Response to Charlottesville

Having lived in David Duke’s home state of Louisiana for two years, I can tell you what he did today. He woke up and got to work, as he has done every day since he decided to spread his message. The man neither paused nor did he let defeat deflate his drive or let success give him pause through all these years. He may be cheering and celebrating today yet he was on the phone, posting online, and planning his programs, intent on his goal just as he has done every other day.

He is a racist, a bigot, and an anti-Semite but the First Amendment protects his right to spew his hatred.

What about you? What about me? Do you and I have the same depth of passion, but for justice and right? After all, fighting for climate change legislation is tough in a fossil fuel world. Explaining racial injustice and raising awareness of the economic injustices of energy policies to communities that do not want to hear facts and reason is a stubborn climb. Holding proudly to one’s faith in a cynical world can be a daily hurt. Are you still fighting?

This missive is not about the Neo-Nazis and the White Supremacists though. This message is about those who have the passion to fight for what is right, good, and godly, about those who stand up to the evil and hate. These people are our family, our friends, acquaintances, workmates and our members-in-faith.

One died and nineteen more lay wounded in the Charlottesville confrontation. Many, many more though, people of all colors, creeds and faiths, marched; they held the lines, and shouted down the hatred. Their passion brought them forth and their courage kept them going. The citizens of Charlottesville refused to accede to hatred, to acquiesce to murderous rage. Instead they welcomed those who hold beliefs of equality, justice, and freedom for all of God’s children. Together, they gave the voices of hatred no quarter and no measure of comfort to broadcast their message of intimidation and confrontation.

Evil only expands when it is allowed, when people of goodwill do not stand as a bulwark against the malicious tide. Silence, apathy and vacuum are tacit permissions to continue to fill the streets with hate-filled rhetoric. The streets of Charlottesville were not silent though and intimidation was met with spirited determination.

What about you? What about me? Are we going to sink into the sofa cushions or lean back into our computer chairs, and watch passively as a few good souls contest a contagious fear and paranoia? Whether the summons is the Hindu call of Gandhi, the Christian call of Martin Luther King Jr., or the beckoning of the ancient Israelite prophets, the universal demand of justice is broadcasting loud and clear across the land.

Will you and I answer the call? Shall we answer with unequivocal passion?

“Then I heard the voice of my God saying, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us? Then I replied, ‘Here I am; send me.’”  Isaiah 6:8

Here I am; send me.

Bibles in School

Did you know that in Orange County, FL (Orlando), there is a group that is legally distributing Christian Bibles in the public schools? Matthew Stavers, who represents the book distributing group, is upset because another group is asserting its right to distribute its religious texts in the public schools.

The new religious group demanding the same access is called “The Satanic Temple” and they hope to distribute materials including their forthcoming “The Satanic Children’s Big Book of Activities.” This is a situation that brings into glaring focus the reasoning behind the need for a strict interpretation of the Separation of Church and State.

As a public entity, public schools should not be promoting one religion over another. Schools should not be elevating or tolerating religious education or proselytization on its campuses. Bible distribution is one of those activities that clearly crosses the line of a strict interpretation of the principle.

The Satanic Temple demonstrates the danger of allowing religion on campus. This issue has nothing to do with religious people attending a public school but has everything to do with the promotion of a religion in a given public school. Religious people should be able to attend public school without fear of threat or ridicule for their beliefs and also, without fear of proselytization by other religions while on campus.

The Satanic Temple is a protest, a perfectly legal and legitimate one that demonstrates the absurdity of the Orange County Public School System. Lucian Greaves, who is the spokesman for The Satanic Temple is quoted by a reporter at WFTV Orlando as admitting, “The whole point here is not indoctrination but rather counter-indoctrination.”

This episode is another example of why proselytism needs to be kept off of school grounds.

The sad news is how old this battle in Orange County is. I grew up in this county and they were distributing “Bibles” that were only The New Testament when I was in elementary school. This is decades of nonsense.

The Symptom or the Source?

From India emerged a story of two women who were gang-raped and then hanged in the middle of the night in a rural hamlet. The local police were slow and hesitant to respond. Outrage across India has been vocal and the State finally stepped in. Arrests have been made. However, the estimate of the moment is that a woman is raped every half hour in India, mostly in the rural areas. Prosecuting one case of rape/murder does not appear to affect this criminal behavior.

The first solution, arrest followed by conviction, has failed to change behavior even though we think it should. Fear of punishment should prevent crime from happening. This is not the best model of morality, not doing something out of fear of getting caught, and it does not work in any case. There is little fear.

The source of the problem is that women are isolated and alone in a largely lawless, violent area. India is unable to impose law and order in these rural areas and therefore rapists will be deterred. Since the rapists cannot be stopped, the better solution is to change the women’s circumstance.

The solution is toilets. Yes, toilets. There are no privies in these rural areas and relieving of human wastes is done in the fields, in the open. Modest women will wait until it is dark to go out into the fields to relieve themselves, some in the middle of night for complete privacy. This circumstance makes women utterly vulnerable and indeed, this is when the rapes usually take place. A non-profit group is now installing outdoor toilets in these rural areas, allowing these women to relieve themselves during the day and under the watchful eyes of family.

The community is given the tools, in this case a sanitary toilet, to protect and police themselves. The land is still lawless but the women are safe. With the immediate threat to life averted, perhaps the Indian government will be able to address the issue of corrupt police forces and crimes against lower castes.