Byzantine Intersectionality

Today we are talking about an academic work exploring the Byzantine empire that is an accessible read and incredibly relevant for today. “Byzantine Intersectionality: Sexuality, Gender, & Race in the Middle Ages” by Roland Betancourt is an eye-opening, thought provoking work.

Intersectionality is “the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.” (Oxford Dictionary) It was coined in 1989, but obviously marginalized identities existed before then.

Betancourt utilizes literature, religious texts, and art to examine lives of transgendered monks, sexual consent and the Virgin Mary, slut shaming of society women, race around the Ethiopian Eunuch, and same sex desire in the lives of monks and the story of Doubting Thomas. Medical texts of the time show that late term abortions and sex affirming surgeries were part of the era.

Honestly, this review is not doing the book justice. “Byzantine Intersectionality” by Roland Betancourt is a riveting read that made me view the past differently, and in turn, think more deliberately about our future. I think everyone should read this book.

You can learn more here.

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Pro-Life Evangelical Leaders Publicly Endorse Biden

On October 2nd, prominent pro-life evangelical leaders launched www.prolifeevangelicalsforbiden.com and are inviting other evangelicals to join in signing a public statement. They acknowledge disagreement with Biden on abortion but believe that Biden’s overall agenda is closer to what they call a “biblically balanced agenda” than that of Donald Trump.

Prominent signers include John Huffman, board chair emeritus of Christianity Today, (one of the most prominent evangelical magazines in the country), Richard Foster, author of the best-selling Celebration of Discipline, Jerushah Duford, Billy Graham’s granddaughter and Richard Mouw, president emeritus of Fuller seminary.

The signers are diverse: a Trump voter in 2016; a life-long Republican who refused to vote for Trump or Clinton in 2016; people who never before in their life publicly said how they would vote and never before endorsed a Presidential candidate until this year.

Their statement/petition, featuring some of the signers is as follows:

As pro-life evangelicals, we disagree with Vice President Biden and the Democratic platform on the issue of abortion. But we believe a biblically shaped commitment to the sanctity of human life compels us to a consistent ethic of life that affirms the sanctity of human life from beginning to end.

Many things that good political decisions could change destroy persons created in the image of God and violate the sanctity of human life. Poverty kills millions every year. So does lack of healthcare and smoking. Racism kills. Unless we quickly make major changes, devastating climate change will kill tens of millions. Poverty, lack of accessible health care services, smoking, racism, and climate change are all pro-life issues. As the National Association of Evangelicals’ official public policy document (FOR THE HEALTH OF THE NATION) insists, “Faithful evangelical civic engagement and witness must champion a biblically balanced agenda.“ Therefore we oppose “one issue” political thinking because it lacks biblical balance.

Knowing that the most common reason women give for abortion is the financial difficulty of another child, we appreciate a number of Democratic proposals that would significantly alleviate that financial burden: accessible health services for all citizens, affordable childcare, a minimum wage that lifts workers out of poverty.

For these reasons, we believe that on balance, Joe Biden’s policies are more consistent with the biblically shaped ethic of life than those of Donald Trump. Therefore, even as we continue to urge different policies on abortion, we urge evangelicals to elect Joe Biden as president.

Richard Mouw, President emeritus, Fuller Seminary

Ronald J. Sider, President emeritus, Evangelicals for Social Action

Brenda Salter McNeil, Reconciler, Professor, Pastor

Jerushah Duford, Speaker, author, Billy Graham’s granddaughter

John Huffman, Board Chair emeritus, Christianity Today

Roberta Hestenes, Former President, Eastern University

Claude Alexander, Bishop

Joel C Hunter, Faith community Organizer

Richard J. Foster, Author, Celebration of Discipline, Founder, Renovare

Myron S. Augsburger, President emeritus, Eastern Mennonite University

Ray Bakke, Professor of Global Urban Mission

David Black, President emeritus, Eastern University

Bryant L Myers, Professor, Fuller Seminary

Manfred Brauch, President emeritus, Palmer Theological Seminary

John Perkins, Founder, Christian Community Development Association

You can learn more and join these signers at: www.prolifeevangelicalsforbiden.com

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Think Before You Pink 2020

Every October I highlight the work of Breast Cancer Action and their October “Think Before You Pink” campaign, and this year is no different. After taking on pharmaceutical companies and major manufacturers, Breast Cancer Action is taking on the federal government.

From Breast Cancer Action:

For 30 years, Breast Cancer Action has worked to address and end the breast cancer epidemic. We’ve pushed back on corporations, non-profit organizations, and government agencies that have lowered regulatory standards, undermined safety and efficacy in new treatments, spread misinformation, and empty awareness, and limited access to quality affordable healthcare. We have been doing this work and now it’s time for the administration to step up and do theirs!

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an important time to examine what our public health officials are doing—and failing to do—to prevent and mitigate the devastation that breast cancer causes. The current administration, from the President down to agency leaders, has failed to take on the breast cancer epidemic. We see the far-reaching failures of the administration most notably in these four federal agencies:

The EPA focuses on profit at the expense of environmental and public health; the FDA is not doing enough for patients and consumers; the NCI ignores the environmental causes of breast cancer, and the DOJ intends to invalidate the Affordable Care Act (ACA) through a Supreme Court case that will be heard in November.

The federal government has an essential role in addressing the breast cancer epidemic and protecting women’s health, but instead of implementing real change, the administration implements only “pink policies.”

Pink Policies
Pink policies are political pinkwashing in action. They are policies, or a lack of policies, that fail to protect people living with breast cancer and increase breast cancer risk for all people, especially for women, people of color, and low-income people.

These types of “pink policies” are some the most unabashed and ultimately devastating forms of pinkwashing we’ve ever dealt with, in their far-reaching failures and systemic-level harms.

Join us to call out the administrations failures in leadership in addressing the breast cancer epidemic!

The Environmental Protection Agency
The Environmental Protection Agency favors industry and ignores public health science. It has rolled back nearly 70 critical environmental and public health rules and regulations, with at least 30 more rollbacks in process this year. This blatant disregard for human health knowingly and directly increases women’s exposure to known and suspected carcinogens.

Stay tuned, action launches Monday, October 5th!

The Food and Drug Administration
The Food and Drug Administration allows drugs, devices, and other consumer products to be rushed to market to benefit industry. Consumers, including breast cancer patients, who purchase FDA regulated drugs, devices, and products are misled to believe they are safe.

Stay tuned, action launches Monday, October 12th!

The National Cancer Institute
NCI’s purported mission is to lead, conduct, and support cancer research to advance scientific knowledge and help all people live longer, healthier lives. NCI’s website, accessible to both clinicians and the public, is a go-to resource for cancer prevention, but the agency leaves out critical information on environmental links to breast cancer and instead focuses on risk factors that are immutable, such as aging and family history of the disease.

Stay tuned, action launches Monday, October 19th!

The Department of Justice
The Attorney General is working to invalidate the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in a Supreme Court case that will be heard in November, the impacts of which would be devastating for the 29 million people covered by the ACA, and the nearly 54 million Americans with preexisting conditions, including breast cancer. Instead of attacking our health care system we need leaders who push for ensuring universal access to affordable, high quality healthcare for all.

Stay tuned, action launches Monday, October 26th!

The Pink’d Administration
Breast cancer is a social justice issue and public health crisis that urgently needs to be addressed. We need our leaders to implement policies that will ensure fewer women develop breast cancer and that no community bears a disproportionate burden of diagnosis or death from this disease.

This administration’s aggressive deregulation efforts, lack of oversight, dissemination of misinformation, and efforts to dismantle access to quality and affordable health care exacerbate systemic inequities that are the foundation of American society. The administration’s paternalistic leadership reinforces systemic racism and gender oppression by putting forth policies that are especially dangerous for low-income women and women of color. These communities are already facing disproportionately less protection from toxic exposures, less support from healthcare systems, and less assurance that their breast cancer treatments will be effective.

The time to step up and take breast cancer seriously is long overdue! Take action and tell the administration that we need policies that support public health, not industry interests, anti-science approaches, and corporate profits.

Take Action: Tell the Leaders of this Administration We Can’t Be Pink’d! We need leaders, policies, and regulations that put women living with and at risk of breast cancer first. Join us in demanding our leaders stop minimizing the harsh realities of breast cancer, sidelining science, and reinforcing health inequities!

Learn more and take action here!

Banned Books Week 2020

As we all know, 2020 has been a dumpster fire. We are essentially a nation on the brink. I was expecting some sort of aggressive, war footing for this year’s annual Banned Books Week. Freedom of thought and expression is vital in times like these. However, we’re getting a relatively bland, kind of dorky theme. That said, don’t let it dissuade you from observing and participating in, this important annual event!

Banned Books Week is an event celebrating the freedom to read. Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores, and libraries. Typically held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community — librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types — in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.

Banned Books Week 2020 is from September 27 – October 3. The theme of this year’s event is “Censorship is a dead end. Find your freedom to read!”

By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship. The American Librarian Association Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) compiles lists of challenged books as reported in the media and submitted by librarians and teachers across the country. The Top 10 Challenged Books of 2019 are:

(clicking on the book images will take you to IndieBound, which supports independent bookstores throughout the United States. If you use these links to purchase a book, I will make a small commission at no additional cost to you.)

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George by Alex Gino
Reasons: challenged, banned, restricted, and hidden to avoid controversy; for LGBTQIA+ content and a transgender character; because schools and libraries should not “put books in a child’s hand that require discussion”; for sexual references; and for conflicting with a religious viewpoint and “traditional family structure”

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org
Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin
Reasons: challenged for LGBTQIA+ content, for “its effect on any young people who would read it,” and for concerns that it was sexually explicit and biased

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org
Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss, illustrated by EG Keller
Reasons: Challenged and vandalized for LGBTQIA+ content and political viewpoints, for concerns that it is “designed to pollute the morals of its readers,” and for not including a content warning

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Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

Sex is a Funny Word by Cory Silverberg, illustrated by Fiona Smyth
Reasons: Challenged, banned, and relocated for LGBTQIA+ content; for discussing gender identity and sex education; and for concerns that the title and illustrations were “inappropriate”

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Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

Prince & Knight by Daniel Haack, illustrated by Stevie Lewis
Reasons: Challenged and restricted for featuring a gay marriage and LGBTQIA+ content; for being “a deliberate attempt to indoctrinate young children” with the potential to cause confusion, curiosity, and gender dysphoria; and for conflicting with a religious viewpoint

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org
Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas
Reasons: Challenged and relocated for LGBTQIA+ content, for a transgender character, and for confronting a topic that is “sensitive, controversial, and politically charged”

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org
Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity and for “vulgarity and sexual overtones”

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Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

Drama written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier
Reasons: Challenged for LGBTQIA+ content and for concerns that it goes against “family values/morals”

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org
Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
Reasons: Banned and forbidden from discussion for referring to magic and witchcraft, for containing actual curses and spells, and for characters that use “nefarious means” to attain goals

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Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson illustrated by Henry Cole
Reason: Challenged and relocated for LGBTQIA+ content


You can learn more about this event and the work they do here.

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The Satanic Temple’s Reproductive Rights Campaign

Press release from The Satanic Temple

The Satanic Temple (TST) has announced that its religious abortions during the first trimester are exempt from state regulations that hinder access to pregnancy termination services and serve no medical purpose. TST has expressed concerns about the opportunity for its members to perform certain voluntary religious practices, specifically its abortion ritual. Currently, those seeking to terminate a pregnancy around the country may be required to endure unnecessary waiting periods, mandatory counseling, unwanted sonograms, and may be given unscientific reading materials that are designed to elicit shame and sway their decision.

TST argues that these requirements, as well as other legal obligations, are not medically necessary, and insists that Satanists are exempt from these regulations if they undergo first-trimester abortions in accordance with TST’s religious ritual. The satanic abortion ritual involves the recitation of TST’s Third and Fifth Tenets, which celebrate bodily autonomy and the adherence to best scientific practices, along with a personal affirmation that is ceremoniously intertwined with the abortion.

TST bases its assertions of abortion mandate exemptions on the protections provided by State Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRA), which generally prohibits the government from substantially interfering with a person’s free exercise of religion. This law was famously affirmed in the 2014 Hobby Lobby case, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, 573 U.S. 682 (2014). Hobby Lobby successfully argued that it did not have to cover the costs of certain contraceptives for their female employees despite being mandated to do so under the Affordable Care Act because its owners held a religious belief that the contraceptives were abortifacients.

TST’s reproductive rights spokesperson, Jane Essex, notes, “Many states have laws that interfere with our members’ ability to practice their religious beliefs. No Christian would accept a mandatory waiting period before they can partake in Communion. No Christian would tolerate a law that insists state counseling is necessary before someone can be baptized. Our members are justly entitled to religious liberty in order to practice our rituals as well.”

Essex adds, “The law is clearly on our side. If RFRA states do not want to recognize our rights, they will ultimately have to claim that our abortions are not satanic. Given that many people fanatically insist that all abortions are satanic, the states’ argument will be very unpopular. Not only will those who deny Satanists their religious freedom be denounced by defenders of liberty, but they will also be detested by those who demonize abortion. Hopefully, states will do the right thing and respect our legal rights.”

These kinds of hijinks that highlight hypocrisy are common of The Satanic Temple. They are probably best known for their work in attempting to get their statue of Baphomet displayed in states that erect monuments of Ten Commandments at court houses (in violation of the separation of church and state). This kind of declaration is all well and good, but it is when a member of the Temple tries to invoke it that the rubber meets the road.

About The Satanic Temple:
The mission of The Satanic Temple is to encourage benevolence and empathy among all people, reject tyrannical authority, advocate for practical common sense and justice, and be directed by the human conscience to undertake noble pursuits guided by the individual will. For more information on The Satanic Temple, visit https://thesatanictemple.com/.

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Docu-mania!

Have you been spending more time at home? Well, you should be, there IS a pandemic going on after all. I should be using this time to accomplish loads of things, but honestly, I’m not. Sure, some people are learning new skills, or getting shape, but there is nothing wrong with just maintaining. That’s pretty much what I do…. maintain.

An odd, but welcome development is that I have been all about watching documentaries. In a world of limitless new entertainment content, for some reason I have settled on this. I have been watching loads of them, from various streaming services. In case you have been looking for a diversion from your usual entertainment I thought I would highlight the tons of documentaries I have been watching.

Remastered: Devil at the Crossroad (Netflix)
Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil to become the greatest bluesmen to ever live. This fantastic documentary dives into the life, death, and legend of Robert Johnson, who was one of the greatest bluesmen to ever live.

Kathy Griffin: A Hell of Story (Amazon Prime)
I have ALWAYS loved Kathy Griffin, and this “docu-comedy” just makes me love her even more. Follow the fallout from the publication of the infamous photograph of her holding Trump’s severed head and into her comeback. All of it culminates with a fantastic stand up special that is not to be missed!

Bill Nye: Science Guy (Netflix)
An intriguing look behind the scenes of Bill Nye’s life. It covers his roots as the “Science Guy” to his strong second act of becoming the public face of science in the climate change debate. What’s nice about this documentary is that it shows Nye as a human being, prone to ego and fear as well as a kind-hearted proponent of science.

Tickled (Hulu)
This documentary begins with the directors attempting to make a film about the world of “competitive endurance tickling”. Believe it or not, it gets jaw droppingly weirder from there. Welcome to the unintentional conspiracy film you never knew you needed.

The Brink (Hulu)
This film follows Steve Bannon from getting booted from Donald Trump’s administration through his attempt to create an international super group of nationalist world leaders, and the United States mid-term elections. It is presented judgement free, but trust me, you will judge him.

Get Me Roger Stone (Netflix)
Some people love to be the villain, and Roger Stone is one of them. This neutrally presented documentary will leave your jaw on the ground…. or else you might not have a soul.

Struggle: The Life and Lost Art of Szukalski (Netflix)
A genius sculptor, the underground comix scene, Nazis, redemption, the nature of language, and more are to be found in this riveting documentary. Hands down an amazing story. It is hard to encapsulate, you will just need to trust me when I say, watch it.

Have you seen any of these? If you have, or watch some of them, leave me on comment on The Magical Buffet’s social media letting me know what you though!

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Grab Your Wallet

Are you frustrated? Angry? Feeling helpless? I know I am. As an individual, I wield extremely limited political power, and as an average American I have more debt than available funds to spend for political influence. That’s why, shortly after Donald Trump was elected, I started following the Grab Your Wallet campaign.

Given that in our country corporations are people, these corporations basically power everything that happens in the United States. Our laws, our regulations, and our elected officials are insanely influenced by what these “people” want. As you might suspect, what corporations want is to make money, as much as possible. What Grab Your Wallet does is keep a real-time, publicly accessible list suggesting companies to boycott until certain specified actions are taken to get removed from the list. That’s right fellow flat broke friends, you can make a difference by joining others in NOT SPENDING MONEY!

To learn more about the Grab Your Wallet Alliance, I encourage you to visit their website. I went to reacquaint myself with where I shouldn’t be spending money and had a few shocks. Let’s just say my makeup and skincare dollars will be getting spent in a different way for the foreseeable future. Here’s a glimpse at some of what I found.

Estee Lauder (and its subsidiaries: Aerin Beauty, Aramis, Aveda, Becca, Bobbi Brown, Bumble and Bumble, Clinique, Darphin, DKNY, Donna Karan, Dr. Jart, Estee Lauder, GlamGlow, Jo Malone, La Mer, Lab Series, La Labo, MAC, Michael Kors, Origins, Rodin olio lusso, Smashbox, Tom Ford Beauty, Too Faced): In 2017 Ron Lauder who sits on Estee Lauder’s board gave $100,000 to Trump Victory in 2017. Grab Your Wallet until they fire Ron Lauder and state that remaining EL execs do not have plans to contribute to any of Trump’s reelection-related efforts, including inauguration celebrations, should he win a 2nd term. Statement can also say “any presidential candidate.” Should it fail to make such a stmt., company will earn a permanent spot on the #GrabYourWallet list.

Louis Vitton (and other LVMH brands: Guerlain, Acqua Di Parma, Parfums Christian Dior, Givenchy Parfums, Benefit Cosmetics, Make Up For Ever, Fresh, KVD Vegan Beauty, Fenty Beauty, Cha Ling, Marc Jacobs Beauty, Ole Henriksen, Bite Beauty, and Kendo Brands…..also, Sephora!!!!!): French businessman and chairman of LVMH—Bernard Arnault—did a photo op with the Trump administration at a Louis Vuitton workshop in Texas. Grab Your Wallet until LVMH issue a statement indicating LVMH regrets the decision to participate in a photo opp w/ the Trump administration & will refrain from participating in photo opps with political candidates / politicians for the remainder of the 2020 election cycle.

Muy! Companies (which owns KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut): Muy! Companies CEO James Bodenstedt has donated more than $400,000 to Trump reelection efforts. Muy! is the franchiser of hundreds of Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and Wendy’s locations across the United States. Grab Your Wallet until they fire Muy! CEO James Bodenstedt.

Wendy’s: The billionaire chairman of Wendy’s, Nelson Peltz, held a $10 million dollar fundraiser for Trump in February. Grab Your Wallet until, given that Wendy’s Chairman of the Board has already participated significantly in Trump’s reelection efforts, the only way for Wendy’s to get off the boycott list is for any top executive who has assisted and/or donated to Trump to no longer be involved w/ the company.

Wegman’s: They carry Trump wine. Grab Your Wallet until they stop carrying Trump brand goods.

You can find the full, up to date list here. They also provide guidance as to how to reach out to this companies to respectfully express displeasure, and a point of contact for any suggestions of other companies that should go on the list.

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The Vanishing Trial

Do you have Netflix? I do, and lately I have been ALL about the courts. I watched “Trial by Media” followed by “How to Fix a Drug Scandal.” (Both were excellent and eye-opening.) So, my pump was primed when a publicist asked if I was interested in reading “The Vanishing Trial: The Era of Courtroom Performances & the Perils of its Passing” by Robert Katzberg.

At its heart, “The Vanishing Trial” is about Robert Katzberg’s life and times as a law student, clerk, federal prosecutor, and ultimately, a defense attorney for those accused of white-collar crimes. However, in telling his story, we learn a lot of the nuts and bolts of being an attorney, particularly a defense attorney. A cast of colorful characters populate “The Vanishing Trial” because we learn that a trial lawyer is not only intelligent, but also a showman. Katzberg’s recollections reveal the strengths, and flaws, in the federal legal system. It is a fast, fun read.

However, “The Vanishing Trial” ends with a serious discussion on the diminishing of cases going to trial in the United States. Federal sentencing guidelines can create unreasonable sentences due to a formula outside of a judge’s control. This leads to defense attorneys, regardless of how strong of a case they have, advising their clients to cooperate and/or accept plea deals for a guaranteed reduced sentence. Pleading guilty can decrease the sentencing as well. While there has been little change on the State level, this is creating a vacuum of defense experience on the Federal level. Overall, the domain of the State courts and Federal courts are two different universes.

Forget legal thrillers, “The Vanishing Trial” by Robert Katzberg is better version. Just as entertaining, and for better or worse, real.

Learn more here.

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Wearing a Mask is Unmanly….

….and Other Reasons Female World Leaders are Doing a Better Job Beating Coronavirus

By Marian E. Lindberg

What do countries such as New Zealand, Germany, and Taiwan have in common? Aside from having successfully reduced cases of COVID-19, all three have female leaders.

The connection has drawn attention, and is no coincidence. Not simply because these countries’ leaders are women, but because as women they do not carry the baggage that can prevent male leaders such as Donald Trump from taking science-based measures such as setting and respecting national standards for wearing masks. That is, concerns about their manliness.

Current rhetoric in political circles is rife with undertones of manliness. When Jeff Sessions decided to recuse himself from the Russia investigation, Trump disparaged him as “very weak” and not “being a man.” He refers to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer as “that woman from Michigan.” Amid the wave of protests triggered by the death of George Floyd, he has pushed for governors to “get tough,” telling them, “most of you are weak.”

Trump takes us back to an earlier era when accusations of unmanliness in politics were less coded. . In the late 1890’s, when President William McKinley sought to avoid war with Spain over its brutal treatment of Cubans, Theodore Roosevelt, then a Navy bureaucrat, accused McKinley of having “no more backbone than a chocolate éclair.” Jingoist newspapers agreed, calling McKinley a “goody-goody man”—or no man at all. The New York Journal published a cartoon depicting McKinley as an elderly woman pushing a broom against the will of Congress and “The People,” represented as menacing ocean waves. The caption read “Another Old Woman Tries to Sweep Back the Sea.”

Roosevelt and other hawks declared that war against Spain would strengthen American men, who had become too “soft” in their view. If men were stronger, the argument went, women would give up their quest for the vote and focus on being wives and mothers, satisfied that the nation was in good, manly hands. As sociologist Michael Kimmel has written, “The story of America [is] a story of proving and testing manhood.”

In the face of the threats we are confronting today, including a pandemic and climate change, it is important to remember that even in the 1890s a large number of men did not support a martial definition of manliness.

Senator David Hill of New York, for example, asserted that whether to fight Spain was not “simply a question as to whether we were brave enough people to enter upon the experiment.” As historian Kristin Hoganson writes, Hill “and like-minded leaders regarded the Cuban issue not as a crusade but as a policy issue to be settled by sober statements and foreign policy authorities. In effect, they contended that the kind of manhood that should govern foreign policy debate was…that of the dispassionate, educated expert, someone who exercised restraint and sober judgment.”

That sounds a lot like the debates over how to respond to Covid-19: medical expertise and the virtues of compassion and restraint versus assertions of individual “freedom” to do as one pleases. And rhetoric around the pandemic is as rife with undertones of manliness (or lack thereof) as our political rhetoric overall. Just look at the signs on highways entering Manhattan that read “Cover Your Face in Public. We are New York Tough.” And at President Trump’s constant scoffing when asked why he doesn’t wear a mask—which he has said would make [him] look ridiculous for prioritizing health over business. How unmanly.

When it comes to Covid-19, unlike manliness, different approaches can be measured objectively by numbers of cases and deaths. By that measure, heads of state in places such as New Zealand, Germany, and Taiwan who imposed isolation measures early and relied on medical experts to inform their policies clearly saved lives. Free from concerns of manliness, they responded to a major problem dispassionately, based on “sober judgment” and without regard to bravado.

It can take more strength to tell people not to act than to encourage their aggressiveness. The leaders who imposed swift quarantines showed such strength. The adverse economic impacts of curbing movement and commerce were easy to anticipate, but the upside was not clear: what if the quarantines did not prove effective in reducing virus transmission and death?

Today, few officials would argue that a course of action is right because it is “manly.” A statement such as “I want American manhood asserted” (Sen. William M. Stewart, R, Nev., speaking in 1897) would be considered as retrograde in 2020 as “men working” signs.

But concerns with manliness persist just below the surface. When Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said he was willing to die to save the economy, that echoed men such as Stewart and Roosevelt. Faced with an enemy unbeatable through physical force, Patrick turned to dying for his country as a supposedly heroic option.

Yet Covid-19 teaches that strength is not the same as physical power, nor is strength male or female. Those who insist on characterizing Covid-19 as an enemy in a war must accept that in this war, the men and women who made us stand back may have shown the strength we most need.

About Marian E. Lindberg:
Getting to the truth has been the constant in Marian E. Lindberg’s career, first as a
journalist, then as a lawyer, environmentalist, and author. Her new book, Scandal on Plum Island: A Commander Becomes the Accused (East End Press) is the product of extensive research into a 1914 trial and reveals the origins of homophobia as a federal policy.

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Multi-Faith Coalition Defends Rights of Atheist

Yesterday I received a press release that I thought I should share. An interesting case of a multi-faith coalition coming together to defend the rights of an atheist.

From Muslim Advocates:

Muslim Advocates, joined by 15 other faith-based organizations from diverse religious backgrounds, filed a brief on Monday, in support of an atheist who was required to live in a Christian halfway house as a condition of his parole. After he refused to attend religious services, he was kicked out of the halfway house and arrested for violating his parole—leading him to file a lawsuit, Janny v. Gamez. Unfortunately, a district court ruled against him, claiming no violations of his religious rights occurred because he was merely required to attend the services, not participate in them. The plaintiff is represented on appeal by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the ACLU of Colorado, and the law firm DLA Piper.

Muslim Advocates’ brief argues that the district court’s ruling misapplied religious freedom law. By claiming that merely attending a religious service was not a religious event, the court ignored the fact that attending religious services is a deeply meaningful religious act for a number of different faith traditions. Further, the Constitution and U.S. law protect not only against forced participation in religious exercise, but also against being forced to listen to religious proselytization. The brief also emphasizes that the district court’s misapplication of the law would be especially harmful to religious minorities, because they are more likely to end up at a halfway house that does not share their faith.

“Parole officers cannot force anyone to attend religious services in order to stay out of prison,” says Matthew Callahan, staff attorney at Muslim Advocates. “The laws of the United States require that the government respect an individual’s personal religious beliefs. The Tenth Circuit must act to overturn the district court’s dangerous interpretation of the law and ensure that no one else is sent behind bars merely for following the dictates of their faith.”

Along with Muslim Advocates, the brief was signed by the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Disciples of Christ, the Global Justice Institute, the Hindu American Foundation, Interfaith Alliance Foundation, Men of Reform Judaism, the National Council of Churches, Reconstructing Judaism, Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, Sikh American Legal Defense Fund, Union of Reform Judaism, Unitarian Universalist Association, Women of Reform Judaism, and Wyoming Interfaith Network.

You can read the filing here. It’s a worthwhile read.

About Muslim Advocates:
Muslim Advocates is a national civil rights organization working in the courts, in the halls of power and in communities to halt bigotry in its tracks. We ensure that American Muslims have a seat at the table with expert representation so that all Americans may live free from hate and discrimination.

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