USA: This Presidency Has Exposed My White Christian Friends – commentary

John Pavlovitz | Stuff That Needs to be Said

This President has been many things since arriving: A national embarrassment, a global punchline, an environmental disaster, a divider of people, a prolific murderer of the English language.

But he has also been a floodlight. He has fully exposed millions of people who had kept themselves carefully concealed. I can really see them now in ways I never could previously. It’s all out in the open.

Intellectually I always knew that racism was deeply embedded into the fabric of our nation, but I had convinced myself that it had slowly but certainly begun to unravel, that we weren’t as hopelessly bound by it as our ancestors had been.     

As a pastor in largely white churches in the south over the past two decades, I told myself the story that the Church was changing. It may have been a combination of privilege and wishful thinking, but I truly thought that we were getting better, that the arc of the moral universe was bending toward justice.

I surely never imagined that so many people I loved, lived with, worshipped alongside, or worked next to — were as afflicted with supremacy as they apparently are. I never fathomed that so many people claiming to love Jesus would so resent foreigners and so worship America and so abhor difference. They were really good at pretending; and in my naïvety, I suppose I was more than willing to believe them even if they weren’t.

I saw the cracks in their facades begin to show when Barack Obama was elected; their carefully coded hate speech begin to surface, their ever more incendiary social media posts from fringe sources, their incessant, desperate search for something to be outraged about, their inability to give him any credit or acknowledge his goodness. They grew more entrenched in their positions, more tribal in their tone.

But even then, they kept their prejudice close to the vest, never really tipping their hand, always dancing around the words without really saying them. The mask was splitting and sliding off, but they would not fully show themselves because it was socially unacceptable – they would call it “politically correct”.

Then he arrived! Someone who gave them what they needed for eight years:

Permission to be horrible; someone who erased any semblance of decorum, any expectation of decency, any level of accountability.

After nearly a decade of pretending, they finally received white Presidential consent to be outwardly racist — and now the dam of their suppressed bigotry has burst and they are letting the toxic hatred flow freely.

White pastors now lob it through incendiary sermons into their congregations, white politicians plaster it upon campaign billboards, white police officers send it out in group emails, white teachers wave it in front of their students, white civilians spit it out in viral videos at coffee shops and public parks, white terrorists parade it unmasked through city streets.

And my white friends and family members and neighbors are rejoicing in this Renaissance of open ugliness — AND I NEVER SAW IT COMING.

And this has been the most disorienting, stomach-churning, sickening part of this terrible season: The realization that I have lived and ministered around people who claimed to believe in Jesus while harboring such corrosive hearts — and that I was oblivious to it all. I am both angry at them and disappointed in myself.

And I suppose that is the small bit of gratitude I have for this malignancy of a movement in America:

It has fully revealed people — and this is an unsolicited; an unwelcomed; but an invaluable gift.

I now know what I did not know before.

My eyes are opened and now I’m responsible for what I do and say in response.

We all are.

Regardless of what happens in the next election, or how the political landscape may change, or who we have helming our nation — what has been revealed about us as a nation is going to remain, and we are going to have to deal with the unmasked, unearthed, illuminated hatred that we are this violently afflicted with.

That might be this President’s only worthy legacy.

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Comments

  • Clyde Duncan  On November 14, 2019 at 1:41 am

    — Arundhati Roy wrote:

    “The trouble with injustice is that once you see it, you can’t unsee it.
    And once you’ve seen it, keeping quiet, saying nothing, becomes as
    political an act as speaking out. There is no innocence. Either way,
    you’re accountable.”

    • kamtanblog  On November 14, 2019 at 2:12 am

      Where there is life there is Hope !
      USA will recover from the political
      disaster it is today.
      However not unlike religion the
      stigmata of its hypocracy will remain
      for decades but are reverseable.
      Whoever succeeds Humpty Dumpty
      as Potus in 2020/24 will be handed the
      “Poison chalice” of power. Will the
      followers drink the kool aid willingly
      or unwillingly. Think Jonestown !
      Our world is more divided today
      than yesterday but hopefully re-United
      Tommorrow. Forever the optimist !

      Bring on 2020 and beyond.

      Kamtan

  • Clyde Duncan  On November 14, 2019 at 1:57 am

    At an ICE Detention Center, We Rabbis Saw the Horrors …..

    The ICE propaganda machine kept telling us how humanely detainees were treated, even that inmates ‘chose’ solitary confinement. But we know what we saw

    Opinion: Jesse Olitzky | Haaretz

    The taste of state-sponsored propaganda was gut-wrenching.

    Cameras weren’t allowed in the Otero ICE Detention Camp in New Mexico. And without cameras, no one really sees what the conditions are.

    Not when it is 45 minutes from a border crossing. Not when it is inaccessible by public transportation. Not when it is in the middle of the desert, surrounded by mountains.

    In the middle of the desert, if no one is around to hear the cries for justice, what sound do they make? Who sees these huddled masses yearning to breathe free? WE DID.

    I spent a week at the U.S.-Mexico border with a group of rabbis and cantors on a delegation organized by the Jewish immigrant rights organization HIAS and the rabbinic human rights organization T’ruah. We were a group of clergy concerned with the humanitarian crisis on America’s southern border.

    ICE agreed to have their public relations department and the facility’s warden meet with us and give us a tour. No matter how they tried to spin it, THIS WAS A PRISON.

    CIVIL DETENTION, where asylum seekers and those who had entered the USA irregularly are detained, is supposed to look different than a criminal correctional facility.

    But these detainees, these asylum seekers, these souls who sought a safe haven, are being treated as criminals, as something less than human. And the propaganda machine was in full effect.

    In June 1964, a group of 17 rabbis were arrested in St. Augustine, Florida for integrating a segregated restaurant with civil rights leaders. They explained their reasoning in a letter signed by all the participants:

    “We came because we could not stand quietly by our brother’s blood. We had done that too many times before. We have been vocal in our exhortation of others but the idleness of our hands too often revealed an inner silence; silence at a time when silence has become the unpardonable sin of our time…”

    We came to the border because we could not stay silent. We could not ignore this humanitarian crisis. And we came to this isolated Otero ICE detention facility because we wanted the detainees to know that we hear their cries.

    Detainees at #Otero #ICE Detention Camp get paid $1/day for working, helping the private company that runs it spend less. Detainees need to work to pay for calls. One day of work ($1) is enough for a 2-minute international call. #jewishclergyattheborder @HIASrefugees @truahrabbis

    They were hungry for human connection and relationship. They were hungry for acknowledgement. In a facility that prevents physical contact with visitors, detainees are divided by glass windows when meeting with family and lawyers. We tried time and time again to silently communicate our compassion.

    With each sacred soul we saw, I gently put my hand to my heart – the unspoken sign acknowledging that I saw them, that I heard their cries, that I cried with them. I wanted to remind them that they were human. We stared into each other’s eyes. I search deep into their pupils for hope, but all I saw was the weight of despair on their eyelids, as if the divine spark within them was extinguished.

    Approaching the wing of the facility labeled “Restrictive Housing Unit”, the propaganda machine told us that solitary confinement was not practiced there. THE OFFICIALS TRIED TO CONVINCE US THAT SOME DETAINEES PREFERRED TO BE ALONE. But as we walked down the narrow corridor, an ICE officer shuttered the small slit windows in each door, preventing anyone from peeking in, preventing any human contact.

    If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a noise?

    The #Otero #ICE #Detention Camp is in the middle of the desert and not reachable by public transportation. Who hears their cries?

    And as the ICE officials were assuring us that the detainees were treated with dignity, one of those held in solitary confinement began banging on the door as we walked by. He wanted to feel heard. He wanted to make sure we had not forgotten about him.

    As we left, I bumped into a group of pro bono lawyers from the non-profit organization, Catholic Charities. One explained that the most frequent complaint at this detention camp: The too frequent use of solitary confinement.

    We had seen it being used as punishment and torture, right in front of us, even as the propaganda machine assured us that could not be true. They hoped that their smiles would hide their lies, as if their pleasantries could mask the horrors of the detention camp.

    Legal advocates at the border organization Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, told us that the use of solitary confinement and mistreatment of detainees at this facility have pushed asylum seekers to go on hunger strikes, and in some cases attempt suicide. One detainee was sentenced to an entire month in solitary confinement.

    They fled their homes because they feared for their safety. And here, when they speak out to these officers about how they are treated, they are punished with solitary confinement. These asylum seekers have had their humanity stripped away from them. And it has happened on our collective watch.

    I can quote infinite verses of Torah or numerous Talmudic teachings about our divine mandate to love the stranger, to welcome the stranger, and to protect the stranger. But I shouldn’t have to.

    I should not have to prove why we must care for the vulnerable. I should not have to prove why we must care for the migrant. If I have to prove through biblical verses why the treatment of these human beings is immoral and unjust, then it is not only these conditions and facilities that need to change. Our moral compass needs to change as well.

    We shouldn’t need to justify why we went. We shouldn’t need to pen a letter like the 17 rabbis did in Florida 55 years ago. We went to bear witness to what we saw and share that with our communities, so that the hidden atrocities of a facility hidden in the desert are exposed.

    Our responsibility as rabbis is not to come up with policy solutions. Our job is to offer moral clarity and be a call to our collective conscience when a system is unjust.

    The propaganda machine kept reminding us of how just they were. They kept telling us how humanely detainees were treated. But we know what we saw.

    They think that in the middle of the desert, no one can see that these detainees are beings treated like less than human beings. They think that without cameras, no one can document the hopelessness in the eyes of these migrants, or these horrific conditions. But I know what I saw.

    The officials can keep smiling and sticking to their script. But don’t tell me I am lying. Don’t tell me my eyes and ears are lying to me. I know what I saw.

    And what I saw was immoral, unjust, and a desecration of the holiness of every individual in that facility – a desecration to which we are all accomplices, if we don’t speak out.

    • kamtanblog  On November 14, 2019 at 2:48 am

      Economic migrants are NOT refugees or asylum seekers …they are “economic migrants”…not criminals.
      Privatisation of prisons is immoral.
      These institutions or holding centres should
      be used as training centres not prisons.
      Teaching individuals the skills they will
      require for their rehabilitation/integration
      into the 52+ USA.
      The common sense approach to economic
      migration.
      Prisons are today “universities of crime”
      Privatisation enhances its undergraduates.

      Go figure

      Kamtan

      • Trevor  On November 16, 2019 at 5:24 pm

        You know what’s ironic?

        The same Mexicans who are going to America for work, are forced to speak English.

        However, the radio in America plays American and Canadian pop stars singing Reggaeton songs in Spanish.

        Mr. Vegas done know lang time that it’s hypocritical because even Caribbean peoples of all backgrounds complain that they have to change their accent to get a job.

        #Culture vultures
        #Racist
        # It’s only accepted if profitable for the Whites.

      • kamtanblog  On November 16, 2019 at 7:26 pm

        Trevor
        Racism has existed for centuries and
        will continue for centuries. It’s not a case
        of black or white today it’s a case of
        haves v haves not ! Rich v poor ! A Class
        struggle. Privaledged v non privaledged !

        It’s more of a culture than a race issue.
        Nationalism the WMD used by the
        political class to win votes and influence voters. Patriotism turn political.
        Put USA first etc etc
        The present Potus a shining example.

        Patriotism acceptable in sport.
        Nationalism unacceptable in politics or
        sport.

        Now go figure

        Kamtan

      • Emanuel  On November 17, 2019 at 7:54 am

        John Pavlovitz: “This president…is a prolific murderer of the English language.”

        Agreed!

        And so is Kamtan: “Privileged v non privileged !”

      • Trevor  On November 17, 2019 at 3:01 pm

        I agree that the wealthy 0.01% benefit from this all, but the populace are fools to create division and hate.

        Countries such as Poland are known as the most racist, anti-immigrant and anti-Jewish country in the world.

  • Clyde Duncan  On November 14, 2019 at 12:53 pm

    Eddie in the UK wrote:

    Trump exposed the hypocrisy and bigotry it represents.

    The old folks seh, Moon a-run till day a-ketch um!

  • Trevor  On November 15, 2019 at 6:37 am

    I don’t know how Guyanese can live in those racist countries. Reading about the racism in the States makes me sick to my stomach!

    • kamtanblog  On November 15, 2019 at 8:23 am

      Racism is not unlike prejudices/classes

      Was with us for centuries
      Will be with us forever….
      Just be aware and beware of those who
      are…we don’t have to live with it !

      Kamtan

      • Trevor  On November 16, 2019 at 5:21 pm

        But the racism in the States, Canada, UK are becoming more extreme like Nazi Germany while former “victims” of Nazi aggression such as Poland and former USSR blocs are extremely racist against non-whites that police support racist mobs to beat up and murder anyone perceived as a migrant or refugee. Lawless society in Poland and Eastern Europe these days.

        My issue is that as Guyana has discovered these vast quantities of oil, the same racist foreign countries who have colonised us, or are hostile towards ethnic groups living in Guyana are planning to open airline ports here.

        Why would Poland, a country that hates immigrants, Muslims and African people, want to set a Eurobloc airline here?

        I don’t get why the First World dislikes immigrants from countries that the First World has colonised in the first place.

        I’m sure during British Guiana, police were there to protect the European Brits from any sort of criticism, much less mob violence that is taking place in Europe against immigrants right now.

  • Clyde Duncan  On November 16, 2019 at 6:48 am

    From Ukraine “Shake-Down” to “Meltdown” [during Impeachment Hearing] ….

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