Roughly a week after Charlottesville happened, resulting in the death of Heather Heyer, my wife, dog (Versa) and I spent the weekend hiking in a Ohio state park in Clermont County. As we traipsed through the woods we were not disappointed, spotting deer — including a large buck that ran across the trail five yards in front of us — a gaggle of turkeys and two water fowl I’ve never seen (possibly King Rails).
On Saturday evening as we read inside our tent before falling asleep — the calm and quiet of the evening was interrupted by a loud truck barreling down the main entrance with its occupants yelling ‘white power.’
As the rebel yell pierced the night, it was a sign of where we are as a nation. Current polls suggest 65 percent of Americans believe hate and prejudice have increased since the November, 2016 election.
Childhood Friends, Family
We have 35 hate groups in Ohio — ninth in the nation. The man accused in Heyer’s death (James Fields) is, of course, from Ohio as is Daniel Borden, accused in the racially motivated beating of DeAndre Harris.
When I browse Facebook it’s easy to understand how we arrived at this place. In my part of the world, and Borden lives about 30 minutes south of me, fear and ignorance are the foundation too many build their worldview on. For example, a childhood friend, who attended the same church I did, posted a meme from an organization that views liberals, like myself, with disdain. The site revels in dividing the country into red versus blue — with the reds being the ‘good guys.’
One of their memes, promoting a odd-looking wrist decoration, says:
Send the liberals running for the hills with our handmade Six Shooter Leather bullet bracelet.
I’m not sure what ‘fearful’ liberals they are targeting with the text because I would be more apt to mock an individual childish enough to wear such a ridiculous looking bracelet — a leather bracelet designed to hold six bullets. But, I do wonder how someone taught the same brand of Christianity as me arrived at a place in midlife where they view the rhetoric as healthy or sensible.
How did they get to the point that threatening — or implying violence — toward a fellow citizen feels natural, Christian, American or humane? Do they live in a constant state of fear, convinced that someone, like myself, is hell bent on destroying them or the country? What information does one have to consume — and how long must they consume it — before they feel this type of statement is normal (let alone ‘Christlike’).
Another individual posted a ‘I’m proud to be white,’ meme apparently oblivious to the atrocities committed by our race. This particular individual also posts a lot of Native American ‘wisdom’ memes making me wonder if they have read any American history.
History Is Not Holy
My first realization that the past is a toolbox and not a pedestal came while I was researching my paternal line. I was looking into the life of Jesse Claywell, a War of 1812 veteran, who also served in the Black Hawk War (Illinois). As I researched the Black Hawk War, I came to understand three things about the white settlers that fought in it (including Jesse Claywell).
- They were thieves. They willfully stole the property of Native Americans.
- They were cowards. In the first ‘act of war’ the white settlers, significantly outnumbering the Indians, retreated.
- They were murderers. After successfully driving the Indians out of the region, they trapped a handful of escaping women, children and elderly crossing the Mississippi River. The white soldiers engaged in a ‘turkey shoot’ shooting the retreating Indians in the back.
Not much to revel in if you’re proud of simply ‘bein’ white.’
Let Freedom Ring
Just a couple blocks from my home, the Confederate flag flies in front of two houses. This is in Ohio, a state that was in the Union, a state that lost more than 35,000 men to the war. It is the state that produced Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman.
I’m doubting the owners of the Confederate flags know their state’s role in the Civil War. They are undoubtedly more interested in ‘their right’ to fly the flag, than in Ohio’s history. Preble County has a significant population with ties to Kentucky and Tennessee, so I’ll let Tennessee comedian Trae Crowder set the record straight on the flag. In his book, Liberal Rednecks — written with fellow comedians Corey Ryan Forrester and Drew Morgan — Crowder says,
The flag issue (unlike the flag’s defenders) is a little more nuanced than you might think at first, but, regardless, the flag is done. There’s no getting it back. There’s no repairing its image. It’s irredeemable. Any possibility of the flag ever being seen as a benign symbol of regional pride vanished forever on June 17, 2015, the day of the hate-fueled massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina.
Some of the hate, though, is being pushed down into our society. Members of the Trump team have definitely validated it. Recently, political operative Roger Stone, a Trump confidante and champion, went after Senator John McCain on Twitter after McCain denounced Trump’s decision to pardon sheriff Joe Arpaio. Stone said,
Karma about to get you, John McCain, and you will burn in hell for all eternity.
Stone who, like Jim Bakker, said a civil war would occur — and implied that members of Congress lives would be at risk — if Trump was impeached, has a long history of unsavory tactics.
But it is the words of support from evangelicals I grew up with that I find even more troubling. I expect Stone to be an evil POS, but Christians are applauding Trump’s decision to pardon a man who oversaw ‘Tent Camps.’ One hundred and sixty people died in those camps.
One evangelical, commenting on Arpaio’s pardon (and not the deaths), wrote:
Illegals aren’t American citizens. I am very happy about this!
The comment makes me wonder if I was given a alternative version of the Bible to read when we attended church together. The statement, at the very least, puts an ill-conceived national interest over a humanitarian one. My inner cynic finds the statement completely understandable had a politician said it. I understand why Trump pardoned ‘Sheriff Joe’ — it’s cronyism 101. They are fellow ‘birthers.’
But, it’s an unfathomable position for a person who follows ‘the Prince of Peace.’
After browsing Facebook the past couple of weeks, I do understand Gandhi’s viewpoint on Christianity. He said,
I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.