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America’s Journey To The Promise Land

 

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

 

May Day Speech

 

Thank you for having me. I’m honored to stand here before you this evening, a member of the Resistance to the many injustices that are unfolding right in front of our eyes all across the country.

But make no mistake…racism, sexism, bigotry, homophobia, police brutality that largely impact people of color, and all other forms of discrimination isn’t necessarily getting worse.

It‘s getting filmed. It’s not hard to surmise that our humanity is at stake. We are living through an all-out war on decency, truth and reason. But, we must remain hopeful.

Let me take you back for a moment…

African Americans, free and enslaved, have been part of U.S. history from the start of European settlement. Their forced labor under bondage, pain and suffering, created an economic boom that propelled us to become the most powerful nation in the world. Slaves drove this country’s economy. From the tobacco, rice and cotton fields… black people built this country under the cracks of whips, and enduring some of the most brutal conditions inflicted by white people. Slaves even built the White House that now stands as a symbol of our Unity, Strength, and a Beacon of Hope for the rest of the world.

And yet, here we are, almost 400 hundred years later, still struggling to bring about racial justice and equality for all Americans. The recent opening of the Lynching Memorial is a stark reminder of the collective pain and harsh existence of black people in America. But, like those in the struggle before us, we must remain hopeful.  I share this historical account with you because for us as Americans,  a diverse people, to truly come together and overcome like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. envisioned, we must first recognize the pain and suffering of black people in this country. Other minority and disenfranchised groups have suffered as well, but none have borne the brunt of this country’s brutality than African Americans.

America has to face the ugly truth of race relations in our country. And racism isn’t a Waffle House problem. It’s not a Starbucks problem. It’s not a Cracker Barrel problem. It’s an American problem.   Dr. King said, “Peace is not simply the absence of conflict, but the existence of justice for all people.” In the midst of all the media uproar surrounding the White House Press Secretary’s hurt feelings about her eye shadow made of lies, I want to tell you about iconic Journalist Simeon Booker who brought the 1955 murder of Emmett Till to the forefront of national news. He was born during segregation.

The year before his birth in 1918, thousands of African Americans marched in silence down New York’s Fifth Avenue to protest lynching and racial oppression. The group was met with counter protests and riots by white people. These riots, attacking innocent black people, swept across the country and lasted until 1921. These are historical facts. Simeon Booker was born into a hostile world.  And yet he grew up to become a pioneering journalist, author and chronicler of the Civil Rights Movement. His life is a testament to the strength and resolve we must all hold on to, as we continue the work toward creating a more just country and world for all of us. Especially now, when those in power want us to believe that; wrong is right, lies are alternative facts, war is peace and slavery is freedom.

The media plays a big role in our collective culture and humanity. The media has a responsibility to project the real Man in the mirror.

Because Truth Matters. Chronicling the truth like Anne Frank and speaking truth to power matters. James Baldwin said, “The image of America we grown up with looks ideal in movies and pictures … for white people.” Unfortunately, the portrayal of black Americans is not only false, but morally damaging and demeaning to the people that helped built this country through the brutal practice of slave labor.

So, we have to show up and truthfully capture the story of our struggle like Simeon Booker did.

We have to show up and be counted in this struggle, forever securing a place in history like Dr. King did.

We have to show up and demand change like Malcom X did.

We have to show up and use the power of love like Ghandi did.

We have to show up and fight for each other, despite our differences, like JFK and Bobby Kennedy did.

We have to show up like the South Koreans did, united on common goals, when they took to the streets in mass numbers to demand change.

And, we have to show up like Comedian Michelle Wolf did at the White House Correspondence Dinner when she spoke the truth about all the lies coming from this administration and shining a light on the Media that benefits from it all.

It’s going to take all of us. Good people from all walks of life, all over the country, to bring about the change we’ve been after for too many years; racial and economic justice.

We can no longer afford to find comfort on the sidelines of history by not participating in the greatest democracy ever known to man. When the Speaker of the House callously fires the House Chaplain for preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, reminding those in power of the benefits of social and economic equality and looking after those less fortunate, as they cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans … Folks, you know we’re in trouble.

James Baldwin said, “Ignorance allied with Power is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.”

So, we have to show up like Baldwin did.

Simply minding your own business, keeping you head down and your mouth shut can no longer be an option. Not when the days of Hitler and McCarthyism are once again upon us like a bad reoccurring nightmare.

We have to collectively combat all forms of hate.

That’s why we protest like Colin Kaepernick.

The journey has been long and hard, but we must remain hopeful and inspired because there’s no turning back to the “Make America Great Again” days this administration is aiming for. Instead, let’s aim for the America Langston Hughes talks about in his poem; Let America Be America Again, “The land that never has been yet—And yet must be—the land where every man is free.”

It’s time to break through.

We cannot overlook the urgency of this moment because our country needs healing. We need fairness and, we need justice. How ironic and perhaps spiritual, that to overcome our struggles, is to reach back to the days of Sitting Bull, guided by the 12 Lakota Virtues:

  • Humility
  • Perseverance
  • Respect
  • Honor
  • Love
  • Sacrifice
  • Truth
  • Compassion
  • Bravery
  • Fortitude
  • Generosity and Wisdom

…To finally bring about lasting peace to all corners of America. From the Valleys, Mountain tops and all across the Plains of our beautiful country. Dr. King said, “Let Freedom Ring … For There will be neither rest or tranquility in America until that happens.”

 

 

 

 

Utica Students Will Be Counted In The March For Our Lives This Weekend

 

 

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

 

On March 24, the kids and families of March For Our Lives will take to the streets to demand that their lives and safety become a priority, and that we end gun violence in our schools and communities. Here in Utica, NY, students are heeding the national call to action. Many of them will be marching from Proctor High School to Oneida Square on Saturday. The march kicks-off at Noon.

 

March for Our Lives is a demonstration created and organized by #NeverAgain, a group of students who survived the February 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Every town for Gun Safety, a gun control advocacy group, is helping the students plan and coordinate the event. Organizers are calling on lawmakers to address the issue of gun violence in American schools by implementing comprehensive gun control legislation.

 

 

March for Our Lives has three primary demands:

  • Pass a law to ban the assault weapons frequently used to carry out mass shootings
  • Stop the sale of high-capacity magazines, restricting the amount of ammunition
  • Close loopholes in America’s background checks and implement laws that require background checks on every gun purchase, including those that occur online or at gun shows

For more information about this national event, click here.

 

Op-Ed: The Reality Of Arming Teachers

 

Editor’s Note: Sandro Sehic, PhD is a Writer and adjunct Professor based in New York. Sehic’s writings cover an array of current events and topics that lead to national debates. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. He can be reached at: sandrosehicphd.com.

 

 

In response to the recent mass shooting that occurred at a high school in Parkland Florida, numerous ideas about preventing further mass shootings have emerged and came from many different individuals, groups, and organizations. Mass shootings are officially a top political issue. There is not a single day that goes buy without a shooting in America. And they have become very deadly. Sometimes victims are numbered in dozens and unfortunately they include the most innocent members of our society; school children. The members of our society who need to be protected the most are left alone with their teachers at the mercy of well armed mass shooters. This is not acceptable and cannot be tolerated any longer. Parkland, Sandy Hook, Columbine, are some of the bloody places where dozens of young innocent lives were lost. And now we are the ones who should be blamed. We adults have failed to protect our children. A father whose daughter was killed in Parkland, recently stated that we protect embassies, airports, concerts but we don’t protect our schools. He also stated that mass shootings could happen only once and not anymore. One school shooting should change everything. After Columbine we should change the laws that would prevent mass shooters from committing these horrible crimes.

Similar to what we did after the 9/11 terror attacks. After 9/11 we changed the laws, increased security at the airports, created Department of Homeland Security, and destroyed the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, and a similar attack has thankfully not happened again. Now we have to do the same thing to prevent further mass shootings especially in our schools attacking our children. Some political figures, including the President of the United States, proposed legislation that would allow teachers to carry guns inside the schools. They claim that teachers would be able to take down mass shooters and defend children. I’m a teacher working in public schools since 2007. I do not have my own children (yet). But I know that many of us have fatherly/motherly feelings towards all children that we work with. Our paychecks are extremely low but we do not hesitate to use our own money to buy lunches and food for those children who cannot afford it, we do not hesitate to use our own money to buy school equipment for those children who cannot afford it. And we can’t even claim those expenses on our taxes and most of us don’t complain about it. And in case of mass shootings, teachers are the ones who use their own bodies to shield students. In the case of fire alarms or lock-downs we’re the last ones who leave the building. Not because we have to but because it’s instinctive. It’s a teacher’s natural reaction to want to help, protect and safe lives. Even so, it seems we are at the cross road where teachers have to choose if they’re willing to secure and protect children with guns. That said, this is what lawmakers will have to know about us teachers and these guns.

  • What type of guns are we going to carry? It seems that mass shooters are using semiautomatic guns such as AR-15s. That’s a very powerful weapon. So, a pistol will most likely not be enough to stop a mass shooter with a semiautomatic gun. Just take a look at the police officers who had to apprehend a mass shooter with a pistol. A pistol against an AR-15 is like a butter knife against a sword. Therefore, you better provide teachers with powerful guns; guns that will make us equal or stronger than the mass shooters. In addition, we’ll need bulletproof equipment.
  • Teachers will need combat training. Yes, that’s right. We’ll need combat training, and not just a regular handgun safety training course. In the case of a mass shooting, teachers will have to take their guns and go out to the hallways and hunt down the shooter or shooters, (Columbine). Schools are like labyrinths full of hallways, rooms, corners, floors, stairs, etc. We’ll be in a similar situation as the NAVY Seals or Green Berates when hunting a terrorist. Also, we’ll have to be able to recognize a shooter and an innocent bystander. This is crucial because the goal is to protect the students that look like the typical school shooter(s). In essence, teachers will have to be trained like Special Forces. And the training has to be extensive because teachers will have to develop their new skills to be warriors with excellent marksmanship skills.
  • SWAT teams will have to be able to recognize the difference between teachers with guns and the mass shooter(s). As a teacher mandated to carry one of these supposed guns, I don’t want to be killed by the SWAT team when they arrive.
  • During a shooting, what happens with the students whose teachers had to pull out their guns and go after the shooter(s)? Are they left alone in the classroom?
  • Most teachers in elementary schools are females and I’ve learned that most of them hate guns and are afraid of them. So, then the question becomes; Do we want a female teacher to go after a mass shooter with an AR-15?
  • As far as the extensive combat training is concerned; will that be something that will be provided by the local school districts, or will that be a requirement of the institutions that educate future teachers?
  • Many times, students have turned against teachers. What are we going to do if the student tries to take the gun away from the teacher?
    These are some of the many important questions on this proposed option. I have personally interviewed 14 teachers from Upstate New York. Interestingly, only one of them said that she would be willing to carry a gun in school. Others seemed to be horrified by the idea. During my student-teaching seminar back in 2007 my mentor told us about political candidates from Wisconsin proposing laws to mandate teachers are armed in their classrooms. We laughed at the idea. But now, it may very well become our new reality. When school districts across the country are consistently complaining about low budgets, where will the money come from for the expensive guns and the expensive combat training? Guns aren’t cheap and neither is the training that will certainly be required for every American teacher. However, one thing that I find interesting is the fact that politicians who make such proposals don’t consult with teachers and educators; those who work in schools and educate children and know the situation first hand.

 

Blackboard and hand making a sign with pointed finger

If they would ask me, this is what I would suggest:

  • I strongly believe that each school needs armed police officers that will protect schools in addition to regular security guards. That’s something that we can have without additional costs. The local government, the state, and even police departments can assign officers to guard their schools.
  • Each school will need “a security room” that will monitor hallways through cameras, answer calls from the teachers who need security assistance, and contact the local law enforcement agencies, ambulance, and fire departments in case of an emergency. This simple security system is used in many supermarkets, malls and other public institutions but not in public schools. The personnel and the equipment necessary for this security strategy/system are already available in most, if not all schools, but we just have to organize it better.
  • Each public school must have designated entrances that will consist of two doors. First door will allow visitors to step into the secured area with a metal detector and the second door will allow visitors to enter the school once they go through the metal detector. These days, people can just simply knock at any door on the school building and someone will open it and let them in. This will have to change in the future. This is something that can easily be done.
  • The first-floor windows will have to be barricaded so that no one can get in, but can get out in the case of fire.
  • Lockdown procedures are available in most schools. Children and staff usually go through those drills at the beginning of each school year. Now, what’s missing in these procedures is parent involvement. In some cases, and this is what I’ve experienced firsthand, is that some children refuse to cooperate in the case of lock-down procedures by purposely making noise and trying to attract the shooter. Yes, some children do not know how serious it is and therefore the parents should instruct their children on how to behave in case of a lock-down.

These are my expert recommendations as a teacher with a PhD in Education. I welcome your thoughts and suggestions.

 

Utica Women’s March Unveiled The Spirit Of A Forgotten City

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

 

Utica Women’s March brought out some incredible people fed up with the current administration’s un-American policies, rhetoric and posturing. More than one hundred marchers took to the streets chanting, “This is what democracy looks like” and many more civil rights chants and songs. With support from Utica Police Department and Chief Mark Williams, folks were able to march in the streets from the new YWCA building on 310 Rutgers Street to City Hall.

Kids and adults of all age ranges came out to support the cause of the march; a global movement to empower women and to stand up against racial injustice, discrimination, inequality and policies that aim to control a women’s body and basic human rights. This year’s focus was voter registration.

The march was spearheaded by Citizen Action of New York and a long list of sponsors and supporters including ePluribus: America. It was an honor to be one of the speakers of this event.

 

 

 

 

Resistance 2018: Women’s March In Utica

 

BY JEN DEWEERTH

 

Greetings Resisters and Progressive Activists,

Almost one year ago, many of us traveled to Washington, Boston, Syracuse or Seneca Falls, and many of stayed and rallied here in Utica.  From that point on, our shared desire to Resist the Trump-Tenney agenda and to fight for human rights, justice and dignity for all led to huddles, the creation and growth of Indivisible Mohawk Valley (originally Forward Mohawk Valley), and widespread volunteering for local Democratic committees, non-profits such as the Refugee Center, and other local resistance groups in Camden, (CAAM), Madison County, and elsewhere.
The Utica Women’s March, is going to take those efforts to a whole new level.  The organizing committee led by CNY Citizen Action convened earlier this week and brought together many resistance, labor, faith, and community groups.  Like the 2017 Women’s March in DC, this one has women of color at the forefront.  The goal of the Utica Women’s March on Jan. 20 is to mark the anniversary of the Resistance movement and build community and solidarity as we head into 2018.
We need many volunteers to make this event successful.
Week before the event:
  • help paint banners and make signs
  • pass out flyers around Utica
  • provide transportation to and front event for those who have no transport
  • drive people who are unable to walk the route
  • walk around event with clipboards and get people to sign in
  • act as marshals for crowd control and safety
  • help clean up after the event
Whether or not you can be at the event on the 20th, can you help us with the Utica Women’s March?  Please let me know what you are able to do. I will put you on the respective volunteer list, and a volunteer coordinator will call you about that job. 
Also, please don’t forget the very important Indivisible Mohawk Valley meeting we have this Sunday, 2-5 pm at Schuyler Commons (1776 Independence Square, Utica).  We will hear more about the Precinct Program, which is how IMV is going to help win the 2018 congressional election by electing Anthony Brindisi to replace @OneTermTenney.  We will be signing up for the roles, and getting organized with next steps.  We will hear more about Citizen Action and also the Puerto Rican families arriving in Utica and how we can help them (a collection will be taken).  
I am so excited to see how far we have come in the past year, and also where we are headed in our work together for social, economic, and racial justice, women’s rights, immigrant right, and human rights.  We are determined to change the public narrative in our own community, influence our elected representatives, and elect representatives who share our values around justice and human rights.  
See you this Sunday, Jan. 14 at the IMV meeting, and on Saturday, Jan. 20 at the Utica Women’s March!
Breathe, then push!
Contact & Additional Information:
Jen DeWeerth
Always check out the calendars at indivisiblemv.com and cnycia.org

*Friday, January 12th @ 3:30pm-4:30pm @ 555 French Rd, New Hartford — Weekly picket outside of Tenney’s office. Bring your signs!

*Sunday, January 14th @ 2-5pm @ Schuyler Commons, 1776 Independence Square, Utica — IMV monthly meeting. Agenda includes: guest speaker Kristina Andreotta about CNY Citizen Action; Sonia Martinez (MVLA update on what we can do for families arriving from Puerto Rico), precinct program; 2017 election data results; and, strategizing timeline for 2018 victories. 2-2:30pm is social time!

*Tuesday, January 16th @ 6pm @ Waterville Public Library — Waterville’s Women in Action grassroots group meeting. Come learn about the grassroots precinct program and strategize how to build progressive support in the southern towns in Oneida county. 

*Friday, January 19th @ 3:30pm @ 555 French Rd, New Hartford — Weekly picket outside of Tenney’s office. Bring your signs!

*Saturday, January 20th, 10:30 am-1:00 pm @ 7 Rutger Place (YWCA) is the starting point, and the destination is City Hall, Utica Women’s March. Marks the anniversary of the birth of the Resistance movement, build community and solidarity as head into   We need MANY volunteers before, during and after.

 

*Wednesday, January 24th @10am-3:30pm @ First Presbyterian Church of Little Falls,  Social Justice with Politically Diverse Communities Workshop.  Great opportunity to learn about state and federal budget issues related to poverty and homelessness. Sign up HERE.

*Friday, January 26th, @ 3:30pm @ 555 French Rd, New Hartford — Weekly picket outside of Tenney’s office. Bring your signs!

Saturday, February 24th, SAVE THE DATE for CNY Citizen Action fundraiser at Wakely’s On Varick.  “Turn Up the HEAT: Citizen Action Kickoff Party for Justice.”

Op-ed: Embracing A Culture That Cherishes Traditional American Values

 

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed are solely of the writer. Warren Smith received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at BYU, a doctorate in technology strategy from the Harvard Business School and currently owns JETS: Japanese-English Technology Services in Durham, New Hampshire. He wrote this piece for the Deserter News. 

 

 

While I agree wholeheartedly with Dr. John Armstrong that we must find a kind of patriotism that permits goodwill toward all people, I worry that this op-ed misses the point entirely about what “nationalism” is and is not (“Patriotism vs. nationalism in a Mormon context,” Oct. 10).

While Latter-day Saint teachings caution us against “nationalism” in terms of narrow-minded and ignorant tribalism, which is nothing more than an “us-versus-them” high school rivalry on an international level, it would be equally wrong to ignore the realities of America’s exceptional contribution to the world in terms of systems and technologies that have lifted untold millions (billions?) from literal starvation and abject poverty into relative well-being, and wrong to ignore the fact that the American impact on the world has been a reflection of our historic “American culture” where “culture” is defined as a predominant set of shared values and not superficial cultural markers such as tastes in food and entertainment, etc.

Space does not permit me to define the key aspects of the historical “American culture,” but it is what has enabled America to feed the world, create industry and infrastructure in nations around the globe, and to become by far the world’s largest humanitarian contributor as well.

It must be noted that even the oft-condemned American pseudo-Colonialism has resulted in the creation of infrastructures and systems that set the foundation for the success of many countries in post-Colonial independence, and this has been ultimately a blessing for the very countries that some would argue have been “exploited” by the American system.

Is it toxic “nationalism” to believe that America has (had?) a culture that is superior to most, or perhaps all, other cultures? Before that question can be answered, we must first ask whether it is possible for one culture to be better than another. The easiest way to address this is to ask if there such a thing as a “sick culture.” The answer is a resounding “yes.” The most cursory reading of scripture shows how cultures — not “races” or “nations” — can go through cultural changes that bring misery, where repentance — as a society — brings joy.

Much closer to home, any sociologist who dares can point to subcultures — and I do not mean races or classes — that are statistically characterized by chronic poverty, disregard for education, willing dependency on public assistance, rejection of parental responsibilities, involvement in crime (with concomitant incarceration), embracing of an exploitive drug culture, hatred of law-enforcement, perceived victimhood, vilification of others, and the like. Clearly, such a self-reinforcing set of values is a “sick culture.”

I am not arguing that a traditional Fourth of July celebration is in any way superior to, say, a French Bastille Day celebration, nor that hamburgers are superior to dim sum. On the contrary, these are merely superficial preferences. But there is a set of values that have defined, traditionally, the “American culture,” a set of values that is under extreme attack at present — values such as preferring liberty over security, embracing traditional virtues, belief in the market system, taking responsibility for one’s self and responsibility to care for friends and neighbors personally and not leaving it to the government, commitment to family values, freedom to succeed or fail, etc.

While, of course, in some form or other these values are found in other countries and cultures as well, if a rejection of “nationalism” somehow maps to a rejection of the traditional American culture — and value system — and, perhaps more to the point, of the responsibility that America has borne for the last 70 years in leading the world in lifting people out of hunger and poverty through being a beacon of industry, democracy, and free market competition, then this rejection is a decidedly bad thing.

While I completely agree that any definition of “nationalism” that involves hatred or dehumanizing of individuals of other nations or cultures is fundamentally wrong, I wholeheartedly embrace the view of “nationalism” (which is rightly called “patriotism”) that cherishes the American culture, acknowledges the unique role America has played – and must continue to play – as a force for good in world history. It would be tragic to abandon this “nationalism,” or patriotism, just because there are also some individuals (such as in Charlottesville) who embrace “nationalism” out of hatred or ignorance.

The bottom line is, despite the existence of hateful and ignorant people, for those people who can rise above petty enmity, embracing positive “nationalism” is a decidedly good thing, and I call upon all Americans to defend the values that have made this country great, and invite all people, American or not, to share in our traditional American values.

 

Op-Ed: The Ugly Truth About The Alabama Senate Race

 

Editor’s Note: David Farhat, Jr. is an Attorney based in New York. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own.

 

 

 

I’m annoyed at the narrative being promoted regarding the Alabama senate election. Yes, I’m always annoyed. This ridiculous idea of a turning tide or America returning to morality or a victory for the Democrats is just a downright lie. The real story coming out of this and the presidential election is the fact that white people overwhelmingly voted for unqualified, morally bankrupt, mentally unhinged candidates because of racism. Make no mistake, the only logical reason to vote for Trump or Moore is racism. Furthermore, the numbers bear this out. You remove the non-white vote and both these people win by a landslide.

 


Also, the “victory” in Alabama had nothing to do with the Democrats. They were, quite literally, the lesser of two evils. Black people in Alabama went out to the poles in numbers because they realized that their white neighbors were so racist that they would elect a man that allegedly abuses little white girls before they elected a black sympathizer. Make no mistake; that is the difference between Democrat and Republican for those voters.

 

 

What drove Black people to the poles was sheer terror; Terror that hasn’t gone away because the reality hasn’t changed because Moore lost. The Democrats benefited from that terror and have done nothing to get rid of it. Why would they? They benefit from it. What other base do they have?! Remember this when you get the argument that there are more issues than race come 2018. The evidence says otherwise.

 

Lastly, I don’t care who you are regardless of race, politics, etc. if you are celebrating what happened in Alabama, I send you a strong condemnation because what you are celebrating is a desperate act of a terrified population. Ain’t no “we’s” down there. Those people came out to try to save themselves and we do them a great disservice by not taking that seriously.

 

 

 

Postmodernity Sex Education: The Silver Lining In America’s Culture of Sexual Oppression

 

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

 

The three most consistent sources of sex education come from peers, family and media. That’s according to Historian, Author and Professor Jonathan Zimmerman who teaches Education and History at the University of Pennsylvania. “Everybody gets a sex education; all 7 billion people in the world. And, they get it from the day they’re born,” Zimmerman says, adding that survey’s of young people all over the world not only back up these findings, but they also have consistently shown that school based sex education is a very small part of it. “Only some people get sex education in school.”

When it comes to school-based sex education, America can easily claim credit for shaping a modern and global perspective of Man’s sexual behavior. Despite the different beliefs and cultural norms held across the globe, America pioneered mass schooling during the Progressive Era and introduced school-based sex education. Zimmerman says the reason was pretty simple, “In the early 20th century there were more adolescence going to secondary school in the United States than there were in any other country in the world by far. And, because sex education is—here and around the world—mostly taught to adolescence for obvious reasons, it does make a certain kind of stance; that the United States would be the pioneer of that subject.”

 

 

Where did progressive America go wrong in teaching healthy sexual behavior?

Majority of Americans wanted their kids to be taught sex education in schools despite objections from the church. Unquestionably a revolutionary move; but have the lessons been effective in light of the numerous accounts of sexual misconduct being reported? Theologians like, R. Albert Mohler, Jr., assert that America’s Christian origin shaped our moral views. In a May 2016 broadcast of Thinking In Public, Mohler says, “As it turns out, many of the controversies in the beginning of the sex education movement are questions that continue to this day. And I would argue, they’re inevitable because if you’re going to talk about sex education and if you’re going to talk about young people in the schools, you’re going to have to talk about what will be taught and how that will be morally presented or if it’s to be presented morally at all, at least in terms of any traditional morality.” In light of the long list of powerful men—many in the clergy—who stand accused of sexual harassment, assault and even rape, it’s clear our morality alone won’t stop the rampant abuse that’s being exposed. It would make sense for schools to face these controversies and move to include modern lessons on preventing sex abuse and harassment.

Zimmerman says two main reasons stand in the way of teaching sexual standards in America; our diversity and the why behind school-based sex education.  “There are 14,000 school districts in the United States and because we’re an incredibly diverse country, obviously there’s going to be enormous variation among the school districts in the messages and the content regarding sex, so it’s dangerous to generalize across them.” He goes on to say that most sex education in America across time has been oriented at preventing negative outcomes. “Specifically, unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases,” he says.

Zimmerman says although the primary focus and motivation of sex education was centered on preventing two negative outcomes—pregnancy and STD’s—a new national consensus is coming to light. “I think it’s fair to say that we’re reaching a new consensus in this country about sexual harassment itself as a negative outcome and it will be interesting to see if schools take that on.” He adds that a fast majority of schools do not use sex education to teach about the dangers of sexual harassment. “I would like them to and I regard that we use these events, starting with Harvey Weinstein as kind of the ultimate teachable moment. And, I would urge schools of every kind to take it on but I would also be a little bit wary about that happening because let’s remember that because sex and sexuality touches on our most fundamental conceptions of ourselves as human beings, there’s going to be enormous descent about it by definition. And creating a consensus around sex, the kind you need to have consistent messages in schools, is a very heavy lift.”

It’s hard to comprehend in 2017 that it’s crucial to teach young people about sexual harassment. But when the phrase “Grab them by the pussy” becomes political fodder used against the President of the United States, it’s not hard to see the need. And rightfully so, because Trump owns these words recklessly spewed on a hot Mic. The hypocrisy of our views and habits on sexuality is not just flagrant, it’s telling. Telling of a historical fact; sexual oppression has operated comfortably on the radar of main stream society. The revelation that Weinstein and those of his ilk were well known sexual predators amongst their peers, friends and family validates the allegation that sex abuse is still a protected and secret form of oppression. And it doesn’t just impact women. Similar to racism, sexual harassment is the other pink elephant in the room no one dares to call out for fear of retribution and shame. It’s an uncomfortable truth, even when a parade of women, and some men, join the #MeToo movement to show solidarity and to call attention to the problem.

 

Sex Education In The Era Of Eugenics

Race had a profound impact on sex education in the country. The modern eugenics movement out of England at the time, spearheaded by Sir Francis Galton, spread across Europe and many other countries, including the U.S. Eugenics—a principle of selective human breeding now seen as a violation of human rights—was widely accepted as the science to producing better human beings, and validated like Anthropology, Sociology and even Economics. “They were all born at the same time, often created by the same people,” Zimmerman says. Adding that the stronger argument for sex education at the time was a response to outbreaks of sexually transmitted diseases in popular cities like Chicago and New York. “Middle class men visiting prostitutes has always been a major conduit of STDs. And, they were going home and infecting their wives. And these were white people. This was a disaster and it created what was called the Race Panic or Race Suicide,” Zimmerman says. Further explaining the rationale he says, “If minorities are infecting each other and reducing their fertility, which is what STDs always threaten, this is not a bad thing…it could even be a good thing. But, if whites are doing it, it’s a form of what Teddy Roosevelt called Race Suicide.” He says the consistent goal of preventing STDs during the birth of sex education was deeply affected by race because the aim was to protect white people from infertility caused by sexually transmitted diseases. “There were already worries that white people were making fewer babies and this could make it worse.”

In Europe the remedy for preventing venereal diseases came through the legal realm like regulating prostitution, while the U.S. created an educational solution. Zimmerman says, “There were international conventions where the Americans were asked to explain the educational remedy because now it was distinct to Americans.” He says the Europeans didn’t get into the game until the mid 20th Century.

Could The U.S. Institute A Singular Form Of Sex Ed?  

“It can’t and it won’t,” Zimmerman says. Even though it’s a legitimate goal he adds, “I think the Unites States is frankly too diverse to make that happen. Within that goal there’s a certain set of assumptions not shared by lots of Americans including recent additions to the United States.”  First, he explains, Americans would have to accept that young people are sexual beings and allow schools to teach sexual development, individual sexuality, sexual pleasure and sexual harassment. “But I think the United States is too diverse for that. The globe is too diverse for that. There are 7 billion people on earth. How many of them believe that an 11 year old is a sexual being? We have sexual desires and sexual identity. I don’t know the answer to that, but my strong guess is a minority.” He says as more and more people and ideas move around the globe, it becomes hard for a school district that has lots of different voices, including newcomers from other countries, to create a consensus around that idea.

Sex and sexuality is a complicated understanding of humanity itself. For example, we don’t even have consensus on female genital mutilation, (FGM) and child marriages. “If we did, FGM and child marriages would not exist.” Zimmerman says it’s only been a quarter of a century since we’ve had dialogue on the subject of sexual harassment, and created a legal frame work to address it thanks to feminist activists and pioneering women like Catharine MacKinnon and Gloria Steinem.

The silver lining of the Weinstein phenomenon can either exhibit how backwards and sexist America is, or it can show us taking a lead in the world again, similar to pioneering mass schooling and sex education in schools. And that depends on how we remedy the problem across racial and cultural lines, and working towards forming a consensus about the evils of sexual harassment. This opportunity to further change our misogynistic culture may very well spur the next sexual revolution. One that takes a page from Sweden, a country with low STDs and teen pregnancy numbers that, according to Zimmerman, was the first to mandate nation-wide sex education in their schools. He says Sweden’s goals were to help each individual develop and discover their own sexuality. “It was much more individuated, it’s much more positive than the American goals which were about social outcomes and indeed preventing negative social outcomes.”

 

 

History, Hollywood And The Mad Men Era  

Even with push back from feminists driven movements, Americans still harbor a troubling fascination with sex and sexuality that continues to feed the institution of gender inequality, and exploiting women as inferior members of our society. But it’s not unique to America says Zimmerman, adding, “We see forms of sexual harassment all around the world that replicate the same male dominance, and that makes it difficult to explain what is essentially a global phenomenon by invoking a particular nationalistic history.”

The late historian, playwright and social activist Howard Zinn does invoke this nationalistic history in A People’s History Of The United States 1492 – Present, writing, “It is possible, reading standard histories, to forget half the population of the country. The explorers were men, the landholders and merchants men, the political leaders men, the military figures men. The very invisibility of women, the overlooking of women, is a sign of their submerged status. In this invisibility they were something like black slaves (and thus slave women faced a double oppression).”

American women, albeit mostly black women, have long lived under an oppressive social structure that includes being intimately oppressed. Zinn writes, “The conditions under which white settlers came to America created various situations for women. Where the first settlers consisted almost entirely of men, women were imported as sex slaves, child bearers [and] companions.” Powerful men mistreating women shouldn’t shock our morality. Sexual oppression is part of our history as a people. The roots of it reach all the way back to the Pilgrims and our slave-owning forefathers.

Nevertheless, the most powerful and influential Sex Ed teacher in modernity is the media. During the Progressive Era Zimmerman explains that schools were being tasked to compensate for the negative images spawned by the media and Hollywood. “You had figures like Greta Garbo and Rudy Valentino and they were expressing themselves sexually and all kinds of open ways and basically there was a huge amount of concern and people said this is why we need Sex Ed in schools to create a counter to those kinds of messages. And in some ways it’s always been a fool’s errand because the media message is so much more powerful,” Zimmerman says.

Shows like Mad Men set in the 1960s where misogyny plays an essential part, normalize what we now easily define as sexual oppression and harassment. In a 2010 The Atlantic article; Mad Men’s Very Modern Sexism Problem, Sady Doyle writes, “We see sexist jokes, chronic philandering, and office parties in which executives tackle secretaries in order to see what color their panties are.” Doyle continues, “To be fair, Mad Men doesn’t hesitate to show the ugly side of these attitudes; they’re not glamorized in quite the same way as, say, drinking Scotch five times a day. But the show also affords viewers an illusion of moral superiority. We’re encouraged to shake our heads at these men and their outdated attitudes, but by presenting discrimination as a shocking feature of a past era, Mad Men lets us imagine that it’s just one more of those things that We Don’t Do Any More.”

In the era of smart phones young people have greater access to these sexually explicit images and messages, despite an attempt to portray them as outdated. “Kids are in front of screens more than they are in schools. And you can find reasons to begrudge that, but you can’t deny it. It’s a fact. And, it will continue,” Zimmerman says. He adds that the most promising initiatives in Sex Ed are the ones that try to harness the power of technology to reach young people, especially those vulnerable to sexual risks. From the very beginning schools have had to compensate for what families don’t do. All the same, parents are still the primary sex educators.

 

 

Dear Al Franken: An Open Letter

Editor’s Note: Brian Hill is an Archaeologist and Anthropologist based in California. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own.

 

Al Franken;

 

You have really let us down!  Many of us thought you could be the next President, the person who could be trusted, a man whom we could respect, who put the interests of the people, all people, Republicans, women, and everyone else before self interests.  But you have been just another example of what is wrong with our world today.

 

Maybe, just maybe, you could overcome this failure by taking the lead in being very open with us, the citizens, your family and your groping colleagues by being totally open, contrite, humble, and by undergoing therapy, which also should be made public, about why you abused women, how you personally felt when you did it, and how you will practice overcoming man’s abuse of women.  In this way you could be a leader, a badly needed solution for our times instead just another sad male failure.

 

Until women can trust men again chaos will rule.

 

Brian Hill

Archaeologist and Cultural Anthropologist

 

 

 

 

 

 

Las Vegas Massacre Is A Wake Up Call For Reasonable Gun Control In America

BY JEANETTE LENOIR

 

If the latest mass shooting in Las Vegas has shaken you to your core, you must have just crawled from under a comfortable rock. Because, mass shootings are becoming as emblematical of America as apple pie, racism, obesity, the glorification of sex and just plain ol’ bad behavior; burying the eloquent hopeful words inscribed in our Constitution, the Bill of Rights and even on the Statue of Liberty, meant to capture our ideals as a people.

To understand our culture one simply needs to look at the things we value and worship like the golden statues described in the Bible right before God rains down terror from the sky on the frolicking heathens below. We’re so deeply conflicted as a people; we contradict ourselves every chance we get. We go to war in the name of democracy, while engaging in the same oppressive deeds that we supposedly abhorre. We pretend to value those who fight for our country—even using Veterans, our Military and Law Enforcement as an excuse to attack a peaceful protest by Colin Kaepernick to end police brutality and social injustice in America—but live comfortably knowing that Veterans are suffering a great injustice at the hands of their own government when they return home from war. We claim to have the greatest power on earth but yet are powerless to enact real change in our culture and society. The “big, big ocean water” surrounding Puerto Rico kept our President from acting swiftly to help the devastated island hit by Hurricane Maria, but he threatens to annihilate “Rocket Man” with all our American might. We claim to want to “Safe the Planet” but are one of the worst polluters and violators of Mother Earth. The list of contradictions goes on and on.

We hold a Bible in one hand, an automatic rifle in the other, a bottle of whiskey under one armpit, a naked woman in a headlock in the other, all while standing on a pile of broken black and brown bodies. Oh, and a photo of a sex symbol—naked with exaggerated lips, breasts and butt—on a stained t-shirt with the confederate flag on it. To complete the image of a typical main stream media American today, picture this person wearing short shorts, cowboy boots decorated with the American flag with spikes at the heel. The word; ‘Merica!’ is prominently featured on the back of the confederate flag t-shirt. Of course, there’s more to an American than what I just described. However, this is the demographic making the most noise since the election of former President Obama and now President Trump, as most decent-minded Americans that fit the description of all kinds of people, (the melting pot) are either hiding their head in shame or taking to the streets to protest the confederacy of dunces we are all witnessing.

 

 

We claim to hold the highest ground of morality and the blueprint of democracy despite the reality on the ground even Stevie Wonder can see. And, if one dares to point out the blaring truth that is plain as day, prepare to be met with gnashed teeth, foaming at the mouth, red blooded “real Americans” with tiki torches yelling; “FAKE NEWS! SNOW FLAKE! NOTHING BURGER!” When the president of the United States brags about walking on to NY’s 5th Avenue, shooting someone dead and getting away with it, what do Americans expect from the average Joe or Jane? Many gun lovers and 2nd Amendment fanatics still excuse this comment as political fodder, refusing to see the significance of it as our cultural norm when it comes to our attitudes about guns.

You’ll hear the argument; it takes a good guy with a gun to stop a bad guy with a gun. Other than the police, where were the good guys with guns to stop the Las Vegas shooter? Instagram celebrity and gun fanatic Dan Bilzerian was there. He fled. Not to grab his weapons, but to safe his own rear-end. He didn’t live up to his Instagram muscles to stop the shooter with the stockpile of high-powered weapons he loves to show off on social media. What a tough guy, (Insert eye-roll here), until it’s time to actually be that good guy with a gun to stop the bad guy with a gun. On his show on Fox News, Sean Hannity stuck to this strategy too saying, “This guy’s got a machine gun, OK. How are they going to take him on without a weapon? Or, if it’s happening within a crowd, if you’re in San Bernardino, do you want Sean Hannity who’s trained in the safety and use of a firearm in that room when they drop the clip, and they start to reload, you got a shot, you got a chance?” Of course, if life was being played out on a Hollywood movie set where we can have multiple takes and do-overs, Hannity and Bilzerian would be heroes! But, this is real life. 59 people were indiscriminately murdered by a madman who purchased his powerful weapons legally. He exercised his rights as an American to arm himself to the teeth. And, as white privilege in America goes, and according to some Fox News talking heads, we can’t hate him, label him a terrorist or talk about gun control.  Not yet, at least.

Unless you’re in an active shooting situation, you can’t know what you’ll do or how you’ll react. So, why not make it harder, and in some cases impossible, for people to get their hands on these high-powered weapons? What’s the real harm in waiting weeks for a full background and mental health check, instead of days, before handing over such lethal power? Who knows, maybe a zombie apocalypse or another revolution is eminent! Many point to mental illness as an excuse for this latest tragedy however, other countries like Australia, Britain and Canada have citizens with mental illness too and these countries were able to reduce gun violence by enacting strict gun laws. Why can’t America follow suit? It’s apparent, we need policy solutions, but unfortunately there is no movement on the federal level to enact tougher gun laws; just the opposite. As a matter of fact, House Majority Leader Paul Ryan was ready to bring a bill up for a vote that would have loosened access to gun silencers. But, in the wake of the massacre, they shelved it; for now.

 

 

And, earlier this year, President Trump reversed an Obama era law that kept the mentally ill from getting guns. H.J. Res 40 passed the House and Senate, and nullifies the, “Implementation of the ‘NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007’ rule finalized by the Social Security Administration on December 19, 2016. The rule implements a plan to provide to the National Instant Criminal History Background Check System the name of an individual who meets certain criteria, including that benefit payments are made through a representative payee because the individual is determined to be mentally incapable of managing them.”

Why stricter gun laws aren’t more tantalizing to leaders at the policy level has to do with fear and money. Fear of not just losing the right to bear arms as stated in the 2nd Amendment, but fear of losing all the money being poured into political campaigns by the powerful National Rifle Association, (NRA). Despite evidence showing stronger reasonable gun policies are warranted, it seems that any kind of gun policy is perceived as an attack on the 2nd Amendment. Most Americans would support reasonable restrictions on guns, especially semi-automatic rifles like the ones used in the Las Vegas massacre, but the NRA will say background checks, even for the mentally ill, is one step to taking our guns away. Fear is a clear motivator but so is money and profit. Mass shooting incidents boosts the NRA’s profit margin. Gun sales increase every time there’s a mass shooting incident, (or the election of a black president.) It’s clear that the NRA uses fear, not data, to galvanize its base. And, unfortunately, opinions and fear outweigh the statistics and research on gun control and violence in America. How ironic that the crowd at Route 91 Harvest, a 3-day Country Music Festival, sang America the Beautiful an hour before the shooting.