NOT IN MY NAME: I am leaving my shoes at the door
Comment at Peralta Community College District's Townhall Meeting, October 4, 2021
Dear Peralta community,
My name is Barbara Widhalm. I teach in the Humanities and Philosophy programs at Peralta and previously managed a NSF grant for Laney College. I have been serving Peralta since 2007. I hold a doctorate in Transformative Learning and have 20 years of experience working in academia both as an administrator and as faculty.
TODAY, I AM LEAVING MY SHOES AT THE VIRTUAL DOORSTEPS OF THIS TOWNHALL, joining the thousands of doctors and healthcare workers nationally who are, on their last day of work, leaving their shoes at the doorsteps of the institutions they have wholeheartedly served, because they do not want to cause harm to themselves or their patients following “orders” from above. I am aware of increasing numbers of public servants, educators and students nationally and globally who are doing the same. While I am glad to complete the semester, it is very possible I will not return in the Spring. However, I continue to be open to dialog with my peers, as I imagine this is a challenging situation for many of us to navigate right now. My inquiry keeps unfolding every day.
In my testimony to the Board from Sep 18, and my open letter to District and college administrators on August 16, I addressed some of my concerns and offered multiple scientific resources, including renowned health scientists willing to testify before the Board. I urged the Board to consider additional scientific perspectives and to pay attention to existing data signals indicating how much harm these experimental injections have already caused. Recent lab data signals are also raising huge red flags regarding potential long-term harm to our students. I asked you to consider the risk/benefit ratio for our students. I asked you to consider questions of discrimination.
I grew up in Austria, the country where Hitler was born. Visiting concentration camps was part of our high school curriculum, to bring an awareness that history should never repeat itself in this horrific way. How was it possible that a large portion of the population was dehumanized, ostracized, segregated, used for medical experimentation, shoved into concentration camps, and exterminated?
How? It was possible through the implementation of a carefully crafted propaganda narrative that created an artificial “threat” or enemy and perpetuated a continuous state of fear. Here are just a few of the key elements that made this possible:
Public slogans and memes repeatedly reinforcing this threat, using catchy phrases, war metaphors, and strong imagery, soliciting everyone’s participation to fight the enemy;
Threatening, shaming, censoring and silencing those who raised questions;
Rewarding those who agreed to participate in the “us vs them” narrative, including snitching on the artificial “enemy” or publicly canceling or shaming those not following the official party line; rewarding virtue signaling behaviors;
Announcing the arrival of a new era, in this case, the “Third Reich;”
Co opting the media to portray a uniform narrative that reinforces the official “state” narrative;
Increasing the restrictions and segregation measures incrementally (“the boiled frog syndrome”), by swallowing “one pill at a time.”
Being kept in a state of constant change, via a “gradual habituation of people, little by little, to being governed by surprise.”
This narrative was also perpetuated by people like you and me having a hunch that something wasn’t quite right but just wanting to lead a relatively peaceful life during uncertain circumstances, and just following “orders” from above, not wanting to jeopardize their jobs or families.
I see all of these strategies in play right now with this current “public health” narrative ushering in the era of the “New Normal.” I documented some of these strategies in my August 16 post and will continue to document this in my blog. My research leads me to wholeheartedly agree with health scientists that the CDC and other public health agencies are currently compromised by vested interests, and I am not alone in having noticed some of the very same, effective propaganda tools used in public health messaging that were used during the “Third Reich.”
I am concerned that the “public health” (or should I say “public threat”) narrative has turned into an ideology, into a dogma of “The New Normal.” The ubiquitous referral to “The Science” has become an expression of “scientism” in the service of this dogma. It is not an expression of true scientific inquiry, which is always based on participatory discovery and mutual learning. Countless scientists raising questions or pointing to alarming data signals have been censored and silenced, not unlike during Nazi times. This is not “following the science.” I am concerned that the term “safety” has been co opted to reinforce this dogma, ignoring the larger context of the short-term and long-term unintended consequences, including the mental, emotional, and physical harm that is the result of these “public health” measures.
I am concerned that this ideology may have infiltrated our campuses. I continue to assume that our District has the students’ best interest at heart, and I understand it is challenging to not follow “orders” from above when there are so many financial pressures. I recognize it is difficult to see through the veil of an ideology when you are deeply immersed in it. I am on a learning journey myself here, but my study of propaganda theory during the “Third Reich” has allowed me to see some shocking parallels, along with numerous holocaust survivors that have spoken out recently, as well.
Colleagues, I am concerned the stakes are too high right now to simply follow “orders” from above. Some of our students’ lives and livelihoods are literally at risk as a result of these mandates. I am saying this based on existing data signals I referred to in my two previous entries. In fact, the very rationale for all of the pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical measures is in question. There is no scientific consensus on any of them (including social distancing, PCR tests, and masks), and they all come with unintended consequences that could be harmful to our very own students. That’s why a careful risk/benefit analysis of all of these measures is in order now. Plus, there is good news, as I have pointed out in my August 16 post: There are effective treatments available right now that have helped millions of people recover from this disease across the world, including in the US. Covid-19 is a treatable disease. My heart goes out to everyone who has lost loved ones and who may not have had access to adequate care, due to the suppression of early treatment and effective hospital protocols.
In future posts, I may continue to point out how the District’s mandates run counter to the very principles I teach in my critical thinking, human values, and ethics courses. I may continue to point out how I see values I hold dear as a teacher—including nonviolence, equity, nondiscrimination, transparency, and mutual accountability— being violated by these mandates. I may continue to explore how examining the “habits of the systems thinker” has prompted me to be alarmed on multiple levels. I may continue to point out how I see so many tenets of a “fair-minded critical thinker” violated.
Today, I am simply stating: NOT IN MY NAME.
Not in my name will you experiment on our kids (and yes, all the injections, including Pfizer, are still “investigational vaccines” under Emergency Use Authorization. The injection that was recently approved is not available in the US). Not in my name will you experiment on our students on campus. Not in my name will you coerce or discriminate against those exercising different health choices.
I AM LEAVING MY SHOES AT THE DOORSTEPS OF THIS TOWNHALL.
Someone I love is buried in the same graveyard as the children who were experimented on during the “Third Reich” in one of the hospitals in Vienna, where I grew up. 7,500 patients, including over 800 children, perished as a result of medical experimentation. I can hear these children cry. Again, how was it possible that children were being experimented on (including with experimental injections), and killed right in that otherwise remarkable city?
How? In part, because people like you and me were just following “orders” from above, buying into an exaggerated narrative of “threat” or choosing to look the other way and not ruffle any feathers out of fear.
NOT IN MY NAME WILL YOU EXPERIMENT ON OUR KIDS IN “THE NEW NORMAL.” I AM LEAVING MY SHOES AT THE DOOR.
Let me leave you with two quotes and a song:
“The source imagery of Hitler’s political worldview consisted in the conceptualization of the German (but, in principle, every) nation as a human body that had to be shielded from disease (or, in case of an outbreak, cured). Jewish people, who were conceptually condensed into the super-category of “the Jew” and viewed as an illness-spreading parasite, represented the danger of disease. Deliverance from this threat to the nation’s life would come from Hitler and his party as the only competent healers who were willing to fight the illness (Musolff, quoted in Livingstone Smith: “Less than Human: Why we Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate Others,” p. 146)
To be honest, this quote sends chills down my spine, reflecting on our current context.
Brené Brown states in her blog article I wholeheartedly recommend to everyone today, titled: “There is a Line. Edged in Dignity: Dehumanization Crosses that Line: Dehumanizing always Starts with Language:”
“I know it’s hard to believe that we could ever get to a place where we could exclude people from moral treatment, from our basic moral values, but we’re fighting biology here. We’re hardwired to believe what we see and to attach meaning to the words we hear. We can’t pretend that every citizen who participated in or was a bystander to human atrocities was a violent psychopath. That’s not possible, it’s not true, and it misses the point. The point is that we are all vulnerable to the slow and insidious practice of dehumanizing, therefore we are all responsible for recognizing it and stopping it.”
NOT IN MY NAME. I AM LEAVING MY SHOES AT THE DOOR.
And, I continue to be open to dialog with my peers. This is a challenging situation for many of us. I am on a learning journey with all of you. I am heartbroken and in tears.
What is occurring in your heart, when you hear me make such strong statements today?
Let me close with a song sung by one of my favorite artists, Mercedes Sosa:
Sólo lo pido a dios
That I am not unmoved by suffering
That the dry death does not find me
Empty and alone, without having done what was needed.