Saturday, March 17, 2012

Don't get me started....

A web sight called "Stumpy's Stickers" has bumper stickers for sale that say (I kid you not!)

Defeat Obama

There's another available with a picture of four hooded KKK members with their arms crossed in front of a burning cross that says

The Original Boys in the Hood
Defeat Obama

I grew up in a segregated county--the southernmost county of West Virginia. I didn't go to school with Blacks until High School and then only the 'brightest girls and best athletes' --5 blacks in a graduating class of 99.

The older black people in my little town of Anawalt--which was 50/50 white/black called me "Mr. Jimmie", and , much to my embarrassment, I didn't realize until I was 11 and 12 how wrong that was. My father and to uncles were all business owners and Black folks wanted to stay on the good side of the Bradleys.

I never played with a Black child in my childhood. Never knew any of their names. But they all knew me. It wasn't Mississippi, but it was toxic and bad.

A guy from Gary District High School (as opposed to Gary High--the white school) and I became friends in college. He would introduce me to his Black friends by saying, "Jim and I went to different high schools together...." I was properly humbled by that. This man who I became quite close with went to a different school less than a mile from mine, who had lived 10 miles from me for all our lives, who had my interests and my concerns-- and we had no opportunity to 'know each other' until we went to college--the SAME college, together.

The first parish I served was an African American parish in Charleston WV--even in 1975 there was tacit segregation in WV--and I learned great wisdom from the good folk of St. John's. They were of my class and education--not quite right, about 1/3 of the congregation had Ph.D's and were several steps above me economically--but it was close enough that, just like my one black friend in college, I realized we shared a great deal, more than I shared with many of the white people I knew.

But we didn't share everything--we listened to the same music, read the same books, voted for the same democrats (though some of them were still members of Lincoln's party because it was Lincoln's party) laughed at the same votes and shared many social passions. However, I once was watching a parade in downtown Charleston with Col. Ben--a Corneal in the segregated army of WWII--and he said, "Jim, do you know how you're different from me?"

I wasn't sure and said so.

He took a deep breath and a great risk: "When you hear a band coming from around the corner, you can decide if you like it or not. But I have to wait until I see it. And if there are young Black faces in that band, then I like it, no matter how good they play."

I had been accepted into a Black community with grace and compassion, unlike any Black priest could have been accepted into a white church. I was blessed. More than blessed. I was transformed by the people of St. James. "Integration" has always concentrated on "how we're alike" and ain't that great. What true equality means is noticing 'how we're different' and celebrating that.

(Tonight at a wondrous St. Patrick's day corned beef and cabbage dinner at St. James in Higganum--hundreds of people came to eat or take out meals and some were probably delivered to a nearby elderly housing group and 10% of the proceeds went to a local soup kitchen--these folks in the Cluster really 'get' being a Christian....I said to Howie, half-in-jest, half-in-truth, "you know the thing I'm still not used to in the Cluster is being around so many white people."

Howie laughed and agreed the group was 'quite white'.

The three churches I served before I retired were a Black church, a totally integrated church and a totally integrated church that began a successful Hispanic ministry that became the 2nd largest of the three Sunday services and will, I suspect, become the largest of the three some day, through God's Grace.

I felt dirty after viewing Stumpy's Stickers web site. Dirty and despondent and fearful. Such hatred of 'the other' is full of ignorance and resentment and fear. How can this still be in this time and in this place?

Think back to the last time you didn't say something when someone told a joke or made a statement that was racist or sexist or xenophobic 0r homophobic or anit-Semitic or anti-Muslim?

Don't let it happen. Don't let it happen.

It is up to us, each of us and all of us, to Stand Up against Hatred and Fear and proclaim Inclusion and Hope. By the way, Courage is not the opposite of Fear, Hope is because Fear allows not possibility and Hope is ultimate possibility.

You know the quote: John Locke: "All that is necessary for the triumph of Evil is for good men (sic) to do nothing."

I want to live in a world where Stumpy's Stickers would not be allowed to exist. I support freedom of speech absolutely, but if we could all come to realize that we are all Children of God, with differences, and celebrate that (the 'differences' most of all) something akin to Sanity might become part of our national dialog.

Maybe. Hopefully.

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About Me

some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.