On Loving America

In light of the news of Republican Arizona Senator John McCain deciding not to seek further treatment for his brain cancer, I shared that even though I did not agree with his politics, of one thing I was (and am) sure: He loves America.

The statement got some immediate push-back, with people reminding me of his political record: he was a hawk, he opposed the Affordable Care Act, and most recently, he cast a vote for the president’s tax reform bill, a measure which in my opinion helps only the very wealthy.

I know all of that. But what sticks in my mind is that John McCain has stuck to his beliefs and principles, even when they have been unpopular with his base and with this president. And I will forever respect him for shutting down the ugly lies about his opponent, then-Senator  Barack Obama, as whites shared that they were afraid of him and their belief that he was an Arab, or, more specifically, a Muslim.

McCain shut it down – and said that Obama was a good, decent man, which was and is true.

It takes courage to stand up and say what you believe, even when it means you may pay a great cost. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote the book, The Cost of Discipleship, which I refer to quite a bit, and Christians should remember that Jesus the Christ says in the Gospels that whoever wants to be his disciple must deny him/herself, pick up their crosses daily, and follow him.

In defending the character of Obama, when it cost him votes and must criticism, McCain was living that scripture.

We are not supposed to hate those with whom we disagree. We can dislike their beliefs, but at the end of the day, that is actually kind of juvenile. There is no one way to look at the world. If there were, this world would be a much better place. I will never forget reading the account of a Southern senator who believed in segregation. He was asked if he didn’t know the scripture about how one should love his neighbor, and this senator said, “Of course I know. But I get to choose my neighbor!”

Not so. Our neighbors are those with whom we agree and those with whom we disagree. In the frenzy to get and keep political power, most politicians cave to cultural demands. They will do what they need to do and say what they need to say in order to get elected and to stay in office.

McCain sought the presidency twice and lost both times. That had to have been horribly difficult to bear. I was not unhappy that he lost because I didn’t believe in his politics and believed that if president, he would pass laws and enact policies that would hurt “the least of these,” especially black, brown and poor people. I was angry with him for picking Sarah Palin as a running mate, in an attempt, I suppose, to appeal to angry white people; I was glad their ticket lost.

But the senator held his ground. He, unlike the majority of this current Congress, had the courage to speak out against the current president, a man who seems hell-bent on leading America away from democracy and toward fascism. While others in Congress have become sycophants, many to a sickening degree, McCain has held fast.

He endured the disgusting insult hurled at him by the current president, who downplayed his being a war hero, criticizing him because he had been caught and was a prisoner of war. This, from a man who never served a day in the military, burned me to my soul. Yet, McCain didn’t meet him on his ground or at his level, but held his own and worked to serve his country in the way he saw fit.

That McCain, a wealthy white man, and myself, a struggling African American woman, do not see and have never seen eye-to-eye is not the issue here. What is the issue is that this wealthy white man stayed true to what he was, regardless of what it cost him. And that is something I will always respect, especially now as the executive and legislative branches of our government seem to be hell-bent on creating an autocracy in which most of us will suffer greatly.

A candid observation …

On Radicalism

What happened in Paris on November 13, 2015, was nothing short of horrendous. That any group of people can feel like it’s OK to take innocent people out, for whatever reason, brings anger. That kind of action must come from a deep sense of frustration, from feeling like concerns are not being heard or respected. It feels like a knee-jerk reaction to get someone to listen.

But this whole use of the word “radicalism,” and using it to describe what is going on and connecting it to people who are Muslim, is bothersome. It is setting the table for those who are inclined to look at Islam as “the bad religion” to justify their opinion of that religion and, worse, justify any actions of discrimination and hatred those so inclined to do so might take.

Human beings have a limited capacity to see broadly; we hone in on what we think we are supposed to see and we leave out parts of the entire landscape. Just the other day I participated in an exercise where I was supposed to count how many times people dressed in white passed a basketball. I was completely immersed in my “task.” I got the number of passes thrown correct, but what I missed was a huge gorilla that walked into the middle of the people throwing the basketball! When the video was played again, I was appalled to see that I had missed something so obviously present.

As the world hones in on “Islamic” terrorism, and mentions that those who are carrying out acts of terror are “radicalized” Muslims, I am afraid that we are missing important participants in the entire scenario. Worse, we are forgetting that “radicalized” sorts are part of every religion. Sam Bowers, the Imperial Wizard of the KKK, was a radicalized racist who believed that God told him to take out participants in the Civil Rights Movement and to exterminate those who helped work for civil rights. Thus, he felt no compunction in ordering the murders of the three Civil Rights workers, Schwerner, Goodman and Cheney, and felt nothing but a keen sense of having fulfilled his purpose when he murdered Vernon Dahmer, a black man who allowed black people to register to vote in his story. Bowers had people, lots of white people, who  believed that God wanted America to remain white. They were radicalized, yes? Yet, we don’t hear that kind of language describing them, or even describing people who today are proponents of racism in this country.

I am sure that there are “radicalized” Zionists, both Christian and Jewish. Those are the ones who put human rights below what they consider to be the will of God to desecrate a group of people whom they do not like nor understand. We do not label them that way; in fact, when it comes to Zionism and what is going on in Palestine, we have heard language that consistently makes the Palestinians the “bad” people who, by the way, happen to be Muslim, while giving a pass to an Israeli government which allows Palestinian rights to be ignored and withheld, and to Jewish settlers who are on settlements in Palestine which have been deemed to be illegal according to international law. Is the Israeli government “radicalized?” Are Americans who support racism “radicalized?”

I am struggling to understand what is going on, but I am clear on the power of language. To continue to use the word “radicalized” without coming to terms with how “radicalized” religious people, in this country and all over the world, have been a reality of history from time immemorial.

I am sickened by what has gone on in Paris. Some radicalized Muslims, apparently, have carried out a heinous act, but all Muslims have  not been radicalized; all Muslims are not radicalized, bad people, no more than all white Christians are bad and radicalized because of what radical groups like the KKK have done.

A candid observation …