Tuesday, June 12, 2012

United States of Fear

"And of course, the approach [to build] a multicultural [society] and to live side-by-side and to enjoy each other... has failed, utterly failed."
 -Angela Merkel, German Chancellor

"Rape and incest was used as a reason to oppose this. I would hope that when a woman goes into a physician, with a rape issue, that that physician will indeed ask her about perhaps her marriage, was this pregnancy caused by normal relations in a marriage, or was it truly caused by a rape." 
            -Chuck Winder, Idaho State Senate  Assistant Majority Leader

"That's what we're talking about whenever you're talking about gay rights. You're talking about giving somebody a gun to put at the head of anybody who disagrees with them, whether it's the Boy Scouts, whether it's a local dry-cleaning establishment or a giant corporation like Shell Oil." 
            -Robert Knight, Family Research Council

"[Gypsies] are nomads and nobody can do anything about them...they will bring their horses into the flats and there any attempt to civilize them ends...we should build special camps and keep them outside our cities."
           -Traian Bäsescu, Romanian President (Then Mayor of Bucharest)

   In 2008 when President Barack Obama was inaugurated, the world watched in hope that it would usher in a shining new era from what many saw as the draconian Bush years.  This reverberated so strongly that in 2009, President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize "for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples."  
      Much of the world saw him almost as a messiah figure whom to pin their belief that things were in fact, going to get better.  However like most idols, he could not live up to the herculean mission the world had placed on him.  In fact, his rise to the presidency coincided with the largest spike in the number of hate groups in memory and issues of racism, thought by much of white America to be a relic of the past, exploded to the surface.  This blog post is not intended to be a discussion about race politics in the US (hopefully that will be a discussion later on), but a commentary on the continental shifts in the US and around the globe that have occurred (and continue) since January of 2009.  
  Following on the heels of the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the housing crisis that we are all familiar with (some more intimately than others) began the worst global economic disaster since the market went belly up in 1929. Unlike previous regional problems like the collapse of several Latin American economys in the 1980's and the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990's; this was truly an economic pandemic.  Parts of the developing world recovered much quicker than the rest. The economic engine driving China, Brazil, and India barely slowed as they plowed through the recession.  In the developed world, especially the US and Europe, the recession may "officially" be over,but the  economic situation has continued to deteriorate.  Austerity measures in Greece have disenfranchised many jobless in the country and has yet to turn the Greek economy out of the red. In fact, talks about the Greek departure from the Eurozone is becoming more common in the European political arena.  Even Spain, the Eurozone's 4th biggest economy finally requested up to €100 billion to bail out of its banking sector.  The latest job figures in the United States show that only 69,000 jobs were created in May 2012 while unemployment rose to 8.2% nationally. 
  As the economic crisis deepens in many parts of the world, other social problems such as poverty, hunger, homelessness, debt, amongst others have been exacerbated.  Social discontent, while a permanent fixture on one level or another throughout history, has exploded throughout the world fueled by social media and easy access to information, with the "Arab Spring" as the most notable.   
  Underpinning this discontent is a layer of fear and anxiety about what the future may bring.  Interest in the "End Times" has reappeared in its current form through the ancient Mayan calendar and prophesies and television shows such as Ancient Aliens, the Universe, Ancient Discoveries, etc. have provided viewers with information about this event.  In fact, social media continues to have an impact through film (2012, Prometheus), television (Doomsday Preppers), books and articles (Post-American World, Third World America), and news outlets. 
  Unfortunately, when people become afraid, they'll turn to anyone who promises a solution.  Too often, the solutions include blaming "the other" for the losses that have been felt.  In France, members of the  Roma community were "repatriated" to Romania due to what officials called a "decent and humane" decision to move the individuals out of poor living conditions.  However, many in France accused then President Nicolas Sarkozy of pandering to the far right in his country as many believe that the nomadic Roma brought crime to the country with them when their countries of origin joined the Schengen Zone.  Also in France, as well as much of Europe, Islamophobia and antisemitism have launched new agenda's within the far right to curb immigration and as retribution against the actions of the State of Israel.  Violence against these groups are not uncommon. 
  In late May 2012, the FBI's hate biased crimes report showed that hate crimes have risen in the last year.  This has been true especially in the LGBT community where recent reports show that while probably under reported, this community is victimized 6 times the overall rate for the year of all groups.  Ministers in churches all over the country have advocated for the slaughter of gays as well and often ascribe the social ills of the country to the growing acceptance of the gay community.
  Within the last legislative session, women's reproductive rights have been increasingly restricted in many states across the US and throughout the world.  Initiatives to ban funding for organizations such as Planned Parenthood that provide abortion services have been attempted both on the federal and on state levels.  While the bulk of services that this organization provides are information, referral, family planning, rape crisis intervention, breast cancer screenings,etc., many on the right have used this state of fear to it's advantage to attack these services based on the small percentage of abortions provided each year. 
  As the ambitions of the far right continue to capitalize on the growing anxiety of the masses, social workers must continue to think critically about social problems and address them in a manner that is fact based and remain opposed to scapegoating of any population.  Even when we philosophically disagree with an individual or group we must remember that no one person nor a portion of a group can speak for the whole. 
  It will be interesting to see the dialogue as the US elections heat up toward November.  The first LDS front runner candidate against the first African American incumbent.  Two groups that have been historically marginalized in the US and who even have a divisive history amongst themselves.  As social workers we should remain on the forefront of issues facing the populations that we serve and respond promptly to any and all hate motivated speech targeted toward either candidate due to their minority status. 
Have you seen or read about anything related to this article? 
Please post your thoughts in the comment section. 
While all opinions are welcome. In order to create a safe space for dialogue, hate speech is not and will be removed.


  1. Here in the U.S. some other examples of intolerance are the passing of the 'Shariah bill' to ban Islamic law in Kansas and the increase in vigilante justice along the Mexican border. Also the Southern Poverty Law Center has reported a rise in white supremacy hate groups and antigovernment “Patriot” groups. The SPLC reported that the number of “Patriot” group grew 824 in 2010 to 1,274 last year.

    On the positive side, President Obama by executive order…

    The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) added gender identity to the equal employment opportunity policy governing all federal jobs

    The Department of State revised the standards for changing a gender marker on a passport without surgery, making the process less burdensome for transgender people

    He signed the Byrd-Shepard hate crimes bill

    He signed the U.N. Declaration on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

    He appointed the first transgender DNC member, Diego Sanchez

    He conceived a National Resource Center for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender
    Elders, funded by a three-year HHS grant to SAGE

    The Social Security Administration stopped it's no-match letter policy (They were sending out to employers a letter if the gender of the employee did not match what was on file at the SSA)

    He banned job discrimination based on gender identity throughout the federal government

    HUD issued housing nondiscrimination regulations (includes SO and gender)
    (Source the Huffington Post)

    He also signed an order to allow partners in same sex relationships to be able to visit their partners in the hospital.

    He refused to defend the lawsuit against DOMA.

    He had a “Pride” celebration at the White House last June.

  2. Well, you tell me. As a developmentally disabled adult (however mildly), I live in terror every day.

    Social workers-- you are the gatekeepers, and the people I most fear. Social workers, doctors, therapists, and teachers-- to you, I must prove my fitness, my functioning, my basic humanity day after day after day. No amount of proof is ever enough-- every day, I must prove it again. I must not stumble or falter or fail-- I must be perfect every day, for a single misstep is evidence of my unfitness.

    You are the ones with the power to take a single look at my diagnosis-- Asperger syndrome-- and decide that, however well my family may be functioning (never perfectly, but generally at least as well as the average American family), it would be better off without me at the helm (or in the kitchen).

    Most of our racial and cultural and other discriminatory ills would vanish if we simply stopped seeking to find fault with the "other." With more compassion and less judgment, more cooperation and less competition, more acceptance and less fear, hate crimes and my terrified days on a tightrope could all be nothing but bad memories.

    "Progressivism" isn't going to solve the problem. More laws are only making it worse. We need to find a way for people to work together again, to know and value and accept one another, regardless of sexual orientation, race, culture, or perceived "ability."

  3. We have it in ourselves to forgive those that do not know the truth. God loves us all, that is all that matters. At the end of the day, we will all have to contend with how we treated each other when we see Him. Spread love to yourself and others. Leave others to their own devices, for someday they will meet their Maker, and answer to Him. Hate is the absence of Love, God is Love. Pray ask Him to help you forgive. He is the Lord, He is in charge not them.