click to enlarge):

I wonder if Seth Rogen knows that he was used by a right-wing organization which supports Israel's settlement enterprise and occupation. I wonder if he and other liberal entertainers understand that, rather than promoting "peace and justice," they were instead unwittingly supporting a propaganda program promoted by StandWithUs, which has ties to the Israeli government.

I wonder if they read closely the text of the letter they signed, after the beautiful first sentence, and thought, "Why isn't Israel's transgressions in Gaza mentioned as well?"

Apparently, many did not. Which is why we must. For peace will only come to Israel and Palestine when those obstacles to peace are on full display, not whitewashed by right-wing organizations.

David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, published recently by Oneworld Publications.

Follow him on Twitter @David_EHG.

Crossposted from Tikkun Daily by David Harris-Gershon

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."

Wise's leaning upon the principle of "civility" to justify firing Salaita further inflamed the academic community, particularly given that it was being applied not to his professional performance, where by all account Salaita's collegiality and classroom performance were stellar, but to his outside political opinions.

The Acadame Blog, published by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), immediately responded to Wise's letter with this:

"Wise's grotesque mistake is imagining that one of the rights of an individual is to be protected from the possibility of hearing 'disrespectful' criticism. To the contrary, one of the fundamental rights of individual students is the right to hear dissenting points of views without censorship, and Wise is clearly violating that right of students to hear Salaita teach when she imposes her personal standards of 'civility'on a university."

Soon after, the AAUP wrote directly to Wise, rejecting her "civility" rationale, expressing concern for the state of academic freedom at the University of Illinois and charging it with breaching Salaita's rights by punishing him for Tweets critical of Israel:

"We see Professor Salaita's online statements as extramural activity as a citizen rather than as faculty performance, and the 1940 Statement of Principles cautions that when faculty members 'speak or write as citizens they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline...'"

It's now been revealed by internal email dialogues, via an FOIA request by The News-Gazette, that Wise's decision to fire Salaita came from pressure by pro-Israel donors to the university who threatened to take their money elsewhere if Salaita stepped foot upon the Illinois campus. These revelations have caused Wise to publicly express regret for the decision and send Salaita's hiring to the university board, which will decide the Palestinian-American's fate.

However, while Illinois may be backtracking, other university administrations have suddenly, within the past week, doubled down on the concept of "civility." In strange statements, which can only be seen as preemptive strikes against the Salaitas of the world, a movement is underfoot which threatens academic freedom at American universities.

Calls for "Civility" Spread in Salaita's Wake

On Friday, students and faculty at UC Berkeley received an unsettling email from Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, who wrote:

"[W]e can only exercise our right to free speech insofar as we feel safe and respected in doing so, and this in turn requires that people treat each other with civility."

The letter was roundly criticized, with the word "civility" being seen as a front for censorship and a direct attack on the concept of academic freedom. Some wondered whether Dirks' letter, which closely echoed Wise's "civility" argument, was a direct response to the Salaita case.

Then, on the same day, Pennsylvania State University made a similar, unprompted call for civility, couching it as a plea to the community in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky abuse scandal. However, officials admitted that no specific incident at the university prompted the statement.

"Penn State spokeswoman Lisa Powers said there was no specific incident that triggered the statement. Rather, she said, growing in civility is a national issue, and the leadership of Penn State felt that the beginning of the semester was a good time to begin a conversation on civility and respect."

Since Friday, other university presidents have mentioned "civility" in their opening remarks, forcing academics and observers to wonder whether presidents and chancellors are independently responding to the Salaita case, or whether there is coordination among some university leaders to establish "civility" as a normative academic principle capable of providing cover for firing the likes of Salaita.

At Ohio University, there is no question as to whether a connection exists. What happened there? University President Roderick J. McDavis called upon student senate president Megan Marzec to take the "ice bucket challenge." Which she did, subverting the meme - as other Palestinians have done - by pouring fake blood over her head to call attention to those killed in Gaza.

In response, McDavis wrote,

"I take great pride in the fact that Ohio University is a community that tackles hard issues head-on. The conflict in Israel and Gaza is no exception. But the manner in which we conduct ourselves as we exercise our right to free speech is of utmost importance.

In my First Year Student Convocation address, I emphasized the idea that we are a University family. As members of a University family, we will not always agree, but we should respect one another. And when we engage in difficult dialogue on issues such as this, we must do so with civility and a deep appreciation for the diverse and resilient international community in which we live."

All of these calls for civility, from the University of Illinois to Ohio University, have had one thing in common: the trumpeting of "civility" by university administrations as a prerequisite to free speech.

Of course, such a stance runs counter to academic freedom. Professors and students are not supposed to be punished for their external political views, with protest and dissent being, by definition, both uncivil (in that they challenge comfortable norms) and integral to the free exchange of ideas.

This concept of "civility" is currently being used specifically to attack pro-Palestinian voices. Which means that everyone who holds difficult opinions are under attack. For if Salaita can be punished for Tweeting severe critiques of Israel, anyone can be punished for any political opinion.

David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, published recently by Oneworld Publications.

Follow him on Twitter @David_EHG.

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Crossposted from Tikkun Daily by David Swanson

Editor's Note:Tikkun seeks to present a range of views that you wouldn't hear in the mainstream media, without necessarily endorsing those perspectives. Please remember thatTikkun's own position is articulated only in our editorials.

In my view, the important article by David Swanson that I'm sharing below may be underestimating the venality and murderous nature of the ISIS coalition that he describes. Unlike Hamas and unlike the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, ISIS appears to have genocidal intent toward Christians and Shia Muslims (and possibly also toward Sunnis who don't share their perspective and almost certainly toward Jews).

On the other hand, I know that I don't know who they really are or even what they are really doing. I've read enough lies about previous run-up to wars in the Western media to know not to believe anything I read, but only to consider that the media's account is one possible way of viewing the reality.

I also know that the gruesome accounts of murders committed by ISIS are shocking to a U.S. audience in part because the far greater number of people killed by the U.S. interventions in the Middle East, South East Asia, Central and South America have never been presented in an honest way to the American people. Most of us have not heard the gruesome details or stories of the families that have lost loved ones as a result of U.S. military and CIA actions.

Accounts of how ISIS members used waterboarding on their captives have been told in a way that dramatizes the inhumanity of a tactic that was used on many, many of those held by the United States in Guantanamo and in more secret detention and torture facilities run by or contacted by the United States around the world.

Yet U.S. feelings of rage about waterboarding were never directed at those who perpetrated and those who approved that torture, so people like George W. Bush and former vice president Cheney and the many under them in the chain of command who carried out these outrageous acts have never been brought to trial.

When it's ISIS that commits these abuses, we are encouraged to think of their actions as reasons for war; when it's our U.S. leaders who commit the same abuses, we don't even think it sufficient reason to put them in prison!

On the other hand, my outrage at acts that we in the U.S. have committed does not diminish my outrage at what ISIS is doing, if the media accounts are even partially correct, and my desire to want to stop them before more people are murdered. But how? Not in a way that will have even worse consequences, in the way that the U.S. ouster of Saddam Hussein's (who should have spent the rest of his life in prison) led to the growth of ISIS.

Our inclination always atTikkunis to ask the following question of any group espousing hateful ideas (including haters among Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist fundamentalist movements; followers of secular right-wing or fascist groups; and those who adhere to the ultra-nationalistic, ultra-militaristic tendencies within American and Israeli nationalism, as well as any other kind of nationalism):What are the underlying needs that these movements are speaking to that might be legitimate needs of the people who respond to them? And how do we then develop strategies to separate those legitimate needs from the fascistic, racist, or irrational ways that people seek to meet those needs through these hateful and sometimes violent movements?

These are the questions that I've answered in some detail in my booksThe Politics of Meaning,Spirit Matters, andThe Left Hand of God: Taking Back our Country from the Religious Right. The goal is not to excuse outrageous and murderous acts, but to figure out how to disempower the murderers, whether they be American, Iraqi, Chinese, Russian, Israeli, or from Hamas. The goal is to ensure that their followers don't move on to some other equally terrible movement or murderous sect or religion or nationalism once these particular murderers are gone.

If you read those books you'll see why I'm inclined to think that Swanson is moving in a good direction but lacks some of the psychological and spiritual tools necessary to make his strategy successful. One of those tools is a Global Marshall Plan (please download it attikkun.org/GMPand read the full 32-page brochure). The problem with mentioning the GMP is that people immediately think it's primarily about giving money. But it's not. It is predicated on a strategy of showing respect and genuine caring for the well-being of all people on the planet. This caring would be conveyed partly through money, but more importantly through a fundamental transformation brought about by the Western world in adopting the New Bottom Line laid out in detail attikkun.org/covenant.

Without that approach, the United States will have no tools for dealing with ISIS, and so inevitably the people of this country will fall back onto violence and war making.

"Fine," you may say, "but what are we supposed to do NOW? Don't you realize that these people are a real menace?" That may be true, but the reason it's true is because people always go to that formulation - the one that led us into a war to overthrow Saddam Hussein in the first place without having any idea of what could replace him. Without that alternative, Swanson's point is that we created the preconditions for the rise of ISIS.

So, truth is, I don't know what we should do with ISIS in the short run, except to follow some of the steps that Swanson proposes, other steps that are defined in the Global Marshall Plan and in the Network of Spiritual Progressives' Spiritual Covenant atspiritualprogressives.org, and yet others that I'll propose in a subsequent article within the next few weeks.

While these steps may not be sufficient, I know for sure that taking any other path that doesn'talsoinclude these steps is bound to simply recreate the set of circumstances that have led us into the current mess. The one thing I'm sure about: if some kind of intervention is justified, and I think it may be, it should be genuinely led by the United Nations andnotby the United States. And it should not occur solely at the initiative of the United States.

If the people of the world are ready to take some action, let us follow their leadership rather than intervene alone - U.S. hands are, as they say in law, "dirty hands" and hence not able to provide ethically credible leadership. So please do read Swanson's insightful article. And then please also read David Sylvester'spost on Tikkun Dailywith its call for the Abrahamic religions to lead an international summit of religious forces to develop a response to the increasingly murderous realities we face.

Meanwhile, have a joyous Labor Day 2014! Wouldn't it be great if this year working people used this day off to figure out how to take back control of our country from the super-rich and powerful so that we too could participate in the discussions that the elite have about which wars to drag us into? Maybe next year?

- Rabbi Michael Lerner

(RabbiLerner.tikkun@gmail.com)--- What to Do About ISISby David Swanson

 

Originally published onwarisacrime.org

Start by recognizing where ISIS came from. The U.S. and its junior partners destroyed Iraq, left a sectarian division, poverty, desperation, and an illegitimate government in Baghdad that did not represent Sunnis or other groups. Then the U.S. armed and trained ISIS and allied groups in Syria, while continuing to prop up the Baghdad government, providing Hellfire missiles with which to attack Iraqis in Fallujah and elsewhere.

ISIS has religious adherents but also opportunistic supporters who see it as the force resisting an unwanted rule from Baghdad and who increasingly see it as resisting the United States. It is in possession of U.S. weaponry provided directly to it in Syria and seized from the Iraqi government. At last count by the U.S. government, 79 percent of weapons transferred to Middle Eastern governments come from the United States, not counting transfers to groups like ISIS, and not counting weapons in the possession of the United States.

So, the first thing to do differently going forward: stop bombing nations into ruins, and stop shipping weapons into the area you've left in chaos. Libya is of course another example of the disasters that U.S. wars leave behind them - a war, by the way, with U.S. weapons used on both sides, and a war launched on the pretext of a claim well documented to have been false that Gaddafi was threatening to massacre civilians.

So, here's the next thing to do: be very skeptical of humanitarian claims. The U.S. bombing around Erbil to protect Kurdish and U.S. oil interests was initially justified as bombing to protect people on a mountain. But most of those people on the mountain were in no need of rescue, and that justification has now been set aside, just as Benghazi was. Recall also that Obama was forced to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq when he couldn't get the Iraqi government to give them immunity for crimes they commit. He has now obtained that immunity and back in they go, the crimes preceding them in the form of 500-pound bombs.

While trying to rescue hostages and discovering an empty house, and racing to a mountain to save 30,000 people but finding 3,000 and most of those not wanting to leave, the U.S. claims to know exactly whom the 500-pound bombs are killing. But whomever they are killing, they are generating more enemies, and they are building support for ISIS, not diminishing it. So, now the U.S. finds itself on the opposite side of the war in Syria, so what does it do? Flip sides! Now the great moral imperative is not to bomb Assad but to bomb in defense of Assad, the only consistent point being that "something must be done" and the only conceivable something is to pick some party and bomb it.

But why is that the only conceivable thing to be done? I can think of some others:

1. Apologize for brutalizing the leader of ISIS in Abu Ghraib and to every other prisoner victimized under U.S. occupation.

2. Apologize for destroying the nation of Iraq and to every family there.

3. Begin making restitution by delivering aid (not "military aid" but actual aid, food, medicine) to the entire nation of Iraq.

4. Apologize for role in war in Syria.

5. Begin making restitution by delivering actual aid to Syria.

6. Announce a commitment not to provide weapons to Iraq or Syria or Israel or Jordan or Egypt or Bahrain or any other nation anywhere on earth and to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from foreign territories and seas, including Afghanistan. (The U.S. Coast Guard in the Persian Gulf has clearly forgotten where the coast of the U.S. is!)

7. Announce a commitment to invest heavily in solar, wind, and other green energy and to provide the same to democratic representative governments.

8. Begin providing Iran with free wind and solar technologies -- at much lower cost of course than what it is costing the U.S. and Israel to threaten Iran over a nonexistent nuclear weapons program.

9. End economic sanctions.

10. Send diplomats to Baghdad and Damascus to negotiate aid and to encourage serious reforms.

11. Send journalists, aid workers, peace workers, human shields, and negotiators into crisis zones, understanding that this means risking lives, but fewer lives than further militarization risks.

12. Empower people with agricultural assistance, education, cameras, and internet access.

13. Launch a communications campaign in the United States to replace military recruitment campaigns, focused on building sympathy and desire to serve as critical aid workers, persuading doctors and engineers to volunteer their time to travel to and visit these areas of crisis.

14. Work through the United Nations on all of this.

15. Sign the United States on to the International Criminal Court and voluntarily propose the prosecution of top U.S. officials of this and the preceding regimes for their crimes.

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Crossposted from Tikkun Daily by Valerie Elverton-Dixon

Michael Brown, the African-American young man killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, has been laid to rest. His homegoing celebration was at once a period to his earthly life and the blank space before the next chapter of activism that his family and a variety of communities promise to write.

After peaceful protests, marching in the street, chants of "hands up, don't shoot" and "no justice no peace", after fires, looting, a militarized police force aiming weapons of war on its own citizenry, smoke, tear gas, and national and international news coverage, the question now is: what is next? Some commentators have suggested that President Obama come to Ferguson and give another speech on race. Others have suggested that we as a nation engage in another conversation on race, this time with different contours.

I say, what this country does not need is yet another presidential speech on race. Is there anything new to say? And I am too tired of the conversation on race. I have been having this conversation my entire life, and I am weary of it. I remember watching Martin Luther King, Jr. give his "I Have a Dream" speech at the first March on Washington. I was a little girl watching with my parents. Twenty years later, I was in Washington DC for the anniversary march. In the 1990s, I taught race and racism at Temple University. In the first decade of the 21st century I taught courses on the civil rights movement and on "The Letter from Birmingham Jail." Since the election of President Obama, I have written about race within the context of birther madness, and after the George Zimmerman verdict, I wrote about the myth of the super-physical black man that explains why so many people see the African-American male body as at once less than human and more than human that requires extraordinary force to subdue.

I have made my contribution to that conversation, and I am done with it.

Let us talk instead about cop psychology. What kind of psychological screening must one pass before we hand him or her a badge and a gun and give them the power to administer lethal force in the name of the state? What is the level of education required of police officers? How are they trained? Does this training include diversity and racial sensitivity training? Do they learn to subdue a suspect without illegal choke holds or gun fire? What goes through the mind of an officer when he is beating an unarmed woman by the side of the road, or when he is choking an unarmed man to death while the man says over and over and over again that he cannot breathe? What goes through the minds of the other officers on the scene who are pressing the man's head into the pavement as if the man were not human? What is an officer thinking when he shoots six shots into an unarmed young black man and kills him? What police procedures allow for a body to lie in the streets for hours?

Let us have the conversation about radical humanism. This is the humanism that Malcolm X articulated when he said, "We declare our right on this earth to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary." Let this conversation include what it means to be human and how we lose a portion of it when we fail to respect the human dignity of other human beings. How does the Golden Rule that says, "In everything do unto others as we would have them do unto us" inform and shape our humanity?

Let us talk about class. Let us talk about how a suggestion of white privilege that a global political-economy gives conceals white poverty. When we talk about race, for the most part, we side with our own in-group. It becomes an us against them conversation. We are good. They are evil. The system is neutral. We are blind to the yin and yang of the thing, that there is a little evil in the good in us, and there is a little good in the evil in them. And our social, cultural, political, and economic system is not neutral. It is organized for the benefit of the richest one percent.

White people are still the majority of Americans and are the majority of poor people in this country. The poorest people with the worst education and health care live in red states in the former confederacy. St. Louis County where Ferguson is located is not the poorest county in the state. With some of the poorest counties in the nation, Missouri legislators refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. People who could have health care under the ACA do not. Let us talk about why so many of these poor people vote against their economic interests.

Let us have the conversation about power. Power is everywhere. We all have power. The question is: what kind of power do we have? We have the power of presence, and we have the power of how we move through the world. There is power in our own dignity and self- respect. We have the power of our own artistic presentation to the world, how we dress and decorate our bodies. We have the power of speech and organization and citizenship. This includes voting in local elections - city council, mayor, school board, and judges. We have economic power, how we spend and invest our money. Power is not only top down, but it is also bottom up. This is why President Obama need not fly into Ferguson. The good people of Ferguson will have to summon the "do for self" spirit that has been an important element of African-American culture since the first African set foot on American soil. They will have to implement strategies and tactics for their own liberation that will last long after the celebrities and the cameras have gone onto the next crisis with exciting pictures.

We can end police brutality. We can end the national psychosis that wants to see the Other as less than human and robs us of our own humanity. We can end poverty for all of our citizens. We can exercise our power in organized and concentrated ways. Let us have this conversation.

Valerie Elverton-Dixon is the founder of JustPeaceTheory.com and author of "Just Peace Theory Book One: Spiritual Morality, Radical Love, and the Public Conversation."

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Crossposted from Tikkun Daily by Michael N. Nagler

Some time back in the early fifties the U.S. Navy conducted an "exercise" to test bacterial warfare...in San Francisco! They sprayed bacterial agents into the fog over the Bay to "see what would happen." Sure enough, some people got sick, and one elderly gentleman died. When Norman Cousins, editor of the Saturday Review, discovered this through the Freedom of Information Act he wrote a stinging essay in the magazine.He said, "We are outraged, and we should be; but we have to realize that these are the wages of violence. You cannot authorize a group to go out and defend you with military force and expect that that force will never come home to roost."

This is the lesson we again seem to not to be learning from the violence - all of it, on both sides - unfolding in Ferguson, Missouri. Yes, what Officer Wilson apparently did on the night of August 9th was outrageous, inexcusable. I say "apparently'" because at this time controversy and contradictory reports are still swirling and it may be a while before we know - if we ever do - the truth. But even when we do, and no matter what it is, there is a deeper truth to which the mainstream media will never direct us to, and will, in fact, obscure by their attention to details and particulars of this event as though it occurred in a vacuum. What I'm thinking of here goes even beyond the racial tensions underlying the scenario of the white officer and black victim.

The deeper, uncomfortable truth is, we will never see the end of these confrontations and this violence and this anguish (if you have seen the interviews of Michael Brown's mother you know what I mean) until and unless we realize that we are creating a violent culture and set our faces against it. The militarization of our police force is but one inevitable step in a long process that involves the promotion of violence for "entertainment," violence as the only escape from the unfulfilling, if not hopeless lives that many lead in a materialistic culture, and violence as the means to stem the tide of that violence which is thus created. Once you let the genii of violence out of the jar you cannot order it to attack only this or that person, within this or that guideline.

The only real escape from the wrenching destruction of the social fabric of Ferguson, of the lives of Michael Brown's parents and so many like them, is to turn away from unleashing the influence of violence in the first place. And the only way that I know of to do that, realistically, is to create its alternatives on every level: media that celebrate the spiritual potential of the human being, the wonders of creation, and the innate longing for and capacity for peace in every one of us.

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Crossposted from Tikkun Daily by Warren Blumenfeld

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

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

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

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

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

Since the time white people first forcibly kidnapped, enslaved, and transported Africans across the vast oceans to the Americas, some law enforcement officers as well as civilian white residents of the United States routinely profiled and targeted black and Latino boys and men for harassment, arrest, violence, and murder simply for walking down the street or later driving in cars while being black or Latino.

Black and Latino parents from all walks of life throughout the country engage with their sons in what they refer to as "the talk" once their sons reach the age of 13 or 14 instructing them how to respond calmly if ever confronted by police officers. Parents warn youth that if ever approached by police, walk toward them and never run away, keep hands out of your pockets in plain view, don't raise your voice, always act in a polite manner, and never show anger or use derogatory language. Parents of these young men know full well the stigmata embedded into their sons by a racist society, branding them as criminals and forever signing them onto the endangered species list.

Stigmatized and marginalized groups live with the constant fear of random and unprovoked systematic violence directed against them simply on account of their social identities. The intent of this xenophobic (fear and hatred of anyone of anything seeming "foreign") violence is to harm, humiliate, and destroy the "Other" for the purpose of maintaining hierarchical power dynamics and accompanying privileges of the dominant group over minority groups.

On February 26, 2012, George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch leader in Sanford, Florida, shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Martin was walking on the sidewalk talking on a cell phone to his girlfriend and carrying a can of ice tea and a small bag of Skittles when Zimmerman confronted and shot him, and then he claimed self-defense. By most reports, Martin's "crime" was walking while being black in a predominantly white gated community visiting family and friends. His stigmata included his black skin in tandem with his youth while wearing a "hoody."

In the wake of the killing of Trayvon Martin, 32-year-old Iraqi American Shaima Alawadi appears to have been the victim of a brutal hate-inspired murder in her San Diego home. On March 24, 2012, Alawadi's oldest daughter, Fatima al-Himidi, found Aalwadi "drowning in her own blood," beaten with a tire iron. A note near Alawadi bloodied body read, "Go back to your country, you terrorist."

We witnessed the brutal attacks on Rodney King in Los Angeles, the barbarous slaying of James Byrd, Jr. in Jasper, Texas, the fierce rape and murder of Cherise Iverson, a 7-year-old girl in a Las Vegas casino bathroom, the police chokehold death of 43-year-old Eric Garner, and the recent multiple-bullet police killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown. And these are simply just a few of the most visible examples of this form of stigmatized violence.

We must not and cannot dismiss these incidents as simply the actions of a few individuals or "bad cops," for oppression exists on multiple levels in multiple forms. The killers live in a society that subtly and not-so-subtly promotes intolerance, imposes stigmata, and perpetuates violence. These incidents must be seen as symptoms of larger systemic national problems.

We are living in an environment in which property rights hold precedence over human rights. Metaphorically, oppression operates like a wheel with many spokes. If we work to dismantle only one or a few specific spokes, the wheel will continue to roll over people. Let us, then, also work on dismantling all the many spokes in conquering all the many forms of stigmatized oppression in all their many forms.

In the final analysis, whenever anyone of us is diminished, we are all demeaned, when anyone or any group remains institutionally and socially stigmatized, marginalized, excluded, or disenfranchised, when violence comes down upon any of us, the possibility for authentic community cannot be realized unless and until we become involved, to challenge, to question, and to act in truly transformational ways.

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