Friday, November 18, 2016

Hate Crimes aren’t a Partisan Issue

            You all know I’m kinda a partisan hack. The Iraq War radicalized me and this blog, which up until July 5th, 2003 was simply a place where I posted religious thoughts and poetry. I railed against the Bush administration for 5 years, worked my first election in 2004 when I thought the Democratic Party’s mediocre candidates, John Kerry and his philandering VP, could steer America in a better direction. I bought the Obama hype hook line and sinker, and kinda still do. Before this election I gave 3 reasons why I supported Hillary over Trump.
            So, you know on a visceral partisan level, I am sad blue lost to red. Steelers beat Ravens, Oakland beat Denver. And if that was all this was, who cares, right? Then people out there protesting are like sports fans whose team lost the game.
            But there is something else that is going on that goes well beyond partisan politics, and I hope most Republicans and Libertarians would agree that American needs to stand-up against. In this first week after the election—Wednesday to Wednesday—the Southern Poverty Law Center reports that there were 437 instances of harassment based on race, religion, country of origin, gender, etc. This compares to an average from 2013 of 114 instances a week (to be clear I don’t know how best to compare how the FBI and the SPLC label these things). That’s almost a 4-fold increase!
            This uptick in hateful acts is so noticeable that our Bishop wrote a letter addressing this issue, first to the clergy, then passed it on to everyone in the New Jersey Synod. Here is an excerpt:

“Regardless of who you or your parishioners voted for, we all must denounce this behavior. As the body of Christ, we are called to stand with those whom God loves and claims as God's own cherished children. We are called to speak out when we witness acts of hatred. We are charged to eradicate racism in all its forms, welcome the refugee and immigrant, and work for justice and peace in all the earth. There is no place for bigotry in our church… We need to risk our own safety in order to step up and tell them they are wrong. We need to examine our own prejudices and biases and confess our own sinfulness. By our actions, we will witness to the truth as expressed by Bishop Desmond Tutu: "Goodness is stronger than evil; love is stronger than hate; light is stronger than darkness; life is stronger than death".”

            And before we think this is just another media freak out. Two quick personal stories.
1. A couple who are friends of mine are wondering if they should go home for Thanksgiving to Upstate New York, because there have been 3 anti-Semitic incidents in their home town, and they wonder if they and their children will be safe.
2. There was an incident between a server and a customer at Trolley Car Diner right next to my seminary in Philly—a common hang out for Seminarians and a great place to get ice cream in the summer.
The incident is a she-said-she said kind of thing (here, here, and here are 3 different stories about the incident). Post-election a customer came in with Trump gear; the server said snide things she shouldn’t have said. The owner of Trolley Car disciplined the server.
The next morning the same customer came in again. The customer said she was “checked” by the server. The server and owner said the customer purposefully snuck up behind the server and when the server turned around from her table she accidently bumped into the lady.
Then, Jack Posobiec, the Special Projects Manager of Citizens for Trump, showed up and tweeted to his 60,000 followers that they needed to do something about Trolley Car Diner. Since then the owner of Trolley Car has received so many death threats and the building arson threats, that they had to disconnect their phones. Some of these threats have been explicitly anti-Semitic, for example, referring to the owner’s last name, “'Weinstein,' eh? Interesting name. Very oven-worthy."

            So, I’m saying this simply, these attacks are wrong.
            They go against the faith of Jesus Christ.
            They go against, as well, the highest values of our society.
            Winning, or losing, an election never justifies hate, never justifies violence.
            Those who would use the election of Donald Trump as a platform for peddling the dead and deadly ideology of white supremacy are wrong.

            To those of you who are inclined to these evil deeds, listen to the President Elect himself. Stop It!

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